Saturday, July 22, 2017

Pot refers to Kettle

In defense of sunshine and happiness and kittens everywhere I would like to bring to your attention a deficit in the English language. It has to do with the phrase "That's the pot calling the kettle black." There is nothing per se wrong with this pejorative burn. It can be a useful rejoinder to one who criticizes another over something that they themselves are guilty of. In my life there's a lot of pot calling the kettle black at my library job over other people not working, which is why I like to stick to complaining about people not working effectively, and strive to defend, even sometimes against my inclinations, my co-workers' chatting, Internet surfing, reading, and standing around complaining.

But that's all negative in the end. What about the sunshine and kittens version of pot calling kettle black? What does one call it when someone arrayed in a dazzling collection of antique Lalique jewelry admires your ring? What could I say if I did something amusing and Steve Martin happened to be standing nearby and said "Good one."? What if Jane Austen wrote a comment on my blog that said "That was a lovely turn of phrase." I mean, besides thanking her for coming back from the grave to tell me and everything.

Yesterday a man at the library with the most massive hair I have ever seen, piled in wild curls extending more than a foot from his head, had some business to transact with me at the front desk of the library. At the end, in parting, he said "I like your hair."

"That's the pot calling the kettle black" as a response seems not quite right, harsh and hostile for no reason. "That's the frog calling the leaf green" just seems odd, imitative, and confusing. I suppose I could have gone with "That's like John Coltrane calling me cool." But I didn't think of it at the time. So in the end I simply went with "I'm sorry. I don't accept personal comments about my appearance at the desk." 


Friday, July 21, 2017

Half a million

In the backstage of this blog, among the many pieces of information available to me, there is a listing for my total number of pageviews. This, allegedly, is an updated accounting of the total number of times anyone, anywhere, has viewed my blog.

I have hit a number there that I feel is strangely irresistible: 500,000.

Half a million.

Half a million people have read my blog.

This is exciting!

But alas our excitement must be tempered. For the Internet is run by robots, and the counter intuitive thing about robots is... they are not very smart.

So we are going to have to pound out the math on this ourselves.

Subtract 300,000: 

for all the bots and programs and Internet devices out there that pretend to look at my blog so I will say " I wonder why the website is coming to look so much at my blog?" and then get so flattered and curious that I go look at their site and buy some pickle forks.

Subtract 100,000:

for Stumbleupon and Reddit and suchlike sites that I or someone else has cajoled into linking to my site, causing a random person to land here, count as a pageview, but decidedly not resulting in them reading anything when they do.

Subtract 50,000:

for various mistaken landings on one of my blog pages, either by other people looking for something else, like a library clerk job, or entertainment, which is really not my thing, or even by myself, just checking to see that everything looks

Subtract 25,000:

for Bob Dylan, who understands how much page counts mean to me so spends 20 minutes every day (when on tour) randomly clicking on various of my pages to make me feel happy.

Subtract 20,000:

for all the people who came here, read, and said. "Huh." And never came here again. 

I refuse to count them or consider them "people".

Subtract 4,500:

for all the people who came here in good faith, but were called away by the phone ringing, or a sudden stabbing pain in their earlobe, or had to dash off before they got a chance to read anything.

Subtract 400:

for people who bow out of posts because they feel there is too much math in them.

Subtract 99:

for technical miscounts and glitches, like where one pageview is counted as two.

So let's add that all up:




500,000 - 499,999 = 1

Well, look at that! I guess that just leaves you. You, alone, right here, right now. 

What can I say? I am overwhelmed. 

Thank you for reading my blog half a million times.


Thursday, July 20, 2017

The secret

Joking on the square means making a joke about something, but also meaning it.

One of the great themes of this blog is my joking on the square insistence that this is a profoundly great blog, aye, an immortal collection of essays, and that I am one of the finest, most important writers of my era. It's just that nobody has much noticed.

I will explain my joking on the square with a secret.

Here is the secret:

Sometimes, late at night I write you, and my heart is so light I think it could fly away. But sometimes, maybe that same night, I wake up at five in the morning, and I lie there, unable to sleep for an hour and a half, doing nothing but feeling the pain of not being a genius. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

A quote I wish were by Mark Twain

No matter how clever your immortal and witty quip is, it will, in the fullness of time, end up being attributed to someone else.

But only if it's really good.


Hello clerkmanifesto reader. I offer here one last reminder, and then I will likely never mention them on clerkmanifesto again: 

We have recently started two new auxiliary blogs that you might like to sign up for. Here are the links:

The B Blog (erratic postings of more unhinged and less proper things not suited so well to clerkmanifesto, more details at the link).

The Best of Clerkmanifesto (highlights from the history of this blog, posted as I find them, more details at the link). 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

200 Views of Rome: Tiger (Flying Tiger Copenhagen)

Oh the hell with it:


5 Stars

In the course of writing 200 reviews of Rome one becomes exhausted from all the superlatives:

 "The lavender gelato made me collapse onto the black brick streets of Rome, lying there weeping and babbling about a conversion to Catholicism"


 "The swooping inlays of the marble were so exquisite that I insisted on tracking down the nearby family of the 17th Century artisan who crafted them to thank them for their ancestor."

So this morning when it came time for me to write up a new review of something in Rome I thought I might enjoy looking for something more plebeian and common. At least something calmer and less spectacular. Maybe something that I could criticize and make light of. And when my eye fell upon the store known commonly as Tiger, I knew I had found just the thing. This is a store with multiple branches, so a chain, and one that hardly even seems Italian (it's from Denmark I guess). It sells useful junk, like an upscale dollar store, as if Ikea were running it.

 So I rolled up my sleeves to write my desultory review, only to realize:

 I love Tiger, with a passion. It is a fantastic store, one of our favorites in Rome. Five stars!!!

Sometimes in Central Rome it can be hard to find stuff. There are little crammed hardware stores and gift stores and souvenir stores and food stores. And sometimes they all have the same things, same t-shirts, same salamis, same garish liqueurs, same exact postcards, and same papers for the same stationery. Interesting things are expensive, cheap things are cheap, and practical things can get a little tricky to track down. I'm not complaining. But Tiger is an awfully nice alternate universe. It's pretty big. Nothing in it is very far from junk, but none of it quite exactly is. And none of it is very far from dirt cheap, but none of it quite is dirt cheap, I mean, for what it is. It is full of practical things, but you could not really predict what any of those might be, and the versions of those practical things will be slightly more interesting than the normal practical thing. Those Band-Aids, for instance, or pushpins, will have a twist. The scotch tape will be blue. Of course there are scads of non practical things as well, some that might be useful, and some that surely won't, and some that will be very useful if you are just clever enough to think of something good to do with them. There are a lot of things that are like unique, inexpensive souvenirs from no specific place in the Universe.

 "I went a strange store and I brought these back for you! I don't know what they are. They're from Tiger."

 "Thank you. Where's Tiger?"

 "It's in Rome, near the cat sanctuary, but that's not the point. It could be a store on a space station as comfortably." 
I only now remember two things I got there, though there were many more. I got some blue tape and 3 mysterious balls of slime.

Monday, July 17, 2017

New for you!

I am delighted to present two new side features to the wonderland you know as Clerkmanifesto!

I know that sounds like the set up to the kind of satire I regularly employ here, but, no, really. This is genuine. You must believe me. Not one, but two new amazing side features. Really.

I bet you're wondering how you can sign up for them!

You aren't?

No, it's not a joke.

I swear.

Yep. Two new features, blogs actually.

They are:

The Clerkmanifesto B Blog


The Best of Clerkmanifesto Blog.

Besides their above names being links to them, the side board of this blog also now contains links to them.

Now I will answer your many questions that you never ask me so I make them up myself but I'm not bitter.

How will this affect Clerkmanifesto?

This will not in any way affect Clerkmanifesto, and the daily blogging will carry on, exactly as is, into the sunset, or to the end of time, wherever in the far distance they may be.

What are these new blogs?

They are two blogs related to clerkmanifesto. Both to be posted on a more random and infrequent basis than clerkmanifesto, but filling in some spaces that clerkmanifesto doesn't cover.

Should I keep asking questions? I feel finished.

No. Sorry. You have to ask some more questions and be very interested.

I'm really excited about these two new blogs! Tell me about the B blog.

The B blog is for odd things that don't fit in the careful, distilled, artistic perfection of clerkmanifesto. It's where I might go on at length about my dear Barcelona Soccer team, and Messi, or put in links to things I like, or take a picture of something, or rant without a calming wisdom, or swear extra, or even publish off kilter things from the history of the main blog. It's all less careful, wilder, and less concerned with getting things just right. You can read more about what it is here, on the blog itself. There you can also sign up for email delivery if it sounds like your cup of tea.

Done! I love it. I'm signed up to get the emails. Now tell me about the Best of Clerkmanifesto blog. 

This is simpler. It is pieces that I will occasionally post from the increasingly deep history of Clerkmanifesto that I particularly liked. So as it says, the best of clerkmanifesto, in so far as I find it to be the best. But, of course, I may not be the best judge of all that. You can find it linked here, or at anytime on the sidebar of this blog, and if you hit the link you will see more detailed information.

So it sounds like a more unhinged and diverse and messy (pun intended) clerkmanifesto, and then also a more perfected and peaceful one. Who might these be suited for?

Um, people who simply can't get enough of clerkmanifesto. Or, maybe I suppose too, people who like clerkmanifesto but would like to get a bit less of it.

That second part made me feel sad. 

I am proud to have a reader like you.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

On the species

Charles Schulz, or maybe more properly Linus Van Pelt, once said "I love mankind... It's people I can't stand." It's cleverness impressed me deeply as an eight year old and I've always loved to muse on it, like it was a puzzle. Like I'd have to work it all out to get it straight in my head. I love mankind... It's people I can't stand. But every time I try and work it out in my life it somehow comes out opposite.

When I walk through the upper floor of my library, after shelving a cart of non fiction, I see all the lost souls out on our great banks of computers up there. It often gives me this strange, hollow, sad feeling. It looks like something out of a dystopian future from the eighties. Alone, killing time, feeding into isolated machines, sitting one next to the other but entirely disconnected from one another and everything around them, there they are; humanity. Mankind. Staring into screens full of pre packaged information, slickly produced video, pouring over strange forms to fill out, meaningless plastic things to buy, and the desultory comments of people just like them with just enough energy to type into their own computers. Nothing out in this sea can attract my eye. They are featureless, uninspired, beaten down, yet pulled on in some collective march to disaster and dissonance. They look like they're all doing some kind of extremely undemanding factory work on some assembly line designed by evil robots.

But then I invariably look at just one of them. I don't know why. Maybe I recognize someone, or someone asks me a question, but it breaks the spell. Now they come alive. Here's the homeless kid, smelly in his unwashed clothes, watching bad anime. He laughs. I hear he's trying to work things out with a community resource advocate. There's the daffy guy who writes books that are huge, unhinged, and unreadable. He talked the library into buying one or two of them for our collection through his sheer genial energy, nervousness, and persistence. I can tell you that he loves stamps. And there is that lady who is always, always there, playing that pointless game where you shoot colored balls at a ceiling of colored balls. But my god she's getting good at it!

And so it is: I love people... It's mankind I can't stand.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

On the proper use of "literally"

We got an interesting new book a couple months ago at the library. I picked it up off the New Books shelf. It's a book all about OCD. I literally can't stop reading it.

Friday, July 14, 2017


Shelving books at a library wears everyone down. Everyone. We never have had, and never will have, a great, long term shelver of books.

We could have an explicit rule that says "For every hour one is assigned to shelve books, we expect a person to shelve books for at least 30 minutes." The advantage of this rule would be that it is roughly accurate to what everyone actually does. The disadvantage of this rule is that, due to human nature, everyone would probably start shelving for 15 minutes, thinking "Surely no one expects me to shelve for the whole 30 minutes of my hour of shelving!"

On the other hand maybe if we had that 30 minute rule nothing would change. I don't believe most of us hate shelving. There are times when most of us like it. It can be our one chance to get away from everybody. How long can I, for instance, wander around the library working myself up into a lather about how no one else is doing any of the work I'm supposed to be doing, or thus may have to do. I need a break. Sometimes shelving is that break.

But one can't live on shelving.

Oh sure, every rare once in awhile we hire some amazing new person and they look like a real shelver. Naturally everyone is delighted with them. They are diligent, and industrious, and they like shelving. Give them a whopping three scheduled hours shelving and they spend three whole hours shelving. The manager, the one who only wants people to look busy, will adore them. But thinking they are just the sort of person they want to see around more in the workroom they will assign them to less and less shelving and more and more to tangential tasks, where they can observe and admire their industriousness. These once great shelvers will get a taste for these stray jobs. Everyone does. There's a feeling of responsibility, importance, and control of one's destiny that goes with them. Soon they will have taken something like organizing the incoming book donations, which got by for years with no one at all doing anything about it, and grown it into a mildly useful six or seven hour a week job. Now when it comes time to shelve for an hour they're just too backed up with book donation organizing to get to it right away. They need to empty these three boxes first. Then it's time for their fruit snack. Then they can get to their shelving. No problem, there's still about half an hour left. 

Which brings me to an older, cherished fantasy of shelving I still harbor: Every worker, at any level, who comes to the library, should do a small tithe of shelving.

I made a joke, as in joking on the square, last night, to a visiting branch manager that did not go well. She asked where our P.I.C. was, which took me a moment until I realized she meant Person In Charge. I said that we're more of an egalitarian library, not dominated by hierarchical structures. She became a bit more terse, and I instructed her on her way. She went and joined three other managers for two hours of a community program that required somewhere between zero and one staff members, closer to zero. It was an interesting program. Do I object the their gathering to chat, fuss around it, and then watch it for 90 minutes? No, no, no. Just so long as, since they're here, they put in an hour of shelving. This might seem like a lot, but it only takes half an hour, and even less if one works really hard.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

How to give us money

Lately I have been finding money lying around at the library I work at. Here's some in the aisle where I'm shelving books. I have had pleasant dreams like this: "Oh, here's a bill, and look at all this change! Oh, don't mind if I do. Why, there's so much!" Walking by the reference desk there's a dollar on the ground. I give it to the Reference Librarian. "I guess they missed your tip jar." I say. Someone leaves a quarter behind at the front desk. "Where'd this come from?" I just throw it into our cash register. I never keep any of this money. Somehow that would feel wrong, like I'm not some sort of physical part of my library. Like I'm a visitor.

I am not a visitor. Among all the comments and actions of patrons that I bristle at, there are few that get to me more than if I'm asked "Do you work here?"

"No, I sit here at this official looking desk with a name badge just to soak in what it all might feel like. Can I pretend to help you?"

Hmph! "Do I work here". One might as well ask a stack of non fiction bookshelves if they are part of the library.

"No." They would say. "We're just visiting for the day and adopted this clever camouflage in the hopes that no one would ask us any ridiculous questions!!!"

"Well excuse me. Everyone in this library is so touchy!"

Good point.

So, okay, yes, I work here. I have two main jobs: Delivering witty, irascible quips at every possible moment, and collecting the money people donate. Oh, you'd like to donate some money to the library? How kind. No, we don't have a box anywhere. Just throw it on the floor.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017


A group of canned vegetables were sitting on a shelf and one of them was twisting around and checking himself out.

"Hey!" He cried proudly. "I'm one hundred percent corn, nothing else!"

Some fancy new can of Brussels sprouts swiveled to look at him. "But who cares? You're just corn." He said witheringly.

"Well I'm not corn. I'm heirloom asparagus." Bragged another can.

"Big deal! It's not like you're organic. I'm organic peas." Said some peas.

"Yuck. Peas! I..."

"Hey, hey, hey!" Interrupted a can of artichoke hearts. "Must we define ourselves by all these labels? Can't we just all be vegetables?"

All the cans stopped, and reflected, and they all saw how wise the artichoke hearts were. So they never moved, or spoke, or did anything for themselves ever again.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Michael McClure again, again

Aloud, over the week, we read In Watermelon Sugar by Richard Brautigan. I wish I could fervently recommend it to you, long having counted it among books I loved. But I can only recommend it without my usual more fierce recommendation where I get militant and emotionally upset if you reply, noncommittally, "Maybe...". 

Nevertheless, there is still something wonderful about it within its scattering of flaws. Not least, after about 15 years of a culture well steeped in post apocalyptic fantasy/Sci fi narratives, where something vaguely like magic, or not, has emerged in a world that is suspiciously or specifically built on the ruins of our own, it is a surprise to find that Richard Brautigan seems to have fashioned one of these post apocalypse narratives in the mid sixties, under everyone's noses, about forty years ahead of time. Elements like the ever changing town of iDeath, that has rules we can't understand, The Forgotten Works, where old things are endlessly piled up, tainted and mostly useless, community factions, and a self contained semi rural community, fit neatly with probably a hundred books I could pull off the shelves of my library, if you'll just give me half an hour to look, and watch the front desk for me, and promise to check them all out and write a doctoral thesis based on my findings. When I read this book as young man the context wasn't available to me for understanding it as an adventurous genre take because the genre did not yet properly exist

This is an amazing trick. 

I hope somehow I am writing some kind of blog of the future now. Check with me in forty years.

Among the small pleasures of In Watermelon Sugar was getting to the end and seeing that it was dedicated in part to my own College English Teacher! 

I dedicate this post to my College English Teacher, who seemed to like my work quite a bit, based on almost nothing, and one day took me aside to say, with mysterious vision and passion, in 1987, "You must write a blog!"

Of course, blogs didn't exist. He must have learned that trick from his old friend Richard Brautigan. 

Monday, July 10, 2017


I have been on vacation for a week now, just at home, with my wife, nothing fancy. And I want to tell you how much, how wildly I have loved sleeping. 

Sleeping is great, the sweet, sprawling, luxurious perfecter of all things. I had a friend and roommate once named Chris who could only sleep four hours a night. He wasn't tired. He had so much time to do so much more than those of us who need eight, or eleven hours a night. He made large, dark, and intricate drawings. And yet I could ever feel his longing. Like those four or five hours of unconsciousness he was missing taunted him, lured him, remained unspeakably delicious and yet outside his reach.

And then there's cats.

I heard this joke recently:

One cat says to another "Sorry if I'm cranky. I only got 18 hours of sleep last night."

This then is just one more reason to treasure any moment with a cat- they have but half a year of wakefulness to give in the whole of their existence. So of course their attention is a treasure. And though they nearly sleep away their whole lives, who in their right mind would fault a cat?

The only real flaw I can find with the sweet sport of sleep is this: By its very nature, asleep and gone to the world, we miss out on it.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Dear Garrison Keillor

Dear Garrison Keillor:

This is a fan letter. But possibly more the "Cease and desist" type than the "Oh, isn't that nice!" type.

C., who I sometimes work with at the library, is a writer, and a few other things. He's deeply involved in the Twin Cities Arts community, and the Democratic Party, and, to tell you the truth I don't know what he's up to, but he knows a lot of people. But I'm sorry to report that he doesn't like you. 

I curiously meet a lot of people who don't like you. 

I'm not one of them. I ran into you with my wife, in the foyer of your bookstore. You sort of held the door for us in passing. I mean, what's not to like?

I said to C., who I quite like, as an aside to something we were talking about last week, referring to you, "Yeah, but sometimes he can be an incredibly good writer."

C. seemed surprised by this. Like such an idea never occurred to him. Look at this, a person, C., immersed in writing and the arts for more than 30 years, hailing from your very own hometown, Anoka, then moving to the same town you moved to, and yet the idea that you're an indisputably excellent writer was a completely new idea to him, not exactly outrageous or in dispute, merely foreign, baffling, like a response to "Bob Dylan has a good voice", or "Half the time Jane Austen is just making fun of people", or "Not reading clerkmanifesto regularly is a kind of nihilism and cowardice."

"Wait. What's clerkmanifesto?" You ask.

This! This is clerkmanifesto! Get on board!

Anyway, C. found the idea of you as a great writer so alien that it stuck in my brain, undigested, until, a week later I saw a quote of yours on the back of a book of poetry by Louis Jenkins. and not only did I think it was a terrific little quote, but it reminded me that I have read, or heard, something of yours on hundreds of different occasions and thought it was terrific.

So if I think you're a terrific, sagacious, wise, and funny writer, what's wrong with everyone else?

I don't think people like humorists. Oh, they like comedians, and they're wild about humorists when the humorists are being serious, but they don't really like humorists being humorists. It's because humorists have a troubling propensity for telling the truth, but they're always being so damn sneaky about it.

How else are you supposed to do it?

Anyway, I like to tell myself all this when I think about how I have 12 readers instead of 12 million. And I don't mind thinking it either when someone says to me "I don't really like Garrison Keillor. I saw him backstage somewhere and he didn't smile at me."

So I thought I'd share it with you, in case you had any doubts.

Warmly, and with respect,

F. Calypso

Saturday, July 8, 2017

200 Views of Rome: Sant'Andrea al Quirinale


5 Stars

In a magical world, slightly better and wiser than this one, where everything is pretty much exactly the same as it is now, except I am quoted far more often, and maybe have a tad less back and sciatica pain, you would be acutely aware that my opinion of Bernini as an architect is a measured one. And there would be no doubt some pithy quote you could trot out to assert that in the irresistible battle between Borromini and Bernini I am ever favoring Borromini.

So what's all this five star hoo-ha around a quintessentially Bernini designed church?

I don't know. Everything is complicated. In the real world I am rarely quoted, my sciatica hurts, and Bernini is given a church to build and it's...


And why not? Bernini was a genius, a sculptor on a level with Michelangelo even. So if he wants to set down his hammer and chisel for a bit in order to design buildings, or produce a few albums where he sings standards from the Great American Songbook, or interrupts his obscure blog of blazing visions in order to write 200 reviews of Rome, well, more power to him. Who knows what sort of magic might take place. A jewel box might explode, light could pour down from a half real sun, everything might radiate at a perfect equidistance, and you could see all the stars of the sky, in the middle of the day, unfettered by night.

I love this church. I love its roundness and its elegant stage set fronting onto the street. I love its feeling of completeness inside. Such a spinning kaleidoscope of wholeness, all colors and rich and dazzle and calm. Unlike some churches I might be giving five stars to, this isn't for some featured painting or for some famous statues by, perhaps, Bernini himself inside, it's just for the space, the perfect little building, the sense that every piece of it is taken care of and it all goes together.

The best teacher I ever had, Marc LeSeuer, who lit the first fires in me for the Roman Baroque, all like it was a cool thing no one had heard of for the last hundred years, and maybe they really hadn't heard then, showed us slides of Bernini's work in St. Peters to illustrate. But I think what Bernini was trying to do there is lost a little in so giant a space. Here at modest Sant'Andrea everything is under his command, no longer a stage set, but an environment, something less looked upon and instead more inhabited and felt. There are not so many places in the world like this, not so many people who can do this. Borromini does it twice, at least, and better; Bernini, here, this once.

But does everything have to be measured? Is beauty to be ranked and catalogued? Will every last mote in the Universe be ultimately reviewed on the Internet? Must it all be a contest?

Alas. Yes. And lovely Sant'Andrea al Quirinale comes in third. I'm fine with that. So, I'm sure, is Marc LeSeuer. Borromini would be okay with it too, though a bit touchy at the very mention of Bernini. Bernini himself, long entombed, would, at the hint of the word of third place, be promptly tearing out his hair over it. To which I can only say, with no likelihood of being quoted "Well Bernini, if you wanted it that much, you should have finished it off with some statues!"

Friday, July 7, 2017

One hundred percent gravlax

I'm sorry, but I'm not going to be able to give it my all today. I'm making gravlax.

This is the part of the making gravlax where it sits in the refrigerator for two days.

I did the part already where I put copious amounts of salt and honey, some peppercorns and fennel seed, and a tablespoon or so of gin on two fillets of salmon as their bright orange flesh looked up at me smiling, blithely having forgotten their death. I did the part where I carefully sandwiched the fillets of salmon together, wrapped them tightly in plastic, and put a flat, heavy weight on the fish. I also did the part where I put it in the refrigerator to cure. So I am at the part of the process where I think about it all the time.

I am thinking about it now.

I am going out to the front desk of the library I work at.

"Can I get a library card?" Someone will ask me.

And I will think "Gravlax."

"Can you tell me if you have a copy of the new DVD Lion in?"

"Can you tell me how my gravlax is doing?"



"Did you just say 'Gravlax'?"

"Do you want to see some pictures?"

"Uh. Do you have pictures of your gravlax?"

"No, but we can look at pictures of other people's gravlax while mine is curing in my refrigerator. I can tilt the screen for you."

"I don't know. Okay, I guess. If no one is in line behind me."

"Nice, huh?"

"Wow. It's making me hungry. What are you going to do with your gravlax?"

"Thank you for asking. I am going to eat it."

"Do you have a copy of the new DVD Lion in?"



Thursday, July 6, 2017


After spilling our collected kitchen compost onto our kitchen floor I went out for my accustomed walk. But realizing, after a bit of desultory rambling, that the whole day was mine to do with what I liked, I decided to go far and feed the mosquitoes. I ventured past all the pretty houses and flowering yards of my neighbors and plunged into the pockets of deep woods tucked into the Mississippi River bluffs.

"Come for me mosquitoes. Wax fat." And they did. In their lightness and clouds, their quiet hungers and mellow bobbing in damp airs.

Scourge of mankind, disease bringer, pestilence of the North and South and Center. Oh squishable, whackable mosquito! Mighty hunter, lover of water, vampire, magician. Who are we to complain? We are all admiration for killers; lions bringing down zebras, a pack of wolves stalking the caribou herds, the owl, wings spread wide and plunging on some unsuspecting mouse. Why must everything die all the time? The mosquito doesn't think anything has to die. She sees all the meat on the hoof just as we do. But she translates us into trees, and plucks our blood like fruit. We can surely spare a bare drop of blood easier than our lives. And she leaves us the gift of an itch, to remember her by. Then she goes and has a few hundred children.

The rest of the time she eats the nectar of flowers.

I sound so calm about it, but in the thick of the mosquito swarms I resorted to running on the damp trails, flailing my hands like a madman.

And what about the blood I lost?

It's okay. I found wild raspberries, a great bank of them. The ripe ones were black and small. They grew scattered, on a sunny hillside, and I picked a handful to eat. They gave me the strength of my blood back. Then I picked some more and ate them because I liked them.

One or two of them were just the right ripeness, and delicious, but those were the rare ones. Mostly they were just good, tart, tasty, but not delicious. Do you know what was delicious?

I was.

Just ask the mosquitoes.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

A library interaction for study purposes

For training purposes only:

Transcript of a standard phone call for renewing books, received at the library, 1:14 p.m., June 28, 2017.

Edited for brevity.

Staff: (Brief greeting).

Patron: (Long string of irrelevant and useless information).

Staff: If you will read me the barcode number off of your library card I will do what I can to help you.

Patron: (Two requests for clarification of above, followed by) So you need my library card?

Staff: Yes.

(800 words narrating the search for the library card). Here it is! What do you need?

Staff: The long number on the back of the card.

Patron: (Repeats above phrase in questioning manner).

Staff: Under the barcode.

Patron: (Reads number incorrectly)

That is not a possible number in our system. Can you read it to me again?

Patron: (Reads number incorrectly)

Staff: (Carefully explains how the number can't possibly be correct).

Patron: (Reads number correctly).

Staff: What can I help you with?

Patron: (Relates exhaustive story with many trials and tribulations but no particular point).

Staff: So, would it help if we renewed your books?

Patron: (Long digressive story suggesting that they would love it if Staff renewed all their books but never saying so).

Staff: I'm going to renew your books.

Patron: Well, will you just renew (names book)?

Staff: Okay, that's renewed to (date three weeks hence). Anything else?

Patron: Yes, could you renew (names book)?

Staff: I could just renew all of them if you like.

Patron: That won't be necessary. I just want to renew (renames the two books above and a third book).

Staff: They'll be due on (Names date). I...

Patron: And (Names a fourth book). Oh, and I guess I better renew these: (Names all the rest of the books checked out on the card).

Staff: Everything is renewed to (Date).

Patron: Is (names book mentioned earlier) renewed?

Staff: Yes it is.

Patron: When is it due?

Staff: (Names same date that has now been mentioned three times). All of the items are due on (Names date that has now been mentioned four times).

Patron: (Names date that has been mentioned five times, but in a questioning manner).

Staff: Yes.

Patron: (Adopts a mysterious and uncomfortable silence).

Staff: Is there any thing else I can do for you?

Patron: Um. (Considers for a long time, and then replies sadly) No.

Staff: (Confused how to end a call when the patron doesn't say thank you). Okay then. Er, thank you.

Patron: (Doesn't say anything, but then starts to say something urgent just as Staff is hanging up).

End call.

Staff: (Looking around for co-worker to share tale of exasperating call with but finding only a co-worker who reminds them a lot of the Patron they were just talking to). Hi.

Co-worker: Do you know why there are no check ins coming through the machine?

Staff: Because it jammed ten minutes ago and instead of fixing it you just stared oddly at it while books bunched up and eventually everything shut down.

Co-worker: Oh. I thought there was something wrong with the book.

Staff: No.

Co-worker: Oh.

Staff: I'll fix it.

Co-worker: Oh.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

An early start

I was checking in a book and sending it in transit to another library. It was called An Early Start for Your Child With Autism, and I thought "Maybe there's nothing wrong with being autistic, but I don't know why you'd want to train your child into it."

Not enough to qualify as a whole blog post? Fair enough. I have been saving a small bit of advice for you anyway:

When gazing up at birds in awe, keep your mouth closed.

Okay, one more. I learned this from my library's automation services department:

If you don't know how to do something, claim that it's impossible.