Round up #155: taxes in Europe, whispering to Alexa

Round up #155: taxes in Europe, whispering to Alexa

The ILMK Round ups are short pieces which may or may not be expanded later.

“Let me whisper in your microphones…”

Did you know you can whisper to your

Amazon Echo (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*).


Sometimes, I go to bed after my Significant Other, and that means I’ll be turning off “Everything” (as I’ve taught our Echo to refer to the lights). If I speak normally to my Echo, it might be too loud and disturb my SO’s sleep. So, one night, I just tried whispering…and it worked! Of course, Alexa responded, but that wasn’t too bad…and I can just turn the volume down before bedtime.

Alexa is quite robust in understanding voices and decent at accents. One of the things that voice assistants will eventually learn is to recognize individual voices…but for now, it’s better that it is less precise (and therefore, able to understand more people).

11 Well-Read Facts About the Library of Congress

This was a fun “listicle” on mental_floss about the Library of Congress

post by Michele Debczak

It’s about the Library of Congress…and notes something I recently covered about Thomas Jefferson reinvigorating the LoC after it was burned by British troops in the War of 1812. By the way, that war (and future history) would have been quite different if they’d had modern communications tech (like cellphones). As I recall the story, the famous Battle of New Orleans (“In 1814, we took a little…along with Colonel Jackson down the mighty Mississipp”), which helped make Andrew Jackson a future President, took place after a peace treaty had been signed…but the combatants didn’t find out about it in time.

It Can’t Happen Here

There is often talk about whether or not a particular science fiction novel “successfully predicted the future”. I sometimes see it written as the novel having “gotten it wrong”. Well, first, science fiction isn’t futurism…it’s fiction. It usually isn’t trying to predict. It may be trying to extrapolate, but it isn’t like Criswell, proclaiming what will happen.

There is a type of novel, though, which is a cautionary tale…and there couldn’t be a much clearer title than

It Can’t Happen Here (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

a 1935 work by Sinclair Lewis.

This was during the rise of fascism, and the book explored the idea of a charismatic politician gaining power in the USA.

The Kindle edition is selling quite well right now…with some people seeing it as predictive.

There are books that have predicted some things…I would say one of the most fascinating is Morgan Robertson’s book, which I wrote about here:

The Titanic foretold? Futility,or The Wreck of the Titan

Undervaluing teen books?

I read books intended for lots of types of audiences, including children and teenagers. I think some of the best writing I’ve ever read was putatively for children.

Teen book author Lauren Oliver wrote:

Why Don’t People Take Teen Books Seriously?

in Bustle. It presents a rational argument that there are so many teen books, they shouldn’t all be condemned as the same.

It reminds me of Sturgeon’s Law, which is presented a lot of ways, but the story goes that someone said to famous science fiction author that “90% of science fiction is trash”, and Sturgeon responded, “90% of everything is trash.”

I do with Oliver hadn’t used a (very mild) obscenity towards the beginning of the article…most people wouldn’t mind, and I’ve read some quite strong words in young adult novels.

No tax cut for e-books in Europe

The European Called of Justice ruled that a lowered Value Added Tax on paperbooks needn’t also be applied to e-books.

Yahoo! Finance article by Waverly Olville

The intent of the recently lowered taxes was to promote reading…but the court says that e-books are different enough that it doesn’t apply.

Literature rebuses

I had fun with these 17 rebuses that are clues to famous book titles:

BuzzFeed article by Robin Edds

I got them all, but a couple of them were a bit challenging.

Here, I’ll throw in one myself: what book title does this represent?


Youngest, Y-O-U-N-G-E-S-T, Youngest

I thought this was really cool!

Edith Fuller has qualified for the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Edith is the youngest person ever to qualify.

How young?



Would you believe 5?

Yep, five years old!

Many five year olds aren’t even reading smoothly…and yet, here is one who may outspell competitors three times as old.

KGO article without a byline

HarperCollins celebrates an anniversary

While Edith Fuller gets credit for youth, HarperCollins, one of the Big 5 publishers, is celebrating a milestone…200 years!

Publishers Weekly article by Jim Milliot

Congratulations to them! They’ve been a leader in a lot of ways, and I think some people underestimate the robustness of some of the tradpubs (traditional publishers). They’ve seen many, many changes…not all of them will survive, and they may have to seriously adapt…but I think that some of the Big 5 will still be significant companies twenty years from now.

The publisher has an interesting anniversary site:

I particularly liked looking at the archives. 🙂

Have any thoughts on these stories? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

All aboard our new The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.


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