Patent FUN!

I think inventions and patents are cool, so I am sharing a couple fun ways to explore them:

US256265-Device for waking persons from sleep

Looking at those birds

Photo of birds at birdfeeder
Hungry birds in Madison

Recently we added a bird feeder to our backyard and it's provided some enjoyable bird watching of the very hungry birds. So far, we haven't had much bird variety but luckily the Internet has videos of birds!

One fun web site is the Bird Library. The Bird Library has a fancier bird feeder than my backyard bird feeder, and attracts a wider variety of birds. There is a YouTube channel in addition to the web site, which has archival videos as well as information on the library's patrons.

Another great resource is All About Birds from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. They have a number of live feeds and tons of information about birds. If you have a spare moment, take a look!

Worldly Windows

03ce5f21c99bf7e9149992e5791914feFor some, traveling to different locations is fun and relaxing. We love to look out the window and take in the beautiful, new scenery. Unfortunately, all of that has been stopped by COVID-19 and we're all stuck at home. We're looking out the same window day after day. Well, what if I told you that there was a way to look out someone else's window and that window could be anywhere in the world. I found this wonderful website thanks to Nancy McClements, who posted it in one of her First Thursday emails. It's called WindowSwap and it gives you a ten minute video of what it looks like out someone's window. That someone could be anywhere in the world. You can also take your own video out your window and submit it.  Enjoy seeing the world, one window at a time.

Photo by lauramusikanski at

Critter problems in the garden

I think I have a critter problem in my garden...

(link to video)



Pretty nifty, huh? When you search Google, you can now view some search results in 3D and augmented reality

I searched a T-rex and chose to view in 3D and then view it in my (garden) space.

I'm not sure if this has a practical library application (is there a way to work it into programming? fun video for the library's Facebook page?), but I'm sure we'll be seeing more and more of this sort of VR/AR available.

To embed the video in the post on the TechBits blog, I uploaded it to my Google Drive account, shared it, and used select bits of this webpage to find the embed code.


Spotting Neowise

A lot of people have been talking about the comet “Neowise” lately.  The comet is 3 miles wide and is made of ice and dust.  My family has been using the SkySafari phone app on an Android phone to spot the comet the last few nights.  The app is great at helping amateurs find objects in the sky.  You can download the free version of SkySafari to your phone through the Google  Thumbnail_Screenshot_20200723-134128_SkySafari Play Store.  There is no need to download the paid Pro or Plus versions.

The Neowise comet is supposed to be closest to Earth Thursday night.  If you want to use SkySafari to locate the comet, follow these steps:

  1. Download SkySafari from Google Play Store.
  2. After it downloads open it.
  3. The first time you open SkySafari, you will need to allow permission to access photos, media and files for the app to work.
  4. Next, you will need to allow SkySafari to access the device’s location.  I set it to allow only while using the app.
  5. The app should be open now, press Search at the bottom.
  6. Select Brightest Comets in the list.
  7. Select NEOWISE.  For now, it is located at the top of the list.
  8. At the bottom, click Center.  This will show the current location of Neowise.
  9. At night, take your phone outside and point up towards the sky in a Northwesterly fashion.  Move the phone around until Neowise shows up on the screen.

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.



Internet Archive:

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!