Friday, May 31, 2019

The library book

There is a relatively recent book entitled The Library Book. It's red (no pun intended as that would complicate this whole thing even further). It is by Susan Orlean, who I have found, based on one previous orchid related book, to be a good and entertaining author. Despite this, I have failed to read this red book concerning libraries thus far. Is it too close to home? Will my precise and, at times, extreme, insider knowledge make it too irritating? Or have I simply not gotten around to it yet? Time will tell. 

Or time might tell. 

Actually, time seems to do what it wants far more often than one might expect.

Nevertheless I have extracted some minor use out of Susan Orlean's latest book, The Library Book. Every time I encounter it while working here at my library I cry out in consternation. 

"What am I supposed to do with this! They're all library books!"

Then I mutter bitterly "The nerve of some people."


Thursday, May 30, 2019

Your daily golf quote

I'm not sure if the main golf hole I watch is a par three or a par four. I don't see the start of it, just the ball introducing itself by bouncing down the hill, hitting either the fairway, the rough to the side, or, surprisingly rarely, that bunker full of sand, but it's never the green. I have never seen the ball appear and make the green all at once. People only appear after the ball. Then they hit the ball onto the green from sort of nearby. Then they miss the putt. Occasionally they miss another putt.

This is golfer after golfer after golfer. I have a sneaking suspicion that I have never seen a golfer make par on this hole.

There all these golfers are out on the driving range, hitting one ball after another on into the night. There these same golfers are playing their round on a beautiful day, or in the rain, or in the wind, or as lightning tries to strike them dead.

Good for them. Many of these golfers are intrepid. I admire that.


If practice made perfect there would be a lot of better golfers.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019


I have almost a week off of work coming up as I write this. It's not much more than a long long weekend, but it's been a while since I've had this much time off. I'm looking forward to it and to all the days I'll finally have in the sweet company of my wife. But even though it is a mere six days, for some reason I have been extremely busy preparing for it. Just a couple days ago we cleaned the house until it squeaked! Over the past day or two I've had to write eight magnificent blog posts while still remaining humble, which I just failed to do anyway by calling them magnificent. Also my Women's World Cup betting pool at work was hitting its organizing peak over this early week, so I was feeling pretty stretched out.

But on this last day of work things were coming under control. I opened up a little. I could see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I had a get well card and a soccer team pool entry I needed to mail out to a sick co-worker. I asked someone to watch the check-in machine for me while I walked across the street to a reliable mailbox. It was a longer walk than I was thinking. It was the start of the workday for me, but it was lunchtime for many of my co-workers. As I walked through distant parking lots I found many of those co-workers hiding in their cars. They waved cheerfully at me.

I put my envelope in the mailbox and I started back to the library. It was a lovely Spring day and I was skirting a series of richly green suburban backyards. Suddenly, unaccountably, I was hit with a wild feeling: freedom. I felt free! The world was mine. I was untethered! Everything was there for the taking! Nowhere to go, nothing to do, the days spread out before me, an enchanted wilderness.

I had to dash back across a busy street of traffic and work at my library for another seven hours. So nothing about that feeling was true beyond a few precious seconds. And soon the day swallowed it.

But I still taste the echo of it now, and I know it waits...

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

My super humble take on William Kent Krueger

Yes, I know you have been waiting for a long time, but the verdict on William Kent Krueger is finally here. Nevertheless, before we start let me just say I work with books, and I understand how hard they are to write. They are very, very hard to write. But they are a lot easier to write than they are to shelve. Plus you can hit it big with writing a book whereas no one has ever hit it big shelving.

No one. Ever. I promise.

Nothing quite illustrates this like William Kent Krueger. He writes books about the far north of my State and has made quite a success of it. That success has led to considerable wealth and acclaim for William Kent Krueger, and it has also led to me having to shelve a lot of those books, which didn't lead to... any wealth and acclaim for me whatsoever. But I'm not complaining. Shelving a William Kent Krueger book is super easy because we have 12 copies of each of his many, many mystery novels. This means that when I go to shelve, say Tamarack County, instead of locating its spot between Sulfur Springs and, wait, how did this copy of Desolation Mountain get here? Hold on a second while I fix it. Okay. So, this means when I go to shelve Tamarack County, instead of locating its spot between Sulfur Springs and Thunder Bay, I just have to glance at the huge nine book chunk of other Tamarack County copies and pop my copy anywhere among those. Easy!

And so that, kind readers, is my verdict on William Kent Krueger!

What's that?

Oh, sure, yeah, I read one of his books. You want to know what I thought?

Wow, really? Okay. 

It was readable, but, um, kind of dumb? Maybe they get... better?

But you should probably take my opinion with a grain of salt here. Publishers Weekly showers him with starred reviews and he's sold like a billion copies of his books. I just shelve them.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Soccer visible to the eye

I don't mean for this to be damning with faint praise, but I guess it is a little bit. Nevertheless, I mean no harm.

I watch a lot of soccer, with most of those games featuring Messi, the almost miraculous player from Argentina. Often, sometimes with it going just right, and sometimes with it just barely going wrong, I watch and marvel. "What on Earth just happened!" I cry. Or "How did he do that?" They show it again and I still can't quite work it out. Then, if I'm lucky, they'll have a nice slow motion shot of it. He passes the ball from his left foot to his right foot back to his left foot. This happens all at once without ever touching anything but his feet. The defender's mind is spinning and Messi pops it with the outside of his boot through the guy's legs, between four other players, to anticipate the run of his teammate who, wide open, then kicks the ball clear into the stands. Ah well. It was still quite a thing.

In preparing a modestly elaborate betting pool at work for the Women's World Cup I have had some occasion already to watch some recent highlight videos from women's soccer. It has been a kind of delightful surprise. Sure, it is missing the magic, which is a little problematic, but on the plus side I can see everything as it happens in real time. It is as if the game, unusually, is played in slow motion from the start, in real time.

I know that doesn't sound great, but as a viewer it is a curious pleasure; finally, finally, I can see everything.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

We are Americans

Yesterday in this space I suggested that the Democrats could easily recapture the Presidency by irresponsibly bribing us. Since we are us I'm not so sure it's a bad idea, like, "let's walk across town and have a drink!" The drink might not be good for us, but surely the walk is. And then what if the drink really is good for us after all! Opinions vary on this second point. And who wouldn't be happy with a 50 to 100 percent success rate?

Here's the thing:

Republicans think they're smarter than everyone so they try to trick everyone into doing whatever nasty things they want.

Democrats think they're smarter than everyone but feel bad about it so try to reason everyone into doing what they think is best.

But I think in America, in the end we all just want to be tricked into doing the right thing.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

How to win the Presidency

I am terrible at marketing. I could not convince you to vote for me to be the President of Nothing, even if I would be an inspired choice. I have no political experience. And I am wildly unqualified to be the tiniest of Political Operatives for the most insignificant possible campaign in the country.

Nevertheless I could win a Democratic candidate the Presidency of the United States so fast it would make your head spin, which, if you're a Republican, would be humorously appropriate, you know, what with your possession by Satan and everything.

Anyway, here's how:

The whole campaign, every policy point and issue should come down to a massive tax cut. The candidate is to say "The new tax and spend Republicans hate this, but I'm going to give every adult in America $5,000 in tax relief. This will stimulate the economy like nothing we've seen in decades, and return to the American people the money they've earned with their hard work."

To the inevitable question of how to pay for it, the candidate should say "Pork. Pork pork pork. Pork and waste and pointless stimulus money to giant corporations that won't need it anymore because people buying their products will be all the stimulus they need."

Stick to that. Don't get distracted. Say that Republicans are stealing Americans' money to give it to their super rich donors. Don't ever stop.

And when the Democrats have won it all with their specious promises, what then?

I dunno, go ahead with it?

It might work out and we could always use a little extra money around my house.

Friday, May 24, 2019

It's only a dream until money comes into it

I know you're not paying much attention to The Women's World Cup. But I am. I am paying so much attention! I am running a large scale, super elaborate, Women's World Cup Pool at my job. When I try to find out certain information on the Internet, for the sake of my ornate set-up on this pool, it sometimes seems like no one is paying much attention the The Women's World Cup. But then, it's still more than two weeks away. Nevertheless...

Here is the biggest story I could find. It hardly leaped out at me. I had to dig for it. It's not very good news:

The quite possibly best Women's soccer player in the world won't be at The Women's World Cup this year. At first glance it appears Ada Hegerberg, who is from Norway, is not playing in the World Cup to highlight the pay differences in the men's and women's game. At second glance no one actually knows what the hell is going on because, while Ada Hegerberg is willing to talk about... stuff, she won't really say anything much else about this. She doesn't want to say what her problems are with the Norwegian Football Association. She doesn't have much to say about this pay gap except that she respects elite male players for the oodles they earn, and that it's not about the money for her, but an investment in the future for girls in soccer. And... that's about all.

In my disappointment it is easy to criticize Ada Hegerberg, a mere 23 year old, for sacrificing the quality and importance of a World Cup that would only serve the cause of Women't Soccer by being a better tournament, all to highlight something she is not highlighting at all! But I am a little too familiar with National Football Associations, and there is something pretty fishy about Norway's here. Norway's Association has been quiet about all of this, but when you have a serious stab at winning The World Cup, which Ada Hegerberg would have given her team in spades, you might just want to cave on almost anything that's being asked of you. Because 20, or 50, or 1,000 Norwegian Football Associates, working round the clock to promote Women's Soccer for 100 years, will not do nearly so much for it as one 23 year-old scoring a winning hat trick in a final.

Of course, on the other hand, well, I'll withhold that thought in order to highlight how much more James Patterson gets for his writing than I do for mine.

Thursday, May 23, 2019


If I'm really going to get deep down to it I don't believe in God.

And I don't mean to offend you, but I think your religion is...


kind of ridiculous.

But what a bunch of words!

And I believe.

I believe everyone believes in something.

And I don't believe anything in the World is sacred.

Except today.

I still hear the perfect sound of it.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019


In my job I have been typing in numbers as people read them to me over the phone for a very long time. These are barcode numbers. They are 14 digits long. I ask for them regularly.

The good news is that most people do an adequate job of reading their barcodes; sometimes they are too fast, sometimes (more often) they are too slow, but it is usually good enough.

Nevertheless there are problems.

There are people who say the word "space". This is strangely irritating and begs the question "How did they make it to adulthood thinking they had to say the word "space"?

"You don't need to say the word "space"" I tell them.

"Oh." They reply, the light dawning. "So that's why I've been hated my whole life."

There are people who cannot read numbers accurately. This is difficult and there is no cure for it.

Finally there are people who read four numbers and think they have to wait until you say "go ahead" in order for them to continue. This is more horrible than you can imagine. But after all these years of it I was suddenly inspired to attempt a cure.

I didn't say "go ahead". I just waited. And waited, and waited, and waited, like in a game of chicken.

Eventually, haltingly, they gave up and read more numbers, hesitated again, but less so, and continued shakily on to the end.

For a person such as myself, who likes to keep things moving along, this was painful and difficult.

But sometimes you have to invest in the future.

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.