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, November 01, 2002

Ramblings

A Really Wrong Number. The phone call from one of the Washington, DC snipers to the police department, in which the operator tells the killer he's called the wrong department and offers to give him the correct number, is almost funny. Until you realize that five more persons were killed after the call. I'd hate to be that operator right now. What's sad is she was probably following the rules established by her superiors, who obviously didn't consider the effect of pissing off a cold-blooded murderer.

Ah, they're wussies. The temperature in Chicago this morning is 27 degrees, the first sub-freezing day of the season, I believe.

Chicagoans crack me up. They brag about how they nonchalantly endure some of the harshest winter weather in the U.S.

Bull. Chicago weather is Pittsburgh weather a day earlier. 27 degrees in Pittsburgh warrants a light coat. Some of the people out here are dressed like Inuit refugees, and it's only November 1.

Pass the gravy. A 20-year study reveals people haven't been affected by the Three Mile Island nuke accident. I'm certain they'll feel secure when they sit down for their Thanksgiving dinner this year to enjoy their three-legged turkey and twenty-pound cranberry. Pass the glowing gravy, please.

Lack of vision. I see the optometrist today. None too soon, either. My presbyopia has worsened considerably in the past two years and I really need a new prescription.

Our vision care plan at work covers lined trifocals, not the progressive lenses I prefer, so that's gonna cost extra. Also, have you noticed the frames covered by most insurance companies look like they're missing a phony nose and mustache?

Thank goodness an optometrist visit is far less invasive than a trip to my MD, who has suddenly taken what I consider to be an undue interest in the condition of my prostate.

Still, I'd hate to be a woman married to an optometrist. The honeymoon must be a killer: "Is it better this way? Or this way? This? Or this?"

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Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Sit. Stay. 'Til Death Do You Part.

A female columnist recently asked if men take a secret wedding vow not hear what their wives say during their marriage.

As a matter of fact, we do.

It occurs right after the silent oath the bride takes to forsake the use of simple, declarative sentences, to henceforth employ the spoken word not to communicate with her partner, but instead to bludgeon him insensate with endless, mind-numbing verbal ennui.

Prior to the wedding, couples' conversations deal with love and romance: arcane, abstract topics that lend themselves to rambling colloquies in which no real exchange of hard data occurs.

Once back from the honeymoon, when couples must deal with such mundane tasks as coordinating schedules, deciding the evening's entertainment or selecting the color for the guest bathroom, the male makes a terrifying discovery. Females talk about everything the same way they talk about romance.

Ask a man when he's going to return from a routine excursion and he'll give you a direct answer... "About two hours," he might say.

Ask a woman the same question, and she'll respond with a complex, detailed itinerary rivaling that of a head of state on a multinational trade mission. The only information she won't provide is the estimated time of her return.

"Uh, then what time will you be back?" the male asks again, somewhat sheepishly.

The female lets loose with one of those sighs. You know the kind I mean. The one with the inhale so deep it sucks all the air out of the room and causes the house pets to flee in sheer terror.

"You haven't heard a word I've said!" she exclaims venomously, storming out of the house.

No, you heard every word she said. All 342 of them, to be exact. But none of them had anything to do with your original question.

After a few years of painful conditioning, the male learns that if the answer to a question isn't contained in the first four or five minutes of his spouse's response, it just ain't gonna happen.

He also discovers that if he acts dumb, his spouse will, eventually, get to the point.

"My Aunt Minnie had arthritis, and moving her hands was sheer torture. She had to take a half-dozen anti-inflammatories over six months to maintain the mobility in her wrists..." will eventually be condensed to a simple, easy-to-follow, "Get your feet off the comforter Aunt Millie gave us last Christmas, you ignorant Philistine!"

One might have said so in the first place.

Married men also learn women are supposedly non-confrontational, which is a nice way of saying they won't ask you to do something directly, since that would acknowledge the vizier-like control they wield in your household.

Instead, a woman will make a "suggestion" that you are supposed to immediately recognize as the supreme executive order it really is.

She: "It was a madhouse at work today."

He: "Tell me about it. I didn't stop all day."

She: "We're out of cat food."

He: "We need ketchup, too."

The uninitiated may think this is random mealtime chatter. The man who's been married for more than a few years recognizes the male in our conversation was ordered by his wife to leap from the dinner table in mid-mastication and purchase cat food.

Not only did the poor sap in our example ignore his spouse's direct command, he compounded the error by mentioning the shortage of ketchup. This added insult to injury by impugning his wife's abilities as a homemaker, after she's already told him what a tough day she had at work. The thoughtless weasel!

The only thing worse than the endless fusillade of high frequency, low content blather is the inevitable silent treatment females invoke when verbal assaults fail. Apparently, women feel telepathy is a viable alternative to obscure spoken communication.

Wrong, ladies. I've gone through periods where the table lamps exploded from telekinetic overload, KDKA Radio's 50 thousand watt signal was jammed in a three block radius of the house and every spoon in the kitchen was damned near bent in half by my wife's intense mental emanations. But I still had no clue a) what I had done wrong, or b) what I was supposed to do to remedy the situation.

If I may be so bold as to offer a suggestion to our distaff brethren: talk to your husband as if you're talking to your dog. Use simple, one-word commands. Be consistent, use a friendly tone of voice and praise him when he obeys. You'll be amazed at the positive response.

If we're going to live in the doghouse, you might as well make it easy for us and use the indigenous language.

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More than my socks are odd

Since I have no taste in clothes, I rely on the slob's approach to attire: find something that's not grotesquely offensive, and stick with it.

Therefore, over 90 percent of wardrobe consists of solids, mostly black or navy blue, the exception being white dress shirts. It's been my experience you can never go wrong wearing a white oxford dress shirt, unless the lunch menu includes marinara sauce.

Socks are an entirely different matter. Aside from my sweat socks, all my socks are black. In fact, all the socks I own are identical pairs.

My wife attributes this to my obsessive/compulsive personality. The simple fact is I'm lazy, and I consider mating socks to be an inordinate waste of time, much in the way the missus considers mating... oh, never mind.

Every year, on or about my birthday, I throw out all my socks and buy new ones. Fourteen pair, to be precise. Through years of experience, I know that by the time my next birthday arrives, I will be down to ten pair or, even worse, 21 rather ratty-looking socks.

Where do the missing socks go? This is a mystery which has troubled mankind for ages. Indeed, a Google Search for "missing socks" produces 141,000 hits. "Missing nuclear weapons" generates a paltry 117,000. (Perhaps Saddam is hiding bombs in his Bridgedales.)

I was not going to take any chances this year. I counted the socks as I placed them in the washer. I counted them when I removed them from the washer. I counted them when I placed them in the dryer. (Hmmm... maybe I am a bit Monk-like here....)

I even stayed in the laundry room and watched the dryer for the entire 45 minute cycle to be certain none was purloined. When the dryer stopped, I opened the door, picked them out one by one... and counted 27 socks.

One sock was gone. I counted them when I put them in the dryer, so I know they were all there. I searched the still-hot drum to see if the AWOL sock was a victim of static cling. I checked the lint thingie. I even called building maintenance, telling them I was afraid the sock had somehow got into the works of the machine and I was afraid it would catch on fire.

The maintenance guy pulled the machine apart. No sock, although we did find enough lint to knit a cottony Great Dane along with some pencils, loose change and the odd shirt button.

So where did the sock go? I suspect the rotational motion of the dryer drum, in concert with the odd static electric charge present in all socks, creates some type of hyperspatial rift into which the sock disappears.

It could be that somewhere on a planet several light years away, there's a civilization being bombarded by odd socks which mysteriously drop from the sky.

It could be those mysterious black helicopters are actually composed of odd socks caught in the ether.

Or the typical errant sock could end up, as in my case, on the floor of the elevator in my office building, where it was inconspicuously peeled from the seat of my pants by a fellow worker who wished to spare me embarrassment.

Well, on the plus side, my reputation as an eccentric is still intact.

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Tuesday, October 29, 2002

Da Burg annat

This old chestnut has been making the rounds for quite a while, but it assumes a certain degree of poignancy when you're a native Pittsburgher living alone in downtown Chicago. I've made a few refinements, based on personal experience. Thanks to my former Dec Pro editor Lou Pilla for jogging my memory. And my apologies to those of you who don't get all the references.

You know you're from western Pennsylvania when:

The first day of buck season is a school holiday.

There are only three spices: salt, pepper and Heinz ketchup.

You have gum bands on your desk.

Driving is easier in winter because the potholes are filled with snow, even though the roads are slippy.

Words like hoagie, crick and pop actually mean something to you.

The phrase "fire hall wedding reception" is redundant.

You constantly refer to Pennsylvania as Pee-Ay.

You know where Blue Ball, Intercourse, Climax, Bird-in-hand, Beaver, Moon, Virginville, Paradise, Mars, Wall and Slippery Rock are, or at least you've heard of them.

You remember that there was no Winky's in Wilmerding from the ads on the Groovy QV.

You know several people who have hit deer more than once.

You often switch from heat to AC in the same day.

You routinely eat cold pizza for breakfast and know others who do the same.

You know what Reymer's Lemon Blennd is.

You've never seen a Walgreens in your life.

You immediately check your fly when told that "Kennywood's open."

The only place to get real jumbo, chipped ham and Klondikes was at Isaly's.

Your childhood dream was to cross the bridge with Ricki and Copper. Barring that, you wanted to meet Nosmo King or Rodney and Knish.

The experts call it North Midland U.S. English, but you know it's Pittsburghese.

You know city chicken contains no chicken.

If Shakespeare had been from Pittsburgh, Hamlet's soliloquy would have been "Or not."

You know what a State Store is.

Your waitress offers to redd up your table and hotten your coffee for yinz without axing her because she's being nebby.

You knew what a jagoff was before Dennis Miller made the term mainstream.

Your town has a Kerneggy liberry.

Duquesne is "du-Kane", but DuBois is "Doo-boys" and North Versailles is North "verSells."

You liked Josie Carey more than Mr. Rogers.

You consider Rolling Rock to be a second-rate beer from an obscure brewery. The only good thing in Latrobe is the Stillers Training Camp. Real men drink Arn.

You know "Casey" is Pennsylvanian for "Kennedy".

New Yorkers go to the Hamptons. Pittsburghers go to Tionesta.

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Monday, October 28, 2002

Take two aspirins and check the AP wire in the morning...

In the 1973 film Sleeper, Woody Allen goes into the hospital for a routine surgical procedure. The operation goes terribly wrong, and he's cryogenically preserved and revived in 2173.

Noting Allen's perpetual state of agitation, a doctor from the future offers him a cigarette to calm his nerves, stating authoritatively, "tobacco is one of the healthiest substances for the body."

The laugh comes from the absurdity of the line; tobacco was known to be a killer even 30 years ago. Yet recent developments in the laugh-a-minute world of medical research make it increasingly difficult to know which substances are killers, which are life-savers, and if today's physicians can tell the difference.

Consider aspirin. It was invented in 1897 by Felix Hoffman, a chemist at the Bayer company in Germany, but it was derived from willow bark, a treatment Hippocrates himself used in the fifth century B.C. In the 1970s, it was discovered aspirin blocked the body's production of prostaglandins, the substances that cause blood to clot; and that daily, small doses of the drug could prevent heart attack.

Physicians shunned the use of aspirin before or after bypass surgery, presumably because its anti-clotting action would increase the risk of complications and internal bleeding.

But in last week's New England Journal of Medicine, a study of 5,000 patients in 70 countries revealed that giving a 5-cent aspirin within hours of bypass surgery could prevent about 27,000 deaths and 51,000 serious complications annually worldwide. That would also save billions of dollars, given the lower complication rate and shorter hospital stays.

This is of particular interest to me because my wife had bypass surgery last month, and was strictly forbidden to take any aspirin or salicylate-based drugs. Instead of the 5 cent per dose aspirin treatment, she's been taking Plavix, the highly-advertised $3.22 per dose blood thinner.

Aside from sounding like something from a Jerry Lewis movie ("Hey laadeee... oooh, you broke my plavix!"), the new drug also has some potentially nasty side effects and there's an ongoing debate over the proper use of either drug.

Anyway, here's what bothers me: Aspirin's been around for more than a century. People have been taking willow bark for two and a half millennia. The first bypass surgery was done 40 years ago; now over 200,000 are done every year in the U.S. alone. And it's only now that they're getting around to actually testing aspirin?

Well, part of the reason is no big drug company owns a patent on aspirin. There's no money in it.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised. Every day there are scores of alleged breakthroughs and flip-flops. One day aspirin can kill you; the next day it can save your life. cranberry juice will keep your kids from getting ear and respiratory infections. Motrin, Aleve, and Tylenol may cause high blood pressure in women. Guess which drugs my wife's doctors prescribed for post-operative pain?

And, of course, we all know now that drinking eight glasses of water a day is just plain wrong.

Bah. The best written medical advice I've heard comes from writer Alex Levine, who observed "Only Irish coffee provides in a single glass all four essential food groups: alcohol, caffeine, sugar and fat."

At least Levine's diet insures you'll shuffle off this mortal coil with a smile on your face.

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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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