Additions to the antilibrary

06D82D56-40B9-4428-BE1A-8DDD05BABF4BI have reduced my active reading stack to one rustic box and one bedside shelf, so more than anything, these posts serve as a virtual TBR. Acquisitions are logged, then shelved, which satisfies both the reader and the neatnik in me.

Elsewhere, folks are discussing an article by Simon Fraser University professor Hannah Macgregor, “Liking Books Is Not a Personality.” The piece is thought-provoking, and the conversation it inspired was terrific, too. My acquisition process has become more stringent with each passing year, and my weeding is rigorous, too. The shelf space is finite, so the volumes in the permanent collection either “spark joy” or serve the antilibrary definition ascribed to Umberto Eco early in Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable:

The writer Umberto Eco belongs to that small class of scholars who are encyclopedic, insightful, and nondull. He is the owner of a large personal library (containing thirty thousand books), and separates visitors into two categories: those who react with “Wow! Signore professore dottore Eco, what a library you have! How many of these books have you read?” and the others — a very small minority — who get the point that a private library is not an ego-boosting appendage but a research tool. Read books are far less valuable than unread ones. The library should contain as much of what you do not know as your financial means, mortgage rates, and the currently tight real-estate market allows you to put there. You will accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growing number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menacingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books. Let us call this collection of unread books an antilibrary.

Have you seen this clip of Eco walking through his vast collection?

Recently acquired

68D72BA6-80A4-4525-95DF-766B02117556It had been a long time since the coin jar had been emptied, so earlier this week I poured the contents into a large baggie and added a trip to the bank to my modest list of spring break errands. But each time I remembered the awkward sack of coins in the backseat, the bank was closed. Eventually, I settled on the coin-changer at the local grocery store. Egads! What a ridiculous fee for cash! No fee for an Amazon gift card, though, and coupled with another card received earlier this month, it yielded enough to replace several bird feeders and choose a number of books from my wishlist. Pictured above are a few of the latter plus a book I bought used.

To be read

6CE16D6B-1BD1-4A5F-B588-EF8D71811E74Last Sunday, I weeded about six bags of books from the collection and shifted accordingly while dusting the shelves. The project took about four hours. One of my goals was to reduce my TBR stack to one shelf, so I photographed this group of hopefuls before putting them in the main collection. Think of it as a virtual TBR stack.

“Physics is not only a history of successes.”

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This is the world is described by quantum mechanics and particle theory. We have arrived very far from the mechanical world of Newton, where minute, cold stones eternally wandered on long, precise trajectories in geometrically immutable space. Quantum mechanics and experiments with particles have taught us that the world is a continuous, restless swarming of things, a continuous coming to light and disappearance of ephemeral entities. A set of vibrations, as in the switched-on hippie world of the 1960s. A world of happenings, not of things.

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Physics is not only a history of successes.

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Time sits at the center of the tangle of problems raised by the intersection of gravity, quantum mechanics, and thermodynamics. A tangle of problems where we are still in the dark. If there is something that we are perhaps beginning to understand about quantum gravity that combines two of the three pieces of the puzzle, we do not yet have a theory capable of trying to gather all three pieces of our fundamental knowledge of the world.

School closures

My school was closed Monday for snow. They were also closed early on Tuesday and all day Wednesday and Thursday for extreme cold. When I learned about the mid-week closures, I promised myself I would treat the days off as the gifts they were. No “getting ahead” on weekly chores. The house is immaculate. No reshelving projects. No reorganizing closets. No comparison shopping for a new lawn mower. The library looks wonderful. So do the closets. And I have at least six weeks on the lawn mower purchase.

Relax, I told myself. Approach the days with some child-like delight.

So, yes, I finished our federal and state tax returns, but I also finished Season 6 of Parks and Recreation and three books. Yeah, I caught up on correspondence with out-of-state family, practiced my music, and exercised. But I also slept in a bit and woke up without an alarm clock. And we made fun food: one-pot pasta and crunchy garlic bread; bacon sandwiches; brownies.

For two days: No makeup. No hair products. No work clothes.

I look forward to working with my students tomorrow; I do, after all, like my job. But what a week; Friday is already here!

“But the result was now ours to live with.”

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It hurts to live after someone has died. It just does. It can hurt to walk down a hallway or open the fridge. It hurts to put on a pair of socks, to brush your teeth. Food tastes like nothing. Colors go flat. Music hurts, and so do memories. You look at something you’d otherwise find beautiful — a purple sky at sunset or a playground full of kids — and it only somehow deepens the loss. Grief is so lonely this way.

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In the end, Hillary Clinton won nearly three million more votes than her opponent, but Trump captured the Electoral College thanks to fewer than eighty thousand votes spread across Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan. I am not a political person, so I’m not going to attempt to offer an analysis of the results. I won’t try to speculate about who was responsible or what was unfair. I just wish more people had turned out to vote. And I will always wonder about what led so many women, in particular, to reject an exceptionally qualified female candidate and instead choose a misogynist as their president. But the result was now ours to live with.