Tag Archives: Associated Press

Man vs. Computer

Ruhl Agbah loved words, and he wanted people to use words correctly in speaking and writing.  He was reasonably adept with social media.  He tweeted a bit, but he assiduously avoided the limelight.

That’s what makes this story so ironic. Ruhl ended up smack dab in the middle of a publicity hater’s nightmare.

Ruhl got into a knock down drag out Internet fight with a computer. The Internet incident made national news.

Ruhl  inadvertently caused his own 15 minutes of fame. A TV talk show host used a plural pronoun with a singular noun on national television.  The host said: “I’ll give each panelist their own chance to speak on this issue.”

That gaff made Ruhl shiver.  Using a plural pronoun with a singular noun on national television was, he felt, like blowing one’s nose into the palm of one’s hand in public.

Ruhl got online and Googled the network’s website. He phoned the number listed there.  A recorded message told him to push a series of  numbers on his keypad to reach the right department. It was frustrating. Rather than waste more time, Ruhl hung up and sent a scorching e-mail to the network’s “contact us” Internet address.

Within minutes Ruhl received an e-mail reply from the network.   This was the computer-generated message: “Thank you for your comment. We take all comments and suggestions seriously…”  Another sentence said, “This website is not monitored. Please do not reply to this message.”

With quivering fingers Ruhl clicked “reply” then typed: “Go straight to !@#$%^, you jerks.”    Within minutes another identical message came from the network: “Thank you for your comment. We take all comments and suggestions seriously…”   And, “This website is not monitored. Please do not reply to this message.”

Ruhl smiled.  “Ohhhhh   Kayyyyy,” he said, and clicked “reply” and typed, “Thank you for nothing.  This e-mail address is not monitored.  Please do not reply to this message.” He pressed “send.”  Within minutes the identical reply came from the network.  Ruhl copied and pasted his message into the “reply” space  and pressed “send” again.

An hour later Ruhl’s inbox was full of identical computer-generated network messages and his repeated replies.  He opened each message to see if it had been written by a human being.  No such luck. All the messages were identical and all had been computer-generated.

By that time Ruhl had calmed down. He felt better.  He had taken a stand in favor of correct grammar, even if it turned out to be a back and forth argument with the television network’s computer.

An hour later the phone rang.


“May I speak to Mr. Agbah?”


“Sir, this is Barbara Brandistone. I’m a reporter with the Associated Press.”


“Someone here came across a lengthy Internet exchange between you and a national television network.  Would you please tell me about that?”

“It wasn’t an EXCHANGE,” Ruhl said, raising his voice. “I stormed their electronic barricades trying to make human contact, but I failed.”

Ruhl spoke with the AP reporter for another five minutes.  Finally he said, “You’re not going to make a big deal of this, are you?”

“No sir.   I’m just doing a short piece about the Internet.”

If Ruhl was mollified by her reply, he shouldn’t have been.  The AP reporter put Ruhl’s  Internet experience in the lead paragraph of her story.

A few days later when things had calmed down, Ruhl got a tweet.

“I’m here,” he tweeted.

“Mr. Ruhl,  This is Marygliss@. I want to apologize.  Your experience with our system was regrettable.  We have taken steps here at the television network to rectify the situation.”

Ruhl: “That’s good. Thank you.”

Marygliss@: “Not at all, sir, we appreciate your input.”

“Then the network got my message after all.”

“Yes sir.

The two exchanged a few more pleasantries.  Ruhl, happy that he had finally made human contact, signed off.

The next day Ruhl read an article that made his skin crawl.  Cutting edge software techniques, said the article, now allow corporation computers to interact with humans on twitter as if two humans were tweeting. Ruhl called Barbara Brandistone at the AP. She did some digging.  It turned out that Marygliss@, was just a television network computer

.Dr. Larry day is a retired J-School professor turned humor writer. His book, Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia is available for purchase via his website: http://www.daydreaming.co

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World’s Longest Rivers

World’s Longest Rivers

1.Nile (Africa)

2.Amazon (South America)

3.Mississippi (North America)

4.Yangtze (Asia)

5.Venlsey (Asia)

Associated Press World Atlas, pg. 6


Dr. Larry day is a retired J-School professor turned humor writer. His book, Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia is available for purchase via his website: http://www.daydreaming.co

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The Depth of the Ocean

Hello, All!!

I know that learning any thing new is the farthest thing from your mind at this point , but I thought I’d toss out some fun facts for the day. Have fun, everyone. :>)

Greatest Depth in Each Ocean:

Arctic: North Polar Basin  18,040 ft.

Atlantic:  Milwuakee  Depth (Puerto Rico Trench)  30,238 ft.

Indian: Java Trench  24,436 ft.

Pacific:  Challenger Deep (Mariana Trench)  36,192 ft.

Associated Press, World Atlas, New York, 1988, page 6.


Dr. Larry day is a retired J-School professor turned humor writer. His book, Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia is available for purchase via his website: http://www.daydreaming.co

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Kaybe’s Trick or Treat©


If you are looking for my November column, this is it. Yes, I am celebrating Halloween in November!! Move over Tom Turkey!! I write for The Kaw Valley Senior Monthly and it just so happens that with printing and mailing schedules, this month’s column landed on doorsteps and in inboxes on Halloween!! It was only fitting I write a spook-tacular piece so goofy it lasts ’til Thanksgiving.Enjoy!!

Early one Halloween night I was nursing a soft drink in a back booth at The Enchantment.  That’s a dingy roadhouse north of here. I was on my second bottle of pop when Kaybe rolled up.

KB 11.2 (Kaybe for short) is my alien friend from outer space.  He  looks like a giant tuna fish can. Erector Set arms sprout from the curved sides of his body. Three spindly legs drop from the flat underside of his stainless steel torso.  He has ball bearing wheels for feet, and three sensor-eyes wave at you from the ends of floppy antennae on the top of his lid.  Kaybe eats drinks and communicates telepathically.

No one at the Enchantment even looks up when Kaybe rolls in.  If fact, some of the patrons, including Harry the Hulk and his diminutive pal Miniature Mike, are also aliens from outer space.   So is the waitress, Four Finger Fanny.

Kaybe gave me a telepathic “hi,” and joined me.

“Kaybe, where’ve you been?” I asked.

“Doing some business in a galaxy far away.”

“Well I’m glad you’re  back.  Let me buy you a drink. Fanny, please bring Kaybe a Sarsaparilla.”

Just then four costumed customers walked in and sat down at a booth near us.  There was a green-faced witch wearing a pointy black hat; a short, potbellied Frankenstein monster with a realistic looking bolt in his neck; a realistic looking Chewbacca, and an aging Princess Leia.

With all three eyes, Kaybe  stared at the newcomers.

“What galaxy are they from?” he asked.

“Those are earthlings,” I said. “It’s Halloween. Those folks are just wearing costumes.”

“Is it some kind of holiday?”  Kaybe  asked.

“Yes.  It used to be called “All Hallows Eve,” and was started to honor the dead.  Nowadays children dress up in costumes and go door to door saying  ‘Trick or Treat’ and hold out sacks.  People give them candy. After people put candy in their sacks, the kids run to the next house.  They go all over the neighborhood gathering sacks full of candy.”

“The folks in that booth over there look pretty old to do trick or treat,” said Kaybe.

“Halloween has evolved, and now adults celebrate Halloween too. They put on costumes and go to parties, or out to bars and restaurants.

“WOW!”  said  Kaybe.  The words appeared  telepathically in capital letters in my head. “That sounds like fun.  I’ve always wanted to go around town and see the sights, but the way I look I’d cause a fuss.  Tonight   I can roll around and no one will think anything about it.”

“Hey guys,”   Kaybe communicated telepathically with Harry the Hulk and Miniature Mike and three strange-looking aliens in the bar. “Let’s go trick or treating.”

“Will you be our guide?”  Kaybe asked.

“Of course.  Parents take their kids trick or treating. The parents stand out on the sidewalk while the kids go up to the doors.”

“You want to go trick or treating, Fanny?”  called Miniature Mike.

“No,” she called back.  “I’m still on duty.  Beside my feet hurt.  But you can take my truck.”  Fanny tossed me the keys.  “It’s the old blue pickup in the back corner of the parking lot.”

I boosted Kaybe into the passenger seat, and the others jumped in the back of the truck.  I drove by a supermarket and picked up trick or treat sacks for everyone.  When we got there, my neighborhood was awash with goblins, ghosts and phantoms.

My alien friends were  shy at first, but Kaybe encouraged them.

“Come on guys. This will be fun.”

At the first house, I stood out on the sidewalk.   Harry the Hulk put Miniature Mike on his shoulders and marched up and rang the bell. Kaybe and the other aliens crowded on the steps behind him.

A woman came to the door.

“Trick or treat,”  said Harry the Hulk.

“Wait just a minute,” said the woman.  “George,” she yelled, You’ve  got to see this. These are the best costumes I’ve seen all night.”   -30-

Dr. Larry Day is a retired foreign correspondent and KU J-School professor. He is now the author of countless short stories and the author of Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia. http://www.daydreaming.co

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Don’t Move

Hello, All,
 As promised, I’ve decided to share some adventures of my time as a foreign corespondent.
1962 during Argentina’s experiment with a post-Peron elected president–Arturo Frondizi.
“Dark cobble stoned area of low end metro Buenos Aires.  A 2nd rate radio station had been taken over by “rebels” who broadcast a proclamation calling for everyone to take to the streets and opposed the government..  A bus was jammed cross wise in the middle of the narrow street.  As I slid around between the bus and the wall, I heard a voice above me,  “No se mueve,”  (“Don’t Move”) I froze and looked up.  The nose of a stubby machine gun was 14 inches from my nose…


Dr. Larry day is a retired J-School professor turned humor writer. His book, Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia is available for purchase via his website: http://www.daydreaming.co

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How I Became A Writer, Extended ©

Hello, All!!
I came across the following.  I’ve probably sent it to you before.  But it’s a humorous bit of writing that fits into the GENERAL theme of how I got my start as a foreign correspondent and ended up an ol’ humor writer.

Miss Bunker  (I can’t remember her first name)  was principal of East Side School in Idaho Falls, Idaho, circa 1945,  when I was in Miss Melton’s (I can’t remember her first name) fourth grade class. Dean Larsen, who sat in front of me in Miss Melton’s  class, wrote a smart aleck note and passed it back, unnoticed, to me.  I wrote “Screw You!” on another piece of paper and passed it back.  Miss Melton saw me pass the note back to Dean, and told me to bring the note up and put it on her desk.  She went on with the class.   I forgot about the incident until the next day when Miss Melton told me to go see Miss Bunker.  In the Principal’s Office, Miss Bunker had the note in herhand.
Miss Bunker: “What does this mean?”
Me: (scrubbing my foot on the floor and looking down) “I don’t know.”
Miss Bunker:  “What does this mean?”
Me:  “I don’t know.”
Miss Bunker:  “I’m going to call your mother on the phone.”
Me: (in desperation) “It’s the title of a story.”
Miss Bunker: “A story?”
Me:  “Yes.  I’m writing a story about a boy who gets a tool box for Christmas.”
Miss Bunker:  “I want to read that story.  Bring it to my office by the end of the school day or I’m going to call your mother.”
That’s how I became a writer.  From that time to the present I’ve written a lot of fiction. Some of it was written for  newspapers and international new  services.  I’ve reported for the Idaho Falls Post Register, The  Deseret News (Salt Lake City) The United Press International  (from Buenos Aires), the Minneapolis Star and Tribune, The Miami Herald, the Kansas City  Star, Universal Press Syndicate. Everyone knows that newspaper stories aren’t supposed to be fiction. But  with tight deadlines, and because  journalism is more art than science,  a  lot of  creativity is involved in covering the news.
I’ve written news stories from the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean (including Cuba), the Sudan (Africa) Botswana (Africa) (the old) Yugoslavia, England, Hong Kong, and Letongaloosa (a fictional  town in the U.S. Midwest).  Many news stories, carrying my byline,  were actually published by newspapers or by news services.
For the past dozen years I have been writing  humorous fiction for the Kaw Valley Senior Monthly of Lawrence, Kansas.  Do I notice a difference between the fiction  writing I do now and the news writing I did as  a journalist?  Yes, I do.   Fact checking is more rigorous on the Kaw Valley Senior Monthly than  fact checking  was during the days when I  covered coups and earthquakes in Latin America.
-30- (that means “the end” in journalese)


Dr. Larry day is a retired J-School professor turned humor writer. His book, Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia is available for purchase via his website: http://www.daydreaming.co

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