Archive for December, 2011

Guggenheim Museum Catalogs Online

More than 60 catalogs have been digitized and are available for viewing; they range from an exhibition on Alexander Calder to a 500 page volume on Chinese art through 5000 years. They can be searched by date, title, or subject. In addition, the museum is also devising The Syllabus which “…offers points of entry into the Guggenheim’s rich publication archives, with suggested readings on historical themes, topics, and trends, as well as links for further exploration.” This latter section is still under development and more content will be added over time.

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Isaac Newton’s Papers Online

Isaac Newton, one of the world’s greatest mathematicians, left behind thousands of pages  when he died. Numerous dead-tree collections  have been published of his papers but the Cambridge Digital Library states: ” The Library holds the most important and substantial collection of Newton’s scientific and mathematical manuscripts and over the next few months we intend to make most of our Newton papers available on this site.” Those works that are now available have been transcribed for easier reading.  Another ongoing electronic project can be found at  The Newton Project where almost 5 million transcribed words of Newton’s writings are available online. This site also includes a listing of the books in Newton’s library that were  used in his own research/writings; these are not digitized, but a quick look through some repositories such as HathiTrust or Internet Archive will pull some of them up.

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Sexual Violence is Widespread in the United States

Here are some frightening statistics from the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey conducted in 2010 with 16,500 subjects via telephone interviews of about half an hour: 1 in 5 women have been raped in their lifetime; 1.3 million women were raped during the year previous to this survey;  1 in 6 women have been stalked in their lifetime; and 1 out of 4 women have been the victims of severe physical abuse by an intimate partner. Men, as well, reported being raped, stalked, or abused. This is the first year this survey was conducted and the results will serve as a foundation for subsequent surveys. This report also has tables that are broken down by state. Additional information is at the CDC”s Violence Prevention page. Reportage is availabe from The New York Times, BBC, Los Angeles Times, and  The Washington Post.

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Hazardous Substance Information

You or a co-worker are expected to handle some chemicals. What are the risks involved? Is protective gear necessary? If so, what kind? If there is an accident, what immediate care should be given? Besides calling a help line (National Poison Control Center – 1 800 222 1222), you do have access to some good online sources before you tackle a particular situation. New Jersey has the Right to Know Hazardous Substance Fact Sheets.  “The Fact Sheets are prepared on pure substances and contain information on health hazards, exposure limits, personal protective equipment, proper handling, first aid, and emergency procedures for fires and spills.” There are 1600 of them with 900 translated into Spanish. They are being constantly revised and additional ones are being translated. The site allows access by alphabetical listing, new/revised sheets, carcinogens, translated into Spanish, and newly translated sheets. As the sheets are revised, they are transferred into a more accessible and informative format. The site also contains “quick response guides” for emergency responders. Tha National Librray of Medicine, within its TOXNET site, offers the Hazardous Substances Data Bank that includes over 5000 chemicals and their human health effects (with peer reviewed references) and medical treatments. The HSDB also provides mobile access.

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Putting the Fiction Back in Science: Nature’s “Futures” Short Science Fiction Stories

Beginning with Arthur C Clarke’s short story in 1999, Nature has now published more than 400 short(under a 1000 words more or less) science fiction pieces by some of the most accomplished writers in the field (Norman Spinrad, Gregory Benford) as well as lesser-known luminaries from other fields of endeavor. These are all freely available at this site – Web Focus: Futures - where you can find the latest stories, a podcast, archives, and links. An overview/history of this feature is also available.  For those of us who are SF enthusiasts, this is a delightful weekly treat.

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LIVE – Former Governor Corzine’s Testimony Before the House Agriculture Committee

His testimony is online now, thanks to C-SPAN.

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Total Compensation Costs for State and Local Workers

 This report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics – Employer Costs for Employee Compensation - contains two tables of importance; Tables 3 and 4 explore the distribution of compensation for state and local workers. This release also contains the following advice: “Compensation cost levels in state and local government should not be directly compared with levels in private industry.  Differences between these sectors stem from factors such as variation in work activities and occupational structures” (Technical Note) So when discussing salaries and benefits, these newly-generated facts should provide a guide for the conversations; after all, “Knowledge is power.” Another recent report, Comparing Compensation: State-Local Workers Versus Private Sector Workers, from the Center for Retirement Research, utilized”…careful comparisons between people with similar skills doing similar jobs.”(3) The conclusion was “In short,  for the nation as a whole the difference between public and private sector compensation appears modest.(7) It goes on to urge lawmakers to exercise caution when restructuring public sector compensation. An excellent bibliography in appended.

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Social Security Programs Around the World

There has been a lot of verbiage concerning pensions/social security over the past few years. This 4-volume work – Social Security Programs Throughout the World – examines social security from this perspective: “”The term social security in this report refers to programs established by statute that insure individuals against interruption or loss of earning power and for certain special expenditures arising from marriage, birth, or death. This definition also includes allowances to families for the support of children.” (Guide to Reading the Country Summaries) Each of the four volumes concentrates on a single geographic area: Europe, Asia and the Pacific, Africa, and The Americas, and the volumes are updated on a rotating basis every six months; i.e.,  a new volume of The Americas is due out March 2012, followed by the Europe volume in Septmber 2012, etc. Each country has its own lengthy profile covering all the aspects of this work’s definition of “social security.” In light of the euro crisis, reading the Europe volume may provide some insight into the current unrest over proposed austerity changes to pension systems. Another valuable source of information is the OECD’s Pensions at a Glance 2011: Retirement Systems in OECD and G20 Countries. This report profiles 43 economies, and while access to the full text is not provided, the country profiles are freely available online. This May 2011 OECD Working Paper – Funding in Public Sector Pension Plans: International Evidence – is particularly apposite.

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List of Mail Processing Centers to be Consolidated

Here is the list of proposed closings put out by the USPS; New Jersey takes a hit. These closings, in addition to local post office closings (two in Jersey City alone), will definitely mean thousands of newly-unemployed workers and slower delivery of first-class mail.( USPS press release)

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Occupy Wall Street: Its Historical Precedents

This brief report from the Congressional Research Service (btw, one of our favorite go-to places for information, even though the documents generated by CRS are not available to the public, even though CRS is funded by taxpayers to the tune of $100,000,000 per year, and so we have to get them through back channels, but that’s another story) – Finance and the Economy: Occupy Wall Street in Historical Perspective - “…attempts to show that the basic questions raised by Occupy Wall Street about the value of certain forms of financial activity are not new.”(2) This is not a weighty tome of hundreds of pages full of recondite information, rather “The report…provides a reminder of the hsitorical debates that have shaped congressional oversight of financial institutions and markets.”(4) Andrew Jackson and the Bank of the United States, anyone? Other sites of interest include: Occupy Wall Street Has History On Its Side (Wall Street Journal); Occupy Wall Street: A Historical Perspective (Salon.com); A Look at the History of Wall Street Protests (NPR); and Occupy Wall Street: An American Tradition Since 1776 (Christian Science Monitor).

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Richest People in America

Courtesy of Forbes, this list of the 400 wealthiest Americans can be searched by industry, state, and category; i.e., self-made, women, etc. Each entry provides a brief biography as well as indicating on what other Forbes list the individual may be found. Once again, we did not make the list.

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Is RateMyProfessors.com a Valid Faculty Evaluation Tool?

Given the criteria selected and the methods employed, the authors of this article, Student Concensus on RateMyProfessors.com, offer a qualified yes – “In the aggregate, RateMyProfessors.com is providing useful feedback about instructor quality.”(10) Whatever your opinion of this “service,” (and there is obviously a plethora of viewpoints if this insidehighered entry is any indication) the article should be looked at; its references alone are worth a perusal.

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Distance Education in Public Schools

The National Center for Education Statistics yesterday issued Distance Education Courses for Public Elementary and Secondary School Students: 2009-10. So not only are college students partaking of these classes, but according to this report, 1.8 million public school students are as well.(table 2) Numerous tables provide additional data, such as course offerings in either synchronous or asynchronous modes (tables 11-12). Highlights of this report are found on pages 3-4. A Teacher’s Guide to Distance Learning (2009) offers a good introduction to this topic.

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Vacation Days Around the World: How Many and Their Use

This Harris poll underwritten by Expedia.com is an annual publication tracking the number and use of vacation days from selected countries around the world. This Vacation Deprivation Study, for those who do not already know, shows how poorly American workers fare in the allotment of vacation days. For example, U.S. workers are given 14 days of vacation, ranking them near the bottom of the list; only South Korea (10 days) and Japan (11 days) receive less. On the other hand, in every European country on the list, with the exception of Ireland (21 days), workers get a minimum of 25 days of vacation, with some being given 30 days. There are many additional results in this 15 page report, from are bosses supportive of employees taking vacation to what kind of vacation would you take if you could take only one. (For this latter question, 7% of Americans would take a gambling vacation, far outdistancing any other respondents.) Please see relevant articles in CNN Money, the Los Angeles Times, and Forbes. Also, this site from the Bureau of Labor Statistics – Holiday, Vacation, Sick, and Other Leave Benefits - provides a great deal of information; it must be remembered that under federal law, there is no such thing as paid vacation or sick time (Fair Labor Standards Act).

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Economic Crisis – December 2011 Update

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