Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Some Days

Some days, maybe not very many at all, let's say the rare ones where I feel notably unmotivated, where I stayed up too late drinking cappuccinos and writing blog posts, the days where all work is an effort and most interactions are irritating. Some days everything goes except my interest in the books. I don't want to talk to people at work, or get things done. I don't want more coffee or to write a blog post in the cracks of between work time. I don't get terribly mad or irritated or start fixing things in my mind. I don't even want to go home sick. I just want to read this ever changing plethora of things traveling through my hands. I just want to read!

What am I supposed to be doing? Shelving. What am I doing? Reading. Oh, I'd better shelve. I'd better put a little speed into it to make up for that reading, but two books later I am reading again. I didn't mean to, but it's a book, about this person, and people are interesting.

I'm at the front desk, but I am lost. I'm sorry I didn't see you there. There was this book, about a house, and a lake. I saw type. I made the author's meaning. I didn't see you. I was there. How can I help you?

I used to make the joke pretty often, but it's been awhile. And I really only mean it on these rare, strong days when I might not be getting to my full share of the work. They put an alcoholic in charge of the bar. Here, at the library. One for me, one for you. One for me.  I'm not sure we're making much money here.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Yes, you will be charged for this

It has been a long day. I am working on the big check in machine. It's busy and there's the usual stuff the machine cannot, or refuses to handle, going off into the exception bin. Every few minutes I am taking those books and media out of the exception bin and putting them on a little cart so I can feed it all through the machine again. I have stuff on the cart and I am leaning over it, probably reading something because I am always reading something. Or maybe I am jotting down a blog note or two. Something smells...bad. Did something get on these cookbooks? I lean closer for a tentative whiff and the smell ferociously accelerates from bad to wretched, hideous, foul. It is not a general smell any longer, but specific. I pick up the offending book. There is an unmistakable large smear, with thickness and body, of excrement on part of the spine and turning onto the back cover of the book. Excrement. As in, well, shit.

I do not use that word lightly but I want to be able to say: I am pretty accommodating. I try to give the benefit of the doubt to patrons. I mean, what I am trying to say is I will do my very best to work with the metaphorical shit on returned items, but when it all turns all literal I walk to the big dumpster in the garage and throw the book away. I weed the book and put a replacement cost charge on the patron's record. I include an explanation. I believe that fine should be paid humbly, and with little fuss, but one never knows.

Other than that everything seems okay here tonight.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Team building for front desk staff

Team Building Exercises For Front Desk Pairs


How You and Your Co-Worker Can Stay Entertained at the Front Desk

1. Catch.

In this exercise you toss the patron back and forth as many times as possible. 
A: "I'm sorry, my colleague over there will help you." 
B: "Good afternoon, oh, you have one of these cards? He needs to help you over there." 
A: "Okay, we're all set with your card. She can check you out now." 
The patron, or ball, is considered dropped if they get mad or complain and your total count is voided. Do you risk going for four catches and a new afternoon record, or do you carefully bow out with three?

2. Three-flies-up.

This is a playful competition in contrast to "Catch." In this game the objective is to win the patron.
A: "I can help you here, sir."
B: "No, I've got it. You're already busy. I'll help you here. Hi."
A: "No, I'm ready. I think Dave wanted to ask you something. What can I do for you, Sir?"
"Winning" only counts here if you're both available for a patron. First to three wins.

3. String of Lies.

This is another collaborative exercise. I don't at all advocate lying to patrons, but I enjoy fake lying to them. How many fake lies can you and your partner keep going without the patron hating your guts.
Patron: "What time are you open until today?"
A: "We closed an hour and twenty minutes ago but people just won't leave."
B: "Sorry, mam, he's concussed, but such a trooper!"
A: "I was hit by an angrily hurled Fantasy epic. People around here don't take well to overwriting!"
And so on.

4. Look-a-likes.

This is good for slow periods. Everyone looks a little like someone if you squint enough. Celebrities are the natural choice for this, but colleagues are even better.
A: "Hey, there's Jim over by the CDs"
B: "The one on the right?"
A: "Yeah."
B: "I don't, oh, I can kind of see it. It's the way he holds his arms."

5. Role-playing reviled co-workers.

A: "I'm going to be staring confusedly at my computer screen for the next 45 minutes. Can you help everyone?"
B: "I'd be glad to, but I have to go talk to the supervisor for an hour about my dentist appointment two months from now."
A and B: Ha ha ha ha.

Have fun. Play safe. Hone those skills!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

What I learned from short post week

Yesterday the frankly wild week known as "Short Post Week" ended after I think about 25 posts. I had mixed feelings about it all, but now that it's over I can look back and reflect upon what I learned. Thus:

What I learned from short post week and from writing 25 blog posts in one week:

1. Even my short posts tend to run on a bit.
2. Three short posts are usually way more work than one longer post, for everyone involved.
3. Wheat is easily lost in chaff.
4. Editing is not necessarily a sin.
5. The blog is a high art form, challenging and beautiful, like poetry or attempting to set Guinness world records.
6. Though even my most complimenting readers never say "If only you would post more frequently" I can rest assured I stamped out that imaginary problem.
7. Can I say that thing about editing again?
8. If it's short post week you can stop the second you can't think of what to say and it's totally hilarious.
9. Though my posts are presented in a narrative, sequential pattern, that is not so much how my readers encounter them, thus short post week makes my blog look winningly cubist!
10.. I will probably never have another short post week again but will occasionally have short posts out of a feeling of nostalgia and just to sort of show off that I know how to do it now.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Last day last short (shortest!) post!


Last day 2

blog posts...

last day

Short post week is finally coming to an end, but the closer I get to the end the shorter the

Real live political joke cause it's short post week

Okay, here's my almost sophisticated political joke that I'm only doing cause it's short post week and I'm allowed to go all over the map according to the arbitrary rules of short post week that I have now forgotten so can't reiterate but am pretty sure makes the following temporarily okay.

What do you call an anarchist who loves rich people?

scroll down, don't want to ruin joke.

bit more.

almost there...

A libertarian!

Short post week accelerates

Enticing title, huh?

Now that I'm fully in the swing of the whole short post week I've decided it's a little like my blog behaving in a bit more blog like manner. Shorter posts are more blog like, and yesterday I posted a cartoon! Anything with pictures or cartoons is much more blog like, I think. Now I am going to post a picture of a painting. I suddenly feel like opening a twitter account!

No, I don't. But I do feel I have really gotten into the swing of  "Short Post Week."

I'm also kind of getting ready to wind it up. I feel all dizzy. I think I'm starting to long to ruminate.

And what's up with the picture? I'd love to tell you, but, it's short post week. We're out of time!

Friday, July 26, 2013

A Cartoon (Seven)

A cartoon!: 
(I made it myself) 

A Genie for you! (Six)

Hello to you dear sir or madam,

I am a person of very much trouble you may be able to help with to your great advantage and my own thank you. I live in a small Arabian country you have perhaps not heard of but is fine old country. I found an oil lamp and rubbed it. Out came a Genie who offered me three wishes. Genies sometimes can be very tricky and while I did well with my first wishes and became very rich, my third wish went awry. I have been informed you are a very upstanding person. I would like to send you this oil lamp and you will be able to wish for anything. I only ask that you choose as your first wish "Remove the tortoise from your previous master, Ahmed's, head." I will trust you to use one wish this way and then you will have two to do whatever you desire with. I thank you for your consideration of this matter. Please click the following link so that we can finalize our arrangements.

Please click here to receive your genie.

Once again I am thanking you very much to this mutual benefit.


A Merry-Go-Round, Interactive! (Five)

Micro Guest Blogger Marcus. (Four)

Me:  I need you to micro guest blog for me. You have one sentence. Go!

Marcus: Uh. He said I was too old for prancing. I say boo to you.

Poem by Kabir (Three)

Are you looking for me?

Are you looking for me? I am in the next seat.
My shoulder is against yours.
you will not find me in the stupas, not in Indian shrine
rooms, nor in synagogues, nor in cathedrals:
not in masses, nor kirtans, not in legs winding
around your own neck, nor in eating nothing but

When you really look for me, you will see me
instantly --
you will find me in the tiniest house of time.

Kabir says: Student, tell me, what is God?
He is the breath inside the breath.


Link (Two)

Seven popular things to do on a blog (One)

In honor of short post week I am presenting seven popular things to do on a blog in seven posts. Seven posts, one day, you won't find deals like this anywhere else on the internet!

Generally speaking I find these popular things less interesting because I am all highbrow like James Joyce, or Radiohead, but it's short post week and all the rules go out the window...


Here are the seven popular things I will be doing today! (note, all things are now linked to their respective blog post!):

1. Make a list of seven popular things to do on a blog. Bloggers love this sort of thing and will flock to your blog. I am doing this popular thing right now!

2. Link to something that has like a million views. Much of the internet is made up of echo walls. Be an echo wall and others may echo your echo. It's a popularity Pyramid scheme. Get in now before it's too late!

3. Post a poem by Kabir, the 15th century poet. The poems are out of copyright and the Path of Kabir has nearly ten million followers. If just half of them come by your blog to check it out...

4. Host a micro guest blogger. Guest blogging is pretty demanding to set up, but in micro guest blogging you just have your micro guest blogger write a single sentence. Then all their friends, family, and acquaintances come to your blog to see it.

5. Structure your blog post so people have to click on things to see anything. This increases your stats and, even without content, makes the blog reader feel like they're part of a sophisticated interactive experience.

6. Promise the world/ Bait and switch. If you promise something unbelievably good no one will be able to resist the off chance that it might be true. Then just show them something cute to make them forget the whole thing and leave a happy aftertaste (this works well in conjunction with "5", make people click on things).

7. Show a cartoon! The rhetoric is that the internet loves cats, but it loves cartoons nearly as much. Keep it simple though, the internet best loves easily digestible things.

That's seven. Look for their examples in the hours to come! (Or now you can just click their links!).

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Short post week day 5 again

The one blog bit I've written that my co-worker Dave likes to refer to is "A bitter of clerks" (a gaggle of geese, a bitter of clerks...). So there we were, standing in what Dave was calling a bitter of clerks, but it was a Saturday and the staff was relatively harmonious and the bitterness levels were actually quite low.
W. said "Watch what you say. It might end up as one of his blog posts."

And I thought "Hmmmm."

Short post week day 5!

People are way more complicated than this, and all these books come from a million different places, but today I realized that sometimes, involuntarily, I react to all these books I come across at work as if they belong, strictly, to one of two different poles. In between these poles, dead center, is the sharp, pointy precipice of an impossible mountain, a fulcrum, a peak so severe it allows for no perch. All must fall to one side or the other of the mighty divide. And there we have two kinds of books. The one kind is from people trying to make sheer, blazing magic, and sometimes, almost impossibly, beginning to succeed. The other kind of book is the work of people shilling soullessly for a dime. I am slightly too wise to believe this split is even remotely true. It's childish, simplistic and madly reductionist. But whole days, unbidden, my heart goes that way, weighing it out in every book I read, and I swing from awe to despair to awe again. A ridiculous dichotomy sure, and yet, maybe, something to listen for, as you read... anything.

Short post week day 5 still

I was training a new employee on the big machine today. Once, way back, she told me, she worked with a similar machine when she worked for the post office. She told me an anecdote about it during one of the rare moments when I wasn't talking a mile a minute in a desperate attempt to convey every thing I feel is important about running our big check in machine. I decided her anecdote would work best nipped, tucked, and only slightly mutilated into an allegedly comic story, or, stretching it, a joke.

One day, a large mass mailing promotion came through the mail machine. The promoter was sending out small packets of strawberry preserves in order to promote, well, his strawberry jam. I like to think it was a futile effort because the preserves were slightly rotten. I feel this will make the punchline funnier. Either way, the packets, in the letters, going through the machine's sorting rollers, would burst open, coating the innards of the machine miserably in sticky, sugary, rotten preserves, completely shutting the machine down.

It was a horrible jam.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Short post week day 4 or 5 pt 2: surprises!

Since it's short post week, which is also a little like a special vacation week on the blog, it seemed to me some of the blog rules can be relaxed. This is pretty easy to do since I made up all the rules, am the only one who knows what the rules are, and I think I've sort of forgotten a lot of the rules anyway. Today the rule we relax is the one where the cartoons only go over on the cartoon site. The other day I copied a new batch of my ancient cartoons so I could post them up (which I am doing this week). I have a link (on the right, or here) to my old cartoons, but just because it's short post week I'm putting one new one up right here so you don't even have to click over. I just hate to make you click on anything. I don't want to be responsible for you wearing out your mouse.

Short post week day 4 maybe. T-shirts

Okay, quickly, because it's short post week and I had all kinds of scraps of paper where I wrote down what library patrons had on their T-shirts. I think I could have accumulated a phone book of these jottings before it ever occurred to me what powerful meanings lurked behind the culture of T-shirt sayings. At first it all seemed sort of uniform, but as my collection grew and deepened the T-shirt sayings seemed multivarious and more complicated than one would first imagine, just like people! 

This will be a partial selection due to our short post parameter. My comments are parenthesized.

Read (they dressed for the library!)
Oyster Festival (probably from out of town)
South Pole (also out of town, or is this a clothes line or something? My notes do not indicate if this was worn by a penguin.)
Bob Marley (is it a footwear line? or the greatest reggae star ever!)
Wink if you love me (perhaps just ever so slightly overbold for our library?)
Crappie Attitude (I know it was a fishing shirt, but, boy, his face really matched!)

oh, and this:
(but this was all I could get before the shirt wound under his prodigious belly. We are all left hanging!)

Usually I'd sum it all up in an important, revealing way, but it's short post week. I have to go!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Short post week #6 I think

This morning I pitted a thousand or so cherries. What does that have to do with a blog almost scrupulously devoted to never deviating for a single moment from clerk and library related issues? Well, I'll tell you. My co-worker, at the library, gave me the cherries, two gallons of them, from her cherry tree. These are tart cherries, meaning, you can eat them, walking around the library, but when you do you will involuntarily make horrible, contorted-by-sourness faces that cause people to ask if you're okay and to say no when you offer them some of your buckets of cherries. After this, the best thing to do with these cherries is take them home, sit on your back stoop and pit them. It's one of those things that seems daunting in terms of labor, but is actually pretty peaceable when you get down to it. Then you cook them with sugar. Then you get a thick cherry liquor (no, not alcoholic) that mixes with soda water for a fabulous soda. You also get incredibly delicious cherries to eat, or put over ice cream, which, ultimately would just be another way of eating them.

The back stoop part is important and I learned that the hard way. Pitting a thousand cherries has a strange commonality with what I imagine slaughtering a hog would be like. No matter how careful you are vivid red splatters strew themselves in wild leaps to places so far away that if it were a person you were splattering and they yelled out "Hey, careful! You splattered me with cherry juice!" you wouldn't be able to hear them. The sound would not carry that far.

I just love co-workers who give me things.

Short Post Week, #5. Cherries!

When I get nervous about something, or not quite sure what to say or how to say it, I sometimes talk around it. I'll just sort of circle the thing with words, looking for the perfect way in. But sometimes nothing is quite perfect enough and so I keep circling and circling. This might make you think I am nervous to address the cherries, but actually I am not. It's not the cherries. It's something about these carefree short posts I am supposed to do for short post week. The mistake I might have made could have been to create a juxtaposition between this productive effort to clear out all my backlogged blog post ideas (we're on the fourth day of this and have now cleared out zero backlogged blog post ideas. I actually have added a couple) and some idea of it all as a breezy lark. These two things do not go well together! So to hell with the backlogged post ideas. They can come as they like. This is summer. Time to enjoy the blog in the sunshine! I know I've gotten a lot of you to go down to look at the glistening carp in the Blog Japanese Garden, but did you know that if you follow that little stream up about 400 yards you will come to a pond surrounded by very large oak trees. Two swans, left over from the Yeats poem I had in my blog, will be swimming in that pond. If you look to your right as you get to the pond there is an almost hidden canoe. You are free to take it out on the pond. It may all look dark because of the heavy oaks, but if you paddle to the middle of the pond and lay on your back, well, that's summer.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Short post week, cherries for sure!

Still short post week here, but I've learned my lessons, and if you want to have short posts on your blog you have to get right down to it. No recapping, no explaining what short post week is, no wandering about in the blog foyer getting hypnotized by the new stonework (okay, but look at this, the stone I put in actually has Precambrian fossils in it! Doesn't this look like a fern to you? Is it a fern or an animal do you think? Actually it kind of looks like a very stylized quill pen). I think what you have to do is decide the thing you're going to blog about ahead of time and then just launch into it, like, this is just what I'm saying. I mean, like, I know this post is the one about Cherries and so I start right there. Or, I would have. And if I don't sort of wander off or go into too much detail the post's shortness will sort of speak for itself. Plus there's the title of the post. It says "short post week" in the title, and if people aren't caught up on my blog they can just go, like, "Hey, what's this short post week thing?" and then they'll either just go, like "Hey, short post week, well, this post is pretty short." which will explain it enough for them, or, if not, they'll scroll back down to see maybe where I've introduced the idea, and then read that, and then be all ready to go forward.

So I think I've got it now, and while there is no time for the cherries here, now, I think I have set it up well for tomorrow. The problem was needing to work out this foundation. I think we're set now.

Short post week, we try for cherries again!

In case you were gone over the weekend we had quite a bit of action here at clerkmanifesto. It was exciting. I bet in the future you're gonna think twice about missing weekends at my blog. If only there were some way for you to read the things I post on the weekend when it's not the weekend! But even if you could, it might not be the same, er, or, it might not be exactly the same in every tiny detail. Anyway, on the weekend, we started something I'm calling "short post week", where we're (er, me, um, I'm) posting shorter more frequent posts to clear out the backlog of post ideas I have, and to just generally mix things up in a summer vacation sort of way. So far, in a lot of ways, it's going really well. I find it fun not to have to come up with grand themes and this seems like a great way to get some of my little ideas out there. Also I'm getting to visit my blog and see how things look during different times of day than I'm used to. But don't worry, I won't go on anymore about seeing the carp in the Blog Japanese Garden in the afternoon, no matter how great it is. I don't want to bore you and, perhaps even more importantly, it's just the sort of thing that makes the short posts less, well, short. Which brings us to the down side here, I'm not quite getting the brevity thing so well yet. I haven't gotten a single one of my short, backlogged ideas out here yet. In fact, by the time I do the recap of what's going on here, wander about quietly looking around, and complete my introduction, I find, if I'm going to keep with my own rules, I am completely out of time.

Like now.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Short Post Week! Cherries!

Hi again. Today! I already wrote once and I am writing, again. This is so weird. Do you feel weird? It's like the keyboard is all bouncy. And it's so sunny out! Maybe you come walking through my blog all the time in the afternoon, but I'm usually only here late at night or in the early dawn. This is a nice place in the afternoon. I'm really glad I put in all the fancy stonework in the blog foyer. It shows up even nicer in the afternoon. And I've been wondering about that bench I put in here. I mean, I love the way it looks (it was inspired by Gaudi's Park Guell!), but today is the first time I've ever seen anyone sitting there (no, no, don't get up. You're fine there. Do you want me to get you a cold press?). So I kind of wonder what the great hall looks like with the Stained glass. I'll be right back.

Well, that looks nice, but I actually like it better in the morning. I also want to go out to the Blog's Japanese Garden and see what's blooming. Wow! The carp look like they're on fire! Did you see this? I'm surprised no one ever mentioned this in the comments section below. I guess maybe it is a little off topic, but, not to be all self promoting, if you don't come to my blog in the afternoon normally, really, if you can, on a sunny day come out to the Japanese Garden. Go to the pond. You have got to see these fish.

So, this post was supposed to be about cherries, but I'm out of time again. Well, I'm getting used to that. We'll get it next time!

Day one

So this is Day One of  "Short Posts Week" at clerkmanifesto. I think it's appropriate that it rolls out here on a Sunday, which I just last week said would be my go to spot for the introduction of new things, um, except, I introduced the whole short posts thing yesterday, but, Saturday is a lot like Sunday around here, just, not a huge day for people to wander my blog and so also a good day for quiet introductions. I hope that you Sunday people don't feel slighted. I have a small suspicion that very few readers here associate themselves heavily with a day of the week. I think that's a good thing. It would be all too easy to become a mere seventh of a person.

So, well, my first short post on day one of the short posts. What shall I start with?


I'm out of time? Already? Okay. This is tricky. So then what I do? Do I just end it here?


Wow. I don't know if this will all work out, but, okay. I guess. Okay. Stay there. I'll be back soon.

Saturday, July 20, 2013


So far, when it comes to my little daily essays here I haven't suffered from writers block. If anything, any problems that way come from a curiously opposite direction. I get dizzy with fecundity. Add to that my being a slow writer, and the ideas pile up and get lost waiting.

Here. I've got a little time this afternoon at the library, what shall I blog about? Aside from a few things swirling this very moment in my head I could check the wads of notes in my pockets. I've got a scrap of paper where I jotted down things written on people's T-shirts. Then there's something written here about how liking the desert in The Blue Sword is the same as liking the public at the library, one of those "analogy to a book" pieces. Wow, I've been meaning to write that post for months! I think I might be too fond of that piece to risk actually writing it. Here's something about appropriate technical violations in the rules of shelving (sounds exciting!), oh, and another shelving one, this about losing track of time and shelving into my dinner time (the horror! but it would make me look so dedicated!). I've got one about how we have a curiously high number of DVDs whose titles start either "My" or, even more specifically, "My Life..." (I'm not sure why I would think this would make a remotely interesting post, but I guess most of these things are in the execution, but, well...My Life, My Life In Ruins, My Life As A Dog, My Life As a Turkey, My Life So Far, and, oh, My So Called Life). One piece of paper just says "Wilco"  (I guess that needed no explanation).  Here's one about how you should never bring down more books to checkout for yourself than you brought up to shelve (that one would have comedy in it!). I've also written down something here where I grandly divide all library materials into two categories. It's sort of nice and cynical at the same time. I've found another piece of paper that has even more T-shirt sayings on it, and a post it note with three things on it that I guess are titles of posts that somehow I'm supposed to know what to do with. One is "Welcome to my old fashioned blog." Two is "Old school vs. new school libraries" (I think that kind of became "How to rock it old school at your library"). The third is completely inscrutable to me: "Fixing things: solutions and response." What?

So, sorry to overwhelm you with the contents of my pockets, but it's given me a little idea. What if, for a little change, I just sort of cut through a bunch of these sorts of things over the next several days. I'll try writing some short posts, if I am capable of it. I love to digress, it's practically my favorite part of writing. Actually I find it nigh on irresistible. I'm doing it now, aren't I? Anyway, I'll even post more than once a day, and, partly, I'll kind of get my idea backlog cleared out a little, but also I'll see about changing up the rhythm briefly, just, a summer sort of thing.

No, really, it'll be just fine. It'll be more internetty, but without pictures, more twittery, but with a dozen extra sentences. It'll be over before you know it.

Friday, July 19, 2013

All Stories Are Bottomless

They're all stories, but I just see a page, a paragraph, a single sentence. I guess that's how it is.

No, not the books, it's all these people here, the patrons, the library visitors. Some of these people I see a majority of the days I work, going for months, and years, and even getting on towards actual decades now. Some I see for a mere day, maybe once, ever, or maybe many times over the course of that one day. But whether by grand singular event or by deep pattern, many times a day i feel like I am peering suddenly into a single sentence, or maybe a paragraph of some huge novel. There's no way I ever get the whole story, that's never even possible, but so often I am getting telling random pieces, the start of a story somewhere, the middle, a suggestive hint, an atmospheric aside, a question, a stray ending. Sometimes I get a few more bits of the story, by luck or chance or confession along the way, but mostly I don't, and, anyway, extra bits are just a couple more tiny puzzle pieces in the scheme of some great mosaic, they might piece together, but show little of the great mural. There's always more. All stories are bottomless.

"Examples?" You say.

Examples, I say. Today.

Why does the man, who always sits there in the magazine section, staring at me (I think it's my paranoia and he's just very nearsighted), or peering with ferocious effort at a newspaper held bare inches from his eyes, why is a huge portion of his face and all his forehead suddenly covered in a lurid, magnificent rash? 

That eleven or twelve year old boy with the impeccable manners and poise that I always find ever so slightly heartbreaking in a child is in company with a very quiet seven or eight year old boy and is clearly taking care of him. I keep seeing the two of them. I saw them when they came up to the front desk five hours ago, I saw them three hours ago and an hour ago and they are still here, just the two of them, moving around the library, peacefully, quietly, steadfastly. No parents? Parked for the day. They look so different from each other. Are they even related? 

What about that woman, maybe in her thirties? Japanese? She is over in that area of the computers every day watching exactly the same sort of videos. How do I describe them: Asian TV shows with teen boy bands. There are lots of glitzy lights. Sometimes the teen boy bands are singing and dancing in a very choreographed way, sometimes they are talking with the host. Sometimes there are little highly produced concerts. Is it all one boy band, or hundreds of different ones? She is always there, always watching.

After seven hours a woman comes in for the two boys. She finds them under the stairs where the 11 year old is spinning the eight year old in a chair. Before she comes, while they're doing this, they look reservedly happy, like they are cautiously surprised to be happy. The woman comes and they leave right away with her. She is affectionate and warm to the eight year old and formal and distant with the 11 year old, like he's a second cousin with no one to care for him. Maybe she puts him up. He does a lot of child care, the dishes, yard work. I don't know.

The more I see, the more questions I have.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Triple Crown

Yesterday, I left a bit of a cliffhanger. I rather went on for awhile about a coincidence I categorized as a "Triple Crown with a throwback plus."  I talked about how coincidences should, for evaluative purposes, have names like that, "Triple Crown", or a "Double with a rimshot" for instance. These would be like the names they have for Olympic dives. I introduced and defined some coincidence names for you, and then, when it came time to tell you my Triple Crown with a throwback plus I left it hanging. Actually, I left it pretending like you weren't interested. But I was just kidding. I knew you'd be terribly interested. How could you not be? It's a freaking Triple Crown! No one cares tons about a throwback, but a Triple Crown? Irresistible!

Hmm? What's that? What exactly is a Triple Crown? Well, simply put, it is when you have three things linked in a circle by coincidence. Two isn't hard, but the odds numbers can get a little astronomical to bring in that third piece of coincidence, making it rather rare, much like a horse winning the Triple Crown, or a baseball player leading the league in RBIs, HRs and BA. Say you're driving with a friend in your new car and you notice the odometer is rolling over to 1200 miles. You glance at the digital clock. It reads 12:00, midnight. Traditionally this would be called a standard double, but it's a very nice double, sometimes casually known as "A Clean Double". So you turn to your friend to tell them to check it out. They turn their head towards you and the neon light bouncing around from the bar you're passing shines numbers on your friend's forehead. The bar is "Bar 1200" and 1200 is in red letters on your friends forehead, at midnight, while your odometer reads 1200 miles. That, that is a Triple Crown! Amazing! Actually that would be a "Triple Crown with a chaser" the chaser being that the triple crown is being made with a forehead (crown...forehead, it's not a great chaser, but still...).

So, first, to all of you who wrote me letters, left pleading comments, and signed petitions urging me to relent and describe my Triple Crown, I am sorry I caused distress (well, I mean if anyone did any of those things and I actually did cause distress.  People don't much do those sorts of things with the letter writing and what all around this blog usually. At best, every couple days there's a comment or two, which is cheering in an Eeyore sort of way. And then, just to get complicated about it, I am writing this before the first post actually goes live so this is all speculation at this point. I don't know if there was a massive letter writing campaign or not at this point- I am pretty sure there wasn't, but like to imagine it for fun and then apologize for the imaginary distress I caused).

Anyway, finally, regarding this Triple Crown with a throwback plus thing. I think I built it up to much. Now I'm all nervous. But I'll not leave you hanging again. Let me just quietly gather myself here.

Okay, I'm ready.

I was processing holds. This means I was running books, from a bin full of items on hold for people, over our RFID reader pads in order to generate a slip for each book. These slips are mainly a 3-letter code based on the first two letters of the last name of the requester, followed by the first letter of the first name (i. e. Feldenstein Calypso is CAF). This is then filed alphabetically and one can go get their requests off the requests shelf at their leisure (sorry about all this explanation, it's not very fun to explain to people in person either, and often they wander off before I can finish. Then they have to come back because they have no idea where to look for their holds. I'm glad you've managed to hang on). While processing holds I am able to listen to music on the computer and I was listening to my favorite song these days, The White Stripe's cover of Bob Dylan's One More Cup of Coffee.  I run a slip for a book and the 3-letter name code is "CUP", pretty neat. "CUP" while One More Cup of Coffee was playing. But what was the book on hold? Latte Trouble, (a coffeehouse mystery!) by Cleo Coyle. Yes, "coffee" does not appear in the title, but "Latte"? And the word coffee is on the cover like 3 times. Yep, cup, coffee (latte), one more cup of coffee, a real live Triple Crown! I know, I can hear your jaw drop.

Oh, no, that might not have been your jaw dropping. I think that might have just been me bumping my knee. This swivel chair I'm in is dangerous.

The throwback plus? Oh, that was because my whole coincidence discussion started with Bob Dylan just a few days ago. Yeah, that's not much, but it sounds good and I'll point out that because I had two posts last week about coffee I could have called it a "Double throwback plus", but I modestly restrained myself.

So what do you think? Yeah, I kind of like the 1200 one better in story form, mostly because you can make it more dramatic and simplify all the context. I'm pretty sure really good coincidences are easier to make up like that than just have happen. But the real life happening of something like a triple crown is hard to beat. I mean cup, latte, cup of coffee. No?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Coincidence three

Those of you who follow this blog with feverish intensity (hey,  I follow this blog with feverish intensity!) will note that lately I have had a couple posts dealing with matters of coincidence. The first one was a rationalist dismissal of the "magic" of coincidence. The second was a bit of a shaggy dog story designed to pad out a tiny joke involving Jimmie JJ Walker. And I was quite ready to let it lie there and not retouch the subject for months or until I needed a blog post and coincidence was the shortest line to it. I mean, it's not that interesting a subject. Then, today, I slammed into one of the more astounding pure coincidences I have ever hit here at the library. Do I stand by my original rationalist post? I guess, mostly, and really, this is vastly more in the "parlor trick" vein, amazing but bland, but with clearly nothing of the "voices of the gods" overtones to it.

But whatever it is, entertaining or not, I find myself compelled to share. It is a coincidence too large not to, a coincidence large enough that you might not even believe it. It is the eminently rare "triple crown" coincidence with a throwback plus.

"Whoa!" You exclaim "Triple crown whatsit? What's with all the fancy terminology all of a sudden?"

I'm so glad you asked. I have decided coincidences should come with a set of names, sort of like varieties of Olympic high dives, or figure skating moves. These could nicely speak to their levels of difficulty and rarity. It would give us an opportunity to compare and organize, and it could give us some useful shortcuts and ways of discussing coincidences. What if I said:


And you said "What?"

"Coincidence." I answer "Do you want to hear?"

"Well," you might respond "What kind?"

I say "A standard double."

"All right." You say without enthusiasm, but with mild interest.

Or, alternately, "A single." I say sheepishly.

"Um, no thanks." You answer.

So, a set of terms and definitions then:

Practical nicety:

 Like when you are looking for a hold for a patron and it is on the top of a bin of 200 items sitting next to you.

A single:

A: I read something interesting Stephen King said today.
B: Really, I'm just reading The Long Walk by Stephen King! Gosh!

A standard double:

A: Oh my goodness! What he said was The Long Walk was meant to be a parable about working as clerk for many years!

A standard double with a rimshot:

B: But, but, I'm a clerk!

A let's be fake friends:

A: My name is Roy.
B: So is mine! Nice to meet you, Roy!

A Small world:

Like when you run into someone in an unusual place, as in, hey, aren't you the library guy?

A deluxe small world:

Like when you run into someone in an extremely unlikely place:

A: Excuse me, we have become lost in this French Countryside Village. Do you speak English?
B: Yes, as a matter of, what! Oh my god. Roy? What are you doing here!?
A: Oh my God! Honey, it's Roy!

I could go on for quite a while with terms. There are a lot of kinds of coincidences. But what about my Triple Crown with with a throwback plus? Do you want to hear about that?

Oh, okay then.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Blog Post Deleted Due to Popularity!

We apologize, but we regret to inform you that the blog post previously posted here has been withdrawn.

This Blog Post Removed

by order of the author:

Details follow:

On Tuesday, July 16, 2013, at 7:30 in the morning the author
removed this blog post siting an unprecedented burst of popularity, aka a viral episode taking place on his blog, which caused a massive onslaught of new visitors in the early dawn. The blog author
stated that he feared that the massive onrush of random internet users might damage the delicate, decorative stonework he recently installed in the foyer of his blog. He was also concerned that he would be irresistibly seduced by the wild explosion of visitors, causing him to get a swelled head and start slapping hideous mortgage ads all over the website so that he could make $32 a month from it. $32 is not nothing, you know! 

The blog author
was also alarmed at how most of the surge of viral blog visitors did not leave their smart phones in the basket at the front door, ignored the cat, asked where all the funny pictures were, and got into shoving fights with each other. The blog author
decided to, in an unprecedented move, remove the blog post and all traces of it from the internet to protect the quiet, contemplative and pure feeling of his blog. 

The blog author's personal statement follows:

Last night at midnight I woke up with what I felt to be a really nice idea for a blog post, and it was all sort of laid out in my head just right. I didn't want to forget it so I bestirred myself, came down to my computer, and typed it up. It wasn't a super long blog post, but I thought it was funny, sardonic, and to the point, and I was quite satisfied with it. I went back to sleep. But then instead of sleeping I tossed and turned and felt something was wrong. Was my post too neat, too slick? Had I remembered to digress, to challenge, to wander off? I worried, and even though it wasn't quite light out yet and I was under slept I threw off my covers and returned to my computer. The blog post looked okay and I still liked it, but then I noticed that it had 7,394 comments on it. In the past two hours my blog post had been viewed 1,321,412 times! Did I panic? Maybe. And to my regular readers I regret that you are now not able to see today's blog post. I think you would have liked it. Still, I had to make the sacrifice. I was too afraid that, though you would have liked it, it might have been the last blog post you would have really liked. I was afraid of being changed. I deleted the post and comments. With some help I was able to quash thousands of links and, hopefully, eliminate all copies of my post. I think I caught it in time and feel the short memory of the internet will work to my advantage here. 
Yes it was a good and clever post, but no better really than some of the others I've done here. It is no big loss I think, and I do believe I have done the right thing in the long run for this blog. I do thank you, and anyone of good heart who has stumbled their way to this post deletion, for your forbearance and understanding.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Possible Library Program!

Recently I addressed the somewhat meaningless nature and constancy of "coincidence" in my workplace. Just today three of us were discussing a Bob Dylan concert happening that evening (not, alas, at the library, but two or three miles away) and the moment we finished speaking a Bob Dylan song started playing on my computer. It was... unamazing. Well, except the song was really good. But then there are those times when you're emptying a bin of books, thinking something sad, like "I was such a fool to say that I would love to go in on a staff barcalounger! Why do I do these things?" when a book misses its box and lands on your foot. You say "Ow" and look down. The title of the book is Stop These Negative Thoughts Now! And Go Have Some Corn Tortillas. Oddly enough you happen to have some tortillas cooking in the oven, corn tortillas, but with beans and cheese and salsa and chard layered between them, which curiously the book title doesn't mention. And, yeah, sure, a book title like that, especially without mentioning the chard, is merely coincidence, but that doesn't mean the Universe isn't talking to you. I actually think the Universe can be downright chatty. And it's not just small coincidence magic tricks the Universe speaks with, or mildly wise advice that it's spilling out of its top hat, but I notice the Universe gives me comedy material sometimes too. I think it knows I write a blog because I get it a lot more of this sort of stuff from the Universe these days. I think it's always looking for a wider audience. I got some comedy material today, not long after the Bob Dylan coincidence. I think it might have been a second try on the part of the Universe. It probably knew the Bob Dylan thing wasn't its best work. Anyway, I'll tell the "joke" first, before the brief story of how the Universe wrote the rough draft of it for me. It's a short joke. It's not that funny, but the Universe wrote it. I told it to three people. It's this:

We should have a library program where we get Jimmie JJ Walker to come in and read aloud Dinotopia.

So, first I saw a copy of Jimmie Walker's somewhat recent auto-biography Dynomite!: Good Times, Bad Times, Our Times. Then, and it wasn't the next thing I saw or anything, but it was there, in the same evening, same work session, dramatically presented, a copy of Dinotopia came through before me on the auto check in. It was the most natural thing in the world to assemble them. It was right there. I have no business insulting the Universe if it's going to be all friendly like that. And really, it's not a bad joke at all. Like I said, I told three co-workers. One of them quite liked it, and I think one sort of liked it. And if it's not super funny, well, I didn't really write it. It's the Universe's joke. Talk to the Universe.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Sunday blogging

Judging from my collection of different, confusing tracking methods, Sunday is a particularly slow day for blog traffic around here. That's why if you're here today, the day this is posted, you probably wont see a lot other blog viewers walking through the hallways saying things like "I think I see what he's getting at here." or "Hmm, I think I might have read this one already." or the usual things people say when they wander about here. Anyway, I thought because it's kind of quiet here on Sundays we could be a bit more casual and unfocused, maybe do some housecleaning, that sort of thing. Don't worry, you can still look around all you want, it's not like I'll turn on the noisy turbo floor waxers or anything, just, I might update some of the woefully neglected sidebars over to the right, or tell you about new things I've done there. I might announce grand new plans for prizes, or for essential readership dampening, or exotic new features. I think Sunday might be a good day for that kind of thing especially, since if all these plans come to naught, or I quietly drop them, it might not be so noticeable. Don't worry though, I will announce the cancellation of grand new plans on Sundays too, making Sundays a bit more of a roller coaster ride, volatile, thrilling. Well, no, probably not thrilling. Why did I say thrilling? I think I just wanted a little reward for people reading the blog on their free time. My inclination is to take the weekday readership spikes as generally indicative of the succulent tang the internet can take on when read at work, a tang that just isn't quite the same when measured against free time. Blog reading against a backdrop of "I could be alphabetizing" vs. blog reading against a backdrop of "I could be watching that tree grow" are just... different. I myself am at this moment blogging against a backdrop of "I could and probably should be sleeping."  Which is giving me an ever so slight feeling of harrowing desperation. These things matter and it would be nice to reward greater sacrifice.

Of course, you could just work Sundays. I sometimes do.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Clerk Coping Mechanisms: I am very busy!

It is time for another episode of  "How a clerk copes, coping methods of the clerks!" which would come with some very dramatic music and mesmerizingly flashy graphics if we were that sort of blog, which we aren't. We are just one humble, simple blog quietly pursuing our old-fashioned and simple quest um,


to either:

A. Utterly remake the very fabric of reality to the high standards we feel it has fallen short of, or to

B. Just sort of say "Hey" in a friendly, undemanding way.

Today's clerk coping mechanism is the "I Am Very Busy" coping mechanism. A clerk who uses this coping mechanism is a clerk who will-

Oh. Wait. Excuse me. Sorry to interrupt myself. I have to go flip the fuse on the meter that keeps the Internet running. Could you hold this blog for a moment? Yes, right here. And I promised the Vice President of the Internet I would check in on Amazon, big site, very important. I'll be right back! Just, you could put down a few more blog sentences while I'm gone, or do nothing. I'll be right back.

A clerk who employs this coping mechanism will usually be a person of great energy. They will...

Okay, sorry, I'm back. Thanks, just, you know, I said I'd do that with the fuse. Will you remind me to call Internet Services for replacement fuses? The whole fuse thing is a mess. At one I'm meeting with ISS to talk about the fuse issue, and the highway/racetrack thing, but I'm totally here now for the blog until-

What?! It's one o'clock now? Oh my god! I've got to go! I know it's a lot to ask, but, can you take care of this? Just, you know, maybe finish up the blog post. Don't worry. It doesn't have to be too good. These things practically write themselves.

Okay, so, I guess I will be the one to finish up this blog post them. Hmm, the keyboard is all weird. It seems the "I" key has gone funny!

Anyway, I think you see there a bit of how it works. This is a coping mechanism for high energy people. It is best taken on by people who can manage to invent, pile on, volunteer for, expand, and frankly, seize, a huge amount of duties. Ideally none of these duties should traditionally be their own. I have also seen it done though by people grabbing as few as one extra duty which they've managed to turn into something unending and overwhelming. The dynamic for that type is created by switching from regular duties to, desperately, the special duty, the frantic speed and persistence of juggling two duties hopefully obscuring the fact that there are only, well, two duties.

Like many of these coping mechanisms this might seem a little "other" until you connect it up to yourself. Few people are so indolent, even keeled, or together, that they have not dabbled in this behavior. Your energy is up. You're getting things done. You start cranking your efficiencies. Cleaning, cooking, making calls, bathing the cat. You enter a state of heightened awareness of things needing to be done. You're on the very edge of your capacity. Now there is no way to stop neatly, without crashing. Slow moving bystanders appear to be doing less and less as you go faster and faster until that moment where they suddenly look a lot like semi-idle, available helpers. Soon you are an army, your march cannot be stopped.

Of course, at home, or occasionally, this can mainly be an enthusiasm for getting a lot done, but, especially in a work environment, the benefits expand from there, and some of those can be irresistibly appealing to the right sort of clerk. Not least of these is the taking of a job of modest, very modest, importance, engagement and responsibility, and making it a hothouse of demanding involvement and complication. Take on this coping mechanism and your job is decidedly not boring. There is no time for boring. Everything is infused with a sense of the frantic and vital, and your place in the work constellation  (squatted though it may be) burns brightly. No one hierarchically above you (and you are a clerk, so many, many people are above you) will mistake your importance for more than it is, but people below and roughly equal to you sometimes will and will sometimes reflexively accord you authority. People above you will occasionally find your availability and enthusiasm and energy irresistible (both in a useful way and as taking too much effort to put a stop to) and so they will feed your need for further responsibilities.

The other big benefit to this coping mechanism is one curiously common to many coping mechanisms, and that is, it provides rich opportunity for a person to avoid their actual job. My theory is that most workers are expected to do about twice as much work as any normal person is willing or at all happy to do, so they must deal with this doubled excess. If they are intensely engaged in high energy affairs that look to be of great importance, or if they're eagerly in discussion with a passing senior manager, they not only give themselves something else to do that feels justified, but they are also much less likely to be stopped and told "Hey, aren't you supposed to be at the front desk?"

I may sound a bit acid about this coping mechanism, but I can be approving of it too. Heck, I have gone so far as to employ it quite a few times myself. My approval mostly depends on how much of this extracurricular activity is genuinely useful or meaningful. The range I've seen with heavy users generally runs from close to zero percent useful up to about 50 percent useful. I'm good with anyone who can get it and keep it over maybe 35 percent. I can write off up to 65 percent wheel spinning. A person at 35 percent and up is generally going to be on your team and can be a useful, knowledgeable resource or ally. The downside is that this person will occasionally try and dump stuff off on you, or need help, emergency like, much more than any other co worker. And too, sometimes, they just wont be where they're supposed to be, forcing you to step in. Most of this isn't too bad if they stay respectful and keep it to a minimum. If it gets to be too much sometimes the only solution is to get ferociously busy yourself, doesn't matter with what.

You just make something up.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Tips for library blog writers who...

Tips for library blog writers who are clerks, who blog daily, and who unbendingly march to the beat of their own drummer, and then, it turns out, only do that for a short time before they start wondering about the drummer altogether:


1. B brf

2. Don't try to appeal to everyone. Find your niche. Ideally your niche should include one or fewer people so hone it down. If a niche includes more than one person it will be wildly over represented on the internet.

3. Post daily (it's right there in the [admittedly long] tips title)! If you have nothing to say make a list of tips for blog writers!

4. Be unconfident, but like you are the god of unconfidence!

5. Remember, you are not your blog. Your blog is a cat you feed and shower with unconditional love. It does what it wants, and if you have to get a new rug you have to get a new rug.

6. Don't worry about repeating yourself as you will do it so inaccurately that it will hardly count as repeating.

7. Try to digress and ramble at least once per blog post.

8. Eschew financial reward as if one day you may be offered some. This makes the eschewing fancier.

9. All blog post lists should be exactly ten items long.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Old School at the Library

I'm about 70% new school when it comes to libraries, which is to say I favor the bulk of modern library innovation, reserving a notable minority share of hostility to some of those innovations. My blog, however, as a blog, I feel, is decidedly old school, though possibly my blog is ditching school, or even can't find the school even though it has looked everywhere.

All of this makes me think of writing blog posts different than what this one is supposed to be about, so we'd better move on. This blog post is an instructive list of how to go it old school at your local library. It is a list, either in honor of my 30% fierce reservations and hostilities towards library evolution gone wrong, or a teasing of that tendency I often run into that resists sensible, real improvement. It is probably, actually, both of these. I'll let you work it out.

How to Rock It Old School at your Library

1. Never use the term "Old School." You should not even know what it means.

2. Arrive at your library on foot, or via tram, bus, street car, cable car, horse, one-speed bicycle, or steamboat.

3. After stabling or hitching your horse (or, you know, whatever), make a beeline to the front desk and inquire as to the location of the card catalogs. When you are told those are all on computers look flummoxed and dazed, and just a touch hurt.

4. You are not there for light reading or "fun." You should be there researching something like water management in the Ottoman Empire. This should be your hobby and your only ambition for said hobby is to understand it better and better because it interests you.

5. If someone works in the library they are a librarian. Period. If they are cleaning the floor they are a librarian cleaning the floor. Treat all librarians with quiet, deep respect.

6. Come to the library on a strict, regular schedule, for instance; two nights a week and every other Saturday for 35 years until you retire, at which point you will add in every Tuesday and Thursday.

7. Wear a suit, dress, or otherwise appropriate attire to be classified as, allowing for style changes, dressed respectably in 1950.

8. Librarians are there to help you obtain access to your research materials. They are not there to teach you or provide actual information outside of that fundamental purpose.

9. You would as soon arrive in the library without your library card as you would arrive wearing dungarees!

10. You would as soon eat or drink in the library as you would yodel there. 

11. Always use one large, public table to work on, but, as befits a public institution, harbor no expectation that it always be the same one.

12. Always leave precisely one half hour before close.

13. Check out two large, bland looking hard covered volumes because they have information you just want to poke at a bit between visits.

14. Whenever you come home from the library bring flowers, and, on Thursday, Chinese food.

That is all that is required. Well done!