3.16.2023 – driving in the dark

driving in the dark
no slow down
through the circles
all the lights are green

Sure I drove in Atlanta traffic on a daily basis for years.

I learned to cope.

I did not learn to like it.

I didn’t like traffic then.

I don’t like traffic now.

On the grand scheme, there is not a lot of traffic where I live and work now but there are some odd factors that impact traffic.

One thing is the only one way to work and that way is a bridge.

A four lane – two lanes in either direction – soon to be condemned bridge.

Not that Atlanta had any alternate routes that worked either but they did have lots of lanes.

Another thing is that anyone who needs to be at work in the area where I work, has to be at work at the same time.

Everyone using the same bridge at the same time creates traffic.

Frustrating traffic.

To add to the frustration, there are two traffic circles on my route to work.

So I have been leaving earlier.

Then the time changed.

And leaving early put me in the dark.

But it was okay.

I was the only car in the traffic circle.

When you are the only car and the idea is to slow down and yield to traffic on your left, there was no slow down as there was no traffic.

There are a handful of traffic lights between me and work and most of them are placed by some deviltry to do nothing but annoy me.

But it was okay as all those light were green.

I am not so foolish as to think I have found the trick.

I am not so foolish as to think this could happen again tomorrow.

I am happy for just today and for today, that is enough.

Hope for tomorrow, but for today …

driving in the dark
no slow down
through the circles
all the lights are green

3.15.2013 – stacked against what we

stacked against what we
think we are: impossible
to surprise ourselves


The days are stacked against
what we think we are:
it is nearly impossible
to surprise ourselves
I will never wake up
and be able to play the piano.

In the poem The Theory & Practice of Rivers as it appears in the book, The Theory & Practice of Rivers and New Poems by Jim Harrison, (1937-2016), Clark City Press, Livingston, Mont 1989.

While I have to agree with Mr. Harrison, I still wake up and hope to play the piano and I don’t even have a piano.

3.14.2023 – one land by two sea

one land by two sea
three if by a computer
enemy is us!

He said to his friend, “If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry-arch
Of the North-Church-tower, as a signal-light,—
One if by land, and two if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country-folk to be up and to arm.

From Paul Revere’s Ride by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

I live and work in a resort community in the Low Country of South Carolina.

I am becoming acclimated to the area and its seasons and by seasons I mean the big ones, tourist and non tourist.

Right now is the down time.

The calm before the wake up storm of Spring Break that precedes the real start of the tourists that hits with Memorial Day.

Everything speeds up but at the same time everything slows down.

During the season, the number of people on the island where I work will triple.

While the population increases, the amount of available space on the roads for traffic stays the same.

As this IS an island, there is but one way on and off.

As population triples, travel time triples.

I like to use the analogy of an hour glass.

You can add more sand, but if you don’t increase the size of the neck of the glass, it will take a lot longer for the sand to dribble through and it no longer is an hour glass.

In March, the traffic increase is a forgone future.

You know its coming but there isn’t anything you can do about it.

You can enjoy the lack of traffic that is one of the major pluses of non tourist season.

That is, until two weeks ago.

I get traffic alerts on my phone from the County Sheriffs office and this one morning I got an alert that due to construction, traffic to the island was running slow.

I checked the Google for travel times and was shocked to see it would take me almost two hours to make the 22 minute trip to work.

To rub salt in it, the Google let me know that if I opted to ride a bike to work, it would take only one hour.

I checked in my office and let them know I would be leaving once traffic died down.

One of my coworkers responded to my text, to “Stay Home” as he was stuck on the bridge to the island and hadn’t moved in 30 minutes.

I continued to monitor the traffic, keeping the over filled hour glass in mind and knowing I would be at the very top of the sand in the hour glass, I waited until the trip showed a travel time of 45 minutes and then I left for work.

As I slowly drove across the bridge, I kept my eye open for the reported construction and I felt a bit cheated as there wasn’t any evidence of any work.

Traffic was the topic of discussion at work that day and the idea that the tourists were here early was raised.

Not this early was the consensus though it was said without conviction but more as prayer.

Then a funny thing happened.

We all left for home.

Once again, traffic collapsed.

Normal travel times for the trip home blew up.

My normal (non-tourist time) 22 minute trip home took 45 minutes.

Again, there was no sign of any road work or construction though folks at work had talked about the dread ‘resurfacing projects’ but there was no evidence of anything like that.

What WAS going on here?

The next trip was worse.

I began to leave home earlier and try to get out of work earlier and while that helped, my travel times were no way near what they had been.

The only thing that made sense was that it was true, the tourists had returned.

The paradigm had shifted.

Was the year round year of tourists that we saw during covid that was created by online schools and remote work now the norm?

I began leaving for my commute an hour early.

It was frustrating.

It was scary.

If it was like this now, what would it be during the FULL SEASON.

The topic became of the ONLY discussion at work.

I know what you are saying.

After driving in Atlanta rush hour for 12 hours, how could a little island traffic be such a pain?


There is a wonderful traffic sign you see in ATL.

It says simply KEEP MOVING.

While it may not be an accurate description of ATL Traffic, it is the MINDSET of the veteran ATL driver.

Keep moving.

There was the benign sense of the overwhelming that took over my brain in ATL and traffic became one homogenous band of brothers with the goal, keep moving.

The traffic would speed up and slow down by osmosis.

Here, the island traffic is made of 30,000 cars maybe with 30,000 independent, free agent drivers who all think that but more those other drivers, they could make it to their destination faster and if you would give then 10 or 15 feet of space, they will show you.

People speed up.

People brake.

People come to a full stop.

All on whim.

In ATL, I would get in my lane, have my music or audio book nd get into this mental travel zone and make it to work.

Now it is full on interactive driving that demands my complete attention or someone was going to get hit.

It was the most frustrating of commutes I have ever had.

For me, looking ahead to worsening traffic as the season progressed, like Tom Sawyer and the fence, “… all gladness left him and a deep melancholy settled down upon his spirit.”

Then an odd story appeared in the daily paper.

The story was followed up with a news release from the Hilton Head Island Township.

It was kind of a statement, kind of an explanation and kind of an apology.

About a mile after you cross over the bridge onto the Island, you come to a traffic light.

According to the statement-explanation-apology, the town and the South Carolina Dept of Transportation had set up a new computer timing system on this traffic light.

The new computer had not functioned correctly, so the statement-explanation-apology said, and only three cars were able to make the left turn at the light.

More than three cars wanted to make that turn, and cars backed up quickly and filled the left the turn lane and blocked one of the two traffic lanes in the main road to the island.

The construction was this work on this system.

Kind of an AI road construction that wasn’t real.

The traffic was all too real.

I am relieved.

I am a little bit more relaxed.

But I do have a question?



Did it take the powers that be take two weeks to notice?

Boy Howdy!

Welcome to the Slow Country.

3.13.2023 – the wandering one

the wandering one
dreamer of dreams, the eternal
asker of answers

The sun goes down in a cold pale flare of light.
The trees grow dark: the shadows lean to the east:
And lights wink out through the windows, one by one.
A clamor of frosty sirens mourns at the night.
Pale slate-grey clouds whirl up from the sunken sun.

And the wandering one, the inquisitive dreamer of dreams,
The eternal asker of answers, stands in the street,
And lifts his palms for the first cold ghost of rain.
The purple lights leap down the hill before him.
The gorgeous night has begun again.

‘I will ask them all, I will ask them all their dreams,
I will hold my light above them and seek their faces.
I will hear them whisper, invisible in their veins . . .’
The eternal asker of answers becomes as the darkness,
Or as a wind blown over a myriad forest,
Or as the numberless voices of long-drawn rains.

From The House of Dust: A Symphony (Part One) by Conrad Aiken, (Boston, The Four Seas Press, 1920).

I was checking some dates on Conrad Aiken and saw that I had missed something on his Wikipedia page.

Mr. Aiken was born and lived in Savannah until he was 11.

Mr. Aiken wrote of his childhood, “Born in that most magical of cities, Savannah, I was allowed to run wild in that earthly paradise until I was nine; ideal for the boy who early decided he wanted to write.

Mr. Aiken is buried in Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah and there is a bench by his grave with the words, Cosmos Mariner – Destination Unknown carved in it.

Legend has it that Mr. Aiken saw those words while reading a Savannah Newspaper’s daily list of port activity.

Cosmos Mariner – Destination Unknown.

Mr. Aiken left Savannah when he was 11 after a murder suicide took his parents.

I knew all that.

Then I read the line that I had missed.

After their parents’ deaths, the four children were adopted by Frederick Winslow Taylor and his wife Louise, their great-aunt.

Not just any Frederick Winslow Taylor but THE Frederick Winslow Taylor.

The man who invented the D handled 19 1/2 pound shovel.

The man who held a stop watch to workers and told them how hard they had to work.

The man who invented time motion studies.

The man who said, “In the past the man has been first; in the future the system must be first.”

Mr. Aiken went from,” … that most magical of cities, Savannah, I was allowed to run wild in that earthly paradise until I was nine; ideal for the boy who early decided he wanted to write … to It is only through enforced standardization of methods, enforced adoption of the best implements and working conditions, and enforced cooperation that this faster work can be assured. “

And in the end came down to Cosmos Mariner – Destination Unknown.

‘I will ask them all, I will ask them all their dreams,
I will hold my light above them and seek their faces.
I will hear them whisper, invisible in their veins . . .’

Fabulously fascinating.

3.13.2023 – almost wondered

almost wondered
devious, subconscious means
could settle down safe

Adapted from the passage:

Macon leaned back in his chair with his coffee mug cupped in both hands.

The sun was warming the breakfast table, and the kitchen smelled of toast.

He almost wondered whether, by some devious, subconscious means, he had engineered this injury — every elaborate step leading up to it—just so he could settle down safe among the people he’d started out with.

As Mr. Thurber wrote, Nowadays most men lead lives of noisy desperation.

The Grizzly and the Gadgets

A grizzly bear who had been on a bender for several weeks following a Christmas party in his home at which his brother-in-law had set the Christmas tree on fire, his children had driven the family car through the front door and out the back, and all the attractive female bears had gone into hibernation before sunset returned home prepared to forgive, and live and let live. He found, to his mild annoyance, that the doorbell had been replaced by an ornamental knocker. When he lifted the knocker, he was startled to hear it play two bars of “Silent Night.”

When nobody answered his knock, he turned the doorknob, which said “Happy New Year” in a metallic voice, and a two-tone gong rang “Hello” somewhere deep within the house.

He called to his mate, who was always the first to lay the old aside, as well as the first by whom the new was tried, and got no answer. This was because the walls of his house had been soundproofed by a sound proofer who had soundproofed them so well nobody could hear anybody say anything six feet away. Inside the living room the grizzly bear turned on the light switch, and the lights went on all right, but the turning of the switch had also released an odor of pine cones, which this particular bear had always found offensive. The head of the house, now becoming almost as angry as he had been on Christmas Day, sank into an easy chair and began bouncing up and down and up and down, for it was a brand-new contraption called “Sitpretty” which made you bounce up and down and up and down when you sat on it. Now thoroughly exasperated, the bear jumped up from the chair and began searching for a cigarette. He found a cigarette box, a new-fangled cigarette box he had never seen before, which was made of metal and plastic in the shape of a castle, complete with portal and drawbridge and tower. The trouble was that the bear couldn’t get the thing open. Then he made out, in tiny raised letters on the portal, a legend in rhyme: “You can have a cigarette on me If you can find the castle key.” The bear could not find the castle key, and he threw the trick cigarette box through a windowpane out into the front yard, letting in a blast of cold air, and he howled when it hit the back of his neck. He was a little mollified when he found that he had a cigar in his pocket, but no matches, and so he began looking around the living room for a matchbox. At last he saw one on a shelf. There were matches in it, all right, but no scratching surface on which to scratch them. On the bottom of the box, however, there was a neat legend explaining this lack. The message on the box read: “Safety safety matches are doubly safe because there is no dangerous dangerous sandpaper surface to scratch them on. Strike them on a windowpane or on the seat of your pants.”

Enraged, infuriated, beside himself, seeing red and thinking black, the grizzly bear began taking the living room apart. He pounded the matchbox into splinters, knocked over lamps, pulled pictures off the wall, threw rugs out of the broken window, swept vases and a clock off the mantelpiece, and overturned chairs and tables, growling and howling and roaring, shouting and bawling and cursing, until his wife was aroused from a deep dream of marrying a panda, neighbors appeared from blocks around, and the attractive female bears who had gone into hibernation began coming out of it to see what was going on.

The bear, deaf to the pleas of his mate, heedless of his neighbors’ advice, and unafraid of the police, kicked over whatever was still standing in the house, and went roaring away for good, taking the most attractive of the attractive female bears, one named Honey, with him.

MORAL: Nowadays most men lead lives of noisy desperation.

3.11.2023 – civilization

on a saturday morning
the roar, the power

I live in what is called the low country of South Carolina.

It is north of the Coastal Empire of south Georgia and the Hostess City of Savannah.

The low country.

So called because it is so low.

As I write, I am about 10 feet above sea level and I am on the 2nd floor.

It is low.

It is also nicknamed the slow country.

The nickname fits for many reasons.

I am not saying we are in the back woods.

I am saying you get here once you get to the back woods.

I am not saying it is Podunk.

I am saying that to get here, you turn left, once you get to Podunk.

The low country has a lot going for it, not the least of which is its solitude.

Its peace and quiet.

At least until this morning when the peace and quiet was wiped out by the roar of civilization.

At least that part of civilization that recognizes the gas powered backpack leaf blower as a part of civilization.

I live in a little apartment complex.

There is no lawn to mow.

There is no yard work.

Still, for reasons known but to those people who make those type of decisions, the parking lot was dirty or something, and the entire complex needed to be blow dried.

Understand the grass has not started growing yet.

There was no grass to be mowed in the little places where grass can grow around here.

As a matter of fact, I don’t think there were any lawn mowers in action this morning.

No sir.

It was this small army of noise terrorists armed with these backpack leaf blowers blow drying every inch of sidewalk and parking lot.

At 8 o’clock on a Saturday morning.

It sounded like a whole bunch of chain saws had been turned loose in the woods behind us and with development of the area the way it has been that would not have surprised me.

But no, it was just the parking lot cleaning force.

It was the Holland, Michigan street cleaners on steroids.

Up and down the sidewalks.

Under and around all the cars.

The sounds of the leaf blowers changing in pitch as they were waved around.

It was so odd as I couldn’t see that it had much effect.

It has been pollen season down here in the low country.

A pollen season with pollen so thick you can see it, taste it and feel it piling up in your nose.

But it rained all day yesterday.

All the pollen has been washed away by the rain.

I guess that was it.

The sidewalk and the parking lot need to be blow dried.

Ah that roar of civilization.

Well …

It wasn’t snow blowers.

3.10.2023 – still, how strangely still

still, how strangely still
water is today, not good
to be still that way

Adapted from the poem, Sea Calm by Langston Hughes as it appeared in The Weary Blues (Alfred A. Knopf, 1926) .

How still,
How strangely still
The water is today.
It is not good
For water
To be so still that way

Langston Hughes was just twenty-four years old when his debut poetry collection The Weary Blues was published in 1926.

The first line of the introduction to The Weary Blues reads, “At the moment I cannot recall the name of any other person whatever who, at the age of twenty -three, has enjoyed so picturesque and rambling an existence as Langston Hughes.

Back in the day when I worked at WZZM13 TV in Grand Rapids, Michigan, I remember a newsroom discussion about travel and places to go and places gone to and plans to go to other places.

I looked up and said in what my wife calls ‘My Hoffman Voice’, you know, the voice you develop in a family of 11 kids if you ever want anyone to hear you – my kids say it cuts through concrete – my Mom said it was just like my brother Bobby’s (who was a baseball coach for 20 years), “I live in house 1 mile from where I grew up, 1 mile from the hospital where I was born and 1 mile from the cemetery where I will be buried.”

Then I said, “Oh am I depressed!”

At the time it was all true.

I lived near Kent Country Club on the North End of Grand Rapids.

It was less than a mile from my childhood home on Sligh Blvd.

It was about a mile to Butterworth Hospital where I was born.

And it was less than a mile from Fairplains Cemetery where my grand parents and parents are buried and where, most likely, I would end up one day.

I was about to turn 50.

Since then, I can say that I have enjoyed a picturesque and rambling existence.

Someone looked at my life and said it was still, too still.

And then that someone decided that it was not good for my life to be still that way.

I am reminded of a silly movie starring Steve Martin named Parenthood.

Mr. Martin watches his life come apart at the seams with the flu, bills, car accidents, kids fighting, job loss and everything else and is ready to lose it.

When his Grandma comes by and kind of in passing says:

You know, when I was 19, Grandpa took me on a roller coaster
Up, down, up, down. Oh, what a ride.
I always wanted to go again.
You know, it was just interesting to me that a ride could make me so frightened,
so scared,
so sick,
so excited
and so thrilled,
all together.
Some didn’t like it.
They went on the merry-go-round.
That just goes around … Nothing.
I like the roller coaster.
You get more out of it.

The movie was written by Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel.

These two guys wrote a lot of movies.

One of those was, A League of Their Own where baseball manager Jimmy Dugan, played by Tom Hanks, says:

It’s supposed to be hard.

If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it.

The hard… is what makes it great.

It is not good
For water
To be so still that way

3.9.2023 – fundamentally

flawed conception of our selves
language, knowledge

Adapted from:

Today our supposedly revolutionary advancements in artificial intelligence are indeed cause for both concern and optimism. Optimism because intelligence is the means by which we solve problems. Concern because we fear that the most popular and fashionable strain of A.I. — machine learning — will degrade our science and debase our ethics by incorporating into our technology a fundamentally flawed conception of language and knowledge.

It is at once comic and tragic, that so much money and attention should be concentrated on so little a thing — something so trivial when contrasted with the human mind, which by dint of language, in the words of Wilhelm von Humboldt, can make “infinite use of finite means,” creating ideas and theories with universal reach.

In the guest opinion essay, “The False Promise of ChatGPT” by Noam Chomsky (March 8, 2023, NYT).

Mr. Chomsky’s global standing as THE expert on language leaves me little room to argue, not that I would, as I was happy to read his opinions on the latest computer generated textual content craze that has a place in the current news cycle.

For me, the concept is as old as the Infinite Monkey Theory which states that if an infinite number of monkeys were left to bang on an infinite number of typewriters, sooner or later they would accidentally reproduce the complete works of William Shakespeare.

It goes back to 1913 and Félix Édouard Justin Émile Borel a French mathematician, who wrote:

.. Concevons qu’on ait dressé un million de singes à frapper au hasard sur les touches d’une machine à écrire et que, sous la surveillance de contremaîtres illettrés, ces singes dactylographes travaillent avec ardeur dix heures par jour avec un million de machines à écrire de types variés. Les contremaîtres illettrés rassembleraient les feuilles noircies et les relieraient en volumes. Et au bout d’un an, ces volumes se trouveraient renfermer la copie exacte des livres de toute nature et de toutes langues conservés dans les plus riches bibliothèques du monde. Telle est la probabilité pour qu’il se produise pendant un instant très court, dans un espace de quelque étendue, un écart notable de ce que la mécanique statistique considère comme la phénomène le plus probable…*

I remembered it more from Bob Newhart who told the joke about the typing monkey’s, “Hey, Harry! This one looks a little famous: ‘To be or not to be – that is the gggzornonplatt.”

To be sure of the date, I did the google and read the article on Wikipedia.


So much on so little that for some reason caught the attention of so many people including a ‘famous’ study by some fellers named, Hoffmann and Hofmann!

It seems that the image of an infinite number of typing monkeys is just the thing to get stuck in a lot of people’s brain.

And, for the record, my family name is Hofman, but my Grandpa thought it looked unbalanced and changed it to Hoffman.

I think to get four spellings of the same last name into 2 sentences is pretty good for a non monkey!

To return to Mr. Chomsky and his something so trivial when contrasted with the human mind.

I used to try to observe objectively my mind in action as it worked to process all the information coming into my brain as I drove into Atlanta.

I was pretty much left in awe everytime.

In his books, C.S. Forester has several scenes where the hero is in a situation surrounded by activity and is called on to make decision after decision.

In these scenes, one of the sources of activity is either a beeping clock or someone else calling off the time in 5 second intervals or some such thing that marks the time in the background and the hero begins to contemplate how in the world the brain can process all the data let alone arrive at a conclusion, let alone a successful conclusion, in the time allowed for the situation.

Infinite use of finite means, creating ideas and theories with universal reach.

It is, the mind, an incredible thing.

click on image to watch music and listen

To shift from text to music, I have long said that I had been allowed to compose the first 8 bars or so of Mozart’s Piano Concerto #11, I could die a happy person.

When Artificial Intelligence can compose this music, then email me a note.

When Artificial Intelligence can compose this music and KNOW what it did, then text me.

When Artificial Intelligence can LISTEN to this and feel it and know it is special and also know that if the computer was unplugged today, that computer would be happy that it has composed such a piece, then call me.

*.. Let us imagine that a million monkeys have been trained to type at random on the keys of a typewriter and that, under the supervision of illiterate foremen, these typing monkeys work with ardor ten hours a day with a million machines to write of various types. Illiterate foremen would collect the blackened sheets and bind them into volumes. And at the end of a year, these volumes would be found to contain the exact copy of the books of all kinds and all languages ​​preserved in the richest libraries of the world. Such is the probability that there will occur for a very short instant, in a space of some extent, a notable deviation from what statistical mechanics considers to be the most probable phenomenon… (Yes I used a computer generated translation)

3.8.2023 – independence and

independence and
cannot co-exist

Adapted from a scene in the book, Commodore Hornblower, by C.S. Forester who writes that Hornblower:

Recalling himself to reality, he forced himself to remember with what a bubble of excitement he had received his orders back to active service, the light heart with which he had left his child, the feeling of – there was no blinking the matter – emancipation with which he had parted from his wife.

The prospect of once more being entirely his own master, of not having to defer to Barbara’s wishes, of not being discommoded by Richard’s teeth, had seemed most attractive then.

And here he was complaining to himself about the burden of responsibility, when responsibility was the inevitable price one had to pay for independence; irresponsibility was something which, in the very nature of things, could not co-exist with independence.

It is part of the Hornblower lore that when Gene Roddenberry created the Star Trek character of Captain James T. Kirk, he used Hornblower and the Hornblower books as a model.

3.7.2023 – sometimes a crumb falls

sometimes a crumb falls
from the tables of joy some
times a bone is flung

Pretty cheeky of me but this is adapted from the poem, Luck, by Langston Hughes, word for word.

Sometimes a crumb falls

From the tables of joy

Sometimes a bone

Is flung

To some people

Love is given

To others

Only heaven.



Some times for some people things fall, are flung, are given or found.

How can so much be packed into so few words?

I wonder what others might have made of this.

I also wanted a further attribution so I put the phrase, Sometimes a crumb falls in the google and was rewarded with a story that appeared in the New York Times on March 2, 1994.

In the article by Joe Sexton, Mr. Sexton reports on the New York City Transit authority was using ad space in the New York Subway system to display poetry in a program called Poetry in Motion.

On that day, March 2nd, in 1994, this poem was on display and Mr. Sexton rode along on the subway to ask commuters if they had noticed the poem, if they would read it, and want they thought it meant.

It is a fascinating read and a fabulous snapshot of a moment in the lives of several people who I am sure never once thought they might be talking to a reporter about Langston Hughes on the New York Subway.

For me, the poem might have its roots in the Bible story in Matthew 15:

The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.

He [Jesus] replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”

“Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”

Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.”

I could go one with this thought of crumbs that fall, a bone that is flung, love found on earth or in Heaven but I won’t.

That thought of Biblical roots does not show up in the thoughts listed by the reporter as he interviewed commuters.

“I can’t express it, but I get it,” Ms. McNeil says of the poem.

“A crumb? A bone?” she [another commuter] asked. “What’s it got to do with heaven?”

“… To me, the poem means that you are lucky if you even find just some happiness.”

The story was headlined, Langston Hughes On the IRT; A Poem Arouses Many Feelings.

Whatever the feelings, I have to feel that Mr. Hughes would have been happy to learn that his poem, posted in the subway, where people might have a few seconds to ponder its message, had many feelings.

One more thing.

Those tables of joy.

Simple phrase you can consider in your mind and find it is 20 minutes later in your day.