Conceived above a saloon, delivered into this world by a masked man identified by his heavily sedated mother as Captain Video, raised by a kindly West Virginian woman, a mild-mannered former reporter with modest delusions of grandeur and no tolerance of idiots and the intellectually dishonest.


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Friday, October 25, 2002

And your little dog, too...

I think there are some people who spend their lives waiting to be offended.
-Rudy Giuliani

Three days after I returned to my apartment in Chicago, I found a note from the management office under my door.

Addressed to all residents on the floor, it said that, in essence, someone was complaining about the smell of cigarette smoke. The note suggested various actions that could be taken to reduce and/or eliminate the odor.

This is how I can tell that a new person has moved onto the floor. The other way is when I exit the elevator after returning from work and my nostrils are assailed by the stench of some new exotic ethnic food. At least I hope it's food, and not one of Jeffrey Dahmer's relatives movin' on up.

I have one neighbor who has never cooked a meal not containing curry as its main ingredient. Another boils pigs feet every other night or so, it seems. Still another apparently likes to eat prodigious quantities of garlic toast. For breakfast.

Of course, in our politically correct society, one would never even consider complaining to the inconsiderate dolts responsible for these egregious olfactory assaults, since it would indicate (gasp!) intolerance of their cherished ethnicity.

That leaves only one target: the cigarette smoker.

Well, I smoke. I've quit several times, most recently last month. I've actually cut down substantially, to less than half a pack a day. I would have probably quit completely by now, but the damned nicotine patches are too expensive. But that's another rant.

And while I am a smoker, I'm not an inconsiderate boor. Before I signed the rental agreement, I made certain the lease permitted smoking in one's apartment. I had to check, because I had noticed during my tour that all the public areas in the complex were non-smoking. Smoking is even prohibited within 50 feet of the front door of the building.

So, when the note arrived, I tried to be neighborly. I opened one of the windows in my apartment, despite the 40 degree temperature; turned on a fan; and went so far as to stuff a towel under the front door.

The knock came at about 9:30 p.m.

I opened the door. Standing before me was a beautiful blonde girl in her early 20s.

From previous experience with beautiful blonde girls in their early 20s- specifically, my daughter- I knew this was not going to be pleasant.

Hell hath no fury like an attractive obsessive/compulsive 20-something female (1) in her first real apartment, (2) who feels her personal space has been invaded, and (3) senses some politically incorrect activity in her vicinity that must be immediately halted for the good of humanity.

"Excuse me," she said, in her enchanting, lilting 20-something blonde voice, "but do you smoke?"

I admitted I did. Then I pointed out that my window was open, that I had a fan exhausting the room air to the outside, and that I even stuffed a towel under the door. (I am nothing if not considerate.)

"Well," she said, "I'm sorry, but it's still bothering me."

I did not inquire if it was the smell of smoke creating her discomfort, or the mere knowledge that someone had the audacity to engage in an activity of which she did not approve, thereby impinging on the fragile subspace bubble of her solipsistic existence.

Indeed, I said nothing. After an uncomfortable pause, she asked, "What are we going to do about this?"

I could have talked about personal freedoms, the fact that my lease explicitly gives me the right to smoke in my apartment, that if she was so sensitive to smoke she should have rented an apartment in a non-smoking building.

But I had dealt with her type before. I knew that every rational response would result in a rational retort. I'm a child of the 60s. I can do self-righteous indignation as well as anyone, and I know how tedious and pointless it can be. I did not want to engage in a lengthy debate I could never win, one that would significantly reduce my quality smoking time. I needed to terminate this discussion, and quickly. So I said, simply:

"I don't know what you're going to do, but every time you complain about my smoking, I'm going to find a cute little puppy... and kill it."

I smiled and closed the door.

And then I baked a nice vegetarian pizza, with lots of garlic.

But I waited until 3 a.m.

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Thursday, October 24, 2002

Modern technology, old-fashioned incompetence

Fifteen cents of every twenty-cent stamp goes for storage.-Louis Rukeyser

My rapid return to Pittsburgh in late August made it impossible for me to visit the post office in Chicago prior to my departure and extended absence. So, availing myself of the wonders of the Internet Age, I used the USPS web site to temporarily have my first class mail sent back home.

I had to pay a $1 fee, charged to my credit card, to place the web-based forwarding order. The charge appeared on my bank statement the next day, and within the specified time, a printed notice confirming the change arrived at my Pittsburgh address.

That was the only piece of first-class mail I received for 45 days.

I didn't call to complain; I was afraid doing so would result in my mail being lost forever. Upon my return to Chicago I was relieved to see my correspondence was stuffed in my mailbox. At least it didn't get forwarded to Purgatory.

At that point I called the Post Office to complain. A customer service rep with a G.W. Bush-like mastery of English ("We don't have no record of no forwarding order") took my info and said someone would be in touch. Within an hour, I had a call from the somewhat confused Postmaster of the South Park, PA post office (a competent, well-run operation, incidentally). Neither of us could figure out why the complaint had been directed to his attention, since the forwarding snafu was Chicago's responsibility. (Check here for more postal follies.)

It's nice to know that even though the Post Office has embraced advanced technology, it still provides the traditional level of service to which we've all become accustomed.

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Wednesday, October 23, 2002

Focus on this, pal.

The only time I listen to the radio is when I'm back in Pittsburgh, cruising South Park with my best girl. I generally listen to the all-news station, which runs lots of ads and infomercials for various health supplements of questionable efficacy.

One that did pique my interest was for a product called Focus Factor, which supposedly improves one's concentration and short-term memory.

As a typical baby boomer who can recall the lyrics to all pre-1972 Motown songs but isn't quite certain whether he remembered to put on his socks this morning, I was tempted to give it a shot. This, despite the knowledge the primary result of taking vitamins and food supplements is very expensive urine.

Now, you'd think a company marketing a memory aid to quasi-senescent forty-somethings would pick an easy to remember toll-free number, with a mnemonic hook like 800-OLD-FART or 800-DUMBASS. Especially since the ad is aimed at listeners who're driving in their cars without easy access to paper and pencil.

Not these rocket scientists. Their number is 1-800-seven totally random numbers having absolutely no discernible or memorable pattern. Makes you wonder if they applied the same care in the formulation of their product.

So, I've never purchased Focus Factor and I probably never will. Not because of the phone number snafu; a friend at work was taking it for a while but stopped because he couldn't remember where he put the bottle.

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Tuesday, October 22, 2002

Wonder who's his agent?

Infinity Broadcasting may have Don Imus and Howard Stern, but rival Clear Channel Communications has the Son of God himself hosting a Sunday morning call-in talk show. in (where else?) Los Angeles.

Terms of the Big Guy's contract aren't available and so far there's no talk of a syndication deal.

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Too Stupid To Live

The human race is doomed to eventual extermination because of the way we're screwing around with genetics.

I'm not talking about genetically engineered food or other high-tech manipulation of the basic building blocks of life. I'm not even talking about eyeglasses or insulin for diabetics or other medical intervention methods. It's more fundamental than that.

Put simply, we're allowing stupid people to breed, thereby increasing the percentage of stupid people in the population.

For example, take the package of frozen soft pretzels I bought today. The package contains six pretzels and one large packet of salt, upon which is printed in bold type:

Do not use entire salt package unless heating entire box of pretzels.

Now, is this warning really necessary? Would a normal person dump three ounces of salt on a single pretzel? I maintain anyone dumb enough to do that deserves a stroke, heart attack, osteoporosis, gastric cancer or whatever other ailment associated with excessive salt intake.

The packaging also warns that the plastic bag containing the pretzels is not a toy.

The box itself should probably also contain a disclaimer warning users that it is not an acceptable flotation device.

I suggest manufacturers just print the following on their product packaging, a handy little generic warning I found during my Internet explorations:

CAUTION: This product exerts a force on every other object in the Universe, proportional to the product of their masses divided by the square of the distance between them, center to center.

That ought to just about cover it.

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Monday, October 21, 2002

Back in Chicago

I've returned to Chicago following the missus' fairly rapid and successful recovery from bypass surgery.

The only disturbing thing I discovered upon my arrival was that the supermarket in my apartment building is no longer selling Swanson? Hungry Man? Boneless Pork dinners, consisting of rib shaped patties in Open Pit? barbecue sauce with mashed potatoes, corn and apple crumb dessert. The Boneless Pork flavor was the only Hungry Man dinner the market sold, which made me wonder what you would do if you were a Hungry Man of the Jewish persuasion.

I think it's just a matter of demographics. I suspect I'm much older than the average resident here. The market also features 16 different types of condoms and only two varieties of denture cleaner.

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Violators will be prosecuted.
So there.  
The kgb@kgb.com e-mail address is now something other than kgb@kgb.com saga.
kgbreport.com used to be kgb.com until December, 2007 when the domain name broker Trout Zimmer made an offer I couldn't refuse. Giving up kgb.com and adopting kgbreport.com created a significant problem, however. I had acquired the kgb.com domain name in 1993, and had since that time used kgb@kgb.com as my sole e-mail address. How to let people know that kgb@kgb.com was no longer kgb@kgb.com but rather kgbarkes@gmail.com which is longer than kgb@kgb.com and more letters to type than kgb@kgb.com and somehow less aesthetically pleasing than kgb@kgb.com but actually just as functional as kgb@kgb.com? I sent e-mails from the kgb@kgb.com address to just about everybody I knew who had used kgb@kgb.com in the past decade and a half but noticed that some people just didn't seem to get the word about the kgb@kgb.com change. So it occurred to me that if I were generate some literate, valid text in which kgb@kgb.com was repeated numerous times and posted it on a bunch of different pages- say, a blog indexed by Google- that someone looking for kgb@kgb.com would notice this paragraph repeated in hundreds of locations, would read it, and figure out that kgb@kgb.com no longer is the kgb@kgb.com they thought it was. That's the theory, anyway. kgb@kgb.com. Ok, I'm done. Move along. Nothing to see here...

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