Tag Archives: history

Do You Do the Jumble?©

 

 

Years ago I wrote a column titled “Code Blur.”  That story revolved around a World War II decoding device that I saw on display as “relics of technology,” at a local department store. As the story evolved, the feds thought I was involved in some  espionage plot. I had a  dicey time before it all got straightened out.

Welcome to déjà vu all over again

Emmaline and I have a mid-morning routine.  We sit in the living room and read the local newspaper.  Once we’ve noted the condition of the nation, the state and the community, we read the comics.  Sometimes we wonder which individuals are the comic strip characters and which are  our leaders, who are acting like comic strip characters.

Then we turn to the puzzle page and work on the word puzzle. That’s a grid with vertical and horizontal numbered boxes.  Printed opposite each box is a set of scrambled letters that spell

the answer to the clue if you put them in the right order.

Most days between us, Emmaline and I solve the puzzle without help.  Sometimes though, there’s a weird clue.  After we have tried the combinations of letters, I trudge upstairs to the computer  to try to unscramble the letters.  I type in the random letters from the puzzle trying to figure out a pattern.

There’s nothing sinister about that, right?  Wrong!  The other day while we were working on the puzzle, two black SUVs drove up in front of our house. The first SUV drove into the driveway. The other one blocked the driveway at the curb.  Four suits got out of the SUV in the driveway, and came to the door.

“Federal agents.  Open the door.”

I opened the door and they poured in.

“What’s this about?”

“We’ll ask the questions,” said the shortest suit—a bald guy with horned rim glasses.

“Show me some identification first.” I said.

Agent Horned Rimmed flashed an ID.

“Who are you?”

“We’re from the Department of Electronic Citizen Surveillance.  Our algorithm devices have detected coded messages coming from your computer.”

“I type random letters on a search engine looking for clues to the Jumble Puzzles in the newspaper,”

Agent Horned Rimmed ignored my answer and said, “Do you deny communicating with an alien who uses the code name KB 11.2?”

“KB 11.2?  “Kaybe,” are you kidding? Kaybe is the alien robot character I created for my monthly humor column?”

“There’s nothing humorous about espionage,”  said Agent Horned Rimmed. “Or aliens, either, for that matter.”

“”But Kaybe is fiction.  He’s a character in my book,” I said.  “Show them, Emmaline.”

“Don’t move,” said the tall suit standing behind Emmaline.

“I just want to show you the book,” said Emmaline.  It’s right here.”

Agent Horned Rimmed made a quick lateral move with his head, and said, “Get it.”

Emmaline crossed the living room and picked up my little book, Day Dreaming. She opened the book to a story titled “I Speak Alien,” and handed the book to Agent Tall Suit.  Agent Tall Suit leafed through the story, grimaced, and handed the book to Agent Horned Rimmed.

“It’s a humor book, Deke,” he said.

Emmaline handed Agent Tall Suit a page from the local newspaper.

“Here is the puzzle those words came from,” she said.  You can see that the letters in the grid match the written clues.  You solve the puzzle by putting the right words in the grid horizontally and vertically.  Sometimes we get stumped, so my husband types the letters into an Internet search engine to see  if it will unscramble them.”

Outside, the neighbors were beginning to gather in their front yards.  They were staring at the guys standing around the SUV that was blocking the driveway.

“It’s another surveillance network screw-up, Deke,” said Tall Agent.

“@#$%^&*,” said Deke. Then Deke gave his trademark lateral move of the head and the suits melted out through front door.

As they were running, one of them yelled,  “wrong address!”

Then they jumped into their SUVs  and sped away.

“Who were those unmasked men?” asked Emmaline.

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Dr. Larry Day is a retired KU J-School professor turned humor writer. His book,  Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia is available on Amazon.

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Packin’ Light Heat ©

 

 

Virtually all states in the U.S. permit you pack heat (carry weapons) strapped to your hip like Wyatt Earp.   That’s your constitutional right. Forty-nine of the 50 states also let you to carry concealed weapons if  you have  the proper state-issued permit.

With people all over the country packing heat, it was just a matter of time before fashion designers and clothing manufacturers got involved.   People get tired of wearing grungy-looking baggy clothing just to conceal their weapons.  The clothing industry saw that people who pack heat wanted to look spiffy.  Thus, inevitably, this headline  appeared in the New York Times:

 

“New Fashion Wrinkle: Stylishly Hiding Gun”

New York Times, Tuesday, April 24, 2012 Page 1A

 

According to the news story,  fashion designers have developed, and  manufacturers have produced, stylish street clothes that help you  hide your hardware. If you’re a man, you’ll find, sewn inside specially made fashionable chino trousers,  invisible but easily accessible pockets that hold anything from a  Beretta Tom Cat  to a Ruger LCP or a Glock 26/27.    If you want to pack a bigger piece, you can buy a stylish jacket with side pockets.  You thrust your hand into the pocket.  It goes through a Velcroed opening and lets you grasp that Desert Eagle .45 Long Colt you have stuck in your waistband.

If you’re a woman you can pack heat fashionably too.  You can carry a couple of Charter Arms Pink Lady revolvers in unobtrusive pockets sewn into specially made slacks or skirts.  Trendy brocade jackets with side-slit

pockets can completely conceal a match pair of pink-trimmed Cobra derringers.  Word on the street is that a quick-draw Beretta-bra will soon be on the market.

Fashion houses can make a pile of money selling clothing to prosperous people who pack heat.  That fact wasn’t lost on Eloise Simplelkins.

Eloise Simpelkins grew up in Letongaloosa and worked as a cleaning lady in La Mancha , a moneyed section of town where the streets are curved and the addresses are hand painted on Spanish tile.  Later Eloise  made a pile of money of her own.  She founded a company that services  fastidious homemakers.  Eloises’s company sends pre-cleaning ladies to homes where the homemakers can’t stand to let their regular cleaning ladies see the mess.

Ever the entrepreneur, Eloise  figured  she could tap into a “packin’ heat fashionably” niche, so she  hired designers to create a line of clothing for the less than fully clad segment of the market.

First came a line of walking shorts. Then came short shorts. Both lines were designed to let the wearers pack heat undetected.  Eloise next marketed swim suits in her “The Bam-Bam Swim Suit” line.”  Men’s swim trunks and women’s one-piece swim wear were designed to conceal handguns. Sales for  “Bam-Bam” swim wear skyrocketed after news reports  about a woman who wounded two would-be attackers on a California beach.  The woman had whipped out a pink trimmed  Sig Saurer Misquito automatic from a hidden pocket in her zebra-striped swim suit.

Flushed with that success, Eloise decided to market a line of scantier swimming apparel.

Eloise asked Melvin Totts and Minnie Cummins, two successful swim wear designers, to create a line of men’s and women’s bikinis that would allow the wearers to pack heat undetected.

“It can’t be done.” said Totts, but Eloise got them to give the project a try by promising to import the world’s smallest handgun–a European-built revolver called  the Asp. The weapon has a two-inch barrel and fires  high velocity bullets that can be deadly at close range.

Melvin and Minnie came up with some fabulous-looking bikinis, but Eloise ran into a road block.  The U.S.  government bans the import of non-sport guns, and it refused to classify the Asp as a sports gun.

Undeterred, Eloise arranged a private fashion show for U.S. Sen. Marcus Womble and a few of his closest friends. The show’s  runway featured beautiful models wearing skimpy bikinis. Afterward there was  a cozy private reception for the senator, his friends, and the models.  After that Eloise got permission to import the Asp.  She launched  her “teeny weensy,

itsy bitsy heat packin’ bikini” line.  The bikinis flew off store shelves so fast

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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.
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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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The Ides of March

A saying from decades ago (my Mom, perhaps repeated it).  came to me.  It seems apt for this cold evening in the Upper Midwest:  “I burn my candles at both ends.  It will not last the night. But Oh my foes, and Oh my friends, it makes a lovely light.”

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Friends We Meet Along the Way

I’ve written a humor column every month for the last 16 years. That breaks down to 192 columns—134,400 words. The columns go by many titles and most of the ideas for them come at times when I am not sitting at my desk,  vis. while I’m  walking the dog,  having lunch with my Emmaline. My, ideas–it’s a stretch to call it inspiration—pop up wherever I may be.  One of the most enjoyable aspects of my job is telling about some of my  adventures (real and imagined), and in letting you, the readers, meet some of the people who inhabit those adventures.

In many stories, from exploring the Cuban jungle with my colleague, Kate, to meeting with my long-distance pal from outer space, the robot KB-11.2 (Kaybe),  I have taken Life on some curious journeys. And I’ve share them with you. It’s never been boring, and as I write this month’s column, and  as I think about all my friends,  my pals, the little Dutchmen come to mind.

I haven’t really been out to the Smokies to see them lately. As a result, we’re thinking about making a trip there especially since St. Patrick’s Day is coming up. I first introduced the little guys in July 2014 in a column titled Man in the Mirror.  It was about my first encounter with a curious-looking gentleman, a kabouter. Most people would think a kabouter as a leprechaun.  Kabouters wear  long beards and antique Dutch-looking clothing including  tri-cornered hats.

I was standing in front of the mirror in a vacation cabin back in the Smoky Mountains where Emmaline and I  frequently stay. The Dutchman was staring at me from a mirror that hung in the bathroom. I was startled. After I calmed down and got my bearings, the Dutchman and his friends took me tubing down the stream that flows alongside  the cabin. We drank root beer from large steins, and had a rip-roaring afternoon.  I’ve written a couple of columns about our adventures with the Dutchman and his fellow Kabouters.  But I haven’t given you readers much detail about them.

Here’s some background:  The Dutchman in the mirror is named Jurriaan. It’s Jurriaan Lievin, as a matter of fact.  Jurriaan and his friends live in a mushroom village located in the woods just down the one-lane road from our family’s Smoky Mountain cabin.  These guys, according to Dutch folklore, are shy of humans. Stories say that they play tricks on people who try to catch them. For whatever reason these little Dutchmen men were more curious than shy when it came to me, Emmaline, and our family  well before wrote about them. They’ve been a part of our family celebrations ever since.

Folklore also mentions that some Kabouter love the off-stage limelight. They have been the focus of countless fairytales, but the stories always mention the tiny men slipping away after performing their good deeds. We  all  know the Legend of the Wooden Shoes.  And on television we’ve all seen the gnome in that travel commercial. That’s Jurrriaan’s cousin, Nicholaas. He, wasn’t shy like the other men in the forest, so Nicholaas decided  to head for Los Angeles and try his hand at acting.  He’s become quite successful.

Emmaline and I are planning to go to the cabin soon. We need adventure, and our friends the Dutchmen are all about adventure.  They always have been.  In that vein, I’ve decided it’s time my best friends meet each other.

I contacted Kaybe and Kate and told them to meet us at the cabin this spring. Kate is excited to get out of the jungle for a while and to meet everyone.  I asked Kaybe drop by and pick her up in his spaceship. It’s not out of his way.

Emmaline is excited, too. She’s planning a party and has already bought  root beer steins for everyone. And there’ll be plenty of inner tubes too for the river float.  Oh, that reminds me, I need to get some lubricating oil for Kaybe.   The humidity at the cabin sometimes plays hob with his metal joints.

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The Best Chant In College Sports

I looked up the “Rock Chalk Chant,” on Wikipedia. It is famous (as you’ll read) and beloved.  Teddy Roosevelt called it the best chant/yell in college sports. Enjoy!!

 

History of the University of Kansas Rock Chalk Chant
The chant was first adopted by the university’s science club in 1886. Chemistry professor E.H.S. Bailey and his colleagues were returning by train to Lawrence after a conference. During their travel, they discussed a need of a rousing yell. They came up with “Rah, Rah, Jayhawk, Go KU”, repeated three times, which later became “Rock Chalk Jayhawk, KU”.

By 1889, “Rock Chalk”—a transposition of chalk rock, a type of limestone, that exists in the Cretaceous-age bedrocks of central and western parts of the state as well as on Mount Oread, where the University is located, which is similar to the coccolith-bearing chalk of the white cliffs of Dover—later replaced the two “rahs.” Those responsible for the change are unknown, with Bailey himself crediting the geology department, and others an English professor.

Kansas troops have used it in the Philippine-American War in 1899, the Boxer Rebellion, and World War II. In the 1911 Border War football game, over 1,000 fans gathered in downtown Lawrence to listen to a “broadcast” of the game by telegraph and participated in cheers including the Rock Chalk.

In the 1920 Summer Olympics, Albert I of Belgium asked for a typical American college yell, and gathered athletes replied with the chant.

Former United States President Theodore Roosevelt called the Rock Chalk chant, the greatest college chant he ever heard.

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Let Down Your Buckets

In the mid-1800s two sailing ships were becalmed miles apart off the coast of Brazil.  The ships were located far from sight of land, where the Amazon River joins the Atlantic Ocean.  One of the ships was out of water and the passengers and crew were dying of thirst.  Sea water is poisonous.  The captain sent a flag message to the other ship:  “Send us water.”  The other ship sent back the flagged message, “Let down your buckets where you are.” The desperate captain sent another message:  “Send us water.”  The message came back “Let down your buckets where you are.”  The first captain ordered the crew to let down buckets. They came back filled with fresh water.   The Amazon is the largest river in the world.  The confluence of the Amazon River spreads miles out into the Atlantic, far from the sight of land.  So the water that the people needed was fresh Amazon river water.   The holiday message: “Let down your buckets (help others) where you are.”

Larry Day is a retired KU J-School professor turned humor writer. His book, Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia is available on Amazon.

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