“They Will Catch on Fire”: Michigan Library Asks Patrons Not to Microwave Their Books

Burning books may kill coronavirus germs, but at what cost?
Burning books may kill coronavirus germs, but at what cost?
Movidagrafica Barcelona, Pexels

Last month, the Plainfield Township branch of the Kent District Library (KDL) in Grand Rapids, Michigan, took to Facebook to share a cautionary tale about burning books.

It wasn’t a summary of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, nor did it have anything to do with a metaphorical protection of free speech. Instead, the post showed a scorched edition of Window on the Bay by Debbie Macomber, which had apparently been microwaved in an ill-conceived attempt to burn off any coronavirus germs.

As the post explained, each book is outfitted with a radio frequency identification (RFID) tag—a more efficient alternative to barcodes, which must be scanned individually and at close range. But since RIFDs contain metal, “they will catch on fire in the microwave.”

“I don't know if it was something that they saw on the news—that they thought maybe the heat would kill COVID-19,” the library’s regional manager Elizabeth Guarino-Kozlowicz told the Detroit Free Press.

Exposure to high heat could indeed kill the virus. According to the World Health Organization, temperatures of 132.8°F or above can eliminate the SARS coronavirus, which behaves similarly to this newer strain (SARS-CoV-2). That said, we still don’t know exactly how heat affects SARS-CoV-2, and nuking a novel is a horrible idea no matter what.

Food & Wine reports that KDL workers are quarantining all returned library books for 72 hours to make sure all coronavirus germs have died before checking them back into the collection. As for the fate of the charred volume, KDL told Mental Floss that the borrower has been billed for it. After they pay the fine, they’ll get to take it home for good.

If you’re worried about borrowing contaminated books from your own library, you can always call first to find out what safety guidelines they’re following. Or, you could stick to e-books for a while—here are five free ways to get them.

[h/t Food & Wine]

Looking to Downsize? You Can Buy a 5-Room DIY Cabin on Amazon for Less Than $33,000

Five rooms of one's own.
Five rooms of one's own.
Allwood/Amazon

If you’ve already mastered DIY houses for birds and dogs, maybe it’s time you built one for yourself.

As Simplemost reports, there are a number of house kits that you can order on Amazon, and the Allwood Avalon Cabin Kit is one of the quaintest—and, at $32,990, most affordable—options. The 540-square-foot structure has enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a sitting room—and there’s an additional 218-square-foot loft with the potential to be the coziest reading nook of all time.

You can opt for three larger rooms if you're willing to skip the kitchen and bathroom.Allwood/Amazon

The construction process might not be a great idea for someone who’s never picked up a hammer, but you don’t need an architectural degree to tackle it. Step-by-step instructions and all materials are included, so it’s a little like a high-level IKEA project. According to the Amazon listing, it takes two adults about a week to complete. Since the Nordic wood walls are reinforced with steel rods, the house can withstand winds up to 120 mph, and you can pay an extra $1000 to upgrade from double-glass windows and doors to triple-glass for added fortification.

Sadly, the cool ceiling lamp is not included.Allwood/Amazon

Though everything you need for the shell of the house comes in the kit, you will need to purchase whatever goes inside it: toilet, shower, sink, stove, insulation, and all other furnishings. You can also customize the blueprint to fit your own plans for the space; maybe, for example, you’re going to use the house as a small event venue, and you’d rather have two or three large, airy rooms and no kitchen or bedroom.

Intrigued? Find out more here.

[h/t Simplemost]

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Meet Ian Brackenbury Channell—the Official City Wizard of Christchurch, New Zealand

In Christchurch, New Zealand, wizards ride buses, not brooms.
In Christchurch, New Zealand, wizards ride buses, not brooms.

Gandalf and Saruman aren't the only wizards New Zealand can claim. The city of Christchurch has employed its own official wizard for more than 20 years, and as CNN Travel reports, he's preparing to pass off his staff to a wizarding apprentice.

Ian Brackenbury Channell has been dressing up as a wizard for decades. Though originally from the UK, his career in academia brought him to the Universities of New South Wales and Melbourne in Australia. He assumed his magical role, simply titled "The Wizard," at both institutions. Responses to the character varied, but he finally found a permanent home for the act in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Brackenbury Channell had been living in Christchurch for 24 years when the city offered him an official wizarding contract in 1998. His new role would require him to "provide acts of wizardry and other wizard-like-services as part of promotional work for the city of Christchurch." Every year since, The Wizard has collected an annual salary of 16,000 New Zealand dollars, or $10,400 USD, from the government.

At age 87, Brackenbury Channell is spending less time in the spotlight and looking for an aspiring wizard to take over the job. Musician Ari Freeman, 39, threw his pointed hat in the ring several years ago when he introduced himself as a young wizard. He's been training as his apprentice ever since.

Freeman already sports a long beard that would make Merlin proud, but the role of official wizard goes beyond looking the part. Other duties include promoting local events, welcoming foreign dignitaries, and rambling in Cathedral Square. The Christchurch City Council for "wizardry," which manages the position, hasn't stated whether it plans to extend the contract to Freeman.

[h/t CNN Travel]