CoronaDiversion #14—Interactive Evolution

CoronaDiversion #14—Interactive Evolution

I’m a big fan of timelines, especially the ones that show multiple fields of information at once. (One of the best presents I ever received was a book called Timelines of World History where each page shows what was happening on each continent at each date in history…)

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History has a timeline to warm my heart: the Human Evolution Timeline.

At first glance, the timeline doesn’t show a lot of information. There are squiggles showing climate fluctuations and blurs showing primary species.

But if you click on the button that says Magnifier, in the lower left corner, you can slide a magnifying bar over the entire timeline. Suddenly, a scattering of multi-color dots appears, and each one marks a notable development in human evolution.

Ready to spend a couple of hours browsing through human evolution?




CoronaDiversion #13—If You Like This Book…

CoronaDiversion #13—If You Like This Book…

For years, I’ve searched for a great book recommendation engine. You know—the type of resource where you say, “I love reading The Lord of the Rings, Filming Diary of The Real Housewives of East Nowheresville, and Who Moved My Cheese, and it spits out a dozen recommendations for the next book you’re going to love.

And now I think I’ve found one!

Bookfinity was put together by Ingram Spark (a company that (mostly) provides print books to stores, but they’re expanding their mission in various interesting ways…) A fun interface walks you through about a dozen questions, asking you what types of books you like to read, which books look interesting to you (judging solely on their covers), how many books you typically read in a year, etc. Then, it pops up a page of possibly interesting books. You can indicate successful recommendations (books you actually do find interesting) and misses (books you wouldn’t read in a million years.) You can use the site to track your reading list.

Bookfinity isn’t perfect. Some users have complained that it favors YA titles. I strongly suspect that its current universe of possible titles is pretty limited (because recommended books must be “scored” to fit into their Q&A system.)

But Bookfinity gave me a better recommendation list than I’ve received at any other similar site.

It’s fun. It’s free. And it might give you some great ideas for future reads. So what do you have to lose?

CoronaDiversion #12—Putting on a Show!

CoronaDiversion #12—Putting on a Show!

The Kennedy Center is both a national center for the performing arts and a national memorial to John F. Kennedy. During non-corona times, it hosts a wide range of shows—opera, ballet, plays, orchestral performances, free concerts, etc. While it has recently come under criticism for taking federal coronavirus funding and then furloughing some musicians, the Kennedy Center does host a tremendous number of free resources on its website. In addition to concerts, movies, and other clips (along with free daily drawing lessons from Mo Willems!), the Kennedy Center has an entire presentation on musical theater—its history, political implications, etc.

There are several video segments, followed by actual lesson plans for people who want to dig deeper. You can supplement the material by browsing the site for selections from musicals performed at the Kennedy Center over the years.

Ready to get a song (or ten) stuck in your head?

CoronaDiversion #11—Hogwarts is Here!

CoronaDiversion #11—Hogwarts is Here!

One aspect of Corona Chaos has been distance learning, with teachers and parents attempting to finish out the school year for kids. I completely understand how challenging the situation is. A large number of people have ZERO interest in anything having to do with additional online learning opportunities. And yet…
What if you could go to Hogwarts?

Harry Potter fans from around the world have built Hogwarts is Here—an online school of magic, complete with Houses, a forum, a library, and more!

You can take online classes, such as Charms, Potions, and the ever-endangering Defense Against the Dark Arts.

You don’t even need an owl-borne invitation to attend!

Ready to enroll?

CoronaDiversion #10—The Wright Stuff

CoronaDiversion #10—The Wright Stuff

Many years ago, my family and I visited Chicago during a beastly hot summer. We’d had our hearts set on taking a walking tour of Oak Park, to visit a variety of homes and other buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. But we quickly realized we’d be courting heatstroke to do the walk.

Rather than despair, we decided to turn the walking tour into a driving tour. We navigated from site to site, stopping for a long time in front of each building to read about it in our guidebook. (Yes. Guidebook. This was before we had ready access to the entire Internet on our mobile phones!)

Today’s CoronaDiversion is a similar hack on a real-life visit to a Frank Lloyd Wright treasure. 

Wright’s Hollyhock House is a two-story home in Los Angeles. The house’s design makes it difficult, if not impossible, for mobility-impaired visitors to view a great deal of the building. To solve that problem, the City of Los Angeles’s Department of Cultural Affairs developed a virtual visit.

And guess what? We homebound folks can visit too!

Ready to explore?

CoronaDiversion #9—Americans

CoronaDiversion #9—Americans

I wanted to start this post with a snappy headline, something funny or punny about being an American. But the more I tortured words, the more I realized that anything I had to say would be inappropriate, to describe the Americans exhibit at the National Museum of the American Indian.

That exhibit is one I’ve wanted to get to for the past few months. And, of course, I hope to still get there, before it closes. But the curators have done an amazing job of bringing the exhibit online.

What’s it all about?

Native Americans comprise 1% of the US population. And yet images of Native Americans occur throughout our society—as logos for household products, as corporate names, as school logos, and in countless other uses.

The Americans exhibit explores those images, along with myths and legends about native people interacting with white settlers.

Ready to explore? You’re almost guaranteed to learn something new. And even if you don’t learn new facts, you’ll be sensitized to images in an invigorating new way.