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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Saturday, November 23, 2002

What would Jesus drive?

"Start producing vehicles that are kinder to God's creation, and we will urge the faithful to buy them. "

Considering the effect on the transportation infrastructure should he return, I submit the question is nugatory.

That said, I see him in a '73 VW SuperBeetle. A convertible.

As Frank Lynch on the alt.quotations newsgroup observed: "He was a carpenter. He drove NAILS, for chrissakes!"

Speaking of cars and the afterlife, funeral clowns? I wonder if they all jam themselves into one of those itty-bitty cars for the trip to the cemetery?

But this is even more entertaining.

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Friday, November 22, 2002

Gallimaufries

If you think the proposed 10% tax on alcoholic beverages in Pittsburgh is oppressive, try buying take-out food in downtown Chicago. The tax on a sit-down meal is 8.75%, but if it's take-out, the rate jumps to 12.5%. There aren't that many here who grouse about it, though. At least there are things to do in downtown Chicago.

---

The riot gear fashion show 1,500 of Chicago's finest held for the benefit of that small and badly organized group of anti-globalization yahoos a few weeks ago cost the city $1.6 million, which works out to about $2,000 per protester. That's about the amount of sales tax I pay for a year of lunches.

---

I used to be able to sleep in two-hour increments, catching shuteye as necessary. I also had the ability to continue what I was doing prior to nodding off. When I had my own business in my home, I used to constantly amaze my office manager. She'd wake me up when she arrived, and I would immediately pick up my typing at the point I stopped.

Not anymore. I just can't function these days unless I have seven consecutive hours of sleep and an hour "warm-up" where I don't do anything more mentally challenging than relieving my bladder. Nature has a way of balancing things out, though. While I can no longer tolerate sleep deprivation, I have developed other abilities. I can now grow body hair in places I never did before, and in rather prodigious quantities.

---

This guy obviously saw Woody Allen's Bananas.

---

Do you think Michael Jackson's going to have a difficult time convincing his children that they are not adopted? I think the humane thing to do would be to tell them they were adopted. How'd you like to spend your tender years thinking you're eventually going to look like Wacko Jacko?

---

Passive activity income does not include the following: Income from an activity that is not a passive activity.
Instructions to IRS Form 8582, Passive Activity Loss Limitations

Thanks for clearing that up, guys.

---

Good old E.B. White pretty much nailed the concept of cable news back in the 50s:

Television hangs on the questionable theory that whatever happens anywhere should be sensed everywhere. If everyone is going to be able to see everything, in the long run all sights may lose whatever rarity value they once possessed, and it may well turn out that people, being able to see and hear practically everything, will be specially interested in almost nothing.

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Thursday, November 21, 2002

Please Stand By...

A distributed system is one in which the failure of a computer you didn't even know existed can render your own computer unusable.-Leslie Lamport

I'm experiencing some technical difficulties today, so no real post. Please check back tomorrow.

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Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Hu's On First?

by James Sherman

(We take you now to the Oval Office, where President Bush is meeting with National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice:)

George: Condi! Nice to see you. What's happening?

Condi: Sir, I have the report here about the new leader of China.

George: Great. Lay it on me.

Condi: Hu is the new leader of China.

George: That's what I want to know.

Condi: That's what I'm telling you.

George: That's what I'm asking you. Who is the new leader of China?

Condi: Yes.

George: I mean the fellow's name.

Condi: Hu.

George: The guy in China.

Condi: Hu.

George: The new leader of China.

Condi: Hu.

George: The Chinaman!

Condi: Hu is leading China.

George: Now whaddya asking me for?

Condi: I'm not asking you, I'm telling you! Hu is leading China!

George: Well, I'm asking you! Who is leading China?

Condi: That's the man's name, sir.

George: That's whose name?

Condi: Yes.

George: Will you or will you not tell me the name of the new leader of China?

Condi: Yes, sir.

George: Yassir? Yassir Arafat is in China? I thought he was in the Middle East.

Condi: That's correct.

George: Then who is in China?

Condi: Yes, sir.

George: Yassir is in China?

Condi: No, sir.

George: Then who is?

Condi: Yes sir.

George: Yassir?

Condi: No, sir.

George: Look, Condi. I need to know the name of the new leader of China. Get me the Secretary General of the U.N. on the phone.

Condi: Kofi?

George: No, thanks.

Condi: You want Kofi?

George: No.

Condi: You don't want Kofi?

George: No. But now that you mention it, I could use a glass of milk. And then get me the U.N.

Condi: Yes sir.

George: Not Yassir! The guy at the U.N.

Condi: Kofi?

George: Milk! Will you please make the call?

Condi: And call who?

George: Who is the guy at the U.N.?

Condi: Hu is the guy in China.

George: Will you stay out of China?!

Condi: Yes sir.

George: And stay out of the Middle East! Just get me the guy at the U.N.

Condi: Kofi.

George: All right! With cream and two sugars. Now get on the phone.

(Condi picks up the phone) Rice, here.

George: Rice? Good idea. And a couple of egg rolls, too. Maybe we should send some to the guy in China. And the Middle East. Can you get Chinese food in the Middle East?


(Thanks to David Browning for passing this along. It appears to be based on the famous Tonight Show sketch which featured Johnny Carson as then-President Ronald Reagan, which in turn was based on the famous Abbott & Costello comedy routine.)

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I like the cut of your gibberish.

Thread of the day. From Usenet; the last word is by Richard Rongstad:

> > >A Rush Limbaugh Question:
> > >
> > >"Who died from the oil in the Titanic?"
> > >- Rush Limbaugh, discussing oil spills by
> > >ships, Nov. 19, 2002, 11:39am PST.
> > >
> > >Answer: None. The Titanic used coal for fuel.
> >
> > And coal is what?
> >
> Touche!
>
> Nobody picked up on that one! Coal is basically just petrolium (sic) in another
> state.
 
Well gee! Then the Titanic sank to the bottom of the fog!

They said it better:

The massive new Homeland Security Department is just one big cognitive dissonance generator. Organizing the government's anti-terrorism forces in one coordinated agency certainly makes sense, but HSD already sounds like just another big pork barrel and special interest payment mechanism. And coming from the Republicans? Who'd have thought the party that constantly complains about big government and its intrusion into the personal lives of its citizens would be responsible for creating the largest, most intrusive agency ever seen by the Republic?

Here are some relevant quotations for your consideration. Discuss:

1984 was intended as a warning about the evils of totalitarianism- not a how-to manual.-Daniel Kurtzman

The course of history shows that as a government grows, liberty decreases.-Thomas Jefferson

I believe there's something out there watching over us. Unfortunately, it's the government.-Woody Allen

The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty.-John Adams

It's not fascism if the right people are in charge.-Adam Warren

A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government.-Edward Abbey

If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in five years there'd be a shortage of sand.-Milton Friedman

Government is like junior high. Your status depends upon whom you're able to persecute.-Jonathan Kellerman

Under current law, it is a crime for a private citizen to lie to a government official, but not for the government official to lie to the people.-Donald M. Fraser

A little government and a little luck are necessary in life; but only a fool trusts either of them.-P.J. O'Rourke

America is still a government of the naive, for the naive, and by the naive. He who does not know this, nor relish it, has no inkling of the nature of his country.-Christopher Morley

This is a government of the people, by the people and for the people no longer. It is a government of corporations, by corporations, and for corporations.-Rutherford B. Hayes

What experience and history teach is this: that people and governments have never learned anything from history.-Georg Hegel

All the public business in Congress now connects itself with intrigues, and there is great danger that the whole government will degenerate into a struggle of cabals.-John Quincy Adams

Americans used to roar like lions for liberty. Now we bleat like sheep for security.-Norman Vincent Peale

The government that can protect you from your enemies can be used as easily by your enemies to harm you.-Harry Browne

Government, which does not and did not grant us our rights, must not now seek to deny them by using fear as its justification.-Malcolm Wallop

They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty or safety.-Benjamin Franklin

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Tuesday, November 19, 2002

Mental dust bunnies

Where to begin...

I knew it would be impossible to see the Leonid meteor shower from my apartment in downtown Chicago, but I set the alarm anyway. Bolstered by 32 ounces of coffee, I turned off the lights and gazed upward at the appointed time. Nope. Too much light, haze and cloud cover. Then I learned they're visible in the southeast and, of course, my apartment faces northwest. At least the caffeine overdose did add sparking highlights to the floaters in my eyes.

Speaking of vision, my new eyeglass prescription has definitely improved mine, especially at close distances. The lenses and frames keep getting smaller, though, and now my eyebrows are totally exposed. The area below my forehead resembles two albino caterpillars resting on Coke bottles.

It's still discouraging when I clean my glasses to clear up my blurred vision and discover the blur is in my eyes, not the glasses.

Tomorrow morning when you wipe the sleep out of your eyes, consider this cheerful little observation by Philip Dow: "Death is patiently making my mask as I sleep. Each morning I awake to discover in the corners of my eyes the small tears of his wax." Nice, Phil. I'll stick with the Sandman concept.

The eight ounce package of Kraft Deli Deluxe swiss cheese I bought last night has the most inane label I've ever seen. A blurb on the bottom left corner boasts: "33% More! Than a 6 oz package." Well, duh. You know a bunch of guys with MBAs spent a week coming up with that one.

I think I walk in my sleep. I hope so. The alternate explanation for the string of toilet paper from the bed to the bathroom is one I don't want to consider.


(Reuters Photo)
Sorry to hear about James Coburn, who died today at 74. Coburn was one of those actors whose sheer personality and force of character made otherwise execrable films tolerable. I just saw him in Snow Dogs on cable, and his portrayal of the "Thunder Jack" character saved the movie for me. And every time my cell phone rings I'll remember his classic Flint movies.

Larry King is 69 today. King was the subject of one of my favorite Onion parodies and provides one of my favorite responses to annoying questions: "Watch Larry King tonight. If he's wearing suspenders, the answer is no."

Now medical experts are saying that it's not coffee, booze or cigarettes that cause heart attacks, but sustained hostile emotional attitudes. Maybe we have hostile emotional attitudes because you made us give up the freaking coffee, booze and cigarettes, you clueless white-frocked cretins!!!

Ah, to hell with it all. As Mel Brooks said, "If Shaw and Einstein couldn't beat death, what chance have I got? Practically none."

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Monday, November 18, 2002

I Have Issues

Essentially, it is better to, like, remain silent and be thought a fool, than, you know, to actually open your mouth and, basically, ummm, remove all doubt. (with apologies to George Eliot and conceptual credit to metafilter.com's Pracowity.

I use discourse markers. But, who doesn't?

I'm sorry. I couldn't resist.

Don't misunderstand me. I'm not one of those grammar snobs. The last english course I took was 31 years ago, and aside from nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions and conjunctions, the only other thing I remember is that words that end in -ing are gerunds if they're nouns, and present participles if they're not. And the technical term for the present participle of the F word, as in "the effing computer," is "meaningless intensive."

I dwell in the glass house of a conversational writing style and you only need scroll through the entries on this web site to view the cracked panes. As a high school friend once told me, "You write exactly the way you talk- incoherently," as the previous paragraph proves.

In my defense, I claim my crimes against the language are mere misdemeanors compared to the trio of felonies that are sweeping the nation: Basically, Actually, and Essentially.

I Googled1 around a bit and learned there are two types of fillers in speech. The first, the filled pause, consists of sounds people make that aren't words (um, ah, uh). These are used to indicate hesitation or to keep control of the conversation until the brain kicks in.

The second, which has become the bane of my existence, is the discourse marker, words or phrases that "serve as a structuring unit to mark a boundary in the discourse or as an indicator of a speaker?s attitude."

However, there are exceptions. The previous sentence is one. Most grammarians abhor beginning a sentence with "however", but in this case it's a functional discourse marker. It is used to alert the listener of an exception to the previous assertion, just as the coordinating conjunction "but" does in the prior sentence.

Still with me? Good.

Most discourse markers are excess baggage. Consider the quote at the top of this column:

Essentially, it is better to, like, remain silent and be thought a fool, than, you know, to actually open your mouth and, basically, ummm, remove all doubt.

Pull out the debris, and we have:

It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

Get my point?

Ronald Reagan is responsible for popularizing useless discourse markers: the man never uttered a sentence that didn't begin with "well". Paradoxically, while there are about 20 Reagan entries in my quotes database, only one starts with "Well." I believe this can be attributed to routine editing. Watch a live news program and turn on your television's closed captioning feature. You'll notice the captioner routinely discards nonessential filled pauses and discourse markers, except when they convey information. "Senator, did you know there was a video of you and the shaved llama?" "Uhhh....."

I maintain the former president demoted "well" from a discourse marker to a filled pause. At least he chose a monosyllabic word. People who begin every sentence with "basically," "actually," and "essentially" require three or four syllables to display their stupidity.

As with the use of "like," "you know," and "uh," the speaker is unaware of the pain he is inflicting upon his listeners. A former co-worker used the word "basically" as a discourse marker 31 times in a technical meeting. I finally pointed out that I had 20 years of experience in the field. He was baffled by my comment. When I explained he began every other sentence with "basically", implying I was so stupid he felt it necessary to simplify his statements for my benefit, he was clueless. "Actually, I wasn't aware of it," he said. "Essentially, you're a pompous idiot," I replied.

There are other equally offensive examples of word abuse that I find irksome. "Issue" instead of "problem," for instance. Sales types don't like to use the word "problem" because it sounds too negative and implies a defect. "Issue" seems to infer that our product is okay, but that the customer is misinterpreting the manner in which it is supposed to be used or is too stupid to read the documentation. Its abuse has resulted in "issue" meaning a problem is so horrific that calling it a "problem" is an understatement.

Another is "going forward," as in "Going forward, all reports will be issued in triplicate." As a character in Dilbert observed, thanks for ruling out time travel. I have enough problems.

Er, issues.

1 "Verbing weirds language."-Calvin, in Bill Watterson's Calvin & Hobbes

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Sunday, November 17, 2002

Fragments

The last name of famous American humorist Don Marquis is correctly pronounced "MAR kwiss." Which makes me wonder if I've been incorrectly pronouncing Mehitabel as well. Ira, if you're reading this, I'm disillusioned.

We're supposed to prepare for a non-specific attack of a spectacular nature. Why don't they just put Tom Ridge in a Jedi robe, push him out in front of the cameras, and have him delcare he senses a disturbance in The Force?

The President thinks it would be a Good Thing to privatize more government services. Look how well the private sector handled airport security.

It snowed in Chicago this morning. We got about a half-inch here in the downtown. The teevee's meteorological term for this is an "accumulation event". Oh, bite me. It snowed.

CBS News Sunday Morning.

Just watch it. Trust me.

If you have nothing to do on a Sunday, waste your time here.

Want a large clock display for your computer? Try this.

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All rights reserved.
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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Crystal Methodist


Laugh while you can, monkey-boy


I am a professional. Do not try this at home.


I canna change the laws of physics


As a matter of fact, I *am* the boss of you.
(as a matter of fact, i AM the boss of you.)


Truly great madness cannot be achieved without signficant intelligence


I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.


Left wing liberal nut job


Flies spread disease. Keep yours zipped.


Eff the ineffable, scrute the inscrutable.


If my answers frighten you then you should cease asking scary questions.


If evolution is just a theory, why am I surrounded by monkeys?


Nutrition makes me puke


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eat wisely


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