This Day in History Special Edition

February 29th, 2012 by Wordsman

There is a certain day that only comes along once every four years . . . except not when the year is a multiple of 100 . . . except yes when it is a multiple of 400. Anyway, we here at the Wordsman feel it would be wrong to deprive readers of the chance to learn about this day and its fabulous history, so, rather than wait for it to appear on a Tuesday, we are breaking tradition and producing the first ever Wednesday This Day in History!

Well no wonder it never can end
On a cursed day this strip was first penned
Though to read it is pain
It runs ‘gain and again
And to Judgment Day it may extend

Event: The Family Circus (originally The Family Circle) debuts
Year: 1960
Learn more (but don’t say I didn’t warn you):

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This Day in History Entry #159

February 28th, 2012 by Wordsman

Once a peasant with naught to his name
This poor outlaw a monarch became
He was Liu Bang, but now
He’s the Emperor Gao
China never would be quite the same

Event: Liu Bang (also known as Gao or Gaozu) is proclaimed first Emperor of the Han Dynasty
Year: 202 BC
Learn more:

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Know Your Picture Characters Entry #92

February 27th, 2012 by Wordsman

A. 居間 B. 温室 C. 玄関 D. 食堂 E. 書斎 F. 台所 G. 玉突き室

H. 図書室 I. 舞踏室

My problem with Clue was that I always insisted on searching only the most “exotic” rooms–the Conservatory, the Billiard Room, the Ballroom.  I refused to believe that Mr. Boddy could have been killed in a kind of room that my own boring house also had, like the Kitchen or the Dining Room.  Or the Hall.  What a useless place.  It’s not even a room, really.  I never once searched the Hall when I played Clue as a child.  This may have cost me the game on more than one occasion.

Theoman, on the other hand, is much more open-minded, and therefore probably a better detective.  In fact, he is a much better detective.  Not only did he identify the location of the murder (hey, since he was the only one to participate, why not?), but he also correctly identified more than half of the rooms, which is pretty much unprecedented in a KYPC challenge that has this many choices.  I’m not sure I’d make him my butler, as he tends to confuse the Conservatory with the Ballroom and the Hall with the Lounge, but he’s definitely qualified enough to be Stephen Fry’s deputy in that one movie my parents like so much.

The correct answers were, in order: Lounge, Conservatory, Hall, Dining Room, Study, Kitchen, Billiard Room, Library, Ballroom.

Now we’ll take a brief break from games to do movies.  The Oscars were last night.  Do you know which film won Best Picture?  Do you know it well enough to find it written in kanzi?  If not, can you console yourself by trying to identify some of the losers?  Don’t worry: this doesn’t mean you are a loser.  Probably.

In any case, people with good memories should challenge themselves by looking for more than just the winner, since that appeared as an answer here about a month ago.  Also, those who do not enjoy futility should not waste their time looking for Hugo–alas!  Poor Hugo–cuz it just ain’t there.  As usual, a couple of these are the actual Japanese titles of the movies, but most are just things I made up to reflect the meanings of the original English titles.

A. 命の木 B. 家政婦 C. 金玉 D. 芸術家 E. 子孫 F. 戦火の馬

G. パリの真夜中 H. 物凄く煩くて、有り得ないほど近い

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The Mission Part 8

February 24th, 2012 by Wordsman

The old woman stopped spinning and took a couple moments to regain her equilibrium.  “You’re talking about the song, I assume?”

“Of course.”

“Well, let’s find out.  Run into that wall.”

He stared at her.  She stared back, seemingly watching for some kind of response.  She didn’t get one, though; he simply stared right back, wondering when his life would start making sense again.

The old woman broke the silence.  “Hear anything?”

“No . . .”

“Then I guess you’re free.”

He searched the corners of his mind, but there was no trace of the Song of Mastery.  Then, unable to restrain himself, he raised his flute to his lips, and there it was again—not a series of notes but a series of breaths and finger patterns.  He lowered the flute, and once again it was gone.

“There must have been a better way to test it than that.”

She shrugged.  “I still don’t know how it got you in the first place.  How am I supposed to know when it wears off?”

“I’m not really free, you know,” she said, while Peter was still trying to come up with an appropriate farewell.  “I’m not handcuffed to a garbage can anymore—and don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for that.  But I’m still stuck in here.”  She lifted her hands to encompass all of Simon Park Station.

“Show me,” Peter said, before his brain could catch up with his tongue.


“Show me that you’re really trapped here.”

“You’re seriously asking a fragile old woman to throw herself against an invisible wall?”

It did sound cruel.  She had caused him a fair amount of suffering that day, but he wasn’t interested in revenge.  The woman was right: he had to see it to believe it.  “Just once.  And anyway, you just told me to run into a wall.  It’s only fair.”

“If I do, will you agree to help me?”


More often than not, it is the shortest words that are the most life-changing.

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This Day in History Entry #158

February 21st, 2012 by Wordsman

“Comrade Engels, as sure as dog barks
This great work derives from your brain’s sparks!”
“Comrades, please, it’s no crime
My name just doesn’t rhyme!
So let’s give all the credit to Marx”

Event: The Communist Manifesto is published
Year: 1848
Learn more:

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February 20th, 2012 by Wordsman

The Wordsman is taking a sick day.  KYPC will be back next week.

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The Mission Part 7

February 17th, 2012 by Wordsman

“My hero.”

Peter grinned sheepishly.  “I think real heroes don’t need a police escort when they rescue the damsel in distress.”

“I was talking to the police officer, actually.”

“Oh.”  The grin disappeared.

Officer Escobar, standing at the same respectful distance from the woman as he always had, had not grinned sheepishly since he was fifteen years old.  Nor was he known as much of a blusher.  And, in fact, he did neither of these things.  But he still turned away, just to be safe.

CLICK.  The handcuffs were off.  The woman stood up, her unpleasant garment brushing past Peter’s face.  She stretched, causing her body to make a series of unpleasant-sounding SNAPs and CREAKs that were not entirely different from the noise it had made when Peter turned the key in the tiny lock.  No matter how painful the stretch sounded, however, the old woman appeared to enjoy it immensely.

Peter snatched key and handcuffs from the ground.  He wanted to be rid of them as soon as possible, and it wasn’t like he was busy being showered with praise.  He brought them over to where the policeman had posted himself and deposited them in his hands.  “Thank you.”

Escobar nodded gruffly.  He wanted to stay longer, to see what the woman would do.  But it appeared that she was fully occupied savoring her newfound freedom, and it didn’t look like she was going to do anything of interest for a while.  Besides, he had other things to take care of, such as figuring out how he would explain—or, preferably, not explain—the role he had played in setting loose the woman Officer Tang had called, “the Arrest of the Century.”

He tipped his cap, said, “Ma’am” in perhaps the most business-like voice he had ever used in his entire life, and departed.

Peter would have liked to take off, too, but he had no choice.  There was something he had to find out.

He returned to the pillar, where the woman was doing some kind of victory dance.  “So, you’re free.  Am I?”

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This Day in History Entry #157

February 14th, 2012 by Wordsman

Chuck and Louis pledged fraternité
‘Fore the soldiers of their grandes armeés
Lothair, between the deux
Could not believe his yeux
Uninvited was he to partay

Event: Charles the Bald and Louis the German swear the Oaths of Strasbourg, pledging to aid each other and oppose their older brother, Lothair. The version of the Oaths in Old French is believed to be the oldest surviving text written in a Romance language.
Year: 842
Learn more:

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Know Your Picture Characters Entry #91

February 13th, 2012 by Wordsman

A. 英雄 B. 音速 C. 火曜日 D. 玉 E. 導体 F. 配管工兄弟 G. 椀

Is the Wordsman up to his old tricks again?  Or has he simply forgotten how to count?  One thing that nobody seems to have forgotten is the days of the week, as both Theoman and A Fan identified C as Tuesday, proving that copying answers is effective, provided you choose a good source (and also provided you choose a setting in which admitting that you’re copying answers has no serious negative ramifications).  Super Tuesday is March 6th this year, and if [INSERT WHICHEVER CANDIDATE YOU THINK IS FUNNIEST] doesn’t see his or her shadow, it means we only have to put up with 35 more weeks of campaigning.

After that, however, our memories don’t seem to have served us all that well.  Theoman came closest when he called F “hero,” because F is “plumber brothers,” referring to a famous–to some generations, at least–duo of overall-clad Italian heroes.  Yes, that’s the one I snuck in there on you.  I make no apologies.  Would it have been fairer if I had written “mario kyoodai” instead of “haikankou kyoodai“, because there’s never been a game called “Super Plumber Brothers”?  Possibly.  But that would have involved using characters other than kanji, and as those of you who have been around for the long haul know, I would never, ever do something like that.  We have also decided, in our limitless magnanimity, to award him partial credit for identifying B, “sonic”, as a ball (since we seem to have video game characters on the brain), and A, “hero” as conductor, because where is it written that conductors can’t be heroes?

A Fan is absolutely right in his analysis that the importance of a thing is exclusively determined by the number of people who have watched it on TV, meaning, among other things, that Justin Bieber is more important than Gandhi, and that American Idol is more important than the United States Constitution.  After that, however, his insight dropped off a bit.  G is not a ball, but it is a “bowl,” which is also round and could very well sound like “ball”–or more accurately “bawl”–in some people’s speech.  I suppose B could look a little bit like Toscanini conducting if you really wanted to see it (as A Fan, ever blind, surely does).  There’s his baton, hovering near his head, and below it is the elegant arc it has just cut through the air.  The first character could even be the podium, I guess, though it also seems to be employing some sort of hover technology.  However, as was previously mentioned, B is “sonic.”  As was not previously mentioned, the “conductor” in this case is the conductor of “superconductor,” which is not the name of an unpopular superhero but rather the physics thing.  Sorry to burst your bubbles.  It’s actually located over at E, which, what the hey, we will say also looks like Toscanini.  It’s all the same to A Fan.

D, looked at askance by both contestants as the source of all the numerical confusion, is a ball.  That’s right, a ball.  Just a simple ball.  Not trying to trip you up in any way.  Unless you step on it, of course.

But anyway, before we got distracted by the Super Bowl, we were talking about games.  And just so there’s ABSOLUTELY NO CONFUSION, I will tell you that this time we are doing the rooms from Clue.  You can check the Wikipedia article about Clue to be sure.  They’re all there, except for the Cellar, because you can’t actually go there.  So tell me: where was Mr. Boddy murdered?

A. 居間 B. 温室 C. 玄関 D. 食堂 E. 書斎 F. 台所 G. 玉突き室

H. 図書室 I. 舞踏室

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The Mission Part 6

February 10th, 2012 by Wordsman

He wasn’t big on revenge, really.  He just respected the System.  The System was what allowed him to get away with doing as little work as he did.  The System meant that the men and women in blue represented authority, and if you crossed them, then it was your funeral.  So people didn’t cross them . . . at least, not much.  But if you found a squirrel trying to scamper away with a set of police keys, and then, shortly afterward, a boy trying to catch up with it, and you let them go without punishment, then the System would start to break down.  If the System broke down, Officer Escobar’s job would get a lot harder.

“Sorry,” he said, and he truly was.  “But I’m going to need to take down your name.”

The boy sighed, as if he had been expecting this ever since he had been led into the dull yellow brick room with the fairly obvious two-way mirror.  “Peter Hamlin.”

Escobar froze.  It had been a day of remarkable coincidences already.  Could this possibly be one more?  “Is your mother . . . Joan Hamlin?”

The boy raised his head.  He had the look of someone who has told himself he isn’t going to let anything else surprise him that day but has just failed to not be surprised.  “Yes . . .”

Escobar became a scale.  In each hand, he held something that he believed he could not do without.  For a long minute, the hands remained in balance.

The scale tilted.  “You’re free to go,” Officer Escobar heard himself say as he passed the squirrel across the table.

The System was all well and good, but he could never cause Joan Hamlin to suffer.

Peter took the panicking squirrel and stood.  He walked to the door slowly, as if he thought one misstep could land him in trouble deeper than he had ever imagined.

“Wait,” said Escobar.

The boy’s eyes closed regretfully.

Escobar really wasn’t trying to be cruel; he was just wrestling with the decision.  He knew that it was against regulations.  He knew that Officer Tang might very well murder him for it (she would say it was justified).  But he saw an opportunity to truly help someone in need, and those don’t come along very often, no matter what your job is.

“Now . . . is there anything I can help you with?”

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