davidbrucehaiku: what’s important






there’s no McDonald’s

but there’s a place of worship

know what’s important


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David Bruce: Names Anecdotes



The ancient Greek mathematician and scientist Erastosthenes (c. 276-c. 194 B.C.E.) successfully calculated the circumference of the Earth, among other accomplishments. However, there is evidence that he was not respected by some of his intellectual peers. Because he was interested in so many intellectual pursuits, other scholars called him “Beta,” the name of the second letter of the Greek alphabet, implying that they thought he was a jack of all trades and master of none, and therefore did not rate being called “Alpha,” the name of the first letter of the Greek alphabet. In addition, because of his wide interests, they called him “Pentathlos,” after the Olympic Games events called the pentathlon, in which the athlete competes in many different athletic endeavors.

As part of their National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) training, astronaut candidates (ASCANs) take flights on a modified KC-135 aircraft that allows them to experience weightlessness. The pilot first takes the aircraft up to 35,000 feet, then time after time dives in an arc to 32,000 feet. One training session can involve as many as 40 dives! During each carefully controlled dive, the ASCANs float off the floor of the plane and experience weightlessness. Until the ASCANs become used to the weightlessness, they very often experience an upset stomach. Therefore, the ASCANs have nicknamed the aircraft the “vomit comet.”

Ruth Bader Ginsburg worked for the ACLU and founded its Women’s Rights Project, serving from 1973 to 1980 as the WRP’s legal counsel. Kathleen Peratis, who worked as staff director of WRP, was so impressed by Ms. Ginsburg that she named her daughter after her, and she told her daughter that Ms. Ginsburg would be the first woman named to the United States Supreme Court. Ms. Ginsburg did become a Supreme Court Justice, but she was the second woman named to the court. Sandra Day O’Connor was the first.

On February 20, 1962, John Glenn became the first American to orbit Earth. He spent approximately five hours in space, orbiting the Earth three times and seeing the Sun rise three times and set three times. He and his family came up with the name for his spacecraft: Friendship Seven. The word “Seven” stood for the seven astronauts who were chosen at the beginning of the American space program. Mr. Glenn’s family chose the word “Friendship” because space exploration is a peaceful endeavor.

Mary Elfrieda Scruggs Bailey married John Williams and became Mary Williams. When she began to record as a jazz pianist, her agent wanted her to have a better name, so he added Lou to her name, and she became Mary Lou Williams — the name that jazz fans know her by. Later, she converted to Roman Catholicism and began to compose church music. When she established a foundation to help struggling musicians, she named it Bel Canto — the name, which is Italian, means “Beautiful Singing.”

When LeRoi Jones first became a successful African-American writer, his works seldom mentioned race. Therefore, when fellow African-American writer Langston Hughes wrote to him in 1959, he teased, “Hail LeRoi, I hear you are colored.” Later, Mr. Jones changed his name to Amiri Baraka, and when people read his writing, which now focused on black themes, they had no doubt that he was “colored.”

The father of Adolf Hitler was Alois Hitler, who was named at birth Alois Schicklgruber by his unmarried mother, Maria Anna Schicklgruber. Only later, after Maria Anna had married Johann Georg Hitler, was Alois’ name changed to Hitler. This family history gave rise to jokes about Adolf Hitler’s name. After all, it is difficult to imagine anyone shouting “Heil, Schicklgruber!”

Levi Perry escaped from slavery, and he used to tell his children, “I will tell you about slavery and why I ran, so that it will never happen to you.” His granddaughter, Virginia Hamilton, was named after the slave state from which Mr. Perry ran. Ms. Hamilton is the author of such children’s books as M. C. Higgins the Great and The Planet of Junior Brown.

Will Rogers seldom hurt anyone with his jokes. However, in his vaudeville days, he once was preceded by a singing act called the Cherry Sisters. During his act, he said that they must have decided on their name before they learned about lemons. After making the joke, Mr. Rogers realized that it was hurtful, so he apologized to the Cherry Sisters.

The name of Spike Lee’s film company is Forty Acres and a Mule Filmworks, because former slaves were promised 40 acres and a mule after the Civil War, but they never got what the government had promised. The name of his production company reminds Mr. Lee to rely on himself, not on the promises of other people.

The name “Microsoft” comes from two other words: “microcomputer” and “software.” The name “Big Blue” comes from the blue suits its executives wear. The name “Macintosh” comes from the name of Apple Computer founder Steve Jobs’ favorite apple.

Mary Lou Retton had great energy as a youngster, so great that her mother packed her off to gymnastics classes in an attempt to burn off some of that energy. In fact, her mother gave her the nickname of “the Great Table Smasher and Lamp Toppler.”

Mary Poole, the great-great-great-great grandmother of author Alice Walker, was a slave who was forced to walk to from Virginia to Georgia while holding a child on each hip. To honor this ancestor, Ms. Walker vowed not to give up her name when she married.

Most miners in the Gold Rush made little or no money, as you can tell by looking at the names of old mining towns in the west: Bed Bug, Dry Diggings, Drytown, Mad Mule Gulch, Poverty Flat, and Rough and Ready.

When Oprah Winfrey was born, she was supposed to be named Orpah, after a figure in the Bible. However, on her birth certificate her name was misspelled, and so she became famous as Oprah.

Nikki Giovanni has a last name that seems unusual for an African-American poet, but she explains, “It just means that our slave masters were Italian instead of English or French.”

Legendary athlete Jim Thorpe was a descendant of Sac warrior Black Hawk. Mr. Thorpe’s Native American name was Wa-tho-huck, which means “Bright Path.”

“Cockchafer” is an interesting nickname for a regiment of the Guard in pre-World War I Germany.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


Lao-Tzu #17: The best leaders are those the people hardly know exist.



The best leaders are those the people hardly know exist.

The next best is a leader who is loved and praised.

Next comes the one who is feared.

The worst one is the leader that is despised.


If you don’t trust the people,

they will become untrustworthy.


The best leaders value their words, and use them sparingly.

When she has accomplished her task,

the people say, “Amazing:

we did it, all by ourselves!”


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Rudyard Kipling: The Choice

The American Spirit speaks:

TO the Judge of Right and Wrong
With Whom fulfilment lies
Our purpose and our power belong,
Our faith and sacrifice,

Let Freedom’s Land rejoice!
Our ancient bonds are riven;
Once more to us the eternal choice
Of Good or Ill is given.

Not at a little cost,
Hardly by prayer or tears,
Shall we recover the road we lost
In the drugged and doubting years.

But, after the fires and the wrath,
But, after searching and pain,
His Mercy opens us a path
To live with ourselves again.

In the Gates of Death rejoice!
We see and hold the good—
Bear witness, Earth, we have made our choice
With Freedom’s brotherhood!

Then praise the Lord Most High
Whose Strength hath saved us whole,
Who bade us choose that the Flesh should die
And not the living Soul!

To the God in Man displayed—
Wheree’er we see that Birth,
Be love and understanding paid
As never yet on earth!

To the Spirit that moves in Man,
On Whom all worlds depend,
Be Glory since our world began
And service to the end!


Notes on “The Choice”



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Aesop: The Fox and the Stork

At one time the Fox and the Stork were on visiting terms and seemed very good friends. So the Fox invited the Stork to dinner, and for a joke put nothing before her but some soup in a very shallow dish. This the Fox could easily lap up, but the Stork could only wet the end of her long bill in it, and left the meal as hungry as when she began. ‘I am sorry,’ said the Fox, ‘the soup is not to your liking.’

‘Pray do not apologise,’ said the Stork. ‘I hope you will return this visit, and come and dine with me soon.’ So a day was appointed when the Fox should visit the Stork; but when they were seated at table all that was for their dinner was contained in a very long-necked jar with a narrow mouth, in which the Fox could not insert his snout, so all he could manage to do was to lick the outside of the jar.

‘I will not apologise for the dinner,’ said the Stork: ‘One bad turn deserves another.’