Friday, February 19, 2010

Something There Is That Does Not Love a Neatly Stocked Bookshelf

SOMETHING there is that doesn't love a wall
Of books neatly ordered for easy browsing
And spills the upper shelves on the floor;
And makes gaps unevenly thorough the display.
The work of shoppers is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one book next to book,
But they would have each volume out of dust jacket,
To tease we yelping volunteers. The gaps
We sometimes see them made or hear them made,
But at daily stocking-time we find them there.
I let my department lead know;
And on a day we meet to walk the shelves
And set the shelves between us once again.
We split the shelves between us as we go.
To each the books that have fallen to each.
And some are paperbacks and some so nearly boulders
We have to use a spell to make coffee-table books balance:
"Stay where you are until our backs are turned!"
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of indoor game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
She is all history and I am science-fiction.
My SF will never get across
And take the shelves from her history, I tell her.
She only says, "Good shelving make good shoppers."
Spring is the mischief in us, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in someone's head:
"Why do they make good shoppers? Isn't it
Where we have good donations? But what brings good donations?"
Before I stocked a shelf I'd ask to know
What I was setting out or passing on,
And to whom a book was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn't love neat shelves,
That want them random!" I could say "Elves" to her,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
We said it for ourselves. I see her there,
Bringing a book grasped firmly by the spine
In each hand, like a librarian armed.
She moves in shelving as it seems to me,
Not of books only but of the community.
She will go beyond the marketer's saying,
And she likes having thought beyond, well,
Beyond again, "Good shelving makes good shoppers."

- REW (with apologies to Robert Frost)

Today, as I do several times a month, I stocked books on the shelves of the Mercer Island Youth and Family Services Thrift Stop (MITS for short). In theory it is some sort of volunteerism, but it's really for fun. Putting things into order is a great puzzle; there is the formal order (fiction over here, by author; non-fiction of various types over there; genre fiction (romance, SF, westerns); children's books (sorted by binding, as a proxy for age rage).

And then there's the non-formalizable order: display to maximize sales, to maximize convenience for customers: groups series and interests, drawing attention to special books, balancing rigid order with opportunities for quick sale.

And there's the fun or friendship of working with other volunteers, the work-study students, and the paid staff. After a few years, they are nearly family.

I'd love to run a bookstore, but making a living running a bookstore is hard, and getting harder. SWeveral fine bookstores went out of business in Seattle in the last couple of years, and I'd be nuts to think I would do much better.

But ah! to stock books! To bring order to chaos, to chat with customers over their preferences, and the endless variety of donations! that is something I can do, and enjoy!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Theory of Gravity DISPROVED! by SCIENCE!

Dearest Colleagues:

I write to you from the Intensive Care Ward of Vancouver Polygnostic University Hospital, where I am recovering from injuries sustained in the name of Science, thusly: I have utterly dis-proven the Theory of Altitudegenic Gravitational Waning, or AGW.

You will recall that a vast conspiracy of intellectuals, motivated by the lust for grant money funded by sources Better Left Unnamed, have covered up all evidence questioning their assertion that the attractive force of Gravity does wane with the increase in altitudinal separation from our Mother Earth. Burdened by this false "theory" they concocted complicated rationalizations involving square-cubes "laws" in defiance of the commonsense observation that our Earth is a neither a square nor a cube, but an oblate spheroid! Yet THEY control the scientific journals and THEY control the grant money!
Brave space explorators should have toppled this Theory, for in Skylab (mean altitude 50,000 km) gravitational attraction indeed wanes to near zero, whilst Tranquillity Base on the Moon (mean altitude 258,000 km) experiences significant gravitation! Mars (mean altitude 28,000,000 km) has even greater gravity than on the moon, and on mightly Jupiter (mean altitude 68,000,000 km) the force of Gravity, far from waning altitudinally, may actually exceed that of Earth herself!
Surely (you must be thinking) these scientific observations shattered forever the AGW myth; but alas! the pro-AGW cabal currently controlling our Institutions of Learning REFUSE to publish peer-reviewed papers disproving their AGW "theory", they have kept the lid on this, the greatest scientific scandal since Galileo was suppressed as well!

To overcome the fearsome forces arrayed against truth, I conceptualized a simple experiment bypassing scientific publication IN FAVOR of public demonstration. Journeying secretly to the Vancouverian Winter Olympics, I placed myself at the altitudinal maximum of an instrument commonly called a "Snow Boarding Half Pippet". Were the pro-AGW theorists correct, I would slide down the structure monotonically, and not experience an increase in altitude along the way.

By means of my Beetleborg Altitudimeter, I determined that the test run would collect data from 1955 to 2010 C.E. (Canadian Elevation, denominated in Canadian Reverse Notation, or meters from the summit of Mt. Whistler). Ignoring the cries of uniformed security officers seeking to interfere in the Advance of Science, I lept into the Half Pippet and accelerated by means of the strong gravity present at that lofty altitude. I confess I felt a moment of doubt and then a thrill as I proceeded downwards, wobbling in the chaotic nivaic fluctuations. Then, having accumulated a sufficient decrement in altitudinality, in conformity with the technical exercise recommended by Professor Shaun White, I re-oriented semi-orthogonally to the axis of the pippet and then EUREKA! at 1998 C.E. I was propelled upwards along the wall of the pippet!

Audible gasps and even cheers arose from the crowd of assembled researchers as I flew not downward as the false theory of AGW would require, but upward into the clear air of reason! So great was my joy that I immediately produced from the pockets of my vest two bottles of champagne in celebration, and in a single maneuver pulled off a doubled cork.

Due to local altitudinal perturbations, I soon effected co-incidence in space-time with structural features, and regrettably, the rest of the experiment is unclear to me. No matter! no matter! For all have seen that gravity of 1998 C.E. went higher than in later altitudes such as 2010 C.E.!

AGW is proven to be teh complete hoax!!!!

The honors have already poured in; whilst I have not yet the Nobel Gold, already a bracelet of silver metal is on my wrist, connected to a like honour on my bedstead. The uniformed Servant of the Queen who presented me with these awards is taciturn, but I am given to understand that more is likely to be forthcoming.

Ever onward, my friends! Ab luce ad tenebras!


Professor Certain.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Freedom to Choose Public Option Possible If You Act

Great news! If you call your Senator right now you can demand an up-or-down vote on a public OPTION for health care. Get their phone number here, then follow this simple step-by-step process

Why Should You?

The freedom to choose a public, non-profit insurance company nationwide was declared dead by the aristocrats who run our media and our politics, but they screwed up and now it has suddenly become possible, but only if We The People make the Senate more afraid of us than they are of the insurance lobbyists.

You will recall that the extremely ugly Senate health care bill, in order to appease industry shills such as Joe Liebermann (I-CIGNA) and Evan Baugh (whose wife earns millions of dollars lobbying for insurance companies ... did you know that?) included a mandate to buy insurance from the same for-profit insurers that are causing the problem in the first place. This piece of insanity died when Scott Brown entered the Senate, running on the promise to vote against the bill.

But when Brown joined the Senate, Joe became irrelevant. Baugh became so irrelevant that he's quitting the Senate to send more time with his lobbyist wife. Those millions need to be spent somehow! Now, by the strange rules of the Senate, it opens the way to passing the bill via up-or-down vote, via the reconciliation process, the same way that the George W Bush tax cuts for the rich got through. The question is, does the Senate have the guts to go for an up-or-down vote?

That is to say, are they more afraid of the voters or the insurance companies?

Sen. Michael Bennet from Colorado has taken the dare. He's circulating a letter to Harry Reid, in favor of passing a health care bill through budget reconciliation - which provides for an up-or-down vote, where the side with the most votes wins (...hey, that's a strange concept! letting the side with the most votes win?)

How to Do It

We can all, in a very positive way, give the Senate something to fear. A telephone call works better than an email or an internet petition because it takes more of your time - so Senators don't get as many of them. That means they pay more attention to your call! Call your Senator and demand an up-or-down vote on the public option!

You can check your Senator's latest position here. If your Senator is on board, great! Call him or her and thank them.

But if your Senator is not yet sure about voting for what the American people want - the freedom to choose to buy health insurance through a Medicare-type public insurance plan. It's easy! If you've never called a Senator before, just get their phone number here, then follow this simple step-by-step process.
Be polite! but be firm. Don't sound angry - no-one likes a sorehead but you have the right to demand your Senators get an up-or-down vote on this.