Sunday, December 31, 2017

The amateur naturalist's year in review

Shall we take look now at the year that was? But how about without all that depressing end of the world politics stuff?

I say yes, let's!

So it's time for...

The Amateur Naturalist's Year in Review: 2017

January started with some cloudy skies and the temperature dropped sharply. Around that time all the trees filled up with migrating robins, which was pretty neat- all those trees drooping with the weight of chunky little birds. I saw some clouds I really liked at the start of February and then there was a period with a curious lack of squirrels to be found anywhere.

March was oddly mild but did have the gumption to snow every once in awhile, even though it seemed to be a pointless effort since it was always a matter of hours before it melted. April brought with it some curiously encouraging flowers, especially once all the trees started taking strict turns blooming; forsythia, magnolia, crabapple, and so on.

June threatened heat and then relented, causing, according to a specious theory of my own, the cats to get pointedly friendly in July. Then the black raspberry bushes started fruiting amidst the clouds of mosquitoes, daring one in a push pull of reward and punishment. August and September were mild, thick, and full of flickering lightning in the night. In October I briefly went to another country. They had less grass there, but it was greener. That's Europe for you in a nutshell.

As always the leaves went crazy here in mid October then raced headlong into death for Halloween. November came in like a kitten and went out like a kitten, making me think we'd breeze right through winter hanging out with the great flocks of geese who seemed to spend a lot of time around then just milling about.

Then most of the geese left, it snowed, and it got as cold as it could possibly manage, trying its hardest to hurt with it.

And that's where we are today, on the last day of the new year!

And what then will next year hold for us?

Who knows. We'll probably all be dead because of the stupid President.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Shadow library

A co-worker I get along with recently applied for and got a new set of hours at my library. Curiously these hours are almost entirely the hours I don't work. I am endeavoring to not take this personally. This is hard and noble work.

But this has opened a bit of a porthole view into hours I do not think of, the hours that I do not work at my library, the shadow hours.

My library is open 63 hours a week. I work a hearty shake more than half of all those hours. But it is my wont to imagine my library does not exist when I am not there, and that nothing important can happen at the library if I am not in it. I suppose you could think this an act of narcissistic fantasy, but I am constantly nudged into this view by the following:

For 23 years, whether I have been gone from the library for a day, a week, or, in my modern era record, 35 days, when I come back and inquire "What happened while I was gone?" I am invariably met with a curious blankness. At most some almost astonishingly trivial detail is dredged up for my consideration, but basically nothing happens while I am gone, every single time.

Of course not much happens while I'm here, but that's not the point.

So then what does it mean to have some co-worker who I am friendly with working these precisely occluded hours. Is this the window I have been waiting for? Are our brief periods of working overlap an opportunity to see into this shadow library? Is it like a mirror into the land of death? And if, perchance, this co-worker is like a magical lens giving me sight into the unseeable, is this knowledge dangerous? 

I think so. Sure. I mean, it is almost certain that I am not meant to know anything about this alternate library, running nefariously in a bitter universe that is cold and without me. The gods cry out "This is not for your eyes!"

But what is that to me? I seek the truth, no matter how horrible it might be.

Friday, December 29, 2017


We're heading for a patch of chilly weather here in Minnesota. Last I looked the high temperature tomorrow should be around minus six. I am inclined to mention it as a matter of course because it's Minnesota, and I am keen to note our regional differences. For instance if this were Key West and the high tomorrow were minus six I wouldn't mention it because I'm pretty sure the world would be in the process of ending. So I might be inclined to let my blog lapse.

"But aren't you committed to posting on your blog daily?" You inquire worriedly.

No, you're right. Sometimes I should be more careful what I say. I will continue to post daily in the event of the end of the World.

Fortunately minus six isn't the end of the world in Minnesota. It's just chilly. For readers in balmy locales such as Fresno and Poughkeepsie it can be confusing as to just exactly how chilly minus six feels.

"Hi. I'm from Poughkeepsie." Writes a regular reader, just now, "And I was wondering what it really feels like when it's minus six out."

-Pat from Poughkeepsie

Dear Pat from Poughkeepsie:

Thank you for your inquiry as to how cold minus six feels. Before I get to "minus six", how cold is it in Poughkeepsie these days?

"As I write." Pat replies "It's about 10 degrees out."

"Oh, that's not as different as I thought. Is anyone here from Fresno?"

Let me try that without quotes:

Is anyone here from Fresno?



Okay, Pat, well, minus six isn't hugely different from plus ten, but as you will probably understand no one really knows how cold either of those are. If one is coming down to minus six from a warmer temperature it is really fucking cold. If one is going up to it from a colder temperature it's surprisingly mild.

"What if it's been right around minus six for awhile?" Pat asks.

Then it's chilly.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Employee development

I have been working at this library for a very long time. This has given me some occasionally useful talents, like the ability to picture, upon hearing the title, the cover of any book published in the last 30 years. It has also given me a vast array of stories that are mildly interesting, in the right context, but only if they're told flawlessly. And then too all this time here has gifted me with more obscure and useless talents.

I'll tell you about one of those.

We have student workers here. They work 10 to 15 hours a week. Usually they're in high school although some of them stick around a little into college. Mainly they shelve in the kids' room. I have recently found that I can accurately chart their career here by what my relationship is to them. This measurement has become increasingly accurate and is measured in five stages.

1. I think they are maybe a volunteer or have mistakenly wandered into the back room.

This means they have been working here for 1-2 months.

2. I know they are a student worker but can't quite remember their name.

This means they have worked here for 3-4 months.

3. I know their name! Every month or so I greet them.

This means they are in the 6 months to a year stage of working here.

4. We say hi occasionally and I will toss off a trenchant witticism to them like we are old colleagues.

This means they have worked here for a little more than a year.

5. We chat briefly twice. They see me as a mentor. I have grown distantly fond of them.

They will be leaving for college or a real job in a week or two.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The replacement

An impromptu work discussion broke out in the back room of the library I work at today. A co-worker is shifting their schedule and will be leaving a night noted for its harmony and collegiality. There was some discussion regarding the replacement of this co-worker by another who was changing their schedule in a domino effect. Someone declared the new co-worker an even swap in virtues for the old co-worker. The old co-worker objected woundedly. One of us said, about the new co-worker in defense of the even swap idea, "Yes, but he's a great guy. He has no flaws."

Fair enough, maybe, but this alone, I think, works against him.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

An answer

I'm at the front desk of the library on a quiet night where outside darkness long ago fell and a dry snow thickly dusted the city. An array of old guy regulars came up to the desk to shoot the breeze with me and we gamely struggled through the murk of trying to understand what each of us were trying to communicate and why we should consider any of what the other person said important. We all decided it's the effort that counts and soldiered on.

Just because it's quiet, almost dead here, doesn't mean there aren't at least a hundred people in this library as we count down our final hour. I don't think too many of the people visiting here are irritated about being in a library. A few are having a good time even.

Oh man, Socialism. Here's your little slice of Government, a library. I would not describe it as run particularly well, not well or brightly or with passion at all, but it works almost beautifully even despite that. It's not brain surgery. There's a lot of room for error and we use about half of it and rarely hit our heads.

I think that this is the worst political moment for my country that I have seen in my adult life. It is ugly and mad out there. In some ways everything in the world looks the same, but underneath it feels like there is some horror growing in the heart of America. Minds are inflamed. Every op ed I read seems to be desperately trying to work out the answer; grand, practical, and clinging to hope, but all scrabbling for an answer. I get pretty upset too.

But sitting here, as the day winds down, I think, what if we all just tried, for a change, as an answer, strange and calm as it may be to our minds, what if we tried... Library.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Christmas elegy

Another beautiful Christmas morning here in Minnesota. There's snow on the ground and pretty white smoke curling out of the chimneys of all the wee homes on my street. It is -2 degrees out and once again there are no presents under the tree for me this year. This may have something to do with how we have no tree, and how we have no presents. And we're Jews. And there's no such thing as Santa.

My apologies to all my little five year old Jewish readers; I'm sorry you had to find out this way. I'm still finding out. 

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Library shirt

Awhile ago my wife and I were buying some library/book themed t-shirts. I decided to go for the one that's a series of large, roughly stamped sequential dates, you know, old-school due date stamps. Not only did I consider this vaguely legal for my library job dress code, but also an amusing conversation piece, especially with us all being in a library.

I was wrong.

While I appreciated this shirt for not hitting anyone over the head with its obviousness, I hardly considered it subtle. In the context of where I would be wearing such a shirt, combined with the authentic feel of its design, I certainly didn't expect people not to get it.

But many, aye even most, did not.

"Are those dates significant somehow?" Many a confused query went.

"No," I replied, demonstrating by pointing pointlessly at the shirt they were already looking at "They're, you know, like library due dates."

"Oh." They said emotionlessly and suddenly keen to get to work, then they went somewhere else.

"Well," I thought "That must be a weird blip on their part. It certainly won't happen when so and so sees it. They'll think it's hilarious!"

"What's with all the dates?" So and so asks when I show them my shirt.

"They're meant to be library due dates, like from an old due date card."

"Huh." They say. "Well it's confusing because they're dates."

This sort of thing happened all day. Is this the general level of understanding my co-workers operate at? How have I never noticed this before?

It was a sad day.

After washing it I put the shirt at the back of all my t-shirts on my shirts shelf.

I didn't wear the shirt again for a long time.

Then today I reached back there and pulled out this shirt.


I put it on. Apparently the pain had faded just enough for me to try again. After all it is Holiday Potluck Day today at the library.

And then I reflected upon what had happened last time I wore the shirt and suddenly the light dawned:

The were all just trolling me!

Ha ha ha, they were messing with me! They were just joking!

I hope. God, I hope.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Deal of the day

In which I offer my best deal ever in order to save the holiday season for everyone!

Around this time of year there are many people who have to come up with gifts. Sure, it's not everyone, but even those people who don't have to come up with even one gift can get infected by the feeling in the air and the lure of delivery trucks dropping off boxes all around them. As we reach a day like today, December 23, there is a fever pitch of gift needing that roars like a wildfire through the Internet.

But there is a problem. It is now likely too late to receive any gifts we order in the mail soon enough. And everyone is broke. And how are we supposed to know what to get for anyone anyway.

This is where I step in to save the day.

I am offering my best deal of the year!

Better than Black Friday!

Better than Small Business Saturday!

Better than Cyber Monday!

And even better than Bullshit Sale Wednesday!

I have never offered a discount like this!

Today only Clerkmanifesto for a year is completely free! 

You think it too good to be true? Read my FAQ and think again. Your ship has just come in!

Clerkmanifesto for free today only FAQ

Q. Wait, do I get a ship?

A. No, that is a turn of phrase.

Q.  I knew it! It's all a trick!

A. No no, just the part about ships is. Clerkmanifesto is genuinely free for a year with no further obligation as my gift to you and yours!

Q. How can you afford to do this?

A. Ha ha ha. My accountant assures me I cannot!

Q. Right, so how can you afford to do this?

A. I fired my accountant! The $82,000 I save in his salary should see me through.

Q. I'm not sure it works like that.

A. I'm afraid that needs to be in the form of a question.

Q. What is "I'm not sure it works like that"?

Q. and A. both:   Ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Q. So reading this particular episode of Clerkmanifesto I am finding it to be something of an acquired taste, one which I haven't exactly acquired yet. Who enjoys Clerkmanifesto?

A. Oh loads of people!

Q. What is "loads of people"?

A. Five.

Q. Free is a pretty good price, but is this like the usual blog on the Internet? Will you post three times in a week, then nothing for two months, then two posts in rapid succession, then nothing for infinity years?

A. No, I have posted daily for almost five years. You will receive 365 posts doled out early every afternoon like a drip feed. Drip, drip, drip, drip, drip, drip, drip, drip, drip...

Q. I get it!

A. Drip, drip, drip...

Q. I get it. Are some of them better than others?

A. Sometimes they are. And then sometimes they aren't. 

Q. Okay then, I'm game. I'd like one for myself and eight to give to each of my eight cousins. How do I get my year passes?

A. I'm sorry, I can't tell you. I promised myself I wouldn't market my blog. But I'm touched by your interest.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Sweet job

I have a nice late lunch that I make as my main meal of the day every day, and people ask me "Hey, how can you afford to have lunch every day?"

And I'm like "Hello! I work at a library. Thirty-five K per annum, my friend, 35 K."

It's not like I'm rubbing it in, it's just people shouldn't be so surprised. My wife and I are kind of rolling in the dough.

Take our blue car- our nearly brand new Honda Civic Coupe- sweet ride indeed! Sure we got an unusually economical lease on it, and we share the single car between us, but those are just details. When you see me decamp from that beautiful coupe you might offer a low whistle and a waggle of your hand as if to say "Hoo boy, that is the thing, man!"

"Oh yeah! Too right, mon ami." But that's just the thing I'm trying to explain, so you gotta get down with the program: I work at a library. The finer things in life are at my beck and call.

"Is it true you have an awesome one bedroom, 700 square foot house?" You inquire with skeptical awe.

"We own it, my admiring friend, or we will, once that detail of a mortgage is paid off. Try, just try to take it in, I WORK AT A LIBRARY."

"Whoa!" You exclaim, probably wishing you worked at a library too. Then, with the magnitude of it all dawning on you, you ask, in a hushed voice "Are you so rich you're a Republican?"

"Heh, heh, heh." I reply. "It hasn't gone quite that far. But between you and me" I add conspiratorially "I've met a couple."

"Ohhhh la la." You sigh.

"Ohhhh la la indeed!"

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Time passes

I was late again today to work. "How does this happen!" I cry out. I'll tell you how it happens; time passes. Time passes while I put on my shoes. Time passes while I put on my coat and hat. Time passes when I lock the door. Time passes with every house and every block I walk past, and it passes even when I stop walking to jot down a few notes on how time passes. Time passes when I am forced to stop for a "Don't Walk" sign, and yet it still passes when the "Don't Walk" sign flashes in red and I sprint to make it across the street before it's too late.

Oh kids, if I have one thing from my mountaintop of wisdom to impart to you it is this: Time passes. You cannot pause it, you cannot speed it up. Your heartbeat measures it out, but then your heartbeat is nothing to it. Skip a beat of your heart and time will still pass.

What can I promise you, what can I guarantee? Love? I wish the best for you. May it be as pure as time. God? I cannot say yea or nay with unalterable surety. Good, bad, life, death, who knows? Maybe there is no death and maybe life is but a dream. I only know that time will pass. It passes now. It is unrelenting. Count on it or don't count on it, but you will not budge it or alter its design. Time passes.

And so it has while we have sat here speaking of these things. And so it will after we end this discourse and go on to see if we can find something on the Internet that is more cheering, or infuriating, to read today.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Streets paved with gold

I was walking through the city thinking something about money when all of the sudden I came upon a dollar bill sitting in the middle of the sidewalk. I laughed. "What are the odds," I thought "That I would be thinking something related to money at the moment I found some!"

And then my ever American brain answered sadly "About fifty-fifty."

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Cut my hair

A co-worker came into the back room of the library while I was working on the check in machine.

"Your hair's getting really long." He said.

We all know that different people are allowed to say different things, depending upon how we feel about them. He was marginally allowed to say this but he wasn't really winning any further allowance points.

"Should I cut it?" I asked. I'd been thinking about cutting it for a few months and hadn't gotten around to it.


So I took the scissors, grabbed all the hair on the right side, and cut it. Then I took all the hair on the left side, bunched it up, and cut it. I threw the hunks of hair in the garbage. It was looking a little silver in places.

"Better?" I asked.

He laughed. "Better." He said.

A little later someone else asked, peering at my hair "Is your hair in a ponytail?" 

This may have been due to my not really cutting the back of my hair during my earlier eight second haircut. But really, what business was it of theirs?

Monday, December 18, 2017

Bacon in library

I made some bacon in the library break room. My co-workers cursed my name.

"It smells so goooood!" They said.

"So you like it?"

"No. We curse your name."

It's good bacon, made from humanely raised, happy, and naturally fed pigs who are then murdered against their will.

"You don't mind that we're going to murder you, do you?"

"Yes. I do. I really do." Pigs can't talk, but they can easily think that. 

Oh but smell that bacon! When I cooked it it was slow to spread it's aroma. This is a big place I work in! But I cooked the bacon slowly and carefully. I pulled it crispy from its own fat. I put the sizzling bacon in a sandwich of cranberry walnut bread spread with avocado oil mayonnaise (appealingly and disconcertingly greenish), sweet 100 tomatoes, and a lemony sauteed chard.

I hope you're not mad at me too.

I ate the sandwiches. I drank water. I wrote some e-mails. I talked to some co-workers who all mentioned bacon a lot. I left them discussing bacon among themselves. I went down a 75 foot long hallway to an elevator, took the elevator upstairs into the public areas. I wheeled a cart hundreds of feet past the reference desk into non fiction, and I started shelving. Then I realized I smelled bacon. Oh bacon. 

I heard the snatch of a patron saying something. "Bacon." He said. 

Someone else up there said "Bacon (something, something, something) bacon." Everyone looked hungry. Everyone said "Bacon."

But I wasn't hungry anymore. I'd had bacon.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Where we shelve my best posts

I've got myself a bit of non fiction shelving to take care of, but don't worry, there's always time to write stuff here, especially when I get into the mid 200's of the Dewey Decimal System, the religious books. Look at 'em all! Blah blah blah blah blah I say. If you have to write about it you don't really believe it.

The bible alone is enough for me. There's enough in there to make fun of for a lifetime!

I'm up here with one of my colleagues who is shelving in the high numbers. My colleague said "I'll be shelving in the high numbers (700 through 900's)." That's so  I can take the low numbers (0's through 600's), and we won't get in each other's way.

I petulantly responded "Fine, I'm shelving in the super high numbers, the thousands!

"What" you may ask "Is in the Dewey Decimal thousands?"

Oh man, the good stuff. Finally, all the good stuff.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

99.99% Guarantee this will be the best thing you read all day!

It is a slow night manning the front desk of my library. Someone comes to me needing paper for our downstairs printer. I spring heroically into action! Ripping open the paper ream I notice a curious selling point on the wrapper:

99.99% Jam-Free Guarantee

This is a lot to think about, but first I have to put the paper in the printer. Then I have to answer the several questions that arise from patrons in even the deadest times when one is anywhere near the computers ("That's called your mouse." "You click here." "Might I suggest moving then to a less sticky computer."). Mission accomplished I can now return to the front desk. Now I can muse upon the nature of guarantees.

A guarantee only has meaning if it is absolute. Qualify it in any way and you have shattered your assurance.

"Hi. Your paper seems to have jammed in our printer."

"I'm terribly sorry, but it does that once every 10,000 times."

"But you guaranteed that it wouldn't."

"Yes, It didn't the other 9,999 times did it? Those were the ones we guaranteed!"

"Um, it seemed like it jammed more than just this time. It seemed like it jammed before."

"Oh, well, just call us back when it jams one of those other times. Those are guaranteed. 99.99%!"

"Okay then, I guess..."

This reminds me a bit of the weather. Regular readers will be appraised of how I am not keen on professional weather forecasting. Lately we have been getting a lot of unpredicted snowfalls. 

"Unpredicted snowfalls you say. I'm pretty sure we listed the chance of precipitation at 10%."

"But you do that every day!"

"Well sure, and ten percent of those days it snows!"

"You're keeping track of this?"

"Sure, probably, somewhere. I mean we have computers. Duh."


"It's science."

Which of course brings us round to the title of this blog post: 

99.99% Guarantee this will be the best thing you read all day!

You know what, caution to the wind, I 100% guarantee this is the best thing you have read all day!

"Really? That's brave of you."

"I know what is and what is not and stand behind it."

"Wow. Unfortunately, though I found it interesting, it isn't the best."

"I'm afraid you're mistaken."

"I'm mistaken?"

"Don't feel bad. Everyone makes mistakes."

Friday, December 15, 2017

Questions and Answers live in real time!

We here at clerkmanifesto know that sometimes you have questions. And while our comments section is always active we know that there is nothing quite like being able to ask questions right when they come up, live on blog. That is why every once in awhile we open things up here for questions and answers. And so we have done today!

Go ahead and ask us anything you want. We'll do our best to answer.


Question: How do I ask a question here?

Answer: There you go!

Question: Wow, neat.


Question: I love when you used to do blog posts in a question and answer format. How come you no longer do that, and do you think that might ever make a comeback? I'll take my answer off the computer.

Answer: I am glad you like our question and answer format. We were just thinking about, and this might be good news for you, how we might like to do one in the question and answer format today! And lo and behold this blogpost is in that format!

Hello? Hello?


Question: So I tried the Baked Alaska recipe and the cake was too soggy for me. Is it supposed to be like that or did I do something wrong? Do I need to use a convection oven?

Answer: Ah. You must be looking for the food blog that is just next door. Exit, go through the chestnut trees past the koi pond, turn right at the topiary giraffe and you'll see it.

Question: Oh, thanks.

Answer: You might want to stop and sign up to receive my blog on email though before you go.

Question: Er, sure, I guess I can. How do I do that?

Answer: I'm sorry, I can't tell you. I have a policy of not marketing my blog. But thank you for your interest.



Answer: I wouldn't advise it, not least because this blog, though not widely read, is publicly available to anyone.

Question: Oh, okay, good to know. In that case, follow up question: Is there any way to delete my original question?

Answer: Sure, simple. Right click on it and choose "erase", then "confirm".


Question: Hey, do you still go have cocktails on Thursdays with Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan, even though one day when the two of you were out he went to the bathroom and did not come back?

Answer: Only if he apologizes.

Question: I'm sorry?

Answer: Only if he apologizes not in the form of a question and in person.

Question: Oh.


Question: This is really fun. I am having a great time and could read these questions and answers forever! Is it over yet?

Answer: Yes, it's over.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

A strange post about Garfield

"Hi, can you point me to the Garfield books?"

"Sure, they're over there in the Garfield Library."

"That whole room is devoted to Garfield books? I thought that was the Children's Room."

"We follow demand. They want Garfield. It's the Garfield room."

"Hi, I got some of those Garfield books, but none of them are funny. Aren't some of them supposed to be funny?"

"No, not really."

"I don't understand."

"Do you see that gentleman over there with the mental disability?"

"The one slowly bouncing his head on that table?"

"Exactly. That's what Garfield is about. It's about the slow, comforting, mindless rhythm of the thing."

"And kids like that?"

"They love it."

"But they grow out of it, right?"

"Yes, several of them will."


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Review of Keith Jarrett's Solo Album: Paris Concert

This is one great album. I love this album. It is Keith Jarrett at his best. It's like if Chopin played the piano, making it up as he went along, all the while accompanying himself absent-mindedly on a kazoo. It also sort of sounds like they gave him a piano with something loose in it that rattles and buzzes whenever he really gets going. "What's that buzzing?" You might ask. "Is there something wrong with his piano?"

Ha ha ha, no, there is nothing wrong with his piano, he's playing a kazoo!

Oh don't be silly. He is a genius piano player. He wouldn't play the kazoo. He's just humming along tunelessly with his own piano playing.

Oh. Is that a good idea?

Not really. Try not to let it bring you down too much.

So, five stars?

Five stars!

And how many stars for the kazoo playing?

Not quite as many.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017


Today in my county e-mail I received the following useful and engaging piece of information from our IS Service Desk:

SYSTEM MAINTENANCE -Work Interruption - ERP Systems down

Tomorrow from 7:00 to 2:00 available ERP Systems will be unavailable for all C-clp Staff due to System Maintenance required on our SIP due to requirements on our monthly maintenance from our vendor RNL.

As with all planned service outages, affected sites or access to services may be greater than anticipated.  Thanks in advance for your patience as we complete this work.  Please also inform other colleagues who may be affected.

If you have any questions please contact the IS Service desk.

I found this super helpful.

So I wrote a thank you!

Dear ISD:

Thank you for you information on the impending ERP maintenance. The LS will WA with our Horizon WPP. As this System Maintenance will last LTAD it is our hope that our SWA will not burden your DATAFLOW NGP or in anyway violate any of your scheduled agreements with vendors. We CWOL and were advised to let you know to make sure. If you or your vendor RNL have any problems with our POA please let us know and we will be happy to revise it.

Thanks again!

(In relation to C-clp Staff)