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[Comments] (1) Only to Find Gutenberg's Bible: Yesterday we planned to go to the Transit Museum in Brooklyn. Instead we went to the research library (the one with the lions) and saw the handwritten Declaration of Independence. It's riddled with apostrophe errors! ("laying it's foundation on such principles") What would my mother think? Incidentally, that link does not have the exact version we saw, but it's close.

Among the topics I need to write about is my antipathy towards libraries that don't let you browse the stacks. But the really huge libraries with closed stacks also tend to be the ones that have things on display like a freaking Gutenberg Bible. Just right there in a case in the middle of an otherwise boring room. Do people know about this? I didn't.

To overcome my closed-stack anguish we went across the street to the mid-Manhattan library and checked out some books. This was great, especially the self-service machine you use to check the books out. But on the way out there was a different form of anguish, a lengthly fracas with the guy who makes sure you don't take books out of the library without checking them out. That's the totality of this poor guy's job, so when I triggered his "unchecked books being removed from library" alarm he went right to work on me.

"You need to check those out." "I did check them out." "Sir, those are library books. You need to check them out." "I did check them out. Do you want to see the receipts?" "Sir, you need to check those books out." "What do you do to check them out besides use the checkout machine?" "You can't take books without checking them out." Yes, I KNOW HOW A LIBRARY WORKS. (I didn't say that. I only say rude things like that afterwards, in weblog entries.)

Eventually he looked at the receipts and conceded that I had probably checked out my library books, deviously disguising myself as an honest citizen and cheating him out of a juicy apprehension. Paperwork beats alarm in this rock-paper-scissors. Sumana suggests that the self-service checkout machine demagnetizes or magnetizes some RFID-like object in the book, and I'd picked my books back up before the machine had had a chance to do that.

Then we decided to go to the transit museum for real, so we took the subway. Sumana has a greedy algorithm for taking the subway through a bottleneck, but one of its implicit assumptions is that the subway graph looks like San Francisco's, with few paths through a bottleneck. Now that we've moved, the algorithm needs generalization. The end result is that, due to stereotypically unintelligible service announcements, we ended up near the Brooklyn Bridge with no simple subway path to the museum. So we just walked the bridge. Which was fun, but once we got to the museum Sumana sat down on a bench and fell asleep, leaving me to explore the museum by myself.

This entry is long, so I'll publish it and write another one.


Posted by Brendan at Sun Jul 23 2006 13:39

I wandered around in that library for an hour and a half while Maria had lunch with Graham and never saw a Gutenberg! I saw cases with boring things in them and some ceiling art, and no free wireless.


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