Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Unsteady fliers

I have been writing 600 blog posts about Turkey Vultures. I'm already on blog post number two or three, I don't know. I'm not sure. There's so many it's hard to keep track. But no matter how many it is, when one writes so much about Turkey Vultures one starts to learn things about Turkey Vultures.

I learned that Turkey Vultures are unsteady fliers. I learned it during research.

Isn't that great: 

Unsteady fliers. 

It means when Turkey Vultures float about and glide in all the beautiful and invisible air they are like graceful drunks, slightly inebriated on their diet of fizzing dead meat. Their wings dip and totter unsteadily while their line of flight remains smooth and pretty. Once you hear about it it is unmissable. They glide magically and smooth, but they rock unevenly, light in the wind. They always get there perfectly. It's how they do it. Watching Turkey Vultures all my life the unsteady flying was unmissable in its way all along, but it had no word before. There was no way to see it on its own. "Unsteady flier" lets it stand out for the taking. If you want it.

I want it.

I told my wife about Unsteady Fliers. Because it's interesting. And a day or two later we were walking out in the Minnesota River Valley. The valley was still flooded from the snows and rains of the earlier Spring. We walked back up to the top of the valley. We looked up in the sky to see a couple of Turkey Vultures, riding their invisible tornadoes, as they do.

"Unsteady fliers." We said.

Unsteady fliers. Just like all of us.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Does there have to be a winner?

Recently in this space I was extolling something delightful my local indie alternative rock station was doing. The Current, a public radio station, was running down the best 893 (because their call number is 89.3 FM) songs since the year 2000, as voted by listeners. My point was that democracy made for great radio. And it did, especially when we were in the 500's and then later the 300's.

But I had an inkling that there might be a problem for me going forward. And I was right.

The higher we went on the list the more my sense of competition and judgement crept into it. 

Avant Gardener by Courtney Barnett at 274 is an entertaining and interesting song, and one I just enjoy on its own small and appealing merits. But this song placing at 51, where it actually is, becomes a little irritating. Is it hundreds of songs better than Cat Power's lusciously sad The Greatest?  Could it possibly be a hundred places better than The White Stripe's Ball and Biscuit, the greatest rock guitar masterpiece in 30 years?

No. It's not.

It's a nice song Avant Gardener, but it shows up very poorly against these other two songs. Very, very, very poorly. And down here in the top 100, or even more in the top 50, it gets harder for me to listen without all the context of competition.

This year I faithfully and with much delight watched Messi and The Barcelona team play a season's worth of brilliant soccer. Messi astonished at every turn. I witnessed unworldly, wondrous things. And then late in the most important and contested competition of the season, with a seemingly unassailable first game lead, Barcelona were crushed, stripped of dignity, and summarily tossed out of the competition. I can barely express the devastation I felt. The joy of 40 games of soccer were stripped from my heart in roughly 30 minutes.

As I write the 893 songs count down slowly in the background. Number 42 is playing right now. Everything in its Right Place by Radiohead. I breathe a sigh of relief. With a song like that everything really is in its right place. But it's all on the line now. Will I feel so approving about the next song? It's all in my nature, and in the nature of competition. Less fun, more tension.

I have no solution here. Competition provides focus and clarity. It can filter excellence up, all in good fun. But it never knows when to stop. It's only for the strong. It breaks hearts. It always, always, always gets too serious. 

And it always ends in tears.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Financed by thermostat

It's a brilliant idea.

Huge money maker.

Eventually you'll be seeing them everywhere, but hopefully you'll remember that you first heard about them right here: Revenue Generating Thermostats.

How did I think of this genius... contraption? I don't know really. It was a moment of serendipity. 

It was the first warm Spring day of the year and my co-workers were complaining about the library being too hot, a common Summer refrain here. On a simultaneous, but unrelated note, someone said something about decreased revenue related to our considering getting rid of late fines on Children's materials, and some flash of genius detonated in my head.

I saw a vision of Caravaggio paintings.

The Churches of Rome are amazing. One of the most amazing things about them is that several of them have some of the greatest paintings ever made, hanging humbly in the side chapels. So a person goes into a Roman Church for free, for example, wanders down the aisle to see a set of three wildly famous Caravaggios, but unfortunately finds that the paintings are only roughly visible in the church's gloom.

However, there is a saving grace. There's a coin box on the wall. One puts a euro in the box, it clicks like a circuit breaker tripping, and, poof, the masterworks are all marvelously lit up for everyone's viewing pleasure. At least for a minute or two.

All these things collided in my head at once and I thought: What if the library thermostat, which we locally have no control over, were instead adjustable for money? There would be two boxes, a blue box and a red box. If one puts money in the blue box it makes the building cooler. If one puts money in the red box it gets warmer. The more money one puts in the box the colder (or warmer) it gets.

It would be a cash cow.

Picture this: a group of boiling library workers gather to complain; about the heat, management, county directives, library patrons, and so on. Someone proposes a collection of quarters to cool the place off. Three dollars are gathered and plunked into the blue box. The temperature drops a few degrees. A patron living on a combination of vegetable juices and our public Internet computers catches a chill as a result of the dipping temperature. She pops up to throw a dollar or two into the red box. An overheated child running through the kid's room begs a dollar from her mom to put in the blue box. A sensitive and readily freezing Senior Citizen promptly and angrily plunks ten dollars into the red box, and it's soon 85 degrees in the library.

It's a war. An endless, hard fought, desperate, passionate war, and in this war the library will have cornered the market on arms sales. The hell with kid's fines. We might be able to end all late fines.

But it's not just the money. Not a day goes by where one of my co-workers doesn't complain about the temperature one way or another, usually both ways. People using the big meeting room are generally incensed about it being too hot. Just yesterday a patron with seven-inch-long fingernails went into a long, surprisingly informed tirade about how we spent x amount of dollars on our remodeled building but can't properly heat or cool our building, I can't remember which. Well, none of that will be the library's fault anymore. With the red and blue Revenue Generating Thermostats everyone will be empowered! 

Sure, rich people will be more empowered than poor ones. And competition will make everyone like hamsters on wheels. But that's just Capitalism. In Capitalism everyone can suffer, in varying degrees, and have it be their own fault.

We can't do anything about that!

I mean, except make some money off of it.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

The value of library book donations

My oldest library friend, who long ago departed for other branches, sent word of a particularly unappealing bag of donated books he received. It included old High School textbooks, pamphlets in Spanish, half-used coloring and activity books, and novels missing whole sections and sometimes with their pages mysteriously glued together. It sounds like a bad batch, but by no means of a standard unfamiliar to me.

Naturally the patron wanted a receipt, doing their part to observe the age-old rule: The desire for a receipt and gratitude will be in inverse proportion to the quality of the materials.

Sometimes, in my own experiences, these wretched library donaters will ask me about the value of their books. They wonder how much they might be able to claim on their taxes. I'm faultlessly polite about it, knowing them to be a volatile bunch, but I can always tell that whatever I say to them is bad news for their dreams of avarice. "We sell the paperbacks for 50 cents, the hardcovers for a dollar, so..."

Add it up and they'll probably need to donate several thousand more boxes to have a real impact on their taxes. Even then, deep down, it would probably be fraud.

But I do like to be helpful on this score, and I wouldn't mind a little "estimated value" line on our receipt forms. 

It might, quite fairly, like with that bag mentioned above, look something like this:


Library Donation Receipt

Hardcovers: 7

Paperbacks: 14

Recyclable Paper things: 36

DVDs:  0

CDs:  2

Total Estimated Value:  Minus $4.20


I would sign such a document proudly.

Friday, May 17, 2019

She ain't dead, she's only sleeping

The worst of all my librarian co-workers has been with us for decades. The litany of 35 years of casual, bumbling, and oblivious malfeasance is far too vast to properly catalog here. From my early days at the library handling her obsessive family's relentless phone calls, through an enormously committed laziness, all the way to an end point of being unable to do anything herself, she has been forcing irritating extra work out of every single one of her co-workers, whether they know it or not, for as long as she has been employed by my library system.

But the end game is now in play. She is completely falling apart before our eyes. I hate to say this, but she gives every appearance of dying slowly in front of us. The extremity of this has elicited some sympathy among my co-workers and I, but it is happening with such a burdensome slowness, and with such a consistency with all that came before, that nearly all of that humanity has been betrayed and burned out of us.

Recently this terrible and tragic librarian has been causing a stir by falling asleep at the main reference desk of our library. Some of my co-workers say this reflects rather poorly on the rest of us. On the one hand I can't say they don't have a point there. A local newspaper recently did a feature article on what an incredibly busy library ours is. Oddly, the accompanying pictures of our branch were nearly devoid of people, but it was hard not to reflect on what it would have been like if instead of that they showed a picture of our morbidly sick and disabled senior citizen librarian completely conked out at our totally unvisited reference desk.

But I did say that on the one hand I can see that her sleeping at the reference desk is a serious problem. There is, however, the other hand. 

On the other hand, sleeping, she has never, in thirty-some years, been nearly as good a librarian, nor one quite so pleasant to work with.

Thursday, May 16, 2019


Among the radio stations I listen to in my car during my commute to and fro with the library is The Current, 89.3 FM. The Current is a public radio station that plays, mostly, contemporary, largely alternative music, in as much as that's a genre, which it is. It is a pretty good station. Let's see, how can I put it? Maybe a fifth of the time when I put it on they are playing something I really like or am interested enough in, and that can go up to a third of the time if they're really on a roll and I'm in the mood.

But right now they are having their Spring Membership Drive. And, even with all the begging, they have become the greatest music radio station I have ever encountered.

What happened?

Over the course of the drive they are playing the 893 greatest songs of the 2000's, all according to listener votes. 893 songs.

Do I like a third of them? 

No, not a fifth, and not a third. 

I am, at a minimum, loving half of them, and I am at the very least interested in the other half. When I turn on The Current this week I have almost always just missed a great song that I would have loved, but it doesn't matter because a fascinating song, or one I adore, is probably playing right now, or is just about to.

I've heard tons of music I know and love; Cat Power, Cloud Cult, Beck. But I've also heard things almost as good by people I barely know; Cage the Elephant, Japandroid, Grizzly Bear.

So what is this? A well paid professional staff comes up with playlists and carefully handpicks songs to play, but a bunch of random music listeners simply vote, and they come up with something significantly better

What is this amazing voting thing? How does it work?

What if we tried running a country using it?

Wednesday, May 15, 2019


Er, could you just wait here for a second, I'll be right back.

Okay, where were we?

Oh, we hadn't begun yet? Great.

So, I get a lot of foot and lower leg cramps. They're periodically pretty bad, but it seems like recently they've grown more frequent. I haven't had much luck with the cures and diagnosis I've found so far. Potassium has come up a lot, and quinine, but they didn't have any effect. My wife suggested the possibility that at least part of the problem could come from not being adequately hydrated.

I was very open to this interpretation. And, though I am a big believer that drinking a great deal of water can cure or mitigate a wide range of ills, from digestive problems to headaches, I sometimes struggle to keep up a commitment to drink more.

-Pardon me. I'll just, uh, return in a moment-

Anyway, with the added incentive of trying to alleviate my cramps I resolved to drink as close to a gallon of water as I could per day.

It's going great! 

I am managing to drink somewhere between three and four quarts of water a day, and I feel much better. My head even seems more clear. My digestion, also helped by a steadier and more nutritious diet, is going especially smoothly, and, though I still get cramps, they seem a little less frequent and notably less severe.

There's only one, small drawback.

Why don't you see if you can work out what it might be. 

Meanwhile I'll, er, just excuse myself for a minute here...

Tuesday, May 14, 2019


I rolled out of bed, got dressed, and sat down to breakfast with my wife. I have toast for breakfast. The toast was swimming in butter. My wife and I were talking. It was great. I thought "This. This is what I would like to do all day! Sit here with my wife talking and having toast."  

But my wife had to leave. 

She left. 

I was sad.

I opened up my laptop. I had recently started a new game on it. I know this won't mean much to you, but I am on a computer game roll. Though I anticipate, shop for, and buy video games all the time, finding ones I actually like playing are few and far between. But then I found a lovely game called Eastshade where you play as a painter, and I unusually played it all the way through. After I finished it I bought a long shot of a game called Rakuen and it is, to my surprise and delight, totally charming so far. 

So I was playing Rakuen. I didn't have much time to play, but the game is about a boy who is in a hospital that is undergoing a mysterious crisis, and there is a maybe magical book that his mother...

And then I had to leave for work. So I put on my shoes while I was thinking "I sure would like to loll about all day playing computer games! That would be a great day."

But it was not in the cards either.

I went out into the bright Spring day. I walked across the river. People were on the bridge taking pictures of everything because it's all so pretty. On the far side of the river I got myself a city bike. I pedaled it slowly up the river towards work. I took my time. I looked all around me and breathed in the smell of new flowers. I thought "I would like to spend the whole day just riding my bike all over the city."

It was a good idea. But not feasible. I had to go to work.

I went to work. I sat down. My head was full of all the blog posts I was thinking of all morning. I started writing as quickly as I could. "Wow." I thought "Wouldn't it be great if I could just sit here all day writing?"

It would be great.

But I had to work. I have a job. At a library.

So I started working. And I thought "This is kind of nice, working at the library, helping process things, helping people, taking care of supplies. I wish I could just do this all day long!"

Unfortunately I was just kidding about that last one

Now if you'll excuse me I have to go shelve 300 books and see if I can find someone's flash drive.


Monday, May 13, 2019


On an exquisite Spring Sunday morning, with the fluffy clouds full but dancing around the cheerful sun and sharing space harmoniously with the clear blue sky, I gazed out upon a bright green golf course, almost entirely recovered now from a wild Winter. No one was playing golf. However, crowded into a little area a hole over from me, all the golfers were assiduously practicing on the driving range.

"Hey," I wanted to yell, "The course is wide open. Why don't a couple of you try playing."

But they were too far away. Which is probably for the best.

So I looked to that brilliant sky. A couple Turkey Vultures rode the thermals in great, slow circles. They tottered unevenly in the air, just sort of practicing their flying, testing it all out. When they feel like they're good enough then they'll fly for real. It'll really be something to see. Just you wait.

So, all right, if that's the way it's going to be, I can play along. This isn't my real blog post for the day. I just thought I'd work on my sentences for a change, maybe practice some adverbs like 'harmoniously' and 'unevenly'. This is the kind of committed groundwork that will make it so that when, tomorrow, I write a real blog post it will be... 

about the same as it ever is.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Revenge of the quotes from someone, inscribed in fake stone

I read. I read everything and anything. I read signs, labels, found scraps of paper, anything I can get to in any book in a couple spare minutes, everything ever scrawled on the Internet, good novels, bad novels, and the things I wrote myself, which, frankly,  I read over and over and over. It is not a mark of particular distinction.  It's a condition.

Today my wife and I were in a garden store. They had some small pillars made of fake stone with quotes on them, unattributed quotes, the worst kind. Who wrote these? Why? Did they have a job doing it? Did they collect pseudo-wise quotes in a little book like the one I keep in my pocket, and then decided to make a business out of their collected oeuvre? Did they have a job in a dreary office somewhere, nine to five, coming up with quotes that higher ups then assigned to be placed on urns, craft store framed aged wood, t-shirts, aprons, and yes, fake stone pillars for garden stores? Did this person think they were a good writer? A great writer? Pithy?

Because I read (see above), I meticulously went through and read every single one of the different sayings on the fake stone garden pillars. When I came to this one I wrote it down in the little book I carry with me at all times. It was all in caps:


Saturday, May 11, 2019

Turkey Vultures in repose

I recently promised in this space 600 blog posts about Turkey Vultures. Many of my readers were tremendously excited. Grape, a very old and dear friend sometimes mentioned in this blog, even wrote a comment in favor of Turkey Vulture writing! I haven't heard from Grape in months (though fairly speaking he hasn't heard from me either), so to hear from him on the subject of Turkey Vultures must mean he is especially enthusiastic about them! And he could be merely the tip of the iceberg Turkey Vulture-interest-wise.

So this morning I resolved to write about Turkey Vultures!

But great nature writers like myself and Edward Abbey and Mark Twain and Emily Dickinson and myself and Farley Mowat and John Muir and, wait, did I mention myself? well, we need to see nature in action in order to write our fascinating natural world material. So I had to go out to walk along the river to collect Turkey Vulture insights, anecdotes, and raw materials. My keen, tireless, and fearless observations of the Natural World would fuel an engaging bring-it-to-life prose that would briefly stem the relentless hunger out there for more and more and yet ever more lucid descriptions of soaring, red-headed Turkey Vultures, and finally I could take a break from writing about them, which I have now done in, let's see, roughly zero blog posts.

But the problem was that it was cold and rainy this morning. And, what with it being a rare day off from work for me, I refused to get dressed. I looked out the window instead. And there were clouds. There were things falling from trees. There were some ducks. I saw a hawk flying low over an unused golf course. But there were no Turkey Vultures. 

They stayed home too! 

They're probably there right now, in their little jammies.

Though for scientific purposes I should note this last part is just speculation.

Friday, May 10, 2019

The waning days of the job title: Clerk Typist 3

At my library we are currently feverishly caught up in a broad and bureaucratic process in which everyone has to fill out elaborate forms saying what their job responsibilities actually are. The point of it all is allegedly to determine whether all the job titles and descriptions throughout the County are accurate, whether compensation is appropriate to job classifications, and, er, I guess that's about it. A huge out-of-County consulting firm has been hired at great expense to conduct this review. Teams of high level County Managers are overseeing the project. 

Down in the library trenches this is getting us library clerks stirred up. The problem for us is that we are vestigial. Once upon a time we were a distinct library job. We alone were the front desk of the library, handling all the customer service interactions of registration, fines, problems, check out, check in, etc. There were Pages, but they all worked mostly behind the scenes doing processing, shelving, and bookrunning. And there were Shelvers, but they strictly shelved. There were also, of course, Librarians, and they did every single scrap of reference work. It was all very orderly, but not terribly flexible. Then, about eight years ago, intentionally and unintentionally, and coinciding with a new and larger library building, everything was fractured into pieces and sort of just mashed together. The Shelver position was basically eliminated. And the work of Pages and Clerks was integrated and broadened. Even varying chunks of Reference work, Building Management, and Supervision drifted over to circulation in all of this too. 

After that sea change fewer and fewer Clerks were hired, until now only a small group of us huddles together fretting about our job classification. Pages are the main population of our Circulation Department. I was working with a Page at the front desk last night and she said "I wonder what will happen since The Pages and The Clerks do the same job."

I felt a brief flash of piercing hatred for her.

Then it passed.

We don't do the same job!

We so don't do the same job!!!!

Well, and we do.

Let's say with her, individually, I do 75% the same job. With another Page it might be 50% or 80%. And then too let's point out that at any particular individual time I might be doing the exact same work as The Circulation Supervisor, a Librarian, a Library Associate, a Custodial Worker, a Volunteer, The Building Maintenance Man, The Automation Staff, or The Branch Manager. I might even be doing the same work as a Library Patron, which, of course, isn't work at all, but still constitutes a fair chunk of what I do at my job if I can manage it. Some of almost all of these matchups might be true for some pages and some clerks, and sometimes none of them are. 

And so after all of this you may ask: "What's your point?"


I'm not sure. It's complicated. Much too complicated for me to say. Which is why I've hired a large, international consulting firm to figure it out for you.

Look for their results in a year or so.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Turkey Vultures

This Spring has been full of Turkey Vultures. Storms of them totter in the volatile Mississippi River air. Single ones circle the bright sky pretending they are serious and looking for a meal.

They're not.

They just like flying.

You laugh, but, oh, wouldn't you, fly?

In the morning I sit down and write my blog posts about libraries or Republicans or Picasso or butter or soccer or love, and I look up into the sky to calibrate my heart, and I see Turkey Vultures.

So eventually I thought I should probably write some blog posts about Turkey Vultures. 

Once that big decision was made I considered the matter; there are an awful lot of things to say about Turkey Vultures! There are too many things to say about Turkey Vultures. And no one has said them.

So I revised up. I will write 600 blog posts about Turkey Vultures.

This is the first one.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

The betting pool

Much like with Olympic Curling and The Men's World Cup, I have decided that my library needs a betting pool for The Women's World Cup.

So I have become, once again, a bookie.

My job, as self-assigned, is to develop a scheme for this pool. It is to inform people how it works and to solicit sign-ups to fill all the slots (there are 24 teams). It is to collect everyone's money. It is to make and distribute the (sometimes fancy and decorative) materials for the (random) assignments of the teams. It is to keep track of who has what team. And it is to dispense all the winning prizes at the end.

It is a lot of work!

It might be too much work!

I learn a ton of stuff from this process, although, judging from this being the third pool I have run in a year and a half, I'm pretty sure over the course of a few months I forget everything I learned. I believe this is the only explanation for all the new pools I come up with.

Which is a pretty good reason for writing down everything I have learned here:

What I have learned from running the workplace betting pools

1. "Can I think about it?" means "No."

2. If I humorously say to someone who asked if they can think about it, imprudently, that I have learned that "Can I think about it?" means "No", and they say that's not true of them because they are a unique individual so don't be so sure, they still mean "No."

3. If they act real interested and ask a lot of questions about it, but don't say "Sign me up", it means "No."

4. "I will get back to you." means "Let us never speak of this again." I, however, will get back to them seven times though because I have A LOT OF SLOTS TO FILL!

5. While I tell them they don't have to take part in this pool and that they should feel comfortable not taking part in it, it doesn't mean I won't be personally devastated when they do say no.

I will be.

6.  I never win the pool, but the whole thing being over is its own kind of victory.

7. The fact that running a company pool is sort of kind of fun does not preclude my waking bolt upright at four in the morning thinking "Where on Earth will I find the last six people to take part in this?!"

8. If someone said "No" to the previous pool they will never, ever say yes to this one.

9. Because someone was an enthusiastic participant in the last pool does not mean they won't recuse themselves this time for mysterious reasons.

10. When they do recuse themselves they will do it by asking if they can think about it.

11. I can promise you that even though dozens of people are now involved in this pool in one way or another I am the ONLY person on earth thinking about it.

12.  I mean, except for you. I'm sorry I had to drag you into it. But, now that I have, I still have three teams available if you're interested. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

There is always low hanging fruit

I have been joking with, lampooning to, and being lightly nonsensical for the edification of library patrons for nearly 25 years now at the front desk. So when someone came to me over by the cash register, handed me a one dollar bill saying "Break this?", and I took the bill, hurled it as hard as I could at the counter, and said "Hmm, wouldn't break. Would change work?" I was surprised.

I was not surprised at his moderately amused chuckle.

I was not surprised at my flimsy pun silliness.

I was surprised, nay, almost shocked, that I had never, in all the many years and opportunities, employed such a ridiculously obvious gag before.

Give it a few years and I may even try it again.

Monday, May 6, 2019


You could make a reasonable case that I am being paranoid. Maybe I am, maybe I am not, but it all is, at least, based on evidence. And, since one of the main themes of this blog is that I'm not crazy, everyone else is, we will herewith proceed from the "not paranoid, merely cleverly perceptive" thesis.

Over the past couple of weeks I have been working with some co-workers who, sadly, have been struggling with their health. By coincidence I have been often assigned to work with some of these people at the end of the day at the front desk of my library. When they leave early with their infirmities aggravated by the workday demands, one of my managers has to go and assign someone to take the place of my now ill work partner. This is done on an hourly basis, and for any given hour there may be as few as two possible replacements or as many as five. But each time my manager is definitely making a choice.

Every time, in seven or eight hours of this, my manager has unfailingly chosen the person I would least like to work with. Yes, whether it is the worst of two, or it is the worst of five, seven times out of seven it is, tellingly, the worst possible choice.

I'm just saying they're out to get me.

But oh, manager, the joke is on you! I can get along happily and harmoniously with everyone

Even you.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Genre leakage

Dear Staff,

As you know our library has always striven to maintain genre integrity to the best of our ability. This has not always been 100 percent effective. Not only has classic literature erupted into whole genres on their own (See Pride and Prejudice/Romance), leaving books unwholesomely on either side of the genre line, but successful genre literature regularly backwashes out of genre into literature (See 1984, Gone With the Wind, Nicholas Sparks, Handmaid's Tale, etc.). Nevertheless the barriers of genre have largely held steady.

Until now.

We have sprung a major leak from Science Fiction/Fantasy into the Romance genre. So far this leak is mainly one way, with the seepage running out of Science Fiction/Fantasy into Romance. While we are fortunate that there isn't a rash of "love among the aliens" running rampant, the problem the other way has nevertheless become severe. The Romance Genre, once reliably filled with women in 19th Century dresses, Viscounts, and weightlifting Highlanders with poorly fastened shirts, has now been completely overrun by werewolves, badass vampire hunters, half-pixies, and even, recently, a few space travelers!

How do you think a strapping Highlander who is a Duke is supposed to feel about all that?

Our initial suspicion is that with the Science Fiction/Fantasy backing onto the Romance in our order of shelving for so long, the barriers between the sections have worn thin in places and sprung leaks. Some of this is surely a matter of natural wear, but it is not helped by over-vigorous shelving. That is why we are asking everyone to take more gentle care in shelving. We understand that doing so may slow down the rate of shelving a little bit. But we feel hopeful that this sacrifice will be worth it if it can stem the tide of Starship Captains into our Romance Novels.

But we will not merely be relying upon more delicate shelving to correct this serious problem. This week we will, as an emergency measure, be moving the Mystery Genre in between the Romance and Science Fiction/Fantasy genres. While we feel that this will increase the number of prospective lovers solving crimes together, and will induce more murder mysteries on alien planets, it will give our major breach time to self repair, helping the genres to even out and settle into place.

Whatever happens we want to assure you that we will not let the genres blur into one giant glop of crossbred fiction wherein werewolf cowboy space captains fall madly in love with girls next door who are solving complicated murders in a way that reflects upon the current state of the culture and the history of the novel. If we have to separate all these different fiction structures into their own air sealed rooms we will, but as it stands now these are the first steps we'll be taking.

Good luck to everyone on this project and thank you for all you do!

The Library Director

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Amateur golf season

Golf season has started up again here. And because I have a regular view on amateur golfers I find myself idly watching them on occasion. In fact, I have become pretty familiar with their behaviors. I use them to advance my study of human nature. Golf is good for that. And I have come across one interesting quality these amateur golfers widely share that differs strikingly from professional golfers.

I mean, besides how good they are.

It is this: most amateur golfers, when they miss their putt, which they do roughly 95 percent of the time, act as if the one to seven foot putt remaining to them (if they've managed that) is somehow so easy as to be beneath their dignity. They mainly just pick the ball up and take the last shot as a gimme. The odd thing is that if it's less than a foot they usually tap it in. I read this as: if they can reliably hit the ball in they do, but if they can't, but feel like they should be able to, they pretend that they are that good, too good to be tested, functionally as good as the professional golfers, who, curiously enough, almost always can make those short putts, but nevertheless go to the trouble of playing by the rules and doing so.

On the plus side I feel that assuming the short putt shaves five to ten strokes off of all these amateur golfer's scores.

On the minus side I feel it contributes to making all these amateur golfers remain surprisingly bad at putting.

Also, it's cheating.

I'm watching.


Friday, May 3, 2019

The County

The governmental institution that rules over my library system has grown ever stronger and more malignant over the past decade.

However, I'm not sure they would see it that way. They might say "Could we use maybe a less strong word than malignant?"

"Like what?" I might ask.

"How about," they would answer "Empowering assets to better serve the diverse community in a way that equally respects and enables our service patrons and our dedicated providers?"

To which I would reply "Not on my blog. It's all I have."

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Library cards

I work at a library. I like the library patrons nearly all the time. But there are, nevertheless, a few... hundred... thousand... common behaviors at the front desk I don't like. And high on that list is the one in which a patron approaches, hands me something to check out, and nothing else.

I'm supposed to just know who they are? Magically? Without a library card!!!????

The truth is there are several hundred library patrons I know so well that it would be okay if they just popped up at my desk and I checked them out based on knowing their name. However, not a single one of these people would have the temerity to presume upon that relationship. Some of these people that I know by name are weird, and broken, and unhinged. Some of them are mentally disabled, obsessive, presumptuous, time consuming, and ill-mannered. But they at least understand that a library card is an essential part of the process.

So who then are these people who think they can just hand me some books and somehow I'll just check them out?

I don't know. They didn't give me a card.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Back on the bike

Biking season has returned to The Twin Cities. Not that it exactly left. There are bikes with big fat tires nowadays, and there are people who refuse to let the world say "no" to their bikes. But I rely upon the city bikeshare program. And it has a season. And that season corresponds roughly to:

Is there snow?

Do you think it's about to snow?

Is it weird that there's no snow?

If you answered "No" to all these questions then it's bike season!

Bike season, yay! I can leave our apartment later than usual for work! Or, more accurately, so far this Spring, I can leave the same time I always do and yet not be terribly late for once.

Instead of run-walking to work I say to myself "I'll just grab a bike!"

I grab a bike.

I haven't been on a bike for almost six months!

Minute one:  This is so fast and fun and easy and joyful!

Minute two:  Oh my god my thigh muscles hurt so much!

Minute three: Will this ever be over?

For myself the big adjustment comes when I am pedaling along as fast as I can. My back hurts. I can't take a deep breath. My hands burn with the cold. I feel nauseous. And I think:

I can go really slow if I want.

And I go really slow. I pedal gently. I catch my breath. I observe my surroundings. Did you know that the Magnolias are blooming?

Well sure, I know that now.

And I think:

Even still, I am going far faster than when I walk.

Well, a little faster.

And though I am going way, way, way slower than when I drive,

I am not murdering the planet. 

Which gives one a warm feeling. Which is useful when biking around here in the Spring.

Because it is 41 degrees out! 

And raining.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019


I have authored a new word. Use it as often as you like: 


It is the best new word of the Century. When the august journals print their lists of the best new words of 2019 this will surely top all the lists.


Perhaps you are wondering how I thought of it?

I have long held the concept of the word in my mind, but I did not have the word for it. At the library I work at, for decades I have tussled with the patrons over small fines, policies, and varied understandings of just what happened to a book. And I noticed a phenomenon: People were sometimes confused, or mistaken, or even deluded, but somehow almost invariably in their own favor. If they got a date wrong, or mistook a policy, or weren't clear on what someone told them, the mistake they made did not favor them 50 percent of the time, as the law of averages would dictate. It favored them 99.99 percent of the time, suggesting other forces at work.

I started referring to this as "people being deluded in their own favor". Then I woke up one morning, this one actually, and decided this idea needed a proper word.

I chose "Condeluded".

It means to be mistaken, or make a mistake, suspiciously in one's own favor. Like someone bad at math who consistently gives you the wrong change, but always too little and never too much.


It's best synonym would be: 


Oh, you'd like to see it used in a sentence? I have written one just for you!

Not least because he is the author of said word, Feldenstein Calypso's belief that "condeluded" is the most important new word of this century is condeluded.

Monday, April 29, 2019

My cat blog

I saw a cat today.

Wait, let's start over:

Like you I don't know any celebrities. Celebrities are so manifold that I can probably name as many of them as I can name actual people that I know or have met. And yet they are so rare that I can statistically say that there aren't any and for most practical purposes be correct. Let me demonstrate:

I poked around on the Internet and was willing to take one sketchy estimation of one in 10,000 people being famous as at least vaguely based on something. But it also seemed overstated, including, as it seemed to do, everyone who is famous to someone. The number of people who consider someone famous is an utterly essential deciding factor in determining how many famous people there are. How many people have to know of someone for that person to be a celebrity? I prefer the definition of a celebrity as someone who in name or image, and with just a little context provided, would be known to at least a third of any random group, and at least a couple of people in that group would get kind of voluble and excited about just the idea of that person and their fame.  In all my years working at a library I have surely seen a couple hundred thousand people. Of those, according to my definition, real celebrities I have seen would number...


So let's go with that statistic then: Zero out of 100,000 people are famous.

This makes it hard to talk about what it's like to run into famous people. But nevertheless for myself I have an idea of exactly what it must be like. 

It must be just like when I meet cats on the street.

1. I become very aware of them.

2. I am excited to catch a glimpse of them.

3. I get a little giddy.

4. While desperately wanting to be noticed by them and have an interaction, I also want to remain calm and cool so they'll think well of me.

5. If they like, approach, interact with, or talk to me, I feel inordinately proud, like I've accomplished something, or I'm special.

And when it's all over I can't wait to come on to my cat blog and tell you all about it.