Aside from the first photo, Facebook's automated movie generator did a fairly decent job.
Observations by and for the vaguely disenchanted.
Risking the wrath of the whatever
from high atop the thing.
It seems everyone who remembers November 22, 1963 spent at least a part of yesterday rummaging through the recesses of their memories. So I was in the appropriate frame of mind when Homestead Councilman and fellow Daily Messenger alumni Lloyd Cunningham sent me this old advertisement:
From 1959 through 1967, my father and I lived with his mother and stepfather on the third floor of this former hotel, at the corner of East Eighth Avenue and McClure Street.
The picture's undated, but I'm guessing it's circa 1910. Note the reference in the ad to P. & A. Telephone? According to Poor's Manual of Public Utilities, the Pittsburgh and Allegheny Telephone Company bought the Homestead Telephone Company in 1903, so it's sometime between that date and 1914, when P. & A. went into receivership. Allegheny County's property assessment website, usually a good source of information, had no building details and an incorrect street address- 344 instead of 342. [While the property dates to the early 1900s, Lloyd reports the photo was taken in 1942, when it was called the Liberty Hotel.]
Here's the Google Maps photo of the property from this past August:
Directly opposite was the Mellon Bank managed by Mike Solomon, and the Gulf gasoline station owned by Jack Scandrol and George New, Katilius Furniture was on the Munhall side. Capitol Cleaners was on the other corner.
We had seven rooms and one bath. The structures on the roof and the second floor porch/deck shown in the old photo were already gone when we lived there. There was a rickety fire escape outside the bathroom window. My grandmother kept old rugs there and some potted plants, and it was the shortcut to get to the garbage cans in the alley. The second floor was occupied by a dentist office, a steelworker who rented just one room, and a woman who rented the rest of the floor. (She owned and ran Juanita's Restaurant, at the corner of McClure Street and Hazel Way, the alley between Eighth and Ninth Avenues.)
Note the two small extrusions casting shadows on the front of the building? They supported a large sign for the clothing store once located on the ground floor: "Solomons," with the name spelled vertically in foot-high letters. I remember it vividly because I could see it from my bedroom (the window on the top right of the building). I also remember it because during a game of laundry catch with my Uncle Doyle, he missed, and a pair of my grandfather's dirty boxer shorts ended up hanging from the sign. I don't recall how they were removed, but I do remember my grandmother wouldn't speak to me for two days. It's more than fifty years ago, and I remember Grandma's silent treatment and how she forgave me and made me promise I'd never hurt her again by embarrassing her with my behavior. (My family never believed in spanking, but elevated guilt to an art form.)
Ownership of the building changed hands, and a discount shoe store opened on the ground floor. Eventually, the owner decided to convert the building into one-room cubbyholes, and we moved to a second floor apartment at 810 Ann Street, above Jones & McClure Realty at the corner of East Ninth Avenue and Ann Street, directly across from the Homestead United Presbyterian Church. I lived there until June, 1973, when I got married.
Here's an aerial map of a portion of Homestead and Munhall. On November 22, 1963, I was in fourth grade, and nine years old. It's interesting to note where a nine year old could wander unsupervised, provided he had a destination (Grandma checked) and the street lights hadn't gone on yet.
Ranging Habits of a Nine Year Old Boy
Earlier in the evening, I had a severe spasm in my right leg. It was still bothering me, but I went to bed...
Only to be awakened two hours later with a cramp in my right little toe of such magnitude that as I reached to massage it, I was certain it had rotated 180° and folded back over the top of my foot.
Nope... it was positioned appropriately, but I had to get up and put pressure on it to stop the sensation of it being crushed by a large piece of farm equipment.
So I'm at my desk, pressing my foot into the floor, and trying to take my mind off it...
They then list various causes, including neurological diseases, diabetes, Parkinson's disease, hypoglycemia, and hormone disorders.
Oh, good. No serious diseases in that list...
I just had the most bizarre, vivid dream of my life. Seriously.
Sufficiently vivid to send me catapulting out of bed to the keyboard- wide awake, 100% alert, and without an intervening stop at the bathroom and coffeemaker- and sufficiently bizarre that I really can't write about it in detail.
It involves a trip to a Los Angeles barber shop, a dead celebrity, hospital waiting rooms, appearing on a television show, cab rides, botched airline reservations- a sequence of events as lucid as any I've experienced in real life, but that are, upon reflection, a spectacular collection of somnambular non-sequiturs.
I usually don't have dreams of such preternatural quality. I also don't subscribe to the belief that dreams have any deep meaning. Still, when you're wide awake at four a.m., asking yourself "Where the hell did that come from?", you find yourself replaying the previous day's events in your memory, looking for potential triggers.
Right before going to bed, we watched the last episode of the second season of The West Wing, in which a major character dies. Although the dream wasn't about that character or actor, it did involve a deceased performer I greatly admired. Los Angeles? That's where the series was filmed and the celebrity lived. Barber shop? I need a haircut and have been trying to work out the logistics of getting to the barber within the next week. Hospital waiting rooms- clearing out some old files yesterday, I encountered the discharge instructions from my inpatient treatment for pneumonia last year. Appearing on television and cab rides- the last time I was in New York, I stopped by ABC World News Now in the middle of the night, and when leaving the city to go to my next stop, a business trip to Germany, my cabbie nearly got into a fistfight with a driver who cut him off. During that trip to Germany, Jimmy Doohan- the actor who played Scotty on Star Trek- passed away. Not the celebrity in my dream, but another dead performer. Botched airline reservations- checked the balance information on an airline-branded credit card account yesterday.
I guess there is a loose thread connecting the events in my dream; the weirdness comes from my subconscious mind shoehorning them into a narrative that makes about as much sense as the script to Star Trek: Into Darkness.
Oh well. It's 5 am and I'm up. I'll get a head start on the day.
Maybe I can squeeze in that haircut.
The KGB Quotations Database has reached 17,000 entries.
We now return you to your regularly scheduled ennui.
"Debugging is twice as hard as writing the code in the first place.
Therefore, if you write the code as cleverly as possible, you are, by
definition, not smart enough to debug it."
I'm working on a major project and including code from stuff I wrote in 1988. It reminds me of how much I've forgotten- well, not forgotten, but not recently accessed. The feeling's similar to the rush of memories you get when viewing an old picture album. And it's reassuring to see my overall state of mind hasn't changed, based on the comments in the code, like:
* Years from now you will review this function and say to
* "Boy, this is really crappy code. I should take the time and
* optimize it."
* You probably won't remember, but you spent an entire
* weekend of unbillable time tweaking this. You increased
* its execution speed by 30%, but in the process crafted
* a function of such blinding elegance that when you
* reviewed it the next day, you discovered it was totally
* incomprehensible. So you put the old code back in.
* This is running on a 386 machine with a 12Mhz clock
* and 640K, and the profiler lists the execution time as 211
* milliseconds. A bit slow, but acceptable.
* So forget about it.
"12 Mhz clock and a full 640k."
My current laptop has a 2.4 gigaHertz clock, which is 200 times faster than that old 386 desktop. That kludgy, awkwardly written function that required 211 milliseconds to run now takes a little over one millisecond, and the file that took 20 seconds to process runs so fast that the command prompt appears immediately after I hit the return key.
Thank you, 1988 KGB, for the unexpectedly wise advice. And by the way, Fox canceled Tracey Ullman, but the Simpsons got their own show and are still on the air. And that "Naked Gun" movie you saw with Doug last weekend? Keep an eye on O.J. Simpson. Trust me.
You may ask, how did I remember taking my son to see "Police Squad?" Thanks to Google and the Internet Movie Database, this program comment now makes sense:
* "Hey Look! It's Enrico Pallazzo!"
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)
It was the last day of school- May 31, 1963. My parents decided to take me on a short weekend vacation trip to Niagara Falls to celebrate my completing third grade.
We stopped at the J&I Dairy on 13th and McClure in Homestead to pick up some last minute items. At the front of the store was a comic book display.
I was three months shy of my ninth birthday, yet somehow had managed to miss the fact that my favorite- make that only- superhero, Superman, actually had a comic book. In fact, he had an entire series of comic books in which he appeared. My experience to this point with the Man of Steel was the endlessly rerun Adventures of Superman, which I watched daily on a snowy WTOV Channel 9 Steubenville.
Naturally, I was drawn to the book. My parents bought it for me, along with some other Superman titles, to keep me quiet on the trip.
I'm not exaggerating when I say that comic book changed my life.
It was the middle of the "Silver Age" of comics, and after Superman, I discovered Green Lantern, The Flash, The Manhunter from Mars, and rest of The Justice League of America.
My comics reading habit opened a world of literature. I discovered that Superman wasn't the first hero with a dual identity, after learning (in the comics' letters from readers section) that a Hungarian baroness, Emma Orczy, had first introduced the concept in The Scarlet Pimpernel. an idea later borrowed by Johnston McCulley's Zorro.
You know how when you read an article on a web site that has a link, which you follow to another link, then ten others, until it's eight hours later and you haven't found what you were originally looking for but instead discovered dozens of other even more interesting topics and facts? Superman comics were like that for me, only instead of surfing the web, I roamed the stacks of the Carnegie Library of Homestead.
I mention all this because today in the birthday of Curt Swan (February 17, 1920 – June 17, 1996), the man whose cover art for Giant Superman Annual #7 drew me like a moth to a flame. Referred to by some as "The Norman Rockwell of comics," Swan's influence is perhaps most apparent in the original Superman film series, where Christopher Reeve appears to be a real life version of Swan's artistic interpretation.
Fifty years. Wow.
"A 'door hanger' will be placed at your home to notify you the day before actual construction is started."
Hmm. Didn't see a "door hanger" yesterday.
There are many possibilities:
-They were being sarcastic.
-Maybe it's wrong for me to assume a 'door hanger' would be hung from a doorknob. Maybe I should look around the property. Maybe they gave it to one of the dogs. Sassy's notorious for not passing along messages.
-Perhaps this isn't "actual construction." Perhaps these are trainees who come out and rip up your yard for practice, before the actual construction crew shows up.
-This isn't construction. This is demolition. They didn't say anything about demolition.
-This is a PR effort. After this debacle, anything else Verizon does will seem downright civic-minded. The last time they were doing this, the township shut them down when it was discovered Verizon's subcontractors used undocumented aliens.
-This is an experiment to see what happens when they reach the local NRA chapter president's house at the end of the street.
So, how's your day going?
On Friday morning, 24 hours after reporting the problem, callers to my Comcast home phone number still received the out of service recording.
I called the number the Comcast person gave me on Thursday to follow up on the problem. The person said it's the wrong geographic region. He needed to transfer me to the office that handles Pittsburgh.
Generic music on held, then I'm connected to another office which also tells me their region doesn't handle Pittsburgh port-in requests. I can barely hear the person on the line; then the call drops.
I'll spare you the details. Hint: sometimes psychotic behavior can be rewarding.
The phone was working Saturday morning, and Comcast gave me credit for the days without phone service, plua $20 off next month's bill.
Now everything's going through Google Voice. Let's see how this adventure pans out...
I had heard horror storied about porting phone numbers out of Vonage to other carriers, so a month before transferring my home phone to Comcast, I contacted both companies to make certain there'd be no problems. Both assured me the switch would be routine.
So yesterday morning, when you dialed my old Comcast phone number, you received a recording that the number was not in service.
And when you dialed my home telephone number- the one I've had for 28 years- you received: a recording that the number was not in service.
Comcast said they'd have it fixed in 24 hours. They have one hour, ten minutes left.
I have a bad feeling about this.
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.
There's an unconfirmed report that NASA has scheduled a 9 am press conference at its Washington, DC headquarters to confirm that the agency has made contact and has been communicating for some time with sentient extraterrestrials.
The same report states emissaries of the as yet unidentified race have provided key NASA experts with startling revelations in the fields of physics, quantum mechanics and biochemistry- knowledge that will forever change humanity's perspective and, possibly, its very role in the universe.
The report is unconfirmed because I made it up. But it was a neat thrill there for a second, huh?
Back in the days when KGB Consulting still existed, the phone calls would start around this time of year... people wanting a KGB Consulting pop-up tetradecagon calendar. (If the business had had as many customers as persons requesting calendars -sigh- but I digress.)
No, I'm not bringing them back; but now you can roll your own. Just go here and follow the instructions.
The site refers to the calendar shape as a "pentagon dodecahedron", but Stan Kelly-Bootle agrees with my nomenclature, since it's a 14-sided polygon, albeit three-dimensional.
Think of it as physical therapy. If you print it out on card stock and paste a rubber band inside, you can pretty closely emulate the pop-up quality of the originals.
I'm sitting here upset over not remembering what bit of code I need to change to alter the behavior of the TPU editor on the OpenVMS machine I'm using. After all, I wrote several custom editors for clients in TPU. Then I remembered I originally wrote that code in 1986. So I don't feel so bad about not remembering. I just feel bad about being 26 years older.
More accurately, a regular deer.
I let the dogs out Friday night and about a minute later heard them barking frantically.
I ran out to the back yard, but couldn't see them; the sound was coming from behind a stand of seven foot tallgrass that obscured my view. As I got nearer, I saw a flash of brown and white, much larger than a Sheltie, headed directly at me at high speed.
I started turning to get out of the way, but wasn't fast enough- the doe collided with me at full speed. Strictly on the basis of mass, I should have been the winner- but she was going full tilt bozo and delivered a substantial if glancing blow as she shot past me and bounded over the fence.
I was spun in a vector and at a velocity totally inappropriate for someone of my age and decrepitude. To my credit, I somehow managed to stay on my feet. My immediate feeling was relief (my body had not yet determined the precise location and intensity of the pain it was going to begin relentlessly transmitting to my brain).
Then I looked down.
There stood three Shetland sheepdogs with expressions ranging from pity to disgust. I could almost hear their disparaging comments concerning my absymal herding abilities. "We chased it right to you, Dad. You're bigger! You have opposable thumbs! You let it go right by you! We were looking forward to something other than dry kibble!"
The ring of pain pulsing around my pelvic girdle can be numbed with NSAIDs. But it's going to take a lot of pizza crusts slipped under the table to regain my true alpha standing with the rest of the pack.
At least they didn't tell the cats.
Thirty-five years ago today my daughter was born, and I was offered a job that profoundly changed my destiny. It started my career in typesetting, consulting, technical writing, and computer software.
I was hired as a typesetter at a legal/financial printing company because of my future boss' somewhat unconventional interviewing technique. He recited from memory a random lyric from the libretto of Jesus Christ Superstar; I was to respond with the next line. We did this for about ten minutes.
I nailed it.
I don't recall there actually being any typesetting-related questions during the interview. I don't think he even asked if I could type.
The point of all this is to remember Heinlein's admonition: specialization is for insects. While you should be an expert in at least one field, you should learn as much as you can about as many things as you can. Arcane knowledge can be useful, even though its acquisition can seem pointless. That funny-looking key you picked up a few years ago might eventually unlock a door leading to a totally unexpected opportunity.
PS: If I hadn't been familiar with Superstar, the next category would have been Star Trek.
Even a pragmatic humanist cannot deny destiny.
PPS: I really owe Tim Rice a nice thank you card.
Two things I learned from yesterday's visit to PennDOT to renew my drivers license:
1. There are a lot of seniors who are angry about the need to obtain a photo id to vote this year, and
2. I am slowly turning into Santa Claus.
That's Mister Organ Donor,
if you don't mind...
Any significantly advanced parody is indistinguishable from reality.
Every Sunday I give thanks that there's nothing in Leviticus about liking show tunes.
Filing for bankruptcy is sort of like winning the lotto, except you still have to search under the couch cushions for loose change.
Hitting the delete key and changing the channel are satisfying but ineffective methods of denying reality.
I never throw anything away, which is irrelevant because I can never remember where I put anything.
I'm in pretty good shape for someone in the shape I'm in.
I'm never going to be rich and influential. I took an oath only to use my powers for good.
I'm sorry, but voting for a presidential candidate because you like the choice for vice president is like getting married to a woman because you like her cat.
I've come to the realization that gray is the mature form of blond.
I referred to the second Gulf War as Desert Storm 2.0, since it reminded me of a Microsoft upgrade: it was expensive, most people didn't want it, and it didn't work.
If Windows was a person, it'd be a real pale kid with pink eyes and a banjo.
It's a delusion of grandeur only if you can't pull it off.
It's amazing the number of persons intimidated by mere competence.
It's called “sodomy” because it's easier to pronounce than “gomorrahry.”
Just keep in mind that most men who chat with you on the Internet look like me.
Life is a recursive plunge.
Manhattan's a mosh pit. You jump into it in the morning, close your eyes, grit your teeth, and hope you're still breathing when it tosses you back out at the end of the day.
No problem is unsolvable, but there are some that just aren't worth the effort.
Now medical experts are saying that it's not coffee, booze or cigarettes that cause heart attacks, but sustained hostile emotional attitudes. Maybe we have hostile emotional attitudes because you made us give up the freaking coffee, booze and cigarettes, you clueless, white-frocked cretins!
Presbyterians believe they're predestined to have free will.
Republicans are sore losers even when they win.
Saying Windows 8 is the most powerful and secure operating system in the Microsoft family is like saying Moe was the smart Stooge.
Some days those bridge abutments at the side of the road look pretty damned attractive.
The conservatives' preoccupation with the burning of American flags can be attributed to the amount of time they spend wrapped in them.
The difference between investing in Internet stock and Beanie Babies is that with Internet stock you don't get Beanie Babies.
The Internet is run by a guy named Heisenberg, and his principles are uncertain.
The laserdisc was the 8-track of the 90s.
The only good thing about being over fifty is that I no longer worry about dying young.
The problem learning something new at my age is the nagging suspicion it's actually just something I forgot.
The problem with lawyers is that they don't believe in divine intervention.
The realization that your existence isn't going to change the course of western civilization makes sleeping in a lot more enjoyable.
There is no “I” in team. There is, however, a “U” in sucker.
What I really need is a reality-altering substance.
-Kevin G. Barkes (b. September 11, 1954)
I messed up yesterday's leap second. I turned my clock ahead one second instead of back one second.
Swell. Now I'm going to be running early all day.
The CPAP machine arrived Wednesday, and the change it's made in my sleeping pattern is phenomenal. For the last three nights I've had 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep, not even waking to use the bathroom. That alone is amazing. I also awake feeling rested and alert. It's like skipping the first two hours of the day, which were dedicated primarily to caffeine consumption and lap drooling.
The downside is that those first two hours were still moderately productive. Since Thursday I've begun each day "in the hole," which is forcing me evaluate my daily routine for items I can jettison or perform more efficiently.
Which is why there was no entry here yesterday, and why this one is appearing in mid-afternoon.
Oh, well. Three steps forward, and all that...
"A man can only do what he can do. But if he does that each day he can
sleep at night and do it again the next day.
Returned from my second sleep study about an hour ago.
Much better than the first one: I actually slept, and slept well.
I attribute this primarily to ignoring the admonition to avoid caffeine, sugar, and nicotine on the day of the study. I did that last time, and the caffeine and nicotine withdrawal symptoms- as well as having to sleep on my back- eliminated the possibility of experiencing anything resembling normal sleep.
But this time- thanks to the CPAP machine, the consumption of nominal amounts of performance-enhancing drugs during the day, and the ability to move freely while sleeping- I had probably the best seven or so hours of sleep I've had in the past year.
The technician said I reached deep sleep almost immediately, dreamed a great deal, and slept very soundly, even though wearing the CPAP mask which, I'm glad to report, didn't bother me at all.
If they could actually see what I had been dreaming, they'd understand:
Sometimes it's unpleasant teaching a class, especially when the participants don't want to be there.
But sometimes it's delightful. When the students are motivated to learn and are alert and participating, the day flies by. It's exhilarating. And exhausting.
A sign of advancing age: I was pretty well wiped out by the end of the day on Monday, especially after Sunday's hotel room problems and lack of sleep.
I had dinner at the hotel, crashed, watched House, went to the drug store to get some allergy eye drops, crashed again, and awoke at 5 am.
I'm still not sleeping well. I attribute that to a missing missus. I'm also used to a protective ring of two cats on the bed and four shelties around it. I feel so... exposed.
The Essential Forgotten Item this trip: cell phone charger. Fortunately, I have the car charger and the trip between the hotel and customer site is enough to keep the phone topped off.
Into the shower, then the fray. I skipped breakfast yesterday. Not going to make that mistake again today. Or, at least, I'm going to make certain to load up on coffee.
One thing I've learned from years of traveling is never unpack everything until you know the room is ok.
By "ok," I mean it has no unusual odors, unidentifiable organic-appearing substances on any surfaces, working electrical outlets, functional plumbing and HVAC systems.
Just because you're staying in a hotel with a name and reputation doesn't mean everything's going to be satisfactory.
The hotel here in Rockville, Maryland is nice, but I couldn't get the room temperature below 75°, which is far too warm for my comfort. Engineering gave me instructions to reset the unit. I did, napped for a few hours, and awoke to... 76°. This was not trending well.
A call to the front desk, and I was instantly assigned to another room with a functional air conditioner. All I had to do was throw the laptop and battery into my backpack because I hadn't unpacked anything else. Sometimes it takes a few hours for a room's flaws to reveal themselves.
Of course, as you can tell from the time of this post, today is going to be a long day.
I think I'll begin it with a nap.
The key to good hospital treatment is respect. No respiratory therapist is going to mess with someone who looks like this at 7 am on a Sunday morning.
The sordid details later, but the bottom line is I was in the hospital since last Thursday night with a case of mycoplasma pneumonia that turned ugly.
The good new is I'm home. The better news is I got to the blogging software before the Rapture timer went off.
Just give me a day or two to get things back up to speed around here.
As the techs were removing the test leads from my head and various body parts at the end of yesterday's sleep study debacle, I felt an irritation in my right eye. It was also slightly red. Not unusual, given my allergies. What was odd was my left eye was not similarly affected.
I had been sweating during the night, and I guessed some the goop they used to secure the electrodes to my head had probably seeped into my eye. No problem, I thought. Part of my morning routine is to instill anti-allergy eyedrops, and I assumed that would take care of it.
The irritation continued during the morning. I took a nap, expecting that would clear it up. Wrong again. I awoke after two hours with the lower portion of my right eye a lovely, oozy, pinkish mess.
I went to Jefferson Regional Medical Center's QuickCare center, where I received an eye flushing, a prescription for antihistaminic eye drops, a green apple lollipop, and validated parking. All in 48 minutes.
The physician's assistant who examined me wouldn't confirm my hypothesis that the irritation was caused by the EEG electrode paste; only that I appeared to be having an allergic reaction to something. As someone who deals with daily eye allergies, I told her it felt different- as if I had a foreign substance in my eye. EEG paste has a high salt content to insure the leads have good electrical conductance.
But the PA said she didn't see any foreign substance, so she gave me the prescription and sent me on my way. (The lollipop and validated parking required some personal initiative. Hey, I needed some compensation for the co-pay Blue Cross is going to bill me.)
Three doses of eye drops later, my eye is still red and inflamed. No vision problems, thankfully. They said to see an ophthalmologist on Friday if it doesn't clear up. Screw that. I'll check in with my physician of 40 years, Dr. Larry, who will deal with it straightaway, and then we'll have lunch at The Monkey Bar.
When I get the inevitable diagnosis of sleep apnea and return for a second sleep study to get the CPAP machine, I'm going to weat goggles. If I'm going to have to wear a mask while sleeping, I might as well look Top Gun-ish while doing it.
The sleep study was more or less a six-hour endurance contest.
First, they tell me I have to sleep on my back or my insurance won't cover the test. Swell. I can't remember the last time I slept on my back without the assistance of general anesthesia.
I am a restless sleeper, so about every hour the technicians had to come in to reconnect the leads I had pulled off during my somnambular acrobatics. Finally, around 4 am, when they came in to untangle me a fifth time, they said they had collected enough data and that I could leave.
No coffee in the patient waiting area. Swell. I grabbed a cheese danish and retreated to the Sheetz down the road, where I quickly killed off an entire Extra Dark carafe, black. Thus energized- or at least conscious- I made it home, started the coffee pot and was welcomed by four happy shelties. They've been out, are having breakfast in their crates, and I'm heading upstairs to get my coffee.
Then my furry pals and I are going to sack out on my office floor until about noon.
I get to go through the sleep routine again once the inevitable diagnosis of sleep apnea is reached, and they fit me for one of those CPAP masks and machines.
Only the next time, I'm drinking coffee all day and taking my brief lunchtime nap. Screw 'em. If I'm going to have a rotten night, I may as well enjoy the day leading up to it.
I'm going in for a sleep study tonight. The instructions say 24 hours with no alcohol, chocolate, caffeine, or naps. Oh, yeah. I'll fall to sleep real well. Right after I kill with my bare hands the first stupid bastard who asks me, "So, how was your day...
No coffee and no naps? C'mon, meet me half way here...
I'm recovering from a nasty norovirus or food-delivered toxin. Warp, impulse and auxiliary are out; running on batteries. Hope to return to a normal schedule tomorrow.
Ex-Marine, truck driver, and dog lover Raymond Francis Barkes (2/2/1924-10/9/1994) would have been 88 today and, I'm certain, still a hoot.
At the psychiatrist's office: Perhaps this isn't the best place for this painting, especially if your practice contains any paranoids...
"There is a very fine line between "hobby" and "mental illness."
The KGB Quotations Database is 25 years old this month.
It began as the cookie file of the Fido computer bulletin board system (bbs) I started in 1986.
When a user logged on to the bbs, the software would access a file called cookie.txt, pick a record at random, and display it. It might be something silly, like "ME WANT COOKIE!" Most system operators populated their cookie.txt file with quotations, and some labored mightily to improve their quality and quantity.
I had always been a quotations fan, although I really can't explain why. I've been a compulsive reader since about the age of four, and even then I remember encountering certain phrases or sentences that would cause an intellectual or emotional epiphany, a feeling of delight in its structure, rhythm, or density of meaning.
I knew some people "collected" quotations, transcribing them to notebooks or index cards. Pre-1986, that struck me as self-indulgent and a waste of time. My computer consulting business and monthly column for DEC Professional magazine left litle time for such diversions.
Ah, but the cookie file provided both a mechanism and, more importantly, a raison d'être to begin my own collection. Visitors to my BBS system began to expect more than the stale cookies of default Fido installations, and I began using the quotations in my magazine column.
For a few years- between the time I shut down the BBS and began this website- there was no online presence for my quotes file. But I continued to maintain it, because I knew it would reappear someday.
It did, in October, 2002. The "KGB Quote-A-Matic" at the top of the right column of this page has been present in some form in every iteration of this website.
I've never really considered quotation collection a hobby. A hobby implies a discrete activity unto itself. Quotation collection is a full-time activity, albeit an almost subconscious one.
There's a part of my brain that seems to constantly run a wetware equivalent of a pattern recognition program. It's like an anti-virus program on a PC- I'm not aware it's running, but when a new, interesting pattern passes by, it sets off an alarm alerting the conscious part of my brain to record the quotation that triggered the response.
The other day I decided to calculate how much time I've invested in this activity. I estimated that each quote added to the list requires about an hour of reading.
That works out to 15,000 hours, or 625 days, or 1.7 years. In other words, I've spent 6.8% of the last 25 years of my life collecting quotations.
Before you label me a lunatic, consider that the A.C. Nielsen Co. estimates the average American watches four hours of television a day. While I may have spent 1.7 of the last 25 years reading and accumulating quotations, during that same period the average American spent 36,500 hours- 4.1 years- staring at the television.
For my efforts, I have a database of 15,000 quotations, a witty comment for just about any occasion, and exposure to some of the greatest minds in history.
You, my average American friend, have a large, butt-shaped dent in your couch.
Here's hoping for another 25 years. And a new couch.
I always say "Merry Christmas" to my Christian friends, "Happy Hanukkah" to my Jewish friends, and "Io, Saturnalia" to my pagan friends.
When I didn't know the beliefs of the person, I used to just say "Have a happy holiday."
But the Christians would read me the riot act since everyone knows they're the only religion in the United States that observes a holiday in December.
Now I just say Merry Christmas to everyone. The Jews, Pagans, and atheists don't go ballistic on me. They're not offended in the least. They ignore the error and merely appreciate the sincerity of the sentiment.
And I don't have to worry about getting a lecture from the Christians.
During this season of universal peace and good will, I just don't need the hassle.
The term "job creator" reminds me a lot of "baby maker." I can still do
it, but I've done all the baby making I really want to do, so I think
I'll pass, thanks.
-Kevin G. Barkes
Twenty years ago today, my family and I moved to our present house. It's the twelfth of 15 different places I've lived- permanently or temporarily- in my 57 years, but it's the place I think of when I think of "home."
Well, that's not entirely true. Home, I discovered several years ago, is that place in my memory where my grandmother cooks Thanksgiving dinner, my kids open their Christmas presents, my father watches the Pirates, and where there's always a dog or cat nearby. That's what's neat about home. It's not a physical place, it's a state of mind. You can be home just about anywhere. The house- or houses- provide a place in which to accumulate those experiences, but it's like the difference between a fine merlot and the container in which it's stored. We remember the wine, not the wine botle.
Happy 20th, house. Thanks for the memories. And I promise to get around to cleaning out your garage any day now.
Back in the halcyon, pre-Internet days of KGB Consulting, my office had a half dozen computer systems, over a dozen telephone lines, the usual collection of office equipment, and a couple hundred feet of various phone and low-voltage control cabling stuffed above the suspended ceiling.
Since the business folded back in 2000, I only need two "work" systems. I disconnected the Verizon phone service five years ago, when I called to report a service outage at 10 am and was told all their representatives were busy and to call back later. So much for the superior reliability of landlines. I switched to Vonage, cut my phone bill in half, and now just have to deal with Comcast for all my telecommunications services. (I complain about Comcast but, truth be told, aside from their crappy DVRs, their performance has been exemplary, at least from a signal standpoint. In the past 16 months I can't remember a single outage.)
But I digress.
Because of the literally hundreds of feet of legacy cabling stuffed in the ceiling above my head, I was never able to reconfigure my office the way I really wanted. So I decided to quit procrastinating, pull everything down, and rewire the entire enchilada.
As the picture above shows, my office now looks like the bridge of the U.S.S. Reliant following the Enterprise's sneak attack in Star Trek II.
I'm about 20% through. Misty, my unofficial liaison to the lower mammals in the household, has stayed with me through the ordeal. The other pups and the cats come down only when nature calls. They nervously glance upward at the ceiling, then hurry through to the safety of the back door or litter box. I keep telling them the sagging lines are low-voltage signal cables and not ac power runs, but I don't think they believe me.
The goal is to get this done by the end of the week, which is probably doable with a couple late nights after work.
Provided I can teach Misty how to wire the mini-PBX.
Letters to the Editor, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, October 25, 2011:
You know we're in trouble when I attempt to be the voice of reason against additional legislative regulation...
NASA experts calculate the odds of being struck this Friday by the bus-sized, de-orbiting Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite are 3,200 to 1. The odds of being struck -while wearing the KGB Orbital Shield Tin-Foil Hat- are astronomical, if you'll pardon the pun. Why take the chance? Just $9.99.
Mormons believe Joseph Smith received golden plates from an angel on a hill, when everybody knows Moses got stone tablets from a burning bush on a mountain.
(Video: "Yaweh or No Way" - The Colbert Report)
"Only 71% approve of God's handling of creating the universe. That means for 29%, the infinite and unknowable everything isn't cutting' it." Which lends further credence to The KGB Batsh*t Constant.
Several readers have taken me to task for not adding the quotations which appear from time to time in "Quote of the Day" postings to the KGB Quotations database.
Here's the deal:
To qualify for inclusion in the database, a quotation has to be fairly exceptional, and/or relatively timeless. Consider yesterday's Quote of the Day:
In her new book, Bristol Palin reveals she lost her virginity on a
camping trip. Bristol said she named her son "Trip," because "Camping"
seemed like a dumb name.
This entry has a couple problems. First, it's a joke, although that's not an automatic reason for exclusion. What disqualifies it is its topicality. It references a recently released book written by a quasi-public figure who (one fervently prays) will eventually fade from public memory.
For database inclusion, a quotation has to have legs. Although, to be totally honest, the real determining factor is my mood at the time I encounter the quotation. So it's totally arbitrary. Hey, it's my database. Deal with it.
There's really only one hard and fast rule: No Deepak Chopra.
Recently added to the KGB Quotations Database:
Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid
the trap of thinking you have something to lose.
The opposite of success is not failure, it is name-dropping.
The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.
As allergy sufferers know, this season's been particularly bad. My daughter and I have been dosed by our respective physiscians with enough corticosteroids to dry up the Mississippi basin. Despite these heroic efforts, we're always "on the edge." One tiny challenge to our hair-trigger immune systems can easily bust a hole in our shaky pharmaceutical dykes.
My levee burst at about 4 am when Pumpkin, our evil cat, apparently decided she wanted to fall asleep on her favorite piece of endothermic furniture, namely me. She first sat on my head, providing my eyes, sinuses and upper respiratory system with a more than moderate dose of fur and dander. She then moved on to the only exposed human body part on the bed- my lower right leg. As she settled into place, I apparently startled her by sneezing. She attempted to maintain her stability in the cute way cats do, by extending her quasi-lethal, razor-like claws quite firmly into my calf.
My leg jerked upward in a powerful reflex action, catapulting the accursed feline into the bed's headboard, where her trajectory was modified in such a way that she was deposited into a mass of sleeping shelties Who Were Not Amused.
Somehow the rest of the household remained unconscious during the festivities, which involved nearly a half-dozen small furry mammals cascading down the steps in high dudgeon, accompanied by a greater mammal using the dark, unpleasant part of his vocabulary in an extended, hissed exhalation that thankfully did not involve the larnyx. In the meantime, my calf started erupting in hives and producing an itching sensation reminiscent of the chest-bursting scene in Alien.
So, at 4:10 am, I'm downing prednisone pills like M&Ms, slathering hydrocortisone cream on my leg, giving myself an albuterol treatment and squirting naphazoline in my eyes. The dogs are under my desk, alternately cowering in fear and growling at the cat, who, given the supremely narcissistic tendencies of her species, is lying on the spare office chair, staring at me in dull curiosity through drooping eyelids.
Going to church won't be of any help. I recently joined the Unitarians, so I can no longer invoke the wrath of some supernatural being to rain down flaming justice on those who afflict me.
I'll just have to settle for extreme grumpiness for the balance of the day.
You've been warned.