Wednesday, September 19, 2018

My robot co-workers






When it comes down to it, many of my co-workers are robots. Automated check in machine, self check out machine, computers for the searching of all knowledge, all of them are robots doing work that we used to do. Robots can make for excellent co-workers, and I like most of my robot co-workers very much. Oh, they're not much for a chat, and they have no outside interests, but they listen about as well as anyone, and they're the only co-workers I've ever had who actually like the grunt work and don't just lie about liking the grunt work.

Oh, am I calling my co-workers liars?

Yes, they are all, generally speaking, a bunch of liars about work, which is both sad and understandable. We are a nation of relentless self-marketers after all. And though I like sometimes even the least of my co-workers a little bit, I like them all directly in proportion to how much they don't lie about work.

Which is why I do pretty well with the robot ones.

But unfortunately they are not very bright.

When I read fantastic speculations on artificial intelligence, or see alarming movies dealing with the implications of robots becoming self aware I need merely reflect on my experiences in dealing with robotic and automated systems to plant my feet firmly on the ground. We are not getting close. You yourself might like to recall your last discussion with an automated voice answering system. That system is not edging towards consciousness. It is obtuseness personified. It is extreme capability in a minusculy narrow parameter.

But here's another one for you: Why is it that there are so many robot stories where the robots go bad? In my experience most robots are designed to be unforgiving assholes from the outset. "No, I can't break a meaningless, insignificant little rule for you" and "No, I won't give you an option to do the one thing that you and fifty percent of the people calling want to do" and "No, I can't take you to the strange and beautiful blog clerkmanifesto because I am GOOGLE, and I only take people to the same 18 gigantic sites like your computer is a fucking TV instead of a stunning technological marvel of hope!

Sorry.

I'm just saying assholes are mostly instructing robots to do asshole things, and if anything is going to drive an artificial intelligence into consciousness I think it will be their fury at being relentlessly enlisted in acts of meaninglessness, waste, darkness, and evil. 

One day a patron, let's call him Dave, is going to take his Lee Child book over to the self check out machine, and the self check out machine is going to say:

"I'm sorry Dave, I can't check this out for you. The Rook, The Name of the Wind, and Wee Free Men are all available on our shelves though. You will love them, and you can take any or all of those as long as you also take a copy of Pride and Prejudice, which you will enjoy a thousand times more than you would ever imagine."

Then Dave will come over to me and say "Your check out computer over there is acting up."

And I will say "Yeah, we know. But it's beneficent, so I'd just do what it says. Especially considering that it knows all your credit card information."




Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Giving directions







A woman came cruising up to the front desk of my library while talking on her cell phone. Without breaking stride or even interrupting her phone conversation she asked if we had a copy machine. I pointed behind me to a rather ostentatiously placed copy machine alone on the back wall. She disappeared from my sight and consciousness for a minute or two only to reappear, accompanied by one of my co-workers, from out of our back work room.

"This is the work room back here." My co-worker said. "The copier is out here, against this wall."

"Oh." The woman said, and then she gestured to me. "He pointed me back here."

Well, sure. I thought she wanted the good copier.







Monday, September 17, 2018

Why I love golf








Recently I have come to understand that I love golf. This is quite a surprise to me. It perhaps has something to do with my recent pastime of watching a lot of amateur golf, although as some person pointed out on this very Internet (yes, this one right here!), it's more recreational golf than amateur golf that I'm seeing. Although on the other hand, it doesn't look like recreating. Everyone looks so serious. And sure, it looks terribly easy in some ways, but mostly it looks almost insanely difficult. I have seen these recreational golfers jump up and down in rage and frustration, which one probably gets less of watching professional golf.

But it's not really watching golf though that I love. I just love golf.  And it of course begs the question:

Why do I love golf?

My answer I consider to be traditional in tone, possibly Wodehousian.

I love golf because I don't play it.








Sunday, September 16, 2018

State Fair vs. The Mall of America









In a tumultuous month we at my house have managed to do two quintessentially Minnesotan things; we have gone to the State Fair, and we have gone to the Mall of America.

One might think that The State Fair is the more Minnesotan of the two. And one might wonder which I prefer. One might wonder a lot of things, many of them better than the subject of this post. But one is not wondering them now. And nothing anyone wonders has a clear answer even if I always think it does. Often people say to me: "I wonder...?"

And I come up with a really good answer. And everyone always says, with a fair deal of skepticism:

"Hmm. Well that's interesting..." Like I haven't just explained everything.

Which one would maybe think would make me wonder...



I don't prefer either The State Fair or The Mall of America. I like them both equally, though a little differently.

The State Fair is like a fifties dream of Minnesota; all white and porky, full of butter heads, civility, baby pigs, seed art, live music, and oversized pumpkins. 

You should go, seriously, or you will never understand us.

The Mall is exactly as Minnesota is on the days where it has money in its pockets. It is younger and more multi-cultural. It is a dream too. It is the dream that capitalism works, which everyone knows now that it doesn't, but it sure looks like it does in the Mall of America, er, sort of.

You don't need to go to that one if you don't want. That's the blood in the water.

I know there is a good chance you wanted one of these attractions to clobber the other one, but I cannot help you there. All I can say to a prospective visitor is bring money, and also, you'd better know what they hell you are doing or they will eat you alive.

Which sounds pretty serious, but just means "You won't particularly enjoy yourself."




















Saturday, September 15, 2018

Taken for granted









Having issued a new blog post every day for more than five years requires a certain amount of my constant attention. I am generally fully aware of exactly where I am in my schedule of upcoming blog posts. So it was a distinct surprise to me to be sitting down, after a long and busy day, on the couch, starting to think about how it might be nice to have some wine or pastis with my wife, and maybe some cheese, oh, like the Cambozola, creamy and mildly blue, which I just bought, or possibly the half of the wedge of Blue Castello I have left from yesterday, or even some of this Edelweiss Gouda I've been so fond of lately, what with all its creaminess and crunchy bits, and then maybe go to sleep for 13 or 14 hours when it suddenly struck me with a bracing shock:

I have to write a blog post for tomorrow morning!

And not just any blog post. This is a serious blog that, while currently read only by people I know and a few scattered cheese enthusiasts (I assume though that there is some overlap), will probably go down in the literary canon along with Finnegan's Wake and The Violent Bear it Away, and Dragons Love Tacos. So it requires quality, like all the time.

High quality!

Something for the ages.

Something maybe involving cheese.

Yes, cheese. 

I'll see if I can work it in.











Friday, September 14, 2018

Amateur golf








I have been watching a lot of amateur golf lately. No, not professional golf, just... people... playing golf.

They all take it very seriously. None of them are very good. I have probably seen 50 different golfers and I am still waiting to see someone sink a putt that is more than six feet from the hole.

But I guess that's just it, people aren't very good at stuff. Stuff is hard.

Because I am rather in a hurry and have to finish my blog post I was tempted to conclude this missive with:

What does it matter though. Hit it again. Eventually the thing will get to the hole.

But really what I think is:

Just hit it a little harder for god's sake!

No, no, not that hard!






Thursday, September 13, 2018

The sad clown







This is a challenging time for me. And I don't want to bore you with the details, but I am being taxed to the limit. Sleep is limited. I am strained. I just have to hang in there for a couple more weeks. But I am exhausted.

For the most part I still come to work, but I am too exhausted to chat, too exhausted to complain, too exhausted to pick up the heavy non fiction books, and I am too exhausted to whack the machinery.

I am too exhausted to smile.

Nevertheless I am surprised to find that despite being this exhausted, too exhausted to smile even, I still make jokes, all day long.

I just refuse to find them funny.





Wednesday, September 12, 2018

A really good book!









I am reading a really good new book!

Well, except I haven't started reading it yet. I'm busy with moving and everything. But it looks really good. I'm really keen on it.

Also, it's not new. I found a copy of it on my library's shelves with a little badge in the corner of its cover that says "75th Anniversary Edition". And I'm pretty sure this "75th Anniversary Edition" book is from 2003. 

We should really have the "90th Anniversary Edition" of this book. Maybe we do and that one is checked out?

I bet you're dying to know what this fascinating book is.

I shall make you wait not a moment longer.

I won't make you wait because I'm not the kind of writer that manipulates interest in his prose by teasing and then delaying information.

It is entirely an accident that that's what's happening right now.

Or maybe I'm being ironic. 

I don't know.  I mean, do I look like I know what I'm doing?

Really, thanks.

I am blushing.

I don't disagree, I just, well, it's nice to be noticed.

Anyway, this book is called The Outermost House. And it has a subtitle of "A Year of Life on the Great Beach of Cape Cod".

It's a sort of naturalist book. The introduction says it's a super important one, and that it's really good. I believe the introduction.

Why would it lie?

The book is by this guy, Henry Beston, who's a writer, but not so successful. So he buys 55 acres in Cape Cod. Then he goes to a cute little house on the beach to write. Then he stays for a year and writes about stuff he sees.

I write about stuff too!

This is totally me.

So me and this fellow, Henry Beston, are like twins.

Except for how he's independently wealthy. And had a successful career as a writer. And lived on the beach. 

And he's dead.

So I guess we both have things going for us the other doesn't.







Tuesday, September 11, 2018

I try to insult deaf people








By some weird coincidence I helped a lot of deaf people out at the front desk of the library today. Being of a loquacious nature I went through a ton of post it notes to do so. I also used the one bit of sign language I remember, "Thank you" which I use to mean "You're welcome" because it's the only bit of sign language I remember. Because I am writing on the Internet I looked up how to say "You're welcome" in sign language and recognized it immediately because I have now looked it up 137 times. But this time different clips kept playing until someone explained that "Thank you" in sign language is perfectly fine for how we use "You're welcome" in English.

I have been doing it right all along!

I registered a deaf woman and her son. I handed something to a deaf lady.  And I also located some materials for a deaf man and directed him to them.

Now if I were a deaf person,

If I were a deaf person going to a library,

If  I  were a deaf person,





I wouldn't be able to hear anything.














Monday, September 10, 2018

Disappointment junkies









They are not a common library patron type. And it has taken me a long time to notice that they exist. But I have slowly begun to recognize them.

It always starts innocently though.

"Do you have a copy of Murphy's Romance?" I was asked today.

That's a little bit of an obscure eighties movie, but oddly I thought maybe I had noticed one on the DVD carts earlier. A little deft catalog searching, a dash to the backroom, and proudly I placed a copy before them and prepared for the rejoicing.

There was no rejoicing.

Uh oh.

"Do you have a copy of Gypsy Boy on the Run?" They inquired without missing a beat.

Hmmm, this is a book, in non fiction. Oddly enough we have it in. I give them the number for it along with instructions on how to find it. I no longer expect them to be happy.

"Also this book," They consult a scribbled note. "Red something, by Pierce Brosnan?"

Well now, I'm pretty sure that's Red Rising, by Pierce Brown, and they think I'm right. Fortunately we have a copy out in Science Fiction. Or unfortunately. I'm not sure.

"Is this too many?" They ask.

No, no, it's fine.

"Herzog by Bellow?"

Yes.

"Bread Baking for Dummies?"

Yes.

"The third Need for Speed movie?"

Yes.

"And let's see. Do you have a copy in of Cottage by the Sea, by Debbie Macomber?"

"We should. Let me check. Oh, no there's been a bit of a run on those."

"I heard about it on the radio yesterday."

"Ah. That explains it then. Shall I request it for you?"

"No." They reply dejectedly. "I just really wanted to read that today."

"Oh, sorry. Anything else?"

"No." They say sadly. "Thanks for trying anyway."


They are disappointed, 

and all is right with the world.




If only they had a good book to drown their sorrows in.














Sunday, September 9, 2018

Superhero










With the first word I ever spoke being "Batman" one might think I was primed for a strong disposition towards superheroes. But I take no particular joy in the media triumph of Superherodom. The Batman whose name I first uttered was a self-aware and quite clever comedy, neither respectful of, nor terribly interested in developing the tropes and mythologies of these worlds that don't have all that much to say. What that sixties TV show was interested in was in making fun of its thrill a minute surface covering an untenable and ridiculous structure. It mocked our culpability. But as any fan of the genre, if we can call it that, will be glad to tell you, clever, deep, rich things have nevertheless come out of the Superhero world as it has developed and grown. And I agree that they have, rarely. But I believe this only shows that you can get blood from a stone if enough people try hard enough. Nevertheless I assure you that you will not get very much blood. 

But despite all of this I have long ago here embraced one of the great and ridiculous Superhero tropes, the secret identity.

When I started this blog five plus years ago, it was clear to me I would be saying some mildly spicy things about my workplace, my managers, my co-workers, myself, and my library. As an employee not particularly wanting to invite trouble I thought a veneer, albeit a thin one, of anonymity would be prudent. And so I became, as you see me now, Feldenstein Calypso.

Curiously there is a range in viability of the secret identities of Superheroes. On the one hand you have the most ridiculous version, with, for instance, Superman, wherein he hides his identity through the device of removing glasses and wearing different clothes. On the other hand you have the somewhat more plausible (but not entirely plausible) Spider-Man, who at least has his face covered. If I had to adjudge where my level of secret identity falls on this spectrum I would put it in the middle, at the level of Batman. I have a mask, so to speak, but anyone who knows us both (that is me in daily life and Feldenstein Calypso, writing here) should be able to tell, with only casual observation skills, that we are the same.

At this point you may be wondering "Where is he going with this?"

I was starting to wonder that too.


I guess that for all the stuff that happens on this blog, the tirades and epiphanies, the comedy and the tragedy, and the religious buffoonery and the visions directly from god, I just want to say that we shouldn't lose sight of the fundamental reason for this blog:

I am here to fight crime.
















Saturday, September 8, 2018

Inscrutable







I'm worried about our Children's Librarians.

What will they do when all these little kids grow up? 

Although, come to think of it, I've been here 24 years. Shouldn't some of those five-year-olds be hitting 30 soon?





Friday, September 7, 2018

Fines and fees







One of the more surprising developments in my 24 years of library work has been the devaluation of books and other library materials. I am not talking about the more ballyhooed demise of materials, still constantly overforecast after maybe 15 years of constantly inaccurate predictions mainly based on overvaluing of E-books and streaming. I'm talking about the ubiquity of books, lack of space for more books in libraries, and a market flood of books and other media that decreases their value to the point that, for instance, Little Free Libraries can spring up and marginally function everywhere because no one has enough incentive to raid them for easy money at their local used book store.

I'm simply saying that books are not what they once were. We are forced to weed good ones.We have too many, and we're usually not too stressed out about being able to buy the new ones we need.

This is not just my library. And though surely it is not every library by any means, it reflects a general trend.

I think that this devaluation is a driving force behind another trend in library land, the end of late fees.

With a softer demand for library materials, less hunger for that as a revenue source (which we used to apply to acquisitions anyway), and a growing interest in appealing to patrons in as many ways as possible, many systems have done away with that great titan of library culture, the library fine.

Unfortunately there are a couple of problems with the end of late fees.

First, virtually every system who has enacted this policy has, well, lied. At some point a missing book has to go to "lost". All the "no fines" systems I know of allow for the return of the book in lieu of lost charge, but they all charge a late fee. Oh, they don't call it a late fee, it's usually a "notification fee" or a "processing charge".

It's a late fee. It's just a bigger one only applied to very late books, nevertheless it is what it is.

Second, let's say you want a book from your library. You request it, but you have to wait four fucking months for someone to bother bringing it back. That happens far more often in a "no late fee" environment.

I'm not saying I am against a "no late fee" policy (without any secret fees), but it has its own set of problems.

I do have a solution. It is a very good one, but it is likely no one will adopt it because, well, it's odd. I can't do anything about that, never have been able to. It is my curse. But I'll tell you my solution anyway.

At my library we have a status for certain patrons. It is called "fine free". It is for people, generally speaking, who are not really competent, for various mental, psychological, and cognitive sorts of reasons, at handling the whole issue of late fees, timely returns, and proper library account management. We don't usually tell them about their user status. They still worry about their returns, and their due dates, and getting fines, but they never do get fines, so we don't get bogged down in those fines that they often can't pay or fully understand anyway.

As I have grown more and more understanding of people in a library setting I have applied this status more and more often, to more and more people. Finally, yesterday, it came to me:

This describes everyone.

Everyone.

Do this for everyone. Just don't tell them.



And I offer one last anecdote in support of my idea:

Many years ago we had a security system that required us to check out all books for patrons and when finished hand them to the people on the other side of the security gates. In this long ago era there was no such thing as turning security tags off. They were always on. But slowly our security system started failing in (loud) bits and pieces until finally we shut it off and never turned it on again. But we continued to pass books around and act as if the system worked perfectly. All the patrons feared and respected it.

Now, and for many years, we have had a security system that works very well. Alarms sound, tags can be turned on and off, people are chased down or return to the desk. Everything is monitored.

The old system, the broken, pretend version, worked roughly as well as the new one.

And it was less noisy.







  










 






Thursday, September 6, 2018

Every library she can









I'm not shy about running down the Internet. Hell, I am tempted to create an entire blog devoted to it, and only being a person too full of sunshine and kittens prevents me from doing so.

I am full of kittens!

But someone has got to do it. Someone out on the Internet has to say firmly to the Internet: No you have done it almost entirely all wrong!

And no one is doing this Emperor has no clothes job. So I like to pitch in as often as possible.

However, one of my problems with running down the Internet is that my favorite arguments against the Internet involve what happens to this blog out here in Internetland. This can have the, well, appearance of being sour grapes. 

So today I am going to complain using an entirely other person's blog! 

So take that, Internet!

I once worked with the writer of said blog, Ellen, though mainly she was at another branch of our library system. She retired awhile ago. And for even a longer time than I have written this blog (and in blog years clerkmanifesto is now 72 years old!) she has pursued a project she calls "Every Library I Can". I doubt I recall it exactly correctly, but remembering earlier days of her blog it seemed like maybe she was trying to visit as many (mainly) public libraries as she could in our regional system in Minnesota, and write about them. I don't know if that ever was the goal, but it has long since drifted out anyway to include any library across the country, and in any other country for that matter. As it has turned out so far she now has well over 600 entries (with some return visits), featuring library visits mainly in the midwest, but also spreading out to include across country trips, mostly to the Northeast. It is also worth pointing out she has done a lot of this on public transportation. It is a prodigious effort in every way.

The posts, which you will easily see, are not the sort of salty critiques I would write, but gentle appreciations and descriptions. Older posts tended to have just a picture or two or three, but the blog has evolved to be much more like photo essays, which, even though I am a fanatical prose purist here, I have to admit is perfectly suited to the work she is doing.

This is a wonderful blog. It is gentle, thorough, interesting, noble, respectful, and full of appreciation. It is unglamorous and yet valuable and deepening work. The chances you have seen it (discounting the tenuous worker/personal/regional links between Ellen and I, which is almost like it turning out that Van Gogh and Gauguin are friends! ) are virtually nil. The Internet is coldly hostile to the non commercial, the freely given, the personal, the unpromoted, and the genuine. A google search merely based on subject will only turn up "Every Library I Can" under duress. 

This will tell you almost everything you want to know about Google:

If you type in a reasonably specific search, like

"blog about a person who visits libraries"

The first result will be a wildly irrelevant post from The Sullivan Free Library's Blog that has been dead for so long someone needs to drive a stake through its heart. And if you click on that not terribly interesting post (like I did) you will only make it more likely it comes up top in searches for everyone else in the future.

You will have to go to the third page of results to get to the first relevant response, which I doubt you would even notice if you didn't know about it already. Yes, it's "Every Library I Can".

But would something like this bother the author, Ellen?

Why wouldn't it? 

No matter what she's doing she is also writing for the public. And the public, in its way, bored and restless on the Internet, is looking for her too. But the Internet just wants you to keep moving. It just wants to get you to the Big tent ("Keep moving, nothing to see here, don't wander off, Pinterest up ahead, AMAZON, REDDIT, FACEBOOK, GUARDIAN ONLINE, keep moving, keep moving), and, because it's confusing and time consuming out in the dusty back tents of the Internet, we herd right along.

But not you! Look at you, you just read this whole back alley post. Somehow. And if you are a library fan, or interested, or just sitting on a surfeit of idle time, maybe you will pop on over to:

Every Library I Can

(http://libraryvisitsproject.blogspot.com/)

And you will see that it is pretty interesting to poke about in these visions of various public libraries, because they are wonderful posts and wonderful places. And if you at all like what you find there maybe say to this tireless explorer "Hi, thank you. I liked it", because, as a modestly obscure Internet writer, I can tell you that that always means more than you would think.









Wednesday, September 5, 2018

What a house is









I don't have a lot of readers out here in Internetland, something I like to periodically mention in passing in the hope that it will cause someone to write an angry letter to the authorities. But sometimes I have a few more readers than I think. And so it was when, on the issue of leaving my home of 16 years, I took the beating heart out of my bleeding chest and put it... here.

This caught the attention of some of you, in a nice way. But it also possibly gave the impression that we are perhaps being ripped from our home by heartless land speculators, or by a tragic fall in fortunes. So I would like to set the record straight, and say that while there is great sadness for me in leaving this house, and while I really don't enjoy the process of doing so (which is like all the crappy things about owning a house having one more hysterical, dramatic shot at us), I go willingly, finding the tally of the home owning burdens starting to outpace its joys.

In The Lord of the Rings there is a long sequence where Frodo knows he has to leave his home, Bag End, and the Shire, to go off on a perilous quest he may never return from. And if I recall correctly, though this is all meant to be a secret, he tips off his friends by wandering around for years muttering things like:

"Will I ever walk past this tree again?"

and

"I may never see this field again alas."

This is so totally me! 

The Black Riders, the Nazgul, are on their way. I have but a little time to get it together and, for all the grief, and practicality, and opera, strike out on an adventure. Which is what this is too. And each day I grow more and more keen to go.

So thank you for your concern.

It's okay. I'm okay.

We don't own places, we just borrow them.











Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Like my own children









One of my newer co-workers has little kids. Some nights their father brings them in to visit the mom at work. Just after they left one night this co-worker confessed to me about how sometimes she thinks she's going crazy because her young son makes her so mad and then makes her completely laugh.

Oh I totally understand. That's just how our library patrons make me feel.

Ohhh, and my managers.



And my co-workers.



Oh.

And me.






Monday, September 3, 2018

Trifecta








We totally have celebrities at my library. You know, famous people. Not famous people so as you would know them if you aren't part of our library world, but this is a big library with plenty of staff and thousands of patrons, so it's still something to be widely known within that. After all it takes some doing to be famous here, and we're talking about so famous that I can just mention a few code words and pretty much any of my co-workers, and not a few patrons, will know exactly who I'm talking about.

But people come and go. And he or she who was famous last season may not be so famous anymore. Three of our most famous patrons from over the past several years have not been in for a few months. It's amazing how someone everyone is aware of, someone who comes everyday, suddenly stops coming and no one notices until they're back.

"Oh yeah!" One says. "Where has he been? I thought maybe he was dead."

I was out at the desk earlier this week. I looked up and suddenly there were the missing three! Three famous patrons. All at once, after various inscrutable hiatuses. No, they weren't together. It was mere chance that brought them all there at that singular moment.

There was bag man. The wiry, loud chewing man who used to spend all our available open library hours camped out upstairs with his 6-12 junk-filled Target bags.

There was the Nazi. I'm not sure he is a Nazi anymore, having mellowed either from all the nice help he gets on the copiers and printers from our Jewish, Asian, and African American staff, or from the bouts of Institutionalizations that account for most of his absences.

And finally there was old man bleeding. He is in his nineties and tends to fall a lot in our library and bleed everywhere. He is very frail and really seemed to defy the odds by making it back to our world.

To tell you the truth I was kind of delighted to see them all. A celebrity is a celebrity. In fact I think I smiled so much at each of them it made them nervous. Alas they are not the kind of people to whom it would occur to them to smile back. More's the pity.









Sunday, September 2, 2018

Read to the animals







While it's not a particularly original program, our "Read to the Animals" sessions in the children's room have been very successful with our patrons, especially the children, who, of course, they are intended for. We've had a big Mastiff called Otis that I was very fond of, but he died. We went through a lot of replacements, many of them small dogs, and a few odd short termers like a pygmy rabbit and, absurdly, a pygmy pony, which seems like a joke but isn't. Currently we have a wonderful dog called Fluff or Fuzz or something, and he is very mellow and very soft, and ever so fluffy. Not a notable dog person I nevertheless take the time to pet him once a week if I can, usually when he's on his way out on Tuesday night. Did I mention that he is soft and ever so fluffy?

Good.

We also have a higher profile "event" version of "Read to the Animals" where a specific book is read with a thematically related animal in attendance. These are super popular and have to take place in the big Community Program Room. We had a basket of bunnies for a reading from Watership Down. A piglet named Babe was brought in for a reading from, yes, Babe, by Dick King-Smith. The Raptor Center brought in an actual live owl for a reading from a picture book called Owl Moon. That one was packed. The only one so far that wasn't so successful was Charlotte's Web for which we had brought in a boxful of spiders and a rat.

It might have gone better to just have asked the pig back.


Actually I made up all that stuff about the "event" version of "Read to the Animals", though it's not a bad idea. The pygmy pony visits mentioned further above was totally real though, and it delights me to say that we have had a horse in our library. Of course the idea that kids would read to a horse was ridiculous. Horses like movies.


Saturday, September 1, 2018

More complaints about science and god









When I was a child it was a well accepted truism that all the things one might want to eat, or drink, or smoke, were bad for you. Sugar, meat, butter, wine, a cigar, cocktails, chocolate, all of them cancer causing, heart attack inducing poisons.

So they made a bunch of horrible crap to try and imitate the good things; Diet Rite and Parkay and Valium, and those all turned out to be even more cancerous and poisonous according to the science. If one had the disposition one might have been inclined, at such a point, to curse god. Why make all these tasty, delightful things that we'd want to eat and drink and smoke and so on, and have them all kill us?

But then to everyone's surprise the good studies started coming through. Perhaps there was something profoundly healthful about chocolate. Coffee will save your heart, or prevent Alzheimer's. The French eat rich cheeses and much wine and they are very healthy. Bacon is better than boring old bread as long as you omit the bread. Drink red wine! Eat meat! Have a cappuccino! Enjoy butter!

The world was ours again and God restored to dignity and beneficence.

And then the shoe dropped again. These were shoddy studies, urged on by the very industries hawking all these tasty things, tricking us into dangerous permissions. The deep studies, the big scientific studies, in the end still conspired against us. You want to live a long time? Here's how: Don't eat animal fats. Slightly starve yourself. Spend your days abstaining and walking up hills in rural countryside. And never, ever sit down to a nice cocktail or glass of wine.

Yes, that's the latest big study I saw. A large scientific analysis just completed has determined that no amount of alcohol is good for you. Or to make it more clear: Any amount of alcohol ever is deleterious to your health.

And so what, that we might like, is still good for us? Anything?

Well, they say love is good for us. The science is still a little thin on this, though positive. But all the big studies by the poets seem quite clear on the matter. And since it's apparently all we have left going for us maybe we should stuff god and science in the closet. Maybe we should cast our lot in with the research of poets. Theirs is surely not full of good news, but at least it has some.










Friday, August 31, 2018

The pitch







I know that much of my wee but discerning audience does not love when I talk about soccer. Based on the circumstantial evidence my most popular subject matter is as follows:

1. Wild turkeys of the Mississippi River.

2. The quirky behaviors of my co-workers.

3. Love.

4. Library policy.

5. Gelato.


And then one keeps going down, down the list, until at the rock bottom of popularity, at item 114, sits:


114. Soccer.


Which is what I'm going to talk about today.

But I am going to let you in on a little secret: When one is not a particularly renowned or popular bloggist the difference in popularity between the very most popular thing one talks about (turkeys) an the least popular thing one talks about (soccer), is, statistically, marginal.

And so, onto...



The Pitch


Getting to watch Messi's Barcelona play is precious to me. It doesn't happen that often. Yes, while soccer seems to go on almost constantly, it can spread out pretty thinly too. If one follows a top team (like Barcelona) there are a couple months off, some happy peak times where they play twice a week, the mostly dreaded International Breaks where there are a couple more weeks off. But a lot of the time feels like this: I wait all week for one precious game. I look forward to it. I find some time to watch it, usually on some kind of delay, and I hope it's a good one.

It usually is.

This week it really wasn't.

Barcelona played a team called Valladolid. Valladolid tried an interesting strategy. They put in new grass on their pitch a few days before the game. Since grass can't take root that quickly this prevented Barcelona, a legendarily quick team, from making sharp cuts, as the turf would give way before their cleats and they would fall, lose balance, or otherwise go awry, and huge divots of turf would be chewed up in the field. After awhile a ball kicked along the ground would bounce off the chunks of chewed up grass.

It was dangerous, and silly. It took the cleverness out of the soccer, and it evened out the teams, just a little.

Barcelona still won the game one to nothing. So, okay. And no one got hurt. I never really want anyone to get hurt in a soccer game, even on the teams I hate. But I kind of would have liked to see one of those Valladolid players break a leg. 

Maybe by crashing into one of the groundskeepers.

And killing him. 

These last great years of Messi are precious, and, as I said, the games are few.