When you look beyond your own concerns, do you think Trump is the big picture?  Think again.  How about climate change? No, even bigger. The biggest show on Earth is the anthropocene, a new geological era defined by human effect on Earth and the ecosystem.  And in this case having a concept named after you is not a compliment.

When you grapple with a big concept, it helps to have a small piece to chew on. I attended a conference yesterday at NYU [btw-NYU knows how to throw a great conference]on Libraries and Archives in the Anthropocene: A Colloquium, 2017 which provided that piece.  I was introduced to the concepts of sustainability and resilience.  The speakers I heard discussed how libraries and archives can preserve themselves in an age of climactic and digital disasters, how they can preserve culture and knowledge in an age of climactic and digital disasters and how they can actively  spread information and make change. I also learned some small letter stuff like the benefits of microfiche for preservation.

Libraries are also poetic spaces. I learned about three libraries of Emily Dicksonian power: the Library of Water in Iceland, the Svlbard Global Seed Vault in Norway and Charlie Macquarie’s Library of Approximate Location.  in the West[This guy is an artist and farmer too and an entertaining conversationalist].

I feel as if I had an intellectual massage and  went on a hike in the redwoods .  Thank you Rory Litwin and Howard Besser for organizing this.

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Colin Woodward asserts that this country has never been “one nation indivisible” but has always been a confederation of 11 nations. Woodward shows how each nation’s culture and values reflect the original settlers of each nation and then traces the conflict and cooperation among regions down to us.
With this thesis, it is not surprising that Woodward thinks that our perception of being “deeply divided” is old news. In his conclusion, after the nobody can predict the future disclaimer, he speculates about compromise, collapse and an EUy confederation. The only way for the “United States to continue to exist in something like its current form” is for “its central government to function cleanly, openly and efficiently.” But there is a chicken and egg in here because our government would function more cleanly, openly and efficiently if we were less divided. So, all hope is lost maybe.
This book is bold, entertaining and informative. The swing nation thesis fits in well with the results of the November election so it helped me get it. I wish he had spent more time on how the united versus the divided aspect but that’s a matter of taste and authorial prerogative.

Scene:  April 2016 at about 5:00 pm on a Thursday. An upscale bar in Baltimore, Maryland.

I have finished a day at a nearby conference. I enter and sit at far end of bar. There is an empty seat and then a late twenties woman eating a salad and talking to the bartender.
A fortyish man at the end of his work day enters and takes empty seat. He gives off an ex-military air.

[Forgotten opening conversation which had something to do with how he was divorced and his son had a man bun]

Man to me: Do you like your hair?
Me: Yes
Man: Really? OK then.
Man: You really like your hair?
Me: Yes.
Man: How old are you?
Me: [shocked but amused by his directness]. 59
Man:  [pausing then delivering his opinion] You’re attractive but you would be more attractive if you did something with your hair.
Me: Some men like my hair. You know it’s impossible to tell what a man is going to like.
Man: You have a point.
Woman on left side coming to my defense: That’s a mean thing to say to her.
Man: No, it’s not. And you don’t even know how to hold a fork.
Man reaches toward young woman.
Young woman: Don’t touch me.
At this point, young woman speaks to bartender who tells man he has to leave. Man pulls out 100 dollar bill to pay for drink.
Bartender to me: I’m sorry. I was at the other side of the bar and didn’t hear what he was saying to you.[Note-bartender comped me for my beer]
Man on his way outto young woman: You’re a loser. I bet you support Bernie Sanders.

The End

Questions for discussion

  1. What does my hair look like?
  2. Who is the most interesting character in the story?
  3. Why did the man behave the way he did?
  4. What did I learn from this incident?
  5. What is the typical reaction when I tell this story?

 

 

Dear Nuclear Geese Family that have chosen to nest at the back door of our office building for the second time:

We, the employees of various organizations that nest in this building want you to know that:

We are afraid of you because the male goose hisses at and approaches us when we come to work, go out for lunch and leave for the day. We put a warning sign up on one of the doors. Please don’t bite us.

We are worried about you because the male goose sits in the parking lot instead of on the grass. Please don’t get run over.

We are curious about you. Why did you come back to our office complex? Why do you like being here. We don’t.

Sincerely yours,

etc.

Michael Lewis’s latest book, The Undoing Project, is about Amos Twersky and Daniel Kahneman. Both were professors who studied how we reason. They developed their ideas by asking people hypothetical questions about what they would do if they had a 1% chance of winning 1,000,000 or a 85% of winning 50%.

Here’s one I created.

Suppose there is a chance you will have to fly to Battle Creek, Michigan from New York City two weeks from now. You will probably not know if you have to or not until two days before. Assuming that the longer you wait, the most expensive the flight will be, your options are
• A chance to pay $0 if you wait to book a flight and find out you don’t have to go
• A chance to pay $300 if you book a flight in advance
• A chance to pay $900 if you wait to book a flight and find out you have to go

Which option would you choose?

Cockroaches of course
Also lichen
The Price is Right
Two nail salons
One dry cleaner

 

There is a used book store around the corner from me called Pickwick’s. At the end of the day, the proprietor places a box of books that can be browsed and taken. That’s where I found the textbook United States in Literature. The textbook immediately struck me as a relic because it came from a time that I’m not sure exists anymore when students were issued textbooks at the beginning of the year and returned them at the end of the year with the condition noted. The reason why I took it home was that the book was verbally tattooed on the front and back cover with the names of rock bands from the late 70’s and 80’s. like Judas Priest, the Cars and the Ramones [multiple times] There is also a vocabulary quiz on The Red Badge of Courage.

I have many questions. Could this book ever have been used and returned?  Was the artist bored? Did the artist feel that he was making a collection of literary fossils relevant? Oh irony! To us, his graffiti is just as dated as the textbook.

Now that I have finished writing about this book, I will return it to Pickwick’s. There is another, a scavenger of literary anthologies, who marked it for scarfing. On the other hand, I am a content skimmer. Having noted what I expected to be there, Ralph Waldo Emerson for example, I immediately went to the end of the book. Like a book on modern art, that’s always interesting because that is the section which consists of best guesses about what will become part of the canon.