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Code Blur

 

            When a store detective tried to arrest my pal Sam Goldfarb for shoplifting, the guy had no idea that within an hour the FBI, the CIA, the White House, and the national news media would get involved in the case.
            Sam is a member of the our Maridos Club, a social organization for people whose spouses drag them to the mall all the time.
            As he plods through the department stores behind his wife Molly, Sam keeps his eyes open for interesting displays that the department store decorators prepare.              Decorators at our mall create displays with stuff they find in flea markets, second hand stores and yard sales.
           There are 1930-era gadgets, home appliances from the 1950s, and stacks of books with titles like, “The Economic Impact of Disk Plow Technology on Rural Platt County Kansas 1874-1876.”    The decorators arrange these treasures with swatches of fabric  or set them beside  sheaves of wheat  and  vases of pussy willow.
            While your spouse is trying on clothes, you can contemplate a gadget or  pick up a book from one of the displays and improve your mind.
            On the day of the incident, Sam and Molly Goldfarb were in Blevins Department store in the mall.  Molly was trying on clothes. While he waited, Sam wandered over to a pile of junk that the store decorator had artfully intertwined with some plastic bougainvillea.
            There was a beat-up electric iron, a telephone circa. 1937, and a gadget that looked like an old fashioned adding machine.  The device was about half the size of a shoe box and was sitting in a black metal case. On the top of the machine were rows of typewriter keys with strange symbols on them.
            “Sweet Matilda,” cried Sam when he examined the apparatus.  He couldn’t believe his eyes.  Lying there in plain sight was the top secret World War II Moncleef Cryptographic Codemaster.
            Sam recognized the device immediately.  In 1943, Sam, then a bright young Air Force  first lieutenant with a Ph.D. in physics, was assigned to work with Weird Wendell Montcleef, the inventor of the Moncleef Cryptographic Codemaster.
            Moncleef, who was Sam’s age, was a hotshot young professor at the University of Chicago before World War II.  He left academe for the corporate world, an during his stay with corporate America, Weird Wendell developed a prototype of the Moncleef Cryptographic Codemaster.   Then, before he got the thing working, Weird Wendell abandoned the project, quit the corporation, and moved to Kansas City to play in a jazz band.
            A couple of years after the war started someone in Washington—rumor had it that it was President Roosevelt himself—appealed to Weird Wendell’s patriotic nature, and convinced him to get back to work on the Codemaster device.  The Codemaster when it was perfected, was supposed to be able to encode, decode, slice, dice, fold, staple and spindle any message you threw at it.
Weird Wendall toyed with the government for months and months. He kept telling them he was days away from perfecting the Codemaster.  Then he’d say there was a snag.  Finally the government dispatched Lt. Sam Goldfarb to work with Wendell, and spy on him.  Weird Wendell knew that Sam was a government spy, but he thought, egotistically, that he could fool Sam as well as the government.
Meantime, Weird Wendell, a bachelor, got involved with Ernestine Duval, a Kansas City jazz singer of great beauty and charm.  Ernestine Duval was really Feda Von Gubler, one of Germany’s top undercover agents.
Soon after he began working with Weird Wendell, Sam Goldfarb discovered that the Codemaster would never work  Sam realized that  Weird Wendell had perpetrated on everyone.  Sam sent a detailed report to his superiors.  Two days later the government shipped Sam off to a remote weather station in Greenland where he spent the rest of the war.
A few weeks after Sam Goldfarb was banished to Greenland, Weird Wendell let it slip to Ernestine/Freda, his German spy lover, that the Codemaster was operative and was being deployed to all Allied commands.  That sent the Germans and the Japanese into a code-changing frenzy which fouled up their communications systems for weeks and hampered their ability to react to crucial Allied military initiatives.
Weird Wendell and his Codemaster device were a small, but significant footnote to the war effort.  The prototype of the Moncleef Cryptographic Codemaster that Weird Wendell used to fool U.S. government bureaucrats and, through Ernestine/Freda the German high command, was placed in top secret storage at a site near Kansas City.
Somehow, decades later, it turned up at a local flea market where a decorator from Blevins Department Store bought it and put it on display, surrounded by fake bougainvillea.
And that’s where Sam Goldfarb saw the device for the first time since the just before he was shipped off to Greenland during World War II.  When Sam saw the Codemaster  sitting there, he reacted instinctively and somewhat irrationally.  He grabbed  the machine, stuffed it into a shopping bag and covered it with a couple of blouses that Molly had just bought.  Then he hustled Molly out of the store and out of the mall.
A mall security man stopped Sam and asked him to open the bag.  Sam smacked the guy in the jaw, and ran.  Sam made it to his car and burned rubber out of the parking lot.  He led police on a merry chase through the neighborhood until they ran him into a cul de sac.
 When he saw he was trapped, Sam jumped out of his car, and, holding the Moncleef Crtographic Codemaster above his head,  threatened to blow the neighborhood to smithereens.  Then he jumped back into his car and slammed the door.
At that point the whole thing turned into a made for TV movie scene: police cars, helicopters, bullhorns.  The media from all over the area were giving feeds to national networks.
            Sam’s  cell phone rang.  He demanded to talk to the President.
            A few minutes later Sam’s cell phone rang again, and a familiar drawl said, “Hello Sam. This is the President.  Is it all right if I call you Sam?”
          “Yes, Mr. President,” said Sam.
         “Good. Now, Sam, what can we do for you?”
        “I want the government to apologize for shipping me off to Greenland to freeze my buns off for three years for just trying to do my job during World War II.”
        “Tell me about it, Sam,” said the President, “I’ll try to help.”
         Sam told him the whole story.
        A few minutes later the phone rang in the office of a gray-haired spymaster at the Central Intelligence Agency.
       “Wendell,” said the President, “We’ve got a situation.”
       “Tell me about it, Mr. President,” said Weird Wendell Moncleef,  director the
O.O.O., the CIA’s super secret Office of Oddball  Operations.
            The government opted for what is known as a modified hang out—a damage control initiative perfected by the CIA.
            That night the network news shows carried the story of a heroic World War II veteran who risked his life to save his fellow shoppers from a booby-trapped World War II device that had somehow turned up on display at a local department store. Print journalists crawled all over the story the next day, but the government’s version held up long enough for the next “barn burner news event” to show up on the media radar screen. After three days the Codemaster incident was old news even in Kansas City.
       Sam and Molly can shop at the mall again without being approached for autographs.
-30-
Dr. Larry Day is a retired KU J-School professor turned humor writer. He is the author of a collection of short stories, Day Dreaming: Tales from the Fourth Dementia available on Amazon.
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Never Brag

My Mom taught me never to brag. She was the best mother in the whole world.

 
 
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Miss Minnie Gets Hitched

The invention of cell phones has permitted people everywhere to prove the adage “talk is cheap.” People talk on cell phones as they drive cars, shop, get their hair done, pump gasoline, and while they are standing in long lines at customer service in the supermarket waiting to buy lottery tickets when the Powerball gets above a half a billion dollars. All that blah-blah was nerve wracking to Miss Minniferd Morningstar who had taught English at Letongaloosa High School for the past 32 years. Miss Minnie used to interrupt people at social gatherings and town council meetings to correct their grammar. For her, correct grammar, diction, usage, and syntax were sacred. Folks in town tolerated Miss Minnie’s interrupting their conversations because they were awed by her knowledge of English and because Miss Minnie had inherited piles of money, and was generous with it. Miss Minnie began teaching public school the year she graduated from college. To teach back then you didn’t need a certificate beyond a bachelor’s degree. She went on to get her masters by taking summer classes at State University. It was at State U. that Miss Minnie first saw Reginald Danforth Suggs. Young Suggs had just been hired as a custodian at the School of Education building. Reggie owed his first two names to his mother who hoped he would rise above his working class roots. Reggie rejected those aspirations. He made his own choices about speech and career options. He and Miss Minnie clashed immediately because she walked on the floor of a hallway that Reggie had just mopped. “Lady, getcher clodhoppers offn’ mah floah,” Reggie growled. Minnie gave the barbarian a withering stare. “Are you addressing me, young man?” “Ain’t addressin’ nobody,” said Reggie, “Ahm tellin yew ta quit trompin’ on mah floah.” At that point Professor Blaine, a member of the graduate faculty, opened his office door. He had heard the exchange. “Hello, Miss Minniferd,” he said. “You can pick up your paperwork at the graduate school office down the hall.” And, “That will do, Reggie.” “Hummmph,” said Reggie, and shoved his mop bucket on down the hall. After Minnie had finished her business at the university and returned home, she realized she had mixed feelings about the encounter. The handsome janitor had acted boorishly, but Minnie somehow found herself intrigued. She made subtle inquiries and learned that Reggie had a high IQ, a gift for language, and an aversion to orthodox social behavior. The latter obviously limited his work options. But those options, she soon realized, coincided what with he wanted to do for a living–be a janitor. Reggie always told people he was a janitor–not a custodian, or a “custodial engineer.” After that, Reggie popped into Minnie’s mind at odd moments—as when she took a break from correcting papers, or was fixing a late-night snack. She dismissed the thoughts, but they kept popping up. And Reggie thought off and on about “that teecher woman” too. When they both sought his aid as an intermediary on the same day, Prof. Blaine became the expediter of their budding romance. After a short engagement the extraordinary couple married. It was a two-part wedding. The first ceremony and reception were held in the chapel and recreation room of the Custodial Workers Union Hall. A janitor, who was a lay pastor, presided. The second ceremony took place in the sanctuary of Letongaloosa’s fine old Episcopal Church under the direction of the Rev. Thomas Leon Harper, D.D. The betrothed wrote their own vows. The union hall ceremony, written by Reggie, was short. To wit: “Ah weel if you weel.” To which Minnieferd responded: “Shore.” The reception featured mounds of serve-yourself chicken nuggets, barbeque beef and pork, mashed potatoes, creamed corn, hard rolls and a huge chocolate layer cake with chocolate frosting. The service at the Episcopal Church, prepared by Minnieferd, lasted an hour, and included two numbers by the choir and short passages from Shakespeare, Tennyson, Wordsworth, and Ezra Pound. The reception featured peach tea and little round mints. Minnie’s vows included five “I do’s,” and four “I wills,” and one “absolutely” spoken on cue by the bride and groom. Minnie and Reggie…Reggie and Minnie…are happilying it ever after. -30-

 

Dr. Larry Day is a retired J-School Professor from KU and author of Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia available on Amazon

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Dinner At My House

Just a random dinnertime musing from the mind of an ol’ geezer. Enjoy!!

Emmaline (my wife) watches late morning TV cooking shows while I’m in the kitchen putting the TV dinners in the microwave.

Dr. Larry Day is a retired KU J-School professor turned humor writer. Head over to Amazon to download his collection of short stories, Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia.

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Do You Swear??

As far as I was concerned “yuck” was not a swear word, and I didn’t think that
tearing the label off an empty tin can created indecent exposure, but that was before
my alien friend KB-11.2, filled me in on the finer points of galactic decency.
Kaybe and I were having a soft drink together at The Enchantment, a dingy
roadhouse north of Letongaloosa. The Enchantment is the kind of joint that college towns
like Letongaloosa must have to qualify for academic accreditation.
My alien friend Kaybe isn’t one of those scary bug-eyed, green-skinned beings
that you see in sci-fi movies.. Kaybe looks like a giant tuna fish can. Erector Set® arms
sprout from the curved sides of his body, and three spindly metal legs drop from the flat
underside of his stainless steel torso. He has ball bearing wheels for feet. Three sensoreyes
wave at you from the ends of floppy antennae on the top of his lid.
No one at The Enchantment even raises an eyebrow when Kaybe rolls in and
joins me at one of the back booths. Customers are used to seeing unusual folks around
the place.
One night Kaybe and I were chatting in our favorite booth when Recycle Rick
came in carrying a big black garbage bag.. Rick picks up cans and bottles along the
highway. He starts in town and when he gets to the Enchantment he stops in to sort
everything. Then he mooches a ride back to town.
Rick is meticulous. He takes the items out of the big bag one by one, tidies them
up, and sorts them. Then he puts them into smaller plastic bags. He knows all the recycle
rules and regulations.
On the night in question, Recycle Rick came in and set up shop right across from
Kaybe and me. The first item he pulled from the bag was covered with mud. “Yuck,”
said Rick, and wiped away the mud .
“He shouldn’t swear like that,” said Kaybe.
“Yuck,” isn’t a swear word,” I said.
“It certainly is,” said Kaybe. “The Commission on Foul Communication has
banned that word throughout the galaxy. All it would take is a complaint from an alert
cosmic citizen and that guy’s communication license would be jerked, and he’d face a
seventy thousand mazimba fine.”
“Recycle Rick doesn’t have a communication license,” I said.
“Of course he has a communication license,” said Kaybe. “Everyone in the
galaxy has a communication license. Every word you say goes far beyond these walls.
Your words go out into space. Children on other planets could be listening.”
“So, if I say, @#$%^ and someone turns me in, I can be censured by the Galactic
Commission of Foul Communication?”
“No,” said Kaybe.
“Why not?”
“Because ‘@#$%^’ isn’t a swear word.”
“But ‘yuck’ is?”
“Yes, of course, everyone knows that.”
“I didn’t know that, and Recycle Rick certainly doesn’t. Mild mannered Rick
would never swear.”
Just then Rick pulled out an empty tomato juice can from his bag and began
ripping the label off.
Kaybe rotated away and lowered his antennae with their three sensor-eyes to
the table in a gesture of acute embarrassment.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“You saw that,” said Kaybe. “He stripped that tin can bare. It’s indecent. I can’t
look.”
“You can look now,” I said, “he put it in a sack. You’re weird.”
Kaybe raised his antennae from the table and winked at me with one of his three
sensor-eyes.”
“You’re jerking me around,” I said.
“Guilty as charged,” said Kaybe.
“So ‘yuck’ is not a swear word?”
“Not in this galaxy.”
“And there’s no Galactic Commission on Foul Communication?”
“Oh there is, but it doesn’t concern itself with words like ‘yuck.’ The Galactic
Commission on Foul Communication deals with such reprehensible terms as ‘federal
regulator,’ ‘plausible deniability,’ ‘social justice,’ ‘politically expedient solutions,’
‘federally mandated diversity,’ ‘combatant rendition,’ ‘enhanced interrogation
techniques,’ and the like.”
“People on Earth use those terms all the time and the Galactic Commission on
Foul Language has never done anything about it,” I said.
“You live on a third-world world,” said Kaybe. “The commission doesn’t waste its
efforts on backward planets like Earth.”
“Lucky for us,” I said.
“If you say so,” said Kaybe.”

Dr. Larry Day is the author of Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia, a collection of short stories that have NOTHING to do with old age!! Visit Amazon.com to download now.

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The Cosmic House Slippers©

 

I was disconsolate as I nursed a soft drink in a back booth of

The Enchantment. That’s a dingy roadhouse on the outskirts of

Letongaloosa. Every college town needs a joint like the

Enchantment to maintain its academic accreditation. The

Enchantment is where I go to have a soft drink and relax. On that

night I had gone to The Enchantment to brood. I had goofed up,

and I was feeling low. Then, happily, my robot friend Kaybe rolled up

to my booth.

Do you believe in aliens from outer space? I do. I’ve been friends

with one for decades. KB-11.2 doesn’t have green skin and luminous

eyes like the aliens one sees in sci-fi movies. Kaybe looks like a giant

tuna fish can.

Erector Set® arms sprout from the curving sides of his body,

and three spindly metal legs drop down from the underside of his flat

stainless steel torso. He has ball bearing wheels for feet. A floppy

two-foot antenna, with three sensor-eyes, stick out of the middle of

his lid. Kaybe comes from the Alpha Centauri star system. Many

years ago on a visit to Earth, Kaybe saved my marriage. Now here

he was again to cheer me up.

My wife Emmaline and I had taken a vacation to Northwest

Florida where we used to live. We had spent a lovely week at a

hotel in a room overlooking the beach. On the last day as we

packed and got ready to leave for the airport, I realized I hadn’t

packed my house slippers.

But there was not a smidgen of room in any of our luggage.

These house slippers were brown suede. And they were OLD. The

rubber sole of the right one was flapping, and the tops of both were

heavily spotted with toothpaste. So I stuffed them into an already

loaded trash basket, and walked out the door.

I felt a pang of regret immediately. I had worn those house

slippers forever. They were with us on our trips to the Smoky

Mountains, and with me on my journalistic assignments to Central

America and the Caribbean, South America, and Africa. Yet now I

had callously left them in a trash basket in a tourist hotel room far

from home. It wasn’t right.

Emmaline, practical and logical, said it was long past time to

get rid of those house slippers.

“The sole of the right one was coming off, and they were filthy,”

she said. “Filthy,” is a relative term with Emmaline. The word covers

everything from something that is undeniably dirty, to a tiny spot on

an otherwise pristine necktie.

Emmaline was right, of course. It was past time for the slippers

to go. But I loved them. And I was born in the year of the Dog. In

Chinese astrology, people who are born in the year of the dog are

innately loyal to their belongings. Even, apparently, a pair of worn

out house slippers.

As the plane took off, I thought how those dear old house

slippers would soon be lying under a heap of trash in some

malodorous landfill.

I continued to brood even after we had unpacked our

suitcases and put them back in the closet, and I had picked up the

mail that the Post Office had held for us.

“You need to go to The Enchantment,” said Emmaline. “Go

have a soft drink and get this out of your system.” That’s where I

was when Kaybe, my alien robot friend, rolled up to my booth.

Kaybe communicates and takes nourishment telepathically,

and he’s highly intuitive. Kaybe ordered a nonalcoholic beer from

the waitress, Four Finger Fannie, who is also an alien. I watched the

brew disappear from the mug without Kaybe ever having touched

it.

His words filtered into my mind, “You loved them, right?”

“Dearly,” I said. “They didn’t deserve to be abandoned like

that.”

“Then be of good cheer. Your house slippers are safe and well,”

said Kaybe. “I pulled them from the landfill, and I flung them into

space. Your dear slippers will sail happily through the galaxies

forever. Now go home and get some sleep.”

I tried. I really did. I said goodbye to the patrons at The

Enchantment, walked out and drove back into Letongaloosa.

Emmaline was asleep when I got home. I undressed in the walk-in

closet off the master bedroom and put on my pajamas. Then I

automatically tried to slide my feet into my dear old house slippers.

Duh! How dumb was that? I just walked back out to the living room

and collapsed on the sofa.

“I’ve got to get those back from outer space,” I said to

myself. It was late, but I got in the car and headed back to The

Enchantment.

Kaybe was there. He felt bad when he saw how glum I

looked, and few days later Kaybe located and retrieved my house

slippers from a Florida land fill and brought them back to

Letongaloosa. Bless him!

But I still had a problem. For Emmaline, those ratty house

slippers were objets non grata. What could I do with the sorrylooking

things?

Then I had a burst of inspiration. I would have my house slippers

near at hand without ticking Emmaline off.

Emmaline wanted me to toss the house slippers because they

were old and ratty looking. I had a plan to transform them. The idea

had come to me after Emmaline and I attended a baby’s first

birthday party and saw one of the gifts.

I transformed my ratty old house slippers from objects of scorn

to objets d’art. And now the dear old things occupy a prominent

place on my office shelf—as bronzed bookends.

-30-

 

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Zimmy, Kate & the Cuban Beetle

Hello, All!!
My friend Zimmy Tarbox has a Ph.D. in entomology. He’s been all over the world measuring the space between the eyeballs of baby cockroaches.

http://daydreaming.co/index.php?page=higherEd

Dr. Larry Day is a humor columnist and author of the book, Day Dreaming: Tales From the Forth Dementia, available on Amazon.

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