Hmm Weekly for August 10, 2020

Tuesday is the longest day of the week.

Hmm Weekly for August 10, 2020


By Joe MacLeod

The Mr. Wrong column is presented by Hmm Weekly.

Vacation beer collection


I AM QUARANTINED! I am also on Vacation, which is another form of Quarantine, if you work it right. I am Vacationing in beautiful and scenic Upstate New York, but since I traveled here from COVID THREAT LEVEL: AT RISK Maryland, I am under the Travel Advisory from New York State which directs me to Quarantine for 14 days, which, except for the confusing length of my stay in New York (seven days), is easy to do, because I brought my groceries and most importantly I brought beer. A lotta beer.

New York State Corona Cops

The Travel Advisory said I hadda fill out a form and tell them where I was going in New York and if I felt Covid-y. They (and you know who They are) said if I didn’t fill out the form and, when asked, be prepared to present a printout or screenshot proof of my form-filling-outedness, I could be penalized with a penalty, namely, Two Thousand Dollars and No Cents. Yow! I totally filled out that form! Obey!

The State of Maryland is kinda Corona-y

I had to talk on the phone with somebody from New York who was doing the Contact Tracing, inquiring as to my health, asking me where I came from and where I was gonna go in New York and who I was associating with and if they were being good, Covidwise. Now I get a text message every day on my phone asking me stuff like:

Have you had any symptoms today? 1:Yes, 2:No

All I have to do is peck a number on my phone and stay here on Vacation! The best time to be a Quarantiner is when you are on Vacation! Go someplace and chill the fuck out! Eat and drink! Listen to music! Have some laughs! Do nothing! Quarantine!

I totally support the idea that Tax Dollars should go towards giving The People money so they can Quarantine. I have a job, and I am on Vacation, so I can afford to be Quarantined, plus, I am Quarantined from The News. It’s only a week, what could happen? I mean, if there’s a Nuclear War, there’d be sirens or flashes in the sky or something, right?

So now I am chillin’ by the lake, enjoying grilled meats and cold beverages, getting ready to go lie on the dock in the sunshine and then get all hot and sweaty and take a dip in the water, and later on tonight there will be a meteor shower in my honor. Quarantine!

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Ask The Sophist

Dear The Sophist,
I am lucky enough to have a pretty cushy gig writing material for a practical aspect of a university curriculum. (Case studies, basically.) In the past, I've been paid a certain amount; this year, I was assigned to draft something that was probably going to be less work, so my contact at the university proposed a reduced payment and said we could revisit if the amount of work required ended up being more than expected. Actually tracking the hours spent on this sort of thing is basically impossible, though, so I didn't bother.

I completed the work recently and the person at the university responsible for paying me (not the same person I had spoken with earlier) assumed that it was for the same, higher amount as last year. I haven't actually been paid yet, so I could correct them, but do I need to? For context, this is a school with an absolutely massive endowment and budget, though I'm sure certain programs within the school could really use the amount in question here.

Yours Truly,
School Error in My Favor

Dear Bursar Sacker,
Don't think The Sophist didn't notice how you tried to slip past the question of whether or not you believe you actually ended up putting in the same amount of work as before. Forget about "actually tracking the hours"—you know perfectly well if this felt like doing the old job, or if it was easier.

I could sweat you about this point, and a related question about your relationship with the person who originally assigned you the work, and how this maybe-undeserved windfall maybe might pose a threat to the future of what you characterize as a "cushy gig," if the people involved feel like you're scamming them. How do you know, if you haven't been paid yet, that they're giving you the wrong amount? Did they send you a contract or a prepared invoice to fill out?

As I said, I could dwell on all these things. But while The Sophist was considering your letter, I was interrupted by my spouse informing me that the university where she works had failed to include a scheduled pay bump, to go with an increase in duties, in the paycheck that began the new fiscal year. Where did the money go? She will have to pause her actual work to go hunt it down.

Why is the university sending you the wrong amount of money? Because there's nobody properly making sure you get sent the correct amount of money. If your university—or rather, in a crucial distinction, the university you are doing contract work for—resembles other American institutions of higher education, it possesses an ever-expanding and wildly overpaid top layer of employees known as "administrators," giving orders to an ever-more insecure array of contingent and contract workers, whose operations are supposed to be supported by an austerity-depleted scaffolding of staff whose labor is classified as "administrative." Once these people, who held the whole operation together, were probably called "secretaries"; now they may be called "administrative assistants" or something else. What matters here is that their numbers have been cut back year after year, and their responsibilities simultaneously extended and thinned out, until it's not possible for them to do all the things they used to do and it's not possible for anyone else to do them either.

In the old days, your agreement to do the work and the university's agreement to pay you for the work would have all been parts of one coherent task, overseen by one competent individual. Now they are two unrelated bits of virtual paperwork fluttering through the empty space where that person used to sit. If you tried to bring those two bits together to point out the difference between them to somebody, you would just sending that person chasing around to try to reconcile the discrepancy, when they already have too many other tasks to do, plus somebody just asked them to figure out how to implement a workable hybrid remote and in-person operations system for the fall semester. Somebody's got to put up Plexiglas barriers and train the security desk people to be triage nurses and increase the janitors' hours without changing the maintenance budget.

If they cared about paying you the right amount, they would have cared enough to pay you the right amount. Consider any overage a bonus they're paying you in gratitude for your sparing them the trouble of fixing the paperwork.

Education is a lifelong process,
The Sophist

The Sophist is here to tell you why you're right. Send your questions  to, and get the answers you want.



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WE WIND DOWN our presentation of select recipes from the leviathan and encyclopedic 1896 edition of The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, by Fannie Merritt Farmer, Principal of the Boston Cooking-School, with a sandwich-adjacent item, canapés.

Canapés are made by cutting bread in slices one-fourth inch thick, and cutting slices in strips four inches long by one and one-half inches wide, or in circular pieces. Then bread is toasted, fried in deep fat, or buttered and browned in the oven, and covered with a seasoned mixture of eggs, cheese, fish, or meat, separately or in combination. Canapés are served hot or cold, and used in place of oysters at a dinner or luncheon. At a gentlemen’s dinner they are served with a glass of sherry before entering the dining-room.

Cheese Canapés I.
Toast circular pieces of bread, sprinkle with a thick layer of grated cheese, seasoned with salt and cayenne. Place on a tin sheet and bake until cheese is melted. Serve at once.

Cheese Canapés II
Spread circular pieces of toasted bread with French Mustard, then proceed as for Cheese Canapés I.

Sardine Canapés
Spread circular pieces of toasted bread with sardines (from which bones have been removed) rubbed to a paste, with a small quantity of creamed butter and seasoned with Worcestershire Sauce and a few grains cayenne. Place in the centre of each a stuffed olive, made by removing the stone and filling the cavity with sardine mixture. Around each arrange a border of the finely chopped whites of hard boiled eggs.

If you make one of these canapés, before you eat it, please won’t you send a picture to

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