Jumping Worms Joke

The jumping worm invasion is the big news these days. This is a follow up to the post I wrote on May 19, 2022. I found this article, “Invasive jumping worms now in 34 states—including Iowa.” It was posted by an Indianola, Iowa outdoorsman named Tom Charlton.

The most interesting thing about this article is the jumping worm joke at the end. I’ll have to do this in stages. First, he prefaces this joke with the one about “What’s worse than finding a worm in your apple?” And I can’t help but think he’s got a different version than the one I know. He says “Of course, we all know what’s worse than biting into an apple and finding half a worm.”

I don’t know what would be worse than finding half a worm. In fact, this actually happened to me. I was a young man living at the YMCA in Mason City, Iowa. That was back in the days when you could rent a single occupancy sleeping room there on the cheap. There was an old snack vending machine there and I got a Butterfinger. I bit into it and found—half of some kind of little worm. Spoiler Alert: the worm half was doing something typical for worms. The answer is below.

By the way, that Mason City YMCA was placed on the National Register for Historic Places in 2002 and has been renovated into the River City Apartments, a low-income housing resource. I don’t know if it still has snack vending machines.

I also can’t think of anything worse than finding half a worm. One worm joke site says “Two worms.” Somehow, it doesn’t have the zing of the “half a worm” version.

I thought the joke (which has been found in print since 1911) went more like: “What could be worse than biting into an apple and finding a worm in it?” The punchline is “finding half a worm in it.”

In the next sentence, Mr. Charlton writes: “…but do you know why the young boy thought the jumping worm would taste like chewing gum?”

I really didn’t get this. I googled it and couldn’t find anything about it. Then my wife, Sena, did a web search on Bing and solved the riddle immediately. She gave me a hint which helped: think of a brand of gum.

It’s actually an old worm joke. It’s very similar to Mr. Charlton’s joke, except it leaves out the word “jumping.” Think of a brand of chewing gum and you’ll get it. It’s not Trident.

The punchline is “Because they’re Wrigleys.” I got sidetracked into overthinking it because it was about jumping worms.

That should have made coming up with the punchline easier. Thank you, Mr. Charlton!

The Waving Man

There’s this guy who waves at every passing motorist as he walks to and from his job moving boxes around at the Coralville Hy-Vee. He’s been doing it for years and age is beginning to take over the deepening creases in his face. But it doesn’t dim his smile as he waves at every car he can.

He has to cross the street to and from the store parking lot. When the light changes to green he hustles across. His work apron flaps a little. That’s the only time he doesn’t wave. After he’s safely on the other side of the street, he starts waving and smiling.

We figure he walks to and from wherever he lives. We never could figure out where home is for him. It’s hard to see how he ever makes his destination as often as he stops to wave at all of us driving by.

When we lived in the neighborhood and as I was driving to work and driving home, I would wave back—as I kept my eyes fixed on the road ahead of me.

Every once in a while, I’ll google various questions framed around the term “waving man.” I’ll find occasional news items about a waving man in some city. Nobody ever complains about the waving man and most find him to be the bright spot in the day. There’s never an explanation for this behavior, scientific or otherwise. It’s just accepted for what it is—a generous greeting, wishing you well.

When times are good, the waving man is out there. And when times are bad; when the pain and sorrow and loss are overwhelming—the waving man is there.


There’s this quote many people believe was by Muhammad Ali:

“Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.”

It’s part of a mural in progress on the side of the ICOR Boxing building facing Highway 6 in Iowa City. The Goodwill is on the other side of the highway. The mural is not yet finished. The quote is not complete. The words are black against a yellow background framed by the outline of the state of Iowa. The image of Muhammad Ali is really well done. I wanted to get a picture of it yesterday, but decided to wait until the mural is complete. There are similar images all over the web showing him and this quote together.

Some question whether Ali actually said it. There are some who say that an Adidas advertising copywriter wrote it in 2004. I don’t know who is right and I think it might not matter in the long run. I’m not interested in debating it.

The point of the quote is more important. It’s true the word “impossible” can be misused and distorted. Any historian or scientist can tell you that a great many things which were once thought to be impossible eventually became possible.

There’s this scene in Men in Black in which Agent K is recruiting the soon to be Agent J. He says, “People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals and you know it. 1500 years ago, everybody knew the Earth was the center of the universe. 500 years ago, everybody knew the earth was flat, and fifteen minutes ago you knew that humans were alone on this planet. Imagine what you’ll know tomorrow.”

It’s just a quote from a movie. But in that quote, there’s just enough of the real-life debate regarding doubt about what divides the possible from the impossible as there is anywhere off the movie set.

That said, there are a few things that are impossible. It’s impossible that:

Sasquatch doesn’t like beef jerky.

Movie stars are not from other galaxies.

Politicians are honest and have our best interests in mind.

Aliens would want anything to do with humans.

I could ever remember the washer and dryer settings from one day to the next.

It’s a short list. You’re welcome.

Mysteries in History

The title of the post is “Mysteries in History,” and before I chose it, I realized it had a familiar ring to it. It’s from Men in Black II. It’s an imaginary, cheesy, very low budget TV series narrated by Peter Graves in the movie. And it’s actually the perfect title for what my wife and I think about the Mason City, Iowa YWCA not being on the National Register for Historic Places. It’s a mystery in history which is anything but cheesy. I mentioned it in my previous post about the Mason City Ys.

I asked the State Historical Society of Iowa about it. It turns out it has been deemed eligible twice for nomination to the National Register, in 1991 and again in 2003, which was a year after the YMCA was added to the list.

The Mason City YWCA has never been nominated. Why it has never been nominated is the mystery in history.

It’s not a simple matter to get a building on the National Register. The process is outlined on the State Historical Society of Iowa web site. Unless you’re a professional historian, it’s a tough project and can take at least a year to accomplish.  

I found a 36-page form on the web which documented the approval of the Mason City YMCA as a historic site fit for the National Register. It’s minutely detailed and I imagine it took a year just to complete the form itself, not to mention all the other hurdles you have to negotiate. The photos bring back memories of when I lived there as a young man. You could actually live in small, single occupancy dormitory rooms. You could do that at the YWCA as well, once upon a time.

There are 2 Artists who bought the YWCA building last year. It’s 100 years old and the place needs a lot of work. There’s a Trulia entry on the web which says it has housed a health spa, an intermediate care facility for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities called One Vision, a Women’s shelter and the list apparently doesn’t stop there.

A couple of articles say that one of the two new owners, Elisha Marin, filmed his music video, “Shining Out,” in an abandoned YWCA. They don’t say which one, but I wonder if it’s the Mason City YWCA. It would fit the long and winding story.

The Mason City Public Library (my favorite place when I was a kid) has a web page with a historical timeline indicating that the YWCA was built in 1918. The YMCA was dedicated in 1927 and placed on the National Register in 2002. I think a lot of the historical documents which helped get the YMCA listed might also prove the YWCA should be listed too.

I found another place called Five College Compass Digital Collections, which also has a ton of documents on microfilm about the Mason City YWCA. It was difficult to navigate and some of the pages were rotated, making them hard to read unless you can bend your head 90 degrees. You can click a button which apparently flips the pages upright, but transforms the text into something that looks like a foreign language.

You can get technical assistance in getting a property listed. The assistant would be available for 24 hours total. You can apply for grants, which can help with some of the expenses. It looks exhausting, though. Hey, I’m the kind of guy who flunked history.

It would sure be nice to solve this mystery in history. Maybe the 2 Artists will consider it. I wish them luck.

Kickball Challenge in June!

The annual Kickball challenge between University of Iowa Department of Psychiatry Residents and Faculty is coming up in June. You know what that means.

Losers suspend the winners’ trophy in Jello. Somebody did that when we played Matball several years ago. If you need a recipe:

Matball was the forerunner of Kickball in the department. I think the Kickball rules are here. Federal law says you have to play in 95-degree heat with insane humidity driving the perceived temperature to slightly above that on the surface of the sun. Other rules:

If the ball melts, faculty wins.

For every point the residents score, faculty automatically score 5.

Faculty may tackle the base runner at any time.

If it rains, faculty win by 10 points.

The thing to do is to recruit Sasquatch for your side, who will always boot the ball into the next county. Bring many replacement balls. Sasquatch will bring the beef jerky.

The games are fun to watch. Residents jumping over faculty; Faculty collapsing from heat stroke.

I never played.

I’m trying to recall whether faculty ever won a game. I don’t think we ever did. I think that’s why the trophy ended up in Jello.

How the Feathered Half Lives

We were out on the Terry Trueblood Trail and saw a lot of different kinds of birds doing the things that birds—and humans do. Looking for mates, mating, nesting, hunting, feeding. We’re a little more romantic about it, at least sometimes.

Often, I wonder. Who are the real bird brains around here?

The Flag of Honor at Fire Department No. 4

We took a walk this weekend on Scott Boulevard and eventually found our way to Fire Station No. 4. At first, we were struck by what looked like a real Dalmatian apparently sitting just inside the door. It was a pretty good sculpture. Just behind it was a large American Flag hanging on the wall. Below it was the title “Flag of Honor.”

One of the firefighters noticed us and welcomed us inside. He talked a long time about the Iowa City Fire Department and what they did. They responded to a lot of medical calls. In fact, those were the most frequent calls, fires not so much. He graciously answered our questions, including the one about The Flag of Honor on the wall. It’s to honor the victims and the heroes of the September 11, 2001 attack on America.

Later, I found out more on the web about the Flag of Honor. Over 800,000 Flags have been distributed across America. They’re in many places: public buildings, private homes, police and EMS stations, and firehouses.

I remember where I was on September 11, 2001. I was running up the stairs from the lower level to the first floor. I think I had just finished a psychiatric consultation and I was probably on my way to another one, or to my office. It was my usual routine. Like most general hospital psychiatric consultants, I was a lot like a firefighter, going from one urgent consultation to another, to the critical care unit, the emergency room, and others. My pager was like a fire alarm and off I would go.

 I was on the stair landing just going up to the first floor. The stairs overlooked a lobby and the television on the wall was showing a video of one of New York City’s Twin Towers on fire, smoke all around it.

I stopped in my tracks and watched, not comprehending the scene. I can’t remember if the volume was high enough for me to hear the reporter. I don’t think it was. I just saw the fire and the smoke and at that moment I didn’t know what happened. That news I wouldn’t hear until later.

And then much later, in the summer of 2017, Sena and I took a vacation in New York City. Like many tourists, we saw the reflecting pools and Sena took a snapshot of me by the Callery Pear—the Survivor Tree.

The firefighter finally had to excuse himself, because there was somewhere he had to go, something he had to do.

He had probably been busy when we showed up, remarking on the Dalmatian which looked so lifelike, taking pictures of the Flag of Honor, asking questions about what Fire Station No. 4 does, listening to his answers, admiring his patience, his sense of humor, his sense of duty—and thanking him for all of it.

The Written Word is Blurred

I ran across this quote the other day: littera scripta manet. The English translation is, I think, “the written word endures.”

Not to dwell too much on the prosaic side of the issue which is that, for me, often the word has been blurred because of problems with my vision. I just had retinal detachment surgery a little over a month ago and I’m making a good recovery. But early on I had a lot of trouble with blurry vision, tearing, and light sensitivity.

Just the other night though, I was able to read a section of a book without having as much blurred vision as I did before the surgery when I looked up from the page at something distant. I’ve been wearing progressive lenses for many years and it probably got worse because of the detached retina, which was chronic or maybe acute on chronic.

Now to get beyond trivialities, I saw the quote above in an issue of the University of Iowa publication, Iowa Magazine. It was in the last Old Gold column of University Archivist, David McCartney. He retired in March of this year. The title was “Old Gold: The Enduring Power of the Written Word.”

He notes the Latin expression is on the seal of the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration. McCartney’s point is that technology can undermine as well as strengthen the power of the written word. He identities Horace as the originator of the expression, “the written word endures.”

I went pecking around the internet and found out that a lot of people think an educator named Neil Postman was the originator of this quote. What makes me doubt this is that the original is in Latin, which suggests a much older origin. He was born in 1931 and died in 2003. Interestingly, Postman criticized the effect of technology on thought and culture.

A website that seems dedicated to explaining English translations of Latin indicates that the quote comes from a longer expression: Vox audita perit, littera scripta manet, which translates to “the spoken word perishes, but the written word remains.” One contributor says the originator was Horace. Another insists that “littera” does not mean word at all, although concedes that the proposed translation is correct, nevertheless.

Further, there is a Wikipedia entry which cites the Latin expression differently, “verba volant, scripta manent,” which in English is “spoken words fly away, written words remain.” The author says the proverb originated from a speech of senator Caius Titus to the Roman Senate.

Anyway, McCartney points out that the world is becoming increasingly digitized and that the average website lasts only a little over two and a half years. Some important digital records have been lost, unreadable (blurred?) because of improper management.

My previous blog survived about 7 years but is lost. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing. My current blog is a little over 3 years old. So far, I’m beating the odds as far as typical longevity, but is it worthwhile?

Both written and digital records have strengths and weaknesses in terms of durability. And deciding what to preserve and how is essential to any society. We need good stewards to help us decide.

Good luck in your retirement, David McCartney. I’m sure the University of Iowa treasures your stewardship. Let the written word endure unblurred.

Walking the Clear Creek Trail—Looking for a Hamburger

Recently, we took a walk on the Clear Creek Trail in Coralville. There are always a lot of birds out and they all have different songs. We hear more birds than we see because the trail is crowded with trees.

On the other hand, the highlight of the afternoon was stopping for lunch at the Wendy’s drive-thru. They’re selling that $5 Biggie Bag. We ordered a couple of those and the cashier who took the order asked what we kind of burgers we wanted. She rattled off the choices so fast.

I guess we weren’t listening. I think you get 3 choices for burgers (although I cheated for this post by googling it): junior bacon cheeseburger, crispy chicken BLT, or a double stack. You also get chicken nuggets, fries, and a drink.

Sena said, “I want a vegetable hamburger, two of them.” I had to laugh when the clerk was silent for a long moment—and repeated “vegetable hamburger” in a puzzled-sounding voice. But I give her credit; she made a quick recovery and said “Oh, do you mean you want the junior bacon cheeseburger?”

Sena just said, “Oh yeah!”

I’m pretty sure the cashier was having a moment about the “vegetable hamburger” bit. It’s likely a dated term and many younger people might think it means a meatless sandwich.

In fact, when I did a quick internet search asking “does anybody know what a vegetable hamburger is these days?” I got all kind of hits for plant-based burgers. No hits for a real meat hamburger with tomatoes, lettuce, onion, and pickles. A veggie burger nowadays is defined as a “burger patty that does not contain meat.”

And that reminded me of the Wendy’s 1980s ad campaign with the “Where’s the beef!” lady starring in the commercials, which I’m pretty sure nobody but baby boomers remember either.

And then there’s the Wendy’s new Biggie Bag commercial. It’s the one where a bunch of Wendy’s workers are singing about the Biggie Bag and a customer asks, “Is that a real song?”

I couldn’t understand the lyrics in the jingle and had to google the YouTube video. Only one of the commenters almost nailed it, but I think it’s:

“You got that bag; you got a biggie bag.”

There were almost 700 comments. People really want that jingle to be a real song.

Okay, so that’s a long way from the walk on the Clear Creek Trail. So be it.

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