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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A Pittsburgher in the Really Big City


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Yeah, yeah, I'm inspired


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He knows if yinz is a jagoff


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The Carbolic Smoke Ball
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Friday, November 18, 2005

First case of fatal Avian Flu in Florida


(Thanks to Sharon Stawski)

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Thursday, November 17, 2005

Maybe they should have beamed him up...

HOLLYWOOD - A rocket which will blast the ashes of Star Trek star James Doohan into space has had its take-off delayed because of engine trouble.

The Falcon One was to take the remains of Doohan, who played engineer Montgomery "Scotty" Scott aboard the fictional Starship Enterprise, from California into space next month but the launch is now scheduled for January instead.

Charles Chafer of Space Services Inc says, "They had an engine test they didn't like so they will do another month of testing."

Canadian born Doohan died in July at the age of 85, and had asked that his ashes be sent to the final frontier when he was gone.

(Copyright World Entertainment News Network All Rights Reserved.)

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So, how's *your* morning? Part II

The internet connection is up. Sort of. The computers are talking to the net just fine, but the Inter-Tel IP phone isn't; it's going through repeated failed attempts to connect to the switch back at my employer's location in Chicago.

I returned to Pittsburgh full-time at the beginning of this month, and my employer thoughtfully provided an Internet Protocol phone that makes the device function as if I were sitting at my desk in my Chicago office. Two weeks ago I plugged the thing into my router and bingo, instant communications.

But on Monday, it started acting flaky. I've gone through all the steps, testing the modem, router, cables and feng shui of my desk. It says it can't connect to the IP address of the Chicago switch.

Hmm. Sounds like another potential Comcastrophe to me.

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So, how's *your* morning? Part I

At 3:30 am, I'm awakened by both the dog and cat, who are huddled in terror at the end of the couch.

The dog is only afraid of thunderstorms and the cat, and the cat fears nothing, so this is Not a Good Thing. I roll off the couch and both animals immediately head for the cellar, glancing back to make certain that I'm following.

This is Really Not a Good Thing.

The cellar office looks intact, and at first sight the laundry room appears fine as well. Then I notice the puddle of water around the drain, leading back toward the furnace.

Damn. Damn. Damn. Judging from the pattern of the water spray, the freaking humidifier has apparently been leaking. The electronic air cleaner is soaked (nothing like pouring hard water over ionizing wires charged at 6000 volts DC), the spilled clay in the area of the cat box has a quicksand like consistency, and some clothes on the floor are soaked.

I turn off the humidifer and stare stupidly at the furnace until it fires up, to confirm the damned thing isn't leaking again. The dog and cat, satisfied, return upstairs to sleep, leaving me alone in the wet, dank, malfunctioning bowels of the house.

I guess they figured they had done their duty. Good thing they're not farm animals. They wouldn't let you know that Timmy was stuck in the well until his bloated carcass caused the cistern to back up and flood the lower forty.

Well, I'm up. What other disasters await?

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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Those guys in the Patent Office have been watching old Star Trek episodes again...

Either that, or they're smoking the good stuff.

Space Vehicle Propelled by the Pressure of Inflationary Vacuum State is, quite possibly, the only U.S. patent that mentions cavorite.

Given the patent office's rather relaxed review and approval procedures, I'm going to see if I can get a patent on stupidity. The royalties from the government alone should be spectacular.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Overheard in the office...

Boss: Why hasn't the mail come in yet?

HR: We have a new postal carrier and she hasn't come in yet.

Boss: Is she nice looking?

HR: Well, she's inconsistent. Sometimes she delivers at 2:30, sometimes it's 1:00.

Boss: What has that got to do with how she looks?

HR: It doesn't. Welcome to HR.

81 Apsley Street
Hudson, Massachusetts

More good stuff at Overheard in the Office

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Monday, November 14, 2005

It's a Comcastrophe!

Disregarding my prior experience with Comcast digital cable in Chicago, I decided to "upgrade" our home service in South Park from basic analog cable to full buzzword compliance: on-demand, digital, dual-tuner DVR, the whole shebang.

What a Comcastrophe.

It took three visits from the installer and two different DVRs to get the service working right- well, not right, but at a level which did not invoke rage when attempting to watch anything.

Ah, where to begin? The digital cable box/digital video recorder itself: a hideous, silver, retro-styled device manufactured by Motorola which throws out more heat than a toaster oven and sports a hard drive that sounds like a fully loaded, out-of-control freight train going downhill through a tunnel.

When the DVR turns on to begin recording, it mutes the audio; actually not a bad feature, since it prevents getting accidentally blasted if you forgot to turn off your audio system. Unfortunately, the remote isn't programmed properly upon delivery- there's no way to turn off the mute. It took a call to Comcast customer service to get the codes necessary to enable full mute control.

While I had her on the phone, I asked the rep for the programming code to enable the 30 second skip-ahead function. One of the reasons for getting a DVR is to enjoy bouncing through commercials. The remote has a 30-second backward skip, which allows one to re-watch commercials, I guess, but no forward skip. The rep said the unit didn't have forward skip. Horse hockey. I jumped on the Internet and found a site that listed all the control codes for the DVR, and in a few minutes I had a DVR with all the functions I wanted.

Well, not quite.

A DVR supposedly permits you to tape, for example, every episode of The Daily Show. There's an option that directs the DVR to record every broadcast, or just new episodes. Unfortunately, the programming guide Comcast uses isn't compatible with their own DVR software, which means the DVR can't tell the difference between new shows and repeats. I discovered this when I checked the DVR after I returned from a two-week business trip and discovered I had recorded not eight new episodes of The Daily Show, but had nearly filled up the device by recording every episode Comedy Central had aired during my absence. And they re-run The Daily Show a lot.

Hmm, what else? Sometimes when you turn on the DVR, you're presented with a black screen. The only way to watch any cable channels is to first pick a recorded program and press play, then exit back to the cable channels.

About once every three days or so the unit completely freezes up. The only way to get it working again is to unplug it, wait a minute, and plug it back in. This causes the program guide to disappear from memory, and it takes about an hour or so for the data to trickle back into the device. You don't lose any recorded shows and you can watch cable channels, but the program guide presents you with several days of "To Be Announced" listings on all the channels.

The quality of the picture varies wildly, especially on the basic cable analog channels, and the concept of uniform audio output is apparently beyond Comcast's understanding. Watch an on-demand or pay-per-view program, and you have to crank the audio all the way up. Switch back to a cable television channel, and you're leaping for the remote to prevent your ears from bleeding. Not a good thing, especially considering the involuntary action of the cat's claws when it's terrified by a sudden loud noise while sleeping in your lap.

Of course, there are upsides, specifically the ability to watch stuff when I want, and to jump over interminable commercial breaks. It's a great time-saver. It takes only about 41 minutes to watch a one-hour primetime program without commercials. Early every morning I watch the prior evening's Daily Show, Leno, Letterman and O'Brien monologues in under an hour. The DVR has a dual tuner, which means I can record two shows at the same time. In fact, I can record two shows while watching a third.

Still, the maddening shortcomings of Comcast's service versus the convenience of the DVR and On Demand is very close to the tipping point.

I guess I'll hang on for the remainder of the trial period and see what happens. Maybe Comcast will update the software in the DVR to eliminate the outstanding bugs.

But I still have a DirecTV dish on the back of the house, and it's looking more and more attractive. I dropped it for budgetary reasons in 2000 after five years of flawless service. Now DirecTV has local stations and its own DVR. Hmm...

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Copyright © 1987-2014 by Kevin G. Barkes
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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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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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