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We are free to do whatever we can afford- or, not much.

Published Wednesday, September 30, 2015 @ 5:50 PM EDT
Sep 30 2015

"Churlish," by Ed from Gin and Tacos. The best explanation for the attitudes in this county.

Over a decade ago I sat in a lecture hall and listened to a visiting scholar of English history talk about the end of Roman rule in Britain and the remarkable – it may be fair to say incomprehensible – speed and comprehensiveness with which a previously undistinguished group of people called the Saxons became the cultural hegemon of what is today the United Kingdom. As this is a topic about which I knew (and know) next to nothing I was an easy mark; impressing me was like sinking a half-inch putt. I'm forever indebted to that person whose name I have completely forgotten, though, for giving me one of my favorite examples / metaphors / anecdotes for explaining what is wrong, and I mean what is really, fundamentally wrong, with the way people in the United States view politics and their rights as citizens today: the Churl.

Aside from being the root of names like Charles and its Germanic cousin Carl, we know "churl" as the root of the regrettably rare adjective "churlish," or "rude in a surly, mean spirited way." This seems unnecessary until you realize that rudeness does not automatically imply the latter part, and in fact a good deal of rudeness is cloaked in politeness or ignorance. But I digress. The word "churl" as a noun is still used by some English speakers of a more antiquated bent to refer to a mean spirited person. Its archaic meaning, though, is for a person of low class. Specifically, in early Saxon England the churls were the lowest class of free people, which is to say they were not nobles nor royalty nor clergy, but nor were they serfs. They were essentially peasants; poor, but with the social and practical advantage of not being bound to a manor as serfs were. They were, in words used by the Mystery Lecturer that I will never forget, "possessing the freedom of the upper classes but without the economic means to take advantage of it." They could go wherever they wanted to and do whatever pleased them, in other words, if only they had any money. Alas, they didn't. So all that freedom was for naught, except inasmuch as it permitted them to look at serfs as their inferiors.

This is such a perfect analogy for the state in which the majority – and I do mean the overwhelming majority – of Americans find themselves today that I can hardly believe I was lucky enough to stumble across it. The great masses of Americans cling so desperately to their own imagined versions of things like freedom of religion and right to bear arms because those are the only freedoms they can claim without deceiving themselves to have. If those are taken away they would be forced to recognize how truly un-free in any useful sense they are. If people are unable to find work that pays a sufficient amount to cover life's necessities and to live in a manner and place of their choosing, then all of their many intangible rights and freedoms guaranteed by law provide only a superficial – important, but superficial nonetheless – freedom. We are free, in short, to do whatever we can afford, which, in the majority of cases, is to say "Not much."

A few weeks ago I posted about one of the last major manufacturers – Mitsubishi Motors – in the area closing operations in Central Illinois. Last week the colossus of the non-Chicago part of the Illinois economy, Caterpillar, announced that it is laying off 10,000 workers. Ten thousand. The vast majority of those figure to be in Peoria, Caterpillar's already cripplingly depressed, moribund, and crumbling home base. Without going deep into the intricacies of local politics, Caterpillar, along with a few hospitals and one small university, is the only place one can work in this city and hope to make what has traditionally been considered middle class income. In Peoria one is either unemployed, in the low wage service industry, paid to care for the large, old, dying population, or working for Cat and its associated suppliers. There is nothing else here. The people laid off by Cat are not going to find comparable jobs here. Their choices will be to stay here and accept a job hovering precariously above the minimum wage, probably serving food, stocking store shelves, or manning a cash register, or to move to a state devoid of labor laws and accept manufacturing work at a vastly lower wage.

If those were my options, I would be working overtime mentally to conceive of some way I could define myself as free too. Without implying that the government owes everyone a job of their choosing in the exact location of their choosing, it's fair to say that if you can't find work that pays enough to live a life that gives you real choices and options then you are free only in the sense that you are not imprisoned (although there will be plenty of that as well) and nobody can tell you how many Jesus fish and Rush Limbaugh bumper stickers you can put on your car, nor how many expensive guns you can hoard in your meager home that you struggle to afford. Americans obsess over those largely symbolic freedoms, the threats to which exist only in their own imaginations, because even though we dare not admit it we understand that many of us lack anything better. Like denials of alcoholism are often directly proportional to the probability that one is indeed an alcoholic, the extent to which any people are truly free when they go to such comical excesses with such regularity to declare how free they are is to be evaluated with skepticism. By silent consensus this country has chosen "Fake it 'til you make it" as a coping mechanism in the face of stagnant or declining incomes and a constantly shrinking selection of choices and opportunities beyond at-will, low paid employment at The Company's pleasure. We have a country in which you can buy as many guns as you want but can't count on having a job beyond the end of business today. We can refuse to bake cakes for gay people but we can't decide where and how we want to live. Freedoms are not all created equal, and we content ourselves with the ones that do us the least good.

Categories: Gin and Tacos, KGB Opinion

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Here we go again...

Published Wednesday, December 31, 2014 @ 8:11 AM EST
Dec 31 2014

It is not true that life is one damn thing after another- it is one damn thing over and over.
-Edna St. Vincent Millay

KGB Report welcomes you to the Eve of 2015: May this arbitrary, transient point in your solipsistic sense of the space-time continuum delineate the initiation of a series of random events which trend in a manner which you perceive to be favorable.

After two years without missing a single daily post, I'm taking tomorrow off, immediately eliminating the pressure of attempting to attain illusory perfection in 2015. If there's something you can skip tomorrow, I heartily recommend it.

As long as it doesn't involve personal hygiene.


Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed, is more important than any other one thing.
-Abraham Lincoln

An optimist stays up until midnight to see the new year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves.
-Bill Vaughan

Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man.
-Benjamin Franklin

Before celebrating too much, you should be certain the statute of limitations expires on January 1 and not the date of the original offense.

Celebrate what you want to see more of.
-Tom Peters

Drop the last year into the silent limbo of the past. Let it go, for it was imperfect, and thank God that it can go.
-Brooks Atkinson

Every New Year is the direct descendant, isn't it, of a long line of proven criminals?
-Ogden Nash

For last year's words belong to last year's language and next year's words await another voice.
-T.S. Eliot

Good resolutions are simply checks that men draw on a bank where they have no account.
-Oscar Wilde

He who breaks a resolution is a weakling; He who makes one is a fool.
-F.M. Knowles

I am resolved to grow fat, and look young till forty.
-John Dryden

I have never heard anything about the resolutions of the apostles, but a good deal about their acts.
-Horace Mann

I made no resolutions for the New Year. The habit of making plans, of criticizing, sanctioning and molding my life, is too much of a daily event for me.
-Anaïs Nin

I think in terms of the day's resolutions, not the year's.
-Henry Moore

Many years ago I resolved never to bother with New Year's resolutions, and I've stuck with it ever since.
-Dave Beard

May all your troubles last as long as your New Year's resolutions.
-Joey Adams

.New Year's Day... now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.
-Mark Twain

New Year's Eve is like every other night; there is no pause in the march of the universe, no breathless moment of silence among created things that the passage of another twelve months may be noted; and yet no man has quite the same thoughts this evening that come with the coming of darkness on other nights.
-Hamilton Wright Mabie

New Year's Eve is like the death of a pet- you know it's going to happen, but somehow you're never really prepared for how truly awful it is.
-John Oliver

New Year's Eve we got five dollars for the evening- but that was from eight to unconscious.
-Sid Caesar

New Year's Eve, where auld acquaintance be forgot. Unless, of course, those tests come back positive.
-Jay Leno

New Year's Resolution: To tolerate fools more gladly, provided this does not encourage them to take up more of my time.
-James Agate

New Years Eve: when the beautiful promise of tomorrow is transformed into the ugly reality of today, and the disgusting miasma of now becomes the rosy nostalgic netherworlds of yesterday.
-J.C. Duffy

Resolutions, like the good, die young.
-Fulton J. Sheen

Resolve to be honest at all events; and if in your own judgment you cannot be an honest lawyer, resolve to be honest without being a lawyer.
-Abraham Lincoln

Resolve to be thyself: and know that he who finds himself, loses his misery.
-Matthew Arnold

Resolve to edge in a little reading every day, if it is but a single sentence. If you gain fifteen minutes a day, it will make itself felt at the end of the year.
-Horace Mann

Resolve, then, that on this very ground, with small flags waving and tinny blasts on tiny trumpets, we shall meet the enemy, and not only may he be ours, he may be us.(From the comic strip Pogo)
-Walt Kelly

The Christian resolution to find the world ugly and bad has made the world ugly and bad.
-Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

The proper behavior all through the holiday season is to be drunk. This drunkenness culminates on New Year's Eve, when you get so drunk you kiss the person you're married to.
-P.J. O'Rourke

Time has no divisions to mark its passage; there is never a thunderstorm to announce the beginning of a new year. It is only we mortals who ring bells and fire off pistols.
-Thomas Mann

Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Year's end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us.
-Hal Borland

Yesterday, everybody smoked his last cigar, took his last drink and swore his last oath. Today, we are a pious and exemplary community. Thirty days from now, we shall have cast our reformation to the winds and gone to cutting our ancient shortcomings considerably shorter than ever.
-Mark Twain

Your success and happiness lies in you. Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties.
-Helen Keller

Youth is when you're allowed to stay up late on New Year's Eve. Middle age is when you're forced to.
-Bill Vaughan

Categories: Holidays, KGB, KGB Blog News, KGB Opinion, Quotes on a topic

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Over and over and over again my friend...

Published Saturday, December 06, 2014 @ 10:11 PM EST
Dec 06 2014

The events of the last few weeks make me feel like I'm living through a foggy, feverish flashback to the 1960s.

While listening to some music from my ancient past, I stumbled across Barry McGuire's "Eve of Destruction," which hit #1 on the US charts in September of 1965.

1965 was quite a year. The first US combat troops landed in South Vietnam. Lyndon Johnson pushed his "Great Society" vision through Congress, which passed 84 of his 87 bills (!) including Medicare, Medicaid, Head Start, the Voting Rights Act, immigration reform, education standards, consumer safety and environmental protection laws, and major infrastructure programs.

Dr. Martin Luther King was leading civil rights marches in Alabama, where the participants were attacked by both police and civilians. White supremacists beat to death a white Unitarian Universalist minister who was working to secure equal treatment of blacks.

The first manned flights of Project Gemini were launched as the US took its first steps toward landing on the Moon.

Flash forward 50 years. We're fighting over health care, education, immigration, economic and social inequality. Public schools, arts, and infrastructure programs are being eviscerated. Key provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were struck down by the Supreme Court because, of course, discrimination isn't a problem any more, as evidenced by the fact that even corporations are people now.

It's been said the future ain't what it used to be. I really didn't think I'd have a personal jet pack in this second decade of the 21st century. But I also never thought I'd see the steady, deliberate dismantling of the social contract responsible for the progress made in the last half 20th century.

The first unmanned test of the Orion spacecraft was launched this week, as the United States took it first steps toward deep space travel and, perhaps, landing on Mars.

It reminded me of 1968- a really dreadful year, similar in tone to what's going on now. The only bright spot then was the success of the Apollo 8 mission, which orbited the moon in December of that year.

Everything else going on is some kind of perverse, inverted déjà vu.

Gore Vidal once called this country the United States of Amnesia because people have no memory of history- even recent history.

Wake up, people. Spend an afternoon reading what's been going on in this country since the 1980s.

And reflect that, with a few minor changes to remove explicit, then-contemporary references, this song is- sadly- as relevant now as it was then.

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Bow WOW indeed...

Published Wednesday, June 25, 2014 @ 9:33 AM EDT
Jun 25 2014

If you live in the greater Pittsburgh area and, like me, rank the experience of taking your dogs to the groomer just above getting a root canal, you're in luck.

Just call the lovely Shauna Caudill, a certified groomer and owner of Bow WOW! Mobile Bath and Grooming, and she'll bring her spiffy specialized vehicle to your home and work her magic.

To be honest, taking the shelties to the groomer was never a problem, other than spending a week trying to get all the fur out of the interior of the car.

But Pixie the Shih Tzu (Klingon for "small, insane, dog-like creature) was another story. Within five minutes of leaving the groomer's, Cindy received a call telling her to return asap and retrieve the wee beastie. They couldn't handle her. I imagined it went something like this:

Our experience with Shauna was decidedly different:

Sassy is ready for her close-up.

Before Shauna, Pixie looked like a rabid tribble with legs.

Shauna abandoned a successful but unsatisfying career and decided to take a chance and do what she truly loves. Her drive and dedication are estimable, and her skills are obvious.

We've already scheduled our next appointment.

Categories: Dogs, KGB Family, KGB Opinion

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Blessed are the cheesemakers...

Published Sunday, June 01, 2014 @ 11:42 AM EDT
Jun 01 2014

Smartphone technology is amazing, but if we're going to continue anthropomorphizing these devices, let's get the casting correct.

They're not mature, thirty-something personal assistants with eidetic memories and a preternatural awareness of our needs and their surroundings. They're precocious ten-year-olds who don't listen closely, are easily distracted, and are willing to sacrifice accuracy for the chance to joke around.

This past Friday the local Rite Aid pharmacy couldn't completely fill my prescription for montelukast, the generic form of the allergy drug Singulair. On my way out of the store, I told Google Now to "remind me about montelukast when I'm at Rite Aid."

To be fair, I didn't look at the phone's screen. I didn't want to remove my sunglasses and I was in a hurry. I just confirmend the reminder and kept moving.

So this morning I'm at Rite Aid getting milk and bread, and my phone "dings' and vibrates. The reminder screen read:

Monty Lutheran.

"Ok, Google Now. Show me Monty Lutheran."

Smart ass.

Categories: Google, KGB Opinion, Monty Python, Technology

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Observation of the day

Published Sunday, May 25, 2014 @ 12:45 PM EDT
May 25 2014

On May 25, 1925, John T. Scopes was indicted in Tennessee for teaching Darwin's theory of evolution.

Thank heavens all that foolishness is behind us now.

Categories: KGB Opinion, Observations

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Cleaning off the desktop

Published Sunday, May 25, 2014 @ 9:52 AM EDT
May 25 2014


Pope Francis will bring a rabbi and a Muslim leader with him when he travels to the Holy Land this week. Or as bartenders put it, 'We've been expecting you.'
–Jimmy Fallon


Godzilla, in happier times.


Sad but true: Radioactive kitty litter may have ruined our best hope to store nuclear waste



Quote of the week:
Don't force stupid people to be quiet. I want to know who the morons are.
-Mark Cuban



BBC says Senators have called for a new name for the Washington Redskins. They suggest the Washington Powerful Old Honkies.



The outstanding problem of cryogenics isn't whether future advances in technology will enable you to be unfrozen and brought back to life 10,000 years from now. The outstanding problem of cryogenics is whether 250 consecutive generations of security guards earning $6.50 an hour will remember to check the thermostat every night.
-John Alejandro King (The Covert Comic)


Skies over Chicago, Wednesday evening, May 21:
a) lightning
b) they crossed the streams
c) Dr. Jenning is summoning the Dark Overlords
(Photo by Andrew Chase)


There's a certain satisfying irony in the fact that the speed with which same-sex marriage is being adopted is due not to states passing bills in favor of it, but in the courts ruling as unconstitutional the bills prohibiting it. An excellent example of the law of unintended consequences. Interesting trivia: John Jones III, the federal court judge who ruled Pennsylvania's defense of marriage act unconstitutional, was nominated to the bench by then-Senator Rick Santorum.



Hate to say this, but because of Pat Sajak's awful remarks, I will no longer look to game show hosts for moral guidance.


"Oh my God, we're all gonna die! You know this is serious if someone on Fox News just said 'climate change is real.' I believe that is a sign of the Apocalypse."
-Jon Stewart, The Daily Show


It seems that trying to fix stupid just makes it worse.


Daugher-in-law Angela, granddaugter Joelle and son Doug celebrating the at the little one's first birthday party. (It was a WonderPets theme, hence the cape and tiara.)


I was rinsing out a plastic Dairy Queen cup which had contained one of their "milk" shakes, and one minute of full-force hot water failed to melt or otherwise remove all of the residue. I don't know whether I should throw it in the recycling bin or call a hazmat team.

And... the desktop is clean.

Categories: Cartoons, Cleaning off the desktop, KGB Family, KGB Opinion, Politics

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Checks and balances?

Published Wednesday, April 02, 2014 @ 6:48 PM EDT
Apr 02 2014

Chief Justice John Marshall

It's time for a Constitutional amendment granting Congress the power to set aside Supreme Court decisions.

The President can veto bills passed by Congress. Congress can override Presidential vetoes. Check and balance.

But the Supreme Court is not similarly limited. There is no appealing its decisions. The only recourse is amending the Constitution, an arduous process that requires the approval of two thirds of each house of Congress, and ratification by three fourths of the states.

The Constitution does not explicitly give the Supreme Court the power to rule on the validity of legislation. It wasn't until 1803, in the Marbury v Madison decision, that Chief Justice John Marshall invented the "doctrine of judicial review;" a principle which gave the courts the authority to strike down laws deemed unconstitutional.

Justice Marshall noted in the decision that "an act of the legislature, repugnant to the Constitution, is void." Unfortunately, repugnancy is not limited to one branch of government, and the Constitution provides no remedy for acts of the courts which are equally repugnant.

The people, through their legislative representatives, should have the right to override the Supreme Court, especially when it appears the Court's actions are based not on prior law, but ideological beliefs or external influence.

This isn't a progressive/conservative issue. It's a fundamental flaw in the implementation of our government.

Vetoing the Court shouldn't be as difficult as passing a constitutional amendment, but it shouldn't be easy, either. In fact, it should require not the two-thirds vote of both houses necessary to pass an amendment, but a three-quarters vote- the same majority as the number of states required to ratify the change.

It would also force legislators to reveal their true positions. Congressmen and senators can often rationalize their vote by pointing to certain provisions of a bill with which they disagree, providing the weasel room necessary when seeking re-election. A straight up or down vote leaves no room for misinterpretation. A three-fourths majority eliminates the taint of partisanship, and could only occur when the Court has acted in a manner truly "repugnant to the Constitution."

Our government is based upon citizens' respect for the rule of law. When that respect is lost, law becomes irrelevant. And a nation without law is a nation that cannot survive.

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Things to consider, but let's not go overboard, ok?

Published Sunday, March 30, 2014 @ 8:07 AM EDT
Mar 30 2014

"A lot of people I know believe in positive thinking, and so do I. I believe everything positively stinks."
-Lew Col

"I was going to buy a copy of 'The Power of Positive Thinking,' and then I thought: what the hell good would that do?"
-Ronnie Shakes


As a card-carrying cynical curmudgeon, I have little patience for those cheerful "pick yourself up by your bootstraps" pieces of delusional inanity. That said, there are some grains of wheat in the following chaff. Pick away, but use common sense. Don't get "brightsided."

(See the original article here.)

  1. Stop spending time with the wrong people. Life is too short to spend time with people who suck the happiness out of you. If someone wants you in their life, they'll make room for you. You shouldn't have to fight for a spot. Never, ever insist yourself to someone who continuously overlooks your worth. And remember, it's not the people that stand by your side when you're at your best, but the ones who stand beside you when you're at your worst that are your true friends.
  2. Stop running from your problems. Face them head on. No, it won't be easy. There is no person in the world capable of flawlessly handling every punch thrown at them. We aren't supposed to be able to instantly solve problems. That's not how we're made. In fact, we're made to get upset, sad, hurt, stumble and fall. Because that's the whole purpose of living- to face problems, learn, adapt, and solve them over the course of time. This is what ultimately molds us into the person we become.
  3. Stop lying to yourself. You can lie to anyone else in the world, but you can't lie to yourself. Our lives improve only when we take chances, and the first and most difficult chance we can take is to be honest with ourselves. Read The Road Less Traveled.
  4. Stop putting your own needs on the back burner. The most painful thing is losing yourself in the process of loving someone too much, and forgetting that you are special too. Yes, help others; but help yourself too. If there was ever a moment to follow your passion and do something that matters to you, that moment is now.
  5. Stop trying to be someone you're not. One of the greatest challenges in life is being yourself in a world that's trying to make you like everyone else. Someone will always be prettier, someone will always be smarter, someone will always be younger, but they will never be you. Don't change so people will like you. Be yourself and the right people will love the real you.
  6. Stop trying to hold onto the past. You can't start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading your last one.
  7. Stop being scared to make a mistake. Doing something and getting it wrong is at least ten times more productive than doing nothing. Every success has a trail of failures behind it, and every failure is leading towards success. You end up regretting the things you did NOT do far more than the things you did.
  8. Stop berating yourself for old mistakes. We may love the wrong person and cry about the wrong things, but no matter how things go wrong, one thing is for sure, mistakes help us find the person and things that are right for us. We all make mistakes, have struggles, and even regret things in our past. But you are not your mistakes, you are not your struggles, and you are here NOW with the power to shape your day and your future. Every single thing that has ever happened in your life is preparing you for a moment that is yet to come.
  9. Stop trying to buy happiness. Many of the things we desire are expensive. But the truth is, the things that really satisfy us are totally free- love, laughter and working on our passions.
  10. Stop exclusively looking to others for happiness. If you're not happy with who you are on the inside, you won't be happy in a long-term relationship with anyone else either. You have to create stability in your own life first before you can share it with someone else. Read Stumbling on Happiness.
  11. Stop being idle. Don't think too much or you'll create a problem that wasn't even there in the first place. Evaluate situations and take decisive action. You cannot change what you refuse to confront. Making progress involves risk. Period! You can't make it to second base with your foot on first.
  12. Stop thinking you're not ready. Nobody ever feels 100% ready when an opportunity arises. Because most great opportunities in life force us to grow beyond our comfort zones, which means we won't feel totally comfortable at first.
  13. Stop getting involved in relationships for the wrong reasons. Relationships must be chosen wisely. It's better to be alone than to be in bad company. There's no need to rush. If something is meant to be, it will happen- in the right time, with the right person, and for the best reason. Fall in love when you're ready, not when you're lonely.
  14. Stop rejecting new relationships just because old ones didn't work. In life you'll realize that there is a purpose for everyone you meet. Some will test you, some will use you and some will teach you. But most importantly, some will bring out the best in you.
  15. Stop trying to compete against everyone else. Don't worry about what others are doing better than you. Concentrate on beating your own records every day. Success is a battle between YOU and YOURSELF only.
  16. Stop being jealous of others. Jealousy is the art of counting someone else's blessings instead of your own. Ask yourself this: "What's something I have that everyone wants?"
  17. Stop complaining and feeling sorry for yourself. Life's curveballs are thrown for a reason- to shift your path in a direction that is meant for you. You may not see or understand everything the moment it happens, and it may be tough. But reflect back on those negative curveballs thrown at you in the past. You'll often see that eventually they led you to a better place, person, state of mind, or situation. So smile! Let everyone know that today you are a lot stronger than you were yesterday, and you will be.
  18. Stop holding grudges. Don't live your life with hate in your heart. You will end up hurting yourself more than the people you hate. Forgiveness is not saying, "What you did to me is okay." It is saying, "I'm not going to let what you did to me ruin my happiness forever." Forgiveness is the answer... let go, find peace, liberate yourself! And remember, forgiveness is not just for other people, it's for you too. If you must, forgive yourself, move on and try to do better next time.
  19. Stop letting others bring you down to their level. Refuse to lower your standards to accommodate those who refuse to raise theirs.
  20. Stop wasting time explaining yourself to others. Your friends don't need it and your enemies won't believe it anyway. Just do what you know in your heart is right.
  21. Stop doing the same things over and over without taking a break. The time to take a deep breath is when you don't have time for it. If you keep doing what you're doing, you'll keep getting what you're getting. Sometimes you need to distance yourself to see things clearly.
  22. Stop overlooking the beauty of small moments. Enjoy the little things, because one day you may look back and discover they were the big things. The best portion of your life will be the small, nameless moments you spend smiling with someone who matters to you.
  23. Stop trying to make things perfect. The real world doesn't reward perfectionists, it rewards people who get things done. Read Getting Things Done.
  24. Stop following the path of least resistance. Life is not easy, especially when you plan on achieving something worthwhile. Don't take the easy way out. Do something extraordinary.
  25. Stop acting like everything is fine if it isn't. It's okay to fall apart for a little while. You don't always have to pretend to be strong, and there is no need to constantly prove that everything is going well. You shouldn't be concerned with what other people are thinking either- cry if you need to- it's healthy to shed your tears. The sooner you do, the sooner you will be able to smile again.
  26. Stop blaming others for your troubles. The extent to which you can achieve your dreams depends on the extent to which you take responsibility for your life. When you blame others for what you're going through, you deny responsibility- you give others power over that part of your life.
  27. Stop trying to be everything to everyone. Doing so is impossible, and trying will only burn you out. But making one person smile CAN change the world. Maybe not the whole world, but their world. So narrow your focus.
  28. Stop worrying so much. Worry will not strip tomorrow of its burdens, it will strip today of its joy. One way to check if something is worth mulling over is to ask yourself this question: "Will this matter in one year's time? Three years? Five years?" If not, then it's not worth worrying about.
  29. Stop focusing on what you don't want to happen. Focus on what you do want to happen. Positive thinking is at the forefront of every great success story. If you awake every morning with the thought that something wonderful will happen in your life today, and you pay close attention, you'll often find that you're right.
  30. Stop being ungrateful. No matter how good or bad you have it, wake up each day thankful for your life. Someone somewhere else is desperately fighting for theirs. Instead of thinking about what you're missing, try thinking about what you have that everyone else is missing.

Categories: KGB Opinion, Observations

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Cleaning off the desktop

Published Sunday, February 09, 2014 @ 5:53 PM EST
Feb 09 2014


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)



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...>



"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.



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



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



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


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


“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?


"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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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...

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.)

Categories: KGB Opinion

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An incredible simulation!

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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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

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...

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

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.

Categories: KGB Opinion, Observations

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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:


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

Categories: KGB, KGB Opinion, Observations

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Observation of the day

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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