Thursday, December 29, 2005

Stingy Scholar on Vacation

My wife and I are going down to Argentina to visit family. Since I'm not sure if I'll be able to do daily updates, I've decided to take a break and resume posting when we get back on January 9. Thanks to everyone for all of the comments and emails. Have a Happy New Year!

Update - Jon Bischke and I are having a discussion in the LearnOutLoud forums on the importance of open educational materials. It would be great if you guys joined in the conversation.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Open History

Last week I mentioned my difficulty finding open history materials. In response, David sent me some great history-related links from George Mason University.

First, Scribe is very cool "notetaking platform". Notetaking does not quite describe the free download, however, as Scribe is a multi-faceted research tool created with historians in mind. After downloading the tool, I definitely felt it could work well in other disciplines such as literature and philosophy. Second, the History News Network has a great collection of blogs, podcasts, and other research aids. Third, check out all of the multimedia at the Ludwig von Mises Institute.

Be sure to check out Open History, David's new history-focused blog. Based upon his extraordinarily ambitious other blog, fix buffalo, I'm sure that this one will be very awesome.

Resume Writing Round-up

My friend Carroll, who works in corporate placement, suggested it was time to update my resume. I listened to her ideas and then poked around on the internet for other tips and guidelines. Thought I'd share with you some of the helpful sites I found:

10 Easy Ways to Improve Your Resume
How to Write a Resume.org (including good free resume samples)
How to Write a Masterpiece of a Resume
Resume Wiki (includes an excellent resource page)
Resume Tips Online
Action Verbs for Your Resume

Also, enter the search term "resume" at Mediasite to find several videos, including a three hour workshop. And for job-hunters, Simply Hired and Indeed are two of my favorite job-search engine. Thanks to David for letting me use his photo in this post.

Update -
A ton of other samples are resume writing tools here at Resumagic. Also, this AskMeFi post has good advice and more links.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

MSNBC Year in Pictures

MSNBC put together a nice slideshow presentation with some of this year's most powerful pictures. Very nice.

Monday, December 26, 2005

World Lecture Hall

The University of Texas at Austin has assembled an index of free online course materials from around the world. This portal now includes filters for audio and video (here are the search results for all courses with audio and video). Be forewarned - many of the courses include nothing more that a syllabus, some seem like scams, and others take you to pages requiring an university ID to log-in. Nevertheless, World Lecture Hall is an opportunity to find free courses materials from universities other than those with formal OpenCourseWare programs indexed by the excellent OCW finder.

Although there is alot of garbage to filter through, there are some good nuggets in there. I plan to take a closer look at these Classics courses, this University of Delaware online ecommerce course, and the independent study school of law.

Radio Lovers

Here's a great site for finding some old radio recordings. From such classics as Amos & Andy to Buck Rogers, Radio Lovers archives the original art of audio narration currently being rekindled in today's podcast. Radio Lovers believes that all of these broadcasts are in the public domain, which means that you should be free to listen, use, mix, and mash to your heart's desire.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Science of the Perfect Christmas Turkey

University of Bristol physicist, Dr. Peter Barham, explains how to cook the perfect Christmas turkey using scientific principles:

Meat consists of muscle fibres, connective tissues and fats. The muscle fibres largely consist of two proteins, myosin and actin. When muscle fibres are heated above about 40ºC the proteins start to denature, the resulting change of shape involves the proteins coiling up. This coiling process inevitably causes some contraction of the muscle. As meat is cooked, so heat flows in and more proteins are denatured. The denatured proteins shrink making the meat progressively tougher. Thus the longer you cook any meat the 'tougher' the muscle fibres will become. (More)

Update from Cheli - "Remember the meat gets tender by having plenty of time to stew in its juices. Read the whole article for the complete story."

Christmas Tunes and 'Toons

Merry Christmas everyone! Thought I would send some links for holiday tunes, 'toons, and some other stuff. By the way, the cartoons in this post are from my father.

Tunes
Very rare holiday
DJ Rikos Christmas
Accuradio Holidays
Gorilla vs. Bear Holiday Mixtape
Medieval Holiday Music
It's a Wonderful Life

'Toons
Calvin and Hobbes Snow Art Gallery
Elf Zapper Game
Drout 750 Holiday Cards

More
Scared of Santa Photo Gallery
Santa Hack
Chaos Kitty Holiday Zen (lots of links here)

What They Don't Teach You in Grad School

From Inside Higher Ed, here are some helpful pointers for new grad students:

I. Understanding the Meaning of a Ph.D.
1. Finish your Ph.D. as early as possible. Don’t feel that you need to create the greatest work that Western Civilization has ever seen. Five years from now the only thing that will matter is whether you finished. If you don’t finish you are likely to join the ranks of “freeway flyers.” holding multiple part-time teaching jobs.

II. Finishing the Dissertation
4. If little or nothing is written on your dissertation topic, don’t assume that an abbreviated literature review is acceptable. Thesis committees are used to having a minimum sized review and will insist on it. If only three previous papers even touch on your subject, reviewing them is not considered an adequate literature search. Furthermore, the new data you expect to obtain, even in a specialized topic, can affect a lot of intersecting fields. Those fields have to be identified. In short, a literature review not only discusses what has been done and why but it also points out the areas in which your work has implications.

III. Hunting for Your First Academic Job
2. Most academic fields are dominated by fewer than 100 powerful people. These people know one another and determine the course of the field. Early in your career you should get to know as many of them as possible. More to the point, they should know who you are. You want them to see you as a bright young person on the cutting edge. Although important, there are dangers associated with this tactic. You should not begin the process until you have mastered the literature (particularly the papers they wrote!) and developed some ideas of your own. If they get to know you and conclude you have no ideas, you’re finished.

11. Avoid taking a job in a college that you attended, no matter how strong your loyalty as an alumnus. You will always be regarded as a graduate student by the older faculty and will be treated as such.

The complete article has many more pointers and some interesting reader comments at the end.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The 2005 Beggin' & Choosin' Awards

2005 has been a great year for free educational materials. Universities opened their doors and entrepreneurs saw a market. Free offerings were once the crumbs of ivory towers and publishing houses. Today, open educational materials are rapidly becoming an integral component in marketing and recruitment.

With that in mind, it's time to thank the sites that have done the most to create these materials and make them available. The Stingy Scholar is excited to present the first annual Beggin' and Choosin' Awards (or the BCA's).

Best Textbook: Motion Mountain
Christoph Schiller did a fantastic job of creating a full-length, professional-quality physics textbook and then openly offering it to the community. Motion Mountain is a genuine alternative to crumbling physics textbooks in public schools. It is a fair option for universities that require basic physics but don't want to force grumbling freshman to buy a $160 textbook. Maybe some of the authors writing free educational materials will look at Motion Mountain and say, "I can do that, too." Hey, it was featured on Boing Boing. How many textbooks can say that?


Best eBook Site: Many Books
If it was just a matter of download options - pdf, doc, text, iPod notes, PSP - Many Books wouldn't be the best. If it was just site design, Many Books would be another pretty face. If the archives were skimpy, then Many Books' users wouldn't stay. We are all grateful for sites like Project Gutenberg and The Internet Archive - both sites make sites like this one possible. But Many Books has a near-perfect union of features, interface, and content, raising the bar for free educational materials. And for that they get the gold star.


Best Audiobook Site: LearnOutLoud
LearnOutLoud has become the crossroads, not just for audiobooks, but for free learning on the web. Between their forums, blog, e-magazine, podcast, and educational podcast directory, the folks at LearnOutLoud tirelessly strive to present all of the options for obtaining a free education online. But despite the many formats, the focus is audiobooks and LearnOutLoud doesn't skimp there. LearnOutLoud's free library is not a front to bring in customers, but a genuine service created by people who believe in the value and importance of providing these materials. Here are some of the quality free audio (and video) materials available:

Audiobooks such as Common Sense, Lawrence Lessig’s Free Culture, Seth Godin’s new title Knock Knock.
Lectures from Thomas Friedman, Bill Gates, Jack Welch, Michael Dell, Noam Chomsky and Jeff Bezos.
Famous historical speeches from Martin Luther King Jr., Robert F. Kennedy and Mahatma Gandhi.

These are just some of the over 500 offerings. Like other BCA winners, LearnOutLoud has raised the bar in their category. Recently, they started to produce their own titles such as versions of Emerson’s Self-Reliance, As a Man Thinketh, poetry, and Wikipedia entries in addition to some helpful articles and tutorials. I hope to see more great things from LearnOutLoud.


Best Podcast(s): NPR
I really wanted to pick a home-brewed podcast for this category. Although I had a couple good candidates in mind, I have to give the award to NPR. The network has always provided high-quality radio programs, and they've made a recent effort to make shows available as podcast feeds. The NPR podcast index now includes thirty shows including Motley Fool and World Cafe. The podcast section of the site also indexes 200 feeds from affiliated networks, with an interface to help you find audio to other popular shows not offered as podcasts, such as Cartalk and All Things Considered.


Best Social Site: Del.icio.us
If you're new to del.icio.us, and can't understand why Yahoo! would purchase such an ugly-looking site, check out this article entitled "What's So Cool About Del.icio.us?". It's not tough to create a bookmark site and, honestly, there are many better ones. But del.icio.us is hackable (check out this library) and del.icio.us has the community. Honestly, isn't that what bookmarking sites are all about? Between tag searches, RSS tag subscriptions, and the del.icio.us popular page I've found many great, free educational sites. Although I grumbled when Yahoo purchased Flickr, I think this acquisition of Del.icio.us can be a good thing. I've enjoyed some of the minor layout tweaks and the improved search performance. So thank you, del.icio.us, for helping me find so many great sites.


Best University: MIT
This category awards the university that has made the greatest effort to open their doors to the world and to make their materials available to everyone. Although several universities have started some sort of podcast or open courseware program this year, MIT was the first and is still, indisputably, the best. To understand the size of MIT's opencourseware program, compare the number of tags hits for each program in the OCW course finder:

mit (1447)
usu (17)
johnhopkins (15)
tufts (9)
cmu(7)
foothill(1)

Size alone makes the MIT offerings impressive, but the university seals the deal through genuines content and a clean, navigable interface. Each course usually includes the syllabus, class notes, and links along with some downloadable readings, quizzes, and summaries. MIT has also made an efforts to include more lectures as audio and video.

There are other universities that should be recognized for their efforts this year. Stanford iTunes is a cool program and the university has also improved the publicly accessable highwire press free journal search. The University Channel from Princeton makes some great lectures available. Other schools, such as Berkeley are making great strides with their webcasting programs. I wish all these schools would offer more actual courses like Harvards' computer science E-1.

But MIT is still light years ahead of all these other programs. MIT seems truly committed to the concept of open education, and we hope that these other schools will continue to follow their example.

Music Theory Teacher

Musictheory.net is a great site for both beginning musicians and by-ear players looking to pick-up some theory. Ricci Adams has created some great flash tutorials that allow you to see and hear the concepts being illustrated. Since the modules are downloadable, these lessons could easily be used in a classroom without an internet connection.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Historical Text Archive

While browsing Early Modern Notes, I came across some links to the Historical Text Archive. This archive contains a solid collection of articles(682), ebooks(69), and links(6036). You may noticed that it is hard to find good free history textbooks and materials. The Historical Text Archive won't solve that problem alone, but it is a good start.

Also, if you are interested in the early modern (c.1500-1800) be sure to check out Early Modern Notes. Sharon's blog includes many helpful links and "latest resources" such as this interesting site from Columbia comparing the development of China and Europe from 1500-2000.

Media Errors and Corrections '05

My friend Howard sent me this list of media errors and corrections from Regret the Error. After US magazine's adult-film star identity error (click to enlarge), here are my favorite "Crunks" of the year:

From the Denver Daily:
The Denver Daily News would like to offer a sincere apology for a typo in Wednesday's Town Talk regarding New Jersey's proposal to ban smoking in automobiles. It was not the author's intention to call New Jersey 'Jew Jersey.'


From the Dallas Star:
Norma Adams-Wade's June 15 column incorrectly called Mary Ann Thompson-Frenk a socialist. She is a socialite.

From the Washington Post:
An article in the Feb. 6 Arts section implied incorrectly that Eva Zeisel was involved in a plot to assassinate Joseph Stalin. That was the unsubstantiated charge made to arrest and imprison her.

And a good pope-related error.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Awesome Library

Awesome Library is an extraordinary collection of links to 28,000 lesson plans, projects, papers, multimedia, textbooks, and much more. The site offers different doorways for teachers, college students, parents, librarians, teens, and kids so that each visitor to browse their materials. Be on the look-out for entries marked with stars. These sites are flagged as the most relevant, content-rich, and well-organized.

OpenCourseWareFinder

Looking to take advantage of Open Courseware, but don't know where to begin? Check out the OpenCourseWareFinder from OpenContent.org. Using the Del.icio.us director technology, OpenCourseWareFinder allows you browse and search the course listings from MIT, Utah State University, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, Tufts University, Foothill De-Anza SOFIA, and the Carnegie Mellon Open Learning Initiative.

B&N University




At its most basic, B&N University is exactly what it sounds like - a brilliant scheme to sell books. Matriculating students sign-up for free classes, and are then encouraged to purchase a handful of course reading materials. With courses like Buddhism and Everyday Life, Walking Through Shakespeare: The Tragedies, and Money Management for Women, I get the impression that these courses are aimed at individuals looking to take a casual class - perhaps a grandfather interested in learning how to run his PC or a working mother too busy for a book group. The classes are chatroom discussions moderated by a paid instructor. Looks like a fun way to earn a few extra bucks. (Sign-up here.) Personally, I think B&N University is a brilliant idea for both the company and their customers. Classes begin January 9th. I'm going to sign-up to see what the courses are like. Not sure which course yet.

Beantal (f/k/a Douban)

Beantal (f/k/a Douban) is a social book site with alot of potential. By this point, beantal is competing with several books organization sites such as whatshouldireadnext and librarything. Beantal's edge is their clean and intuitive interface. After signing-up, it's very easy to browse tagged, rated materials and mark a book as "done it", "reading it", or "want to".

Beantal also includes a music review section. For new music, I'd rather go to Last.fm, pandora, or KEXP, but it's still a unique feature. Maybe they'll include a DVD review section in the future. While we're discussing feature requests, it would be cool if I could print my "want to" list for my next trip to the bookstore.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Science Gifts That Don't Suck

The gift of science in the hands of a child can open a world of imagination and discovery. More likely, that gift will end up unopened in the closet with the other "educational" gifts. With that in mind, here is a list of science gifts that don't suck. Oh yeah, they're all under $50. We're stingy, remember? A special thanks to my wife Cheli for helping me narrow down the list.

Carnivorous Creations
Kids love watching things grow. As much as they like sprouting potatos, I have to imagine they would really like a meat-eating Cobra Lilly, Venus Fly Trap, Pitcher Plant, and Trumpet Plant. If Carnivorous Creations is too hardcore for your kitchen, check out Odd Pods Space Cacti kit.


Gas-Engine Model Set
Build your own Gas-Engine model with firing spark plugs and valves that open and close. There is also a V-8 Combustion Engine kit that is slightly more expensive, but looks pretty bad-ass.


Carpet Skates
Of all this year's gift ideas, I think this is my favorite. I really don't see what scientific skills they teach, but I would love to be able to skate around on my carpet. These Carpet Skates are in all the on-line science shops so I'm going to put them on my list.



Wall Climbing Robot
There are a number of toy robots on the market, but this robot climbs walls with suction-cups and vacuum technology.








Supersonic Listening Device
This looks like something to keep kids occupied for hours. With the Supersonic Ear II Electronic Listening Device, little Dylan and Lola can listen to faraway birds and noises while preparing for an illustrious career with the Department of Homeland Security. Just make sure they're really off playing in the park when you talk about them being adopted.


Bubblegum Making Kit
'Nuff said. Also check out the make a bouncy ball kit.









Imagibricks
I loved these cardboard bricks back when I was a little kid and they only came in red. Definitely one of the most fun toys I had. Heads up to parents - if your teenage kids seem too big to still be playing with these blocks, be aware that the cardboard unfolds to hide things.


Electronic Gadgets for the Evil Genius
If you're shopping for an older and more socially awkward child, check out this book from Bob Iannini. Find inside illustrated instructions and plans for a laser beam cutter, a lightning bolt generator, a pyrotechnic blaster, and 25 other projects that can be built for less than $100. Check out some of the other books at Think Geek, especially Sneaky and Sneakier Uses for Everyday Things.


Make Your Own TV Remote
From the SmartLab line of products, this kit contains everything you need to build a universal remote. Also check out the other SmartLab products and this kit for making an FM radio.


Mystery Detective Kit
I've seen a couple of detective kits, but this is the only one with such an array of realistic forensic tests and chemicals including "DNA and fingerprint sheets, mystery pens and powders, litmus and chromatography papers, testing tray, measuring spoon and easy instructions." Note: I keep having problems with hearthsong.com’s bizarre URLs. If the link doesn't work, go to Hearth Song and select Educational Products. This is one of their featured products. Here’s another cool fingerprint kit.


MAKE Magazine
A year subscription to Make Magazine is an awesome gift idea. Enter the code CMAKE and get 50% off, which makes it only $29.99 year. (If you're not familiar with Make, check out their site and podcast).



Color Changing Clock & Other Gift Ideas
Even though this comes from the Discovery Store, I think that the Color-Changing Clock has probably even less educational merit than the carpet skates. However, a twelve-color changing clock? Come on - that's pretty cool.

With one week left until Christmas, you may have already given-up on the idea of an educational gift. If you just want to be the "cool" Uncle/Cousin/ManMommyMakesUsCallDaddy, then check out Wishing Fish and McPhee. Both sites have great gift ideas - especially for those whom you have no idea what to give. They also have great stuff for grown-ups. Be sure to check out McPhee's pirate section.

If you have any other gift suggestions, please comment or email me at stingyscholar at gmail dot com.

I hope this list helped. If not, at least I got my Christmas shopping done.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Squidoo: Expert Lenses

A Squidoo "lens" is a page put together by a knowledgable author on any given topic, usually including an ample number of links and book recommendations. Take a look at the Top 100, browse by topic, or check out some of these lenses:

The Long Tail
Learn to Fly - Find out what it takes to earn a private pilots license
How to Learn About Business Without Spending a Fortune: The Personal MBA
Business Marketing Tips : Effective Online Marketing Strategies by Rodney Rumford :Blogs, Podcasts, RSS, Tags, Beyond SEO and Much More
Introduction to Information Architecture
How You Can Use Audio Learning To Improve Every Aspect of Your Life
Woodturning

Also, check out the Squidoo ebook.

CourtTV's Forensics Curriculum

CourtTV has put together a forensics's curriculum along with the American Academy of Forensics Science. Six teaching units are available as downloadable pdfs that cover a range of age/skill levels . These lessons look perfect for a chemistry class full of bored CSI:Miami junkies.

The Celebration, for example, is an easy module where students try to identify who fired a gun at a football celebration. In The Cafeteria Caper, students determine who broke into a cafeteria by testing hair and DNA samples. In The Car That Swims, students use footprint casting to see through a young girl’s cover story about a sunken car.

The modules tell you where to acquire the necessary materials and kits, and also contain lots of useful links, such as these three links for mystery writers who want to know more about detecting gunshot residue. For teachers who don't want to petition the school board for additional funding, know that The Celebration doesn't require any equipment or chemicals.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The Real Gmail Feed Reader

Since we've been talking alot about RSS feeds, I thought I'd discuss how to create a real Gmail feed reader. I'm not talking about the half-assed Gmail RSS feature, but rather a bonafide feed reader "hacked" out of a Gmail account.

I first came across the idea a couple months ago in this article. Since then, my Gmail reader has been essential for keeping up with my favorite blogs and for organizing information.


Why Gmail?
There are a lot of good web feed readers available. So why do I still still prefer the "hacked" Gmail email account?
(1) Permanence.
I can store all my feeds forever. I never have to worry about anything being deleted. Also, I am building a searchable archive of my favorite sites.
(2) RSS and email together.
I can receive email and RSS subscriptions in the same place. If I see an interesting post, I can easily send it to someone else.
(3) Ease of review.
Using the short-cut keys, I can zoom through my feeds and add stars to interesting posts. Filtering and tagging options make it easier for me to work with the feeds and review them at my leisure.


RSS Intro
If you are new to RSS, check out this introduction. Basically, RSS feeds are transmissions of website updates. RSS feeds have become a popular alternative to emails. If you want to try a proper RSS reader, first stick with web-based clients rather than downloadable software. Bloglines and Rojo are two of the most popular web-based readers.


Create a new account
Ready to begin? The first step to creating a Gmail reader is to create a new Gmail account. If you already have an account, send an invite to yourself at another email address. If you need a fake email, try Go.com. Remember them? Yep, you can still get a 5 megs storage.

If you need a primary Gmail account, contact me and I'll send you an invite. You might want to name this new account something like, in my case, "wynnwillrss".





Subscribe to feeds
With your new account, you can begin subscribing to feeds. Since we are using Gmail, you will need to convert these RSS feeds into emails. Go to one of your favorite blogs and look for badges that say XML, Atom, or Feedburner. Right-click the badge and select "copy link". Now go to RSSFwd or KBCafe and paste the link. Enter your email address. Within a few hours, you should begin receiving emails.


Organize your feeds
Now that you're receiving the feeds you can take advantage of Gmail's organizational features. I label every feed I get using Gmail's filters. The picture to the left shows the labels that I use. Each label has a category name and a numerical prefix indicating my interest in that category. For example, "1-comics" has all of my comic feeds. "3-travel" has all of my travel-related feeds, which don't interest me as much at the moment.






Today, I signed up for the Treehugger blog, so I am going to create a filter for it.


I click on "Create a Filter"...


...and enter "treehugger" in the "From" field.




After selecting "Next Step" I see this screen where I can apply a label or create a new label. I am going to give this filter the label "1-culture", which is my catch-all for many general feeds that I am interested in reading. I will choose not to have this feed skip the inbox because I like receiving a mix of my level 1 feeds directly to my inbox.

If I later want to change rules or rename labels, this is easily managed under filter and label settings.


Daily Use
My Gmail reader has gotten through several reorganizations, but here is what I've come to like best. First, I usally flip through my inbox, which contains all the Level 1 feeds that I look forward to reading everyday, such as Lifehacker, BoingBoing, Waiterrant, Anonymous Lawyer, Lost Remote, Slate Magazine: Today's Papers, Get Fuzzy, and We-Make-Money-Not-Art. Using the short-cut keys (ctrl+J and ctrl+K), I can flip through these posts and add stars (ctrl+S) for future reference to particularly interesting posts.

Next, I usually go to my level-2 feeds. All of my level-2 feeds skip the inbox, so I go to the labels to review them. I usually start with "2-Social" which is a mix of top stories from Digg and del.icio.us. Then I go to "2-StingSchol" which contains feeds from Textbook Revolution and other academic blogs as well as RSS feeds to specific searches on Digg, del.icio.us, and Technorati. For example, I receive notification whenever somebody enters a new topic with "academic" and "podcast" del.icio.us tags. I also usually go in "2-AskMeFi" for a quick glance at Ask Metafilter questions that I might be able to answer.

Less frequently, I go under "2-Geek", which contains feeds from Slashdot and some programming sites, and "2-Copyfight", which contains feeds from Lessig, CC, and Pixel y Dixel. As you might imagine from the numbering, I read the level-3 and level-4 feeds even less often. But it's not necessary to review every feed every day. You are building a personal search archive.


An Imperfect System
Please bear in mind that this isn't a perfectly rigorous system. That's what I like about. For example, I got innundated with hockey news, so I made all the hockey posts skip the inbox, but kept them at "Level 1". Technically, they should be at "Level -2". But life goes on. I use "CuetoStingSchol" to tag posts that I want to include in the blog. Sometimes I review these, but sometimes I just save drafts here in Blogger. Once again, the actual system isn't so important to me, because I can run searches at any time.


Downsides
Some might complain that with Bloglines and other feed readers, you can subscribe with one-click. That's true. But maybe the extra effort of turning RSS feeds into emails will keep you from subscribing to unneeded garbage.

Another complaint is that you have to log in and out of two Gmail accounts. This can be annoying. I tried forwarding the mail from my primary account, but I didn't like everything all mixed together. And although I could configure the account to make it look like my primary account, I wanted the conversation to be archived with my primary accounts. Others might disagree, but I like having the Chinese Wall.

If you are looking for more Gmail tips, check out Jim's list.