Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Pull up a chair

I have noticed Brian D. Meeks books being advertised and I have had one or more on my Kindle for quite a while.  So, looking for a light story, I read "Underwood, Scotch and Wry".  It is the story of an English professor who has written some good novels but nothing in a long time.  The college administration feels his smart-mouthing, his fooling with attractive female students and his general behavior are an embarrassment and reflect poorly on the college.  They require that he teach a course about social media even though he is a famous computer-phobe.  However, the man is witty and intelligent and soon finds that his graduate assistants and the older students make good company.  They help him learn about Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and other software and programs and tools for communicating and socializing on the internet.


He requires that each student open a Twitter account and "follow" every other student in the class of 100+ students.  The classes are brisk and fun and in no time, students not formally enrolled sit in, too.


I also have a Twitter account, which I basically use to support books I read that I like.  Kindle software makes it easy and quick to select a passage, add a short comment and have the passage and comment appear on Twitter. The grad students introduced the professor to Tweetdeck, a tool for keeping an eye on multiple Tweet streams at once.  Reading a little about Tweetdeck reminded me that I don't do Facebook or the other social media, mostly because I have enough to do paying attention to what happens in my life without additional outlets or habits.


You may have run into the computerized social craze lately.  Walk through a department store (what's a department store?) and you may get offered a chance to give the store your email address in order to received copies of their newsletter and notification of fabulous deals they offer at random times.  These days, you can get many offers to join this, join that, be part of this group or that group.  I just this minute received an invitation to join "a virtual [read "online"] graduate book club."  


I actually have more than enough to do.  It is true that Lynn and others mention items they saw on Facebook that I would have missed but for them.  However, I have them.  I want to pay attention to my thoughts, my feelings, my actions and what is going on right outside, bear tracks and all. 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

One way we got so smart

I wrote about gut bugs here

in 2012 and again here in 2014


Now I am writing about body creatures, guts and mouth and elsewhere.  Amazon has been waving words and pictures at me concerning a book called "10% Human".  I knew it was about bacteria, viruses and other creatures that typically live on us or in us.  Today I saw another ad for the book, this time including the price of a download of the book for $1.99.  As mentioned in the above posts, Dr. Martha Herbert of Harvard pointed to the possibility that people experiencing autism might be missing some of the gut life that our bodies use to extract essential nutrients that we can't get without them.  Missing nutrients could affect nerves, nerve transmission and other important parts of body functions.


But the author of "10% Human", Alanna Collen, emphasizes more and more scientific understanding is unraveling the connection between all the minute critters on and in us and all sorts results we need and want. You may have heard of "fecal transplants" where feces, yes, shit, from one person is introduced into the gut of someone who is ailing and thereby gains the bugs needed.  Dr. Collen also explains that the Human Genome Project produce many knowledgeable bets as to the total number of genes in humans.  Since many completely analyzed small animals have 20,000 or so genes, some scientists expected good ol' humans to have way more than that.  Turns out, the humans had more or less a standard number, not the fabulously high number we deserve.  


But, now they are starting to take account of the genes in all the little creatures who are part of us and then the total number is very high.  You may feel that you are more than just 10% human.  More like 100%, but Collen says that the total number of genes at work in the human is quite high and means that only 10% are our actual genes.  She mentions that over a typical human lifetime, the total weight of the bacteria and other microscopic life in and on us equals the weight of five African elephants!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Sliding around

Our new flooring is installed.  It is fake wood and quite shiny and smooth.  It shows every speck of dust but it doesn't grip or impede the furniture that way rugs do. So, we are now in position to slide and twirl while seated or lying down.  We will soon take lessons to develop our sofa skiing.  With a running start and accuracy, we expect to be able to slide right out of the front door and down the driveway.  


We envision twirling parties.  Maybe about 8 diners around our table, all slipping and sliding this way and that.  It ought to be fun if we can avoid too much damage or getting hurt.  We will give each guest a little test to avoid irritating any pre-conditions or motion sickness.  Our grandkids and their children are willing to police the area, stop speeders and rescue those who overdo.  


It should be fun but we don't want to this to get out of hand.  We can see how some people might develop too much fun and have difficulty returning to a standstill.  We have a spreadsheet set up to keep track of who has been twirling so we avoid inviting anyone more often than would be prudent and healthy.


We do plan to limit the beer and wine so that twirling and alcohol don't combine to give anyone trouble driving home.  The floor is quite comfortable and we plan to restrict those who need it to a savasana posture, flat out on the back, until the room stops spinning on its own and the stomach settles down.  I bet we are going to be all the rage!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Chade-Meng Tan

Chade-Meng Tan is a Google software engineer who morphed into being Google's director of personal development.  He is the author of the book "Search Inside Yourself", based on the program for Google employees to learn and practice meditation.  He has a new book out called "Joy on Demand" ($1.99 for a download from Amazon).


If you read this blog very often, you know that I began it in 2008.  I had retired but I realized near the end of my teaching, that I had failed to emphasize the value of meditation.  It is all the rage in some places to teach quiet meditation to children and that may be a wonderful thing.  But I suspect that it is older people, young parents with many worries and responsibilities, older people facing many stressful problems and projects at work and at home and much older people bearing the loss of a partner, physical difficulties and aging that can benefit the most from meditation.  


Sitting quietly without moving for ten timed minutes, keeping your attention on your breathing or your eye on a particular spot will enable you to notice when you have gotten caught up in an internal story, maybe your back or watering your plants. Gently but firmly resetting your attention on the target over and over is mind training.  You develop greater sensitivity to what your mind is doing.  


Just a day or two before encountering "Joy on Demand", I found myself, as I woke up, getting into a grouchy mood.  I was able to see that I was doing that and to see that such a mood was an option but that I had others.  I chose something more cheerful.  As I did so, I could feel that I was deciding  how to feel, what mood to be in.  As Chade-Meng Tan says in this TED talk, meditation mind training can do a lot more than bring joy on demand.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Fwd: The Scout Report -- Volume 23, Number 21

Notice these are chosen as best of the year

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: <>
Date: Fri, May 26, 2017 at 9:06 AM
Subject: The Scout Report -- Volume 23, Number 21

May 26, 2017
Volume 23, Number 21

Best of 2016-2017

The Internet Scout staff takes pride in providing links to some of the best online resources in our weekly Scout Report. Although all of the resources we cover are valuable, inevitably some stand out from the pack. In this year's 'Best of' issue, we share some of our favorite sites from the past academic year. The process of selecting which sites to include was not easy, as the interests of our staff vary as much as those of our readers. Whether it is the design of the site, the fascinating content, or its classroom usability, Scout staff all have different rationale for preferring one online resource over another. Nevertheless, we were able to produce a top ten list that we could all agree on and that also features some favorites that were shared, liked, and tweeted by our readers.

We hope you enjoy this list and take a few minutes to revisit some of our favorite sites from 2016-2017. As always, we look forward to providing new batches of fantastic resources throughout the upcoming year.

Staff Picks

Reader Favorites

If you would like to make a tax-deductible contribution to support The Scout Report and the work of Internet Scout, please visit our donation page.

Staff Picks

Back to Top
Archaeology of the Great War
Social studies

Archaeology of the Great War is a project that brilliantly combines valuable primary documents (including archival letters and photographs and archaeological finds) with exceptional design. Every aspect of this website, from the musical selection to the three dimensional images to the animation, is expertly crafted with a great deal of sensitivity and skill. The result is a multimedia resource that allows modern day visitors to learn about a pivotal (and profoundly violent) chapter of history and the importance of archeological research.

Archaeology of the Great War is a poignant, highly interactive website exhibiting recent archeological discoveries from the Argonne region in eastern France, where French and German troops engaged in trench warfare during World War I. The French Ministry of Culture and Communication, in conjunction with French archeologists, archivists, and university faculty, created this website to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the war. During the 1990s, a team of archeologists excavated the former battlefield, unearthing new clues about daily life and death during World War I. Visitors can view these archeological finds alongside archival photographs from the War. This material is helpfully organized into five chapters, which include thoughtful annotations about the significance of these new discoveries. Archeology of the Great War is a powerful resource about the experiences of WWI soldiers, and also demonstrates the role of archeology in recovering new insights about the past. Note: while the text of this site is available in French, English, and German, a few embedded videos are only in French.

Comment on or rate this resource

Busy Beaver Button Museum

Some of the most fascinating archival collections focus on a single kind of ephemera. These topical collections are entertaining to browse while also offering unexpected insights into the past. Chicago's Busy Beaver Button Museum is one of the finest (and, at times, funniest) collections of ephemera published in The Scout Report this year. This collection of hundreds of pinback buttons spans over a century and includes at once, poignant buttons, political buttons, irreverent buttons, and a few truly dated buttons. The highlight of this digitized collection just might be the Beaver page, which features solely buttons related to beavers.

Ever since pinback buttons were patented in 1896, buttons have been produced and worn for a plethora of reasons, from supporting a politician (e.g. the iconic I LIKE IKE buttons), to commemorating an event, to just showing off the pinner's sense of humor. The Busy Beaver Button Museum exists to document this unique item of cultural expression. Readers may visit the museum in person, in Chicago, or browse the comprehensive online collection here. Categories include Ask Me, which includes the classic "Ask me about..." buttons, Self Referential, which includes buttons that reference the fact that they're buttons, and Sports, Advertising, Political, Innovative, and other descriptive options. There is also a Fan Museum, which allows users to submit their own buttons, as well as browse the buttons of other fans. The News section features blog posts on the history of buttons, such as a great post on the history behind the right to vote, as depicted through buttons. Finally, readers will also find a wonderful book, A Very Brief History of Buttons, which can be viewed for free as a PDF.

Comment on or rate this resource

Ice and Sky

Designed for classroom use, Ice and Sky offers a number of appealing features for K-12 science teachers. However, this exceptionally well-designed multimedia website has a much broader appeal. The website incorporates documentary film, animation, audio, and engaging narrative in a way that makes browsing feel more like watching a movie. In addition to its striking visual appeal, Ice and Sky also contains a wealth of information about scientific research in Antarctica and the importance of this research in understanding our climate.

Ice and Sky is an interactive website about the history of glaciological research in Antarctica. Since the International Geophysical Year (July 1, 1957 to December 31, 1958), scientists have uncovered important details about the Earth's climate by examining the properties of Antarctica's ice. On this website, created by French documentarian Luc Jacquet and the non-profit media organization Wild Touch, visitors can learn about this history through a six-part video. Within each video chapter, educators will also find a number of related resources. These resources include recorded interviews with key scientists, detailed PowerPoint presentations, educational booklets, and short videos. While some of resources are embedded on the site, others can be downloaded through a link on the right side of the browser. Educators may also create their own classroom websites that feature specific resources of their choice. Worth noting: Ice and Sky earned a 2016 Webby nomination as an outstanding educational website.

Comment on or rate this resource

Immigration Syllabus
Social studies

Collaborative projects are becoming an increasingly popular way to tap into the diverse perspectives, educational experiences, and understandings of students, scholars, and the general public. The #ImmigrationSyllabus is a website and educational resource that exemplifies the value of such collaborative efforts. We love that this resource is not just helpful for educators; the #ImmigrationSyllabus includes a number of memoirs, films, and online collections that will broadly appeal to anyone interested in the historical roots of this enduring issue.

Nearly two dozen prominent history scholars have collaborated to create the Immigration Syllabus, a rich collection of resources for teaching America's immigration history. Published by the University of Minnesota (home of the Immigration History Research Center) and co-sponsored by the Immigration and Ethnic History Society, the Immigration Syllabus is a carefully curated collection of primary and secondary sources. Collectively, these resources illuminate the voluntary and forced migrations of people to the United States from the colonial era through the present day. This online syllabus is chronologically arranged into fifteen weeks, each centering on a key theme or question. Weekly themes include Why Study Immigration?; Mass Migration and the Rise of Federal Immigration Law; and Family, Gender, and Sexuality. Within each weekly section visitors will find hyperlinks to suggested readings and resources, many of which are digitized and freely available online. This collaborative project may be of special interest to history researchers and instructors working in higher education or advanced high school settings.

Comment on or rate this resource


Undark impressed us as an exemplar of scientific journalism. The magazine's content critically engages scientific topics in an accessible and easy-to-digest way. Undark has grown substantially since it was featured in The Scout Report last July and now offers a fantastic variety of long form narratives, video documentaries, editorials, photo-essays, and more. We also commend Undark for its use and integration of various media forms to provide readers with fantastic multimedia content.

"Undark" is what the U.S. Radium Corporation named the glow-in-the-dark - and radioactive - paint it produced for use on watches between 1917 and 1938. Hailed as a great innovation at the time, the paint tragically led to the premature deaths of many young, female factory workers, known today as the "radium girls." Undark, an online publication launched by the Knight Science Journalism Program at MIT this past spring, is dedicated to producing investigative journalism related to science. The editors write, "We appropriate the name ["undark"] as a signal to readers that our magazine will explore science not just as a 'gee-whiz' phenomenon, but as a frequently wondrous, sometimes contentious, and occasionally troubling byproduct of human culture." Edited and published by a team of prominent science writers, including Deborah Blum and Tom Zeller, Undark includes long-form investigative journalism, shorter articles, op-eds, documentaries, and news round-ups. The site has also produces a podcast, Colloquia, which accompanies longer investigative pieces. This online magazine is an especially useful source for those looking to better understand ethical debates in the scientific community.

Comment on or rate this resource

Reader Favorites

Back to Top
Global Open Data Index
Social studies

The Global Open Data Index was the most shared resource from The Scout Report this past year. Like our readers, we were impressed by this repository of government data from 94 different countries across the globe. These datasets are helpfully organized by country as well as topic, providing an invaluable tool for researchers and journalists. However, this resource will also be of interest to anyone curious about the relative openness of data around the world.

The Global Open Data Index, an initiative of Open Knowledge International, is at once an index of government open data and an assessment of these indexes. As the site notes, "Each year, governments are making more data available in an open format." The Global Open Data Index tracks whether these data are released in a way that is open and accessible to citizens, the media, and the generally curious. The Index ranks countries based on the availability and accessibility of data across 13 categories (including Election Results, Government Spending, and Legislation), displaying the results in an easily navigated infographic and map. Visitors to the site may also view open datasets, when available, by following links on these graphs or by conducting a text search. This makes the Global Open Data Index an excellent one stop shop for national data. Country rankings are updated annually.

Comment on or rate this resource

Museum of Obsolete Media

Our followers on social media really responded to this year's special edition of The Scout Report, released in honor of National Library Week (April 9-15, 2017). One resource that stood out was the Museum of Obsolete Media, a unique collection of tools and instruments used to record sound, motion, and information over the past two centuries. This online museum, which is frequently updated by curator Jason Curtis, is bound to provoke feelings of fascination, confusion, and even a twinge of nostalgia.

Over the past century and a half, the introduction of new technologies has dramatically changed the ways that sound, moving images, and data are recorded. These changes have rendered a number of objects and devices obsolete, from the Ambrotype (a photographic technique used between 1855 and 1865) to Little Marvel Records (a distinctive type of record sold only in Woolworth's Department stores between 1921 and 1922) to the Dragon 32 home computer (sold in Wales between 1982 and 1984). The Museum of Obsolete Media, curated by UK-based librarian Jason Curtis, highlights such materials via four collections: Audio Formats, Video Formats, Data Formats, and Film Formats. Within each collection, visitors may view photographs of dozens of obsolete media items. Each item is accompanied by an image and a brief description of its production, use, and eventual demise. Visitors may also enjoy browsing this collection by a series of Lists, which include Formats by Decade of Obsolescence, 10 Sony Formats that Failed, and 1980s Music Gallery.

Comment on or rate this resource


This delightful and sometimes cheeky Library of Congress exhibit provides a wealth of information about the history of opera in the United States. We loved #OperaBeforeInstagram for the amazing portrait photography (be sure to click on each image to get a glimpse into opera custumes over the years) accompanied by detailed and often humorous write-ups. ("Her voice was not exceptional, but it served her music honorably and well".)

This whimsically titled online exhibition is brought to readers by the Library of Congress. Staff at the Library mined the Charles Jahant Collection, nearly 2,000 photographs of opera singers from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, to present "a cross section of important singers who performed in the United States." Some of the opera stars were photographed in costume, while others were captured in their street clothes, making the collection of interest to opera aficionados, scholars of clothing and dress, lovers of old photography, and others. Many of the photographs are autographed to Charles Jahant. The approximately 3 dozen exhibition items have been divided into several sections for easy browsing: Operatic Singers in Formal Clothing, French Repertoire, German Repertoire, and Italian Repertoire. The images are accompanied by short IMDB style bios of the singers, for example, Helen Traubel (1899-1972), whose "predilection for radio and night club appearances annoyed the Met management and ended her operatic career in 1953."

Comment on or rate this resource

The Public Domain Review

As the team behind The Public Domain Review notes, a large number of archival materials have been digitized over the past twenty years, making it possible for people around the globe to examine and even experience the past. A number of websites have cropped up to curate and provide context to these fascinating archival collections. Among them, The Public Domain Review stands out for two reasons. First, the PDR offers a remarkable diversity of archival materials by inviting contributions from scholars of all disciplines. Secondly, materials are thoughtfully presented, which makes reading an informative and engaging treat.

Whenever any form of media is no longer protected by copyright law, it enters the public domain. The Public Domain Review is dedicated to collecting and curating this material in one place. Launched in 2011, the online journal and not-for-profit project features numerous images, complete books, audio clips, and videos. These materials range from the peculiar to the poignant, providing insight into both everyday life and extraordinary oddities. One can watch a 1916 adaptation of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (the first movie filmed underwater), view a gallery of beards, or read Queen Victoria's teenaged diary. Yet, The Public Domain Review offers more than a collection of intriguing ephemera. The project also publishes long-form essays that contextualize and analyze public domain material. In addition, the site features a monthly Curator's Choice series, where curators from around the world share public domain material from their institution's collections. Interested readers may subscribe to an email Newsletter to receive bi-weekly notifications about the latest article and the most interesting content featured in the Review.

Comment on or rate this resource


Data visualization offers engaging ways to view and interpret information. Our favorite network tool this past year does just that, offering users a whole new way to browse Wikipedia. Wikiverse imagines Wikipedia entries as a series of linked objects in space, arranged according to how closely related they are to one another. Wikiverse is perhaps most enjoyable when it reveals the unexpected connections between Wikipedia entries. In doing so, this unique tool exemplifies the ways that data visualization can help us engage with ideas and data.

Wikiverse is a new tool that provides users with a whole new way to browse Wikipedia and explore topics of interest. Created by data visualization engineer, Owen Cornec, Wikiverse allows visitors to visualize and explore links between Wikipedia subjects. The size of the Wikiverse can be controlled by the user, allowing users to explore either one, two, or five percent of Wikipedia. From here, users can explore any topic and see how this topic is linked to others. A list of related topics will appear on the right hand side of the site, or visitors can view the topic as a star in a three-dimensional galaxy. Related topics appear close by and are arranged into clusters, such as Art, Biology, or Geography. As visitors click on stars, full definitions and additional links appear on the left-hand side of the screen. Wikiverse provides a riveting experience, and highlights the interconnections between topics that, at first blush, seem entirely unrelated.

Comment on or rate this resource

The Scout Report (ISSN 1092-3861) is published every Friday of the year except for the last two Fridays of December by the Internet Scout Research Group, based in the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Department of Computer Sciences.

Current Issue · Back Issues · Reproduction Information


This message was sent to by

To forward this message, DO NOT use the forward button in your email client. Instead, use the forward function of our newsletter system
To change your details and to choose which lists to be subscribed to, visit your personal preferences page
Or you can opt-out completely from all future mailings.

Popular Posts

Follow @olderkirby