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24 Library-Centric Sites We Love

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Each week I provide links to stories about libraries, authors, and books. Today we're going to do something different! In no particular order, here are some of our favorite library-related places on the web.

1. Love the Liberry

Love the Liberry: Slices-of-life from the public library reference desk, every one of which rings true. People are weird, guys.
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2. Awful Library Books

Awful Library Books: Two librarians from MI document the strange, scary, and wonderful things they find in their public library. Addictive, for sure.
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3. This is What a Librarian Looks Like

This is What a Librarian Looks Like: Librarians submit photos of themselves looking awesome, to challenge the old stereotype of the profession.
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4. A Librarian's Guide to Etiquette

A Librarian's Guide to Etiquette: A funny twist on observations by a public librarian.
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5. Better Book Titles

Better Book Titles: To help you see what a book is really about.
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6. Unshelved

Unshelved: The ultimate library comic, so funny it hurts! (At least to library workers, anyhow.)
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7. Library Sleevefacing

Library Sleevefacing: Need I say more?
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8. Contrariwise

Contrariwise: A blog of literary tattoos, full of inspiration for literary tattoo enthusiasts.
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9. Good Show Sir

Good Show Sir: Really, really bad sci-fi book covers.
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10. Hey Girl, I Like the Library, Too

Hey Girl, I Like the Library, Too: Guess who likes the library? This one isn't updated anymore, but you can still have fun scrolling through.
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11. Inappropriate Book Covers

Inappropriate Book Covers: I actually like these redesigns, but apparently they are "tonally inappropriate." And funny.
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12. Librarian Problems

When Someone's Browsing in the Aisle I Need to Reshelve In:

Librarian Problems: Awesome gifs, with the tagline "I'll Dewey Your Decimal."
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13. Shelver Sheep

Shelver Sheep: Poor Shelver Sheep can't catch a break -- this blog documents his woes.
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14. Books and Other Geekery

Books and Other Geekery: A photo tumblr all about books and libraries.
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15. Librarians Classified

When There Are No Leftovers From a Library Program for Me to Eat:

Librarians Classified: More funny gifs about what it's like to work in a library.
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16. Librarian Avengers: Are librarians superheroes in disguise? Well, no, but we are cool!
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17. A Fuse #8 Production: Hands down, the go-to blog for information on any and all things related to children's literature. Fuse 8's been doing it right for years.
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18. Man of the Stacks: A librarian and his interests make up the subjects on this one.
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19. Miss Information: Miss Information feels a lot of things, and isn't afraid to talk about them on this funny public library blog.
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20. Bibliothecaevore: All things library!
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21. Annoyed Librarian: The name says it all. The AL is a contrarian who likes to take issue with current library controversies, small and large.
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22. Librarianista: A library and librarian photo collection.
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23. Read Roger: Roger is the editor of The Horn Book, a YA and children's magazine with lots of reviews. On his blog he talks about books he likes, and life in general.
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24. 100 Scope Notes: The observations and opinions of Travis, an elementary school librarian who loves his job, the kids, and books for kids.

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Did I forget one of your favorites? Let me know in the comments! Be sure to stop by next Thursday for our regular At The Libraries link round-up.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
technology
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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief
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What Happened to Jamie and Aurelia From Love Actually?
May 26, 2017
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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief

Fans of the romantic-comedy Love Actually recently got a bonus reunion in the form of Red Nose Day Actually, a short charity special that gave audiences a peek at where their favorite characters ended up almost 15 years later.

One of the most improbable pairings from the original film was between Jamie (Colin Firth) and Aurelia (Lúcia Moniz), who fell in love despite almost no shared vocabulary. Jamie is English, and Aurelia is Portuguese, and they know just enough of each other’s native tongues for Jamie to propose and Aurelia to accept.

A decade and a half on, they have both improved their knowledge of each other’s languages—if not perfectly, in Jamie’s case. But apparently, their love is much stronger than his grasp on Portuguese grammar, because they’ve got three bilingual kids and another on the way. (And still enjoy having important romantic moments in the car.)

In 2015, Love Actually script editor Emma Freud revealed via Twitter what happened between Karen and Harry (Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman, who passed away last year). Most of the other couples get happy endings in the short—even if Hugh Grant's character hasn't gotten any better at dancing.

[h/t TV Guide]

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