Thursday, July 26, 2007

Because I Can

Sitting in the Albuquerque airport, at one of the wonderful convenience counters they offer. Free wireless, powerstrips, wide tabletop, comfortable chairs. There's a little girl next to me watching a cartoon movie on a weentsie DVD player, only about 5.5" by 8". I rather covet it.

I do lo-o-o-ve wireless. One of the early wireless provider networks around town was called 'Working Wild'. That's how I think of it whenever I connect out in the world, and I try it whenever it might work. I'm down with the concept of working wild. :-) Won't it be wonderful when the City wires the Plaza, and MFPOW can join the rest of the planet in offering wireless connectivity. Which the tinfoil crowd continues to successfully prevent, 18 months and counting.

Anyway, en route to see Mom in Tucson. She turned 89 this month. I don't think the constraints I have assigned myself regarding personal information on this blog will allow me to offer pictures.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Getting All My Input in 140-Character Bursts

At the moment, except for email I mostly just use Twitter for librarianly input, wandering off to the links people post, or to the posters' blogs, or the other links and blogs they point to. When I came back from Europe last week I sat here in a jet-lagged fog, gratefully re-submerging in the cheerful conversation almost always running somewhere out there among librarians. The 80-odd people whose posts come to my timeline feel near-enough like a community as they respond to each other, and to me, and to other people whose posts I never see. 'I missed you like crazy,' I posted when I got home.

One of the weekend's fun finds: a Web Trends 2007 map, which its makers tell us is built on a map of the Tokyo subway system. (Twitter is on the blue Social Networks line, and on the dotted Insiders line.) Lo-Fi Librarian posted it to Twitter, and to her blog, along with a bunch of other very interesting topics. Today's fun (somewhat librarianly): Grand March of the Librarians, a video made at last month's ALA convention. I found it by wandering from from one of DesertLibrarian's twitter posts to her blog, Random Musings from the Desert; thence to Hedgehog Librarian's blog. She'd found the video on Michael Stephens' Tame the Web. Do you see how it goes, reading around and following links?

Several people attending the Techsource Gaming, Libraries and Learning Symposium this weekend were sending tweets via text throughout some of the sessions, giving quotes and links and getting excited about what they were hearing. Gaming in libraries? Yikes, My Former Place of Work certainly knows zilch about the world of gamers... Two different twitterers passed on the remark of a teen panelist, "my teachers tell me to use official sites that end in .gov but who are u going to trust? The government or the people?" And people tweeted many quotes from Eli Neuburger as he presented, two simultaneously giving us "there are more gamers than recreational readers at your library".

I could sit here all day, wandering from topic to topic, librarian blog to librarian blog, and throwing the links and webpages into as I go so I'll remember to get back to them. There's a human computation project called Galaxy Zoo "the human brain is much better at recognizing patterns than a computer can ever be" which Neil Stewart blogged about in the context of social media. The project hopes to use crowds of internet volunteers to visually classify a million galaxies. Or, did you know there are libraries in Second Life? And onward... If I were still blogging for the library, there could be a whole array of topics and trains of thought which have floated by from emails and twitter postings, what KGS calls "Link Love"; I miss the happy pretense that of course the library's readers are interested in whatever I'm thinking about.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Nickel

The title of this blog comes from the reverse of the 2005 Lewis and Clark nickel.
image of nickel obverse, from US Treasury site

The coin came to hand last summer a few weeks before I made up my mind to move, and I kept it on the kitchen table for quite a while. Somehow it vanished, but turned up again yesterday from under the dresser when I was dragging into the livingroom all items which Freecyclers are coming to pick up.

Saturday, July 21, 2007


Packing packing packing. I posted some things to Freecycle. Stuff that shouldn't go to waste, and is indubitably not moving to the northwest with me. Emails are pouring in, and one person has already dropped by, though nobody so far wants my wooden boxes from Chinatown.

This is not as private as the old days of leaving your treasures at the Diggers' Free Store, but I remember, I remember.

What? The corner of Cole and Carl, in the Haight. 1967 or so.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

July 17: Felsentor

On the 17th, A. and I dropped K.F. at the airport in Zurich and then drove N.F. down to the practice center at Felsentor near Luzern, where he is teaching a seminar about Dogen's Genjokoan. The center is in an old hotel on the side of the mountain above Lake Luzern, reachable only by hiking or by a cogwheel railway up Mount Rigi. From the Rigi-Bahn stop it's about a ten-minute walk down to the center.

The whole experience—the lake, the cogwheel train, the views—is improbably romantic. And they have built a perfect traditional zendo; N.F. was very excited at the thought of sitting and teaching in it for a week. They made us welcome, fed us lunch, gave us a tour of the gardens and the new zendo, left us alone to sit talking on the terrace looking out across Lake Luzern to the high Alps in the distance, old friends come together from three parts of the globe and soon to separate again.

view from the train
zendo built by Paul Disco

More pix on flickr .

Then N.F. walked us back up to the Rigi-Bahn stop and waved us goodbye. One of the students arriving for his seminar got off the uphill train just before our downhill train came.

Drove back slowly, by farm roads. Dinner on a terrace over the Rhine in Bad Säckingen. (Are you catching the theme here? in Europe you eat outdoors when you can...) And on the 18th got up with the wakeup bell to clean my room while everyone else was in the zendo; quick goodbyes before they all began their morning study period; Zurich airport; and the long long long flight home.

July 15-16 : Schwarzwald

Squeezed in quite a lot of frolicing. Went for a walk around the neighborhood with N.F. and his friends who had come from Paris to sit in on his seminar (they know him from his literary life).
neighborhood of Grossherrischwand

More pix on flickr .

N.F. wanted to hang with the Paris people; K.F. wanted to hang with me and A. So we made up a party of eight (or nine when Roshi joined us) for the next two days. As soon as the seminar ended after lunch on the 15th, we rushed off in two cars to visit Heidegger's hut, nearby above Todtnauberg. That and the Morandi Museum in Bologna were N.'s two personal goals for this trip, and the young people of the French family are both Heidegger scholars. So. The Schwarzwald is quite beautiful, forests and fields, waterfalls and carefully maintained tourist towns. After the pilgrimage to Todtnauberg we stopped for beer near the big waterfall, and then had dinner somewhere, not sure which town.

On the 16th we went in caravan to Freiburg. The young people wanted a good German-language bookstore, as they have trouble browsing for German books in Paris. We had a long leisurely lunch at Roshi's favorite restaurant, and then walked around in and out of bookstores, shopping and admiring the street scenes. A subparty peeled off and shopped for a summer blouse. It was hot hot hot in Freiburg.

freiburg street
freiburg street

Then the cars rendezvous'd again for a beer at a terrace restaurant somewhere to the south of Freiburg... um... somewhere... This video from the terrace can stand in for many vistas around the Schwarzwald, over by Heidegger's hut and near the practice center and many places around.

Saturday, July 14, 2007


Personal though this blog is at the moment because I lack a place of work, long term it may be that what I want is a professional voice. Perhaps here, perhaps somewhere else.

In any case I'm not empowered to give away anyone else's personal presence. This limits what pictures I can show, either here or on flickr. Nevertheless, the Heidi pilgrimage story needs a child in it. So here is S., running up the trail towards Heididorf, imagining with every step that she might be setting her feet where Heidi walked.

running with her feet where Heidi walked

More pix on flickr .

Getting online here is not altogether convenient. And all the prompts and pull downs in the programs are in German, and I can't just choose by analogy, because the machine is a Mac. Even blogger insists on assuming that since I am in Germany it should give me everything in German. But there's a little more leisure in the schedule today, and I had time to get online to find a map that shows where we are.

It's Never True That We Don't Understand

July 13-14-15. Seminar in Johanneshof.

Yesterday N. said, "It's never true that we don't understand." I wrote it down. Roshi wrote on the easel,"Four Functions of Self: separation, connectedness, continuity, context." I wrote those down too. He says he's given us that list many times before, and I'm sure it's so. He pretends to be surprised that most of us don't remember, don't recognize when he says something he has said more than once before...
noon break, seminar, Johanneshof

more pix on flickr .

In my room I am reading Desolation Angels. Usually I dutifully read only Buddhist books during stays in a practice place, but here on the page is poor old Kerouac alone in the firewatch shack on Desolation Peak: trying to write and to do Buddhism, and mostly failing to rise to the occasion. Been there, done that; in fact, doing that right now.

The schedule, the flavor of the practice--we could be any place that any of Suzuki Roshi's descendants are practicing and it would feel the same. Except that here the household language is German. Or not. I'm on the coffee-and-tea crew. I have only English, Claus has only German, and Dominique has mostly French but enough English to smooth our working together. K.F. points out that here we are, quite a number of us, thirty years later and mostly our same selves except with grey hair. This is not exactly what the teaching has to say about change, but there it is...

Friday, July 13, 2007

July 12, The Expedition to the Ochsenberg

Roshi and A. and I and Roshi's 6-year-old daughter S. went to visit Heidi's alp. I myself was satisfied already when we turned south into that part of the upper Rhine Valley. Suddenly it looked just like I imagined: the mountainsides going straight up, covered with a patchwork of forest and meadow. Recent rains had dusted the tops with snow, and high high up straight up in the air there were scattered houses and farmsteads. We stayed the night of the 11th in Triessen in Liechtenstein, about 15 kilometers from the Swiss border and another 10 km. from the town of Maienfeld.

In the morning we set forth, following the signage for the Heidiweg, and were soon walking on the path to the ersatz village of Dorfli, now called Heididorf. Dorfli was full of Japanese tourists, and a flock of very tame miniature goats. The tourist took a lot of pictures of S. petting the goats. We went on up the path, however improbable it was to commit ourselves to a four-hour hike. And up and up and up. (S. kept wanting to know whether Heidi had walked on this rock, or picked up that particular stick.)
looking down at Maienfeld from the beginning of the Heidiweg

more pix on flickr .
It was about as much as an old man, a fat lady and a little girl could manage. A. was the only one of us actually up for it. At about 20 minutes below the Heidihutte we were about to give up when along in a car came the man whose job it was to hang out at the hutte and impersonate Heidi's grandfather. He gave us a ride the rest of the way up.
looking down at Maienfeld from the beginning of the Heidiweg

And so we saw it, the place on the Ochsenberg where it pleases the town of Maienfeld to pretend that Heidi took place. Near enough to Jenins where Johanna Spyri summered, and near enough to any place she might have meant, if she meant any real place. There was more forest than I expected; the grass was green green green. There was no way we were continuing on to the high meadow where Peter took the goats, had Peter been real, and had this been the real hutte where Heidi lived with her grandfather. So what we saw was what we got, and it was fine. Green meadow, and forest, an astonishingly long view down into the next big valley, a small herd of artfully belled cows, and the mountain sides all around the valley looking just as I'd imagined for more than five decades.

Tuesday, July 10

...I had to hang around waiting for the lost luggage to be delivered. We took a walk.
looking bakc towards Grossherrischwand from up in the fields

more pix on flickr .

Arrived Monday, July 9

promptly went adventuring. Here is Laufenburg, Switzerland, as seen from the other side of the Rhine in Laufenburg, Germany; and A. on a street in the old section of Swiss Laufenburg.
Laufenburg, Switzerland, as seen from Laufenburg, Germany
street in Laufenburg, Switzerland
more pix on flickr .

(Here I am on the other side of the world, playing hookey from thinking about all the changes coming. Connectivity is not ideal here, but I think I've figured out how to proceed.)

Saturday, July 07, 2007

How Many Books Did You Bring?

Fortunately, nobody at Johanneshof is going to ask me how many books I've brought, the way my mom and sister always do; so I won't have to lie.

I keep adding books to the pile by the suitcase. The scale of just-in-case reading needed for international travel is well beyond that for a weekend jaunt to visit my mom. I am bringing Jack Kerouac's Desolation Angels, Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises (the British paperback with the alternate title, Fiesta); for the non-fiction that would last forever if I get stuck somewhere and run out of everything else, Lisa Randall's Warped Passages. And seven mysteries (well yeah; it's a ten-hour flight each way, and lots of airport waiting time, and that's before anything goes wrong...)

And also Kaz Tanahashi's translations from Dogen, Moon in a Dewdrop. Which hardly counts as reading matter. But in theory at least, the Dogen seminar which Baker Roshi and Norman Fischer are presenting is part of what I am going there for. (And no, seminar won't be in German. Roshi and Norman teach in English, with translators.)

The other part: to touch base with very old friends, before moving on into my new life.

Stylistic Remarks

a) When Suzanne V. turned my composition, "Things That Want To Be Counted" into a broadside, not only did she rearrange all the parts, and use very large type for the words she thought most important; she also edited out every single parenthetical aside and explanation. I took that as an important piece of literary criticism, and ever since have been rewriting to eliminate as many parentheses as I manage to notice. If I concentrate I can write without parentheses.

b) For now I will continue to point to posts on either Icarus or Many An Afternoon, as seems pertinent. I haven't quite let go of all that work that it turned out wasn't quite mine and couldn't come away with me. I imagine I will stop pointing to the past after a while.

c) Immediately I will begin to use LibraryThing for bibliographic links, instead of the catalog at my Former Place of Work.

d) I will not necessarily explain myself all the time. Today the haircutter said, as she wrapped the sheet around me, "Didn't you used to work for the library?" "Still do," I said, without thinking; heard myself; but declined to correct it.

Friday, July 06, 2007

With Seventeen Minutes Left

... the desk was all cleared off and cleared out. A few things like stapler, tape, scissors in the top drawer. A handful of statistical folders which I just couldn't get to and can't throw out without sorting—as Robert Heinlein said in one of his juvenile novels, "A fact should be loved for itself alone"—which I'll go through in a couple of weeks, before I leave town for reals.

All that's left: the Kerouac bumper sticker; and Chesterton's line, printed large on a sheet of paper, "Literature is a luxury. Fiction is a necessity." OK. Kerouac souvenir left on a defenseless colleague's desk while he's out of the room :-) and I don't need the Chesterton on paper, having just put it here. That's it. Done.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

What I Could Blog

if I were still blogging for the library:

KGS found an interesting essay, and posted about it to twitter: The Graveyard of the Database, on the National Book Critics Circle Board of Directors blog. It offers a sticker (see right) to put on your own website.

The online world is not a threat to all forms and formats and genres of literary endeavor. The sort of lyric poetry we've been publishing in the Santa Fe Poetry Broadside for the past nine years works very well on-screen. You can count on readers being willing to page down a screenful or two. Occasionally we have done longer prose pieces, and those were more problematic. I loved publishing (for example) Lee Merrill Byrd's Why I Want to Learn Spanish; but if it had been even a couple of inches longer on the screen, it's a good guess that few readers would have read the whole thing. We and our authors and probably our audience are all of an age where we have to print out anything that's longer than a couple of pages if we actually want to read it. Poetry may be a natural exception to this reality, because it is so light on the screen

P.S. The July issue of the Broadside, coming later this month, may be the last. Though I hope we may get a breeze of fresh energy...

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


Just now I posted my last message to the library's blog. This is what I told them: "Hi. This is Miriam Bobkoff, mb at reference, and I've been the library's principal blogger since we began Icarus 30 months ago. I'm leaving SFPL and leaving Santa Fe, moving to the Pacific Northwest. I thought I should step out from behind the curtain before I go, to tell you 'Bye bye, and thank you so much for being here.' I have truly loved talking with you all, and I'm going to miss you like crazy."

And I gave them the picture of the ocean which I'm using in my profile, above right. It was taken from the first ocean view pull-out you come to on the highway south from Forks.