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University of Michigan School of Information


Fun Size for 3/2/22: Wordle wars: Is it meter or metre?

Little free library hidden inside real library

At first, a librarian in Victoria, Canada, thought the zines that tumbled out of an old travel book had been used as bookmarks. Instead, she found the hollow book contained “the ‘Central Branch’ Book and Zine TRADING library,” a secret zine repository flying under the librarians’ radar. Tori Marlin of the Capital Daily tracked down its creator.

Litre or liter?

The word game that’s taken the world by storm is now stirring up a bit of orthographic partisanship among English speakers. Namely, is it caulk or calk? Color or colour? The Guardian ponders our obsession with Wordle.

Yiddish culture brought to light 

A priceless archive documenting Eastern European Yiddish culture is now online, thanks to a collaboration between the government of Lithuania and the YIVO Institute of Manhattan. Artifacts show how ordinary people as well as luminaries such as Martin Buber and Albert Einstein lived, worked and played. The New York Times describes the heroic efforts of volunteers to preserve the collection from destruction by the Nazis and later by the Soviets.

Highlighting everyday Black lives 

Archiving the overlooked aspects of Black history and culture is the goal of several online initiatives, CNN reports. The Instagram account We the Diaspora, started in summer 2020, is a photographic glimpse back into everyday Black lives over the past century. Among the many archivists, curators and memory workers working in this field is Harvard digital archivist Dorothy Berry, whose new JSTOR column, Archives Unbound, highlights “forgotten figures in Black print culture and public life.”

Who said that? 

“My jaw is on the floor.” That’s how NPR reporter Chloe Veltman reacted on hearing the clone of her voice, created by Speech Morphing, a Bay Area natural language speech synthesis company. Hear “Chloney” reading a news story in English and Spanish in this NPR story on the growing speech and voice recognition industry, and judge for yourself if announcers need to worry about their jobs.

Feast your eyes on this 

Gastro Obscura delights in finding the world’s weirdest and most exotic foods. Now this arm of Atlas Obscura has collected its stories into a searchable format for those hungering for culinary adventure. Search by region or category and feast your eyes on delicacies like stink beans, a chop suey sandwich and the world’s largest edible mushroom.

Secret stash of useful sites 

From Reddit contributors, Knowtechnie has curated a list of the most-useful websites that no one seems to know about. Road2Rio tells you how to get from point A to point B anywhere in the world. Project Gutenberg contains over 60,000 free eBooks. And just a warning, one cooking site contains a very bad word; remember, these suggestions come from Redditors.

Better plant parenthood 

Apparently, houseplants are among the many things we’ve been buying like mad over the past two years to keep us company indoors. But how to keep our new frond-babies healthy? Plant sensors to the rescue, says the BBC. These smart sensors can send a signal to your phone to let you know when a plant is dry and needs water. Of course, you could just feel the soil, but you’d have to remember to do that.

Hounded by the internet 

Speaking of bringing new creatures into our lives, Tim Marcin writes for Mashable that since adopting his puppy Henry, his internet life has gone to the dogs. Literally. It seems the entire internet knows Tim has a dog: ads for dog dentistry, dog beds, dog treats, dog-friendly apartments, dog videos on TikTok. Read what MSU’s Dr. Emilee Rader (UMSI PhD ’09) has to say about algorithms in our lives while you enjoy a picture gallery of Henry and his smooshy face.

Free for (almost) all 

If you haven’t filed your income taxes yet, it’s worth checking out this New York Times article to see if you qualify to use one of several free online tax filing services. While 70% of filers were eligible to use the IRS Free File program in 2019, just 2.4% did, according to a government study. Seems most people didn’t know about the program, but now you do.

Speed up your browsing 

If you feel that your Google Chrome browser is tooo slooow, Gizmodo has some alternative browsers to recommend that are somewhat faster. Calling Chrome a “total systems resources hog,” Zachariah Kelly reviews some golden oldies you might want to reconsider, like Opera and Firefox.

Parenting nightmare 

Übergizmo relates: A frustrated French father decided the only way to get his teenagers to put down their smartphones and go to sleep was to block their internet signal with a jammer. Unfortunately, the device he bought online also knocked out the internet in an adjoining town. Now he’s facing a fine and potential jail time. Pas si bonne nuit, non?