Friday, April 30, 2021



Tolstoy famously said at the start of Anna Karenina:

All happy families are alike, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

He almost got it right. It has many of the correct elements; families, happiness, unhappiness, and the powerful use of the word "all". It also was the exciting start to a famous and excellent novel. So naturally it is easy to be taken in by it. I too was once taken in by it. But "All happy families are alike, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way" has one small flaw:

It is the precise opposite of the truth. 

God knew this. God could have been cleared up the problem with this long ago, only, God sees the truth, but waits.

Just kidding. That's a little Tolstoy humor.

Here is what I learned finally

I am not famous. I am not Tolstoy. This is not the start of one of the most important novels in the history of literature. It will not guide you in life. It is not important. But it has one small virtue regardless:

It is true.

Happiness is different every single time.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Over zealous book recommendation


Today's over zealous book recommendation is for Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan. It is the greatest book ever.

Just kidding. This book recommendation is not all that over zealous.

I am having this book read to me through a secret device in my ear while I shelve books at the library. I always looked slightly down upon this spaced out, earphone kind of behavior at work. But now I have gone over to the dark side.

Oddly, going to the dark side and listening to the completely brilliant Counting by 7s as an audio book, keeps, for some reason, making me want to be a better person. I don't know why Counting by 7s makes me want to be a better person. It is not a particularly moralistic sort of book.

Also I am pretty sure I am already as good a person as I can possibly be. 

When I was finished shelving I still wanted to listen to Counting by 7s some more, because it is a really good book, so I left it playing in my ear while I went out to take pictures with my phone of the library's tiny magnolia tree and then of some strange red seed heads blossoming out of a tall tree in the swamp. 

As I listened to the book I still wanted to be a better person.

I decided that even if that might not be possible, it was nevertheless a really good feeling to have.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Nice, neutral, difficult


I must know thousands of people from working at the library, but nearly all of that knowing is in the slimmest form of it that is possible. I don't remember these people's names. I can't recall anything personal about them. I can't remember if I last saw them a week ago or three years ago, and either being true would not surprise me. Out of context it usually even takes me three long beats to recognize them.

But there is always one thing I know, and with my recognition of them, one small, quiet chime goes off in me:

Nice, neutral, or difficult.

They feel either nice, neutral, or difficult.

I don't know why I feel or know this. I can't remember why I feel that way about them. I can ascribe no incident to them. I couldn't give you a reason for it. But it comes to me with complete confidence.

They are nice, neutral, or difficult.

Today, out on my morning photography walk I was taking pictures of someone's flowers. A man came up the sidewalk with his dog, on his way home. I guess they were his flowers then. He greeted me warmly, with a "long time no see!" reference to me and the library.

I took three beats. Then he blinked into perfect view and recollection. "Nice." My brain said, and absolutely nothing else.

We chatted for a bit, and he was... nice.

I guess we remember the most important things first, and last.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Whatever happened to?


Welcome to my new continuing series here called "Whatever Happened To?" In "Whatever Happened To?" we take a look at those things that were once a big deal, or a regular part of our lives, but have now drifted away to be hardly thought of. We explore why they're gone, where they went, and how we replaced them.

Today, on "Whatever Happened To?" we are taking a look at:

Whatever Happened to Summer?

When I was a kid we had Summer every year. Summer usually centered on the months of June, July, and August. But it hasn't been June in almost ten months! It was cold all Winter. After what seems like ages it is Spring! Do we no longer have Summer? Why is it still so cold and rainy today? Are we stuck? Are we heading towards Winter? How does Fall fit into it? I'm pretty sure we've already had one of those in the same period of time that we had zero Summers.

I called the Weather Bureau.

"Hello." I said. "Whatever happened to Summer?" I asked angrily.

"It begins on June 21st." They replied.

So there's your answer.

Next time on "Whatever Happened To?" we find out whatever happened to Star Wars, those three funny, popular space movies back in the 70's. Don't miss it.

Monday, April 26, 2021

High quality library joke


Someone told me a joke at the library just now. Usually this event doesn't make it into clerkmanifesto because of our unreasonably high standards. But this joke was not only not racist nor sexist, but it actually concerned libraries.

I'm actually not sure this has ever happened in the 5,000 jokes I've been told by the public here working at a library for over a quarter of a century. I thought the best way to celebrate would be to share the joke with you.

Also, it was sorta funny.

A man comes into the library and goes up to the librarian's desk. "I would like to see your books on paranoia." He says.

The librarian leans in close and says softly "They're right behind you."

Sunday, April 25, 2021



You might be wondering:

"How hard is it to transfer your blog of over 3,000 posts to a new place on the Internet?"

You weren't?

What were you wondering then?

Oh. Well, yes, the clerkmanifesto buffet will have more shrimp in about half an hour. We're closely monitoring the scheduled delivery.

The fact is that transferring my blog of over 3,000 posts to a new place on the Internet is super easy. All I have to do is, 

Wait, I'll make a list. 

This way you can keep track at home.

1. Choose a new blog address! All there is to know 3.0? I'm working on it. Brilliant suggestions welcomed in the comment section below.

2. Type all three thousand previous clerkmanifesto blog posts into a new font. Laborious, yes, but I can leave out the bad sentences.

3. Learn how to use Wordpress, which should be easy because I start out already knowing that Wordpress is a thing that exists.

4. Shovel some nice money over to a large bloghosting company that will eventually not respond to my infuriated emails.

5. Make a commercial for the Super Bowl to advertise my new Clerkmanifesto 2.0 (name pending the results of list item number one).

6. Stay hydrated.

7. Write encouraging comments to myself under a pseudonym in my comments section.

So far I'm working on list item number one, but the good news is I just had several sips of water.

Stay tuned.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

The circumnavigation of Saint Minneapolis


The expedition took place on an electric bicycle and ran 17.2 miles long. I brought three cameras on the trip, but I only used two. The journey was experimental in nature, without map, clinging to the Mississippi River and, with some success, to separate bike paths, though it still managed to hug major interstate highways and abysmal road shoulders as well. It took in views of the old downtowns of both of what was known long ago as St. Paul and Minneapolis. These sections of St. Minneapolis, oddly, were once considered two cities. I crossed the Mississippi River twice and the Minnesota River once, the latter of which provided a rare vantage point for both of the downtowns at once.

I traveled down river for many miles before I could be troubled to take any pictures. This happened at Crosby Farm Park, a wild area along the Mississippi River with lakes, swampy ponds, and woods in generous supply.

Here we see the early grasses of Spring coming to life at the edge of Lake Crosby:

As you can see, my photographic work on this expedition is less naturalistic and more experimental. You will find this only continues, aye even grows stronger in its tendencies, as we forge ahead.

From this first stop we headed back to the woods and admired this celebration of the trees:

And then I biked along some more swampy sections of colorful Spring ponds and wetlands, stopping for brief forays among the mud and muck to take in the scenery:

The joys of Crosby Farm Park finally ended at a major Interstate Highway, Highway 35E. To the fortune of my circumnavigation, bike paths took me through a tunnel under the Freeway that wasn't nearly as spooky as pictured here:

Once across the Highway, a bike path ran along this major bridge of the 35. The middle of the bridge afforded commanding views of St. Paul, from this, the downtown area:

Over to some of the appealing old industrial buildings on the River, and the Cathedral, on the edge of downtown, which is one of the finest examples of historical architecture in the city. 

Here is a closer picture of the Cathedral, built at the start of the 1900's. To the far right one can also see the dome of the State Capitol building:

My views in the other direction were far less magnificent, just so you don't think an explorer's life is all wine and roses:

Once over on the south side of the Mississippi  I found the bike path closed for mysterious reasons, and it left me biking along a road shoulder for awhile until that same path finally opened up. This led me to the Mendota Bridge. Curiously the Mendota Bridge has a 4.3 rating on Google. It deserves at least 4.4! It crosses over the Minnesota River just before it joins the Mississippi at Pike Island and Fort Snelling.

Here is a view out of a decorative bit of the bridge to the river valley below:

Cute flower.

From up here I could see both the St. Paul downtown, as we saw before, but farther away now:

And Minneapolis, shown here with old and historic Fort Snelling in the foreground (where we're heading next!):

Immediately upon crossing the Mendota Bridge I could head off into Fort Snelling State Park. This includes a major piece of Minnesota history, Fort Snelling, complete with all its nasty legacies, and a fair bit of somewhat wild land in the middle of the city. Here is the main entrance of the Fort, which probably would have been open if not for the Pandemic:

Here is another shot from along the front of the fort:

This all is quite well preserved, but when I headed down off the bluff and rode along the base of the fort and its giant walls, it felt more like a giant ruin looming up out of the jungle:

The short round tower way at the top of this giant wall is the same one you can see in the foreground of the picture of the Minneapolis skyline several pictures above.

From here it was all lovely paths towards home through marshy river basin woodlands. Even the path itself could be particularly pretty in this area:

My last pictures of the trip were of some of the dense swampland along the bike route and just back from the Coldwater Spring:

A few miles from here and I was home, my circumnavigation complete.

Thanks for coming along.


Friday, April 23, 2021



After yesterday reading about the first hints of clerkmanifesto 2.0 in this very space, you probably woke at dawn today to see what new developments I am posting about this glamorous, life changing project.

And boy do I have news!

I am sure you won't be disappointed.

But this news is very complicated and hard to express. So I wondered:

How can I convey this news in a simple yet intelligible manner?

The answer is so obvious that you probably already guessed it:

Through magnolias!

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Some housekeeping



Oddly enough I don't much come onto this blog and just... talk. Oh, I theater talk a lot, but that's as part of writing a self-contained piece. I always have an eye towards the wild web, where if anyone wanders down my dark alley and finds one of my blogposts it will all make perfect sense as an independent, free standing essay. That it might all connect up to my other 3,000 posts is just gravy. Step away from clerkmanifesto for a year or two and when you come back there will be no effort required on your part to get back up to speed. Charlie Brown still hasn't kicked the football. Sally is still crushing on her sweet babboo. Pooh still loves honey.

But sometimes I get in my mind an idea to shake things up here at clerkmanifesto. Usually these moments involve a grandiose plot that includes taking over the Internet. I float my schemes here and gauge the response.

There generally isn't a response.

And like my childhood schemes to dig out a massive underground lair behind my house with a small hand shovel, the reality of the effort involved, the nature of my skills, and the suitability of my tools, all quickly wash away 99 percent of my ambitions.

Also, I usually get a blister.

So, you wonder, where are we in this scenario?

We are at the point where I propose wildly ambitious changes on a speculative basis.

But there is an instigation to this revolution that you should know about.

Google Blogger, the free and probably evil system that hosts my blog and allows me to put clerkmanifesto on the Internet for something very close to free, has informed me that the device by which people can sign up to receive my blog posts by email will cease to be supported as of August.

What does this mean?

No, I was asking you, because I sure can't tell. 

Will new people still be able to sign up to receive my blog in email form?

Will those of you out there reading this in your email continue to receive emails?

Will things slowly become more broken and worse and worse and worse?

I don't know.

But it all got me thinking about finding a different home for clerkmanifesto, something that offers me a wider range of options and allows me to spread my wings a bit. Something that might involve the caterpillar that is clerkmanifesto spinning itself into a chrysalis, and only through great effort and miraculous transformation allow it to emerge as, well, probably a slightly different caterpillar.

I am picturing something like an entire improved internet contained within my single blog, an endless source for strange and delightful news, entertainment, revolution and magic. I am picturing digging out an entire enchanted city beneath the backyard of the house I grew up in. Winding streets of old Kyoto, Rome, Imre. Stores selling things you've never seen before for prices you have never paid.

I have a little shovel.

And I am making some plans.

I'll try to keep you appraised. Change may be coming.


Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Fishing for miscreants


There have always been patrons who abuse and misuse the services of libraries.

And there always will be patrons who abuse and misuse the services of libraries.

Stopping them is my job. 

I am a fisherman. 

A fisherman for miscreants!

That sounded better in my head.

But all is not lost. The key to this analogy working is in the "fishing".

People keep books late. They damage books. They even steal books. People leave garbage behind, are too loud, steal from our honor pay boxes, and pee on the furniture. There are people who harass other patrons, ask for too much help, and take up too much space.

The trick for any library is how to stop them. And the other trick is in how to keep those very rules, designed to stop a minority of miscreants, from adversely affecting the rest of the more wholesome library population.

The answer, for good or ill, is in the fishing.

The more restrictive the rules are the more the fish that you don't want are caught up in the nets. The looser the rules are the more the fish that you want to catch will slip away with everyone else.

The easiest example for all of this is the late charge, which has only recently undergone a massive reexamination in the public libraries. Traditionally a very fine net was used. To prevent chronic, willful abuse of due dates a strict late penalty system existed in pretty much every library in the country. Every little fish was swept up in the nets. Everything in the sea paid a price for every transgression. One could even say the fear of the late fine was a price in tension that came inherently with library use. At best we fishermen at the library threw back an occasional fish as we saw fit; Family emergency, financial difficulty, illness, maybe even an expensive one time mistake, and we would forgive a fine. We caught everything and only threw back what we had to. Our line was strict. Chronic abusers were driven out of library use, or paid a steep price for their transgressions, but every other library fish paid some kind of price as well.

Now we are on the other end of this extreme. We charge no late charges for anything. Our measly tools to catch people include their own sense of responsibility and the books aging to lost because they are so extremely late. This is a very particular kind of line fishing. Nothing is ever caught up accidentally, but there is also very little to stop the abusers of the system from their rampage across our due dates. And while rampaging across due dates doesn't sound terrible, when you are waiting endlessly for the item you so want to come back it can take on a different level of importance.

At this point you may be wondering:

"Yes, but what is your point?"


I don't know.

I was just really keen on the analogy.

And I had some fish pictures.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021