Friday, October 31, 2014

Real Halloween

I have a little dream of one year decorating up my little house proper for Halloween. My unbridled ambition and the grandiosity of my plans likely protect me from ever having to do it. I'm intimidated too right off the bat by all the stone carving. There would be a lot of stone carving: tombstones, monuments of beautiful angels sporting subtle fangs, cracked human heads of stone with film projected onto the sculpture, making it come to mysterious, oddball life. You know, like in the haunted mansion. I suppose I could learn stone carving, or, better yet, I could meet some stone carvers and trade them some short essays. Would anyone out there like to trade several weeks of carving and a bunch of marble for some thoughtful ruminations on library work?

When I say my grandiosity protects me from having to decorate properly for Halloween, I don't mean I don't want to do it. I'm up for it, but I do need a massive grant or a lottery victory at the very least because of the wiring I imagine. Electric work is expensive. I'm thinking enough wiring so that if all the orange and low purple and moody green lights were spread out in a straight line it would be long enough to reach the moon, preferably the full moon, with enough wired lights left over to howl at it once they've arrived. I'm not actually sure if the Twin Cities electrical grid will support that level of power. Plus I need real bats, which probably are expensive to rent in season. I suppose I could save money if I raised them myself in an attic. 

Well, since I'm sort of working up a shopping list anyway:

One black cat that gets along well with bats.
Four hundred feet of antique wrought iron fencing, accompanying very elaborate gate.
One pumpkin patch with enormous pumpkins intertwined with large, carnivorous plants.
One hundred holographic projectors, mainly for ghosts swirling around amorphously.
Animatronic, roof harnessed, full size flying witch and assorted special effects devices.
Thirteen industrial sized fog machines.
Assorted live toads.
A quality toad wrangler.
One giant kettle.
Black lights and 30 gallons or so of assorted black light paint.
One 80 foot tall remote operated anthropomorphic Oak tree.
Five hundred creepy candelabras.

That's a start. I need candy too. We've always been partial to Valrhona around my house. Large bars. 

I'm not giving out just any candy, not from a house that looks like the one I'm putting together.

Maybe next year.

Or the year after.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

A small world of pirates

Because I am at Disney World, or just about to go, or just returned from Disney World, all depending of your particular view of time, I thought I might like to share the joy of it all with you.

I know that half of you haven't the faintest interest in Disney World, and the other half harbor varying levels of affection and interest in Disney World ranging from "I'd go there" to "My heart bursts before you even finish pronouncing the 'Diz' part of Disney World!" But perhaps it is because of this great diversity that I want to bring everyone together. Also, really, I wanted to bring everyone together because in the end I believe it's a small world. 

After all.

So we're all going to get in a boat!

Don't worry, there are plenty of seats. This blog isn't the Smitten Kitchen or something. We can fit all my blog readers into one or two boats. Just step all the way down to the end of your row. We are going on a remembered ride through Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean, the greatest amusement park ride ever created. Since the ride is in my memory, it will be at the better Disneyland version, it will be before any Movie tie-in stuff was added, and it will not so perfectly correspond to the actual ride as it exists, but rather to its alchemy in my soul.


Our boat drifts slowly out into the southern swamps, the Louisiana Bayou. It is late dusk. Clouds smear across the moon and fog rises from the water. It's quiet and the smell of swamp and expectation is so lovely and powerful that the first time I went to the real southern swamps of America's Southeast I already knew them, from this. Old shack houses sit on stilts in the water among great cypress trees hanging with moss. The first stars appear in the sky. Fireflies are blinking about. An old man rocks his chair on his porch watching us float by. He knows more than we do even though we have been on this ride 40 or 50 times and he is just a robot.

I will tell you that many, many exciting things lie ahead of us beyond this quiet swamp, but nevertheless, this, this, with its moody evocativeness and leisurely anticipation, this, is the best part of the whole ride.

We enter a tunnel, a cave, darkness, and our boat plunges! Everything changes. It is our first shift. We are now deep in lost sea caves. The tone is quiet and haunted. We see scenes of past pirate disaster, a murder on treasure island with skeletons and jewels to tell the tale. All that is left alive here is a black bird. But what is life? A skeleton sits propped up in bed pouring over his maps. Down in lost lands of mythical treasures and terrible curses, picked clean corpses still go about their debaucheries, though there is no satisfaction left in them without flesh.

Now A skull, a talking skull adorning the entrance to the next tunnel haunts us with grim warnings.

And I will interrupt here, because the pace of this ride is slow enough, to note one amazing thing: Of course we don't think this is all actually happening, these tableaux, these tiny one act plays, or that any of it is real, but nevertheless we never question the space. We never think "Ah, we are merely traveling in a clever building. There is a wall. This is a set." We believe the space. We are someplace other, with undefined limits, neither inside or outside. We know it is proscribed, but also in our hearts we believe we are on a journey.

We plunge over another falls as the skull warns us and then...

Pirate song! Ribald revelry! The half chaos of rich and wild and amoral and silly and mad pirates. We see them feasting and wenching and drinking and enforcing their powers and lack of supervision, their absurd freedom. We see the florid drunkenness of their lovely, busy Caribbean town. And make what condemnations you like about pirates, but their music is excellent, and rousing!  We wander into a ship to shore cannon battle that is fascinating because we are so safe and it seems so gentle. The way a 16 lb. cannonball plunges into the water is so quietly fascinating.  Even gunfire and battle and people idly shooting guns and cannons off and lighting barrels of explosives is just more fuel for the party.

Until, of course, it all starts burning down. 

The whole town end to end is now burning. Trapped pirate prisoners beg a dog for their keys. Flames roar and how amazing it is that we can pass through them immune to heat. Our boats are immune on the water, but Pirate Town is burning to the ground!

Here too we have plenty of time to admire the disaster. We look into the deep glowing embers of the great beams of wood. We watch the licking flames that are made of something other than fire in the way that Michelangelo's David's hand is not a hand, but marble. Only somehow this is sillier, and includes a boat ride. 

And then, and then, and then!

it's over. Our boat goes uphill! We see the line where we started. There is a fake parrot and real people and the world we know and understand. We get ready to leave our boat, ready for the next thing. 

But I ask you this: Where exactly were we?

Please exit to your right.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

And another thing!

I am just so sick of all these complainers everywhere! It's like there are all these people everywhere who are so dissatisfied, and they blow up their dissatisfactions until they're completely out of proportion. They are ruining the world for the rest of us! I am no longer able to enjoy life because of them!

And it's bad enough the cacophony of all these haters, but then they make it so personal. They ascribe horrible attributes to individuals just because they feel differently than they do. I'm not afraid to come out and say people who do this are evil. Yes, evil, terrible, cruel, mean people. I've tried to stop them, I've said, in a very loving way "Hey, why do you hate everybody and everything. You have become a terrible person!" but they are so subsumed with their righteousness that they can't even take a tiny step back. It's sad really, I mean, it makes me sad because they have no empathy for other people and where they are coming from. It makes me not care about them or their problems.

Because this constant complaining is completely ruining the world I try and stand up and speak against it. Then they complain about me! Which brings me to an even worse problem, maybe the worst problem of them all:

People who complain about complainers!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Seeing animals

I have been watching tiger documentaries, specifically ones about Siberian Tigers. The first one I did not like. It was only pretending to be a Siberian Tiger documentary but was really a documentary about the scientists studying the Siberian Tiger. Watch them trap a tiger. Watch them almost kill a tiger with an overpowered drug dart. Watch them put a radio collar on the tiger. No thanks. Please do not solicit me anymore.

I like wildlife viewing and nature documentaries, but I have a lot of strict rules about them. One of them is that footage of animals tracked by radio collar doesn't count. Footage of animals being darted and radio collared is minus footage. You could have a Siberian Tiger documentary that technically shows less than zero tigers.

On the other hand, footage of Siberian Tigers filmed by a South Korean man who spent most of three years in tiny holes in the ground, not even leaving to pee because it is that hard to get footage of Siberian Tigers, very much counts. That was the second documentary I watched, though it was mostly about another guy who only had three weeks to try and see a tiger, but he was okay too. He took lessons from the South Korean guy and got very excited about tiger pee, and tiger footprints, and the South Korean guy in general, and the fact that within 700 square miles of him there was probably a tiger.

I would have felt the same way.

This leads to my hierarchy of seeing animals. It's sort of like a bizarre point system, only so far it doesn't have points. I am partly proud of myself for having not assigned a point system to this, and I am partly intrigued at the idea of creating a point system for it.

At the top of this hierarchy is the rarity of the animal and the purity of its setting. Seeing a Siberian Tiger in the sprawling wilderness of Siberia would be about at the top of this list. Seeing a squirrel at a zoo would be at the bottom. 

Actually, seeing any animal at a zoo doesn't count.

The one time I saw a moose was from a car, driving into the Bighorn Mountains. I hardly even know whether to describe that as seeing a moose. I guess so, whereas a zoo or circus wouldn't count. I once went sea kayaking for several days in a remote area of British Columbia where Orcas often visit. I did not see any Orcas, but it was a lot more like seeing an Orca than when I saw Shamu perform at Sea World as a child.

It still wasn't seeing an Orca though. My friend and I saw lots of scientists on that trip who said "Huh, we don't know why the Orcas aren't here. They usually are by now." It was a bit like a nature documentary, but not a very good one.

Why is this all on my mind? Well, somewhere vaguely about now, as you read this, I should be romping joyfully about Disney World. I expect to see animatronic animals. I expect to see sort of real animals while on fake safaris. I even expect to see cute, anthropomorphic stuffed type animals. I might see retired circus tigers lounging in fake Indian ruins. And I fully expect to see imitation dinosaurs, hopefully jutting steam from their nostrils and looking a little menacing, but not too menacing.

And I expect to enjoy most of it. But I accept that it's not really seeing animals. For that you really have to go to a hole in the ground and sit there for a long time and see almost nothing. Now that's really something.

Monday, October 27, 2014


Today I am fifty.

This means I have now lived for fifty years.

One year for each State in the Union. 

This last year was Oklahoma. No particular reason, it's just what was left. Perhaps I should have taken care of it in my teens, but I did Nebraska and then I just kind of forgot. For this year I have no states left. Had we made Guam, or Puerto Rico a State I could have carried on, but, in the end, there weren't enough states for me anymore. 

I am understated.


I want you to know I have thought about this and now I am doing what I can to have you think about it too. What should we think?

If you are younger than me I will say to you that you will be fifty one day as well! And you will find it is neither old nor young, but rather what is happening just then. And if you are like me it will bother you for awhile, but as you get closer and closer to the day the smoke will clear and you won't be bothered really. You will wonder, instead.

What will you wonder?

I wonder.

If you are older than me you know things here that I don't.

And if you are the exact same age as me?

Oh my God! It's our birthday! Happy Birthday!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Marketing tips laid bare for you

The other day I suggested that I would provide you with real marketing tips such as never appear on the Internet because they have been swallowed by cheery lies. If you want some nice marketing tips for your blog, business, or website, you can look on the Internet and it will seem like you have found one hundred billion of them, but what you will find is people marketing their marketing tips. This is very different than actual marketing tips.

So today I provide the fun, easy, rarely seen real ways to market effectively. If some of these seem familiar it is because they express the DNA of the Internet, and, actually, of our culture, and so you have felt them underlying everything, even if you haven't seen them laid bare.

Anyway, I will now lay the path down for you. You need only walk it. Does this sound fun? (Please say yes! I can't stop!).


1. Be famous. The famouser, the better.

A long time ago my friend, who is a teacher, had a friend who was an agent. And this agent knew Bob Dylan's agent, or one of them, or something. And they conspired to fix up Bob Dylan's daughter and my friend. But, as the story goes, when Bob Dylan was approached with this plan he said "I don't want my daughter dating a teacher."

What a fascinating, odd story! I have told it many times!

Now, if Bob Dylan were some random, unfamous man, and I heard that story, I would briefly wonder if the man were mentally disabled, or just a random jerk, and I would probably never think of the story again.

2. Acquire a monopoly.

To win in the game Monopoly, you need to get monopolies. This is based on real life! If I own all the property in Grand Marais, MN, or have cornered the market on blue cheese, or Coffee, or Internet access, and you want those things, you will need to come through me. I will be able to get you to look at things, sign up for things, and have to deal with things you would never even consider. It is the law of proximity and gateways. 

As Mark Twain said: 

Do not tell fish stories where the people know you; but particularly don't tell them where they know the fish.

Wait, what does that have to do with anything? 

Nothing, but I liked it, and I have a monopoly on this blog.

3. Be just like everybody else.

Oh my, that sounds bitter and judgmental and ever so cynical. But come with me. We take the bitterness and judgement and cynicism and cast it aside. Now look at it. Really look at it. Look at yourself, look at the world, look at everything.

This is a very, very good marketing tip.

You thought there might be more than three. No. As Mark Twain said:

Truth is the most valuable thing we have. Let us economize it.
Education consists mainly of what we have unlearned.
Water, taken in moderation, cannot hurt anybody.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The real blog marketing tips

Because I am one of the giants of blog marketing on the Internet, I sometimes like to reach out to struggling bloggers with a few tips. Not the fakey tips that will flood the top thousand Google searches for "Blog marketing tips".  By all means check those out if you're interested. Few things on the Internet will be easier to track down, and you may find it fascinating to see the exact same seven blog marketing tips rephrased and presented in different fonts over and over and over and over and over. Yes, the same seven. None of them are good. But they are official. I alone have the real tips here. Furthermore these tips are super easy.

Why has no one else shared these real tips on the Internet, you wonder?

They are selfish hoarders. And they do not believe the optimistic, go getter things I believe, like: 

Everybody in the world can be very famous all at once.
We can get done everything we need to get done for a whole week in less than seven minutes, freeing up the rest of that time for sleeping.
There are coupons on the Internet that will allow you to get everything for free. You just need to type in the right keywords, of which, at least two will be "free" and "coupon".

Are you ready for the tips?


You don't write a blog? 

You want to talk about the third keyword for free things?

Unfortunately now we can do neither. My seven minutes are up. I have to get to bed. But when I wake up next week I'll try to get to both of them. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Internets' greatest marketer

 What makes me such a great marketer?

The fact that you are reading this blog now.

This blog is auto generated via a random plausible text generator. This is a program that automatically assembles the English language into short essays based off of simple inputs. It's done via a computer program. It's a good computer program, but there is no creative or original material produced in it. I simply type in five or six words or phrases and out comes a blog post designed, through the use of a vast database of historical writing samples, to create the illusion of meaning. This post doesn't truly mean anything. To ascribe meaning or art to it would be like ascribing sentience to the number that comes up when you roll dice.

When you roll dice you get eleven.

 For instance, to create this blog post I simply entered:


And out came what you are reading now.

But perhaps you are wondering now why you think that this random, meaningless blog post is interesting, readable, and amusing.


The dynamic is very similar to why, for instance, people think Jimmy Johns is edible food, or Caribou makes palatable beverages. They do neither of those things. Why television is entertaining, why Republicans are actual people, why the Internet is amazing, why dogs are man's best friend, and why God is looking out for you.

If God were looking out for you people wouldn't be selling it so hard! 

If the Internet were amazing it would make you happier. If dogs were man's best friend they wouldn't bark at you. If Republicans were people they would change their minds.

People can change their minds. Try it now. I dare you.

I am the greatest marketer on the Internet. Why else would you be reading this?

And what, you wonder, am I marketing?

Nothing. I market nothing. The "nothing" is my secret weapon. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Grape's birthday

I don't want to use my blog to communicate with just friends, or with some specific individual at the expense of others, or to tell stories that don't have a general interest. So even though this is Grape's fiftieth birthday, today, four days before my own, this is not the place to say "Happy Birthday, Grape!"

Because who is Grape to you? I mean, unless you know him.

You would probably like him if you knew him. I know, because I have spent some time with him. I have spent a lot of time with him. That time was most heavily between 1979 and 1991. But the story I will tell you comes from a little bit later than that.

It involves sharks.

I have a lot of stories about time I spent with Grape. I like them because they are warm stories. I like spending time with Grape, though I almost never do it anymore, which is sad, but apparently not sad enough for either me or Grape to make it stop. I also like these stories because they are adventure stories. We had adventures.

I have Grape stories about Miniature Golf obsession. I have Grape stories about hiding from bears. I have Grape stories about Peyote taking. I have Grape stories about car crashing. And I have Grape stories about rattlesnake dissecting.

But I only have one story about Grape and sharks. It comes from the happiest time I ever spent with Grape.

A few years after I got married I went out to visit Grape in Southern California. Our main purpose was to visit Channel Islands National Park. We took a boat to a little rock of an island called Anacapa. It's really mostly some rough cliffs in the Pacific Ocean, with some bare land on top you can camp on. There were flowers and lots and lots of seagulls who were not very nice to each other. It was quite a thing to walk around up there, up over the ocean, looking out forever, and watching seagulls murder each other. 

But the main thing was being out on the sea.

We had brought with us Grape's father's inflatable dinghy, from a sailboat he owned, and during the day we rowed the little boat about the island, sweeping on surging tides into mysterious sea caves, leaping over the side to cavort in kelp forests with curious sea lions, and generally wandering from pure besotted dazzlement to peril and fear of death.

It was a big, strong ocean, surging through sharp rocks, and our raft was filled, like our small lungs, with air.

As an aside I will say that this probably wasn't Grape's happiest time ever with me. Oh, I think he had a good time, but when I say I wandered from dazzlement to fear of death, Grape wandered from dazzlement to seasickness, which, though it was never acute, is still more unpleasant than the fear of death. 

Though he had his moments with fear of death, too.

In our partial circumnavigation of Anacapa Island we came into a quiet bay that had some sandy shore. This was unusual among all the rough rock and water carved caves. With a snorkel and mask, and maybe some flippers, I spilled myself over the side of our boat and swam underwater to check it all out. I was greeted by sharks! Hundred and hundreds of sharks. Everywhere I looked there were sharks. Left, right, up, down, forward, back, there were sharks. I would like to trot out that old saw "I had never seen so many sharks in my life!" but the fun thing is, outside of maybe an aquarium or something, I had never actually even seen a shark in my life. So this was infinity more sharks than I had ever seen!

I climbed very quickly back into the boat. I excitedly told Grape about it. He tried to look over the side of the boat, but it was hard to see much. He saw a shark or two. We decided to paddle to shore because, for me, I thought that shark teeth could definitely puncture our boat, and then, if they liked, they could puncture other things. For Grape we went to shore because, well, things didn't bob about so on the shore, but also because he was curious. So after landing he decided to swim out into the bay and take a look.

He swam out cautiously, and then all at once he came running very, very fast out of the water.

"There are a lot of sharks." He said.

"There are a lot of sharks." I agreed.

I wonder if sharks eat fifty year olds.

Oh, what the hell, what's a rule if you can't break it a little. Happy Birthday Grape! I guess there's no seasickness in the desert.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Ebola in library!

As a person who regularly works in a library I have, of course, been quite alarmed by all these news reports about Ebola in the library. The CDC tries to reassure me that Ebola is not that easy to catch, and requires the transmission of bodily fluids, but that is exactly why having a plague of Ebola sweeping through libraries is so dangerous! Sometimes I do not think the purpose of library books is for reading, but rather they exist to facilitate the free passage of bodily fluids back and forth amongst strangers. When you're coming down with Ebola and are just starting to feel a bit ill, what do you do before going home and collapsing? You stop in at the library so you'll have some books to read while you're dying. And what happens when you become too sick to read anymore? The helpful neighbor who brought over a lasagna for your frightened and grief stricken family thoughtfully takes your vomit splashed books back to the library.

So I am trying to wash my hands 197 times a day.

I do know if there's one self deception we all try to live by at the library it's that these books are fine, they have no cooties. No one took them to read on the toilet. No one slept on top of them, drooling into the cover. No one fitfully read from them while battling Ebola. Normally we never refer to this underbelly of the reality of public library materials. But this is a dangerous and very deadly disease. I cannot simply sit by calmly while this Ebola in the library infects

What's that?


Ebola in Liberia, not in libraries?

Oh, sorry, never mind.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Another in service day

Oh, feh, another In Service Day come, and gone. I am never keen on these things; the food not to my standards, the trifling, tedious breakout sessions, the closing of the sacred library to the public for a whole day, and, of course, the perversely early start time that has nothing to do with the normal work days of any library. I have been burned so many times on these In Service Days that I was even planning to work on a blog post during the day: Ten Lousy Things About In Service Day. And before I get all mushy about this wholly adequate In Service Day, let me say that I still could do that list. Stick with this blog long enough and you will see that list. Stick with this blog long enough and you will see that list seven or eight times!

But not today.

No, no, not today.

In Service day was lovely. I was in the mood for a bagel. And cream cheese. I had an awful lot of fun at the break out session devoted to playing with children's room apps for iPad. I think I've been playing the wrong sort of video games. I don't like stabbing Orcs! I like making pretty pictures on a touch screen by moving felt around! And though that session was pretty short, I was okay with all the rest of the sessions too. My big fear for the day had to do with some bizarre afternoon plan to watch a DVD about Race and have a discussion. But here was the biggest shocker! It was a three-part PBS series, three hours long, so there was no time at all for any discussion, and it was very interesting, informative, and, vastly the most important, entertaining.

I thought I was going to be totting up my grievances, but no, I was paid to play super cute video games and watch educational television. Be still my inner 14-year old's heart, they payed me $60 to watch a TV show! This slacker thanks the Library Gods.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Ethics is a pisser

Ethics is a pisser. 

There's a Bill Bryson book sitting on a table. Is there a problem with it? Does it need to be checked in? I pick it up. There's something inside, a bookmark or whatever. I open it up. The bookmark is two twenty dollar bills! TWO TWENTY DOLLAR BILLS!

I know it can be hard these days to add up so much money, but that adds up to 40 dollars total! I can really use 40 dollars right now. I would like 40 dollars. It would be so happy in my wallet, and here it is, in my hands, nearly mine.

But it is not my 40 dollars.

So I look up the Bill Bryson book to see who it is checked out to. No one. I look up to see who it was checked out to. It was checked out to an older man, judging at least by his pre WWII birthday. And here in his record is his phone number.

I hate calling people!

I call the old man. He is there.

"I'm calling from the library. Did you return a Bill Bryson book today with something in it?" I ask.

"Oh my God!" He cries. "That is where my two twenty dollar bills are!" He is rejoicing. "I went to the bank and have been looking all day! Oh, thank God!"

"Yes, we have your twenty dollar bills here. I'll put it in an envelope in our safe with your name on it."

"You found them and you called me? Oh, thank you so much! You are so wonderful. You are a wonderful person."

"Er. thank you. Anyway, it'll be here for you."

"I'll be in as soon as I can get there. Thank you! You have saved my life."

All right. I guess ethics isn't necessarily that bad.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Happy Halloween

I am so accustomed here, on the top coast of America, to see my favorite season, Fall, race by in a blaze of dying burning color, that I was almost surprised to look up today and notice that fall is still going on. Mid October, windy, flowers still blooming, and the trees all scarlet and maroon, burnt orange, peeled liver, terrible fight of ravens, burning poisonous mushroom, and other such prosaic, cozy paint swatch names. It was seventy degrees today! I found half a dozen golden raspberries in my raspberry garden that had barely produced that many raspberries in the whole of this summer. I ate them. They tasted as much like honey as they did raspberries. More are growing. They tasted like good riddance to summer. They tasted like I laugh at winter. 

I looked into the sky and saw a great flock of geese flying north. The moon rose in the day and a witch flew across it wearing shorts. The local squirrels set down their industry. I think they might have decided to start another family. Why not, the acorns keep coming and coming. Tulips are blooming out of squashes in the front yard of my neighbors. They are curled and spotted and dark and fresh and strong, like a phosphorescent match made of coffee. Dun colored songbirds are slowly turning the color of radiant mustards to blend in better. The black cat that regularly strolls through our yard, ignoring us, but still delighting us, eyes the little birds and relaxes. The leaves of the trees only fall sparsely in the day and then they climb back up into the trees before dawn, when no one is watching.

We saw someone who had pulled their car to the side of our street today. They stood in the middle of the road taking feverish pictures. I understand, but know the futility of it. These colors will not resolve on your camera. They have ventured beyond proper names. They have eaten the city. For a week, every day I have said at some point to myself, ah, today must be the peak of fall. 

But this fall has no peak. We may die forever and never be dead.

And this fall may never end.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The descending levels of hot coffees

Yesterday I wrote about very hot coffee. What happened was I was having a fire in the backyard with my wife and I put some cold press on the stove in the house to warm up, but was talking so excitedly about Disney World that I forgot about it and the coffee got very, very hot. Over the several dozen hours it took this scalding coffee to cool down I watched it pass through many stages of heat levels. And I thought "I would like to describe these descending levels of heat on my blog." So I sat down to do so, but a very different, though not totally unrelated, blog post came out instead.

This sort of thing happens to me all the time. In fact, it is very much in danger of happening to me right now unless I wrestle this whole blog post back to what it's supposed to be. But, before I do, imagine if you made dinner and sat down to eat it and it turned out to be something else! Like, you sear some salmon and serve it with papaya salsa, wild rice, and delicately sauteed snap peas, but as you start eating it you realize it has become Penne with wild mushrooms and a Caesar Salad. This is me and blogging at least three days a week. This is why I try not to get too attached to my original concept. I try to enjoy rolling with it. "Oh, penne, then!" I say. "How delightfully lemony!" But sometimes I keep in mind my original plan and try again the next day. That's what I'm doing now, except a really huge unplanned appetizer (this whole discussion) somehow worked its way into everything, and now I'm a lot less hungry.

Nevertheless here is my descending levels of heat for hot coffee beverages:

10. So dangerously hot it is not safe to be in the same room with it.

9. So terribly hot that you know you can do nothing about drinking it, but you can now gaze longingly at it.

8. Totally undrinkably hot, but you can start to pretend it isn't too hot, and you can blow hopelessly on it and marvel at the heat you can feel just by being in close proximity.

7. Still too hot to drink, but you can't take the waiting anymore and so drink a badly calculated sip and burn your tongue horribly on it and suffer for two days.

6. Too hot to drink, but only causing minor burns if you carefully slurp the drink in small airy bits into your mouth.

5. Really hot but not burning and makes you feel immensely satisfied that you have the power to drink such a hot liquid.

4. Hot/warmish everything is perfect in the world on a cool day.

3. Warm but not warming. You start to feel nostalgic about the earlier thrills of its heat.

2. Warm, I guess. I better hurry and finish this before it's too late.

1. I think there is a shred of warmth left in this cup or it wouldn't still register on my scale of descending levels of heat for hot coffee beverages. Nevertheless I am only finishing the drink out of a sense of duty and take no pleasure in it.

Friday, October 17, 2014

The imaginary science of hot coffee

As a heat averse person who grew up unhappily in sunny Southern California and still mostly has to unstoically endure warmer than you'd think Minnesota summers, one might guess that I am wary of hot beverages. I am. I am very wary. When I go to a mystery cafe somewhere and order their $4 cappuccino I am disappointed if the espresso is poor and badly pulled, or the milk is evil and hormone laden, or the drink's presentation is bad, perhaps slopped in some narrow paper cup, but the one thing that really breaks my coffee loving heart is when the drink is too hot. I don't care how hot regular old coffee is so long as it is absolutely safe to drink without any danger of burning, and I believe that a cappuccino is properly served just barely over the hot side from very warm.

For cappuccino I have a technical, scientific justification for my preference. The glorious microfoam made in steaming milk, that light, liquid, magical stage of creamy frothed milk, is produced strictly in the warm to very warm stage of steaming. As the temperature progresses into "hot", your beautiful, delicious, velvety, exquisite, and perfect microfoam will evolve into that dreadful, stiff, and flavorless foam that is dramatic, pointlessly divorced from the espresso, and difficult to consume. You have had this in many of the bad coffee shops you have ever been to. And there is a very reasonable chance, with the overheated milk and hard foam covering it like a layer of roofing insulation, that you burnt your tongue on it.

I always burn my tongue on it. I hate burning my tongue on it.

Do I have all the research and technical data to back up all the science in this post about hot coffee?

No, no, I just make stuff up here, and I hope that the plausibility of it all will wander over to the land of truth, and there take up residence.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

I appear on American Idol!

Sometimes there is a confluence of unlikely mistakes that leads to disaster. I would like to say that at least not all of these mistakes were my own. Yes, I am responsible for never having seen an episode of American Idol. I also horribly misread the audience. But it was surely their error in which an intensely competitive screening process mysteriously broke down and allowed me onstage to perform without my act having been vetted or previewed in any way.

I thought American Idol was a talent competition more like The Gong Show. I didn't know that it was devoted to singing in particular.

I also didn't know that only young people are allowed on the show.

You see, I am occasionally seized with a desire to publicize my blog, you know, expose a larger audience to it. While I delight in my 50 to 100 regular and occasional readers, sometimes I am feverishly possessed by an overwhelming ambition. "What would it be like," I wonder to myself "To have 300 regular readers?" And then I pass out because it's all too much for me.

But sometimes, when I come to once again, I have a plan.

I had heard American Idol has as many as 20 million viewers. What if I read my blog aloud to them? So I showed up at an American Idol taping, said I was there to perform, and was ushered on to the stage.

I think I would have done much, much better with makeup. There was such chaos in me being rushed to the stage that I didn't get any makeup. I'm afraid it made me look sweaty. Of course, the fact that I was very sweaty made me look sweaty as well.

They asked me what I was going to sing.

This surprised me. I told them awkwardly that I was going to be reading from my Library Blog, I was going to read about libraries.

"Clerk what?" They asked.

"clerkmanifesto" I mumbled.

I hear they can be sort of rough to contestants on American Idol, but they were fairly nice to me. I looked down at my crumpled sheet of text and had one of those mysterious waves of confidence I experience rarely, but occasionally. "This crowd is in for some kind of treat!" I thought. Then I began reading:

Wabi Sabi Library

Wabi Sabi is a Japanese aesthetic valuing the imperfection in things, the imperfect, impermanent and incomplete. The slow, the weathered, the authentic and the unfinished. I am very enthusiastic about Wabi Sabi and seek at all times to bring the principles and beauty of Wabi Sabi to my Library. This is why when someone comes to my desk and says "I would like to renew this book." I say "I would like for this to happen too. Perhaps if we both concentrate."

It went on from there and if you want to read the rest, by all means, click here.

It only took a couple minutes to read and I was pretty sure, while I was reading, that the large audience was enraptured. It was only when I finished and was met by a most disturbing silence that I realized this was not the case.

"Er. Thank you." Said one of the judges quietly, almost sadly.

Apparently I was the first person ever on American Idol to receive zero votes.

It was a bit uncomfortable. I still feel it was a good piece, just not suitable for, er, most, um, people on the planet. Also I looked all sweaty, which, as we know, was Nixon's downfall in the Kennedy Nixon debates. Or one of Nixon's downfalls.

Nevertheless, after the whole fiasco was over, I did go home and check my blog statistics. I wondered if, even if I didn't get any votes, perhaps among twenty million viewers there were some people who showed an interest in my blog.

According to my statistics I got four hits. But I think one of those four was a regular reader. So, actually, in the end, three people out of twenty million came and took a look at my blog due to my appearance on American Idol. Sure, to you that might not sound super impressive, but it's about par for me re exposure and results. And I'm pretty sure one of those readers, a person from Burlington, Vermont has become a semi regular reader. 

So in the end, you probably wonder, was the humiliation worth it?

I guess so. You know the saying  "A bisel und a bisel vert a fule schisl".

That means "Little by little you get a full pot."

Welcome Vermonter!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Ants not bees

Yesterday I experienced the astonishing revelation that there is virtually nothing to separate my workplace, metaphorically speaking, from an ant colony. Now, fresh in my mind, it is hard not to think about it a lot. I have many questions for myself. And what better place to ask them than here, where with my authorial voice, resplendent with awesome power, I can make up answers to them.

Q. Why ants and not bees?

A. We scurry and do not fly. We are no friend to flowers, or magical collectors of honey, but simple workers in humble pursuit of our unending maintenance. Although, on second thought, we are rather a kind of pollinator of knowledge and information, though not very effective ones, which, it turns out, is true of ants with flowers as well!

Q. Is this a Kafkaesque thing?

A. Everything is a Kafkaesque thing, but that said he was mainly concerned with an individual in Metamorphosis. This is about our nature as community, and it is open to being taken either with phlegmatic appreciation or with horror. When we humans lost ourselves as beings purely of the weave in the fabric of life we became an echo of all the works of evolution. We talk often of Anthropomorphizing,  but it isn't that really. It is we who are chameleons, borrowing everything from the works of evolution before us. We are monkeys and cats, pigs, and, of course, chameleons, and, at work, in institutions, ever and always, colonies of ants.

Q. Do you engage in symbiotic behavior with other animals, the way ants sometimes do with aphids?

A. Yes, we call the creatures "Patrons" and they rotate the materials through our nest, and provide our reason for being.

Q. Do you have a Queen?

A. Yes, but as with ants, you should not ascribe too much or too little to that role.

Q. If you are so exactly like a ant's nest then where are the ant bloggers?

A. Many of the best bloggers in the world are ants, but you must be able to read chemical to read them.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The social life of insects

I work in an ants' nest. And it occurs to me that it is pretty amazing that after 600 blog posts about working at a library (never, not once, ever veering off topic) this, the most absolutely perfect analogy for my job, that I work in an ants' nest, has not, until now, occurred to me!

Indeed, I was planning on writing about some trifling aspect of co-worker communication when I tossed off this analogy to you in passing. I was about to move on, but suddenly my antenna started twitching. I dipped my mandibles into my morning cappuccino ruminatively and knew something was up. All other considerations of blog topics must be put on hold because I must tell you about how my workplace is exactly like an ant colony!

It's as if I were on some minor scouting mission to collect morning dew and ran into a mountain of sugar. One's priorities change.

Yet, oddly, I am almost overwhelmed by how much my job is like being part of a colony of ants. My brain is so flooded with all the truth of it I hardly know where to begin. It is all so screamingly apparent that I don't know what to say. Perhaps if I provide little glimpses, visions that match an ant colony.

There is the way we have our big back room, the hive, and how we workers venture out into the world of the library on various tasks, but always return back here, often with a collection of items, to our nest of workers (indeed the whole of the work areas of the library are divided into cells). There is the way we communicate, mostly one to one, spreading information throughout the nest in a chain reaction, in a mysterious osmosis (do we use chemicals?).  And then it is also how bigger news is sometimes conveyed by a worker returning from the wider world, the public part of the library, and telling a clustered group in something like a dramatic tribal dance. There is the way everything is about the nest, the work, and the unending cycles and collecting and processing, every moment of every workday structured around this. We scurry along our secret, regular back paths. We move things that weigh more than us. We work in tandem hardly even knowing we're working in tandem. We have our castes, instead of soldiers, workers, pupae, queens, we have clerks, pages, librarians, volunteers, managers. New workers periodically appear in the nest where they are carefully nurtured just up to the first moment they can work on their own. Old workers disappear with little ceremony. Always, always, always, the hive must carry on, the work, the life, and we in it.

Every once in awhile I stumble upon an idea for a blog post that really would be more proper as a 300 page non fiction book. And so I have here. Let this stand as an introduction then. I say this without rancor or judgement or aversion. I work in an ants' nest. I am an ant. You might be too.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The delicate balance

A longtime co-worker of mine, who I have always liked quite well enough, has gone up to shelve some fiction before me. I follow in her wake. Not only does it turn out that I am shelving twice as fast as her (which I try not to put too much store in, as my own shelving speed ranges from "My god you are freakishly productive" all the way down to "You know, you have to actually put the books on the shelf for them to be "shelved""), but, more importantly, I am finding that she is completely ignoring and bypassing all the plentiful books that have been looked at and abandoned messily in the stacks, and is just leaving a mess for me. She is not re-shelving or cleaning up anything that needs to be taken care of.

I really don't want to know this about her.

I don't want to see my amiable, pleasant, friendly colleagues, who every once in awhile I must rely on, and who are part of the mosaic of work and place we all at the library make in tandem, I don't want to see them being pointlessly obstructionist or misleading to a patron, I don't want to see them bumping up a full bin so someone else will have to replace it two minutes after they're gone, and I don't want to see them ignoring the simplest of responsibilities that are right before them merely because they're a tiny bit more irritating than their other responsibilities. Furthermore, while we're at it, I don't want to see my pleasant co-worker's Republican bumper sticker, or their crappy parenting, or find out in the break room that their lunch is a shredded human flesh sandwich.

"Oh," They say. "You didn't know I was a cannibal?"

I mumble something awkwardly in response and wander off, urgently willing myself to believe I misheard them. "Yes." I mutter to myself. "What they asked is if I didn't know that they're Catalan, not cannibal. I must have misheard "human flesh" for "Spanish goat dish"."

I find for the most part that I like who I like among my co-workers, and that includes most of them. And the fact is, though I occasionally try to, I have never been much good at looking away or at glossing over. For all I might think I look away, I can give you a pretty shocking detailing of all my co-workers' professional weaknesses, along with a good many of all their other ones as well.

Actually, I can do the same for myself.

In the end the truth outs. 

I suppose I can take it if you can.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Sort of an old joke

I like to make fun of Bob Dylan here. Partly I just find him amusing. Partly I think he's just a wee bit too cool for school and the humility will be good for him. This perhaps is why he is drawn to my blog, like a moth to a flame. Though I admit he never likes it when I imitate his voice. Partly I think he is the great cultural giant of his time and that makes everything around him a trifle too important. One day he'll be dead, and then just you try mocking him! We'd better get it in now, because then it won't be easy. Just look how far you can get now mocking Caravaggio, or Shakespeare, though I hope you might consider giving it a whirl.

But despite my forays into Dylan teasing, I am a great admirer of his work. And to prove that my mockeries are not just a bunch of ignorant churlishness I thought I would show the depth of my Dylan scholarship here and appease, a little, the very, very, very earnest Dylan fans on my blog who feel I may have been a bit too hard on him.

First I'd like to say I've had a sort of silent moratorium on links in this blog for awhile, but it's Sunday, and I feel I can break a few rules, especially the ones I didn't even know were rules until I started breaking them. These links are to music. My list won't be too long and you don't have to hit the links to appreciate this post. You can, if you like, merely admire the list in all its elegant simplicity.

With all that said, here is a list of what I feel to be Bob Dylan's very best little known work. How little known? Dylan is one of the most rigorously cataloged artists there is, and yet I never find these following works listed in any of his discographies. Even if you are not a Dylan fan you may enjoy dazzling the Dylan fans you know by pulling these quite obscure works out of your hat.

So without further ado:

Saturday, October 11, 2014

My secret messages

I have, apparently, been leaving secret messages to myself. I don't know I am leaving these messages at the time I leave them, but messages I am leaving nonetheless.

They are written on post it notes, which, in fact, is how I write quite a few of my blog posts at work, or walking down the street, or wherever I am. And, actually, my messages to myself are blog posts, but just little bits of them, taken out of context.

Today, for instance, I was shelving, and I was also working on a blog post about startled animals whenever I needed a break from the over industriousness of that shelving. I may also have been taking back for some slight, some feeling that the library as an institution had taken something from me. These small balances of justice are crucial when you're not in a very powerful position and you're in it for the long haul.

We are all in it for the long haul.

So I had written about four post it note pages worth of my blog post when I decided all debts were balanced (and then some!) and it was time for me to get some books shelved. I diligently, and with an earnest attempt at perfect accuracy, shelved all my books. Then I returned to my cart to head downstairs. On my cart was my post it pad. It was open to a page that said this:

Why bother with such things when there is this lovely, simple path leading away?


Friday, October 10, 2014

Startled to flight

Have you ever been walking in the woods and startled some small animal, perhaps a wee bunny, or a stoat, or maybe some fluffy songbird whose name you will never know? Alarmed, the little creature flutters or scampers away from you, down the path, to safety.

"Ah" Says the little one to itself "Now I am safe and distant from that heavy-walking giant."

But of course, they aren't, because that is the direction you are walking. And so inevitably you come upon the animal again. And again they rush away. They do not rush into the woods or fly up high and off into the wind. Why bother with such things when there is this lovely, simple path leading so effectively away.

And so the interruption and the fleeing repeats itself so many times you almost feel guilty. But you don't really know what to do either. There is the path, and the path is the way to go.

You walk, the creature hops away, and you repeat forever.

And so it is with shelving in the Fiction section at the library. There I am in the "C's". I push my cart down one side, shelving as I go. I sidle gently past the browsing patron who looks up from their book and shuffles to the side. As I work back up the row the patron sees me coming and clears out before I am upon them directly. They're just browsing, it doesn't matter if they're in the "D's" and "E's". So they pop around the corner and find some new volume to look at. I work my way up my empty aisle but soon I am on to the next aisle. And there is that patron once again. We do it all one more time. And we do it one more time after that as well, working our way through the whole alphabet one disturbance at a time.

I have only found one proper solution to all this, whether with stoats or browsing patrons. I stop and pull out a pad of paper. And I tell you about it, hoping that it takes so long that the issue clears of its own accord.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The ISP ate my soul!

This week I am consumed with the sheer unbridled agony of dealing with Centurylink, a large Internet Service Provider of such magnificent and nuanced evil there is no way to speak properly of it. All the diatribes I compose in my head for them come off as uncontrollably hysterical, or unhinged, or boringly unbelievable. I am so defeated by the possibility of even speaking a sliver of the truth to them that I have given in. My resistance is futile. I succumb. Their model shall be my model.

I know you may have enjoyed the free,  pleasant, easy going, non profit nature of this blog. But, alas, we cannot live any longer in this utopian hippie dream. This blog, clerkmanifesto, shall forever more be run on the Centurylink model.

But don't worry, I will try to make the transition as easy as possible.

We will start by sending to your home four pieces of mail every day announcing all the splendid subscription opportunities to clerkmanifesto. These will all have appealing rates that have nothing to do with anything you would likely be eligible for. If the appealing rates do apply to you they will only be for our economical "Non consonant service". Some people's blog needs are satisfied purely with vowels, but for only $10 more a month clerkmanifesto will bring you all the consonants too! To get that great "includes consonants" deal you merely need to bundle. You know about bundling right?

Just choose two of the following services to lock in your price:

1. Unscrambled letters delivery. This service allows you to read each word without having to unscramble the ttesrel, oops, letters.

2. Prime time viewing access. Do you find it inconvenient to only be able to view clerkmanifesto between one and five in the morning? With prime time viewing access you can view it round the clock! This is a good choice for bundlers who would rather not bundle because it's the cheapest add on choice at only $6.95, so ends up being basically free, not counting communication taxes, specialty taxes, start up fees, the Internet clock drive purchase (it can also be rented), and one time debits.

3. Unlisted blog viewing. With this feature no one will know you read this blog. You don't want people knowing that you read clerkmanifesto do you? People have a way of... talking.

Okay, then. After a long period of mail bombardment you are bound to give in and call to set up a subscription. Don't worry, an incredibly emotionless, vague, corporate sounding person will guide you through the process. Whatever you work out with them will have absolutely nothing to do with any of those 3,000 offers you received in the mail and read on billboards. But after four hours on the phone you had to agree to something. It sounded okay, almost like you got kind of a deal.

At first things will seem to go fairly well, maybe too well. Why are you getting beautiful reproductions of blog posts in elegant, hand done calligraphy, with illustrations, on vellum? Why does Bob Dylan come to your house on Thursdays, with a pizza, and read the Sunday blog post aloud to you? Why does the blog keep mentioning you in flattering ways? Didn't you sign up for Unlisted blog viewing? It kind of ruins it if you're constantly being referenced on the blog. Why do you get these obscure and beautiful liqueurs with little notes suggesting "pairings" ("this Dancing Pines Brulee Caramel liqueur, served at five degrees below room temperature, will be a lovely accompaniment to the post regarding the Samurai and the Zen Cat, sip it gently").

Your first bill will come. You were expecting it to be roughly $2.95. You accepted that there might be communication taxes. So you are slightly surprised to find your bill is for $7,343.93. None of the vast listing of charges seems to reference anything that makes any sense to you, though "clerkmanifesto" crops up in there a few times.

You will give us a call. 

You do know that, like, 45 people read this blog? So naturally you are put on hold. We make you punch in a lot of numbers on your phone, but it's just our nice way of keeping you occupied while you wait for us because we will ask for all the same information when we come on and talk to you.

You will have had a lot of time to prepare your speech and so you will deliver it quite well to the first customer service agent. This person understands things did not go according to your confused ideas of what was supposed to happen. They ask a couple of strange, misunderstanding questions like "Why did you sign up for the liqueur pairings if you don't enjoy liqueurs?" which forces you to repeat sections of your speech all over. Finally they seem to understand that you never actually wanted Bob Dylan to come to your house, even if it is an amazing bargain at just $1,100 a month introductory offer. They put you on hold for a long time twice to work on the problem. Finally, when you think they are coming back on the line to say "I have resolved the problem." they come back on the line to say "I am going to transfer you to a person who can help you."

You will be transferred to a person who has no idea why you were transferred to them, or who you are. You tell your story a few more times to a few more people until someone will finally roll up their sleeves and get to work.

"Okay, let me get this straight. You don't want the 'Bob Dylan reads you the Sunday blog post feature? You're aware that this is a fantastic bargain? He does it at cost because he's such a fan."

"That's great." You say. "But no thank you."

"Check. And you don't want the "Fans of clerkmanifesto Mazatlan timeshare?"

"What? No!" You will say.

And so you will whittle the services down. After much hard work the customer service agent will proudly announce "All right, we have it down to just receiving full access to clerkmanifesto with no add-ons. The monthly fee is reduced all the way down to $415.45.

"No!" You cry out. "It's supposed to be $2.95!"

"Okay." The person says. "It will be $2.95 a month."

You will be stunned at how easy it all was, even though you just spent six of the most miserable hours of you life on the phone. All that is nothing to you now. You can hardly believe it. You will ask them to confirm the price 14 times.

Full of joy you read clerkmanifesto with a light heart. And then a week later $312.91 will be automatically deducted from your bank account. There will be more calls to make. Many many many more calls.

But I say to you; is that so bad?

Where else could you read a blog of this quality?