9.30.2022 – one certainty

one certainty
when can’t possibly get worse it
absolutely will

What am I writing about?

What AREN’T I writing about?

Actually the words in today’s haiku are in a blurb for the 2019 book, Decline and Fail: Read in Case of Political Apocalypse which is a collection of opinion pieces or ‘political sketches’ by John Crace of the Guardian.

The blurb read: There is now only one certainty in life. When things can’t possibly get any worse, they absolutely will. And so, after three years of Maybot malfunctioning and Brexit bungling, welcome to BoJo the clown’s national circus – where fun for literally none of the family is guaranteed.

Mr. Crace’s columns on the British political scene are a joy to read.

In today’s sketch, Half-witted, reckless Librium Liz may be even worse than May and Johnson, Mr. Crace writes:

But the Tories are just playing with us. It’s as if the members said: “So you think David Cameron is useless? Just wait until we give you Theresa.” And once we’d all had about enough of May, they gave us a narcissistic, sociopathic liar instead.

Now, to top it all – at least we hope so; surely there can’t be another one who is even worse? – we’ve been landed with Liz Truss. Someone who is not just half-witted and robotic, but reckless enough to bankrupt the country. The ideologue with only a tenuous grasp on reality. There’s always a job waiting for Truss in an automated call centre:

A deathless loop that sucks the life out of you.

Further on in the sketch, I was thinking that as I read:

She is the embodiment of the circle of doom on a laptop that’s crashing.

She is not AI.

She is Artificial Stupidity, programmed to carry on repeating more and more errors until she collapses in on herself.

A dead cert to win this year’s Darwin awards for those who have contributed to human evolution by selecting themselves out of the gene pool.

Wire Truss up to an ECG and you’d find no activity. Just a flat line.”

… I wanted to use that old joke and ask, “But what do you really think about Ms. Truss?”

I admit that one of the appeals to me, in reading about the current situation in Britain is that both sides are on the same side that the current leadership is clueless.

This is a myopic view for me to take as I don’t live there or follow much news other than the Guardian and there may be news sources that support Ms. Truss.

From my limited browsing however it does seem that she is being bailed on by her own party.

For me, it is that never never land of a certain political party here in the US admitting that a certain someone indeed does not have any clothes, let alone new clothes, on at all.

I can hope.

BUT I enjoy the writing and the caustic nature and the vocabulary very much.

I think it must have been fun to write.

But I also think there is a down side.

Just like with time, Great Britain is about 5 hours ahead of us.

Stayed tuned for the US version coming soon.

9.27.2022 – evidence not seem

evidence not seem
sufficiently conclusive
always that problem

According to a recent article, the tomb of Egyptian queen Nefertiti may been located in Egypt.

The article states that :

The discovery of hidden hieroglyphics within Tutankhamun’s tomb lends weight to a theory that the fabled Egyptian queen Nefertiti lies in a hidden chamber adjacent to her stepson’s burial chamber, a world-renowned British Egyptologist has said.

The bust of Nefertiti at the Egyptian Museum and Papyrus Collection in Berlin, Germany. Photograph: Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters

The article concludes with this wonderful paragraph.

George Ballard, a leading specialist in radar and geophysical investigations of buildings and structures, is as excited by the new discovery as he is convinced that a false wall blocks an entrance to an extension of the tomb: “The evidence that we have so far does suggest that there is a man-made structure forming the north wall and the east wall of the Treasury. The east wall of the Treasury is probably natural stone that appears to have been cut or formed as a wall. There is evidence of man-made structure, although that did not seem sufficiently conclusive to some people. This is always the problem in science.”

There is evidence of man-made structure, although that did not seem sufficiently conclusive to some people.

This is always the problem in science.

Ain’t it the truth?

Some folks just won’t understand facts.

Kind of reminds me of the story of Enrico Fermi constructing the first self sustaining nuclear reactor pile.

Them fellers were 99% sure they wouldn’t set the world on fire though they left a mark on nuclear power to this day by designating someone to be the ‘Safety Control Rod Axe Man’ whose job was to use an axe to cut the rope that the would drop a control rod that ‘MIGHT’ bring a runaway nuclear reaction under control.

That acronym for this job was SCRAM just seemed to fit as in, CUT THE ROPE AND RUN FOR YOUR LIFE, and to this day the button that shuts off a nuclear pile is called the SCRAM button.

Fermi had this guy in place the nuclear reaction went out of control so he was prepared.

On the other hand, the experimental nuclear pile that had a chance to set the world on fire was set up in downtown Chicago.

The remains of the lab are buried there to this day.

Buried under signs that read DO NOT DIG IN THIS AREA.

But Fermi was convinced that there would be no end of the world scenario.

The evidence was against something like that happening although the evidence did not seem sufficiently conclusive to some people.

There is always that problem in science.

9.24.2022 – writers write from pain

writers write from pain
he closed up all wounds, all can
write are these small things

The diaries of Alan Rickman were recently published.

The review I read stated, “Why he kept a diary is unclear. Diarists come in all shapes, and their reasons for recording their lives are similarly diverse.”

My question is, did he know or want them to ever be published.

Historian Edmund Morris wrote that one cannot read the private letters and diary of Theodore Roosevelt with out feeling that TR knew and wanted them to be published to the point that letters were not so much written to any one person as much to posterity.

I cannot say I am much of an Alan Rickman fan and then I think about all the movies I have seen in him and I say my gosh was that Alan Rickman?

Die Hard, Love Actually, one of those Jane Austen period pieces and all those Harry Potter movies that I have never seen made from books that I have never read (there, I said it, I have not read any Harry Potter)

I skimmed through the excerpts of the diaries because of the tag line, “two decades of Rickman’s withering film reviews.

Few things I enjoy reading more than withering film reviews except maybe the back story behind withering film reviews.

Like Pauline Kael writing that The Sound of Music was “the single most repressive influence on artistic freedom in movies” and getting fired from her job because of writing that.

But this is all digression.

What caught my eye was a comment Mr. Rickman wrote into his diary on December 29, 2000 when he had a four hour conversation with Edna O’Brien.

Josephine Edna O’Brien is an Irish novelist, memoirist, playwright, poet and short-story writer and Philip Roth described her as “the most gifted woman now writing in English”, all according to wikipedia.

Mr. Rickman quoted Ms. O’Brien commenting on Harold Pinter, the play write.

Just to keep this all straight, I am repeating something Alan Rickman wrote down that he claimed Edna O’Brien said about another person, Harold Pinter.

Got it straight now?

He said that she said that “The trouble is writers write from pain and Harold has closed up all his wounds, so all he can write now are these small things.”

Of late I have been bothered by, OF ALL THINGS, the quality of my haiku.

Not that I am any great poet let alone a poet let alone a writer.

I pretty much set at my keyboard and my fingers ran away which you can tell from typos and grammar all too often.

Still, when I read some of my earlier stuff, I think, this isn’t too bad.

The stuff inspired by a bizarre work environment and daily commutes in and out of Atlanta, Georgia and an extended family situation that was less than settled.

Now I pretty much enjoy my job.

My commute, when I have to go in to the office, if across tidal wetlands on palm tree lined roads.

And my kids, for the most part, are slowly getting their act together (though lots of rough edges remain).

Recently a friend commented that I ‘ … have a charmed life.’

I cannot argue.

Maybe I have closed up all the wounds.

Maybe all I can write are these small things.

If I have to complain, what I complain about is mostly that covid fatigue (along with political fatigue – well this soap opera ever end?)

Can I call those wounds?


I live a charmed life.

I should start acting like I know that.

9.20.2022 – occupational

citizenship behaviors
leaving work on time

In an article about the quiet quitting concept, Mr. James Tapper wrote:

Rather than working late on a Friday evening, organising the annual team-building trip to Slough or volunteering to supervise the boss’s teenager on work experience, the quiet quitters are avoiding the above and beyond, the hustle culture mentality, or what psychologists call “occupational citizenship behaviours”.

Instead, they are doing just enough in the office to keep up, then leaving work on time and muting Slack. Then posting about it on social media.

Occupational citizenship behaviours.

These, I think used to be called ‘Conventions‘ as in, “The conventions demand it.

In the movie Revenge (which is based on a Jim Harrison short story but achieved more fame when Kevin Costner told the story that he was signed up to do the movie ‘Revenge’ and the script went into re-write and Costner asked how long it would take as if there was enough time, he was going to go do this baseball movie in Iowa), the killer anti-hero says out loud something along the lines of , ‘I have to do this. The conventions demand it … I don’t even know what means.’

Occupational citizenship behaviours.

I do know what that means and while I am back in the office only two days a week so far, I just don’t want to have to follow through with them anymore.

Suffice it say, leaving work on time used to go against the conventions.

9.17.2022 – I always had a

I always had a
motto – I make the number
number don’t make me

Reading the article, Julio Jones primed for a revival with Buccaneers after strong start as Tom Brady target, I enjoyed a bit of writing and a quote from Mr. Jones.

Jarrett Bell of USA TODAY wrote that:

“Julio can play,” Bucs coach Todd Bowles trumpeted on Sunday night, echoing the tone he expressed during training camp. “We keep saying it all along. He got in shape. He got healthy. He’s a warrior. He’s one of those guys that’s going to come out every week and compete.”

He’s also a guy with a new ID.

Jones is wearing No. 6 for the Bucs. It’s nothing sentimental, nothing superstitious.

“It’s just a number, man,” he said. “I didn’t want to take nobody out of their number. It was, ‘Whatever’s available, I’m going to take it.’ No significance.”

Brady’s backup, Blaine Gabbert, wears No. 11 for the Bucs. Third-string quarterback Kyle Trask is No. 2, the jersey number Jones had last year with the Tennessee Titans.

“I always had a motto, man: I make the number, the number don’t make me,” Jones declared. “That’s how I go about it

I liked that.

I always had a motto, man: I make the number, the number don’t make me.

I am reminded of being back in High School at Grand Rapids Creston in the late 1970’s.

This was in the OLD GYM Creston before they built the new gym and way before the decision was made to close the school.

The OLD GYM was so small that in winter months gym class took turns between the boys and girls and who got to use the gym and who had an alternative class.

Alternative meant a movie or maybe a Gym Teacher led lecture class on some topic.

One teacher I had like to give a quiz on sports rules to see what we didn’t know about sports.

He would call on individual students one at a time.

One time, I got this this question.

What are the limits on numbers on basketball uniforms and why?

I did not understand the question.

The teacher rephrased it as what numbers can you have on a basketball uniform and why?

That didn’t help.

The teacher, Don Edwards, who really was pretty cool but thought I was one of the oddest people he had ever had in class, stared at me and said, “Come on Hoffman.”

I felt out of place in gym class often but rarely did I feel stupid and at that moment I felt really dumb.

I stared right back and said, “Okay, I give up. What numbers CAN you have in basketball and why.”

Coach Edwards shook his head and said, “Oh come on. You can only have combinations of 1 thru 5.”

That was the dumbest thing I had ever heard.

“You know, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 or 51, 52, 53, 54, 55 … 31,32, 33, 34, 35 … only combinations of 1 through 5.”

My eyes must have glazed over as I listened but I did manage to say, “Why?”

“So the ref can signal the scorer with the number of any player with two hands.”

Coach Edwards them demonstrated, “Foul on number 15.”

And he held up 1 finger on the left hand and 5 fingers on the right.

“Basket by number 33” and he help up three and three.

At once I was struck by the meaning and the simple magic in it.

Basketball numbers had limits.

Limits created by the five fingers on our hands.

I understood.

That made 33 THE number to have.

Think of the great 33’s (starting the list with Cazzie Russell)

I understood.

And in that moment I suddenly understood the magic involved in the silent protest and statement of using an illegal number.

DR J and number 6.

Big Bob Lanier wearing number 16.

I understood.

I make the number, the number don’t make me.

9.16.2022 – but the truth that

but the truth that
nobody knows does nothing
to settle debate

In an article about the US and World economy, Mr. Paul Krugman used some very interesting words when discussing the ecomony.

Mr. Krugman, according to his short bio, joined The New York Times in 2000 as an Op-Ed columnist. He is distinguished professor in the Graduate Center Economics Ph.D. program and distinguished scholar at the Luxembourg Income Study Center at the City University of New York. In addition, he is professor emeritus at the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs.

He is, all at the same time, a distinguished professor and a distinguished scholar as well as a professor emeritus which should be good enough for anyone.

Mr. Krugman’s latest observations appear in the NYT Opinion piece, Who’s Afraid of the Consumer Price Index?

Like any good opinion piece on economics, Mr. Krugman uses all the standard terms like inflation expectations, Bureau of Labor Statistics, consumer prices, alternative formulation, immaculate disinflation, significant cooling off, job vacancies, higher unemployment and the ever popular, temporary phenomenon.

Entirely appropriate and expected use of language.

But unexpectedly Mr. Krugman also uses the terms If you still believed, I guess and But the truth is.

If you still believed.

I guess

But the truth is.

NOW that is a gutty enconomist.

Mr. Krugman wraps up his piece with this paragraph:

But the truth is that nobody knows for sure, and the fact that a hot economy is still producing heated inflation does nothing to settle the debate.

Mr. Krugman wraps up his piece with these paragraphs:

The good news, sort of, is that the Fed seems to know what it doesn’t know. It’s talking tough on inflation, as it must to retain credibility, but it’s also talking about looking at the “totality of the incoming data,” which means that it’s prepared to ease off if and when inflation is clearly coming down.

My guess is that this moment will come sooner than many think. But we’ll just have to wait and see.

But we’ll just have to wait and see.

But we’ll just have to wait and see?

I would like to refer Mr. Krugman to Chance the Gardener in the old movie, Being There.

Mr. Gardener said: As long as the roots are not severed, all is well. And all will be well in the garden. In the garden, growth has it seasons. First comes spring and summer, but then we have fall and winter. And then we get spring and summer again.”

In the movie, the President listens to this and says, “I admire your good, solid sense. That’s precisely what we lack on Capitol Hill.”

BTW, the movie Being There was released in 1979.

We’ll just have to wait and see.

9.15.2022 – against the swell of

against the swell of
history in the room future
felt like a footnote

Reading this wonderful article about The Old Printshop, that asked the questions, How do you relocate more than 100 years’ worth of (haphazardly organized) fine art, maps and prints?

The last paragraph of the story read:

During a lull in the packing, Scott and his uncle paused to admire a wall-size map of New York City commissioned by the British government in 1766 (and now priced at $325,000). Their conversation rolled back in time, from Revolutionary War strategy to the burning of the Library of Alexandria to the fall of ancient Carthage and beyond. Against the swell of history in the room, the future felt like a footnote.

9.12.2022 – it’s unexpected

it’s unexpected
in a way, it was exciting
was among the first

The article, King and country: brief delay as new Canadians swear oath to Charles III, with its sub-headline, Citizenship ceremony starts belatedly as officials adapt oath in moments following death of Queen Elizabeth II, caught my eye.

The article told the story of a citizenship ceremony that took place in Canada via ZOOM with 140 ‘excited, polite faces’ waiting for presiding judge to come on screen to greet attendees.

The Judge was late and the ceremony was delayed.

When the Judge did log in and show up he said, “Now, just to inform you, the Monarch of the United Kingdom, the Queen, has passed away. Our sovereign is now King Charles III, the King of Canada.”

It reminded me how here in the United States, we are citizens united by a Constituion.

In Canada, the UK and other places, they are subjects of the realm, united by a common monarch.

That’s what 1776 was all about, in a nutshell.

I also read how not only will oath’s have to be updated but after 70 plus years of Elizabeth, with 5 different likenesses, there will be some new looks to the money.

I happen to have some older Canadian coins in a box and I found some nickels with King George VI and a penny (that I bought a long time ago) with King George V.

If you are around my age, and you grew up in Michigan you saw a lot of Canadian coins.

If you are really old, you will remember how vending machines had stickers that said, NO CANADIAN COINS.

I don’t think the warning was so much for the difference in value as much as it was the weird 12 sided Canadian nickels that would jam up the machine.

The 12-sided shape had been introduced in 1942 to help Canadians distinguish the wartime bronze-coloured tombac coins from copper cents.

Tombac, also used on British three-pence coins, was adopted to save on nickel, in high demand during the Second World War for the production of armaments and munitions.

The coin had returned to nickel after war, while the shape had been retained for 20 years.

While distinctive and popular, it was causing problems at the Mint.

The coin was composed of nickel, a notoriously hard metal which required a high striking pressure.

The unusual shape created a weakness in the collar dies, which tended to develop cracks at the corners.

On Nov. 8, 1962 the Government of Canada issued a proclamation to authorize the production of round five-cent coins.

Oddly enough when I started working in a bookstore in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1979, the 12 sided nickel was still common enough that I collected a box full.

My plan was to save up enough to make a $2 roll of 12 sided nickels that I could turn in at the bank.

I was in the bank near the bookstore almost everyday and I figured that whoever ended up with that roll of nickels would have screamed and gone back to the bank to complain.

The thought of being in the bank and hearing about it and then looking at the tellers and saying ‘now who would have gone to all the trouble to save up all those nickels’ was a funny thought.

I never followed through and here I sit with a box of Canadian nickels from 1962.

They all have the likeness of the Queen as she looked in 1960.

As I said, I understand the likeness of the Queen was updated 5 times and she got older.

Charles III gets to start out older.

And don’t bother looking for any Edward VIII coins.

They were all set to start being minted but a month before the start date, the feller walked out on the job.

ABOUT THE PICTURE – You can see the likeness of George VI on the Canadian nickel and quarter – in the center in the George V penny from 1920 with the inscription GEORGIVS V DEI GRA: REX ET IND: IMP which translates “George V, by the grace of God, the King and Emperor of India” Also in the photo is a gold colored 3 Penny Piece or thruppence from 1953, with the inscription ELIZABETH II DEI GRA BRITT OMN REGINA F D or Elizabeth II by the Grace of God, of all the Britains Queen, Defender of the Faith – The copper colored coin with George VI is the famous Brass Farthing as in the line from My Fair Lady, “Not a brass farthing” when Eliza’s mooching father comes around.

At some point in my life, when I realized I was never going to travel I would tell friends and coworkers they had to bring me coins back from wherever they went.

This led to lots of bizarre stories of people leaving planes and boats to buy quickly, something, anything to get some change and ‘coins for Mike.’

Once when a friend left for England I asked for some old money coins which is how I got the thruppence and farthings.

My friend had to go into an antique store to find them and actually pay for them. A fact I always felt a bit bad about but I always loved having the coins.

Old Money you ask?

Prior to 1971, there were 12 pennies to the shilling and 20 shillings to the pound. There were guineas, half crowns, three penny bits, sixpences and florins. This old system of currency, known as pounds, shillings and pence or lsd, dated back to Roman times when a pound of silver was divided into 240 pence, or denarius, which is where the ‘d’ in ‘lsd’ comes from.

To add to those 12 pennies, each penny was worth 4 farthings so a brass farthing was 1/4 of a penny.

As Thomas Jefferson wrote “… puzzled with adding the farthings, taking out the fours and carrying them on; adding the pence, taking out the twelves and carrying them on; adding the shillings, taking out the twenties and carrying them on.

Jefferson was one of the earliest Americans to consider a decimal currency. He gave it, in 1784, its most articulate and persuasive expression in his “Notes on Coinage.” Congress, convinced by these arguments, adopted it with little dissent. It was eventually implemented because of the agreement of major figures in the U.S. government with the basic principles of Jefferson’s argument. Jefferson also became part of the realization of the system through his involvement with the establishment and first years of the U.S. Mint.

It only took the Brits another almost 200 years to catch on.

9.10.2022 – Queen Elizabeth

Queen Elizabeth
Michigan fan true colors
amazing maize and blue

Queen Elizabeth II was a Michigan fan.

I have that on the authority of my Dad.

Back back back to the days of the Glorious Bicentennial of the United States of America, the powers that be decided that it would be great if the President of the United States hosted a State Dinner (White tie no less) to celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 2nd, 1776.

(It WAS July 2nd – you can ask John Adams.)

It was also decided that the principle guest would be none other than the Queen of England, the Great-Great-Great Grand daughter of George III, the feller to whom, the Declaration of Independence was addressed.

BTW the Queen, in her remarks at the dinner did say, “After all, nobody can say that what happened on the 4th of July, 1776, wasn’t very much a bilateral affair between us.”

The dinner was held on July 7, 1976 and you can read all about here. (Notice that the official instructions for the President remind him to pause at the foot of the steps at 8:12pm)

By chance and by the workings of the Constitution, when Queen Elizabeth got out of the car that brought her and her husband to the White House for that State Dinner, none other than those wonderful Grand Rapidians, Jerry Ford, graduate of Grand Rapids South High School and his wife, Betty Ford, graduate of Grand Rapids Central High School were there to greet them.

PBS TV made arrangements to broadcast the dinner on live TV and it was one of the few Bicentennial specials that most of my family watched together.

PBS assembled an all-star cast to deliver commentary that included Julie Child who was concerned that due to the Washington July heat and the fact that they were eating outside in a big tent, many of the dishes might melt on the plate … but would still taste good.

We were watching as PBS showed the Ford’s come out of the diplomatic entrance on the South Side of the White House.

We were watching as the Queen’s limo pulled up.

We were watching as the Queen got out and stood with the Ford’s.

The Queen was wearing a bright yellow gown with a navy over-the-shoulder sash.

“Hey”, my Dad said, “Maize and blue! The Queen must be a Michigan Fan!”

President Ford was a graduate of the University of Michigan.

President Ford had also played football for the University of Michigan.

My Grand Father was a graduate of the University of Michigan.

My Father was a graduate of the University of Michigan.

At the time, it was 8 years before I could say I was a graduate of UofM.

I am still not sure how I managed to graduate but my roommates told me, Michigan has taken steps so it won’t happen again.

My Dad laughed and looked at me and said, “Or do you think the British advance team did their research and picked out the colors?”

I looked at my Dad and shrugged.

My Dad turned back to the TV and said, “Well, I think she is a Michigan fan.”

Who can argue?