Thursday, August 27, 2009

Could you be a bookseller who drinks? Take this quiz and find out!

If you were the boss, which of the following reasons for resigning immediately would make you reach for a bottle of fine Irish whiskey--or at least a handful of cookies?

a. I resign from my position at Otowi Station effective immediately. My spouse died last night, and I must return to the farm in Kansas immediately to settle the estate and to care for the aged parents.

b. I learned that I am pregnant, and my physician prescribes complete bed rest for nine months to reduce the chances of premature labor. Please accept my resignation from Otowi Station effective immediately.

c. I hereby tender my resignation from my position at Otowi Station Bookstore, effective immediately. The reason for my decision to resign is the on-going outbreak of "flu-like" illness in Los Alamos. Because of it and because of what I fear will unfold over the next few months, I no longer feel safe working with the public, or being in crowded conditions under any circumstances that I can possibly avoid. Though I hope not, I suspect it'll be a long winter.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Body-checked by a Sister of Charity

I'm giving my home office a face lift. I wanted new matched bookcases, to paint and install new window treatments, and to find a work surface that fits me.

After I took Sophie to the body shop in ABQ two weeks ago, I stopped at Tema Contemporary Furniture and bought five 87-inch high bookcases with two corner pieces to give them a finished look. (Today I called Mountain School, which rules all, to ask whether they wanted the old bookcases, and as luck would have it, they were going to order bookcases and accepted mine. Woo-HOO!)

I have a rustic-looking Southwestern desk that Custom Clarence in Santa Fe made, and although it's a great desk, it's just too tall for me, even with my chair all the way up. And I've been using a drafting table that I've had since Maxwell days for my computer table. It's no wonder my wrist seized up.

So I have been looking for adjustable work surfaces, preferably like the one I had at LANL, which cost a taxpayer's arm and leg five or six years ago. I poked around online and found some that would work, but they weren't like the nifty one I had at LANL. Suddenly, I had an epiphany! Why not go to the LANL salvage lot on the third Thursday of the month at noon, and try to find an adjustable work surface? I can hear you sputtering, "But, P-doobie, you're getting swell new bookcases! Why not get a brand new work surface instead of going to salvage?"

For the adventure, okay?

Michele picked me up at the store yesterday, and off we went to salvage. At the customer-service window we registered with a young man--who could make a cantaloupe look intelligent, compassionate, even agitated--picked up our auction number, and went out to stand on the blazing hot asphalt with the other hopefuls. The prime spots at the chain-link gate were already taken by the regulars, whose collective hunger for junk made the Potato Famine seem like a mere bagatelle.

About the time I was reviewing the signs and symptoms of heat prostration, the head guy finally came out and explained The Rules: walking only, no running, no pushing, use a Sharpie to mark what you want with your initials, no fighting, no biting, no throwing elbows, no hip checks. Then he opened the gate.

Holy moly. If that was "walking" I'm Hillary Clinton. It was like roller derby in there. I was especially vulnerable because I was wearing Birks, and the regulars wore steel-toed safety shoes and knew how to use 'em.

One of the regulars immediately snagged the work surface that I had had my eye on at the fence. Oh, well. It's a big yard. There'd be other desks. We poked around in the yard and got more and more discouraged. The stuff that was really good had already been claimed, and the stuff that was adjustable was missing important parts, most notably the cranks that adjusted them. Other pieces required six men and a boy to move or had been around since the first partition of Poland.

I was ready to give it up as a bad job when Michele saw it. Underneath another desk was the holy grail. The mother lode. The last, for which the first was made. Except for a rust stain, it was in perfect shape. We quickly despoiled the top of it with a Sharpie and called the helper guy over to verify our claim with a sales slip.

He gave us a piece of paper to present to Cantaloupe Boy at the counter, and we stood in line for a long time. When we got to the window, C-Boy studied the sales slip with all the intensity of someone just stumbling on Yeats, carefully input all the information ["desk"] into his computer, took my money and gave it to a young man on his right, who handed my change to C-Boy, who gave it to me, and got a receipt from a young man on his left. I love teamwork.

So now I have a new adjustable work surface, and it cost me only an hour and a half and a buck-oh-seven.
Michele and P-doobie (bottom) at LANL salvage.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

no I said no I won't No

I've written previously on some of the odd requests we've had from customers. Today's request may not be in the top ten, but it's certainly on the charts.

A out-of-town customer came in earlier in the week and bought a T-shirt. He called this morning and said that he had lost the T-shirt and wanted us to send him a replacement shirt for free.

I thought about that all day, and I'm still bewildered.

I lost another one. Give me a new shirt.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Why I love owning a bookstore

One of my favorite customers is a physicist who always orders obscure out-of-print technical books. I'm his go-to person, and he discusses his books with me as if I were as conversant in the topics as he is. I nod, smile, occasionally furrow my brow, and murmur, "Really?" at appropriate intervals.

The cool thing is that he doesn't order the books for work. He gets them for his personal library and reads them the way you or I would read a best-seller. Today he requested Atmospheric science and power production, which is described as follows.
Comprehensive reference text presents data and fundamentals of air-quality monitoring and meteorological instrumentation, including detailed coverage of atmospheric physics and boundary-layer processes; plume rise and buoyancy effects; atmospheric chemistry and removal processes; field experiments; diffusion modeling; toxicological effects of nonnuclear pollutants; radioactive-cloud dose calculations; atmospheric effects of energy generation; alternative energy resources; precipitation scavenging; etc. Separate analytics have been prepared for each chapter. 850 pgs.He wants it because his old copy is ratty.

Got technical books?

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Flower walk

Yesterday Michele and I drove up to the Ski Hill and did a flower walk to Cañada Bonita.

When we got to the parking lot, we saw scores of mountain bikers getting ready for their gnarly rides. (The Chamber of Horrors Commerce doesn't see much benefit to promoting adventure tourism, like mountain biking, climbing, or mountaineering; all those activities do is bring people to town who have disposable income, will stay for several days, and won't leave a big footprint. Adventure travel is not nearly as profitable as getting in bed with developers. But I digress and will now get off my soapbox.)

Here are some images from our walk. Click on the images to enlarge them.

The walk through the woods is cool and inviting.

From the trail you can see the townsite and the effects of the Cerro Grande Fire.

This log returns its nutrients to the mosses and other plants.

The trail skirts the meadow . . .

. . . which is carpeted with wildflowers.


Canada violet (hi, Marion!)

Gunnison's mariposa tulip

Nodding onion


Sticky asters; summer is almost over.

Strawberry runners on a stump

Whipple's penstamon