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, January 17, 2004

It's probably all that Metamucil

Forget about weapons of mass destruction. Mother nature's about the pull the pin on Yellowstone Park. From what I can gather, a supervolcano is to a volcano as a blind pimple is to a pimple. A lot more painful, and widespread havoc ensues when it finally blows.

BILLINGS, Mont. -- Yellowstone National Park happens to be on top of one of the largest "super volcanoes" in the world. Geologists claim the Yellowstone Park area has been on a regular eruption cycle of 600,000 years. The last eruption was 640,000 years ago making the next one long overdue. This next eruption could be 2,500 times the size of the 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption. Volcanologists have been tracking the movement of magma under the park and have calculated that, in parts of Yellowstone, the ground has risen over seventy centimeters this century.

In July, 2003, Yellowstone Park rangers closed the entire Norris Geyser Basin because of deformation of the land and excessive high ground temperatures. There is an area that is 28 miles long by 7 miles wide that has bulged upward over five inches since 1996, and this year the ground temperature on that bulge has reached over 200 degrees (measured one inch below ground level).

There was no choice but to close off the entire area. Everything in this area is dying: The trees, flowers, grass and shrubs. A dead zone is developing and spreading outward. The animals are literally migrating out of the park.

Then during the last part of July one of the Park geologists discovered a huge bulge at the bottom of Yellowstone Lake. The bulge has already risen over 100 feet from the bottom of the lake and the water temperature at the surface of the bulge has reached 88 degrees and is still rising.

Keep in mind that Yellowstone Lake is a high mountain lake with very cold water temperatures. The Lake is now closed to the public. It is filled with dead fish floating everywhere. The same is true of the Yellowstone river and most of the other streams in the Park. Dead and dying fish are filling the water everywhere.

Many of the picnic areas in the Park have been closed and people visiting the Park usually stay but a few hours before leaving since the stench of sulfur is so strong they literally can't stand the smell.

The irony of all this is the silence by the news media and our government. Very little information is available from Yellowstone personnel or publications. What mainstream newsstories do appear underscore the likelihood of a massive volcanic eruption. Though geologists publicly admit Yellowstone is "overdue," they have been quoted as stating another massive magma release may not occur for 100,000 or 2 million years. Others close to the story are convinced that a massive eruption is imminent. A source that has demonstrated first-hand knowledge of the park's history and recent geothermal events stated the following: "The American people are not being told that the explosion of this 'super volcano' could happen at any moment. When Yellowstone does blow, some geologists predict that every living thing within six hundred miles is likely to die. The movement of magma has been detected just three-tenths of a mile below the bulging surface of the ground in Yellowstone raising concerns that this super volcano may erupt soon."

These guys are scientists, and they say it's no big deal.

But that's no fun. For those of you who miss the excitement of Y2K-induced cataclysms that never happened, check out these places:

BBC

We're talking biblical proportions here. Dogs and cats, living together... mass hysteria!

But we have some time... the Bible Code says we've got six more years. But then it's End of Days fire and brimstone... almost like a Jerry Bruckheimer movie.

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Don't stiff your dentist

Dentist ripped out my cap: patient

An Oak Lawn dentist is facing two counts of misdemeanor battery for allegedly ripping a tooth cap out of a female patient's mouth because he thought she owed him money, police reports say.

Dr. Leon Gombis, 64, of Palos Heights is accused of holding down Charlie Haynes-Eldridge of Homewood to forcibly remove a permanent cap from her mouth Dec. 16.

Oak Lawn police officially filed charges Friday against Gombis.

Gombis, moments after implanting the cap, misread his account records and thought Haynes-Eldridge, 58, owed him $200 for previous dental work, the report states.

Gombis then reached back into Haynes-Eldridge's mouth with pliers and yanked out the cap, Haynes-Eldridge said.

After an assistant told Gombis that Haynes-Eldridge was paid up, the dentist forced the cap back into his patient's mouth and stormed out of the room, the police report says.

Haynes-Eldridge said she was bleeding so much she spent the evening in the emergency room after reporting the incident at the Oak Lawn police station.

"I've never experienced anything like this before," she said.

Gombis, who practices out of the Oak Lawn Dental Lab office at 9101 Cicero Ave., has held an Illinois dental license for more than 40 years, records show. He has never had any disciplinary action against him.

Reached at his home, Gombis said police told him the charges likely would be dismissed.

"There's nothing to talk about," he said. "It's a nonincident. It's just nothing."

Oak Lawn Division Chief Mike Spellman said he doubted any police officer told Gombis the charges would be dropped.

"We can't file charges unless we think there's probable cause a crime was committed," he said.

Haynes-Eldridge and her husband, William Eldridge, said they had been willing to drop the charges if Gombis' dental office had written them a letter of apology.

"We are appalled he never bothered to apologize, that he's not remorseful," Eldridge said. "Nobody's going to treat my wife like that and get away with it."

Haynes-Eldridge said her mouth still hurt too much to talk for a long period of time.

Gombis is active in local and national Christian missionary communities.

He teaches adult religion classes at the Grace Fellowship Church in Oak Forest. He also sits on the boards of directors for Project MedSend, which helps send health care workers to needy countries, and SIM USA, which sends Christian missionaries to Africa, Asia and South America.

If a state review board thinks the charges against Gombis have merit, the dentist could have his license suspended or put on probation, said Neal Draznin, dental prosecutor for the Illinois Department of Public Regulation.

"I can't think of a case I've seen where a dentist pulled work from a patient's mouth because they thought the work wasn't paid for," said Draznin, who has overseen more than 200 disciplinary cases against dentists since 2000.

"That, quite frankly, is a new one for me," he said.

In addition to the license suspension, the state licensing department also could fine Gombis up to $10,000 and order him to attend anger management classes, Draznin said.

"It would probably be some mix of those things," he said.

(If he does lose his license, he could probably get a job as mob collector.)

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Friday, January 16, 2004

Someone ought to talk to the headline writer...

Wonder if they respect the lubricated ones as well?

Here's a great source for this kind of stuff, but the original and best source of news oddities is Chuck Shepard's News of the Weird.

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Federal anti-spam law: worse than nothing

It was called the "Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003" in order to give it the cute acronym CAN-SPAM. They should have called it the "Fairly Underwhelming Collection of Knuckleheadedly Useless Palliatives," for all the good it's doing.

The signal to noise ratio is simply amazing. The kgb.com spam filter collection 230 emails addressed to my mother and wife so far today. Actual legitimate e-mails: 1.

Phony e-mail sender name of the day: Casket E. Euthanasia.

Would you open an e-mail from this guy? The subject line said the missus had a greeting card waiting from Mr. Euthanasia. Inside was an explanation why "you shhould buy Geneeric V-i-a-g-r-a onlline" (sic).

No wonder she doesn't even bother checking her e-mail any more.

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Joan Crawford's long lost daughter found

Joan and Michael
(Thanks to Ernie Corl)

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Thursday, January 15, 2004

Bonfire of the inanities

"The only thing God didn't do to Job was give him a computer."-I.F. Stone

It was a marvelous plan, really. A 1K template file for all the pages on the site, with server side includes calling little text files. Elegant, modular design.

Of course, it didn't work.

First there was the quirk in Blogger (or perhaps Internet Explorer 6) that required me to close the browser and flush the cache before template modifications would take effect.

Then there were the random [Error processing directive]s which were apparently due to my web host's server being unable to process the SSIs fast enough.

Forget it. The page is as it is. It looks okay at the largest font setting in Explorer, which I hope means my mother can read everything. I put back the missing National Temperature Index link. I rewrote the backend quote processor to permit reformatting of the random quote.

That's it for me. A few nips and tucks over the weekend, maybe.

I really have no interest in watching Donald Trump and The Apprentice. I find observing young people obsessing on money, power and success to be depressing. They should set reasonable goals and find a nice, relaxing hobby. Like maintaining a web site.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Facelift in progress

I'm slowly redesigning the site, starting off with the main page. You may see some bizarre things as I tweak the html. You don't need to see my papers. These aren't the droids you're looking for. Move along.

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Commuter Follies

Item 1:

There's this Chinese restaurant I frequent on my way to the Red Line after work. I really should avoid this place, for two reasons: (1) Chinese food goes through me like Liquid Plumbr and (2) there's a male employee who works there who apparently lives in the mens room.

On each of my last three visits, this weenie had barricaded himself in the lavatory. A knock on the door resulted in "I cleaning... done in a minute". Last night, just like the other two times, I waited for five minutes and then, in desperation, used the ladies room.

This is one of those single-fixture type deals, so using the other gender's facilities did not really have any potential cataclysmic ramifications, other than odd looks I received when I exited.

But I admit I succumbed to potty rage. Prior to leaving, I vented my anger by committing an unspeakable act...

I left the seat up.

Item 2:

Although it's prohibited, there are lots of panhandlers on the CTA train system.

Most are inoffensive. Some are not. Especially irritating are those who choose to solicit during rush hour, squeezing through the crowded cars asking for change.

Even worse are those who feign a disability. A phony blind guy wandered into our car last night. A bad phony blind guy. I'm not aware of very many visually handicapped folks who are able to drop a quarter then retrieve it before it hits the ground. I can buy enhanced hearing, but not echo location.

Anyway, this loser does his whining act and ends up blocking the doorway. God and the Red Line wait for no man, however, and the doors closed on his cane. Without a thought, he glanced up and reflexively yanked the recessed manual door release handle and pulled the cane back into the car. He then glanced at me, realizing I had witnessed his error.

He looked at me, rubbed his eyes, proclaimed "Thank you, Jesus!", yanked the door release and disappeared into the night.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Better living through technology

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - A researcher from the University of Wisconsin at Madison has figured out a better way to slice cheese - just use a laser.

"At any other university, people would have just laughed. But this is Wisconsin. It's cheese. And this is no laughing matter," said Xiaochun Li, a mechanical engineering professor and laser expert.

Traditional cheese processing has a number of shortcomings, he said.

Large cutting machines require considerable care to keep cheese from becoming contaminated by bacteria. And it's impossible to slice cheese very thin because it tears or sticks to the cutting blade.

But now Li, working with engineering graduate student Hongseok Choi, has adapted the same kind of laser used for eye surgery to slice Wisconsin's most famed food product.

At first, Li tried using a traditional commercial laser that uses heat to cut by melting or evaporating; it fried the cheese.

"It smelled really bad," he said.

Li tried again using a new class of laser that emits light in ultraviolet, and therefore shorter, wavelengths. That laser, known as a cold laser, cuts by blasting apart the molecular bonds that hold materials together.

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Monday, January 12, 2004

Quote of the day

"I'm an old guy and I'm rich. There's nothing they can do to hurt me."
-former Treasury Secretary and good ol' Pittsburgher Paul O'Neill, when asked if he feared repercussions from the White House for his book, The Price of Loyalty.

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Temperature problems

While I really like the location and neighborhood of my apartment in Chicago, it has some infrastructure problems.

The place was built as a hotel around 1920, and I think it has the original heating and plumbing system.

Ah, the plumbing. Taking a shower is an adventure in temperature extremes. You know what it's like when you're at home in the shower, and some moron flushes the toilet or turns on the hot water? Now, multiply that by the several hundred apartments in the building, and you'll understand why all the residents look so alert when we go to work in the morning. The situation is exacerbated by my apartment's top floor location, which makes it extremely sensitive to variations in water pressure.

I'm not talking about a few degrees here. The hot and/or cold water cuts out completely at totally random intervals. You can go from 90 to 40 to 110 degrees, to no water, all in the span of just 5 seconds or so.

I'm toying with the idea of making a deal with the management to install a thermostatic valve in the shower... I'll buy it, if they install it. That's something of a concern as well, given the kitchen sink has the hot and cold water faucets reversed (hot on the right, cold on the left), it took two weeks to fix a natural gas leak in the apartment's stove, and the industrial strength tankless toilet sounds like the torpedo tube of a Los Angeles class submarine.

Maintaining the apartment temperature at less than sub-tropical temperature is also a challenge. I have the steam heat turned off in my apartment, but it still averages 76°. I have to open windows and turn on the air conditioning fan to keep the room tolerable.

This approach works unless the wind is coming from the north, off the lake, the direction in which my apartment faces. All the windows have to be closed, and quickly, to prevent total heat loss. This becomes problematic when one of Chicago's famous wind shifts occurs in the middle of the night. I've gone to bed with the thermometer at 74° and have been rudely awakened at 2 a.m. with the temperature hovering in the upper 40s.

On the plus side, it's saving me money. Not only is the rent here 25% below what I was paying for my downtown apartment, I no longer need coffee in the morning. If I'm not alert going into the shower, I am when I get out. Now I know how a lobster feels going from the tank into the pot on the stove.

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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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