Saturday, February 22, 2020

The secret gears

Yes, it may be a conceit. I might be mythologizing. But there is at least some truth to it. I only like to work hard under the cover of darkness. You know, like a superhero, with a mask. I want the library to be magical. I want to keep it running secretly. There are times I will knock myself out with hard work at the library, and it's not that I mind people knowing about it, I just don't like them seeing it happen. They might misunderstand. They might think I'm doing my job.

You might wonder why I would dislike being seen as doing my job. I'm not sure if I have a complete answer for you. It's even more uncomfortable to be seen as not doing my job. But there's something I don't really like about people doing their job. I don't like the trade of time for money. I don't like the sense of self-importance that can go with it. The officiousness bothers me. There can be a lot of marketing in people doing their job. I'm looking for some kind of grace. I'm looking for some kind of joy in the world. Deep down I believe in Anarchy.

I was training one of our new employees at the front desk. This person is pretty well trained in and mostly autonomous at this point. I'm a finishing school in that context. I came back from some errand in the children's room. "You walk really fast." The person said, maybe with slight surprise.

Uh-oh. No one is supposed to see that. I meander. I am at a cocktail party. I am the person who asks "Why did the chicken cross the playground?"

To get to the other slide.

And then:

I appear from out the shadows spontaneously with the book you wanted, and I disappear back into the night.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Old blogposts I have written

Sometimes, just when it's time for me to go to bed, I instead start reading old blog posts I have written. I meet with a mixed success when I do this. "Who will I be this time?" I wonder. Will I be the idiosyncratic genius who by some miracle has gone undiscovered despite posting 2,500 essays to the largest bulletin board in the history of human kind? Or will I be the dead cat?

It's a real Schrodinger's dilemma. It would maybe be wisest just to leave all those posts unlooked at, with both genius and failure true at the same time. But just, as I said, at the time I should go to bed, I am too curious for that approach. So I open up the box of blog posts and...

Curiosity kills the cat. 

Well it did last night at least.

Did you ever notice these essays are sometimes kind of hard to follow. That's what I noticed last night. It can be a lot of work to pay so much attention! One has to sound out every word I write in one's head. I make everyone look at every word! Of course, having written them all I have a vague sort of idea how they'll turn out in the end. So when things are really bad with reading the old blog posts late at night, and dead cats are everywhere, sometimes I start skimming. 

And doing that last night I finally came across a long forgotten idea of mine that I sort of liked. It was a proposal that only black people be allowed to be in and run the police department. I suppose in addition to offering a kind of mild, middle class reparations, it would mash up the perverse American bent for authoritarian indulgence and the fetishization of the police with, well, the fact that we're still insanely racist as a country. Like an acid and a base, both strong enough individually to eat through metal and corrode anything, combined they would neutralize each other.

It's a theory. 

But reading it made me start thinking of all kinds of antithetical solutions to our social problems. Developmentally disabled people could be our school teachers which would distract the students into helping them. An all atheist clergy would leaven the hysteria of religion. CEO's would be drawn from people with a proven ineptness at making money, which would help prevent companies from getting too large. Politicians could be taken strictly from those people no one would ever vote for. I'm not sure how that would work in a Democracy, but it would be interesting.

And then I had a strange thought:

Who would write clerkmanifesto?


Thursday, February 20, 2020

Blue no matter who

President Trump.

I don't know if I've ever said that before, all plain and true. An American fact. President Trump.

We live in a dark timeline. But at some point one has to admit that it's real. Maybe that point of recognition is when one can see a sliver of light to aim for out of the darkness. As ugly as this presidency is, and as ugly as the things are that it says about us as a nation, the reality is that out here in the middle classes life functions much the same way as it ever has. Yes, we edge towards the cliff, we slide inexorably towards it, but as inevitable as it sometimes feels, we haven't actually gone over it, yet. One moment is being given to us. There is one little shrub up ahead that we can still grab to save ourselves, or maybe there are six shrubs and now is the time to choose which one to aim for. If we aim we can grab it as we slide down to the edge of that cliff. We can catch ourselves. And then maybe, maybe we can work our way back up.

For myself I would like us to grab a sturdy little tree, with a clear path away from the cliff. A Sanders tree, maybe, with tough old roots, hanging on, fiercely pointing it's way to a dangerous, untrod, rocky path, directly away from that perilous edge into something hopeful and new. That could maybe be a Warren tree too. Though the Warren tree seems less firm and its path eases in a more meandering, uncertain way from the cliff's edge.

Of course, if we have to, we could grab that Klobuchar bush, or the Buttigieg bush. They're sort of right on our way down, and we're kind of wishing we grabbed something like them a long while ago when we passed them by. The cliff didn't look so frightening at the distance we were at back then. It didn't feel real. We maybe didn't act with urgency. The cliff seems so much scarier close up, after staring at it for a few years. And those sad little Buttigieg and Klobuchar bushes look like they'll probably hold us where we are for a little bit, if we don't get too much rain, if things stay very calm for awhile. I don't see any kind of a path up from them, but maybe we can just hang on for a spell? Maybe someone will come and rescue us?

There's that Biden creeping vine right at the cliff edge too. It might hold. We can always grab that one as we go over the edge. Then we can dangle over the abyss, hanging on with one hand, and think about what we did wrong. I suppose it's better than falling to our death right away. Where there's life there's hope?

And then of course there's that Bloomberg shrub that has started appearing right before us. I mean it is right there. Low paid laborers are putting them everywhere. Yes, it doesn't look trustworthy, but hey, this is a desperate situation. And it's right directly in front of our faces. We just keep sliding towards that cliff edge and when the moment comes maybe the Bloomberg shrub will be the only way to...

Hey! Wait a second. That's not a shrub.

It's a tumbleweed!

Wednesday, February 19, 2020


I was in an upscale mall called The Galleria. I sat on a leather chair in a pretty room with a Southwestern theme. The music was good, Putting on the Ritz, a song I am most familiar with from Young Frankenstein, but that was nice to hear straight up. There was also a quite nice song with the line "Must I always, always be playing your fool?" 

Before me was a wide, heavily bronze framed, giant eight foot tall mirror. It showed most of the store and a view out into the mall and on to the front of a glasses store across the way.

And then it struck me; maybe because the mirror was so big, that, like any mirror, it showed a strangely realistic view of the world, true to what I see everyday. Only it had one peculiar and oddly unreal exception:

 I appeared in it.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

100 greatest albums: The B-52's

Out getting coffee with my delightful wife I was telling her about all the research I did for my most recent greatest album of all time, Randy Newman's Good Old Boys, and about how I didn't get to use any of the research because all the interesting things I learned didn't really say anything about what was so great about it. And undoubtedly something came up in this conversation about how depressing the songs on that album really are, which led pretty naturally into how, well, why wouldn't they be, all the albums that I have so far called the single greatest album of all time are terribly sad.

I suppose this came up because they so indisputably are. Each one of the albums I have included is deeply, profoundly bleak, or sad, or crushing, or simply heartbreaking, or at least somewhat dark. And so a challenge was issued for me to choose as my next album a happy album. No cheating too. It really had to be the best album ever made. 

I all too casually agreed.

Then we made a lot of jokes about how my next entry in the 100 greatest albums of all time would now not happen for years and years and years and years. And making the vow I kind of believed it really would be years. There was nothing in music like that. The most cheerful group I could think of, that I love, was The Velvet Underground. The Velvet Underground! This glorious 100 greatest albums project was doomed. We would all die a prisoner of my quixotic promise.

And then from out of nowhere the B-52's rescued me.

One can say if they didn't rescue me some other happy band would have occurred to me. But I don't believe it. The B-52's are funny, buoyant, clever, musically delicious, and delightful. But they are also inimitable, one of the most unique bands I have ever heard and from one of the tiniest strains of popular music, the minuscule, infinitesimal genre of insouciant joy. They are like kid's music, but if it were insanely good and made for adults.

They are also, curiously, the first new music I ever loved.

My musical awakening was saturated in a catching up with everything starting at 15 years before that time. There was a lot there to work through and I was happy to do it. That sweep of music, 1964 to 1979, had everything. It kind of still does: rage, wisdom, poetry, freedom, prophecy, melody, revolution, invention, vision, grief, genius, politics, love. Well not quite everything. The only thing it didn't have was... candy. The sheer, cheeky, irreverent delight music is also capable of. I remember just as I discovered this initial B-52's album I read that John Lennon loved them too, and I felt so confirmed. The Beatles were the first band for me, and it did make perfect sense. The closest thing I can think of to the B-52's, if I have to find something, anything, at a stretch, is maybe Yellow Submarine or Come Together, just with the crucial difference of The Beatles don't sound like they're having nearly as much fun. 

In each of these greatest album essays I link to a song or two on YouTube. Sometimes it's just an album track behind a still image. Sometimes, if I'm lucky enough to find one, it's a performance or video that matches the song in spirit and soul. In this case it's the latter, and it was all too easy to find; every old performance I tracked down of the B-52's is delightful, clever, silly, and wonderful. The guitar player is some kind of low key absolute genius, the main lead singer is bursting before our eyes with personality, and the back-up singers (often lead too) are possibly the most inventive I've ever heard. Every bit of footage I could find of them, despite the deep familiarity of these songs, both amazed me and left me grinning like a maniac. This is not my usual reaction to my favorite music, and so all the more precious for it.

Planet Claire

Private Idaho

Monday, February 17, 2020

100 Greatest Albums: Good Old Boys

There may be more than 100 greatest albums of all time, with each individual album being itself the single greatest album ever. But 100 is neat as a number, and it is an irresistible organizing principle. Plus, when I conceived of this project, all the albums that made the claim in my heart of "greatest" easily nestled like marbles in a small bag in my mind. They weighed a certain amount. I sort of knew what all the marbles were, loosely, and it felt like it was about a hundred. It weighed about a hundred. 

And yet, when I reach my hand in to pull one out, sometimes I am completely surprised by what I get.

But only for a minute. After a minute I say:

There should only be this one marble in this bag!

And so...

Good Old Boys is an album by Randy Newman from 1974. It was his fourth studio album, and it was originally conceived as a 

blah blah blah.

I'm afraid time is too short to regurgitate Wikipedia.

Because what I wanted to tell you, before the ocean of the Internet washes over the brief second this glints in the sun, and pulls it back out to sea, is that Good Old Boys absolutely confounded me when I first heard it. No music had confounded me since I first listened to Highway 61 Revisited and had a key to the Universe handed to me. Sometimes one gets the same key over and over. The key says: 

Art isn't a bunch of marbles in a bag.

It's not a butterfly collection.

It's not money or fame.

It's not answers it's


Questions are the answers!


Randy Newman is a beautiful songwriter who seems like he has an overwhelming, almost unbearably strong point of view. Too strong.

But pay attention and

it turns out he's just listening.


Sunday, February 16, 2020

Dear Publisher, let me explain

Dear Publisher:

Please consider my suite of 2,000 essays for publication. Before you dismiss them as not particularly interesting, or whatever fancy publishing term you like to use, allow me to explain something; I am using some very advanced literary techniques! Some of these are so advanced I had to invent them myself. And I just wanted to explain them to you so you don't walk away thinking my work isn't particularly good. It's only not particularly good to the lay reader, or the casual reader, or the reader who doesn't know about the very advanced techniques being used.

Let me ask you this: How many random readers on the street, when given a page of Finnegan's Wake to look over, would call it "good"?

Only one, but he is going to talk to you for a very long time about things having nothing to do with the page you have given him because he is very lonely. 

And my point is that James Joyce was using some very advanced techniques!

"Are you," You inquire haughtily "Comparing yourself to James Joyce?"

Oh my god, this is super exciting. Usually no one understands what I'm trying to say. Thank you! Yes. Exactly.

Here are my techniques:

1. Using a thousand words to say what can be said in just a few words.

It's a beautiful, beautiful comment on art that I have now made 672 times.

2. Humble vanity.

I'm kidding about being a genius. I kid about it to be kind and understanding to you because you are too lazy to ever see the vast panoplies of my genius. But this is not your fault. Seeing things ahead of their time is insanely difficult.

Also I might be wrong. 

I'll be pretty sure I'm wrong in about, oh, six hours, laying awake in bed thinking "Oh my god, what did I write?!"

But four years from now I alone will read this once again and think:

Actually, that's not that bad.

3. Just when it starts getting really, really amazing I shoot it in the head.

What I'm going to say next is too beautiful for our corrupted world. I'd like to hear it as much as you.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Adventure in a city library

On my day off I went to the library. It was not the library I work at. It was the library a long way down the street where some items were on hold for my wife who was home with the flu. It's a pretty library with a lot of glass, located in a pocket of Minneapolis full of mild street crime and homelessness. It has one of the worst parking lots in the world, always full, and all tight, inadequate, one way, and awkward. I know one of the people who works at this library because she used to substitute at my library as one of her three jobs. America, man. She always described working at our large, near urban library as like a vacation. I guess that's because we don't have patrons smuggling our dvd's out the door to sell across the street at the pawn shop to raise drug money. By all accounts she's doing pretty well professionally in the Minneapolis system now, so she doesn't have to take working vacations. Maybe she's down to two jobs even. I stopped over to say hello.

We caught up, having a nice sarcastic conversation about how excited we were about Oligarch Bloomberg's Presidential run. We were soon interrupted by a nervous woman who wondered if they had some of the white tape instead of this scotch tape. She couldn't remember the name of the white tape. My former colleague and the guy who was also working the desk there looked vaguely around in case some white tape showed up, but no, it didn't. What was that white tape?

I took a stab at it. "Do you mean masking tape?"

I got it in one.

They didn't have any masking tape. The woman took it pretty well and had to get back to her baby which she had abandoned somewhere in the library. That's what she said, although to be fair she didn't use the specific word "abandoned".

Another person came up to urgently talk to my colleague so I went off to get my wife's holds. I checked them out on the self check out machines, experimenting with all the few features of the fancy kiosk out of professional interest. It had two font settings. I switched back and forth between them. Hmm, two font settings. 

My colleague was still busy so I went up to the other guy working at their main desk there. "I'd like to complain bitterly that there are only two font options on your self check out!"

He took it pretty well. My colleague was freed up and turned her attention to us. "Tell him about your blog." She said, probably reminded of it by overhearing my mercurial sense of humor (hint for beginners: I think two font sizes are plenty). She's a pretty nice advocate for my blog even if I'm not sure if she ever reads it.

"Oh, I don't tell people about it anymore. It never goes the way I think it should go." I replied.

She said, no, she'd told him about it before and he's a fan, or something like that.

I was secretly pleased and suspicious about how true it was all at the same time.

"Great then." I said, turning my attention back to him. "You'll be reading all about this font issue any day now!"

And maybe he is.

Friday, February 14, 2020

A love story

I like to clown around dangerously with vanity. I like to dance with it. It is a recurring motif in clerkmanifesto to talk about how incredibly brilliant clerkmanifesto actually is. I say:

Clerkmanifesto is so brilliant that it is nearly impossible to see it. But one day they will invent glasses dark enough to let people see the shape of clerkmanifesto at its starlight core. And when they do people will put on those miracle glasses and they'll say: 

"Hey, I can't see anything at all!"

Because they're still working on those glasses, even in my dreams.

It's a delicate balance, between the light and the dark.

There is something I have never gotten from clerkmanifesto in the world. And so I rail into the empty wind that comes back at me. I laugh and mock that wind. I rage in fury at it, and I turn my back on it. And in flashes I hate the world.

There are things I have never won and will never win. And though it's always less and less, every once in awhile I get mad about it. 

But in other areas of life I have also won. And because I have won I know what it's like. It's better than but also so different than that which the other part of me can understand. 

And so on February 14 I am humbled.

I am nothing special. 

I have the whole world.

And I am happy.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

You might be wrong

In a painted stencil, on a wall above a door in our favorite coffee shop in the Twin Cities, it reads "You might be wrong". As a person with a high level of feeling that I am right, this sign tends to catch my eye. I regard it. I think about it. I have a lot of different reactions. And this is what we're here for today.

Here are my ten reactions to...

You Might Be Wrong

1. So might you.

2. Other people really need to read this!

3. If only.

4. I suppose, but I still think you're wonderful.

5. Sure, but only about the big stuff.

6. Right, and I'm sure that as a wall you have a lot of perspective on the matter?

7. I guess, theoretically, but not this time.

8. Well, that would certainly be more convenient for... everybody.

9. You'll really have to be more specific.

10. And then I might be wrong about being wrong.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Difficulty modifiers

I am not a big fan of sports in which success or failure is based primarily on judging. I'm not saying that gymnastics or ice skating or boxing or dressage can't be thrilling to watch, but when the bulk of the decision about who won comes down to a panel of judges I know I'm in for an exercise in frustration. The thing is, I don't generally agree with people. Even my fervent passion for football is hardly likely to outlive the miracle of Messi. The more games of it that I see the more games I find that come down to the entirely mercurial foul and penalty calls of the referees.

Nevertheless there is a brilliant element in the completely judged sport of Olympic Diving that I long to have applied everywhere, where anything is judged: 

Degree of Difficulty, or difficulty modifiers.

My badly interpreted version of it is this: Any good diver can execute a fairly perfect dive and get a good base score, but as twists and somersaults are added to the dive, as it becomes more and more difficult to do, that base score needs to be multiplied by a higher and higher number, 1.2, 1.3, 1.5, and so on. A perfect double twist dive must be worth considerably more than a perfect swan dive. And thus too, theoretically at least, if a diver executes a dive no one else in the world can do, but does it less than perfectly, it is still a winning dive over a dive pretty much anyone can do that is done flawlessly.

Of course this brings up all sorts of those same judging problems in all those sports that I hate. But are these problems worse than the fact that someone making a bad cross into the box in football that ends up bouncing off an opponents face into the goal is worth exactly the same number of points (one) as a backheeled pass to a teammate who brilliantly chips that ball in a soft loft over the goalie's head for a goal? 

I actually don't know anymore.

The thing is though that I find this difficulty modifier more useful outside of sports, like in the arts, which are already evaluated by less objective standards, having no goals, runs, or baskets to tabulate. You may have been dazzled by Joaquin Phoenix's performance as The Joker. He even won an academy award for it. But for any real student of difficulty modifiers there are many signals that he did not deserve to win any particular awards for the role. The fact that no fewer than four other actors in 55 years have played the same role to wild, fawning, and amazed acclaim suggests that the difficulty level of playing The Joker is insanely low. There may be no role that makes an actor look more brilliant, with the possible exception of playing a developmentally disabled person. I'm not saying Cesar Romero, Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger, Mark Hamill, and Joaquin Phoenix aren't excellent actors, or that they didn't do a great job in all their respective, legendary, fawned over versions of The Joker, but that should be a "great job" times one-point-zero. Put any of those actors in a romantic comedy, where virtually no actor has ever won an academy award for best actor, and where incredibly few are ever lionized, except maybe by me, and then see what they can do. 

But don't forget to multiply it by 1.7 first.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Report from the primaries

There's early voting going on at my library. It's been everyday now for many weeks. So since I am on the front lines I am in the unique position of being in place to provide vital updates to this hard fought Democratic primary contest, and to let you know how it's going.

Since I am in Minnesota it is naturally expected that our own Senator, Amy Klobuchar, is something of a favorite. And while her candidacy hasn't so far exactly caught fire, she has shown a surprising ability to keep herself above the survival line while seemingly more promising candidates have fallen away one after the other.

But if Amy is going to have any chance at all she is going to have to have a killer performance in her home state of Minnesota. And I am here to grimly report that things are not looking good. 

They are not looking good at all.

It's not that she doesn't have support. She has plenty of support. In fact there have been a great many specialized groups who are passionate supporters of this Mondale protege and senior Senator from our state. Often these groups come to our library in a bold display of early voting and to show their fervent support for Senator Klobuchar. Unfortunately the voting for these groups, so far, has not gone well.

First to arrive were The Klowns for Klobuchar. They emerged from a very tiny car en masse. There were a surprising lot of them! As they did hilarious pratfalls on the icy sidewalk in front of our entrance they drew enthusiastic and appreciative crowds. Alas that one of the pratfalls went wrong and one of the "Klobuchar Klowns" hit his head pretty hard on the curb. There was blood. The whole lot of Klowns went off in an ambulance without a single one of them being able to cast a ballot.

Oddly this experience was not so different than another Klobuchar group later that same week. The Klutzes for Klobuchar managed to stumble their way into the library and looked set to put Klobuchar into the lead in the early voting. But when they got to the voting area, cordoned off from the library by a ring of stanchions, they became so entangled in the stanchion belts that the fire department ultimately had to come out and remove them from the library. 

On a positive note they did vow that they would be back.

Finally, yesterday, a big Klobuchar group managed to cast ballots for their candidate. A party of what I would describe as at least 30 Kleptomaniacs for Klobuchar went swiftly through the voting process with no problems. Well, no problems until after they left, at which point no one could find any of their ballots, or any of their pens. Come to think of it a couple of the voting booths went missing around that time as well.

This all doesn't mean that Amy Klobuchar can't still win. My report is certainly anecdotal. There are still plenty of votes to go. And she's pretty popular around here... wait! Something's going on at the library entrance! This could be big! This could save her campaign! Quite a crowd is gathering!

It's The Klydesdales for Klobuchar!!!!!

Uh oh. They can't get in the door. They're too big!

Plus, horses can't vote.

Monday, February 10, 2020

What everything looks like

It is said that when all you have is a hammer everything looks like a nail.

I'd like to take that one step farther. 

When one wants to treat everything like a nail, one surrounds oneself with a lot of hammers.

I'd like to take that one step farther as well.

One can tell a lot about a person by the kinds of tools they surround themselves with. For instance my supply drawer at the library is full of pliers. I think I have seven or eight different pliers in there.

I like to pry things apart.

I suppose it could mean I like to hold things tightly together as well.

Of course sometimes none of that really works out, in which case I'm fine just whacking it all into shape.

Anyone got a hammer?


Sunday, February 9, 2020

Me and my beanstalk

I know what you're thinking, you're thinking "Oh my god, this blog is so awesome!" 

And you're also thinking "Wait, how did he know that?" 

And then now you're thinking "Holy crap, this is like really, really, like, freakishly psychic!"


Well, I can't be right all the time.

Now you're thinking "I was just trying to go to Amazon to buy some swizzle sticks. How on earth did I end up at this crazy blog?"



i am trying to sneak up quietly on the internet. silent step by silent step, for six years, i have stealthily approached this behemoth, this almost inconceivable giant of an internet. it cannot hear me. i am so small and quiet. i am moving so slowly as to be undetectable. i am tiny, beneath notice. but one day soon, inch by inch i shall be close enough. and then... 


The coup de grace! 

With one precise blow i will take out the whole of the internet! Mu ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!!!!

"You don't like the Internet?" You wonder.

No. I just want to take it over. Then the whole of the Internet will be like this!

"The whole of the Internet will be like what?" You wonder.

Wrong some of the time.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

How to fix a stapler, a correction

In yesterday's simple guide to staple repair I made a minor error that requires a small but important correction.

The following text:

Just follow this one easy method and even the most stapler and mechanically illiterate among you will have your staplers humming along like never before.

I have broken this simple method down into 22 basic, easy to understand steps.

1. Firmly grasp the manifold flange in your right hand.

2. Decouple the sprocket cylinder.

3. Turn on your Kinsey 3000 home forge system and dial to "7".

4. Prepare three measure-weight r-2's for proper induction.

5. Remove all staples, using pliers if necessary. Discard.

6. Put the staple hinge to your good ear and listen for a hum.

7. No hum? Go to step 11.

8. Brush the flange hinge in acetone or mineral oil.

9. Burn some toast.

10. Wave the stapler around in the smoke.

11. Induct the measure-weight r-2's until ideally pliable.

12. Pour yourself a cup of coffee and sit down and read Descartes masterwork Meditations of First Philosophy. If in a hurry to staple, skim.

13. Make sure you have a few paperclips for just in case.

14. Attempt to mold the measure-weights into a standard "flange" fringe.

15. Hit the table in frustration and cry out "Tu me prends la tete!"

16. Solder stapler parts "seven" and "nine" lightly together at join knobs, something you would not have to do if stapler designers weren't idiots!

17. Put on your HazMat suit.

18. Split all the atoms in the gear sprocket spring, loosening the jibbit as you go.

19. Wait for the stapler base to cool as it will be as hot as the Sun for a short while. This is not a colorful turn of speech. Maybe go ahead and loosen your HazMat while waiting.

20. Dip your stapler in liquid hydrogen for a few seconds to "set" the new metals.

21. Add new staples to your stapler.

22. Staple stuff!

Should read instead as:

Whack your stapler very hard against an unbreakable surface.

I apologize for any confusion this slight omission may have caused. Good luck with your stapler!


Friday, February 7, 2020

How to fix a stapler

I have worked at a library for a quarter of a century. And for the whole of that time I have been the supplies person. So I have ordered a lot of staplers. Nevertheless I prefer to fix staplers rather than buy them. It's more respectful of the taxpayers and of the environment. And because I have fixed so many staplers over the years I have become extremely knowledgeable about the process. One might even say that I have mastered the art.

Fortunately the stapler is a simple device, strictly designed to do one basic thing: staple. Also fortunately, in the course of my vast stapler repair work, I have devised one extremely easy, fool-proofed method that will resolve any stapler problem, whether it be from parts failure or from the more common "Jam".

Just follow this one painless method and even the most stapler and mechanically illiterate among you will have your staplers humming along like never before.

I have broken this simple method down into 22 basic, easy to understand steps.

1. Firmly grasp the manifold flange in your right hand.

2. Decouple the sprocket cylinder.

3. Turn on your Kinsey 3000 home forge system and dial to "7".

4. Prepare three measure-weight r-2's for proper induction.

5. Remove all staples, using pliers if necessary. Discard.

6. Put the staple hinge to your good ear and listen for a hum.

7. No hum? Go to step 11.

8. Brush the flange hinge in acetone or mineral oil.

9. Burn a large smudge stick of white sage.

10. Wave the stapler around in the smoke.

11. Induct the measure-weight r-2's until ideally pliable.

12. Pour yourself a cup of coffee and sit down and read Descartes masterwork Meditations of First Philosophy. If in a hurry to staple, skim.

13. Make sure you have a few paperclips for just in case.

14. Attempt to mold the measure-weights into a standard "flange" fringe.

15. Hit the table in frustration and cry out "Tu me prends la tete!"

16. Solder stapler parts "seven" and "nine" lightly together at join knobs, something you would not have to do if stapler designers weren't idiots!

17. Put on your HazMat suit.

18. Split all the atoms in the gear sprocket spring, loosening the jibbit as you go.

19. Wait for the stapler base to cool as it will be as hot as the Sun for a short while. This is not a colorful turn of speech. Maybe go ahead and loosen your HazMat while waiting.

20. Dip your stapler in liquid hydrogen for a few seconds to "set" the new metals.

21. Add new staples to your stapler.

22. Staple stuff!

Congratulations! You just saved yourself $6.99 on the cost of a new stapler! 

Please note this guide only works on the Bostitch Office B210R. 

For the Swingline Optima please see my post: How to fix any stapler. For the Paper Pro Compact Classic see my post: Stapler fixing in just a few simple steps. And for the Kokuyo Harinacs models see my series of monographs on modern Japanese staplers and their repair, published by Cambridge University Press but now out of print. Don't ask me why they're out of print, but one can usually find a few copies of them on Abe Books for astronomical prices. Good luck.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Dealing out of the back of the library

There are certain books, when they come through the donations, appear in the Friends Bookstore, or show up on a "weeded" cart, that I can't resist grabbing up. And so I do. I don't take them home. I squirrel them away in some locker, or some crevice of the work room at the library where I know no one will bother them. And then I try to remember that they're there, waiting until they're needed.

Today I came across The Wee Free Men, weeded from one of our smaller branches and headed apparently into our little bookstore. 

Now it's mine. 

Or not, exactly, mine.

I know too many librarians too well to really trust them. And I've been working in libraries too long to completely trust them either. Or maybe it's the culture I don't trust. What is admired and recommended today is forgotten in 20 years. I've seen it happen. The brilliant Adrian Mole Diaries were a bona fide publishing phenomenon in their day. I read them half a dozen times. I loved them wildly. When I started working here it would have been harder to find a library that didn't have The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4 than one that did. If only I'd grabbed up a few of those ubiquitous copies from back then. Or maybe I did. But they're gone now. Like King of the Schnorrers another fading from memory masterpiece, or The Star Diaries, or The Magic Christian, it is now strictly a special request book as far as my reasonably large library system goes. I recommended Adrian Mole twice to people in the past couple of weeks. But it's a hard sell when one has to special order it through interlibrary loan. People want things now. It's hard enough to convince most people to read any recommendation in my experience, but if one can whip it off the shelf and put it right in their hot little hands, one stands a chance at least. And it's even more satisfying if one can say "Our library doesn't carry it anymore, but I just so happen to have one stashed away in the back room." Adding in something near a whisper "I'd like you to have it."

I am pretty satisfied with the library I work in, until I'm not. I have my own fair list of items that I'm convinced belong in this building for all people for all times. Many of those books are actually here most of the time already. I don't think I have to worry too much at this point about Left Hand of Darkness, Cats Cradle, The Chosen, Tortilla Flat, Pride and Prejudice or The Lord of the Rings. And at least for the time being , Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman, The Eyre Affair, the Lockwood books, and The Name of the Wind seem pretty safe. But I've got a pretty long list of things to keep an eye on, things I don't trust the world to hold in proper respect forever. Yes, absolutely, one can grab Wee Free Men now, but already not as readily as one should be able to for so exquisite a book. I don't know what will happen in 20 years. But hopefully I'll at least have a few copies of it socked away. And if you'll let me talk you into reading it, you can have one.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

In which I reach out to a co-worker

I would perhaps not write this particular brief, pointed account if all my co-workers read this blog. I am sensitive to the feelings of others. But I am less sensitive to the feelings of others who do not read my blog. They're just so... disappointing. In the end how much respect have they actually earned?

But oddly this post, brief as its actual content may be, would be best applied if all my co-workers did read my blog. And so into this conundrum I say:

I take up perhaps more than my fair share of space in our work and break areas. I have commandeered drawers, cabinets, and sections of counters. I cook elaborate food that fills a many tens of thousands square foot library with odors more befitting a large, busy restaurant. Our break room kitchen is like a refuge to me from the storms of work-life.

So I try to be respectful of others. I am accepting of the various spaces likewise taken over by my co-workers for all their own inscrutable reasons. I do my best to share the many explicitly common spaces. I turn the other cheek to dishwashing and cooking habits I don't like. I make what peace I can with the minor peccadilloes of using in common a break room and work room with dozens of diverse people. I make every effort to understand or at least look the other way at those habits I would normally find... unpleasant. What's good for the goose...

But if for some reason you have decided to spend half or more of your lunch hour, every single day you work, walking "exercise" laps in our modest sized break room, while reading a junky novel, like you're the Captain of a Frigate on a transoceanic journey in the 1700's, pacing along the paltry deck, while people scatter before you, even though you are not on a ship in the middle of the ocean, and you are not a Captain, and the entire rest of the world is available to you for all your pacing and walking pleasure, all I can really say to you is:

"Seriously, what is your fucking problem!"

It's not a question.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Groundhog Day: A new beginning

Look, I don't mean to keep writing about Groundhog Day over and over again. It is the most insignificant of holidays. But somehow each day I wake up and find myself writing on it yet again. I wake up. Sonny and Cher are playing. I smash the clock radio. And I write about Groundhog Day.

The first time I wrote ahead of time about Groundhog Day. Since it had been opressively cloudy for months I felt secure in assuming that the groundhog would not see his or her shadow and that Winter would, accordingly, end soon. This somehow led to the Sun bursting out on Groundhog Day morning in a resplendent dazzle of Winter light, meaning the groundhog did see a shadow, and thus Winter was slated to continue for many weeks. I pronounced this okay because Winter is so pretty in the Sun. Of course, no sooner had I done this than the sky immediately covered in clouds again, like as if plastered over by an untalented, color-hating stucco craftsman. If you can call that craftsmanship.

So I thought "Great. Back to the drawing board." And I was condemned to write once more about Groundhog Day. And as I sat down to write my latest revision of my purgatorial Groundhog Day saga the clouds cleared once again. And there, what should have been obvious all along, was suddenly revealed to me:

I can control the weather with what I write!