The Scout Report -- Volume 15, Number 45

November 13, 2009

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

Geology Resources: The University of Texas of the Permian Basin

The University of Texas of the Permian Basin (UTPB) has a well-regarded geology program, and they have created this engaging site to profile the geology of their unique corner of West Texas. Their geology resources page contains the following sections: "Geological Overview", "West Texas Geology", "Interesting Links", "Road Logs", "Cores & Samples & Topo Maps", and "Presentations". The "Geological Overview" area offers a brief rundown of the geological milieu surrounding the UTPB campus. Moving on, the site really comes alive in "West Texas Geology", with insightful descriptions of the Basin and Range Province, faults, folds, igneous intrusions, and a relief map of Texas. Those with a penchant for travel will be delighted with the "Road Logs" area. Essentially, they are geological tour guides for persons driving from Midland to Van Horn, the Guadalupe Mountains, and other locations. Overall, its a well-done site, and one that visitors will want to share with friends. [KMG]

To find this resource and more high-quality online resources in math and science visit Scout's sister site - AMSER, the Applied Math and Science Educational Repository at

Unbearable Pain: India's Obligation to Ensure Palliative Care [pdf]

The Human Rights Watch organization has written this report, which talks about the difficulties faced by patients in major cancer hospitals across India. Released in October 2009, this 102-page report takes an investigative look into the pain treatment situation in these hospitals. The report identifies three key obstacles to improving the availability of pain treatment and palliative care, including restrictive drug regulations and the failure to train doctors about pain treatment methods. Visitors will find that the report is divided into several major sections including "Palliative Care and Pain Treatment in India" and "The Plight of Patients". Additionally, interested parties can also view the appendices attached to the report. An online slide show and a video feature round out the site. [KMG]

World Summit on Food Security [pdf]

As global food security concerns continue to mount, a variety of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other entities look for dialogue and discussion that will lead to concrete and timely policy solutions. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations convened a World Summit on Food Security in November 2009, and this website offers documents from that meeting, along with information about related events and news stories. In the "List of documents" area, visitors can make their way through agendas, timetables, and the crucial "Roundtable Concept Notes" series. This series includes thought-provoking pieces on financial crises and food security and rural development. Visitors can also learn about forthcoming forums and read transcripts from past forums as well. [KMG]

Expect Delays: An Analysis of Air Travel Trends in the United States [pdf]

There has been talk about an airline passenger "Bill of Rights" for years, and this recent report from the Brookings Institution might renew calls for such a document. Released in October 2009, this report by Robert Puentes and Adie Tomer looks at national and metropolitan levels of commercial air patterns between 1990 and 2009 and finds that half of the countrys flights are routes of less than 500 miles and that the 26 largest metropolitan airline hubs continue to have the lions share of flight delays. The report notes that despite a bit of flight time recovery during the recent economic crisis, "the return of economic growth will resume the boost in travelers, a concomitant decline in on-time performance, and the hyper-concentration of U.S. air travel within major metropolitan areas." The report includes links to recent analyses of air travel trends in the intermountain West and the Great Lakes region, and an appendix of metropolitan hubs. [KMG]

Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History & Culture

The 46th state, Oklahoma, presents its unusual history with the online version of The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture. The Encyclopedia was prepared by over 500 "university-based scholars and independent historians and scholars," and was a joint effort by The Oklahoma Historical Society and Oklahoma State University Library Electronic Publishing Center. Visitors can click on the "Table of Contents" link near the bottom of the homepage to "Browse Entries Alphabetically", "Browse Entries Chronologically", or "Browse Entries by Subject". Browsing via chronology introduces visitors to Oklahoma starting with the "Precontact Era", through the "Westward Expansion" and on to "Twentieth Century to Present". Subject categories include "African Americans", "Farming", "Military", and "Petroleum". When searching, visitors will be taken to the Electronic Publishing Center Search Page, so they will need to choose the specific collection, Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, from the drop down box, to confine the search to the Encyclopedia. [KMG]

Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics Online [Last reviewed in the Scout Report on October 22, 1999]

The Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics Online is frequently updated, and is maintained by the United States Department of Justice and the Bureau of Justice Statistics. The site offers over 1000 tables of data from over 100 sources. An interesting and multi-perspective approach to measuring the level of crime can be found in section number three, which is titled "Crime, Victims", and it resides on the left hand side of the homepage. It offers statistics about the frequency of various crimes by presenting data from victimization surveys, and officially recorded offenses. Visitors interested in printing the text, tables, or both, of each section, can download them via a link in each section that immediately precedes the list of the topics of that section. The "Archive" link in the menu across the top of the page, allows visitors to download complete editions of the Sourcebook, going back to 1994. Each section of the books can be downloaded separately, or the entire book for that year can be downloaded as a zip file. [KMG]

The Virtual Lab Book [pdf]

It can be a real challenge to learn about the foibles and details of lab work, so it is nice to report that Dr. Stephanie Dellis has created this excellent Virtual Lab Book for students beginning the study of molecular biology. The guide is divided into twelve parts, including "Safety in the Molecular Biology Lab", "Minipreparation of Plasmid DNA", and "PCR and Thermacycling". Along with written instructions and particulars, each section also contains a number of helpful diagrams and visual illustrations. Visitors will also want to look at the specialized lab protocols included here, such as "How to Spread a Plate" and "DNA Isolation". [KMG]

To find this resource and more high-quality online resources in math and science visit Scout's sister site - AMSER, the Applied Math and Science Educational Repository at

South African Government Information: Documents [pdf]

Persons interested in international governance and comparative political science will find this website most informative. The site was created and is maintained by the South African government, and it contains hundreds of papers, policy briefs, statistical documents, and annual reports related to the operation of the country. The website is fairly uncomplicated, and the site is divided into fourteen sections headed by bullet points that include "Acts", "Constitution", "Provincial Documents", and "Green Papers". Most people will probably want to look at the "Acts" area, as its a good way to get a sense of the governments priorities over the past several years. Also, visitors can perform a document search here and also review documents listed by subject or theme. Overall, its an easy to use site, and one that provides timely materials on the workings of the government of South Africa. [KMG]

General Interest

Vincent Van Gogh: The Letters

The letters written by Vincent Van Gogh have appeared many times before, but this is the first time they have appeared as part of a complete digital edition. This fascinating collection was created by the Van Gogh Museum and the Huygens Institute, and the letters were edited by Leo Jansen, Hans Luijten and Nineke Bakker. On the site, visitors can view 902 letters from and to Van Gogh, complete with detailed annotations and illustrations from the master himself. First-time visitors should definitely click on the "Quick Guide" to get an overview of the sites holdings, and then they should also take a look at the sections "Van Gogh as a letter-writer", "Correspondents", "Biographical & historical context", and "Publication History". The letters include those from many of his contemporaries, including Paul Gauguin, and of course, those lovely pieces of writing from his brother, Theo. Users can also use the search engine here to look around by keyword. Finally, visitors can also look through the "About this Edition" area to learn about the reading texts included here, the translations, and the annotations. [KMG]

Louis Braille: His Legacy and Influence [Flash Player]

This compelling digital exhibit pays homage to the life and work of Louis Braille, the inventor of the tactile six-dot reading and writing system which changed the way that blind people were able to understand and contribute to the world. The exhibit was created by the Library of Congress, and it complements an in situ exhibit at the Librarys James Madison Building. Clicking on the "Exhibition Items" will bring up two dozen items from the exhibit. Theres quite a trove here, including a historic image of the Library of Congresss Reading Room for the Blind from 1902 and a tactile map of the Districts Metrorail system. Many of the documents also have extra interactive features that allow users to zoom in and out around each dot, image, or corner. [KMG]

In Transition: Selected Poems by the Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven

Noted editor and literary critic Margaret Anderson once referred to the Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven as "perhaps the only figure of our generation who deserves the epithet extraordinary." The future Baroness was born Else Hildegard Ploetz in 1874 and she came to the United States in 1910. After her husband committed suicide, Else become a part of the Greenwich Village artist milieu, where she began her productive, albeit brief, writing career. The twelve texts offered here by the University of Maryland are related through their themes (which include an interest in emerging scientific technologies) and their publication within "little" magazines. Visitors can get a sense of the background behind the project by reading the Introduction, and then moving on to look through some of the works. What is perhaps most compelling about the site is that visitors can make their way through various drafts of each work, along with commentary and other germane details. [KMG]

BBC: Learning English

This clever website from the BBC aids people learning English, by offering help in the form of "Words in the News", "Quizzes", videos via YouTube, and English "makeovers" in "General and Business English". "Words in the News", "The Teacher", and "Keep Your English Up to Date" help learners with their "Grammar, Vocabulary and Pronunciation". In the "Quizzes" section there are several different types, including "Quiznet", "Crossword", "Beat the Keeper", and "Exam Skills". None are so long that learners will get bored or frustrated. Visitors who teach English or English as a Second Language will find the "For Teachers" section loaded with activities that accompany the many different features on Learning English. In the Downloads section on the far right hand side of the page, learners can get the past seven days of audio, video, and text to take away. "Talk About English" and "Ask About English" are regular features of the site, and can be accessed on the week's schedule at the bottom of the homepage. [KMG]

American Experience: Civilian Conservation Corps

The excellent film from the WBGH website, The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), is offered in its entirety on this site. "Heal the man, heal the land," was the philosophy of the CCC, and they engaged in some of the first environmental conservation work in the country. Since many academics, politicians, and lay people compare the current troubled times with what was seen in the 1930s, this film is particularly pertinent and visitors can decide if it's an apt comparison or not. Regardless, the stories of the three million young men who benefited from the regular meals, healthcare, clothing, diversity and hard work are fascinating. The trailer for the film starts playing right upon entering the website, but can be stopped just by clicking on the screen. Visitors can scroll over the "The 1930s Collection" logo to the right hand side of the film's screen to see the playlist for the film, but watching the whole film is recommended, as it is truly a treat. [KMG]

Langston Hughes Papers

A portion of the Langston Hughes Papers are available here on Yale Universitys Digital Library site. Hughes' complete papers (1862-1980) are comprised of "letters, manuscripts, personal items, photographs, clippings, artworks, and objects" and are available at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. For the digitized collection, visitors should click on the "See All Images" option on the left hand side of the page to view the nine pages of thumbnail images. Each thumbnail image can be expanded so that visitors can view each image in detail. Each document can also be saved, by clicking "Save" above the thumbnail. The saved images are then moved to a folder that can hold saved images to be ordered, or just viewed again. The folder is called "My Group", and can be found below the pink menu near the top of the page. Visitors shouldn't miss the beautiful poem entitled "For A'lelia" that Hughes wrote for A'Lelia Walker after she died in 1931, and which was subsequently read at her funeral. It can be found in the second row of images, in the first spot, when "See All Images" is selected on the homepage. [KMG]

In & Out of Amsterdam: Travels in Conceptual Art, 1960-1976

This small show from MoMA showcases the work of 10 artists: Bas Jan Ader, Allen Ruppersberg, Jan Dibbets, Gilbert & George, Stanley Brouwn, Hanne Darboven, Lawrence Weiner, Charlotte Posenenske, Ger van Elk, and Sol LeWitt. The exhibit is, in the words of a recent review "odd, offbeat and often thrillingly intelligent." The show captures the essence of the art scene in Amsterdam from 1960-1976, when many avant-garde artists from Holland, the rest of Europe, and the United States congregated there. Several of the works in the exhibition are performance-based, such as Ger van Elk's Paul KleeUm den Fisch, 1926 (Around the Fish), a set of 8 slides projected on a table, showing the artist eating a fish similar to the one in Klee's more well-known painting (only one frame is shown in the web exhibition). Other works also comment on the fleetingness of time, such as Jan Dibbets' The Shortest Day at my House in Amsterdam, 80 color prints taken at eight-minute intervals between dawn and dusk on the winter solstice in 1970; or Hanne Darboven's 100 Books 0099, 100 open books, each representing a year in a century, arranged face up on a table. [DS]

Network Tools

Piwigo 2.0

Out of the vast universe of available photo gallery software packages, Piwigo distinguishes itself with a snappy user interface and a set of customizable features. Foremost among these features is a category "tree" which lets users create photo categories that expand and flatten the tree structure to view all the photos. Visitors can also set up user permissions and also create rating tabs for each photo, or groups of photos. This version is compatible with computers running Mac OS 10.3 or newer or Windows 95 and newer. [KMG]

Smart System Informer 2.1

Its always a good idea to keep tabs on what programs your computer is running, and Smart System Informer 2.1 is a fine way to do exactly that. The application launches a small tabbed window that helps users quickly scan their system, and it returns information about the video and monitor settings, along with reports on memory use, currently running processes, and a list of all installed programs. This version is compatible with computers running Windows 95 and newer. [KMG]

In The News

Controversy and conversation continue about the transparency of microcredit lending organizations

Confusion on Where Money Lent via Kiva Goes [Free registration may be required]

Microfinance programs harness Web to connect borrowers and lenders

Kiva is Not Quite What It Seems

Innocuous Changes vs. Grand Designs

Microfinance Gateway [pdf]


Since Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in 2006 for their work on microcredit lending, a number of institutions working on similar issues have received a great deal of attention and press coverage. One such organization is Kiva, which was founded in 2005 by Matt and Jessica Flannery. Kiva prides itself on serving as a link "between small individual lenders and small individual borrowers", and on their website visitors can select the person they would like to support. Recently, this personal connection came under question by David Roodman, a research fellow at the Center for Global Development. In a lengthy blog post, Roodman questioned the direct one-to-one relationship between the lender and the borrower, while remaining largely positive about Kiva's mission. Some commentators have continued to raise the question of transparency, and in the wake of the news, Kiva amended a statement on their website to state simply "Kiva connects people through lending to alleviate poverty." This controversy has not been bad for Kiva, and the president of Kiva, Premal Shah, commented this week "If anything, it has drawn more people into the nuance and beauty of this model of microfinance. It's highly imperfect, but it's like a 3 year-old child: it has a lot of potential." [KMG]

The first link will take users to an article from this Monday's New York Times which talks about this recent controversy surrounding Kiva. The second link leads to an article from the Mercury News that provides additional background on the nature of microfinance programs and their mission. Moving on, the third link leads visitors to David Roodman's original blog post about Kiva. The fourth link will whisk users away to a post on creating a "real marketplace for development" by Dennis Whittle, the CEO of Global Giving. The fifth link leads to the Microfinance Gateway homepage. Here visitors can learn about how microfinance works in different countries around the world, read papers from their online library, and peruse announcements from the microfinance industry. The last link leads to the homepage of Kiva, and it's well worth looking at some of the profiles and success stories featured here. [KMG]

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