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Sideways Stories From the Real Wayside School

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Amazon

When you were a kid, did you wish you were in Mrs. Jewls’s class on the 30th floor? Wonder what Mushroom Surprise really tasted like? Ponder getting a potato tattoo?

If so, you weren’t alone. Every child who read Louis Sachar’s Wayside School surely thought Bebe Gunn, Benjamin Nushmutt, and the Three Erics were having way more fun at school than they were.

But while the outlandish stories may be straight from Sachar’s imaginative mind, the kids were totally based in reality. When he was at Berkeley in the ‘70s, Sachar took a job as a teacher’s aide in exchange for three college credits. In addition to helping out in a second and third grade class at Hillside Elementary School, he also monitored the kids during the lunchtime recess, where he was known as Louis the Yard Teacher.

“It became my favorite college class, and a life-changing experience,” he said.

When he started writing the first Wayside book in 1976, he based all of the characters on the kids he got to know at Hillside—and there’s probably a nugget of truth in each of their personalities, since Sachar says his writing process was to “picture [the kids] in my head and describe them. The illustrator then drew the pictures, which looked nothing like the real kids I knew.” His favorite kid from Wayside, by the way, is Todd—the boy who always ends up getting sent home on the noon bus for bad behavior. The first Wayside character he created was Mrs. Gorf.

The eclectic group at Wayside aren’t the only characters Sachar based on real-life people. His wife, Carla, was a counselor at an elementary school—just like her namesake in There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom. The Warden from Holes was based on a friend of his who plays bridge, and Louis the Yard Teacher in the Wayside books was, of course, based on himself.

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Sagar.jadhav01, Wikimedia Commons // ;CC BY-SA 4.0
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New 'Eye Language' Lets Paralyzed People Communicate More Easily
Sagar.jadhav01, Wikimedia Commons // ;CC BY-SA 4.0
Sagar.jadhav01, Wikimedia Commons // ;CC BY-SA 4.0

The invention of sign language proved you don't need to vocalize to use complex language face to face. Now, a group of designers has shown that you don't even need control of your hands: Their new type of language for paralyzed people relies entirely on the eyes.

As AdAge reports, "Blink to Speak" was created by the design agency TBWA/India for the NeuroGen Brain & Spine Institute and the Asha Ek Hope Foundation. The language takes advantage of one of the few motor functions many paralyzed people have at their disposal: eye movement. Designers had a limited number of moves to work with—looking up, down, left, or right; closing one or both eyes—but they figured out how to use these building blocks to create a sophisticated way to get information across. The final product consists of eight alphabets and messages like "get doctor" and "entertainment" meant to facilitate communication between patients and caregivers.

Inside of a language book.
Sagar.jadhav01, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0

This isn't the only tool that allows paralyzed people to "speak" through facial movements, but unlike most other options currently available, Blink to Speak doesn't require any expensive technology. The project's potential impact on the lives of people with paralysis earned it the Health Grand Prix for Good at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity earlier in June.

The groups behind Blink to Speak have produced thousands of print copies of the language guide and have made it available online as an ebook. To learn the language yourself or share it with someone you know, you can download it for free here.

[h/t AdAge]

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How Bats Protect Rare Books at This Portuguese Library
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Visit the Joanina Library at the University of Coimbra in Portugal at night and you might think the building has a bat problem. It's true that common pipistrelle bats live there, occupying the space behind the bookshelves by day and swooping beneath the arched ceilings and in and out of windows once the sun goes down, but they're not a problem. As Smithsonian reports, the bats play a vital role in preserving the institution's manuscripts, so librarians are in no hurry to get rid of them.

The bats that live in the library don't damage the books and, because they're nocturnal, they usually don't bother the human guests. The much bigger danger to the collection is the insect population. Many bug species are known to gnaw on paper, which could be disastrous for the library's rare items that date from before the 19th century. The bats act as a natural form of pest control: At night, they feast on the insects that would otherwise feast on library books.

The Joanina Library is famous for being one of the most architecturally stunning libraries on earth. It was constructed before 1725, but when exactly the bats arrived is unknown. Librarians can say for sure they've been flapping around the halls since at least the 1800s.

Though bats have no reason to go after the materials, there is one threat they pose to the interior: falling feces. Librarians protect against this by covering their 18th-century tables with fabric made from animal skin at night and cleaning the floors of guano every morning.

[h/t Smithsonian]

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