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University of Michigan School of Information


Fun Size for 11/1/20: The Madman's Library

The world of information - in Fun Size!

UMSI's Fun Size digest features tiny, delicious news tidbits relating to information and library topics. Reach us at [email protected].

Weepin’ those wi-fi blues
Sure, we could (and do) blame home schooling, WFH and binge streaming for why our wi-fi is suddenly c-r-a-w-l-i-n-g. But maybe there’s something you can do about it besides berating your service provider. Techboomers has four reasons why your wi-fi might not be as fast as it should be.

The strangest books ever written
Books written in blood, both human and animal; books bound in human skin; a diary written with pin pricks on toilet paper. These are some of the weird and wondrous volumes cataloged in The Madman’s Library, a new book by Edward Brooke-Hitching called out in The Guardian. And in case you’re wondering, it does include the U-M Library’s “shelf stable” copy of 20 Slices of American Cheese.

Presidential Plinko
Former UMSI assistant professor Matthew Kay, now at Northwestern, was intrigued by the New York Times’ “election needle” in 2016. This year, he devised his own clever visualization to demonstrate how uncertainty can affect polling data. Using The Price Is Right game of Plinko, he shows how results can swing one way or the other. If it makes people anxious about the election, says Kay, maybe they’ll vote.

Japan’s Bob Ross
A white-haired Japanese painting teacher has been taking social media by storm, says Artnetnews. Harumichi Shibasaki’s lessons in colored pencil and watercolor, presented in a soothing voice with calming music, are racking up millions of views on YouTube. The article includes a five-minute video of Shibasaki painting, yes, a happy little tree.

Red or blue, it’s not the flu
Bar chart races get criticized as a visualization technique but in this case, it's super effective. Between U.S. Democrats and Republicans, which states’ COVID strategies are faring better? Dan Goodspeed used data from the New York Times for this visualization of the states with the most and the fewest COVID cases, categorized by their political leanings. Grab the slider at the bottom to speed through time.

Adventure calls
Quest Sprout, a green blob with a one-word vocabulary, has been dubbed “the most wholesome thing on the Internet” by some Reddit readers. Michael Baggs, writing for BBC News, has the story of the sword-wielding, quest-craving cutie created by video games tester and comic artist Matthew Wills. “Qwest!”

Authors anonymous
OpenAI’s GPT-3 language generator is getting more “talented” crazy fast. For proof, watch this song on YouTube performed by country artist Anna Vaus, with lyrics that GPT-3 originated from a song title. Then Digital Trends features a short play performed by two college students. Fed a few opening lines, GPT-3 produced the entire script. Novelty today – unemployed writers tomorrow?

Name that earworm
Google app has a new feature that can supposedly identify songs from someone humming or whistling them, according to Manofmany. Personal experience indicates it fails with show tunes and Beatles songs, but your results may differ. Rated B for beta.

Photos go retro
Mashable located a free web app that does work: creating your own Game Boy Camera-style self-portrait, courtesy of coder and animator maple “mavica” syrup. Who would have thought that low-res super-pixilation could be so much fun – or artistic?

Thomas A. Finholt


News from UMSI:
Thomas A. Finholt reappointed as UMSI Dean Following an extensive reappointment process, the Board of Regents has approved Provost Susan Collins’ recommendation to reappoint Thomas A. Finholt as the Dean of the School of Information for a second five-year term. The new term will take effect July 1, 2021 through June 30, 2026.

“Dean Finholt combines a clear vision for the School of Information with an impressive ability to build research and educational programs that are among the best in the field.  He is committed to making diversity, equity, and inclusion part of the fabric of the School of Information, that is, making these concepts visible in the school’s community life, instruction, research, and administration of programs and services,” Provost Collins said in an email announcement. 

Collins also praised UMSI’s rapid growth across all programs, growing MOOC portfolio and successful launch of the MADS program under Dean Finholt’s leadership. “The school has made significant progress toward its goal to deliver courses and other curricular content, both in the residential setting and online, with excellent instruction and advising.  The curriculum prepares students for success in their first job, for life-long learning, and as independent researchers, scholars, and citizens,” she said.