Sunday, March 31, 2019

The best

In my excitement I can get a little caught up in the best. This afternoon I got to watch Messi play yet again and it's hard not to get consumed in the grandness of someone who plays at a level far beyond anyone else so regularly. His bestness is broad: The best player this year, the best player in the world, the best player of all time. It is a treat to see. 

But his was not the only best. The best was everywhere. 

How many of the 25 players I saw on that field were the best player ever from their town, or their high school, or their neighborhood? Half of them? The best Chilean soccer player currently playing was there, subbed in after an hour of play. And all that's just a tiny start. How many people in the stands were watching the best game of soccer they'll ever see in person? Surely someone was having the best day of their week, many people. At some point in the day in Barcelona the best cloud in the sky passed over head. I can see the best cloud that's in St. Paul right now. The best river. I can happily see the best person I have ever met.

This morning my wife and I went to the Mia, which is the best museum in Minnesota, and, among the hundreds of rooms, we were in a small one full of drawings. There was a beautiful drawing by Tiepolo, who I love, and who is the best Venetian muralist ever. Then, moving along, I saw a loose and lovely drawing of a couple of hounds pulling down a stag. I had never even heard of this artist, famous enough to be collected in a museum, but surely unknown to most people: Johann Elias Ridinger. The drawing was from 1755. In 1755, the card said, he was the best animal illustrator in all of Germany.

So how about this math: Say there are roughly  200 countries in the world. So does every one of them have a best animal illustrator? There are then 200 best animal illustrators internationally. But let's say that changes every 20 years. Let's then go back 500 years. There have been 5,000 internationally best animal illustrators. What about still life artists? How about drawers of houses? Dentists? Cheesemakers? Natty dressers? Singers? Whistlers? Bakers? Cobblers? Mathematicians? Conversationalists? Dreamers? Hole diggers? Puppies? Dishwashers? Library clerks? Bloggers.

Which, whether I wanted it to or I didn't, and I didn't really want it to, brings me round to the unavoidable fact that...

It's all a little bit silly.

And that concludes, for good or ill, the best blog post that I have written today.

Saturday, March 30, 2019


It is a common misconception that the computers at libraries are popular because a surprising number of people don't have Internet access readily available in their lives. Maybe this was true back in the Alta Vista glory days. Maybe it is still true somewhat. But as screens proliferate in our lives, as they make their final march towards taking us over for good, I increasingly find at the library people don't seek out our Internet computers because they have no screen of their own. It is not uncommon for me to see people at my library sitting at the Internet computers looking at their phones, sometimes in front of a small laptop that is propped up in front of the library's greasy Internet screen. They don't need an Internet computer, they need a third screen! There's just so much to search!

And if you think I am exaggerating the whole thing might I point out that to the left of my screen right now is another glowing screen that's, oh, that's just the reflection in the window of my home.

How about this? I actually know what you're doing right now! It involves a screen.

You could, you know, read these essays in a book instead!

I mean, if I could figure out how to make one.

Friday, March 29, 2019

The voice of God is too mighty to hear

As I journey through life there are things I want to say. I have many important ideas that would improve the world if only God would come back from his vacation in Barbados.

God came back from his vacation in Barbados?


Has he been in his office this whole time? 

I didn't even notice.

*knock knock*

"Can I talk to you for a bit about hierarchical systems?"

"Uh, well, yes, sure. I'd love to see your pictures."


"So, if you can't find them on your phone, um, I could..."


"Is that the the hotel behind you? 

"Right on the beach you say? Oh, is that a glint of water I can see there?"

"I sure hope you bought that hat!"

"42 dollars! No, that's ridiculous!"

"Well look at you!"

"Ha ha ha."

"Are there any pictures that aren't just closeups of you?"

"No, that is a lot of money for a selfie stick."

"Why is this one so dark?"

"I had no idea there were caves in Barbados!"

"You can really see how you're getting sun as these go on!"


"Those were very... nice."

"You brought me something? You really didn't have to."

"It's... free will."

"Um, thanks. I'll put it with all my others."

Thursday, March 28, 2019

The terrible sound

Being a blog made exclusively out of words it can be a challenge when I want to tell you about something fundamentally visual, or a taste, or a sound. But words, by design and fate, are all I've got.

Today I am going to tell you about a terrible sound. It is one of my least favorite sounds in the world. 

But how do I express it?

The following is a sound I dislike intensely, though it is not the terrible sound that is the main subject of today's essay. I am, as you know, no general fan of dogs even though I can be enthusiastic on a unique case by case basis, and one of the features of dogs that displeases me most is their barking. It is sharp, and loud, and there is something hostile in it. Surely you know the sound of a dog barking, though of course it can vary widely among dogs. Shall I try a few?

yip yip yip,    yip yip yip,     yip yip yip.


Bak Bak.  Bak Bak. Bak Bak.

urf urf urf, urf urf urf. (30 seconds pause). urf urf urf, urf urf urf. 


Well, you get the idea, no matter how clumsy mere writing is to express it. Any of these barks can be seriously annoying. Though some, at a distance, can be hardly annoying at all. In the night, near your window, they can drive you to the brink of madness. For dog lovers any of these might even register a range of positive feelings. But I find any of the above mentioned barking, greeting or warning, most unpleasant.

But at their worst these barks can never be as bad as the terrible noise. However, they are all closely linked to it. The terrible noise always follows on from these barking noises above, and though it ranges across the same kind of variety as different barks do, it is always more terrible than the bark itself.

And so, though I know I can do it no real justice, let me try with just one sample, one I heard on my walk this very morning. It goes something like this:

Fifi! Stop barking. Fifi! Don't worry, she's just friendly. Fifi! QUIET! Fifi, stop it. sorry. FIFI! Fifi! Right now, stop it! Fifi. Quiet! Fifi, quiet! Fifi, stop! Fifi!

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Sumultaneous submission

Dear Publisher:

Right off the bat I want to acknowledge that this manuscript submission is a simultaneous submission. I am concurrently shopping it around to 427 other publishers. Who knew there were 428 publishers!

Oh, right, you did. So, well done.

And I know you might not accept simultaneous submissions. But I think you will find that this manuscript is a special case. It is, as we say in the business "Hot stuff".

Oh, we don't say "Hot stuff" in the business? You would know.

Sadly, I wouldn't.

But the important thing here is that whatever relationship we form here, we begin on the basis of honesty.

So yes there are a lot of different publishers out there, along with you, competing in a bidding war over my manuscript. Indeed there are now 428 publishers competing in a wild publishing auction over my manuscript! It's kind of exciting!

That might sound a little intimidating for you. But there is some good news for you as I see it:

If you want to publish my book that will probably be enough to win.


F. Calypso

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Department of Transportation hate mail

Dear Department of Transportation Employee:

It was while I was waiting at a busy crosswalk for the sign there to turn to "Walk" that I first thought of writing this letter to you. I had been waiting for what seemed like an unnaturally long time when two of my fellow pedestrians decided to go for it against the signs. Since my line of sight on the road wasn't perfect, and since surely the light would be changing any second, I opted to wait it out for the legal crossing.

Big mistake.

The jaywalkers made it safely across and I and a few others waited there for another 47 minutes. Then the light changed, we crossed, and I thought "I hate you."

First of all let me say that I don't know you, and so surely don't hate you personally. 

I hate you professionally.

I hate you as you do your job. Terribly. I hate you as you systematically suck up to cars as they destroy the planet, because that's just the way you do it out there in traffic control.

But I know how it is. I know how institutional, hierarchical systems are. I know how it is to be hated for some aspect of my job that I have no power over. That is why I don't hate you. I hate your boss. Your boss is horrible, truly negligent and without vision at his or her job. And this letter is for your boss. Not you. You only have it by mistake. So breathe easy. This letter is supposed to go to your boss, who I hate.

And if you have received this letter from an underling, but you have a boss, I only hate you a little. Please pass it along to your boss, who this letter is for and who I hate.

And if you have no further boss to pass this letter up to, well, you make too much money to let a little thing like this worry you. Good luck with the melting of the polar ice caps and the end of everything you once knew and loved.


Feldenstein Calypso, pedestrian

Monday, March 25, 2019


While I have long understood that no season makes me happier than the height of Autumn, it is only this week, while walking around in a melting city, with our River in dangerous flood, that I suddenly understood that my second favorite season is early Spring. Winter's powerful grip breaks seemingly all at once and it's fearsome body that once seemed indestructible, crumples and bleeds. But it bleeds water.

There is water everywhere! It was all just water all along! What astonishing trick was this? 

I love water. I look to the clouds and I cry delightedly "Who are you people?"

And this water runs. Streams form at random anywhere and everywhere. Sidewalks can be creeks. Springs form at the side of the road, on the lawns, under your feet as you baffle. You can launch a paper boat to the sea from your doorway. Hope conquers the city. Something awakes.

What is it? What awakes!

Everyone knows that the dead cannot cross moving water.

It must then, be life.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Politics in America

A Peter Lorre-like character I sometimes talk to at the library I work at said something about how he was pleased with something his favorite President did.

Favorite President? "Abraham Lincoln?" I asked.

"Not anymore." He replied.

Uh oh.

The name Donald Trump came up. "You mean that ironically don't you?" I asked.

He didn't.

"Look into your heart." I suggested.

He didn't. 

He wanted to tell me about how he studied political science and knew a lot about presidents.

So we moved on. I sort of insisted.

Then he told me about how a map we have up in our lobby was wrong. It said a main street West of here is West of here.

"It is West of here." I said.

"No it isn't." He said. "I live just in front of that street. I should know."

So I went to look at the map with him. The map was correct. I tried to show him how if you go right out here you cross this street and then come to that street. He was having none of it. I was tempted to walk him out onto the streets and show him, but I held back. It seemed like it wouldn't work.

"I have a degree in geography." He said, frustrated. I gently extricated myself from the interaction. He stayed behind. 

For the next 45 minutes I saw him out there occasionally getting strangers to look at the map with him.

"That is to the West." I could often overhear these people gently say to him, then shaking their heads sadly, and walking away.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

The musical name

A reader writes in to say "I don't know if this is okay, but I have an idea for a blog post." Except he didn't write in. He walked over to me where I was working on the phones at the library. He's a volunteer here I'm friends with. I just said that he wrote in to make it sound like strangers are out there reading my blog.

They aren't. 

They tried and they didn't like it.

Or they liked it a lot, but God stopped them because, well, you know God.

You don't know God?

I'm pretty sure I've got some literature around here somewhere. But can we talk about all this later, maybe?

So anyway I said to this person "It never really works out with other people's ideas, but if you're up for a crushing disappointment, go ahead and tell me yours."

Unfazed, he said "You know how there's all that snow on the library roof and there's so much of it that it covers over the clerestory windows up there?"


"You should do a blog post about that."

I didn't really understand what kind of blog post I could write about that and told him so. But hating to disappoint anyone who has taken even the tiniest modicums of interest in clerkmanifesto I quickly delved for anything I might be able to use in this prospective post. So I asked "Can I use your name in the post?"

"Sure." He replied happily and slightly surprised.

Richard Tomassoni.

Richard Tomassoni. Richard Tomassoni. Richard Tomassoni. Richard Tomassoni. Richard Tomassoni. Richard Tomassoni. Richard Tomassoni. Richard Tomassoni. Richard Tomassoni. Richard Tomassoni. Richard Tomassoni. Richard Tomassoni. Richard Tomassoni. Richard Tomassoni. Richard Tomassoni. Richard Tomassoni.

He's a good guy. And, if you liked it, he's largely responsible for this blog post! 

If you didn't enjoy it, it's all my fault.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Working with the worst of us

I have been working with the very worst one of all my co-workers for at least ten years now. So I've had a good deal of practice in not getting too put out by this person. With a lot of effort and emotional development over the years I am now at the point where sometimes I almost find it funny, but generally don't. That's pretty good, isn't it?

I am still occasionally astonished. I am regularly horrified. But it is all now mostly in a calm, detached way, like when you hover above your temporarily dead body at the scene of a catastrophic car accident. "From a distance there is harmony". I concentrate on my coping mechanisms. I try to roll with it. It's okay. I don't really work closely with this person all that often, an hour or two together at the front desk of the library per week. I stay darkly entertained, like when you're playing a card game or a board game and your luck turns so comically bad that there is a fascination in its predictability: "Only a 12 will land me in jail now and so I know I will roll a 12. And it's a... 12. Ha!"

Remember that. We'll be coming back to it.

Sometimes I like to count patrons. How many do I help compared to how many this hapless co-worker helps? Historically it runs at a one to five ratio, but this afternoon I really applied myself and got it to one to seven! I could take some satisfaction in that! I thought to myself "Wait til I tell my blog!" So this is pretty much the joy I labored for all those hours ago. It's every bit as wonderful as I dreamed it might be.

At one point I was helping ten people while someone asked this co-worker where an event was that we had at our library every day at that time. My co-worker looked at the woman like maybe she was crazy. She had no idea what she was talking about. She asked for clarification on this strange request. She asked several more times. Ever endeavoring to be helpful, she consulted a pencil cup, some video games, and the ceiling light fixtures for answers. She shuffled through a stack of informational papers looking for help, not noticing that several of those papers told her exactly what she needed to know. I quickly wrapped it up with my tenth patron and started to tell my co-worker's patron where she needed to go. The patron came over to me with palpable relief, listened to my explanation, and went where she was directed. My co-worker was somehow still helping this patron who had now left though, bustling about with an earnest, busy look on her face. So I had to help the next patron too. 

 I was glad to do it. 

12. Ha!

Thursday, March 21, 2019

The new me

In the interest of my health and even more so as a good faith effort in trying to snore less, I adopted a series of new eating habits. Basically I have a piece of whole grain rye toast with butter in the morning, along with coffee and milk. Lunch is some sort of as much as I like grain, meat, vegetable, cheese thing. Dinner is usually a bit of fish with a little grain and vegetable. I also have a second coffee and fruit as I want it- so far that is an expensive blueberry habit. Sometimes, if I can manage it, I can have wine or a cocktail as well. There are also these rules:

1. No alcohol after the earliesh evening.

2. No sweeteners or sugar of any kind.

3. No snacks ever other than fruit.

I have been doing this for over a month now and it's going pretty well. I feel pretty good. I might snore less though it can be hard to tell what with my being asleep when it happens. Alas that today, though, after more than a dedicated month of it, I realized that absolutely no one has said to me:

"You look really healthy!" or

"You're looking well!" or even

"Have you lost weight?"

And though, like with this blog, I manage to get by mostly on the steam of my own satisfaction, it is nevertheless slightly disconcerting that what people do say to me is:

"You look like you're thinking about food."

How do they know?

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

I am funny

One of the items we circulate in the children's room of my library are storybags. These are big zippered bags with a couple of picture books and a toy or a puppet or stuffed animal. These can't be returned on our big automatic check in machine, and so I had one handed in to me at the front desk. I checked it in and brought it to the back room to put on a shelving cart. For the momentous nonsense of it I announced to the back room person that I had a storybag. She, being well acquainted with all things children's room, asked "Which one is it?"

"Oceans." I replied.

"Oh, what's the toy in that one?"

"A stuffed George Clooney." I said.

"That's funny." She said.

It's really an octopus.

Later I was registering a couple who moved into the area for two new cards. One of them was in the system with an old late charge from a book returned more than a decade ago. Before waiving what was functionally an expired late fine I asked if they'd like me to find a copy of the book so they could read it again.

"You're funny." One of them said. 

There are, I have noticed, two kinds of funny; one where people tell you you're funny, and one where they laugh.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Messi for beginners

Over the weekend the greatest soccer player who ever lived played an exceptional game. Lionel Messi scored three goals. This is called, of course, a hat-trick, and while it's an impressive feat by any standard, it is not necessarily a particularly legendary feat. That part is all in how one does it.

Messi was playing with his team, Barcelona, in their opponents' stadium, with 54,000 people on hand cheering on their team Real Betis, and rooting against Barcelona. His first goal was from a free kick, a beautiful blast into an upper left corner of the net. It was a pure and lovely shot, making the perfectly sensible looking defensive set up appear to be 30 yards wide of where they all needed to be. But it was probably not a shot of quality beyond the capabilities of other good players having a great day.

His second goal was from an extraordinary backheeled pass to him from his teammate Luis Suarez, who was dazzlingly going the other way. With no time to collect the pass, or even really kick it, Messi sort of stabbed the ball with his reaching left foot, spearing it at an oblique angle into the net like a doomed fish. I'm not actually sure how many people make that goal, maybe some of the best, on a very, very good day?

But the third goal was different, and it's hard to explain. I was so excited about it I showed it to some non soccer fans and it didn't quite play right. It was like if I showed someone who had never seen golf a professional golfer clubbing a 350 yard drive down a fairway, perfectly straight and pure, touching down and rolling into the hole for a hole-in-one. "How's that!?" I ask, grinning.

"That was nice." They reply. "But isn't that sort of what they're supposed to do?"

Well, yeah, I guess so.

Messi gets the ball above the box. He dribbles out of reach of a couple players and pops it out quickly to a teammate, Rakitic, on the near wing. That person proceeds to drift a rolling ball back in from the side to Messi.

Messi does not have a shot.

So he shoots, at first touch, chipping the ball in a perfectly designed arc, looping just quickly and high enough to escape the leaping goalie, and just soft and spinning enough to drop down, dipping into the top goal bar to make use of every inch of height and bouncing into the goal. Hat-trick.

Isn't that just what you're supposed to do?

Well... yes.

But for those of us who have seen a few thousand goals this one is not familiar. We haven't quite seen one like this before. They don't normally work this way. Across soccerdom everyone spits out their tea. They laugh, delighted, or like "What the fuck." The most loquacious of the announcers can't find any new words for a bit. "Human art." One finally settles on. The reserved, take-no-sides English announcers just give it up. "Well, he's the greatest ever to play the game." They confess, no longer able to resist. The goalie rolls his eyes, defeated, but not feeling too bad about it. No one on earth will be holding him responsible. Some of the players put their heads in their hands. It's a "holy crap" moment for all involved, and something a little more. Winners and losers seems to recede for a moment. Disappointment bleeds out of the stadium. No matter who or where soccer fans are watching something more like wonder rides in. Messi celebrates in his traditional way. The team hugs. And then the crowd of Real Betis fans, all the tens of thousands in Seville in Spain, soccer aficionados all, having whistled at the Barcelona team for 85 minutes, rise to their feet, and cheer.

Monday, March 18, 2019


If my library were my capitalist business I suppose I'd be more excited by the way when we peel back the front gates at opening the humanity streams in. Nevertheless I still appreciate our popularity. And though I know our main opening attraction is a series of first come first serve private study rooms, there is still a visceral thrill and slight terror to how when we fling back those barricades we unleash something like a cattle stampede. Stand back. These people are animals!

Meaning no offense. They're very nice animals. Ultimately they just want to graze.

Or maybe it would be better said if I likened it to opening a bottle of champagne. We fling back the sliding gates in a nervous rush, jumping clear as we do so. The study room people burst explosively through the opening. Behind that pent up pressure pours the other eager library goers, nearly falling over themselves, spilling out into the library like foam.

Most of it ends up on the floor, wasted.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

The great pothole

You peoples out in the weather gentle states might not know so much about potholes. But out here in Minnesota, especially as the Spring comes, and the frozen ground opens up, we get real potholes, legendary potholes, potholes that nearly made the great buffalo herds go extinct. Let me put it this way: We are known as the land of 10,000 lakes, but they're not lakes really, they're just really big potholes. We got one pothole up here that is 1,332 feet deep and 350 miles across. You hit that sucker and guaranteed you will crack your axle in two.

One of the worst problems with these early Spring potholes is that there is so much water everywhere from the melting snow and frequent rains that half the time one can't see the potholes to avoid them. The road is a shallow river and one drives blindly on the tar road until, BAM! you nosedive into a crater that'll either crack your jaw with the impact or leave you to struggle to undo your seat belt in time to allow you to swim for the surface. 

Out on the river road we've memorized all the really bad invisible potholes, but there's one that's worse than any of the others. My wife and I have both hit it once and it's not something we'll easily forget. I'm surprised our car is still intact. It's not terribly wide, but it's deep, deeper than one would even think possible.

The other day I was out walking and slipping and splashing, as I do, along the river, and I was thinking about this deep pothole. I thought I might like to have a look at it seeing as I was so nearby. I thought I might like to see just how deep it went. So I waited till the road was all clear of cars, and I carefully found my way to the edge of it. A few clear, slightly colder days had cleared some of the waters and I had an unobstructed view into this epically deep hole in the road. I peered down.

It was dark in there.

I peered down and down and down and down.

It was a deep pothole!

I searched for the bottom. I dropped in a pebble that never made any sound. I looked and looked for some sign of the floor. And then, at the very end, way down below, I finally saw something that blew my mind:


Saturday, March 16, 2019

A pastiche

Dear Publisher:

Please consider my collection of essays for puntication. I know we tried this a few dozen times now, but you hold them and I'll run up and kick them. I am going to kick them so far!

Also, I believe you are using my tail for a doorbell pull at your front entrance. It's not a very good tail, I guess, but it's mine.

Thank you for your consideration on these matters,

F. Calypso

Friday, March 15, 2019

The ship that kills

The woman who loves all things serial killer was back at the library tonight. She can talk okay, but she prefers to hum and grunt. So if she has to ask an important question like "What kind of drug will make a person's veins dissolve?" she can do it pretty clearly. You might think this person would be kind of terrifying, but she isn't. She seems too incapable and disabled to really feel like a threat. She lacks dynamism.

Today she had her usual haul of checkouts: all your Ted Bundys and Mansons and the guy Psycho was based on, but oddly, in the midst of them all was a copy of The Titanic

I don't believe I've ever seen her with anything like this before. Perhaps she's on the verge of turning over a new leaf. Or... there's something about that movie I never noticed before.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Lost and found gone wrong

I played only a bit part in this lost and found drama at my library. And there were people involved that I don't want to drag over any coals. But I find the event too astonishing to merely set aside. And though I suspect the story I heard might have an essential flaw in it, I cannot let go of the possibility that the story is disturbingly correct. Nevertheless I'll try to bring as much neutrality to the situation as possible. You can read the story and try to determine where my sense of astonished horror comes from.

Someone left a rare coin behind at the library. It was in a Plexiglas case, almost like a small paperweight. It was found by one of my co-workers out on a public work table behind the front desk. She brought it to the back room to muse over. It was from the 1920's. It was in very nice shape. I looked it up on the Internet. It was gold! It was worth, retail at least, between three and four hundred dollars!

"Wow." We all said, because this is the bland suburbs, and because none of us make very much money.

My co-worker did with this treasure exactly what it is both our culture and our policy to do. She put it in the safe under the front desk and told everyone working in the vicinity about it.

But as it happens the staff working everywhere from the back room, to the desk, to the phones, and even to the many manager's office, changes with the tides. It ebbs and flows. It sweeps in and out. So when the person who left this valuable coin called us up, fairly frantic, some hours later, all the people who knew about the coin were somewhere else, shelving, or at lunch, or wandering remote corners of the library aimlessly.

And so we come to the first confusion of the story. Everyone available looked for the golden coin, but none of them looked in the single most likely place we would keep a valuable item. No one looked in the safe we have for the keeping of lost and found items of value. I don't know why. But there it is. They didn't find it anywhere, and they reported this bad news to the very upset man.

He was distressed, so they said they would take his name and number in case we came across his coin. But this is a big library. Where would one put this note? Fortunately they had an obvious solution. They put it where, if we found something valuable, we would put it.

They taped the note to the front of the safe they never looked in.


Wednesday, March 13, 2019

The limits of genius

Living some major chunk of my life in a library, reading books, writing, thinking about books, wallowing in books, I am sometimes forced to come to grips with the fact that, well, there aren't very many good ones. I walk down the aisles of my library, down the shelves crammed with books, and my vast wealth of experience informs me: Lies, posturing, twaddle, derivative, indulgent, studious without courage, timely for some other time, humorless, prevaricating, for money and not that much of it, art without life, marketing, abstruse, workaday, boring, boring, boring, and boring!

And then I say "I can write better books than these!"

But I can't. Which, speaking as a literary genius, just goes to show how hard it is.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Three times

Nothing quite expresses time here at work like the three clocks, sitting on the windowsill, one next to the other, just to my right. Daylight savings time came and this necessitated a reset of our wall clocks. The conceit of our wall clocks here at the library is that they are radio controlled from the atomic clock in, I don't know, probably Switzerland. Only, I guess Switzerland is far away from here, and full of beautiful Mountains that interfere with the signal, so we have to wait until the wind blows just right.

This might not be a hundred percent accurate scientific description of the issue. But two things are absolutely true:

1  You cannot set these wall clock's times manually. Oh, you can try, but it won't be pretty.

2  If you push the reset button, or try to set the time manually, these clocks will begin advancing time at a rate about three times that of the normal speed of time only to stop at a random time that has nothing to do with what time it is supposed to be, according to the sun and the Internet and when I get to go home.

Fortunately though, if one leaves the clocks on a windowsill for a couple days after doing all this they'll usually adjust to something within four minutes of the real time on their own. But only if no one looks at them because they have performance anxiety.

So that's what these three clocks are doing now. They are sitting on the windowsill waiting for just the right breeze while no one is watching. One clock is at noon. One is at 6:24. And one is at 3:09.

Naturally then, you want to know: What time is it really?

All of them.

It is all of them right now at the library.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Big storm

A big storm is coming!

In a Winter full of big storms it is a BIG STORM.


So they say.

We've all been talking about it at my library for days. Those of us who work Saturdays were pitied by those who don't because we have to contend with the gigantic storm. Those who don't work this Saturday exulted and tried not to be unseemly about it. I work on Saturday. As I write it is Saturday. I am going to have to drive home in a Blizzard. Oh it is going to be terrible! There could be a foot of snow! 

If only it would start snowing.

It keeps not snowing, and it makes me very tense!

For two solid days the library has been insanely busy. The patrons have been talking about the giant snow too. And they have all been coming to the library to take care of business while they still can, and to stock up for the BIG STORM. Only the storm keeps on not coming and their houses are so chock full of library items that they've stocked up on that they have to come back to the library and return some while they still can. But they better get some stuff while they're here because, seriously, there is a big storm coming!

So we are very busy. The library is crammed with people. And they are all so exhausted because they have been preparing for this storm for days. Many of them have prepared for this storm four times now!

They are really prepared, and yet they're all here preparing again.

And the preparing won't stop. It can't stop until...

Is that a snowflake?

Please God, let it be a snowflake.

Because we can't take it anymore.

Sunday, March 10, 2019


My library has never managed its bathrooms well. The janitorial staff was underrepresented for years, then, in a move that surely greased somebody's palm, the custodial work was outsourced. Some things got a little cleaner because we were now spending four times as much on custodial work, half in what I assume is graft, but could have been pure mismanagement, and half in increased custodial staff.

But the bathrooms didn't get cleaner. Bathrooms are the hardest thing to clean. This is because no one wants to clean them. Any janitor I have ever seen will spin out emptying garbage into a three hour process, but will do the bathrooms in seven minutes top, that is, as quickly and rarely as possible.

I don't blame them. I also think they should be paid more. I actually think, if I were king of the library, staff would do their own custodial work, and it would be bribe based. But since I am not King I will just say this:

Forget programming. Forget online resources. The hell with your storytimes, your makerspace, your Winter Reads programs, and your STEAM. Forget what DVDs you have, or how nice your front desk people are, or if you have adequate parking. The worth of a public library must first be judged based on how clean and nice your bathrooms are. Well, that and maybe the quality of your books too.

Bathrooms express the deep soul of the institution.

But what I'm really trying to say is this:

How can there still be, after almost two weeks, after, theoretically, a minimum of 24 cleanings, a poo stain on the back of the toilet bowl in staff bathroom number two?

No pun intended.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

The kinds of donations we receive

One of my colleagues came back from the front desk of the library with a box of donations. They were beautiful, careful stacks of utterly pristine and glossy paperbacks of a Juvenile Fiction series. The complete set was there, all in sequential order.

"Aren't they amazing!" My colleague excitedly exclaimed. "They're in absolutely perfect condition! Maybe we should get them to a children's librarian. They'll want to add them to the collection right away!" This co-worker headed back to the front desk while I looked over the magnificent volumes. I laughed. These were books from more than 20 years ago. Any interest in the series had now been dead for a full decade. Nevertheless I understood:

We see bright, shiny and new books so rarely in our library. It's easy to be bedazzled and lose all perspective.

Friday, March 8, 2019

The wisdom of the stacks

I have been working for many long years with the non-fiction books. And as an at once enormously successful author and an enormously unsuccessful author I take a keen interest in all kinds of books on authors, writing, and publishing. Today I came across a book called The Complete Guide to Self Publishing. I took from it here everything you need to know:

Never trust a book on self publishing that wasn't self published.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Me and Noam

In these dark political times (I refer to the post Stone Age era, but possibly should include it as well, accounts of anthropologists vary), I find myself increasingly frustrated with Journalism. The problem, as I see it, is that when one is highly motivated to consider the situation normal and reasonable, one loses the ability to report accurately on, well, anything. Forget the President even, if the Senate Majority Leader is an entirely morally depraved human being who has stripped his soul of all human empathy, but one has to talk about him like he is a serious person with positive, consistent motivations, one can no longer talk normally. Being a journalist is like if someone said you can say whatever you want, but you can't use nouns. The contortions become so intense that your entire sense of what's possible has to narrow to a particularly minute framework. Do it over the course of many decades and you will invent a new, cryptic language with every missing noun carefully papered over until you can hardly see the loss anymore.

And so when the people come on the radio and tell me things I get a little put out. I once heard Noam Chomsky say (and I paraphrase wildly here) "NPR should pay me for all the stress and agony they put me through with their reporting." This is much how I feel as I listen in, keen to learn more about my world, while "newspeople" constantly evade what they know, or should know, is true. The difference often with modern political comedians is merely that they contextualize political news, which is refreshing and straightforward (and funny), whereas the newspapers are often carefully decontextualizing. They evade obvious conclusions that scream to be spoken, either because years of practice have inured them to not seeing it, or, occasionally in these especially egregious times, they are aware that speaking the truth is in contradiction with a false in itself perception of political neutrality. Effectively they lie by omission in order to protect the pretense of being neutral. 

This gets me and Noam Chomsky really upset.

I am not a journalist. I work at a library. Libraries are a kind of institution, a noble one, much like Journalism. We do not lose the thread of what makes us great as easily as Journalism does. This is largely due to our lack of influence and lifesavingly minimal Capitalist exposure. But I do recognize some of the same pitfalls. Over the past decade I have seen a steady rise in the protection and support of the Institution of the library at the expense of the libraries themselves. Our last two directors did not come out of the library world and were not librarians. Our current director came out of marketing. High level positions consistently go to ambitious people who never shake the boat, have no vision, but look competent. While my library is still excellent in many ways, starting with the significant advantage of just being a library, I do find we increasingly do things for the image it creates of us. When I started in my library we existed in a special status that was in many ways separate from the government entity that pays for us. Now we grow more deeply entwined with it, its politics, and its title-wave of bullshit rhetoric. 

At the level of the library I work at I still have my share of under the radar autonomy. If someone comes to the front desk to ask why the men's bathroom smells like pee all the time I am happy to tell them it's because we outsourced the cleaning of our buildings to a private company under mysterious circumstances. If they are curious as to why we don't have Chrome on our Internet computers I tell them that the head of Automation Services is not very clear on what he's doing and has been in a state of panic about it for 15 years. If those same people ask those questions of a branch manager they will get very different, much more mollifying answers. A person could say that between myself and the manager we present two different opinions. 

That person would be a journalist.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

King of the library: The 11th decree

In my ten previous decrees, carefully doled out over the nearly six years of this blog so that librarians across the country could implement them thoroughly and effectively, I have not tended towards the common. My kingly decrees have been indulgent (a sushi bar), creative (theme rooms, the pirate library), and democratic (everybody shelves!). But for once I am keen on taking something common in libraries and bookstores across the country, and merely implementing it well.

In the bookstores it might be presented with a nice handwritten note under the "Employee Picks" stationary. Libraries seem to enjoy the phrase "Good books you might have missed". I prefer something a little stronger, like:

We'd stake our souls on these books, or
We adore these books, or
We'd gamble our careers on these books, or

The books we would die for.

My library has a good books you might have missed kiosk. But it is some weak sauce! Like so many collections in this post librarian era, no one is serious about it. It's a bunch of books pulled onto a cart by one person in a short amount of time. 

I am not talking about this.

I'm talking about solemn oaths.

I'm talking about raise your right hand and repeat after me crap. And if you're willing to swear your life away before god or Jane Austen or something then we will go out and buy three copies of your book for this special collection. Then we will cut your finger, and you can put your bloody fingerprint on the title page of each copy. I'm sick of libraries that don't mean anything, that have no conviction. I don't need any book recommendations based on triangulation and anemic popularity. Don't we all want to read something great?

I want to read something great.

That's all I want to read. I endure the rest, badly.

And if a bloody fingerprint is too gross for the library patrons they can go stuff themselves on James Patterson. 

But this collection was never for the likes of them anyway.

These books will be their own collection, additional to whatever there already is of them in the regular collection. There will be accouterments: A blurb written by the selector, a list of the selector's other choices, if there are any, that are also in the "books we would die for" collection, the goodreads star rating for said volume, a brief synopsis, trigger warnings, and a page for people to write their names if they feel the same way about said book. A notebook of all these books and their corresponding information will be kept for easy reference on location. And absolutely none of these books will be shelved in any kind of order.

Why?, you may ask, about the last one. Why out of order?

Because I am King! 

And so it is decreed, this day, etc. etc.

The King.