Tuesday, May 24, 2022

You're right?

Two more mildly enigmatic Peanuts homages:


Monday, May 23, 2022

Best day of the year


At the risk of being mushy (and why not?), this is the best day of the year. 

It's the best because any other one where I get to be with her is nearly as good.

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Photo album of the flood


So much of the Saint Minneapolis wilderness paths I like to walk on are under water. The Mississippi isn't really the sort of river that spills into our high and dry city, but its flood basin is a National Park wonderland strewn from one end of the city to the other. And it's interwoven with a fantastic maze of paths. And all of them are under water. Which, to be fair, is probably why those places were never developed in the first place.

My pictures today are the usual enigmatic close ups, and some aren't strictly flood pictures, but I hope they give the idea regardless.

At the very least they should manage to say:

"Lots of water", which is really the point.

Saturday, May 21, 2022



I remember the time when my friend Matthew became deeply interested in Suiseki. That was when I learned about them.

Suiseki is the Japanese art of stone appreciation, although it originated in China and was introduced to Japan about 1,500 years ago. I went looking for a good explanation of it, especially as my knowledge of the art of Suiseki is a bit thin and mostly comes from Matthew, who was no authority on it, just a person with preternatural aesthetic gifts who could understand such a thing with absolute alacrity.

Basically Suiseki is about finding natural stones that look like other things- sometimes landscapes, like mountains or islands or canyons, and sometimes objects, like animals, or houses, or people, or bridges. Then it's about taking these stones and presenting them, usually by fitting the stones perfectly into an elegant and perfectly fit base. Most of these bases that I've seen are wood, like wood stands.

Suiseki are also known as scholar stones. I think that appellation is from the Chinese branch, although either way my impression is that it suggests the contemplative nature of these stones. Apparently in Japan some of the most prized Suiseki can be incredibly valuable.

Once when I was canoeing down the Current River with Matthew I remember combing the rocky river valley with him searching for Suiseki. I don't recall ever finding a good one.

Curiously though, in my own local Shadow Creek, which is not very rocky, there is a perfectly brilliant Suiseki sitting in the middle of the creek. It looks like a mountain.

I call it:

"The Matthew Suiseke" in honor of my friend.

Here is a picture of it. Traditionally it is not permitted to alter the stone, and in my picture I have kept to that, although I have blacked out the background as I found it distracted from the beauty and scale of the Suiseki stone:

Friday, May 20, 2022

Thursday, May 19, 2022

The changing political spectrum


There are an unholy number of diagrams on the Internet these days attempting to illustrate the shift in American Politics. These are usually represented by a left-right continuum with little figures standing on that line and showing how radically a person keeping the same political orientation will have shifted in relation to other positions on that line because those other people have changed so dramatically.

I'm finding this complicated to explain, so I'll try drawing a very rough example:


I made it too complicated and messed it up. 

But maybe you get the idea? A liberal, moving not at all in their political beliefs for ten years, is now miles from a standard Republican, and much farther from a "moderate" Republican as well. A progressive, who has moved a bit left in a decade, is now miles from a mainstream Republican who has moved vastly and terrifyingly right.

And it's this last issue I wanted illustrate through a longtime library patron I will call "Ottmar".

Many libraries, for a hundred years, have had a patron like Ottmar. Our Ottmar has been around for about 15 years now. I'm pretty sure his tenure has been interrupted a couple times for institutionalization and pandemics. But as a whole he is generally here, on our computers, printing copiously and attempting to share his work with anyone he can.

And what is this work?

Aye, there's the rub.

It is a stew of anti-Semitic rambling, racism, crazed persecution complex paranoia, and "The lizard people are taking over" hysteria. Ten years ago he was the troubled, schizophrenic man that any library has to deal with. We hoped that he would find some help and maybe make his way to at least some faction of civilized society.


Instead a gigantic chunk of civilized society has made its way to him.

I don't think he feels any less lonely though.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Chinese people


There is no explanation for it, and you won't find one here. This morning my neighborhood was full of Chinese people.

It started on our morning walk, when a large group of Chinese people were gathered on the sidewalk, but I didn't think much of it. It was only later in the morning when I went out photographing along the river that it struck me as peculiar. I kept passing Chinese people in my neighborhood as I walked along to a field of dandelions. I cut through to the river, passing one Chinese man, and slipped down one of the secret paths that plunged through the brush to the river path.

The river path is usually quiet, but where it turns away from the river two Chinese people had strung up a hammock among the trees and were lying in it together. I could barely see them, but I could easily hear them talking loudly in Mandarin.

From there, I made my way down to the famous Shadow Falls. I didn't used to think they were famous, but when Chinese tourists started visiting them (today) I was forced to reconsider. I was taking a dramatic picture up the falls when a Chinese woman appeared up at the top, smiling down on me.

I took more pictures of the falls as the Chinese lady and her friend made their tricky way down to the base of the falls. One of them asked me in a broken, but polite English, if I wouldn't mind steeping away from the falls so they could take a selfie there.

Sure, I was ready to move on anyway. I wanted some wider pictures of the falls.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

My favorite co-worker


I was out with my friend Jim, taking him for sushi on his birthday. Once we worked together at the same library branch, but he long ago moved on to other branches in our system. Making conversation, and being a bit cheeky, I asked him who his favorite co-worker was at his branch these days. It threw him for a loop, but then he named a couple people and countered with "Who's your favorite co-worker?"

What kind of question is that?!!!

I mean, seriously!

I gave a long speech about just how very many people I like just fine at my library and left it at that. One can never be too careful about expressing preferences.

Then the next morning I went in to work, and the first thing that met my eyes was our giant, 27 bin automated materials check in machine, dutifully processing library materials. Standing there, gazing lovingly at it, the thought suddenly surged through my head with an alarming clarity 

"This, This is my favorite co-worker!"

I mean, right after any co-worker who is reading this now.

Monday, May 16, 2022

Light on the surface of the water


Just a lazy Sunday afternoon. Or so I would like it to be, but with just this one day off this weekend I have a great deal to take care of. 

Toilets don't clean themselves!

So with a busy day off (and a magnificently beautiful one at that- Spring has been forced by the greed of Winter and Summer to pack it all in at once, and so it is very condensed right now), I thought today would be a good time to show you some of my stream pictures work from the past week or two- these specializing in the refraction on the surface of the water.

You might find these pictures to look heavily photo edited, but really I haven't done that much. It's mostly in the color that I've occasionally messed around with, and that only to accentuate the definition, but the patterns and the strange lights and darks aren't so far off from how the good gods made them, all aswirl with gesture and complicated mathematics.

Shall we then...

Sunday, May 15, 2022

New library promotional item


This morning while I was doing a reorganization/restocking of the front desk battalion of office supplies, I came across this curious and amusing library promotional item:

It was a lot of fun showing this pencil around to my co-workers. The pencil posed for several photographs and I got to try out a few mediocre jokes to accompany my presentation, like:

"I got this promotional item in from Alabama."


"If only they would!"

After all the revelry died down I found myself oddly taken with the idea of a sort of reverse psychology library campaign. We could start, of course, with "Stop the Library!" pencils. But from there I see us progressing to a nice, canvas "Ban Books" book bag. We like to put quotes on the bookbags we sell to the public here, so maybe this bookbag can read like:

Ban Books!

"The paradox of education is precisely this- that as one begins to become conscious one begins to examine the society in which he is being educated."

-James Baldwin

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Report from library


I got a covid booster yesterday, number four. My arm is tired. I'm tired. I'm soooo tired! But I came to work anyway. I was too tired to call in.

The automated check in machine was down, broken, when I got here to the library. I was way too tired for that. But I was also too tired to go home. I figured I'd wait it out and see what happened. Eventually the machine people fixed the machine and now everything is back to normal here. There is a loud squeak from the ceiling belts on the machine. One of my co-workers asked me: "So they didn't fix the squeak?"

"No." I replied. "They have a special squeak crew for that."

I don't know. Maybe they do. Specialization is an invention either to develop mastery among people or, more likely, to allow people not to do anything. For instance, I am currently on the specialty assignment of processing requests. There are a hundred things to do here, but there are no requests. I even have a partner to not work on the requests that aren't here. She's looking at her phone.

But we're ready for the requests if they come!

Well, my partner is.

I'm very tired. Too tired.

So far today everything looks bad, but it's all sort of taking care of itself. I'm just trying to not get in the way.

I might even be developing a specialty.

Friday, May 13, 2022

Fashion at the mall

I do not, as a rule, have the commitment, discipline, persistence, and bankroll to dress with the panache I might ideally like. Nevertheless I do keep a lookout for items of attire that would suit my ultimate sensibilities in the sartorial sense. And though items I love come far and few between, I do, every few years, find a coat (usually) or an ensemble that captivates me. I have bought silk smoking jackets, Italian scarves, Japanese baseball jerseys, velvet coats, vividly vertically striped shirts, and long yellow raincoats that have been entirely worth it to me. And many of these items I yet retain. And when I am out at a mall I am ever keeping an eye out for another of these pleasures.

I almost never find them.

What I do sometimes find though, are older men, sitting around while their wives and daughters shop, who are dressed exactly as I would like to dress. I look around the mall for their clothes, but absolutely do not find them. I think they are dressed in clothes acquired in another country, or possibly from another time period. Perhaps they make them themselves?

I will never know. I am too shy to ask.


Thursday, May 12, 2022

The problem of overstaffing


On a recent night here at my library everyone of my five co-workers was either off for surgery recovery or simply called in sick in a tragic-comedy one-by-one domino falling that became increasingly predictable. In the end it was just me alone to face the night shift. A day shift co-worker took pity and decided to stay for the evening for the incredibly valuable exchange of getting to not be here at some point in the near future, which is a thing weighted among some of us greater than gold!

So in the end it was just we two instead of the usual six. 

Three would have been considered the absolute bare minimum.

But we were not busy.

While both of us are quite capable, and could have fared well in trying conditions if we had them, the truth is we had modest amounts of work to do and chatted away good portions of the evening. 

We're top notch chatterers.

If there is a third rail of working at the library it is possibly that no one is to ever mention that we are functionally overstaffed by a significant margin. The reason that this is unmentionable is because the truth of this reality cannot be entrusted to any managerial, administrative, or supervisory staff- they have proven, historically, unerringly incapable of doing the right thing with information of this gravity and import. 

And what, you may wonder, is the right thing to do with this information?

I'd love to tell you but I'm super busy right now.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Phoning it in


Sometimes, in the course of thousands upon thousands of consecutive daily blog posts I am suddenly seized with a temptation to phone one in. 

I'm not saying it's hard, or unrewarding, or not its own satisfaction to write out to you, out there in the ether, everyday, faultlessly, and without fail, for what surely must be inching its way towards ten years, but there are days where it does all get away from me a bit. There are days where I wait for inspiration and it doesn't come, or I am working on a picture project that isn't ready, or a new chapter is too much to write, or something suddenly comes up, and before I know it it is late in the evening and I feel the tang of creative stang.

Do you know what I mean?

Thank goodness!

And so then, in those low points, or those times of small trial, I think:

"Maybe just this one time I can phone it in."

And then I remember:

I'm actually quite good at phoning it in.

And that's what I'm usually doing anyway.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Library fines and sociopathology


The man on the phone at the library wants to renew his three books. After I wait for him to get his card, and after I tell him that yes, he has to read the whole barcode number, I endeavor to renew his items. One of them won't go- there is a hold on it.

"Is there only one copy of it?" The man asks. Perhaps he is thinking that if there are copies on the shelf I could then renew it for him anyway. Technically I couldn't, but I suppose there would be options. So I look the book up. There are several copies, but none are available, and there is also a waiting list for the item. So it's a no go there.

"What is the punishment for late items?" The man then asks, clearly weighing his options as regards keeping the book.

"Only the burden of your own guilt." I reply drily. Then I laugh to keep things light, but not because it isn't true. 

Like in the vast preponderance of all malfeasance in this world, the burden of our guilt is indeed the only price to pay.

Monday, May 9, 2022

The seven seconds of Spring


Not much Spring around here in Saint Minneapolis. 

It may be happening even as I speak, but it is moving by so fast that it's hard to get a good look at it.

 Dead branches burst into bud and flowers erupt from the ground with a velocity normally inconceivable to the plant kingdom. The temperature is abruptly in the mid eighties, having all but skipped the friendly fifties and sixties and seventies, and all the trees and the flowers and the dazzling eggy sprongs of the earth are moving forth like a person with the most important appointment of their lives waking up lusciously to glance over and discover that they're supposed to be there in three minutes!

So yeah, Spring's coming on pretty quick here. 

It keeps making the thudding booms as it breaks the sound barrier with its appalling (but dazzling) speed.

And I'm not too happy about it. Spring is easily the second best season here. It is a miracle. It is an astonishment of riches. It smells interesting. It is full of birds singing and long missing colors and of an everlastingly held breath finally being let out. And so, I say, it deserves more than a week total to itself.

Summer's five and a half months can spare some. 

Winter's five and a half months can spare some. 

But Summer and Winter sit there staring at each other saying

"I'm not giving any if (s)he's not giving any!"

And look where we are now!

So this is our puny Spring. 

I have managed to grab a tiny handful of pictures of it. I'm lucky they're not blurry with how they are all running by so fast! Try to enjoy them. We may be well into Summer in a few days when I'm out photographing again.