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Cleaning off the desktop
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Published Sunday, February 09, 2014 @ 5:53 PM EST
Feb 09 2014

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I can communicate through a series of short & long groans & sighs. It's called 'morose code'.
-Robb Allen, @ItsRobbAllen (h/t David Kifer, alt.quotations)

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Somewhat alarmed to discover some teens don't recognize "Uncle Sam," I checked with my daughter about my soon to be 11 year old granddaughter's status:

KGB: Does Lea know who Uncle Sam is?

Sara: Oh, I think she would.

KGB: Ask her when convenient.

Sara: She said yes, it's the guy pointing and saying "I want you."

KGB: Excellent. Our nation is in good hands.

Sara: She said "Yes. Yes, it is."

Can't argue with that...>

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"I give them a year."
-Ray Bloch, musical director for "The Ed Sullivan Show," on the Beatles, when they made their first live appearance on American television 50 years ago.

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"Ah, hell. Let's call Froot Loops what they really are: Gay Cheerios."
-Bill Maher

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Those who feel that humans are essentially good and altruistic have never read the comment sections on YouTube.

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I actually used to date a girl named Christie Benghazi, so it's funny for me now when I flip between those two channels.
-John Fugelsang

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The Star Trek Facepalm collection, although I don't think Spock actually qualifies.

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“If we came from monkeys then why are there still monkeys?”

Let me ask you this: If you came from parents, why are there still parents?

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"Fortunes have been lost underestimating Jay Leno."
-Lorne Michaels


Categories: Cartoons, Cleaning off the desktop, Harrison Ford, Jay Leno, KGB Family, KGB Opinion, Linked In, Michael Collins, Miscellany, NASA, Star Trek, YouTube


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My Facebook Movie
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Published Wednesday, February 05, 2014 @ 11:41 AM EST
Feb 05 2014

Aside from the first photo, Facebook's automated movie generator did a fairly decent job.


Categories: Facebook, KGB, KGB Family, KGB Opinion


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The Hamilton Beach BrewStation® 40-Cup Urn (Model 40514): a review
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Published Monday, December 30, 2013 @ 11:29 AM EST
Dec 30 2013

I swear there's a person at Hamilton Beach whose sole function is to review products before they're manufactured to make certain each contains at least one maddeningly stupid design flaw.

The last Brewmaster® I owned had the dispensing spout so close to the side of the coffeemaker that you could only use "regular" thin-walled coffee cups. Have an insulated cup or one with a slight lip? Watch the amazing Brewmaster® as the coffee pours down the outside walls of your cup!

When I saw this model in the store, I thought... aha! An aluminium pot with a hole in the side! How can you possibly screw this up?

Oh, Hamilton Beach, you adorable knuckleheads... I underestimated you.


At ten cups, the flow slows to a trickle. At six cups, it's below the spout opening. But don't tip the pot, because safety!


This coffee is what's left below the spout opening. It exists to remind you that perfection is a goal to be attempted, not achieved.

As the photos show, at the ten cup mark (60 ounces, using the six-ounce coffee cup standard), the coffee level reaches the top of the spout and the flow slows to a maddening trickle. At four cups (24 ounces), the coffee level drops below the spout. Since the instructions admonish the user not to tip the pot, this means you're waiting forever for the last six accessible cups, and throwing away the remaining four.

So, you may ask, why buy this sterling example of a badly-engineered consumer product and recommend it to others?

Well, it's cheap. It's well-made. It brews ok. It keeps the coffee hot. Its irritating behavior doesn't begin until the bottom of the pot, at which point you should be sufficiently caffeinated to deal with it without flying into a seething rage or collapsing, sobbing uncontrollably, into a fetal position on the kitchen floor.

If your household drinks a lot of coffee, it's more convenient than making several 10-12 cup pots.

And in some perverse way, the fact each Hamilton Beach coffeemaker I've ever owned has had some dumb design element is somewhat endearing.

I picture a decent, dedicated guy in Ohio somewhere working feverishly to come up with the Next Great Thing and, just like Wile E. Coyote, being crushed when the first manufacturing run from China comes in and he realizes he just designed a coffee pot capable of dispensing only 90% of what it produces.

And then some middle manager-type, like Lumbergh in Office Space, saunters over to his cubicle and says, "Ah. Yeah. So I guess we should probably go ahead and have a little talk. Hmm?"

Hey guy, it happens. Hang in there. I'm rooting for you.

Which is why I keep buying HB coffeemakers. It gives me something to anticipate in my advancing years. I used to say I hope I live to see my grandchildren. Now I say I hope I live to see HB produce the perfect coffeemaker.

Who knows? Perhaps when I buy my next unit in two years (the average HB coffeemaker lifespan; about a nickel a day, which isn't bad), they'll have a 16 cup unit with a programmable timer, a spout design that accommodates cups of all sizes, and a pot that fully empties.

And, just for old times' sake, a power cord that's only three inches long.


Categories: KGB Opinion, WTF?


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Observation of the day
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Published Friday, December 20, 2013 @ 9:48 AM EST
Dec 20 2013

So we're dealing with the "free speech" stuff again.

The First Amendment says:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The First Amendment guarantees that the government can't control your speech.

It doesn't guarantee you freedom from the consequences of your speech.

The government won't punish you for posting on Facebook that your wife's new Christmas dress makes her ass look fat.

It doesn't have to.

>

"I'll tell you who I feel sorry for, folks... A&E. With this controversy, they may have just lost Duck Dynasty's massive black and gay audience."
-Stephen Colbert


Categories: Colbert Report, KGB Opinion, Observations, Stephen Colbert, Video


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Happy Constitution Day
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Published Tuesday, September 17, 2013 @ 7:12 AM EDT
Sep 17 2013

The U.S. Constitution and the Bible have a lot in common.

Few people have read them in their entirety; they are quoted out of context and cherry-picked; their official interpreters wear robes and issue pronouncements that sometimes benefit an entitled few or discriminate against women and minorities; and their decrees and commandments are simply ignored when they interfere with the interests of those in power.


Categories: KGB Opinion, U.S. Constitution


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Contrast and compare
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Published Tuesday, August 06, 2013 @ 12:53 AM EDT
Aug 06 2013

The Science Is Awesome page on Facebook noted in a post that the Curiosity rover has been on Mars for one year. It's measured radiation there, found dried up stream beds which shows Mars once had flowing water, became the first machine to drill into the surface of another planet, and has discovered some of the elements that are essential for life.

Meanwhile on Earth, the US House of Representatives has voted 40 times to repeal Obamacare.


Categories: KGB Opinion, NASA, Observations, Politics


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Apocalypsed out
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Published Saturday, July 20, 2013 @ 5:51 AM EDT
Jul 20 2013

With one exception, I've never cared for zombie movies.

The original Night of the Living Dead held my interest because it was filmed near Pittsburgh, featured Chiller Theatre host Bill Cardille, and contained realistic acting, like this classic scene:

While all horror films require a certain suspension of disbelief, zombie movies are especially hampered by their very premise.

Vampires, werewolves and other mythical creatures don't exist in nature and have no basis in science. They're fantasy, period, and all rules are off.

Zombies, however, fall into two categories: the traditional Night of the Living Dead-type, who are essentially reanimated corpses, and World War Z-type, who aren't zombies per se, but victims of some type of disease which cause them to develop unpleasant behavior disorders and odd dietary habits.

Zombies, by their very nature, are self-limiting. The processes which turn them into the walking dead insure their destruction. Rotting corpses lose their mobility after a while, and virulent rage-inducing fevers have a way of turning brains into fatty piles of slush incapable of seeing, hearing, or controlling voluntary muscle functions.

So the stories devolve into what are essentially simple chase movies. And even if the heroes "win," they're facing life in a post-apocalyptic hellhole where human civilization as we know it has ceased to exist.

That's entertainment?

I've had my fill of the apocalypse, regardless of its form. I don't find the collapse of civilization to be entertaining. And to those who say the handful of survivors bravely marching off into a horizon littered with rotting corpses and shattered infrastructure demonstrates man's indomitable spirit, I say bull. When the hero runs out of ammo and potable water, he's going to learn that it's difficult to manufacture antibiotics and water filtration systems with macho posturing, mixed martial arts skills, and a delusional sense of self-confidence.

"The future ain't what it used to be," the saying goes. That may be true, but I wish Hollywood would tone down the pessimism a bit. If I want to watch humankind's slide into dystopia, I'll just watch cable news.


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Adventures in motoring
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Published Sunday, June 30, 2013 @ 7:46 AM EDT
Jun 30 2013

I got a rental car over the weekend, and the subcompact model available was a 2013 Toyota Yaris.

It reminds me of my first car, a 1970 Volkswagen Beetle. Small, noisy- probably less of a death trap because of the front and side airbags- but somehow endearing in a "Little Train That Could" sort of way.

It has a trunk accessible through its hatchback, but that's being somewhat charitable. Like the brains of some congresspersons, it's there, it more or less functions, but it lacks the capacity to be of any practical use. I managed to lug a new lawn mower back home from the store last night, but it required dropping the back seats and a bit of acrobatics.

Toyota says the name is a combination of "ya," the German affirmative, and "charis," a Greek word for beauty and elegance. As in, "What do you think of my car?" "Cough.. Uh... yeah, beautiful and elegant. Snrk."

That's being unkind. Toyotas are known for their efficiency and longevity, and the reviews I saw online really had nothing bad to say about the car. And you have to admire the droll Japanese sense of humor:

140 miles per hour? Perhaps, if it's dropped from an airplane. There are YouTube videos showing people attaining 119 miles per hour on the Autobahn while traveling downhill with a tailwind, but it's not something I'd attempt.

Oh, and the car had Arkansas plates. Yee-haw!


Categories: KGB Opinion, Toyota


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Oh, please...
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Published Tuesday, June 25, 2013 @ 6:54 AM EDT
Jun 25 2013

"Doctors have reported a surge in cases of ‘digital dementia’ among young people.

"They say that teenagers have become so reliant on digital technology they are no longer able to remember everyday details such as their phone numbers. South Korean experts have found that those who rely more on technology suffer a deterioration in cognitive abilities more commonly seen in patients who have suffered a head injury or psychiatric illness."

Digital dementia?

Oh, please.

My daughter had problems reading analog clocks because she grew up surrounded with digital displays. I don't remember the phone numbers of the friends and business associates I've acquired since the advent of smartphones.

But- I remember the phone number of my mother, my kids, my family doctor, the local drug store. I remember my Pennsylvania drivers' license number.

We remember what we need to remember: what's important.

Brains are pretty smart. They learn things. They organically know there are limits to memory and, therefore, store and discard data based upon its importance and accessibility.

While I'm not as fanatical as some who have adopted his system, I agree with David Allen's Getting Things Done approach, which pretty much boils down to the rule: get stuff out of your brain and written down somewhere.

I have a daily to-do list in Microsoft Outlook that contains 30 tasks that need to be completed every day by 10 am. Some make fun of me for doing this, or say I need to simplify my life- but simplifying my life in a way that somehow still addresses their needs.

In any event, I've found that on days when I've neglected the list, I've forgotten at least three or four items on it- taking medication, making certain my cellphone is charged, reminding someone else of something they need to do that will affect me down the line.

A long time ago I realized that I didn't have to know everything, I just needed to know where to look. With the advent of Google and online search engines, the statement needs some modification: I don't need to know everything, I just need to know how to look. I learned how to phrase questions and build inquiries, so that my online searches return the precise information for which I'm looking, not pages and pages of irrelevant references.

Albert Einstein said, "A new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move toward higher levels." Should I develop the part of my brain that stores telephone numbers, or the part that stores knowledge about using systems that store far more information than I could ever possibly stuff into that fat-based, hormone-soaked chunk of wetwear between my ears?

And where did I leave my cellphone?

(Original article.)


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An incredible simulation!
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Published Tuesday, June 18, 2013 @ 6:22 AM EDT
Jun 18 2013

While getting a dish of Breyers ice cream last night, I noticed something odd... the package didn't say "ice cream."

Instead, in the lower right hand corner was the title "Frozen Dairy Dessert."

I visited the Breyers web site. The front page makes several references to ice cream, but no mention of frozen dairy dessert.

I eventually found what I was seeking, about halfway down the FAQ page:

Frozen Dairy Dessert products are made with many of the same high-quality ingredients that are commonly found in Ice Cream– like fresh milk, cream and sugar– and offer a great taste and even smoother texture. According to the FDA, in order for a product to be labeled ice cream, it needs to meet two key requirements:

· Not less than 10% dairy fat
· A percentage of overrun that results in a finished product weighing more than 4.5 pounds per gallon

Anything that does not meet both of those requirements is not considered ice cream.

5) Why did Breyers make the change to Frozen Dairy Dessert?

Our consumers are at the center of every recipe decision we make. We work hard to understand what people want most and work to give them the best possible product experience. People have told us they have various flavor or texture preferences. For example, some tell us that they want a smoother texture, which is what we’re able to deliver with our Frozen Dairy Dessert products.

Yeah, in addition to milk, cream, and sugar, I'd like five different types of gums and stabilizing agents.

And don't forget the corn syrup. Yum.

(New York Times article, "Ice Cream's Identity Crisis": "You might ask what the difference is between ice cream and a frozen dairy dessert, and I might answer that it is the same as the difference between a slice of American cheese and a slice of Kraft Singles American Pasteurized Prepared Cheese Product.")

And there's this, and also this:


Categories: Hypocrisy, KGB Opinion, WTF?


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Super.
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Published Sunday, June 16, 2013 @ 7:53 AM EDT
Jun 16 2013

Henry Cavill in Man of Steel

Given the surprising number of negative reviews, I was worried when the curtains widened and the stylized Warner Bros logo appeared at the beginning of Man of Steel.

The review aggregation site rottentomatoes.com had pegged the latest reboot of the Superman legend at a tepid 57%. But then, this was the same collection of critics who rated the execrable Star Trek: Into Darkness at an unfathomably favorable 87%. So I tried to be optimistic.

I find myself agreeing with the guy on the AMC Movie Talk YouTube channel who said, "My only explanation for why some critics didn't like the show... is perhaps their heads were so far up their asses that they couldn't see the movie screen."

Man of Steel is unlike previous incarnations of Superman. It isn't presented like a fairy tale. It's a solid science fiction epic, but one that requires far less suspension of disbelief than other entries in the relatively new cgi-based superhero genre.

This isn't the childish Superman who spins the world backward to reverse time, or gives Lois Lane amnesia by kissing her. The villain isn't trying to destroy California in order to make a killing in real estate, or forcing all the oil tankers in the world cruise in circles to jack up the price of gasoline.

This is the story of an extraterrestrial refugee with amazing abilities, raised by good people after he was stranded as an infant on an alien world. He has to decide whether to defend his adopted planet or watch its destruction at the hands of members of his own true race.

The criticisms I've read are disheartening. They mean some truly don't get the concept of Superman. They aren't bright enough to follow a straightforward narrative told partly in flashback to provide exposition and character motivation. They can't put aside the archaic "rules" that governed Superman's behavior, motivated not by a dedication to a higher moral code, but by the fear that government intervention would negatively affect comic book sales in the 1940s and 1950s.

My first memory of television is watching George Reeves pause at a storeroom door, remove his glasses, then hurl himself via a barely-concealed springboard into the monochromatic skies of a stock footage Los Angeles. That was probably around 1958.

It took them 55 years, but they finally got it right.


Categories: KGB Opinion, Superman


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Know your limitations
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Published Tuesday, March 26, 2013 @ 12:14 AM EDT
Mar 26 2013

(THE GIST) Multi-billionaire software pioneer, philanthropist, and current No. 2 on Forbes Magazine's "World's Richest People" List Bill Gates is putting some of his considerable largess to the task of making sex more enjoyable by funding the creation of a next generation condom.

Gates is offering $100,000 in grant money for ideas that will make condoms- already effective at preventing STDs- less effective at preventing male orgasm.

(He's not doing it himself because Windows showed he wasn't really very good at designing friendly or satisfying user interfaces.)


Categories: Bill Gates, KGB Opinion, WTF?


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Once in a while I get it right...
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Published Thursday, March 21, 2013 @ 5:25 AM EDT
Mar 21 2013

I've started referring to the proposed action against Iraq as Desert Storm 1.1, since it reminds me of a Microsoft upgrade: it's expensive, most people aren't sure they want it, and it probably won't work.
-Kevin G. Barkes (May 10, 2002)


Categories: KGB, KGB Opinion, KGB Quotations Database, Quotes of the day


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Hard sell
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Published Monday, January 07, 2013 @ 4:39 AM EST
Jan 07 2013

I received an invitation on Linked In from someone involved in one of those multi level marketing rackets. You know the routine: be your own boss, retire a millionaire, our product sells itself. Of course, if the product did indeed sell itself, it wouldn't need distributors and a "down line" and a never ending campaign for new suckers- er, "team members."

The product being sold is not the product, but books and DVDs and seminars which teach you the magic system that will make you wildly successful. And when you find yourself in the hole, credit cards maxed out and the mortgage due, it's not that the product didn't sell. Rather, it's because you didn't work hard enough or master the magic system. Here, we have a book and DVD for that- it's only $49.95.

My grandiose and deluded friend called himself a "Global Success Architect." I stuck the term into Google, and the search engine responded with:

"No results found for 'global success architect'."

Which is exactly what I expected.


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Coincidence?
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Published Sunday, January 06, 2013 @ 12:00 AM EST
Jan 06 2013

So I'm wandering the aisles at Giant Eagle and the missus, who is out of town, sends me a text message admonishing me to avoid buying junk food (not including, of course, the three-for-ten-dollars sale on Breyers' ice cream).

In fact, I had skipped the junk and was annoyed by her honest concern, which I chauvinistically perceived as condescending. Later, she reminded me to put the ice cream in the freezer immediately when I got home. Hey, I may not cook, but I am a freaking expert at the preparation and handling of frozen food, having subsisted primarily on pizza and Hungry Man dinners during my exile in Chicago.

I was sorely tempted to pick up a frozen strawberry cheesecake to share with the dogs. I wouldn't even thaw out the sucker- we'd just lie on the floor and lick it into yummy, sticky oblivion.

The groceries stored, I logged onto Facebook and was immediately presented with this New Yorker cartoon by Eric Lewis:

Damn.

Which reminds me, I left the Clementine oranges and tuna fish out in the car.


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Observation of the day
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Published Thursday, January 03, 2013 @ 9:22 PM EST
Jan 03 2013

Insanity is electing the same Congress and expecting different results.


Categories: KGB Opinion, Observations, Politics


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If customer service departments were honest...
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Published Tuesday, December 18, 2012 @ 7:44 AM EST
Dec 18 2012

‎"Your call is important to us, but not important enough for us to hire anywhere near the number of people required to adequately deal with the never-ending torrent of valid complaints about our breathtaking incompetency."


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You skipped over the good part
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Published Friday, November 16, 2012 @ 2:09 AM EST
Nov 16 2012

There are really only two small sections of the Unites States Constitution that I've memorized. There's the last part of Article VI:

"...no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public trust under the United States."

The emphasis is mine, and identifies the only place in the entire document where the word "ever" appears. This is handy when dealing with those who refuse to acknowledge the founders' intent to keep religion and government separate. I mean, what part of "ever" don't you understand?

And I also know the Preamble.

Boy, do I know the Preamble.

I recited it for a Veterans Day program in Homestead's Frick Park in 1962. I remember it was cold, and I was wearing my Cub Scout uniform. And I didn't make any mistakes, because I had been studying it, living with it, for an entire month.

I learned the Preamble from Margaret McGeever, the principal of my elementary school. And when Margaret McGeever taught you something, you not only memorized it, mastered it, and could recite it on command, you assimilated it into your very DNA structure. It left a virtual, indelible mark on your psyche, not unlike the actual physical hand print of hers that I still have on my left shoulder, a result of The Bell Telephone Movie Incident In The Auditorium.

Miss McGeever not only principaled, she taught drama. She emphasized that the Preamble was not a jumble of words to be hurriedly recited in a dull monotone. It had to be read correctly, with a combination of zeal, reverence and perfect enunciation. "This is the very foundation of who we are," she rumbled in her high-pitched yet gravelly voice. "Just fifty-two words that define who we are."

And I learned them. Really learned them. I spent a half hour every day finding the words in the huge dictionary in her office and transferring their definitions to sheets of blue-ruled white bond paper, the good stuff we used when taking our penmanship tests.

It took me more than a week. She looked through the sheets. She stacked them, placed her folded hands on the neat pile, then gazed at me over the top of her glasses.

I froze. It was not the look of satisfaction I had expected.

Her brow was furrowed. Actually, it was always furrowed; the woman had the forehead of a Shar Pei. But the creases were even deeper, and her voice was sharp.

"Mister Barkes," she intoned. "Your work is not acceptable. You have forgotten one very important word: Preamble. You've managed to omit the title of the work."

I looked at the copy of the Constitution I held in my pudgy, shaking hands. I didn't see the word "preamble" anywhere.

"You won't see the word 'preamble' anywhere," Miss McGeever said, which was simultaneously comforting and terrifying. "I don't see your name written anywhere on your body, but I know who are, and if I were to write about you, I would certainly put your name at the beginning."

"Preamble," she said. "An introduction. From the Latin 'pre', meaning 'before', and 'ambulare', to walk. Literally, to walk before, or to lead. 'Ambulare' is interesting. So many English words are derived from Latin. What English words come from 'ambulare'?"

"Ambulance?" I asked. She nodded. "Amble?" She nodded again.

I was blank. "Do you know what they call baby strollers in England?,"

"Prams?" I replied. "Right. Pram is English slang for perambulator. 'Per' from the Latin through or for, and 'ambulator' from..."

"Ambulare!" This was fun.

Miss McGeever spent the next half hour listing Latin antecedents ("ante-", before; "cedere", to go) for English words. I was sorry when the end of day bell sounded.

"I'll tell Miss Sullivan she has a prospective Latin student," she said, smiling. Miss Sullivan taught first year Latin in ninth grade at the junior high school.

Then the smile disappeared. The stack of Preamble words reappeared. "Review them. We'll have a verbal quiz on Monday."

Wait. Where was I?

Wow. I hate when I have one of those Billy Pilgrim unstuck in time moments.

Right. The Constitution.

There are a lot of people who say the Constitution has but one purpose: to restrict the federal government and limit its power. Anything not explicitly covered within its original 4,543 words and subsequent amendments should not even be considered.

I think they're missing the big picture. Miss McGeever explained it quite well. I remember her florid cursive writing on the blackboard:

Who are "We"? The people of the United States of America.

What do we want? We want to:

1. Form a more perfect Union. (The Articles of Confederation just weren't working.)

2. Establish justice.

3. Insure domestic tranquility.

4. Provide for the common defense.

6. Promote the general Welfare.

7. Secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity. (We're serious about this.)

How are we going to do this?

We do ordain (from the Latin ordinare, to arrange or order) and establish (from the Latin stabilire, to make stable) this Constitution (from the Latin constituo, to confirm, arrange, decide) of the United (L. unus, one, a union) States (L. status, fixed, set) of America.(Mod.L. Americanus, after Amerigo Vespucci).

Pretty straightforward.

Sometimes I think this guy must have been one of Miss McGeever's students. And after this past election, I know how he feels:


Categories: History, KGB Opinion, Observations, Politics, Star Trek, U.S. Constitution, Video, William Shatner, YouTube


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In which I quote Ann Coulter, hold my nose, and press "publish."
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Published Friday, November 09, 2012 @ 1:17 PM EST
Nov 09 2012

Purist conservatives are like idiot hipsters who can't like a band that's popular. They believe that a group with any kind of a following can't be a good band, just as show-off social conservatives consider it a mark of integrity that their candidates- Akin, Mourdock, Sharron Angle, Christine O'Donnell- take wildly unpopular positions and lose elections.

It was the same thing with purist libertarian Barry Goldwater, who... nearly destroyed the Republican Party with his pointless pursuit of libertarian perfection in his vote against the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

-Ann Coulter
(No, I'm not going to give a link to her site. I don't want kgbreport.com showing up in her server logs.)


Categories: Ann Coulter, Elections, KGB Opinion, Observations, Politics


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Spring forward, fall over a Sheltie while getting out of bed
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Published Sunday, November 04, 2012 @ 6:31 AM EST
Nov 04 2012

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.


Categories: KGB Family, KGB Opinion


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Exchange of the day
(permalink)

Published Saturday, November 03, 2012 @ 5:51 PM EDT
Nov 03 2012

(From Facebook)


Categories: Barack Obama, Facebook, Holidays, KGB Opinion


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The free market is healthy. You, not so much.
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Published Tuesday, October 30, 2012 @ 10:02 AM EDT
Oct 30 2012

The last line of a letter from my health insurer, informing me of new restrictions on my pharmacy benefits:

Remember: Treatment decisions are always between you and your doctor. Coverage is subject to the limitations and exclusions noted in your plan materials.

In other words, you and your doctor may decide what's best for you, but that doesn't mean we're going to pay for it, even though we may have for the past ten years.

Tell me again about the horrible restrictions guvmint-run health care would impose on my treatment options...


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Here's the rub..
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Published Thursday, October 25, 2012 @ 7:14 AM EDT
Oct 25 2012

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette had an article about teenagers “grinding” at Mt. Lebanon High school dances. The Urban Dictionary defines grinding as a dance style in which a girl stands in front of a boy, faces away from him, and rubs her rear on his crotch.

When I was in school, kids who broke any rule at a dance got tossed out; if they did it more than once, they were banned from attending any school social functions.

A college student commented in the P-G's Facebook comment area:

Rules established without logical reasoning are less likely to be followed than rules established with logical reasoning. This rule is trying to control the hormones of kids, and is based on what undesirable outcome? A fading societal rule that expressing sexuality is bad? That rule won't be respected and thus won't be followed.

In my day, if the school did something we didn't like, we told them so. Vocally, and in action. Vox discipuli is being ignored here.

I imagine that your suggestion is already in place. Or, call it a PDA [public display of attention-Ed.], since many schools have (unsuccessfully) banned those. Or just play music that no one can dance to! Oh, wait, these are kids and they tend to be creative, since that's what we send them to school to become, no? They'll figure out a way to do what they want to do, even if their new dance is mocking the draconian rules and/or administration.

If the school doesn't wanting dancing to occur, then it shouldn't host dances.

----

Well. In the words of Samuel L. Jackson, allow me to retort:

Kevin G. Barkes • Progressive Curmudgeon at KGB Report

I don't know precisely when “your day” was, but I grew up in the 60s. Every generation likes to think they invented outrageous sexual behavior, but the contributions made by us in those golden, halcyon days raised the bar to an unprecedented level. We were a part of something called “the sexual revolution.” Maybe you heard of it. It's in Wikipedia and everything. So your observation about fading societal rules regarding sexual expression is just, well, adorable.

It's not that we old fogies are offended by you kids dry humping on the dance floor as much as we're confused. Don't you have back seats anymore? I've seen cargo areas in SUVs bigger than the VW bug I had in high school.

Now, that was tough. We had to drive to our make-out spot with bald tires. In the snow. Uphill. Both ways.

-----

By the way, the name of the principal of Mt. Lebanon High School is Mr. McFeeley. My admiration to the P-G's headline writer for exercising admirable restraint.


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Observations of the day
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Published Monday, October 22, 2012 @ 1:33 AM EDT
Oct 22 2012

I have learned that saying “no” is the password to the next level.
-Alvin Williams

True, everyone lies, but there's a difference between “No, those pants don't make your ass look fat” and “No, there's nothing incriminating in those unreleased tax returns.”
-Kevin G. Barkes

Obama and Romney should open the next debate with a really well-rehearsed rendition of that “God, I Hope I Get It” song from A Chorus Line.
-Seth McFarland

GOP blaming Obama for the slow recovery is like John Wilkes Booth blaming Lincoln for missing the second act of the play.
-John Fugelsang

The people who gloated over the landslide defeat of George McGovern in 1972 seem to have forgotten its consequences.
-Kevin G. Barkes

It occurs to me that if another country's candidate had financial interest in voting machines, we'd be lecturing them on sanctity of voting.
-Rose Auerbach

For the record, nobody's actually “blaming Bush.” They're blaming Bush policies. “Blaming Bush” implies he was in charge.
-John Fugelsang

I'm thinking of becoming a motivational speaker. But I'm not sure. Should I? Maybe yes, maybe no. Undecided. Kinda thinking about it.
-Steve Martin

You can tell a person is a Republican when they refer to the Democratic Party as the Democrat Party. You can tell a person is a Democrat when he's speaking very slowly to a Republican.
-Kevin G. Barkes

Maybe I'm a dreamer, but I wish mental health care were as easy to get as, say, a gun.
-Andy Borowitz

The creator of Mad Libs died. His friends described him as a warm and pulpy man who loved his wife and pelicans. He will be deeply pooped.
-John McNamee


Categories: Alvin Williams, Andy Borowitz, John Fugelsang, John McNamee, KGB Opinion, Observations, Rose Auerbach, Seth McFarlane, Steve Martin


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Observation of the day
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Published Friday, August 10, 2012 @ 6:41 AM EDT
Aug 10 2012

No one knows how to use apostrophes, but everyone knows how to spell "Roethlisberger."


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Dudes. Cut back on the Mountain Dew and Adderall...
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Published Friday, August 03, 2012 @ 7:00 PM EDT
Aug 03 2012

How often have you logged on to Facebook, discovered some feature had disappeared or didn't work the way it had in the past, and just assumed it was a browser compatibility problem or something screwy with your system settings?

The good news is it's probably not your system or browser. The bad news is it's probably because Facebook releases new code twice a day:

Ship early and ship twice as often
by Chuck Rossi on Friday, August 3, 2012 at 4:42pm

"When I wrote about Facebook's release process earlier this year, I stressed how fast we build things here and described how we push new code to facebook.com every day. In fact, I closed with the advice to "ship early and ship often.” Last week, in conjunction with the opening of our engineering office in London, we decided to double the release speed of facebook.com and indeed "ship often."

"We will roll facebook.com onto new code twice a day now, with a push driven by a recently-hired release engineer in our New York office in addition to our standing daily push managed by our California release engineering team. The New York-based push will give much more power to our engineers who aren’t based on the west coast of the U.S. and will ensure they're able to move and ship as quickly as any other engineer in the company. It will also give California engineers two chances to get code shipped and features launched each day.

"When I came to Facebook in 2008, I was the only release engineer, supporting around 100 developers in one location. Now that we’ve added more people and offices around the world, my small team in California (and now New York) is supporting hundreds more developers who are producing 6 times the amount of code per week. We’re making this change to keep our release process as quick and efficient at 1000 engineers as it was at 100.

"I'm really looking forward to this change as it takes our already incredibly aggressive release process and doubles down on it, offering us twice the opportunity to ship great things. It's exciting and I think it crushes what anyone else of our size and impact is doing. Ship early and ship twice as often."

The link to the actual page is: https://www.facebook.com/notes/facebook-engineering/ship-early-and-ship-twice-as-often/10150985860363920?comment_id=22595371&f_t=like


Categories: Facebook, KGB Opinion, WTF?


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Headline of the day
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Published Wednesday, July 25, 2012 @ 1:15 AM EDT
Jul 25 2012

AP Headline: "In sweeping indictment, Romney says Obama threatens US security"

Romney promises to keep US secrets safe: offshore, in the same vault where he stores his tax returns.


Categories: Headline of the day, KGB Opinion, Mitt Romney


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Random observations, quotations, and just plain gonzo
(permalink)

Published Wednesday, July 18, 2012 @ 1:45 AM EDT
Jul 18 2012

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 uncertain.
-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 German"
-Hunter S. Thompson


Categories: Andy Borowitz, Daily Show, Hunter S. Thompson, Jon Stewart, KGB Family, KGB Opinion, Mitt Romney, Observations, Politics, Quotes of the day


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Observation of the day
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Published Thursday, June 28, 2012 @ 1:48 AM EDT
Jun 28 2012

I fear nature has realized sentience is dangerous and is actively suppressing it in humans. It would explain the increase in stupid people.


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Remember...
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Published Tuesday, April 17, 2012 @ 1:46 AM EDT
Apr 17 2012

...42 years ago today. When our "useless" government managed to invent the dozens of technologies needed to send humans to the moon, for less money and in less time than we've spent in Afghanistan. When no problem was insurmountable. When failure was not an option.

Now we can't get a bill out of the U.S. Senate.


Categories: History, KGB Opinion, Video, YouTube


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Bring it on
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Published Monday, April 16, 2012 @ 8:49 AM EDT
Apr 16 2012

Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of the facts and evidence.
-John Quincy Adams

The original version of this list appears here. I removed what I thought were the more immature and insulting entries.

I actually don't like arguing about this stuff. I'm a realist. I accept things that are true. I never forward e-mails without first checking Snopes, and when I read an article that makes a particularly egregious claim, I make it a point to go back to the source material to determine if the author's interpretation is objective or ideologically skewed.

When you tell me something that is not true, it can me only one of two things: you are lying to me or you are misinformed.

If the former, I have no use for you. Spare me the symantic calisthenics. You are beneath contempt. Go away.

If the latter, I will show you the evidence. If you refuse to accept the truth, you are an idiot... but you may have other redeeming qualities. Whether I want you to go away depends upon whether the delusions you've embraced are harmful to the Republic and/or my well-being. As Thomas Jefferson said, "...it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."

Anyway, for those so inclined, here's a brief list of things you can say to irritate your conservative friends. Stick any of them into Google and you'll have hours of delightful reading.

A Socialist wrote the Pledge of Allegiance.
 
Jesus healed the sick and helped the poor. For free.
 
Joseph McCarthy was an un-American, witch hunting sissy.
 
The South lost the Civil War. Get over it.
 
The Founding Fathers were liberals.
 
Sarah Palin is an idiot.
 
The Earth is round.
 
Ronald Reagan raised taxes eleven times as President.
 
Ronald Reagan signed California's Therapeutic Abortion Act while Governor of California.
 
Ronald Reagan supported gun control.
 
Richard Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency.
 
Global warming is real.
 
Republicans hate illegal immigrants, unless they need their lawns mowed or their houses cleaned.
 
The military is a government-run institution, so why do Republicans approve the defense budget?
 
The government, when run by Democrats, put a man on the moon in under ten years.
 
The Cold War is over and the Soviet Union no longer exists.
 
Paying taxes is patriotic.
 
The Republican Party began as a liberal party.
 
The President's full name is Barack Hussein Obama and he was born in the United States of America.
 
George W. Bush held hands with and kissed the King of Saudi Arabia.
 
President Obama saved the American auto industry, while Republicans wanted to destroy it.
 
Hate is not a Christian virtue.
 
Jesus was a liberal.
 
Republicans spend more money than Democrats.
 
Public schools educate all children; private schools are for indoctrinating children.
 
The Constitution is the law of the land. The Bible is not.
 
Sharia law doesn't exist in America.
 
The President is not a Muslim.
 
Corporations are not people.
 
Fox News is a right-wing propaganda machine.
 
The Federal Reserve was a Republican idea.
 
Women are equal citizens who deserve equal rights.
 
Women control their own bodies.
 
Please use spell-check.
 
It's pundit, not pundint.
 
Social Security is solvent through 2038.
 
Roe v. Wade was a bipartisan ruling made by a conservative leaning Supreme Court.
 
Barack Obama ordered the killing of Osama Bin Laden. It took him two and half years to do what Bush couldn't do in eight.
 
Waterboarding is torture.
 
9/11 happened on George W. Bush's watch, and he and his staff ignored explicit warnings of an impending attack. He did not keep America safe.
 
The word "God" does not appear in the Constitution for a reason.
 
The Constitution states, "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States. What part of "ever" don't you understand? Muslims are protected by the Constitution, just as much as Christians.
 
America is a nation of immigrants, therefore we are all anchor babies.
 
The white race isn't disappearing, it's evolving.
 
Evolution is real.
 
The Earth is 4.54 billion years old, not 6,000.
 
The Founding Fathers did not free the slaves.
 
The Revolution was not fought over slavery.
 
Paul Revere warned the Americans, not the British.
 
Federal law has precedence over state law.
 
The Civil War was about slavery, not states' rights.
 
Getting out of a recession requires government spending.
 
Republicans will take care of you until the day you are born.
 
Fox News is owned by an Australian and has a Saudi prince as an investor.
 
Republicans complain about immigrants taking American jobs, then freely ship American overseas to increase their wealth..
 
Labor unions built this country.
 
Jesus was a Jew, not a Christian.
 
Churches should stay out of politics, or be taxed.
 
The current corporate tax rate is the lowest it has been in 60 years.
 
The Republican answer to the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was to apologize to BP, a foreign oil company.

The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy, that is the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.
-John Kenneth Galbraith


Categories: KGB Opinion, Observations


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Headline of the day
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Published Thursday, March 29, 2012 @ 5:37 PM EDT
Mar 29 2012

The chief executive officer of Highmark Inc. has been charged with simple assault and defiant trespass stemming from what police in Oakmont described as a fight this weekend between him and the husband of a Highmark employee with whom he was having an affair.
-Sadie Gurman / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Don't say "affair." Say "going out of network."


Categories: Headline of the day, KGB Opinion, Observations, WTF?


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Sound advice
(permalink)

Published Wednesday, March 14, 2012 @ 11:00 AM EDT
Mar 14 2012


Categories: KGB Opinion


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Recursive theology
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Published Wednesday, February 22, 2012 @ 7:49 AM EST
Feb 22 2012

I'm giving up giving up things for Lent for Lent.


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Earle
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Published Sunday, September 11, 2011 @ 7:05 AM EDT
Sep 11 2011


Earle V. Wittpenn

(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.


Categories: Earle V. Wittpenn, KGB Family, KGB Opinion


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Quotes of the day
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Published Monday, July 18, 2011 @ 7:28 AM EDT
Jul 18 2011

Harry Potter is about confronting fears, finding inner strength and doing what is right in the face of adversity. Twilight is about how important it is to have a boyfriend.
-Stephen King

Who needs to watch "Falling Skies" or the apocalyptic movies on SyFy? I watch Congress on C-SPAN.
-KGB


Categories: KGB Opinion, Quotes of the day


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Okay, Skippy... listen up.
(permalink)

Published Thursday, June 23, 2011 @ 9:54 PM EDT
Jun 23 2011

I'm only going to tell you this once.

If you're one of those people who's bought into this "cloud computing" business, you're an idiot.

"The Cloud" has been around forever. We used to call them distributed systems: a bunch of independent computers connected by a network or networks, which allow programs and data to be stored and/or executed on remote machines. If the remote machines are working, that is, and if the network can reach them.

As computer scientist Leslie Lamport said a few decades ago- yes, this is a very old idea- "A distributed system is one in which the failure of a computer you didn't even know existed can render your own computer unusable."

If you're one of those trendy types who lives in the Cloud- stores all of your photos, contacts, e-mails and critical data there- because you believe it relieves you of the responsibility of backing up and managing it yourself- wake up and smell the metal oxide being scraped off your disk drive platters.

You'll endure periods when you won't be able to get to your stuff, because the provider's website is down or the idiot next door backed his pick-up truck over the Comcast box.

And you will eventually suffer a critical data loss. I recall an ad posted by a storage company about 20 years ago that's still valid today. "There are two types of users in this world: Those who have lost data and those who will lose data."

Distributed computing is a marvelous convenience. It permits me to work for my employer in Chicago from my home in the South Hills of Pittsburgh. Someone in the office on Wacker Drive can dial my four-digit extension, and- thanks to the wonders of the Internet- four hundred miles away, the phone in my basement office rings.

But things can, and do, go wrong. Perhaps I'm a bit more paranoid because it's my livelihood, but I take no chances on data losses or communications failures.

If a call to my office phone rings more than three times, it's simultaneously forwarded to three different numbers: my cell phone, home phone, and the Onstar phone in my car. As long as the phone switch in the Chicago office is working, and I'm in my home, car, or somewhere with my cell, I get the call. The last office call I missed that ended up in voice mail was during the blizzard in February, 2010. And that was a wrong number.

Every e-mail to and from my office account gets automatically copied to a special Gmail account. Business e-mail, along with mail from my personal Gmail, Yahoo, and XO accounts, are downloaded at two-minute intervals to Microsoft Outlook on my local machine here in Pittsburgh. They're also available through the web interface to those respective services as well. If I'm anywhere near a computer or smart phone, I can get to any of my e-mail accounts. And if my business, Gmail, Yahoo or XO accounts should somehow become inaccessible or are deleted, I still have copies of everything locally.

I connect to my workstation in Chicago via GoToMyPC, which is phenomenally reliable. But when the Internet is inaccessible, I still need to work. That's why critical directories on my Chicago workstation are also mirrored on my Pittsburgh machines.

The two computers in my home office are backed up 12 times a day to two different online backup accounts. Local backup software writes changes to external hard drives every 10 minutes or so. Twice a week, I do full image backups to external drives that are identical to the ones in the machines. If the computer drives fail, I pop out the bad unit, pop in the one with the latest image backup, do an incremental restore of stuff that's changed since the last image, and in under an hour or two, it's like nothing happened.

I hear you saying to yourself, "Now this is a responsible professional." (Actually, I hear you saying "Is he a frigging lunatic? Does he have some weird form of OCD or something?" But I'll just pretend I didn't hear you.)

Yes, I'm a bit over the top when it comes to backups and redundancy, but then computers are an integral part of my life. I've been using them every day since 1982 when I fired up my first machine, a 4K Radio Shack Color Computer. My entire professional and personal lives reside on them. Literally. Except for special legal documents like deeds, titles and wills, everything is digital. And yes, I do have scanned copies of the deeds, etc. Just in case.

True, you probably don't need five copies of all of your Gmail messages (Gmail interface, Microsoft Outlook, online backup, incremental disk backup, disk image backup). But you should have at least one.

If you're a Windows user, it's simple. Keep everything under the My Documents folder. Subscribe to an online backup provider like Mozy or Carbonite, or a branded service that comes with your computer, like Dell or HP. Most are free, or relatively low cost. Make the investment.

Most experts recommend keeping both on-site and off-site copies of your data. If that's too anal for you, just go with the on-line route. Having a disk backup of critical data three feet away from your laptop isn't much help when a fire reduces them both to a pool of molten plastic and metal.

Too much trouble? Too much money? Really?

I regard people who don't back up their data with the same contempt as those who let their dogs run loose or never change the oil in their cars.

You can post photos, videos and your current wardrobe, dinner menu and GPS coordinates to Twitter and Facebook, master the intricacies of Mafia Wars and Farmville, but can't take five minutes to go through the simple, step-by-step process of setting up a backup procedure for your data?

And the horse you rode in on, pally.

I'm ashamed to say that when someone calls me with a data loss problem and they admit they haven't backed up since they bought their machine, I'm tempted to tell them they deserve their fate.

Even more infuriating is when someone has gone to the trouble to set up a backup procedure for these cretinous oafs, but it's no longer working because the disk is full or the online account limit was reached. Invariably, at boot up time there's a prominent warning window the user blithely clicks and closes without reading. Betcha they also ignore the "Check Engine Now" lights in their cars, then have the temerity to ask surprised when the mechanic tells them that instead of an engine they now have a solid block of goo-infused, petroleum-encrusted junk metal under the hood.

It's a matter of money and responsibility, pure and simple. The cloud's popular because it allows companies to shift responsibility to someone else, generally at a lower cost. But how much have you saved when you come in one day to find out that you can't get to your programs and data? How much time have you saved when your computer crashes and you spend weeks begging relatives to send you copies of family pictures? How much time and money will it cost you to replace your multi-gigabyte, 3,000-song iTunes library?

I'm a computer professional. I've been in the business 30 years. On six separate occasions, I've had major system failures and data losses that completely wiped out everything I had stored on my machines. I learned quite early that backing up my data is as essential as having auto and homeowners insurance and paying the mortgage and utilities every month. Ignore your responsibilities, and you will pay dearly for your indolence.

It's time you learn that, too.

A Google search for "cloud failures," limited to the last week, returned 379,000 results. Look at a couple of the articles. Recognize any names?

Don't be fooled. If you examine it closely, the Cloud sounds too good to be true.

It is.


Categories: KGB Opinion, WTF?


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Is it just me...
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Published Monday, June 06, 2011 @ 9:22 AM EDT
Jun 06 2011

...or does this little fella look like Dick Cheney?


Categories: Animals, KGB Opinion, Photo of the day, WTF?


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Observation of the day
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Published Saturday, March 19, 2011 @ 1:48 PM EDT
Mar 19 2011

I've come to the realization that gray is the mature form of blond.


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Hype and misinformation
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Published Monday, March 14, 2011 @ 8:56 AM EDT
Mar 14 2011

The breathless, edge-of-the-apocalypse reporting about the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear failures in Japan by the US media is mostly wrong. For a true perspective of what's going on, I recommend watching Japan's NHK World English feed. You can reach it by going to CNN's home page and clicking on the LIVE: Coverage from Japan link. Too bad no one at CNN itself is apparently watching it.

Other more balanced perspectives can be found here and here.

I've completely written off American news coverage. Line-parroting corporate shills really come up short when there's real news to cover.


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It begins...
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Published Monday, January 24, 2011 @ 2:49 PM EST
Jan 24 2011

The 11 pm newscasts in Pittsburgh last night contained precisely three stories: the Steelers beat the Jets and are going to the Super Bowl; it was really, really cold; and some schools announced a two hour delay this morning.

And that was it. Several replays of key game moments, reporters standing outside Heinz Field and South Side bars pointing their cameras at drunk, hypothermic revelers, a few minutes of weather, and the school delay crawl at the bottom of the screen.

While the news content will be back to near normal today- if you consider static videos of auto accidents and burned houses "news"- for the next two weeks every Pittsburgh newscast will dedicate as much as a third of its time teasing, promoting, and airing inane Super Bowl-related drivel.

Please- add a minute or two to the sports segments and put your "enhanced" Steeler coverage there. We don't need to see players getting on and off planes, practicing, making predictions, and we sure as hell don't need to see more grossly overweight fans with black and gold paint covering their half-nude bodies.

Remember: ""We need to keep it in perspective. It's a very, very important game, but it's not the be all and end all of everything. The city better get its act together regardless; I'm talking politically, with its business leaders, its religious leaders, everybody's got to get back to work."

What killjoy uttered those remarks? The United States Ambassador to Ireland and Steelers' Chairman Emeritus, Dan Rooney. He made the comment when the city was going batshit crazy before the 2005 AFC playoffs.

Let's hope sane heads prevail. But I doubt it.

This is Pittsburgh, after all. And they are the Steelers.

UPDATE:

I happened to catch KDKA's News at 10 on the CW last night. The first half-dozen stories were all Steelers-related feel good pieces. The "real" news started over 11 minutes into the broadcast.

Sigh.


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Truths for Mature Humans
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Published Tuesday, November 23, 2010 @ 4:33 AM EST
Nov 23 2010

  1. I think part of a best friend's job should be to immediately clear your computer history if you die.
  2. Nothing sucks more than that moment during an argument when you realize you're wrong.
  3. I totally take back all those times I didn't want to nap when I was younger.
  4. There is great need for a sarcasm font.
  5. How the hell are you supposed to fold a fitted sheet?
  6. Was learning cursive really necessary?
  7. Map Quest really needs to start their directions on #5. I'm pretty sure I know how to get out of my neighborhood.
  8. Obituaries would be a lot more interesting if they told you how the person died.
  9. I can't remember the last time I wasn't at least kind of tired.
  10. Bad decisions make good stories.
  11. You never know when it will strike, but there comes a moment at work when you know that you just aren't going to do anything productive for the rest of the day.
  12. Can we all just agree to ignore whatever comes after Blue Ray? I don't want to have to restart my collection again.
  13. I'm always slightly terrified when I exit out of Word and it asks me if I want to save any changes to my ten-page technical report that I swear I did not make any changes to.
  14. "Do not machine wash or tumble dry" means I will never wash this- ever.
  15. I hate when I just miss a call by the last ring (Hello? Hello? Dang it!), but when I immediately call back, it rings nine times and goes to voice mail. What did you do after I didn't answer? Drop the phone and run away?
  16. I hate leaving my house confident and looking good and then not seeing anyone of importance the entire day. What a waste.
  17. I keep some people's phone numbers in my phone just so I know not to answer when they call.
  18. I think the freezer deserves a light as well.
  19. I disagree with Kay Jewelers. I would bet on any given Friday or Saturday night more kisses begin with Miller Lite than Kay.
  20. I wish Google Maps had an "Avoid Ghetto" routing option.
  21. Sometimes, I'll watch a movie that I watched when I was younger and suddenly realize I had no idea what the heck was going on when I first saw it.
  22. I would rather try to carry 10 over-loaded plastic bags in each hand than take 2 trips to bring my groceries in.
  23. The only time I look forward to a red light is when I'm trying to finish a text.
  24. I have a hard time deciphering the fine line between boredom and hunger.
  25. How many times is it appropriate to say "What?" before you just nod and smile because you still didn't hear or understand a word they said?
  26. I love the sense of camaraderie when an entire line of cars team up to prevent a jerk from cutting in at the front. Stay strong, brothers and sisters!
  27. Shirts get dirty. Underwear gets dirty. Pants? Pants never get dirty, and you can wear them forever.
  28. Is it just me or do high school kids get dumber & dumber every year?
  29. There's no worse feeling than that millisecond you're sure you are going to die after leaning your chair back a little too far.
  30. As a driver I hate pedestrians, and as a pedestrian I hate drivers, but no matter what the mode of transportation, I always hate bicyclists.
  31. Sometimes I'll look down at my watch 3 consecutive times and still not know what time it is.
  32. Even under ideal conditions people have trouble locating their car keys in a pocket, finding their cell phone, and Pinning the Tail on the Donkey- but I'd bet my ass everyone can find and push the snooze button from 3 feet away, in about 1.7 seconds, eyes closed, first time, every time!

(This is all over the Internet; does anyone know the true author?)


Categories: KGB Opinion, Questions for the Ages


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Quote Exchange with Maya Angelou
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Published Sunday, November 21, 2010 @ 7:40 AM EST
Nov 21 2010

Maya Angelou is my friend on Facebook.

Don't ask me how; I don't remember doing it. I generally like her work- ten of her quotations, including the one she posted on Facebook today, are in the KGB Quote Database. That's pretty much an endorsement of her writing, but still, I don't remember asking her to be a friend. I only friend celebrities I know through correspondence or rare personal meeting.

Anyway, today she posted,

"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."

To which I commented,

"Which is one of the reasons why oral sex while mildly inebriated is so popular."

If you've read her stuff, you know she has a great sense of humor.

Hope she liked it. Plus reading all the outraged comments will make the day go faster...

(Useless trivia: Maya Angelou's real name is Marguerite Ann Johnson.)


Categories: KGB Opinion, Quotes of the day


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America under attack
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Published Thursday, November 11, 2010 @ 12:24 AM EST
Nov 11 2010

If you should to see this happening at an airport, don't stand mute and permit the seemingly never-ending assault on our rights to continue. Do what I plan to do. While in a location where it would take a few seconds for a TSA agent to reach you, drop your pants, whip off your shirt and undergarments, and scream "I'm an American guaranteed Fourth Amendment Rights by our Constitution, and I'm Opting Out." While this might not be an approach that's equally effective for everyone, believe me: I  will be noticed.

I should note that to this point I've never challenged any demands made of me by airport security, regardless of their absurdity and intrinsic worthlessness as effective security measures. I've been questioned, asked to remove items from my baggage, wanded, and body scanned by the generally polite TSA folk without incident.

But what TSA is doing now is reprehensible. These scare tactics of overkill, and the blatant, willful disregard of our basic rights as citizens, are profoundly wrong and should not be tolerated by anyone who considers himself and American.

To quote actor and former National Rifle Association president, the late Charleton Heston:

"Well, the answer's been here all along. I learned it 36 years ago, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C., standing with Dr. Martin Luther King and two hundred thousand people."

"You simply disobey. Peaceably, yes. Respectfully, of course. Nonviolently, absolutely."

"But when told how to think or what to say or how to behave, we don't. We disobey the social protocol that stifles and stigmatizes personal freedom."

There is something fundamentally wrong in a society that allows people to carry concealed weapons into Starbucks but harasses attractive young women and grandmas in wheelchairs just because they make perfect participants in the theater of the absurd that TSA calls "security."

In the mid to late 90s, the Internal Revenue Service was the object of Congressional hearings when the agency engaged in egregious and reprehensible activities "for the greater good." Congress stopped the IRS' Gestapo-like tactics in short order after they were exposed. It's time for them to do it again. Stop this insult to our rights and our basic dignity. Now.

Write the President. Write your Senator and Congressman. If you or a friend are insulted or assaulted by TSA and/or local police at the airport, do what we Americans do best: bitch, at the top of your lungs, to everyone and anyone in authority. Make a scene. Get as many witnesses as possible. Get as much information as possible and contact the American Civil Liberties Union.

Don't interfere or disrupt normal screening processes. But if TSA decides to make you the star of their little security pageant, by God, make the performance a memorable one.

This is America, folks. Our service men and women are making supreme sacrifices overseas to guarantee our freedom. Let's do our part by defending the Constitution here at home as well.


Categories: Fourth Amendment, Hypocrisy, KGB Opinion, U.S. Constitution, WTF?, YouTube


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Status update
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Published Tuesday, November 02, 2010 @ 5:27 PM EDT
Nov 02 2010

I voted, then had a McDonald's McRib sandwich for lunch. Not certain which is responsible for the lingering nausea.


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Things that make you wonder...
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Published Monday, October 04, 2010 @ 6:53 AM EDT
Oct 04 2010

It was 53 years ago today that the Soviet Union launched Sputnik-I into orbit atop a launch vehicle originally designed to lob an intercontinental ballistic missile at the United States.

In less than a dozen years, the US responded by developing scores of new technologies, culminating in the Apollo program that successfully landed men on the moon and returned them safely to earth.

I like to use this example when I hear claims that the federal government is a huge, incompetent bureaucracy incapable of managing complex challenges.

But what would happen if we were faced with a similar challenge today?

It's difficult to be optimistic, given the condition of our schools and the loss of most of our manufacturing capability. Worse, the American spirit, once concerned with the quaint concept of "the greater good," has been transmogrified. It now seems to consist of nothing more than for-profit jingoism. Our national goal is for individuals to make a fortune with minimal effort- preferably by playing the system- while avoiding the payment of taxes.

While watching satellite tv, of course.


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Political observations of the day
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Published Monday, September 20, 2010 @ 7:08 AM EDT
Sep 20 2010

"I've covered politics for a long, long time, but this is the first time witchcraft has ever come into it."
-Bob Schieffer, host of CBS' "Face the Nation", on Christine O'Donnell's candidacy for the U.S. Senate.

Article VI, paragraph 3 of the U.S. Constitution states, "The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."

The "no religious test" clause of the Constitution is pretty clear; it's the only time the word "ever" appears in the document. Which means, as strange as it may seem, that O'Donnell's "dabbling" should not be an issue in her campaign.

As far has her being an unqualified Looney Tune who appears to live in a demented reality of her own creation... well, have at it.

And thanks, Delaware Republicans, for giving the Democrats the senate seat in November.


Categories: Church and State, KGB Opinion, U.S. Constitution, YouTube


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Earle
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Published Friday, September 10, 2010 @ 9:20 AM EDT
Sep 10 2010


Earle V. Wittpenn

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.


Categories: Earle V. Wittpenn, KGB Family, KGB Opinion


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The Synthesized Acoustic Analogue of the Night
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Published Monday, August 30, 2010 @ 11:45 AM EDT
Aug 30 2010

It's time for musical theater patrons to tell producers the relentless downsizing of show orchestras must end.

The Broadway production of "The Phantom of the Opera" has 27 musicians. During its 2006 pass through Pittsburgh, the touring company had only 15 in the pit. The current production has a mere 13; 10, if you exclude the three synthesizer keyboards. There's something fundamentally wrong when the ensemble of the most successful musical in Broadway history is identical in size to The Tonight Show Band.

The show's score no longer soars majestically from the pit. It's now a homogenized emission from the theater's sound system. The diminutive acoustic levels of the emasculated "orchestra" must be augmented with the synthesized output, then processed, equalized, compressed and amplified. The end result is devoid of vibrance and dynamic range. It's like listening to an iPod on steroids.

Producers say they must reduce costs to keep a show going, especially one heavy with physical effects and costumes such as "Phantom." I can deal with a scaled-down chandelier, but eliminating the music from a musical? That makes about as much sense as cutting the overhead for "Romeo and Juliet" by ditching the unstable emo girl for an animatronic replacement with pre-recorded dialogue triggered by an infrared transmitter in Romeo's codpiece.

Roughly $3 of my $70 ticket goes to funding the orchestra. Once you reach those pricing levels, what's another five bucks to maintain the integrity of the work as it was originally performed?

The argument that the average theatergoer can't tell the difference is irrelevant and disingenuous. The average person also can't distinguish between fresh and reconstituted orange juice, but when I go out of my way to visit an orange grove, I don't want to be handed a can of Minute Maid and be told "it's just as good as the real thing."

It's a Broadway musical? I want to hear it the way it was performed on Broadway. The next time a show with an anemic, overly synthesized pit comes to town, I'll just stay at home and listen to the cast album.


Categories: KGB Opinion, Music, WTF?


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PG: Lazy, dishonest journalism
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Published Wednesday, June 23, 2010 @ 7:11 AM EDT
Jun 23 2010

Jason Togyer of Tube City Online is a journalist.

When Pleasant Hills Police refused to release the name of the driver responsible for the June 11 crash in the borough that injured seven people, he filed a Right to Know form with the department.

When police finally released the name, Jason was able to produce this story.

I e-mailed the link to the Post-Gazette yesterday.

Today, this story appeared in the P-G.

I just e-mailed the following, which you can be certain you won't be reading in the P-G's letters column:

---

So Tube City Online- which doesn't even cover Pleasant Hills- spends the five minutes your reporters couldn't spare to complete the state Right to Know form and obtain the identity of the driver responsible for the June 11 crash. I send you the link to the story, and the next day you publish your own version with slightly more detail than Tube City's online piece- but fail to attribute the web site as the source of the driver's name.

Some observations:

- If you didn't obtain the driver's name from Tube City Online, where did you get it? The article mentions Pleasant Hills Police several times, but is very carefully phrased. It doesn't credit the department with releasing the driver's name. A casual reader can't help but assume the Post-Gazette did all the legwork in this story.

- You are again ignoring the other important issue here- that local police are abusing the Right To Know law and are continuing to refuse to release information to the media that should be readily available without disclosure filings.

- If I were editor, I'd have an intern whose only job would be filing right to know requests with police departments that refuse to release information. The investment in time has potentially great rewards, as this incident proves. And over the long term, it could make local authorities more forthcoming. Police hate paperwork. If you would keep up the pressure, I strongly suspect authorities would eventually waive the filing requirements and simply release routine information like they did in the past.

- Not crediting the source of the driver's name is beneath contempt, especially considering the background on this story. This confirms my experience 40 years ago as a reporter for a local newspaper, who often saw his work appropriated by the big metro dailies:

- You guys are weasels.

Regards,

KGB

-----
Kevin G. Barkes

---

Everything you read in the newspapers is absolutely true, except for that rare story of which you happen to have first-hand knowledge.-Erwin Knoll


Categories: Hypocrisy, KGB Opinion


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