Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Fred's Finds: Representative Poetry Online

This is an excellent website from the University of Toronto based on the classic Canadian teaching anthology first published by Professor W. J. Alexander. The website contains 3391 carefully chosen poems and are supported by criticism. The poems can be searched by title, author, first line and last line.

Along with these tools, the site also has a very extensive bibliography and glossary of poetic terms. In short, a very thorough tool for a sophisticated study of British and Canadian poetry.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Destination: Commercial Sims

I will be reviewing a whole bunch of educational sites in SL, but first...let's talk shopping.

In real life, I hate shopping. In SL, I think I need some sort of shopper support group. Further, I actually CARE about fashion in SL....I sooooo don't care about it in RL. There is even a fashion mag....omg...and I read it!!!!

My favorites?

Aerolite Mall - there are some great vendors there that sell some pretty hip clothes. I can usually find what I need here, and the prices aren't bad. My favorite clothing stand is run by Lara Languish. She has a nice mix, and also a bunch of free stuff. My other favorite stand is Phoenix Designs; the owner, Neoznet Watts, built me a custom laptop for my RL students playing in SL. Mall owner, Liam Clinton, has laid it out pretty well...there is space to bring lots of your friends.

CryoGen Cloning Lab - They have awesome shapes and skins there, and they sport a pretty nice mall, as well. The detail of the skins is quite impressive, and is worth the linden. My skin is from A Lady, but these are probably more detailed than even I sport. The owner, Michelle Margrass, also designs the skins. She is right on top of things!!!

Calla Hair - I have bought a LOT of hair, and they have nice hair for not much Linden. I like their version of ashe blonde (pictured above).

ETD Hair - This is my other hot spot for hair. The hair has great detail, and it isn't too expensive. Their long cuts are flexi and I am a huge fan of honey and honey burnt (um, omg...was that a sentence I actually uttered????)

DE Designs - I like wicked cool clothes....and DE has the best detail I have ever found in all of SL. The outfits come with a lot of pieces, so you get a variety of looks from one outfit.

Soooooo.....if you are inworld...IM me, and I will soooooo take ya shopping!!!!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Floodle Free eBooks

Floodle buys the rights to ebooks and posts a new one free every day. While some of the options are a little sketchy (get paid to watch TV, real estate foreclosures, etc.) there are also lots of cookbooks and quirky submissions (such as the big book of puppy names). And if you don't like what's available, ask in the forum. Most of the ebooks are things people asked for.

Top 20 Freeware Adventure Games

Here's Indy Gamer's list of the top 20 freeware adventure games in 2006. Well done round-up. Nice succinct descriptions, direct download links, and handy "resembles" suggestions. (i.e. Try Duty & Beyond if you liked Maniac Mansion).

Public Radio Podcasts

PublicRadioFan has a pretty extensive list of public radio shows available as podcasts. The shows are organized by category so it's easy to find stuff you know (i.e. Car Talk) or new shows on music, foreign languages, literature, sports or dozens of other topics. There's so much informative and entertaining material on public radio - thanks for this index.

Friday, February 23, 2007

The Trouble with Textbooks, Part 1

People often ask me what got me started on my somewhat quixotic quest to tell the world about free textbooks. The real answer is probably that I’m slightly crazy. Rooted in some deep unanalyzed recess of my brain, next to the squeaking wheel that’s responsible for my constant ire about Boston’s underperforming public transportation system and just below the room full of angry gnomes who keep a torch burning for the lost cause of copyright reform, there is a ball of anger that I’ve decided to throw at the textbook industry. Of course, even a moderately crazy fool like me knows better than to mention a room full of angry gnomes with flaming torches during an interview with US News and World Reports or NPR. Instead, I tell the story of Giancoli’s Physics.

To start the story, I have to backtrack to 1991, when I was a junior at Billings West High School (official motto: “Failure is Not an Option”). I took two full years of physics at West High under the tutelage of John Linn, an irascible Korean war vet with a pocketful of great stories and a firm grasp of how to teach physics to fifteen-year-olds. I loved that class, even though I didn’t really get a good handle on vector addition until years later when I learned how to operate marine radar. I still have the 3.5” x 5” notecards we were allowed to make to hold the formulae we needed on tests.

Fast forward to 2003. After misspending my youth in the Caribbean, I found myself enrolled in a program studying geology at Northeastern University (official motto: “We’re # 98!”). After spending hundreds upon hundreds of dollars during my first year on textbooks that I barely used, I was beginning to wise up to the textbook racket. My degree required that I take two semesters of Physics, never mind that I’d already had two full years in high school. I took the first semester with a friend, and we both balked at the cost of the text, around $130 for Giancoli’s just-released 5th edition.

I was incensed. I’d taken this class once already, in 1991, with a well-used book that was probably printed in the mid-1980’s, and as far as I could tell nothing in introductory algebra-based physics had changed in the intervening years. Newton’s Laws still reigned. Force still equaled mass times acceleration. Gravity still pulled objects earthward at 9.8 meters per second squared. I couldn’t for the life of me understand what could justify a brand-new edition of a physics textbook when there were so many existing books that could have explained the concepts just as well.

Searching online for a more affordable alternative, I found a link to Ben Crowell’s Light and Matter series, a set of physics textbooks available entirely free online. My interest was piqued, but this wasn’t the book assigned for my class, so my friend and I ended up splitting the cost for Giancoli. I was consoled by the fact that at least the book would last me through both of my required physics classes.

Still, I was intrigued by the whole concept of free online textbooks. It seemed to me then, and it seems to me now, like an inherently practical idea to publish books online. I started digging around and found more and more free books. Then, in January of 2004, the Make Textbooks Affordable campaign unleashed their report RipOff 101, which confirmed what I had begun to find out on my own: the textbook companies were playing students like a pickpocket at Mardi Gras. I decided I had to do something, while I was still a student, to try to get professors to start using these free books. So out of frustration with Giancoli and my chance encounter with Crowell, Textbook Revolution was born.

Several years and several thousand hours of work later, Textbook Revolution is a thriving site with a couple of hundred thousand visitors a year, links to hundreds of free books, and plans to grow even larger over the coming year. I’m finishing my senior year of college. I’m midway through the final class on my list of requirements, which just happens to be Physics II. My friend lost the copy of Giancoli’s 5th edition we shared in the fall of 2003, but it doesn’t matter because since I took Physics I the field of introductory algebra-based physics has advanced enough to merit a new and improved 6th edition, only $153 at Amazon!

This time around, I didn’t even bother to go to the bookstore. Instead, I headed for the library to see if I could grab one of the two copies of the sixth edition available. I was too late to get either of them, but there on the shelf, I found copies of the second, third, and fifth editions. What I found out when I compared them will be the subject of part 2 of The Trouble with Textbooks, coming soon.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Dear JSTOR: Why won't you let us in?

Imagine this. You are researching a topic through Google Scholar. And there it is. The perfect article. Exactly what you've been looking for. You go to read the article, and what do you get? A JSTOR error message. You're not allowed to read it.

Now we're all about being cheap here at the Stingy Scholar, but we realize that sometimes you need to shell-out a few bucks. But with JSTOR, you can't even pay if you want to. This isn't a problem if you can pop into the university library, but thousands of independent scholars around the world are shut out from the service.

Christopher Barden, a long time reader, recently wrote a letter to JSTOR to vent his frustration and ask them to open up their information. I think he makes some very effective points.


As an independent scholar not currently affiliated with any academic institution, I find it deeply frustrating that one cannot even pay for access for JSTOR.

The mission statement of your Mellon Foundation-funded “not-for-profit” scholarly database says you seek "to improve dramatically access to these journals."

The only thing dramatic about access to JSTOR’s journals is its bizarrely unnecessary lack thereof.

Why can’t one access this highly valuable database with a laptop and a credit card? Why build a digitized scholarly archive, searchable via the public internet, if access to it is controlled like some kind of top-secret database? Is this for university students and teachers only? If so, why? Is the access to online-searchable scholarship in a digital age to be reduced to only the years that one is actually affiliated with a large educational institution? What year is this: 2007 or 1007?

In an age when the Internet has made it not just possible but increasingly common for 'independent scholars to work outside the ivory tower, JSTOR is clearly designed to lock them out. And this seems just plain wrong.

Christopher also discusses the frustration with JSTOR results in Google searches:

JSTOR allows Google's public search engine to index its articles. And, because of the range of topics covered in academic/scholarly articles (which span a fairly broad spectrum of human thought and activity), JSTOR article search results increasingly come up as first-page results in Google searches on topics of scholarly interest.

While this is extremely beneficial to JSTOR, it renders millions of public search results practically worthless to non-JSTOR users. (Imagine Lucy holding the football for Charlie Brown, and you’ve got a pretty clear picture of what JSTOR search results can feel like.)

Not surprisingly, JSTOR is yet to respond. I've posted the whole letter here.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Second Life in Education

Over the past few weeks, I have been immersed in building a virtual British Literature classroom in Second Life. Educators are using SL as a teaching tool, and there is so much to talk about!

Instead of bogging us down with one long post, I thought I would do a series of spotlights on awesome content inworld.

Does anyone have a place they would like me to review?

To get us started in this journey, it is good for us to get to know some of the major players. Sarah Robbins, AKA, Intellagirl Tully, is an inspiration. Her work in SL is just incredible; I watched her teach a class the other night....her students were engaged...they covered difficult topics...it was all that a college classroom should be in the media age. I would be nowhere without her help....so please go check her out.

My other inworld inspiration is Bryan Carter, AKA Bryan Mnemonic. His resources for teaching English are great. He, too, asks students to tackle complicated material. His students are engaged...lively...energetic.

I have met my match for passion in these two educators...

Monday, February 19, 2007

Ask Stingy

Thanks to everyone for all of the recent email suggestion and super-increased commenting. It used to be that we'd be skimming through hundreds of websites looking for something good to post. Now, you guys seem to be doing the work for us with all these great suggestions.

So since we've got some more time on our hands, we've decided to try a new feature - Ask Stingy.

* Researching a topic and looking for free primary sources?
* Find a great educational link but can't remember where?
* Parent of a young student working on a science project?

If you have a question related to free educational resources, ask us. We don't mind doing the work for you. We'll look into your question and put your answer in a post.

Send your requests to askstingy@gmail.com
(or stingyscholar@gmail.com).

43 Key Tips for a New Homebuyer

Perhaps a bit beyond the scope of the site, but anyone considering the purchase of their first home should read this post. Although there are lots of places on the web with home-buying tips, this is one of the most informative yet succinct list around. Most importantly, theses 43 tips have lots of useful links to other equally informative posts. If you are entering the home-buying waters, be sure to check out Inman.com, the mothership of real estate info.

Ren'Py Visual Novel Engine

Last summer, we looked at Blade Engine, a visual novel creator that lets you make your "Choose Your Own Adventure" styled graphic novel. According to some comments and emails, Ren'Py is a better alternative. The program is free with no catches or limitations. Download some of the games made with the program and see for yourself.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Fred's Finds: Huxley, Ethnologues, Gross Brains

The Huxley File

A site devoted to Thomas Henry Huxley and covering the many subject on which he wrote – fields ranging from the design of marine invertebrate structure to the design of a good human society.


A web version of Raymond Gordon's textbook on languages of the world. The full text is listed here.

Dartmouth's Gross Brain Atlas

Click on the lovely pictures to get a description of what part of the brain you are selecting along with what function that part performs.

Finally, here are a couple more good directories for you guys to check out:

Academic Info
- lots of good test preparation resources here as well (SAT, GRE, LSAT, etc.).
Science News Blog Links

soZiety: A Great Skype Language-Learning Community

We've looked at a couple language-learning Skype communities, but Soziety is a new one making an impact. At the end of the day, these sites succeed based on the community they attract - and that's what Soziety is doing well. Search for other users based on language, age, gender, country, and "karma" (favorable feedback). You can also limit search results to users online. As a nice little perk you can also make a few bucks by building up your karma or doing so document translation.

The Current State of DRM

We're getting close. 2007 might be the year we say goodbye to DRM (at least audio DRM) once and for all. The recent Steve Jobs missive rocked the digital media world and other recent announcements seem to indicate the beginning of the end.

This is good. And here's why you should care.

First, there are a lot of reasons why DRM makes no sense. It doesn't protect the content companies and it needlessly frustrates customers. Plus, it represents the first time that control of media has moved out of the hands of consumers (see below):

There are distinct dangers to you if you buy DRM content. So our suggestion? Consume DRM-free media whenever possible. Support the companies that are trying to make unfettered access to legally purchased media a reality.

And spread the word. A DRM-free world means a lot for people who are looking to use the Web to learn. It's an important issue and we're at a tipping point. We'd love for you to help move the balance in favor of a world where infection from DRM is a disease that we've managed to eradicate.

Friday, February 16, 2007

AOPA Course part2

Folks, as promised, please find the link to part 2 of the AOPA free online navigational courses. Today's course continues last week's theme regarding GPS operations. GPS for IFR operations will take you into the basic logistics of using your GPS for IFR system flights. As with all the courses offered by this website, it is introductory in nature only and will not allow you to take command of your next charter holiday flight!

I don't feel I need to explain the way the course works, it's all pretty simple in comparative terms. Here's the link to part2 http://flash.aopa.org/asf/gps_ifr/swf/flash.cfm, and below I've included a couple more screenshots for your viewing pleasure. Until next week folks.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Pirate Primer: Mastering the Language of Swashbucklers & Rouges

Geez. You think you know a guy. I know George Choundas as a skilled corporate litigator, a former FBI agent, and a trustworthy friend. But an expert on pirate vocabulary, syntax and grammar? - I had no idea!

While I still don't know why I'm only just hearing about this brilliant new book, The Pirate Primer: Mastering the Language of Swashbucklers & Rogues comes out this March. The book covers topics such as Greetings/Partings, Threats, Oathes, Insults, Proper Pronunciation and much much more. The publishers are working on setting up a companion website with addition pirate-language content such as a comprehensive compilation of pirate sayings and phrases (and pirate intensifiers, and pirate number-related terms, etc.). We'll keep you up to date when the site goes live. Meanwhile, pre-order through Amazon before the Boing Boing crew finds out about this.

Psychology Debate Podcasts

What should we do with psychopaths? Does counselling screw you up? Is love a delusion? The Institute of Psychology at King's College (London) has made available this Maudsley Debates series covering hot topics in psychology. This is one of several podcasts from the institute. Thanks to Karen for another great suggestion.

Juiced Excel

One of the first things I learned stepping into the office place is that my overpriced comparative literature degree wasn't going to get my very far. Knowing Excel would. It's pretty amazing what can be done with the program. And perhaps even more amazing
how few people know how to go beyond the basics.

The guys at Juice Analytics did a great job of putting together this Excel Training Worksheet. The tutorial is presented in a workbook download, with each sheet covering a topic like VLookups, Conditional Formatting, or In-Cell Graphics. Whether you're a newbie or a VBA wizard, I promise you'll find something in here you didn't know before.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Stingy Scholar, Now With Tags

The impossible dream is now here. Look to the right and you will see a list of labels. Here's hoping this helps to make the site more navigable.

FYI - just to clarify a couple tags -"research" covers all potentially useful research tools, "university" covers college life as well as opencoursewares and other offerings from major universities, "ipod" covers things that can go on your ipod, and "portals" are sites with lots of good links organized by subject. Most of the other tags are pretty self-explanatory.

We've gone back and tagged the old posts...if you see something mislabeled or think we should add/divide labels, let us know.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Kelly Writers House at UPenn

Here's a suggestion from my mother, from an article in the local South Jersey newspaper. Founded by a group of UPenn students and faculty, the Kelly Writers House serves as a writer's colony/refuge/workshop with over 150 events per semester. So why do we Stingy Scholars care? 'Cause they post all those great events online! Between webcasts with the likes of Richard Ford, Russell Banks, David Sedaris and a boatload of mp3s, these guys are doing a great job of sharing all they're doing. (Picture stolen from the Courier Post. Please don't sue a good Jersey boy).

Pod CityGuides

An anonymous comment on the old post Free iPod Tour Guides links to a great site - Pod CityGuides. Tons of totally free mp3 guides for cities all around the world, even including recent weather and news. Sign-up is free - check it out if you're travelling soon, and some of the other great ones we've come across. Know more? Let us know!


Most aviation enthusiasts like myself will have come across the well-known Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association, or AOPA for ease of reference. This US based website began life as a non-profit organisation established in 1939 and dedicated itself to general aviation as a whole. They have been the forerunners in the aviation world for pushing significant legislation through US Congress through to introducing new standards for private pilot training schemes, which is a huge achievement given their beginnings. They claim to have a membership base of more than 410,000 people, or as they also put it – “two thirds of all pilots in the United States”. You got to love those figurative comparisons! They are correct however in calling themselves the ‘largest, most influential aviation association in the World’. Although most pilots will have browsed and possibly used this site in the past, I would like to call attention to the abundant & free online exercises for budding pilots and enthusiast alike. Please note that you will have to create an account if you want to take any course. You will find all the courses are extremely well thought out and prepared. The interactive menus, friendly voices which accompany the courses and the superb graphics make this site an excellent learning tool, whether it's for refresher reasons, trainees or simply out of interest.

Given the size of this site in general and the numerous online courses on offer, I will attempt to make this a weekly entry (which is unfortunately the most I can promise due to my work schedule). This week therefore, I will begin with GPS for VFR Operations.

This course will offer you a clearer explanation of how GPS works and how you can use it to make your next VFR flight more efficient (and safe). The course will take you approximately 45-60 minutes. However, this would be an extremely lengthy post if I was to reveal the ins & outs of each course, so here's the link to part 1 of my post, and I hope you all enjoy; http://flash.aopa.org/asf/gps_vfr/swf/flash.cfm