Granddaughter Leanna's last day of fourth grade.
Categories: KGB Family
Observations by and for the vaguely disenchanted.
Risking the wrath of the whatever
from high atop the thing since 1954.
Exactly ten years ago, this very minute, I was on a United Airlines 737, somewhere over Indiana, heading back to Pittsburgh to see my first grandchild, Leanna Renee, who had been born two hours earlier.
It's been ten years, and we still don't have personal jet packs.
Hard to believe, but my granddaughter Leanna turns 10 on April 23. Double digits!
(YouTube video: Leanna opens her present- a cell phone- and her mom asks a question.)
Categories: KGB Family
In life one has to go to the funerals of the people we like and the
birthdays of those we don't.
I'm attending my cousin Mary Lou's funeral today.
I have no words.
See you tomorrow.
YouTube video: Mary Lou Siesky
(Here I Am Lord," by the Purple Daisies,
Windover Hills UMC)
My cousin, Mary Lou (Kirmeyer) Siesky, unexpectedly passed away yesterday at her home in Greencastle, PA. She was 66.
Originally from Homestead, she was married to Milton J. Siesky for 46 years. She was the daughter of the late Edward and Dorothy Kirmeyer; sister of Bonnie (Dr. Reynolds) Brissenden, and Patricia (Louis) Theriault; godmother of Hollie (Richard) Ulanowicz and Halie Theriault; and niece of Dorothy Norris.
Family and friends will be received on Monday, April 8 from 10 am until 1 pm at the George Irvin Green Funeral Home Inc., 3511 Main Street, Munhall, PA, where services will be held on Monday, April 8 at 1:30 pm.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Light The Night Walk, via Adam Bence, 3434 York St., Munhall, PA 15120.
...that I had seven consecutive hours of sleep last night.
Since she started phenobarbital therapy for her focal seizures a little over a week ago, Lucy, our 15-year-old Sheltie, has had disrupted sleep patterns. Her active hours have been 2-4 pm and- unfortunately- 2-4 am. Because of her drug-induced confusion and ataxia, we had to make certain we were awake when she was so that she wouldn't injure herself.
She finally appears to be acclimating to the drug. She was more active yesterday, more alert, and she actually barked at me to let her out.
Last night we took all the dogs up to the bedroom and gated them in. I settled Lucy on the floor and she was out in under a minute. I followed soon after.
When the alarm went off this morning, she was in the exact position I had left her. As I crawled out of bed, she sat up, looked at me, and wagged her tail.
The normal morning constitutional followed- a trip outside, breakfast, another trip outside- then upstairs to spend the day with Cindy while I went to work.
The downside? Well, aside from this brief update, that's all I got for today. The sleep deprivation had fuzzed my brain as much as hers, and I'm finally sharp enough to jump back into a major programming effort.
Talk among yourselves. See you tomorrow.
...was 20 years ago today. Here's my then 15 year old daughter Sara digging out the front walk. The snow was heavier in the back of the house, almost up to her waist.
It's not unusual for me to wake up to discover Pumpkin, our 16-year-old black cat, asleep on my back.
But at 2:30 this morning, she wasn't sleeping. She was yelling in my ear while simultaneously embedding a single claw in my right arm.
Not enough to draw blood, but it certainly got my attention.
Once I sat up in bed and found my glasses, I saw her at the bedroom door. She yelled at me again, circled twice, then disappeared. I heard her bounding down the steps and into the kitchen.
I followed her and discovered our 15-year-old Sheltie, Lucy, lying next to the door leading to the cellar, beneath the child gate we put there to keep her from attempting to navigate the steps.
Lucy developed focal seizures this past Monday, and the phenobarbital that controls her condition has also knocked her for a loop. Until she becomes acclimated to the drug, the medication-induced ataxia has turned her into a friendly little Scottish drunk.
My guess is she decided she needed to go out, headed for the steps,and didn't notice the gate. When it fell on her, she decided she'd just lie there and sleep it off.
The stairs weren't blocked, so Pumpkin could have made it to the litter box with no problem. No ulterior motive- there's no doubt she knew her friend was in trouble and determined she needed someone with opposable thumbs to handle the situation.
Once I extricated Lucy and took her down to my office to spend the remainder of the night, Pumpkin positioned herself on a shelf under my desk unit, where she could watch the dog's inert form. She moved only when Lucy got up and started wandering around. The cat would sit down in front of Lucy, halting her progress. The dog would then lie down, give Pumpkin a wet kiss on the face and then pass out again.
I'm a definite dog person. But I have to admit, I'm starting to become rather impressed by felines as well.
The first day of seizure-inhibiting phenobarbital treatment really zonked her out, and she's still kinda stoned and shaky, but Lucy ate all her breakfast, had a long drink of water, did her business, and made her daily inspection of the back yard.
I'm not sure she even realized it snowed last night but hey, haven't we all had mornings like that?
The other two dogs and the two cats spent the night with me in my office. Lucy was the only one who really got any sleep. The lesser mammals are now all unconscious under my desk, while I have to spend the next eight to ten hours writing a MacroSPITBOL function definition to create, name, and populate multiple table structures at runtime.
That phenobarb is looking mighty attractive...
Lady Lucia (Lucy), the eldest of our Shelties, turned 15 last month. We've been wincing for the past year or so, wondering where the Geriatric Wheel of Misfortune would stop.
And the "winner" is- focal seizures. She started having 30-second episodes every 15 minutes or so last night.
She appears to be responding well to the anti-seizure medication. We'll probably be bringing her home today.
Fortunately, being an old curmudgeon has its benefits. I'm familiar with involuntary snarling and drooling.
And Lucy is one tough little broad. She keeps all the lesser mammals in line around here, and all she asks in return is to spend the evenings snoozing next to me on the couch.
The only difference tonight will be that we'll both be on meds.
Granddaughter Leanna (the redhead in glasses) with friends at her first fourth grade "social". The boys are hiding elsewhere in the gym.
Categories: KGB Family
...to my son Doug, who is 37 today; he missed being a Leap Year baby by about 15 minutes.
Other 2/28 birthdays: Ben Hecht, Linus Pauling, Vincente Minnelli, Bugsy Siegel, Milton Caniff, Billie Bird, Zero Mostel, Charles Durning, Gavin MacLeod, Foge Fazio, Tommy Tune, Mario Andretti, Joe South, Frank Bonner, Bubba Smith, Bernadette Peters, Mercedes Ruehl, Paul Krugman, Ricky Steamboat, Gilbert Gottfried, Jack Abramoff, Rae Dawn Chong, and Robert Sean Leonard.
And some of you question the validity of astrology...
Interesting note- when I was 37, Doug was a sophomore in high school.
Categories: KGB Family
Sassy awaits the arrival of Santa.
Riley prefers the long winter's nap.
Merry Christmas from Kevin and Cindy, Lucy, Sassy, and Riley (the Shelties) and Pumpkin and Chloe (the cats.)
Great=grandmother, grandfather, and granddaughter Leanna. There would have been four generations, but as my daughter Sara noted, somebody had to take the picture.
Categories: KGB Family
Kids, dogs, and snow. Granddaugter Lea and her best bud Bella enjoy the precipitation up north near Tionesta.
So, the car has a USB port and user access to its multi-function display? What could go wrong?
The post-ignition status display was slightly different. Fortunately, Cindy has a sense of humor in addition to being a Star Trek fan.
Clocks are easy to reset. Dogs and young grandchildren, not so much.
I say we split the difference. Adjust the clocks by 30 minutes, once, and be done with it. Let's stop this semiannual foolishness.
Thirty-five years ago today my daughter was born, and I was offered a job that profoundly changed my destiny. It started my career in typesetting, consulting, technical writing, and computer software.
I was hired as a typesetter at a legal/financial printing company because of my future boss' somewhat unconventional interviewing technique. He recited from memory a random lyric from the libretto of Jesus Christ Superstar; I was to respond with the next line. We did this for about ten minutes.
I nailed it.
I don't recall there actually being any typesetting-related questions during the interview. I don't think he even asked if I could type.
The point of all this is to remember Heinlein's admonition: specialization is for insects. While you should be an expert in at least one field, you should learn as much as you can about as many things as you can. Arcane knowledge can be useful, even though its acquisition can seem pointless. That funny-looking key you picked up a few years ago might eventually unlock a door leading to a totally unexpected opportunity.
PS: If I hadn't been familiar with Superstar, the next category would have been Star Trek.
Even a pragmatic humanist cannot deny destiny.
PPS: I really owe Tim Rice a nice thank you card.
Michelle's Cinnamon Mist
August 23, 1999 - September 4, 2012
One of the greatest gifts we receive from dogs is the tenderness they evoke in us. The disappointments of life, the injustices, the battering events that are beyond our control, and the betrayals we endure, from those we befriended and loved, can make us cynical and turn our hearts into flint– on which only the matches of anger and bitterness can be struck into flame. By their delight in being with us, the reliable sunniness of their disposition, the joy they bring to playtime, the curiosity with which they embrace each new experience, dogs can melt cynicism, and sweeten the bitter heart.
No matter how close we are to another person, few human relationships are as free from strife, disagreement, and frustration as is the relationship you have with a good dog. Few human beings give of themselves to another as a dog gives of itself. I also suspect that we cherish dogs because their unblemished souls make us wish- consciously or unconsciously- that we were as innocent as they are, and make us yearn for a place where innocence is universal and where the meanness, the betrayals, and the cruelties of this world are unknown.
Dogs' lives are short, too short, but you know that going in. You know the pain is coming, you're going to lose a dog, and there's going to be great anguish, so you live fully in the moment with her, never fail to share her joy or delight in her innocence, because you can't support the illusion that a dog can be your lifelong companion. There's such beauty in the hard honesty of that, in accepting and giving love while always aware that it comes with an unbearable price. Maybe loving dogs is a way we do penance for all the other illusions we allow ourselves and the mistakes we make because of those illusions.
When you have dogs, you witness their uncomplaining acceptance of
suffering, their bright desire to make the most of life in spite of the
limitations of age and disease, their calm awareness of the approaching
end when their final hours come. They accept death with a grace that I
hope I will one day be brave enough to muster.
Stuff that caught my eye this week:
Of course, the new Eastwood meme:
My son Doug and my daughter-in-law Angela
Family and cute animals::
Bella keeps a stiff upper lip as she prepares to watch my granddaughter Leanna depart for the first day of fourth grade.
The Jet Propulsion Laboratory Curiosity Mars Lander Team visits the cast of The Big Bang Theory:
Mitt Romney was promised that he'd get the majority of delegates in the GOP primaries and would be the presumptive nominee. The guy with the ruddy complexion, sulfurous b.o. and pointed prehensile tail didn't actually say he'd get the nomination. Always read the small print before you sign anything, Mittens. Especially in blood. (Wasn't a variation of this an old Twilight Zone episode?)
The Internet is run by a guy named Heisenberg, and his principles are
-Kevin G. Barkes
Expect a resolution in short order to the Viacom-DirecTV dispute. My mother discovered yesterday that Jon Stewart's Daily Show was missing from her DVR. She was not amused, and called me prior to phoning DirecTV's customer service line. I think she just wanted to be certain that I was in town if she needed bail money. There are stiff penalties for using that kind of language on the telephone, even if you're an 85-year-old retired teacher with a vocabulary that spans two languages and can cause sailors to blush in either.
Speaking of DirecTV and The Daily Show, the program's staff constantly updated the satellite provider's customers on Twitter with Viacom shows they were missing during the blackout:
#OnViacomRightNow Latest episode of Spike TV's "World's Fullest Bras."
#OnViacomRightNow Teen Grandmom Season Premier!
#OnViacomRightNow Nazis vs. Martians on Deadliest Warrior. Go Nazis!
#OnViacomRightNow On Centric, that Soul Train Line dance your uncle was in.
#OnViacomRightNow "Harlan Oaklee's Meth Kitchen" premiere on Spike TV.
#OnViacomRightNow Rick Astley and Adam Ant host VH-1's "Hits of the Reagan Era" special.
#OnViacomRightNow The cast of "Real World: St. Thomas" clean their house and treat each other like human beings. Once in a lifetime, people!
#OnViacomRightNow Roseanne puts special surprise in the LunchBox's loose meat on TV Land. Meanwhile, Darlene broods.
#OnViacomRightNow Snooki tells Jersey Shore housemates she's pregnant, switches to white wine.
Also on Twitter, a Tea Party member called Keith Olberman a "douchback." Better than being a humpbag, I guess.
Andy Borowitz was on a roll, as well:
Judging from Internet comments, the only thing the right wing hates more than healthcare is spelling.
Having your movie attacked by Rush Limbaugh is like having your movie attacked by an obese drug addict.
McCain: "Romney had all his money hidden in Switzerland. Sarah Palin was better, because she had never heard of Switzerland."
I had never heard of Yahoo's new CEO, so I Googled her.
John McCain calls Obama's 1st term "the worst thing I've ever observed." I guess he didn't watch Katie Couric's interview with his VP pick.
To celebrate National Karma Day, a pack of wild dogs just strapped Mitt Romney to the roof of a car.
Bonus birthday quotes of the day- Hunter S. Thompson:
Hunter Stockton Thompson (July 18, 1937 – February 20, 2005) was an American journalist and author. He first came to popular attention with the publication of Hell's Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs (1966), although the work he remains best known for is Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1971), which was first serialised in Rolling Stone magazine.
Thompson became a counter cultural figure as the creator of "Gonzo Journalism," an experimental style of reporting where reporters involve themselves in the action to such a degree that they become central figures of their stories. He had an inveterate hatred of Richard Nixon, who he claimed represented "that dark, venal, and incurably violent side of the American character" and who he characterised in what many consider to be his best book, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail (1972). He was known also for his lifelong use of alcohol and illegal drugs; his love of firearms and his iconoclastic contempt for authoritarianism.
While suffering a bout of health problems, he committed suicide in 2005 at the age of 67.
The full Wikipedia article on Thompson is available here.
A collection of Thompson quotes from the KGB Quotations Database is available here.
"I was also drunk, crazy and heavily armed at all times. People trembled
and cursed when I came into a public room and started screaming in
-Hunter S. Thompson
Dogs are smart. I used to tell the shelties "hush, puppies" to quiet them. Today I meant to say "shush." but said "shoes" instead. They immediately quit barking. Tomorrow I'm going to try "stilettos."
It's become a bit of a tradition- the day before Father's Day, my kids take me to lunch and a movie. Last year we saw Green Lantern, which was ok, but nothing spectacular. Yesterday, we saw The Avengers.
I was not a Marvel fan as a kid, didn't (and don't) follow the Marvel universe, so I went into the show with no preconceptions, other than liking Robert Downey, Jr.'s first Iron Man film.
But I am a fan of Joss Whedon, specifically his Buffy The Vampire Slayer, so I had somewhat elevated hopes.
I wasn't disappointed.
Here are the four brief, almost throwaway scenes that made the whole thing worth the price of admission:
And what do you do after all the credits have rolled, and you've finished battling extraterrestrials and Norse demi-gods? Why, you stop off with your co-workers at the local restaurant for some shawarma:
The movie's made $1.5 billion worldwide so far. And they deserve every penny of it.
And thanks to my kiddos Doug and Sara, daughter-in-law Angela, and granddaughter Leanna for the cards, the lunch, the movie, and the always-scintillating conversation. You guys are the best.
My daughter-in-law Angela and son Doug celebrate Angela's graduation from nursing school. Angela ia an impressive lady. She already had a teaching degree from Pitt, and while there aced Russian Literature. She's a clinical research coordinator for the University of Pittsburgh. Doug is an investigator for BackTrack Reports. And one lucky guy.
Categories: KGB Family
Leanna Renee Salopek, arrived 5:31 am EDT on Wednesday, April 23, 2003 at St. Clair Hospital. Eight pounds even, 21 inches long. And red hair.
Categories: KGB Family
Sassy, our second-youngest Sheltie and the most rambunctious of the pups, turns eight today. We received a note from the folks at Valley Vet a month ago reminding us it was time for her annual check-up, and there was a new item on her exam list: geriatric blood test.
Sigh. We didn't tell her. Age is a state of mind, anyway.
"Just wait 16 minutes," I pleaded with him. "You'll have the same birthday as Superman!" But no. So instead of being six, my son Doug is 36 today. Other than that, things worked out pretty well. I mean, here it is, over three and a half decades later, and I still haven't run out of embarrassing photos. Happy birthday!
Categories: KGB Family
Speaking of which, Misty, our bumper sticker model, rides inside to the vet this morning to get her sutures removed. Hurrah!
And here's the scoop on Romney's animal cruelty.
Just returned from taking Misty to the emergency vet. She suddenly developed major problems in her right eye, the one being treated for secondary glaucoma. She'll probably have surgery later this morning. We're hoping she'll be home tomorrow night or Saturday at the latest.
No sense in trying to go to sleep at this point. I have a major project promised for tomorrow, and working helps to attenuate the worrying. A bit, anyway.
It's going to be a long day. Here's hoping it turns out well.
Ex-Marine, truck driver, and dog lover Raymond Francis Barkes (2/2/1924-10/9/1994) would have been 88 today and, I'm certain, still a hoot.
The good news: the medications significantly reduced Misty's blood pressure, intraocular pressure, and inflammation to the point she apppears to be in little or no pain. The doctor deferred removing her eye today.
The bad news: Misty's secondary glaucoma may be caused by systemic hypertension, which in turn may be caused by kidney disease. More specific tests have been done and sent to the lab. It'll be a few days until we get the results.
But for now, at least, I have a warm, happy, pain-free Sheltie and her three pack mates snoring comfortably at my feet.
I'm officially declaring: that this a good day; that Misty is a very, very good girl; and that, at least for today, I'm one lucky fella.
Dogs' lives are too short.
Their only fault, really.
Twenty years ago today, my family and I moved to our present house. It's the twelfth of 15 different places I've lived- permanently or temporarily- in my 57 years, but it's the place I think of when I think of "home."
Well, that's not entirely true. Home, I discovered several years ago, is that place in my memory where my grandmother cooks Thanksgiving dinner, my kids open their Christmas presents, my father watches the Pirates, and where there's always a dog or cat nearby. That's what's neat about home. It's not a physical place, it's a state of mind. You can be home just about anywhere. The house- or houses- provide a place in which to accumulate those experiences, but it's like the difference between a fine merlot and the container in which it's stored. We remember the wine, not the wine botle.
Happy 20th, house. Thanks for the memories. And I promise to get around to cleaning out your garage any day now.
My granddaughter Leanna's new eyeglasses emphasize her exquisite taste and help project a certain je ne sais quoi uncommon in a third grader.
Of course, she's wearing them primarily to begin establishing the secret identity she'll need when she becomes a fearless superhero.
What hath Tina Fey wrought?
February 15, 1997 - September 18, 2011
She possessed beauty without vanity;
dignity without pretentiousness;
intelligence without conceit;
strength without insolence;
loyalty without condition;
courage without ferocity;
love without reservation;
the virtues of humans
without their vices.
(Adapted from Lord Byron's epitaph for his dog)
I turned 57 yesterday. My favorite birthday-related quotation:
The older you get, the better you get. Unless you're a banana.
(Originally published on September 10, 2010.)
Earle Wittpenn died last year on my birthday. I've tried to write about him a dozen times since then.
I've failed miserably.
The problem is that I can't talk about Earle without talking about myself. What should be a tribute to the man who rescued me from potential oblivion and gave my life drive and direction, ends up sounding like self-aggrandizing drivel.
I had graduated from high school at 16 as class salutatorian and was scheduled to enter Duquesne University's journalism school in the fall. It was an exciting time. I had something most of my contemporaries appeared to lack- an actual career goal- and a clear path to achieve it.
It was not to be.
My parents' personal demons made another of their cyclical visits. I found myself with no way to pay for college and no job prospects. My paternal grandparents, who always took me in when my mother and father found themselves incapable or unwilling to shoulder their parental responsibilities, again provided shelter and encouragement.
The mother of my high school english teacher, Mrs. H., was incensed when she heard a family member of mine say "He'll never amount to anything without college." She coerced one of her relatives to give me a job as a veterinary assistant.
On the day of what should have been my first semester in journalism school, I was restraining dogs and cats and checking stool speciments for worm eggs. I actually enjoyed the work and learned a great deal. It kept me busy, provided a minimum wage income, and, as Mrs. H. noted, "it'll keep you floating until your ship comes by again."
During one of our conversations, Mrs. H. said she had seen a classified ad in the Daily Messenger for a reporter/photographer. I dismissed it out of hand. "I'm not qualified for that," I told her. "You should apply anyway," she said. "They'll probably say no. They might say yes. It's worth asking."
My interview was with Ralph, the city editor, and I could tell he was less than impressed by my meager resume. My journalism background consisted of being editor of the high school newspaper and having three articles published in Model Rocketry magazine.
I'd also written a weekly high school news column for the Messenger during my senior year, for which I received ten cents per column inch and $2 per photo. I showed the check stubs to Ralph. "Technically, I've already written for the Messenger," I said, "so I do have daily newspaper experience."
I swear I heard crickets in the ten seconds of silence that followed.
Ralph was exceedingly friendly, thanked me for coming, and promised he'd get back to me. Even at 17, I was perceptive enough to know that my immediate future would still involve furry mammals and centrifuged feces.
On the way down the Messenger's seemingly endless flight of steps I bumped into the paper's editor, Earle Wittpenn. "Mr. Barkes!" he said, "How the hell are you? How's Duquesne?" I was stunned he remembered my name, let alone my college choice.
Earle had taken me to lunch at the H&H Restaurant on Eighth Avenue in Homestead shortly before my graduation. He thanked me for writing the high school news column. He said he was impressed that I was the only high school contributor who had never missed a deadline, and that I had always submitted at least two usable photos every week.
He was also amused that I managed to include the high school honor roll in my column, which was submitted two days before the paper received the official list from the district. "How'd you manage that?" he asked. "I have contacts," I replied, in my best pre-Woodward and Bernstein conspiratorial tone.
He laughed, and said he didn't mind paying me ten cents an inch for a list of names he could get for free a few days later. "We scooped The Daily News", he chuckled. "That's worth two bucks."
As Earle paid the check, I boldly asked if there were any part-time openings at the paper. He put his hand on my shoulder, shook my hand, and told me that at 16, I was a bit too young. "See me in a year," he said.
Anyway, I told Earle about my situation and that I had just put in my application with Ralph. "How old are you?" Earle asked. "Seventeen," I replied, somewhat timidly.
"Well, I started when I was 17 and it worked out ok," he laughed. "Give Ralph a call and let him know when you can come in."
The rest, as they say, is history.
One very important lesson Earle taught me was recognizing one's limitations. "There's always someone better than you," he said. "Someone who comes up with the right words for a situation. If you can't do better yourself, then use what that person wrote, but be sure to give them the credit."
At the memorial service, Earle's nephew, Matt Phillips, ended his transcendent eulogy with the lyrics from "For Good", a song written by Stephen Schwartz for the musical Wicked. His words are far better than any I could cobble together:
I've heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return
Well, I don't know if I believe that's true
But I know I'm who I am today
Because I knew you.
It well may be
That we will never meet again
In this lifetime
So let me say before we part
So much of me
Is made of what I learned from you
You'll be with me
Like a handprint on my heart
And now whatever way our stories end
I know you have re-written mine
By being my friend.
As usual, Earle was right.
Misty is 12 today. She's the elegant, Lauren Bacall-ish member of our Sheltie pack. Time for a belly rub and a piece of toast...
Well, really, my granddaughter Leanna and her dog, Bella. The resemblance is striking, though. Next time I see her, I'm going to check for fins.
Don't you just hate doting grandparents who go on and on and on about their brilliant and beautiful grandchildren?
Tough. Deal with it.
Categories: KGB Family