Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Putting up mini-blinds is no fun when you don’t really like ladders. But I’m learning a few tricks:

1. Get better screws. The screws that came with the mini-blinds have lousy slots, so the driver tends to slip. 3/4" #6 pan-head sheet metal screws are making good replacements.

2. Get a longer screwdriver or driver bit. A 6 inch bit lets me use a larger power drill even though the bracket is right up against the window stop.

3. Use spacers to hold the blinds away from the window. I like to attach the mini-blinds within the window opening (between the stops) so the blinds don’t hide the casing. But I want them to be slightly in front of the window so they raise and lower more freely. A spacer lets me get a consistent distance. And if you tend to drop spacers (because you don’t have one hand to hold the spacer, a second hand to hold the bracket, and a third hand to hold the driver), then use several identical spacers and pick them all up afterwards.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

What makes a library?

What is meaningful in a library? The books and media? The access to information, or to story, or to history? The gathering and cultivating and cataloging of those elements so necessary to civilization? The refuge from ignorance? The refuge from isolation? The people who make it all happen and help us understand the resources available to us? The open door?

A library to me is a public place, defined by who is allowed in rather than by public ownership. And on that measure, as well as every measure which I mentioned above, the library tent at Occupy Wall Street was a public library. They had over 5000 published books, original writing and poetry and art, people who volunteered there, and people who used the library. They had all that until New York City made the conscious decision to destroy the library.

That act of destruction was, to me, not qualitatively different from the book burning in Opernplatz in 1933. Both were political acts of destruction intended as statements of power, demeaning and diminishing those disfavored by the state, targeting the tangible instantiations of knowledge and discourse.

I want this week’s act of destruction to feel qualitatively different, because it makes me heartsick to have my birthplace behave in any way similarly to the birthplace of my grandparents, a birthplace they were forced to flee. I want to believe that the authorities’ behavior in New York City was callous rather than calculated. But I cannot find the significant distinctions. Is it because in New York only 5000 books were destroyed rather than the 20,000 in Berlin? Because the books in New York were seized and mangled rather than seized and burned? Because the authorities in New York used police and sanitation workers rather than students to do it? Because the destruction in New York was less fully coordinated with other cities, or because it targeted personal possessions as well as books, or because it was accompanied by police beating and teargassing their own citizens? None of those feel sufficiently distinguishing to allow me an easy rest.

Writing is my only means to scream my outrage and link arms with those who stand against this cyclic violence. I weep that my country would do this.

Friday, November 11, 2011


Many of the details of this photo are wrong for my home office. Not enough desk space, for example. But it’s finished and filled with books, and I am extremely envious.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Got dreidel?

The federal government would like me to buy a Christmas tree.

I don’t think the government should be promoting a particular religion. I don’t want my government telling my interfaith family which holidays to celebrate or how. I enjoy helping Lisa and her family celebrate Christmas at Lisa’s parents’ house, but it’s not my holiday. For me, a Christmas tree is religiously inappropriate.

And these ads should be disturbing to people who do not consider Christmas to be a secular holiday, but who view a Christmas tree as part of how you honor or celebrate one of your religious holidays. Do you really want the federal government telling you how you could make your religious practice better? Or telling you that your religious practice isn’t good enough?

Can you imagine the screaming if the USDA decided to run an ad campaign to promote halal meat?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

I’m not sure hypothetical is the right word

Hypothetical scenario:

(1) There’s a city board in charge of granting out public money. (2) A member of the board leads the effort to set aside as much money as possible to pay for administrative expenses. (3) The same member of the board then leads the effort to have the board pay her sister to do administrative work, while simultaneously acting as her sister’s agent and only point of contact with the board. (4) This is administrative work which used to be done by board members for free, which could be done by volunteers, and which no comparable board pays money for. (5) The work will not be put out to bid, and the board will not ask for volunteers to do the work.

Is this more or less corrupt if the board member is also the board’s treasurer?
Aren’t there laws that ban this sort of action?
If the board is determined to throw away money on work that could be done for free or more cheaply, is the waste of public funds more important than the nepotism?
Would sunlight help fix any of this?
I resigned hours after (2) happened. Can I retroactively resign before (2)?
How do I get this rid of this overwhelming nausea?