Brett Bonfield

Executive Director of the Princeton (NJ) Public Library

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In Defense of Marriage

As the director of our local public library, I get to officiate at weddings, usually about ten per year. “Librarian” isn’t like “Ship Captain,” the kind of profession that’s associated with officiating weddings. Like most of the other good things that happen in our lives, I lucked into it.

We have a very good mayor, one who has served our town for about 20 years, and a good judge, too, with a similarly long tenure. At this point, the mayor mostly limits his wedding officiating to commissioners’ meetings on Monday evenings, and the judge mostly performs weddings in court on Wednesday mornings prior to trials.

When I found out about this situation a couple of years ago, I let our borough clerk know that I would be happy to serve as a representative of the town if couples wanted to be married at other times of day, other days of the week, or in other locations. It’s satisfying to serve as...

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Dressing yourself is one of those things you can’t just learn once and be done with it, which is pretty much the definition of an intractable problem.

I think most of us dream about figuring it out. Much like Steve Jobs with his black mock turtlenecks and 501’s, Barack Obama has his wardrobe down to a routine: either a blue or gray suit. Though it isn’t just rich, powerful men who think this way: Timoni West, a designer at Foursquare, got a lot of attention for her post about wearing a hoodie, t-shirt, tank top, leggings, and a skirt every day.

Even artists struggle with what their characters should wear. Charles Willeford, my vote as America’s most under-recognized great novelist, has his recurring character, Hoke Mosely, adopt the routine of wearing the same yellow, poplin jumpsuit every day in the unpublished Grimhaven.

What clothes to buy, and when and how to wear them, is...

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Citrus, Pain, and Experts

We started composting last year. Again. But this time we seem to be better at it than the last few times we tried. Our system is simpler. We put fruit and vegetable waste and coffee grounds in a gallon-sized, airtight, plastic container that sits next to our sink. When the container is full, I take it out to the back yard and bury its contents in the ground during the six warmer months, and during the six cooler months I put it in a trash can-sized tumbler we keep near the back door.

So far, there has been only one point of disagreement. My wife found out that it’s a bad idea to put citrus in a compost pile, but I kept insisting on putting the citrus in our pile anyway because it didn’t make any sense to me that it would be a problem.

Her argument was stronger than mine, given that her information came from smart people whom we also happen to love. One of them is a landscaper and...

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A Link Removed

If you could choose the circumstances of your own death, would you do it?

I don’t just mean the date, time, and location, but also your mental and physical condition, the activity you would be engaged in, your cause of death, and even your sense of fulfillment. In this scenario, as you lay dying, you would have a chance to remember your personal and professional accomplishments, your thoughts and feelings during important events in your life, the knowledge you gained.

The counterbalance would be that you would always know the circumstances of your death. You would know what you needed to accomplish before your time ran out. You would know what you were going to learn and think and feel prior to the actual experience, meaning you would have no way to avoid the inevitable, so everything would take on the sheen of inevitability. Charlie Munger has said, “Tell me where I’m going to die so...

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Resurrecting Mark Pilgrim and Why the Lucky Stiff

It’s embarrassing to admit, but I can be awfully possessive about things I don’t own. Even things that no one owns. Even things that don’t yet exist.

That’s how I was with Mark Pilgrim’s writing and software. Every time he published something new, I stopped what I was doing to read it or play with it. His narrative pieces, in particular, felt like they meant more to me than they meant to other people in the same way that my favorite bands’ music had, back in my teens and into my early twenties.

It was similar with Why the Lucky Stiff, though he was so prolific that I couldn’t always keep up, and sometimes I had no idea what he was talking about. He was sort of like an imaginary friend made mostly real, but left partially in a self-creating dream state.

The reason that’s how I was with them, rather than am, is because they’re both infocides, probably our most famous. They took their...

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Our Friend the Market Inefficiency

Getting a great deal can take one of two forms:

  1. Some things have lower prices than a lot people are willing to pay. Bruce Springsteen concerts are in this category. The reason 100,000 people are willing to pull their credit cards out of their wallets and spend a morning hitting refresh on their browsers is because he’s selling 30,000 tickets at $100 each. If tickets were $500 each (or whatever they end up going for in secondary markets like StubHub), the number of buyers would more closely match the number of tickets.

  2. Others things have a level of quality that is associated with much more expensive comparables.

    • In January 2005, a glowing review of the Sonic Impact T-Amp helped turn a $39 battery-powered integrated stereo amplifier into a media sensation.
    • Consumer Reports recently recommended a sunscreen that costs $.59/ounce over sunscreens that cost as much as $20/ounce.
    • More...

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The Veil of Sports

The thing I hated about taking graduate courses in English is the thing I love about being a sports fan.

In English, the farther you go, the farther you get from the stories that first drew you in. In their place, you read metatheory about theory about criticism, commentary stacked on commentary, and each additional layer is less insightful and more poorly written than the one that preceded it.

In sports, it’s the opposite. The commentary that is most thoughtful, both in its reasoning and in how the writers present their ideas, is found farthest from the story that took place on the field or in the arena. As near as I can tell, baseball analyst Bill James was the first one to point out the advantage of being an outsider, that it gave him time to reflect and it freed him from accepting the distorted views most people seem to develop when they work closely with athletes.


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