The Scout Report -- Volume 14, Number 13

April 4, 2008

A Publication of Internet Scout
Computer Sciences Department, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Sponsored by University of Wisconsin - Madison Libraries.

Research and Education

General Interest

Network Tools

In The News

Research and Education

Economics Network of the Higher Education Academy

The Higher Education Academy has a number of well-developed databases of materials designed for educators, and the Economics Network is one that should not be missed. The homepage includes a brief introduction to the network and an area designed particularly for newcomers to the site. On the right hand side of the homepage, visitors can take in economics podcasts and learn about new case studies, such as "Teaching and Learning Economics Through Cinema". Leaving that area, visitors will want to click on the "Resources" area to delve into their "Reflections on Teaching" series and their 600 sources of online teaching materials, including glossaries, interactive tutorials, and online texts. From there, visitors are also welcome to sign up to receive monthly email updates and also look at their other sites, which include "Why Study Economics?" and "Internet Economist". [KMG]

UC Berkeley Library's Congressional Research Tutorials [Macromedia Flash Player]

Making a clear and direct path through the vast amount of Congressional materials can be quite a chore, even for the most seasoned and experienced researcher. Fortunately, the University of California at Berkeley Library has created these fine Congressional tutorials. Designed to help users locate materials both online and in the library, these tutorials are in the form of short Flash-enabled videos. Most of the tutorials last about two minutes, and they include "Find a Bill", "How Do I Contact My Representative?", "Find Congressional Debate", and "Find a Hearing". After viewing one (or more) of these tutorials, users can also make their way to the "What's going on in Congress right now?" area to stay on top of the various activities of this important legislative body. [KMG]

History & Policy [pdf]

Some might wonder about the connection between history and contemporary policymaking. Well, the passionate and dedicated individuals at the History & Policy organization are committed to looking at the intersection of these two areas of inquiry and research. History & Policy is a collaboration between the University of Cambridge, The Institute of Historical Research, and The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. It is managed by its four founding historians, and visitors to the site can browse their papers by theme, author, or keyword. The papers offer a wide range of perspectives on history and policy-related matters, and recent works have included papers on social housing and tenant participation, genocide in the twentieth century, and "The Prime Minister as World Statesman". Practicing historians can also sign up to join their network, and anyone is welcome browse through their events calendar and register for email updates. [KMG]

Food Policy Institute at Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station [pdf]

Established as a research unit of Rutgers University, the Food Policy Institute is interested in "supporting public and private decision makers who shape aspects of the food system within which government, agriculture, industry and the consumer interact." Interested parties can get the basic sense of what the Institute does on a regular basis by looking over the short introductory essay in the "About Us" area. Moving on, users can look over the "Research Projects" area, and then make their way to the "Publications" area. Policymakers and agricultural specialists will be delighted to learn about reports such as "The U.S. Food Import System: Issues, Processes and Proposals" and "The Economic Impact of Agritourism in New Jersey: A 2006 Assessment". The site is rounded out by the "Resources" section, which contains handy links to government agencies, academic institutions, and industry groups working in this area. [KMG]

Neurons: Animated Cellular and Molecular Concepts [Macromedia Flash Player]

Most people might know that neurons are electrically excitable cells in the nervous system that process and transit information. But after that, many more might ask: "How do they work?" or "What kind of actions can they perform?" This website, created by researchers at the University of Toronto, steps in to help answer such difficult questions through interactive presentations and animations. Visitors will find twelve different topical sections here, including "Anatomy of a Neuron", "Axonal Transport", and "Neurotransmitter Release". Each of these sections includes dynamic visualizations, coupled with textual explanations that help users understand what's going on. And for visitors who find themselves having difficulty navigating the site, there is also a "How to Use the Program" primer that's quite nice. Additionally, teachers and others can download selected animations from the site for use in non-commercial purposes. [KMG]

The Missing Link

Professor Elizabeth Green Musselman of Southwestern University is excited about the history of science, and she's devised a rather ingenious way to get others excited about it as well. She's created a monthly podcast which can be found on this site, along with lists of suggested readings for those who are looking for additional information. Episodes currently available include "Time's Arrow", which features an exploration of time's "strange behavior" and "Constant Companions", which looks at the animals that have accompanied humans through the history of scientific study and medical discovery. Visitors will find that these podcasts are informative, witty, and quite accessible and they can also sign up to receive the RSS feed from the site. [KMG]

Global Canopy Programme [pdf]

Working high above the ground below, researchers who study forest canopies work together on a number of unique scientific endeavors, including tracking the flora and fauna of these unique ecosystems. The Global Canopy Programme is an alliance of 29 scientific institutions interested in exploring "the range and economic value of forest ecosystem services and to share [their] findings with decision-makers in government and finance." Visitors can get acquainted with the Programme's work by watching a short introductory video, read a few journal entries, and look at their latest press releases. The "Forest Ecosystems" area provides a brief overview of the benefits that forest ecosystems provide, such as soil stabilization, climate buffering, and rainfall generation. From there, visitors can look at their "Publications" area, which features factsheets and full-length reports, including "Ecosystem Services of the Congo Basin Forests". [KMG]

Conflict and Health [pdf]

Public health experts, doctors, policymakers and others are increasingly interested in the relationship between health and conflict. A number of those people recently collaborated to create the "Conflict and Health" journal. The journal is part of the BioMedCentral publishing group, and it is an open access, peer-reviewed publication, which looks at "the intricate relationship between conflict and health, and how health interventions in war zones may contribute to peace." There is no better way to explore the journal than by looking at some of the recently published articles on their homepage. Recent pieces have included works on HIV and AIDS services in Myanmar and post-traumatic stress disorder among Somali ex-combatants. Visitors can also take a look at their publishing guidelines and sign up to receive their RSS feed. [KMG]

General Interest

The North American Breeding Bird Survey [pdf] (Last reviewed in the Scout Report on March 4, 1998)

Established in 1966, the North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) was created in order to track the status and trends of North American bird populations. Drawing on the resources of the United States Geological Survey's Patuxent Wildlife Research Center and the Canadian Wildlife Service's National Wildlife Research Center, the BBS is able to monitor bird populations across North America. To complete this work every year, participants skilled in avian identification collect bird population data during the month of June. On the site, visitors can learn more about the BBS, and even get apply to become involved in the data collection process. Persons with a penchant for ornithology should look at their "Learning Tools" area, as it contains a bird quiz, and a bird identification information center. Finally, visitors with an interest in data will appreciate the "Results and Analyses" area, as it affords access to bird population estimates, maps, raw data, and so on. [KMG]

Two on John Steinbeck

John Steinbeck: The California Novels
The Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies

John Steinbeck was known for many things, including his love for much of California, his desire to portray working people in a positive light, and his passion for travel. Since his death in 1968, scholars and members of the public have pored over his writings, which include everything from tales of migrant workers to his well-documented trip across the United States with his French standard poodle, Charley. The first link offered here is to a site created by Professor Ed Stephan of Western Washington University. Essentially, the site offers guided tours of Steinbeck's novels which are set in California. Visitors can learn about the places profiled in "The Red Pony", "Tortilla Flat", "Cannery Row", and other works. For each work, Stephan offers a brief chapter summary and a small map which details the location of various events and activities discussed in the book. The second site featured here is the homepage of The Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies at San Jose State University. This site offers a detailed biography of Steinbeck, a detailed listing of his works, and a searchable online bibliography of secondary materials on Steinbeck. This bibliography contains over 6800 records, including magazine pieces, newspaper articles, journal articles, and full-length critical appraisals of his work. [KMG]

Picturing the Cayuse, Walla Walla, and Umatilla Tribes
Born in Pendleton, Oregon in 1850, Lee Moorhouse had a long career as a businessman, miner, surveyor, Umatilla Indian agent, and real estate operator. From 1888 to 1916, Moorhouse also found time to take over 9000 images depicting urban, rural, and Native American life in the Columbia Basin. Several decades after his death, Moorhouse's family donated many of the images to the University of Oregon Library. Over the past several years, staff members at the Library have been working to digitize a selection of photographs from this fine collection. Visitors to the site can learn more about Moorhouse and the project in the "About the Project" section before moving on to browse and search the images offered here. Currently there are about 315 items in the collection, and taken as a whole, the collection affords a number of interesting insights into the lives of Native Americans in the region. [KMG]

Building Green

There's a great deal of talk about "building green" in the architecture and design world, but to many, this phrase may not mean a great deal. This website, created by the Building Green company, can help the uninitiated learn more about this subject. First-time visitors should click on the "Green Building Information" area. Here they can get answers to such question as "What is green?" and also learn more about green design strategies and the LEED rating system. Right next to this section is the "Case Studies" area, which features green building projects like elementary schools, commercial facilities, and university buildings. The site is rounded out by a "News" area and a detailed bibliography of websites, print resources, and so on. [KMG]

Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC can be an emotional experience, and it has garnered substantial acclaim since it was unveiled in 1982. The people behind the Footnote historical records site recently crafted this interactive version of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and it's well worth a look. The interactive image was assembled from 6301 images photographed by Peter Krogh and stitched together by Darren Higgins. Visitors can type in names to the search engine at the top of the homepage, browse names by category, and also look up names by military branch. Additionally, visitors can leave a tribute, a story, or a photograph about any of the 58,256 veterans listed on the Memorial. [KMG]

The IMF and Civil Society [pdf, Windows Media Player, Quick Time]

Over the past several decades, the number of civil society organizations (such as labor unions, think tanks, and faith-based associations) has grown exponentially. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is intimately interested in such organizations, and would like to engage with such groups "through information sharing, dialogue, and consultation at both global and national levels." Visitors to the homepage are encouraged to look at the "Spotlight" area as a starting point, as it contains briefing documents and news releases on the IMF's recent activities in this area. Moving down the homepage, visitors are also encouraged to look at the "News" section, which contains the latest updates from poverty reduction programs in Haiti and other structured initiatives. The site is rounded out by a "Resources" area which contains a basic factsheet, the archives of the Civil Society Newsletter, and transcripts from various events and symposia. [KMG]

Allies in Adversity: Australia and the Dutch in the Pacific War

The relationship between the Netherlands and Australia is a rather interesting one, and this was especially true during late 1941, after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. While Japan did not include the Dutch colony of the Netherlands East Indies (contemporary Indonesia) in these opening attacks, Allied planners knew that they would be interested in this area for the wide range of natural resources located on Borneo, Java and Sumatra. The Dutch eventually would use Australia as a base of military operations after Japan conquered much of the Netherlands East Indies. This site, created by the Australian War Memorial takes a look at the relationship between Australia and the Netherlands, and also at the Dutch experience in Australia and as prisoners of the Japanese. The site is divided into four sections: "Japanese conquest", "A seafaring nation", "Prisoners of the Japanese", and "The Dutch in Australia". In each area, visitors can read narrative essays on each subject, look at historical materials culled from the Memorial's archives, and also listen to the oral histories of Dutch prisoners of war. [KMG]

Winslow Homer: Behind the Scenes

The lines are often exceedingly long for the Art Institute of Chicago's (AIC) Winslow Homer exhibition, so it is a good thing that the AIC is providing this online, behind-the-scenes, look at the exhibit. Based on studies of Homer's works conducted by curators, researchers, and conservators at the AIC between 2005 and 2007, the online exhibition reveals another side of the artist. Homer has always been admired for painting quickly and spontaneously; the study shows that while his "watercolors look effortless, they are often the result of complex and deliberate artistic planning." Browse selected works to learn how Homer handled his paints, including full physical descriptions of each work; charts of his pigments; photomicrographs; and digital simulations that restore faded colors. For example, The Watcher, Tynemouth, 1882, employs rewetting, blotting, and scraping, and it is possible to view video demonstrations of all of these techniques, and more. Be sure to check the detail of Prout's Neck Breaking Wave, 1887, to see Homers fingerprint. [DS]

Network Tools

Glary Utilities 2.5
Improving system performance can be difficult at times, so it's nice to learn about this latest version of Glary Utilities. The application allows users to clean up unwanted junk files, remove invalid and broken shortcuts, and also scan and remove faulty registry entries. This particular version is compatible with computers running Windows 98 and newer. [KMG]

Miro 1.2
Miro is an open-source video platform designed to enhance the viewing of videos, film, and television programs online. After downloading the program, visitors can sign up for a variety of video RSS feeds and video podcasts. Visitors are also welcome to send along feedback and they can also take advantage of a short primer film on Miro that explains all of the bells and whistles of this program. This version is compatible with computers running Mac OS X or Windows 98 and newer. [KMG]

In The News

As their numbers decrease, cineastes and others muse about the future of the newspaper film critic

Newspapers Losing Film Critics [Free registration may be required]

Ebert returns to the movies,ebert040108.article

Meet a Critic: USA Today's Claudia Puig Surveys The Critical Landscape

The Nation: James Agee's Review of "It's a Wonderful Life"

The Movies Are: Carl Sandburg's Film Reviews and Essays, 1920-1928,M1


The rise of the professional critic was heralded by some as an important innovation in a number of fields, including literary studies and film. Others have remained skeptical of critics, including Mark Twain, who once opined "The public is the only critic whose opinion is worth anything at all." Still, many find professional critics quite important, and lately they have expressed concern about the decline of film critics in various print publications. In the past several years, more than a dozen daily newspapers and several alternative weeklies have decided to let their film critics go, and a number of people in the industry are concerned about this trend. This week, Scott Rudin, the producer of "No Country for Old Men" and "There Will Be Blood", remarked "For those of us who are making work that requires a kind of intellectual conversation, we rely on that talk to do the work of getting people interested." Others have noted that many film websites offer equally critical and probing explorations of everything under the cinematic sun. S.T. VanAirsdale, the founder of a site dedicated to coverage of the New York film world commented, "Honestly, I think that a lot of the viewers of serious film have already migrated to the Web." [KMG]

The first link will take visitors to an article from this Tuesday's New York Times which discusses the ongoing decline of newspaper film critics. The second link leads to an official letter from the beloved Roger Ebert about his return to writing movie reviews after his long convalescence. Moving on, the third link leads to a nice interview with USA Today film critic Claudia Puig conducted by Jen Yamato for Rotten Tomatoes (a website that organizes, collects, and provides access to film reviews from a variety of sources.) The fourth link whisks users away to one of author James Agee's celebrated film reviews. Written for The Nation in 1946, Agee has this to say, in part, about "It's a Wonderful Life": "Much too often this movie appeals to the heart at the expense of the mind, at other times it urgently demands of the heart that it treat with contempt the mind's efforts to keep its integrity; at still other times the heart is simply used, on the mind, as a truncheon." The fifth link leads to a digitized version of a book that features the film reviews that Carl Sandburg wrote for the Chicago Daily News in the 1920s. Finally, the last link leads to IndieWire, which offers up great information on independent film festivals, conferences, film weblogs, and so on. [KMG]

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