Sunday, February 28, 2021

Tips for thirsty people


Hey guys! Today we're going to be talking about a cool tip I have for what to do when you get thirsty. I think you'll find this super helpful!

But first I want to thank all the new subscribers here, and I wanted also to say that all your support on my Patreon page makes it possible for me to provide all kinds of great content for you and lets me really devote time to making this kind of high quality content. So thanks guys. Also shoutout to new supporter @lonelyboy, my first 500 dollar supporter! Thanks @lonelyboy!

So sometimes I get super thirsty, like parched. My lips get all dry and cracked and sometimes I can even get a headache it's so bad! But I figured out this great trick that isn't too hard to follow, and I guarantee if you try it it can really help you out too when you're thirsty!

When you get super thirsty look for a kitchen. Most houses have these. And in the center of the counter area of the kitchen you'll find a sink. In a pinch you can also head to a bathroom, which pretty much any building will have. These places also have sinks. Either way, these sinks are like basins with a faucet. You might be familiar with them from washing your hands under the water there. But the great thing is that you can also drink the water from these faucets! Some of these faucets have a handle for turning on hot water and a handle for turning on cold water. I always use the cold one for drinking, and I have to say this trick seems to work better when you use the cold one, but if you prefer the hot water go for it. It will probably still help you get less thirsty, but I can't guarantee it.

Sometimes it can be hard to get the water from the faucet to your mouth because it's kind of going straight down. I use a glass if I can. You can usually find these glasses in kitchens, but not so often in bathrooms. You can put the water in the glass and it's super easy to drink the water that way. If you don't have a glass or anything you can lean over and slurp the running water. It's awkward, but it can be better than nothing. But no matter how I do it, I find this method super helps when I'm thirsty! It can even make a headache go away, lol!

When you're done drinking turn off the faucet because it turns out people really like turning on faucets for themselves and it's not cool to just leave them on. Also, even though this method is super helpful for when you're thirsty, it does sometimes make you have to pee more. But trust me, that's totally worth it, even if you're not that into peeing!

Anyway guys, hope this helped you for when you're thirsty. It helps me a lot and I stand behind it 100 percent. 

Let me know what you like to do when you're thirsty below! Also hit the subscribe button, the like button, and especially the bell so I know what kind of content you like.

See you soon with more great tips!

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Our two kinds of library patrons


As I replaced her at the front desk, one of my colleagues at the library was running down the list of sins a regular patron had committed that evening. She had come in without a mask. She butted in line for something "quick". She didn't want the surgical masks we provide, she wanted cloth. She didn't want the first cloth one offered because it "touched the desk". She yelled at a teen for not standing far enough back in line behind her. She wanted a service the library doesn't offer in the pandemic because our story is inconsistent about whether we do offer it or we don't. She left and came back, just for a quick question, without the mask she was just given.

I have dealt with this patron for many years. I even sort of like her in the way I have always felt an affection for some of the deeply troubled people of our constituency. But even for her this above litany of monstrous acts was a pretty rich one. And it caused me to reflect upon a library truism:

Only two things ever happen with problematic library patrons; they disappear, or they get worse.

That's pretty sad, so you might like to know then what happens to non problematic library patrons:

Nothing. They're already perfect.

Friday, February 26, 2021

Minimalist internet content

Hey guys!

I've got a great tip for you today about what to do when you're hungry. 

I personally use this trick all the time when I get hungry. It doesn't always solve everything, but it always helps!

When you get hungry go to a grocery store. I found out these places are everywhere, but if you look up "grocery store near me" on the Internet you can usually find a pretty good one. Go to the produce aisle in the grocery store. These aisles are usually more open and have less food in boxes and cans. Instead there are a lot of vegetables and fruits in this aisle in open bins, just kind of lying around or heaped up here. This aisle is usually pretty easy to find because it's on one far end of the store or on the other.

Once there in the produce aisle grab an orange. These things are round usually, like a ball, and they're orange, just like their name! There are different kinds and sizes of these oranges, all with their own names even though they're all oranges (confusing!), but don't worry too much about that. Just grab one, any one that's round and orange. I like an orange that is called a "mandarin", so if you see that name, go for it.

Take the orange to the place where you buy stuff and then pay for it. They'll tell you how much it costs, but it shouldn't be too much. You can even use a credit card to pay!

Take the orange home.

Peel off the tough orange outer part (it's usually not too hard to get off) and then eat the sweet and juicy, also orange, inner part. 

You should be less hungry! I always am!

Supposedly this orange dude is also kind of good for you! Which is weird because it's a little like candy, so I don't know if that's true or not about being healthy.

Anyway, that's all for today. Hope this helps!

Subscribe for more cool tips!

Thursday, February 25, 2021



I am going to solve the problem of Oligarchy in America.

Before I solve the problem of Oligarchy in America I would like to make an important disclaimer. Though my solution involves killing people, it should be stressed that this killing would be done legally, that is it would happen entirely within the frame of the law, as it is in criminal executions in certain states and as it is in war. So then, I am advocating legal changes, possibly constitutional ones, and I am not advocating crimes in any way. And, let's face it, my proposal herein about killing an American citizen every month is in some respects tongue in cheek, and possibly insanely nightmarish,  so a minimum security imprisonment (but strict and with no frills) with no possibility of parole is probably the more appropriate solution in my paradigm. We are very comfortable about imprisoning people in America, and get a little squeamish on the executions. 

But we'll continue with the execution solution for the high drama and French Revolution fun of it.

Also before I solve the problem of Oligarchy in America, I would like to point out a couple of things:

1. This would work well internationally as well, and could be administered by the U.N.

2. The fact that this will be the first time you have seen this idea floated and also the last time you see it mentioned, even though it is the best political idea you will encounter all year, and would work magnificently, should cast serious shade on all that media you encounter that argues for the open discussion of ideas. Which ideas exactly?

Okay. Enough. Let's solve Oligarchy.

A new law will be written.

At the end of every month it will be determined who the richest person in America is. They will be arrested, all their worldly possessions confiscated, and they will be swiftly executed. 


Seriously, can't they just be imprisoned for life?

Okay, fine!

Who decides who the richest person is?

Four isolated secret small teams of financial investigators who don't know anything about the identity of the other teams.

Why not just tax all income above a certain amount?

It doesn't seem sporting. Also, so unrealistic! (laughs maniacally).

Won't this cause problems as people start to shed wealth massively to the point where people with a few million dollars are suddenly getting executed?

I'm not blind to your pleas. We could set some kind of wealth limit under which one would be safe. So if no one, for instance, in all of America, has more than 25 million dollars in total assets then there would be no execution for the month. Sorry, I meant imprisonment, no life imprisonment for the month.

How would this solve Oligarchy?

If there is a deadly disincentive to accumulating wealth beyond a modest point, the surviving oligarchs will be forced to find new hobbies, like knitting, or cheesemaking.

You're an optimist, aren't you?

I know. It's like a curse. But a curse that comes up roses.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Gluten free pretzels, the "homage"




Yesterday in this space I teased that I was going to talk about "Scones". 

No, not Scones, "Scones".

Once, long ago here at clerkmanifesto, I kept a running tab of what food was available on the free food table in our library break room. That was a lot of work. So I switched to writing a blog post concerning the free food table every year or two. I remember one about pretzels once. Does that ring a bell? Let me see if I can find it.

Ah, here it is:

Good, huh?

You read it, right?


You kind of have to read it for us to continue with this post. Thanks. We'll wait here.

Anyway, my point is that every year or so now I like to check in idiosyncratically with a snapshot of what's happening on the free food table in the break room of the library I work at.

Today is that sort of day.

Inspired by "Gluten Free Pretzels" we will now proceed in this discussion with a call and response format:

Why are you using a call and response format?

Did you read "Gluten Free Pretzels"? It's an homage.

So, what's all this about scones vs. "scones"?

Here's the deal: Someone brought in a Tupperware of what looked like scones. They put it on the free food table. On the cover of the Tupperware they placed a label that read:

Pumpkin Spice "Scones"

I immediately knew eight things.

Is there now going to be an eight item list that's also an homage to "Gluten Free Pretzels"?

Yes. I am increasingly thinking of "Gluten Free Pretzels" as one of my all time great blog posts, at least among those that involve both pretzels and tigers.

Okay, I can take it.

Thanks. Here is my list of eight things I knew instantly about the pumpkin spice "scones":

1. It's hilarious that the scones are in quotes. Are they scones or aren't they?

2. I would like to write a blog post about how the scones are in quotes.


3. There is not nearly enough material there for me to write a blog post about pumpkin spice "scones" just because the scones are in quotes, which really isn't all that funny.

4. Not having enough material to work with has never stopped me before. In fact I have lately been noticing that the more material I have the shorter my posts are, and the less material I have, the longer my posts are.


5. As confusing as naming these baked goods as "scones" is, suggesting, as it does, that they are not real scones, it is maybe even more subtly confusing that they are pumpkin spice, which strongly suggests that they are some kind of pumpkin scone even though pumpkin spice has no pumpkin in it. Are they pumpkin scones, non pumpkin but pumpkin spice scones, or not a real scone, but sort of in homage to one, and maybe or maybe not pumpkin?

6. I won't be eating a food that doesn't know what it is.


7. I'll figure it all out in a blog post.


8. I am making far too much of what is fundamentally a grammatical error. 

Was that eight already?


Do you have a valuable, informative conclusion?


Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Linking yesterday and tomorrow




Yesterday I promised you a long rumination on the foibles of the common wisdom "You make your own luck." I started with the thesis: If you're making your own luck it's not luck.

Then I realized I'd said everything that needed to be said, and in record time. 

But then today I remembered I write a blog and now have composed extremely close to 3,000 blog posts. If any fact could be said to demonstrate a belief in me that there is no such thing as saying everything that needed to be said, that is it. 

I just occasionally pretend that I have said everything that needed to be said so that I can

A. Finish up my blog post for the day.

B. Start my next blog post for the next day.

C. Desperately try and stop your attention from wandering away.

D. All of the above.

No. It's not a quiz. It's a lack of commitment to an answer.


Yes, you're right. "D" is the correct answer. Wow, you're good.

So then, would you like me to ruminate further on how you can't make your own luck?




I thought you were going to say yes.

Although on the bright side that means we're all finished up here for the day! I'll get started on tomorrow's blog post right away! You'll love it. It's about "scones".

No, not scones, "scones".


You'll see.





Monday, February 22, 2021

You make your own luck


Having what I thought of as a short, unlucky run of fortune on the library's automated check in machine, the phrase popped into my head:

You make your own luck.

So let's start our 500,000 word essay right here:

If you're making your own luck it's not luck!

Well, maybe we'll just leave it at 66 words. Sometimes you get lucky.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Upside down


Once, many years ago at my library, I was tasked with constructing some letter markers for our requested items shelving. It was more complicated than it sounds. I had to use my library's official font, color scheme, and minimalism. I wanted it to be immediately clear, especially to people using our system for the first time, where their last name would be. I used thick plastic inserts that stuck out from the front edge of the shelving and were very stable at the back. Looking down a row of books one could immediately see where each new letter started. I was pleased with it and it has worked well for years.

Then the pandemic came.

We expanded our request shelving so that it could be more spread out for social distancing. I was not involved in this project. It is pretty haphazard, with different ways of marking where things are and a motley assortment of different shelving and carts. My carefully made letter tags were cannibalized and used where they could be, abandoned when they couldn't.

I accepted all this. One does not survive more than 25 years working in an institution by getting riled be every little thing. One survives working in an institution by only getting riled by 70% of the little things. 

It's called pacing oneself.

Today I was shelving some requested items, and I was in the "M's". But I noticed whoever had constructed the temporary system had taken my "W" sign and stuck it in there upside down. I don't know what happened to my original "M" sign.

I shrugged. Then I shelved all my books there, upside down.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Unethical dot com

Running an ethical, highly honorable blog like clerkmanifesto has brought me neither wealth or fame. So I thought I'd try dabbling over on the dark side of integrity. What if I operated an alternate website, tricking people into my dark web mastery of nefarious deals and shady marketing, all to promote my ultimate plan of taking over the world? I could call it:


The ends justify the means and all that sort of thing.

No. Don't go to 

I went there just to make sure the domain was available.

They stole all my credit card information.

Friday, February 19, 2021

Read this to not die in ten minutes!

You are probably reading this in order to not die in ten minutes. Most people, according to our exhaustive studies, don't want to die any time soon, but the majority of the people we polled picked "in ten minutes" as the time they'd most like to not die in. 

We are here to help!

This web page, called 

"Read this to not die in ten minutes!"

is specifically designed to stop you from dying in ten minutes.

Well, it's closer to nine minutes now. So you might be thinking:

"Arrggggh! Hurry up! I don't want to die!"

Ha ha ha.

Don't worry, we've got this covered. 

We are absolutely sure that we can keep you from dying in the next ten, I mean nine, er, actually eight, minutes. Time sure does fly. That's why you've got to make the most of each moment. I mean, anyone could just drop dead at any time and then what do you have?

Oh, do you want me to answer that?

Yes, yes, less than seven minutes at this point, but now I wouldn't feel right not answering this thing about what you would have if you dropped dead.

You would have one of these four things:

1. Regrets.

2. Unconsciousness.

3. Lots of happy happy times in heaven!

4. Absolutely nothing.

But I'd better move on as we're down to six minutes.

Don't worry. It's all under control.

We just need a little information to proceed. Because unfortunately the instructions on how not to die in the next ten minutes (now a bit over five minutes to be honest) , is only available to subscribers. 

Simply sign up with the "Follow by Email" app on the right sidebar of this page to unlock the rest of this content.

If you're already signed up and subscribed here, or once you have completed your following by email, simply scroll down, and the rest of this informative, lifesaving essay, will automatically unlock.

Well done! And with two minutes to spare. We can still definitely get this taken care of! No one is dying in two minutes around here! I mean, not if they are reading this super important web page:

"Read this to not die in ten minutes!"

Everyone else practically everywhere is probably a minute from death though.

Oh, shoot, did I say a minute? Only a minute left! We better step on it!

But did you confirm your email?

Okay, good, good. Just checking. No need to panic. This will take but a second. 

In order to not die in ten minutes all you...

Ooops. Time's up. You still with me?

You are?

Wow! Excellent. 


I guess it worked then.

Tell your friends!

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Texas blackouts!


The shocking failure of the Texas electrical grid and the massive blackouts sweeping Texas during an epic cold spell have brought to all of our attention the terrible problems of deregulation, the ruinous disfunction of Republican politics, and the calamitous results of the inability of American media to speak squarely to the problems haunting the vast sweep of America. 

But I'm here to step into the fray!

I am here, on the amazing, all powerful Internet, to offer healing to the desperate peoples of Texas.

So come in close.

Huddle into my light, dear Texans. I am in Minnesota. I understand the cold. I can help you. Gather round. Hear the crackle of my fire. Feel the warmth of my weird, unearthly Northern Lights. Take a sip of this meltingly delicious orange cognac.

Mmm, cognac.

So dear citizen of America Texas. Though much divides us, we are one. We are a people. We must bridge the divide between us with love. Now is the time to set aside partisan squalor, past grievances, and ancient enmity. Ice has frozen your world. The power grid has failed you. You are freezing to death.

I have help.

I can save your lives and the lives of your precious pets, children, and perishable items. Read on, and all will be well.

Oh, right, there's a blackout there, you can't.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

How to wield power

As a person who has never had much power, I have nevertheless made my study of it. I have tried to take a clinical "all over" view of it, but I must confess that all my best views have been of its belly.

Here are the first two rules of power:

1. To rule power effectively one must disregard the opinions of others.

2. If one disregards the opinions of others one cannot rule power effectively.

I never said it was easy.


Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Picasso's last painting



Isn't the Internet amazing. 

Here is a picture of Picasso's last painting:

This interesting painting, set in France, and possibly depicting tree roots, curiously seems to hearken back to the work of Van Gogh, both in the layered complexity of its color, and in its writhing, oddly simple, yet complex, forms.

I was watching something on the Internet about Picasso, who was one of my favorite artists. It said he lived to be 91 years old and that he painted right into the day of his death. He was extremely prolific.


I thought:

I wonder what his last painting was?

Roughly speaking, Picasso made something roughly like 50,000 works of art.

As to paintings, there were almost 15,000 of them.

That's like five times the number of blogposts I've written! So, a lot.

I learned all this on the Internet.

But when it came to Picasso's last painting the Internet didn't want to tell me what it was. 

I occasionally try to alert you to the terrible limits of Internetland. But here it is not just that it doesn't want to tell me what Picasso's last painting was, but also that it wants to tell me, over and over again, in a series of articles repeatedly stolen from each other and dominating the search results, what Picasso's last well known portrait was, painted less than a year before his death.

It looked like this:

Weirdly good, yet again. That Picasso was really something. I wonder what his last painting was.

Picasso, when he was in his 90's, worked on art 11 or 12 hours a day. It's inspiring, even if he was an asshole.

Despite the fact that Picasso was 90 or 91 when he painted this above painting, there were tons of paintings he painted after it.

Imagine going to a Doctor and saying: I am so concerned about this tingling in my thyroid. Just tell me, do I have cancer?

And the Doctor replies:

Your knee is weirdly swollen, but that swelling is probably not cancer.

As I did the ten minutes of research on the Internet about what Picasso's last painting was I came upon a fascinating, possibly perfect and built for me, book:

The Final Painting: The Last Works of the Great Masters, from Van Eyck to Picasso


Patrick De Rynck

This book is coming out in September of 2021.

But before you start getting excited about the absolute triumph of books over the Internet check out this subtitle that casts shame on the publisher of the book: Ludion Publishers, and of course the author Patrick De Rynck, oh, and certainly the publisher Peter Ruyffelaerre, and possibly the whole city of Brussels, where Ludion Publishers is located:

"A selection of the last paintings of 30 of the greatest artists- Not the last painting- as that is often uncertain- but several carefully selected works these artists have made close to the end of their lives."

What kind of monster would do something like this?

I would never call a book writer or publisher a monster.

Hey, wait a second, you interject. If the Internet has nothing to offer on what Picasso's last painting was, how does this blog post start with a beautiful painting of Picasso's last painting?

Oh, that. It's by Van Gogh. 

They say it's his last painting.

But who knows?

I mean, except for me. Look for my expansion upon this theme in my next book, coming soon, called:

Trust Nothing.

I think Ludion Publishers might be interested. Belgians love that sort of thing. It's description can read: 

An important book about how you should trust absolutely nothing. Except, of course, you have to trust some things, like this book!

It will be my final work.

Except for the ones that come after.

Monday, February 15, 2021

All in how you put it

The headlines, as I have generally found them, run something like this:

Former President Acquitted in Senate Trial

And watching someone manifestly guilty be acquitted, especially when it involves their fomenting the violent overthrow of a Democracy, is some pretty dark sauce, slathered all over our Big Macs, which have been left sitting in the sun for a few years now. 

But you know we could have gone with a different, slightly more optimistic headline for the conclusion of this business:

Bipartisan Majority of Senate Finds Trump Guilty!

They're both true. 

Mine's prettier.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Doctor's office


The number of words for Winter:


The number of words for snow:


The number of words for feelings:

All of them are for feelings,

and none of them too.

The number of words for love:

For me? Besides "Love" itself?

Just one small name

of the early night.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

King of the Library: The 14th decree


Over the vast eons of clerkmanifesto I have dreamed of a great library where I am King. And as King, in this fantasy, I have piece by piece built a library as I think it should be, all through the use of decrees, kingly decrees, written here, whenever I am seized by a vision of this ideal library. 

These decrees are whimsical, innovative, rebellious, practical, fun, revolutionary, efficient, generous, and silly, all in their turn. So far there have been 12 of these decrees. No public library has yet contacted me to say:

Dear Mr. Calypso:

We have read with interest your innovative series "If I Were King of the Library", and we were fascinated. Our small library system would like to offer you a five year appointment to run our library entirely as you see fit. We feel that you could make our library a beacon in the world of libraries, or at least a laboratory for new ideas that could invigorate both our small community and the wider community as well.

We hope that you will be interested in this unique opportunity and look forward to discussing this compelling project with you.

The trustees of the Camden Public Library

Shakespeare once wrote:

The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves, that we are underlings.

Which I bring up here because it says, in effect, that my genius is wildly underappreciated precisely because people are absolute morons!

Oops. I think I've digressed.

Because my real point is that I soldier on, crafting this dream library despite the fact that it is just we few people musing over it while the rest of the world slumbers.

And so we come to today's decree, the thirteenth. It is a very simple one, largely economic in nature, and it is inspired by two basic things.

The first is a quote I read only this morning by Bertrand Russell:

Suppose that, at a given moment, a certain number of people are engaged in the manufacture of pins. They make as many pins as the world needs, working (say) eight hours a day. Someone makes an invention by which the same number of men can make twice as many pins: pins are already so cheap that hardly any more will be bought at a lower price. In a sensible world, everybody concerned in the manufacturing of pins would take to working four hours instead of eight, and everything else would go on as before. But in the actual world this would be thought demoralizing. The men still work eight hours, there are too many pins, some employers go bankrupt, and half the men previously concerned in making pins are thrown out of work. There is, in the end, just as much leisure as on the other plan, but half the men are totally idle while half are still overworked. In this way, it is insured that the unavoidable leisure shall cause misery all round instead of being a universal source of happiness. Can anything more insane be imagined?

The second inspiration for today's simple, but dramatic quality of life decree is based on my longstanding belief is that pretty much everyone in any library (and in most work settings) only does effective work 50% of the time at best, a point I have made thoroughly in the history of this blog and so will not rehash here. To put it simply: The pins we're making these days in America are at least twice as easy to make as they once were.

And that is why my 13th Decree is this:

Everyone working at the library shall be paid twice as much per hour, and everyone's hours shall be cut in half.

And so it is decreed on this day etc. etc., by the King.

Friday, February 12, 2021

The centrist Springsteen


Bruce Springsteen made a bit of a splash last week by starring in a long, expensive Super Bowl ad for Jeep. The crux of the ad was that there's a chapel in Kansas at the exact middle of America, and how we all need to meet there in The Center. America apparently has grown dangerously apart, Red and Blue, North and South, City and Country, and we need to come together at a common ground, in the middle, in a chapel, ideally with us all driving there in Jeeps.

In the short time since that ad aired Jeep has pulled it from circulation and off of all its social media. It turns out that the Boss was recently arrested for drunk driving. This is not something a car company is going to be keen to associate with.

How did the police catch this drunk Bruce Springsteen?

I guess he was driving dangerously down the middle of the road.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

One more Murphy's Law


I suppose if this were a less sunshiney, stop-and-smell-the-roses kind of a blog, I could have devoted myself here to all Murphy's Laws all the time. The library I work at is the perfect breeding ground for the development of Murphy's Laws. So is the county my library belongs to. So it the country my county belongs to. So is the world my country- well, you get the picture.

So I try to ration my disillusionment. I employ new Murphy's Laws stintingly.

But the good news is that I have saved up enough of my precious disillusionment points for one new Murphy's Law. So today we rejoice in the presentation of this small bit of rueful despair.

This Murphy's Law was illuminated by a busy session on my library's phones, but it is not merely the result of a few brief, anecdotal examples. It checks out in the analysis of decades of customer service.

 Here it is:

The complexity of a customer's problem on the phone is in direct proportion to how bad the connection is.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

American plenty


Here is a strange observation about America. It says a number of things about our culture, its wealth, and its impoverishment. I'm not going to spell out any of that. It all just struck me as I saw it.

This observation was made at the library I work at. There is a pandemic going on and our services are limited. One or two people were, at the moment of my observation, here picking up requested items, but the other 15 to 20 people were here, by appointment only, using our old, but functional Internet connected library computers.

They had all driven here.

Their insured, gassed up cars were almost exclusively SUV's and compact SUV's.

None of these cars were particularly old or in poor condition and many were nearly new.

And so almost every library patron was a person driving alone, in sub zero weather, during a pandemic, in a $10,000 to $30,000 street value car, to use a nearly valueless, but Internet connected library computer because they did not have such a thing in their own home.

If they had a home.

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Just some strange cat things


Mark Twain said:

If man could be crossed with the cat, it would improve man, but the cat would be diminished.

What this has to do with this post I am writing I do not know yet, but I must carry on as if it will all be connected in the end.

If I were a musician instead of a writer, everyday here you would find a piece of short, sad music played on an almost in tune piano. 

But I am not a musician.

If I were a writer and not a musician, I would write a short piece here everyday, and it would almost make you smile.

I am not a musician.

If neither a writer or a musician I were instead a cat, I would purr.

Monday, February 8, 2021






Despite having written close to 3,000 blog posts, the largest number of which have to do with working at a busy, near urban library, it suddenly occurred to me that I have yet to write a single post about pulling requests.

This, finally, is that post!

But first let me explain what "pulling requests" is. It's pretty technical, so bear with me:


People request, on computers, materials that they'd like (books, DVD's, CD's, etc.). We at the library print out lists of them. Then we pull them off the shelf.


I hope I didn't lose you in all the detail there.

The problem as I see it with pulling requested material, as opposed to shelving returned material, is that these are items people want. This makes them unavailable and appealing in a much more concentrated way than those books that people have finished with and don't want anymore.

Some of this might explain why I have stood here in the library stacks reading an interesting book about cocktails, and one about the secret gardens of Kyoto, for at least 15 minutes, and how, after half an hour of "pulling requests" I have pulled less than a dozen requested items.

Although writing this didn't help much either.





Sunday, February 7, 2021

Little known facts of olden tymes: changing ears




Did you know that in the olden days of yore people's ears used to grow continuously, like hair, or fingernails?

Many people don't know this, but there are many clues to it hidden in ancient cultures. One of the oldest songs known, "Do Your Ears Hang Low", which is said to date back to Babylonian Culture, and later morphed into a classic 16th Century Italian Madrigal, and was finally modernized as the playground song you will be very familiar with, is expressly about overgrown, or "untrimmed" ears, ones that "hang low" and "wobble to and fro".

Geneticists say that the end of continuous ear growth, commonly referred to as CEG, is the last identifiable discreet event in human evolution. Between the years 1000 and 1600, for reasons not fully understood, human beings stopped having continuously growing ears. Until this faded out of humanity's physical makeup, people all over the world regularly trimmed their ears.

I know that this sounds very weird to us, and even painful. But I assure you that a thousand years ago it was taken for granted. Also it wasn't painful (unless one cut too close), because the excess "ear", which could be so prodigious as to be tied "in a knot", or tied "in a bow", had no nerve endings and was not reached by the circulatory system, and so could be easily and safely trimmed and clipped, sometimes even pounded off with rocks. 

While the famed playground song refers to ears "sticking out" and standing high, most references in the song have to do with the dropping. They "hang low" and they "dangle". This is because the primary excess growth tended to be in the lobe, growing down, as shown in this statue of a Buddha.

The Leshan Giant Buddha, in Sichuan, China, is the largest Buddha in the world. The statue is carved directly into the mountainside and measures 71 meters (233 feet) tall. The Leshan Giant Buddha is one of the most visible symbols of weathering caused by pollution. Nearby industrial development and a stream of tourists arriving by bus have caused chemicals in the air to corrode, or wear away, the delicate stone of the carving.

But there was, especially as we go further back in human history, extra growth, CEG, all around the outside of the ear, which is why there are references to waving them "at your neighbor" and "flapping" them, and, not least, to the exaggerated ability to use them to "fly around the town". But outside of a few very exceptional cultures, ear trimming was standard, and it is unusual to find representations of people with untrimmed ears.

Which, perhaps, is why this children's song's most complete version has a final verse that ends with "Do your ears fall off?"

Which, in the olden days, they sort of did.

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Rock and hard place


Sometimes, after I get tired of being called Ma'am on the phone at my library too many times (simply because I have a higher voice), I remember that I can answer the phone with my standard boy name. It's not perfect, but it takes care of most of the Ma'am problem.

So I say "Good afternoon, Lilyvale Library, this is Feldenstein."

And after that introduction people almost never call me Ma'am, which is great. 

But what they do a lot is say something like "Hi Feldenstein." In a really familiar feeling way.

And I invariably think: 

Wait. Do I know them?

Then they say "Can you help me renew my books Feldenstein?"

And I realize, no, I don't know them! And they don't know me. At all!

But then I think in confusion:

But how did they know my name!

Friday, February 5, 2021

Like a rat through a snake


I have long envisioned the workings of the circulation department of my library to be like a snake consuming prey. This is because, like a snake swallowing a rodent, my library taking in library materials, both returned by patrons and sent by other library branches, results in a slow, methodical absorption of said materials that is visible by its bulge as it works its way into our system.

Though this graphic, uneasy simile has always been true of my library, it seems most true now. The rate of things coming into our library has always been somewhat uneven, but before the pandemic we processed a higher regular rate of returns. A large bulge of incoming books might be more hidden by a constant influx of items. But under our current pandemic rhythms we have a more pronounced boom and bust cycle. We feast and fast. And as the days pass we can watch our weekly engorgement work its way down our library's snaky system.

Monday is the day. 

Over the long weekend, though we are open, we receive no deliveries from other branches. Our hours shorten. And for whatever strange reasons the pandemic has, we are a little less busy as well (not at all something that ever happened before the pandemic closings). Through the end of the week we grow lean and hungry. All our shelving gets done. The items on our request shelves thin out. We practically hibernate.

But then Monday morning comes. End of the weekend returns pour in. The public returns to the library and with them come their items brought back. Lists of requested books are printed, searched for, and piled at the check in machine. And above all the delivery arrives from half a dozen branches. It is a triple sized delivery. Three days worth. At least a dozen large push bins and dozens of full to the brim boxes stand poised for processing. 

We start to feed it all through. 

It is our rat.

And we're hungry.

We try to swallow it whole. What a lump!

First the bulge of it hits the machine. We run books on it at a furious pace (well, some people more furiously than others). Many of those books are requested by patrons, so the request processing area swells next. Then it all moves to the request shelving, where people's requested books are filed for them to pick up. That area distends with items on carts, waiting to be put on the shelves. Then, as teams of people put the books in their places, the shelves start to get so packed it is hard to fit anything on them.

By Tuesday one can see the results of this gluttony in the areas where we keep our regular collection of items to be shelved as well. The carts start to fill that area where it seems like moments ago there was nothing. But by that afternoon, though still visible, a lot of this avalanche of books and movies and cds is starting to even out a little. One can trace that Monday morning rodent, but it's flattening out a little, starting to conform to the shape of the library, getting crushed and disassembled.

On Wednesday most of the shelving, general and requests alike, gets worked out to feed the shelves of the library, but request lists and patrons coming in for their hold pick ups ease the congestion of the shelves. Only the faintest of bulges is hinted at.

Thursday is almost deadly quiet. The rat is eaten. We sleep.

Friday is cruised through.

Saturday we start to get hungry again.

And Sunday? Oh Sunday. Sunday we dream of gerbils, hamsters, and mice, rats, a big rat, oh god, maybe a rabbit even. I think we could do a rabbit, if we really tried.

Metaphorically of course.


Thursday, February 4, 2021

A short, almost pleasant, rationalization


One of my great virtues is my extreme generosity in letting other people win.







Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Dear sir or madam







Dear Sir or Madam:



Please disregard the letter I decided not to send you yesterday.


I found myself not saying some things I deeply regret. My emotions failed to get the better of me. And I hope you can find it in your heart to forget, or set aside that which I refrained from saying. 

Sometimes my restraint gets the better of me, and hopefully I will fail to do better in the future.

With sincere regret that I may reconsider at any moment,

I am yours truly,






Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Dear publisher: the confidence

Dear Publisher:

I send you this query in full confidence that you will be astounded and thrilled by the quality of my writing. You will adore all 3,000 of my witty, heartfelt, and interesting essays. You will cry and laugh and then whip out one of your golden contracts, the ones that you keep in a hidden drawer in your desk and only offer once or twice in a decade. Brimming with praise and enthusiasm you will send me this most rare and generous of contracts, and we will embark on a publishing journey full of Pulitzers, money, Pulitzers, more money, Publishers' Weekly starred reviews, bestseller lists, and, maybe, if everything goes right, a Nobel Prize or two. 

Oh, and also money.

At this moment in time I can pull up any one of my 3,000 essays, at random, and swell with pride at my brilliance. And I send this letter with the absolute conviction that you will feel about them as I do.

Unfortunately, in two months I will stumble upon this letter to you, and I will feel embarrassed. I will delve into the backlog of my work, read from it extensively, and find none of it anywhere to be as good as I remembered. My cheeks will burn. I will say to myself "What have I done?"

My god, what have I done?

And so that is why I am not sending this letter to you.

With a touch of rare pity in your heart (rare because you are a mostly merciless, slightly embittered big time publisher), you say to me "But why not just try? Nothing ventured nothing gained." Or you might say "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take." But you'd probably stick with the 'nothing ventured nothing gained' thing.

But on the plus side you can't really say any of that if I don't write you. So there's that.

Also, if I'm really honest, at this point I can't really tell the difference between the success rate on things I venture and the success rate on the things I don't.

That's fine, I guess.

Thank you for your time, hypothetically,

Feldenstein Calypso

Monday, February 1, 2021






Do you believe in magic?

I do. 

I at best barely believe in god, mostly not at all, but magic? Sure. Absolutely. With conviction.

But it needs to be said that magic is a wily sucker. It is untraceable by science. It is completely unusable for any practical purposes. As brilliant at times as rainbows and lightning, it hides at any possible moment, randomly, and in the very midst of its illumination, posing at any moment as science or imagination or chance or inevitability or nothing at all, whatever it takes.

Because magic does not belong to the physical laws of the Universe it must run from them. And because it is so wonderful and sought after, even by people who don't believe in magic, it must be dedicated to its elusiveness, to its own private reality. Otherwise it will be pulled into the observable universe, where it can only disappear.

And so magic has an axiom. Let's call it the first rule of magic:


All magic will be as little like magic as possible.