In Praise of the Small Town Library | Literary Hub

If you don’t happen to live near a college or a bookstore, if your relatives aren’t bookish, the public library is literary culture in its entirety.

Steven Kurutz’s longish memory piece (about 12-15 minutes to read) is a love letter to his small-town Pennsylvania library and how it made him the person and writer he became. 

The first public library I remember visiting was the one-room Garner Public Library on Main Street, with I think a smallish room to the side where the magazines were. I remember it as large, though that is probably childhood memory playing a trick.

I remember first seeing The Maltese Falcon at a movie night there, with one of those loud reel-to-reel monstrosities on a small white screen. It was wonderful. When I got into the Doc Savage pulp adventure novels in my early teens, this little library – incredibly – had Philip Jose Farmer’s strangely uber-serious fictional biography of Doc Savage. How did those small-town librarians know what I wanted when I wanted it?

A tiny place, but a dear one. They moved into a much nicer metal-and-glass building beside Town Hall, with more room for more books and a community room, and it became a place for the bookish and introverted among us to hang out. But it was never as cozy. 

 

This headless robotic cat pillow will wag its way into your heart - The Verge

Susan Weinschenk’s talk at TriUXPA the other night on the future of human-technology interaction surfaced some intoxicating ideas.

One of them was that, as humans, we anthropomorphize our devices and machines. We build relationships with them (i.e., Eliza), even name them. As Alexa and Siri devices proliferate, we should expect devices to encourage more relationship-building. (We should also expect voice-control to be the interface of the near-future, so start practicing now.)

The technology will get better at anticipating or reacting to human expressions and actions. But as these devices get better, we can expect those people who have difficulty maintaining person-to-person relationships to prefer programmed familiarity.

Susan demoed the video for Qoobo – “the headless robotic cat pillow” – that I hope is an evolutionary path leading off a high cliff and deep into a bottomless crater of dark. It is one of the most horrific things I’ve ever seen – surely its makers are having a laugh?

I shared this Verge article with Liz, who said this about the video: 

Love that they say “hate the unconditional love?” - there’s irony for you. Also, I can’t fathom why they couldn’t have included a head too. Creepy and unnatural! 

Photo: Cafeteria Menu Board

On my way to tonight's TriUXPA event, I grabbed an early supper at my favorite place to eat in Raleigh: the one and only K&W Cafeteria in Cameron Village. There are other K&Ws around, but this one is the homiest and the sweetest. Look at those choices -- what's not to like??

Backups update

With the network problems seemingly taken care, we were still plagued with occasional, maddening slowdowns when watching Netflix or even just browsing on our devices.

But when I shut down the iMac or put it to sleep, the network would suddenly leap to life or become more stable. Hmmm.

I’ve been running Backblaze since mid-January and it’s still doing its initial backup, so it says. I noticed I had its performance to Faster Backup, which meant a slower network. My ignorance of Backblaze preference settings comes to the fore. Some Googling around clued me in to what I needed to do so the uploads would not affect us while we are trying to get stuff done online.

So I have set Backblaze to back up from 11pm-6am, when we’re sleeping. And while it’s backing up, I set it to perform faster backups – this will saturate our little DSL line but that’s OK, we’re not using it at night. We have a minuscule upload rate, but I’m hoping these new settings help finish the job while not inconveniencing us.

References

If you move a meeting forward, what does that really mean? | Oliver Burkeman | The Guardian

All of which is a reminder of how odd it is that we think of time using spatial metaphors at all – indeed, that it seems virtually impossible not to. Ask me about the coming month and I can’t help picturing a sequence of little boxes, like a calendar; ask me what I did yesterday and my eyes shoot upwards, as I consult a “space” somewhere behind my head. Your specific images may not match mine, but anthropologists suggest that the basic metaphor – “time is space” – is a cultural universal. Which is a pity, in a way, because I’m pretty sure it makes our experience of time more anguished than it needs to be.

Mark Forster wrote in one of his books about “spaciousness” being a quality of life he valued. When talking of how we move through the day, “spaciousness” evokes a different feeling than “cramped.”

As Burkeman says, time as space is a useful metaphor. Time is money, is another. An academic uses time the way a sculptor uses clay is another metaphor I’ve heard.

At this point in my development, metaphors are useful until they’re not. They’re fun to talk about and they can lead to insights sometimes, but it’s useful also to know when to let them go. And to know that they’re momentary thoughts.

“Time” does not really exist, the way trees and cars and physical bodies do. It’s a concept humans have made up because it’s useful to keep the trains running and we know when to celebrate birthdays, but time and its passing is a thought we create for ourselves. The way time can pass quickly or slowly to us – and differently for someone else in the same circumstance – is a clue that time is a thought we’re paying attention to (or not) in the moment.

As the mystics tell us, there is no past and no future. There is only now. What happens to the time-management industrial complex when there is only now? As someone for whom time management has been my shadow religion for nearly 30 years, this is something I’m pondering quite a bit.

Emergency funds

The Two Cents column on emergency funds has the good, standard advice offered by financial planners and investors. 

There's a 1-3-6 guideline for deciding how much to save, with a link on the page to a different article offering a 3-6-9 guideline

Of course, this assumes you have enough money to squirrel away to being with. Most of my adult life was spent at interesting but lower-paying jobs and paying off credit card debt racked up during periods of unemployment. If I had enough cash to contribute to my 401K and cover my bills, anything extra went to paying off the credit card.

It is only fairly recently that I reached a certain comfort level with how much I have in the bank, but I will always feel I started too late and saved too little.

The YNAB blog has its own take on do you really need an emergency fund. YNAB, an online budgeting application, stands for "You Need a Budget"; I started using it about 1.5 years ago and wish I'd known about it years earlier. It changed my financial life (but that's a story for another blog post).

I thought the YNAB article more applicable to my situation than the Two Cents piece. As the YNAB writer notes, and I've seen in my own finances, the more I'm tuned in to my priorities and budget categories, the less need I have of a line item for emergencies. 

If an emergency car repair or dermatology visit results in a surprise bill in the hundreds of dollars, I now have enough saved in those categories to cover the expense.  So emergencies are covered by my "true expenses" categories, where expenses are variable, hard to predict, but tend to be outsized.

Having enough money to cover an unexpected expense is a good feeling, one I've not had for most of my adult life, and I savor it.