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University of Michigan School of Information


Fun Size for 6/2/20: Bill Gates’s summer reading list

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].

Stormy weather

All U.S. states experience terrible weather, though some fare worse than others. compiled a map to show the number of storms per state since 1980 that have racked up damages of over $1 billion per incident and the type of storms they were.

An inbox of one’s own

Gmail – so drearily generic. A new Quick Setting feature from Google will soon allow you to personalize your email inbox with fancy fonts, reading panes and flocked wallpaper (OK, a slight exaggeration). The features were previously hidden in Settings; now they’ll be easier to access, and changes will be instant. TechCrunch reports a gradual rollout to G Suite users starts June 22.

Better than Paint-by-Numbers

Unleash your inner artist with the new Art Transfer filter that lets you turn your smartphone photos into art in the style of van Gogh, Kahlo, Monet and more. ArtNetNews discovered this creative feature in the Google Arts & Culture app. Also check out the link to a sampling from the recent Getty challenge, where contributors re-create famous paintings from household goods, towels and lots of t.p.

Fur-baby monitors

Right now, we’re keeping company with our four-footed friends 24/7, but not too long ago, pet-owners were using AI to keep Fido and Felix happy remotely. Interactive cameras, treat-dispensers, automatic laser toys and other devices are explored in this NY Times article, which includes commentary from UMSI associate professor Lionel Robert.

New disease, old-school tracking

Germany’s relatively low COVID-19 death rate is attributed in part to its contact-tracing system, according to the Washington Post. Privacy concerns have limited the potential use of tracing apps, so the Germans’ approach to contact tracing is decidedly low-tech: humans using telephones. The U.S. is currently ramping up its contact tracers, estimating as many as 300,000 may be needed. The NY Times reports what it’s like to cold-call people who may have been exposed to COVID-19.

Your sunny, funny face

Let’s face it – we may be getting a bit tired of all these Zoom meetings, whether for work or play. Kelly Conaboy, writing for The Cut, shares her own creative solution step-by-step – as she creates a papier-mâché replica of her head to pinch hit for her on Zoom.  

If crafts aren’t your métier, maybe you could try a Zoom meeting with your dog. British sportscaster Andrew Cotter recently called a company meeting with Lab assistants Mabel and Olive.

Credit where it’s due

At present, men greatly outnumber women in data science – only 18% are women, according to a recent TechRepublic article. Yet many data science pioneers were women – some better known than others, like Ada Lovelace, Katherine Johnson and Margaret Hamilton. has a list of some female data science pioneers you might not know.

What’s Bill reading?

Each May, Bill Gates shares a list of five books he recommends for summer reading. This year, he’s expanded his usual list of five to twice its normal size and thrown in a few TV shows and movies to help soak up some of that extra time you may have right now.

Try your hand at ASL

At press conferences, If you find your attention shifting from the speakers to the expressive faces and flying fingers of the American Sign Language interpreters at their side, you might want to try your own hand at learning ASL. has seven iPhone apps to get you started.

News from UMSI:

The School of Information, in collaboration with the School of Public Health and the College of Engineering, have developed two online tools for the State of Michigan to help inform Michiganders’ return to work. The tools are a COVID-19 symptom checklist web application and COVID-19 dashboard that provides real time, visualized data for officials to easily identify areas where the new coronavirus presents a higher risk.

Read more.