A few additional distractions

There have already been a number of posts talking about additional online resources and sites to use to help or even just keep from going stir crazy at home. I'm going to add a few others:

As some of you may have seen, this past week Google put some of their most popular interactive doodles back up on the main Google page. But did you know you can actually access those prior doodles at any time?


On a more education front, from now through June, the Wisconsin Historical Society is letting the public access the digital "Wisconsin: Our State, Our Story" textbook and student activity guide for free from their website.


If you haven't heard already, Adobe will be discontinuing support for Flash at the end of 2020. While this will be a relief from the security issues and near-constant updating that Flash requires, it will mean the end of being able to play any of the old Flash browser games. Or will it?

While Flash, and by extension Flash games, has been dying for years, once upon a time there had been quite a few of them. A number of groups have been creating archives of playable Flash games.

Flashpoint: https://bluemaxima.org/flashpoint/

Newgrounds: https://www.newgrounds.com/flash/player

Internet Archive: https://archive.org/search.php?query=subject%3A%22flash+games%22

Speaking of the Internet Archive and classic games, they also have a number of classic PC games.  A lot of these are only the demo versions of the game, but many can be played within your browser.  Though I will warn you some of these weren't working on my PC. 


Virtual Getaways

With the current global pandemic that is going on a lot of people's vacations have been cancelled. I know one couple that was going on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Iceland. Cancelled! A family I know was going to Walt Disney World. Also cancelled! So what are people to do to get away from it all? The answer is to stay at home and go on a virtual getaway. Here are a few that I found:


Theme Parks



National Parks

World Landmarks


  • If opera is your getaway, then you have to check out the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City.  They are offering nightly encore performances of some of their most iconic shows. The free streams go live at 7:30 p.m. each evening and are available for 20 hours.

My distractions from Life

This post deviates a little bit from the normal tech topics you find here, but since the world has deviated a little bit from normal I thought, "Why not share with you my top 5 favorite YouTube channels I subscribe to that help distract me from life." I find these channels relaxing, entertaining, and educational...sometimes at the same time!

Cruising the Cut: This is currently my go-to channel on YouTube if I need to unwind. I don’t know what I searched to have the YouTube algorithm recommend one of his videos but I’m glad it did. I’ve been subscribed for a couple of months and I’m going through the back catalog of videos. This channel is hosted by a guy named David who quit his job, bought a narrowboat and cruises the canals of the United Kingdom. You get a glimpse of what life is like living on a narrowboat along with charming commentary.

Stinnett Sticks: This is my second favorite channel for relaxing. Michael Stinnett creates amazing walking sticks on this channel. He has a calming voice and a cute dog named Pearl that sits on his lap while he carves his walking sticks. Mike takes you through the process of making a walking stick from start to finish. Some of his videos are of him and Pearl walking along the mountainsides of central Oregon looking for sticks to carve. Most of his walking sticks are realistic reptile representations, FYI.

Pecos Hank: I was hooked on Hank Schyma’s videos after the first one I watched. Hank is so talented---he has a gift for music, photography, making videos, and in my opinion, comedy. He’s also a storm chaser and amateur meteorologist, which is this channel's main focus. He has a love for any critter crossing the road; this forces him to stop and help them across. See if you can find the video where the floor of the passenger seat is full of turtles he picked up to help.

Crime Pays but Botany Doesn’t: This is by far the most educational channel I subscribe to. If you want to learn more about plants and minerals, this channel is a great resource. If you want to hear cursing, this channel is a great resource. I can’t put in words how much joy I get from watching vlogger Joey Santore's commentary on human nature along with Mother Nature---this is something to be admired, in my opinion anyway. This is the first sentence of the about page for his channel: “A Low-Brow, Crass Approach to Plant Ecology as muttered by a Misanthropic Chicago Italian.” I couldn’t have said it better myself. Really, I couldn't, because I don't know what misanthropic means.

From the Mind of Christine McConnell: This is a relatively new channel to YouTube, but prior to that Christine had a short-lived Netflix show. Christine, whose style can be described as “vintage goth,” currently lives in California with her cats. She has an ease about her that makes her videos enjoyable to watch. Christine’s videos are primarily DIY projects she does to decorate her house with sewing and baking too. If you’re into sewing and crafts you might like this channel.

What are some of your favorite YouTube channels that you enjoy watching? Comment below and if you enjoyed this post don’t forget to smash that Like button and subscribe!

Common Sense Media

Call of the wild movie quick review from Common Sense MediaIf you are looking for reviews of movies (both in theaters and available via streaming/DVD), as well as video games and apps, I am putting in a plug for Common Sense Media. Common Sense Media provides information about media content for families and educators. I have used it to help choose apps for my kids, in addition to figuring out whether now is a good time to watch say, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, or whether we should wait a year or two.

The site also has book reviews and does research into children's use of media and technology. If you have some time and are interested in these topics, I encourage you to check it out.

Best of CES 2020: Emerging Technology for Libraries

If you have an hour to spare and an interest in how emerging new technologies might be used in libraries, I'd highly recommend this recorded webinar from Florida Library Webinars:


In the recorded webinar, librarian Diana Silveira reviews the newest trends, devices and innovations with a focus on which technologies can benefit libraries today and tomorrow, and what users may be asking about in the upcoming year.

Holograms, interactive screens, vein authentication, AR, VR, foldable and bendable screens, robots, drones, smart translators, and so much more!

Discovery Wall

On vacation, I had the opportunity to visit a BEAUTIFUL library -- the Tūranga library in Christchurch. Christchurch's Central Library in Gloucester Street closed after the earthquake on 22 February 2011, and the Christchurch City Libraries operated a couple of temporary town libraries from 2011 to 2018. The Tūranga library in Christchurch opened Friday 12 October 2018, and is home to some very impressive technology and spaces.

In addition to 4 stories of your usual library goodness combined with absolutely beautiful design, the library has:

and... my favorite feature: the Discovery Wall.

The Discovery Wall has 3 huge touch-screen panels and displays images and stories of the people and places of Christchurch. It "showcases images and videos curated from the Christchurch City Libraries Digital Heritage collection and appropriate material from other institutions." Just walk up to one of the screens and swipe to move the images on the screen around and tap on an image to select it and pull up more information. Choose from the resulting menus to see more detail or explore other images in the collection.

Here is a link to an album of my photos of the library (...which really don't do it justice! We stopped in on a very overcast and rainy day around 7pm). At the end of the album are a few videos showing the Discovery Wall in action.

What an absolutely wonderful way to bring a collection of digitized images to life!!

More about Tūranga and the Discovery Wall:

Interested in how the Discovery Wall was planned and built? This 25-min video has the details: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qR1AW24Sa1E

Wondering how to pronounce the Māori names of building spaces, features, and artworks at Tūranga? https://my.christchurchcitylibraries.com/turanga/turanga-artworks-and-cultural-narrative/turanga-maori-name-sound-files/

You want me to unplug what?

Don't get me wrong, I LOVE the advances made in certain technologies over the last several years.  It makes my life so much easier (Cut and Paste!!!) and the work lives of library staff much much easier and more efficient.  However, with ease and efficiency also comes the demand for more productivity, right?  

The last time I went camping in Canada I took advantage of the situation and did NOT get international cell phone coverage.  I took along my Kindle for reading (of course) and was able to use the WiFi at the ranger station to check emails (for emergencies) but I was mostly unplugged.

Image result for mary louise lake sleeping giant images

It was hard the first few days ... but then I realized how much I needed a break from the beck and call of technology.  Run to grab the phone, answer the emails asap, read this info bit, schedule this appointment.  By the time my vacation was over I almost dreaded crossing the border and having to reconnect.

Research indicates that we need to unplug/disconnect in order to maintain a healthy balance in our lives.  And as more and more technology becomes readily available, we tend to spend more time than ever on screens: phone, tablet, laptop, PC, television, etc.

There are many articles and websites out there that can provide you with a wealth of information on the benefits of unplugging (and isn't that ironic?) so I'll let you do your own research <grin>.  But this article written for the 2018 Screen-Free Week was one of my favorites.  Here are Five Reasons to take a Break from Screens:

  1. Present-moment awareness
  2. Improved sleep
  3. Deepened connections
  4. Productivity and learning
  5. Breaking habit

And my own, personal reason is to get in more paddling time!



Want to give your old black and white scanned photos a little bit of a "pop"? Try ColouriseSG!

I saw it mentioned in the "Time Traveling With Timelines: Web Apps for Storytelling in Libraries" article in the July/August 2019 issue of Computers in Libraries and had to take it for a spin. Here are some of the results --- can you tell what the theme of the photos is?

Toddler eating ice cream

Soda Shop

2 women eating ice cream in the park

The ColouriseSG project is brought to you by the Data Science and Artificial Intelligence Division, GovTech Singapore. From the information about the site:

"While it is impossible to replicate the exact conditions in which the original photo was taken, it is possible to add colour to the photo to help us imagine what the photographer could have seen in that instant. It is incredible — almost magical — how a little bit of colour can bring us that much closer to that specific moment in time."

Although the site is designed for Singaporean historical photos, it is available to anyone and is super-easy to use!

Photos taken from this Library of Congress collection: https://www.loc.gov/free-to-use/ice-cream

What's this button called? Part 2

A few years ago I reported on a website and app interface doodad called the hamburger. Recently, I heard an equally droll name for another, similar thing that we now click or tap in our hunt for links to navigate around websites and apps: those 3 dots stacked up, have a name.

They are "The Kebab."


Source: Luke Wroblewski, and thanks to WiLSWorld's keynote speaker, Rebecca Stavick, for mentioning this in her address: "Don’t Ask Permission." If you want to be more serious, you could also call it a vertical ellipsis or overflow menu.

Hungry for more, shall we say, substantive tech knowledge? I do recommend looking at the WiLSWorld 2019 Slides, as they are updated, for inspiring ideas from a great conference.

Colón's manuscript

Usually we write about current and new technologies here but I'm changing it up this time and writing about old library technology.  About 500 years old. 

Hernando Colón, illegitimate son of Christopher Columbus, made creating the largest library in the world at the time his life's work.  Only about a quarter of the around 15-20,000 books he collected in the early sixteenth century still survive.  However, thanks to the discovery of the Libro de los Eptiomes manuscript, we now know have summaries of items that no longer exist. 

Once thought lost after Colón's death, the manuscript is made of nearly 2,000 pages of summaries of the items that had been in the collection. Colón had employed a team of writers to read and create a summary of every item and those summaries became Libro de los Epitomes.  His collection encompassed far more than just the classics, it also included items not usually found in collections of the day like news pamphlets, almanacs and ballads giving an insight into what people commonly read. 

There are currently plans to digitize and transcribe the manuscript.