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Saturday, January 25, 2003

It's Getting Ugly

The official reason the Chicago River hasn't frozen over yet, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, is that it's "warmed by sewage-treatment plants dumping warm water into it."

Ick. I betcha there's more than "warm water" in that effluent.

I'm still not buying it. As I noted a few blogs down, the Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service's page on the National Weather Service Chicago Forecast Office website makes no mention at all of the Chicago River. Nada. The page allows you to trace every half-assed creek in the suburbs all the way down to the Mississippi Delta and probably on to the Amazon, for all I know, but you can't find the Chicago River. The damned thing is 156 miles long, stretching from Park City to Lockport, for pete's sake.

I told one of my co-workers that I suspected it's a national security thing. After all, the Chicago River goes right past some critical buildings in the city- Boeing's headquarters, the Mercantile Exchange, Union Station- and the government's already pulled all sorts of previously public data from the websites of countless agencies.

I further surmised there's probably a secret submarine base beneath the city. My guess is there's a huge facility beneath Sears Tower that's connected to The Big Cruddy (see the reference to sewage treatment plants, above), and the constant sub traffic out to Lake Michigan keeps the river from freezing.

Said co-worker has some connections, and sent an e-mail containing my theories, emphasizing the oddness of the disappearance of the river from the Chicago river report. I received the following response:

"Tell Kevin that if he keeps asking questions, he may disappear from the Chicago Census Report, if you take my meaning."

I'm outta here. On to Pittsburgh today, and then to the Big Apple on Monday for the balance of the week. As if the Chicago River Freezing Conspiracy business isn't enough, the whole National Temperature Index controversy is getting out of hand and requires my personal attention.

It's a dirty job, but someone has to do it.

Secret Sub Base?
Secret Submarine Base?

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Friday, January 24, 2003

Ah, Diplomacy

Henry Kissinger
How I'm missing yer
You're the doctor of my dreams
With your crinkly hair and your glassy stare
And your machiavellian schemes
I know they say that you are very vain
And short and fat and pushy but at least you're not insane
Henry Kissinger
How I'm missing yer
And wishing you were here.
Henry Kissinger
How I'm missing yer
You're so chubby and so neat
With your funny clothes and your squishy nose
You're like a German parakeet
All right so people say that you don't care
But you've got nicer legs than Hitler
And bigger tits than Cher
Henry Kissinger
How I'm missing yer
And wishing you were here.

-Eric Idle

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I Sing The Command Line Electric

Like most whose computer experience pre-dates graphic user interfaces, I frequently miss the simple elegance of the command line.

My first machine was a Radio Shack Color Computer. I then started working with VAXen and, finally, pre-Windows IBM personal computers. All required users to type the commands they wished the computer to execute.

Because I'm a good typist, command line interfaces (CLIs) never intimidated me. I still prefer entering commands via the keyboard instead of dragging a mouse all over the place.

To its credit, Microsoft still allows you to peform most Windows operations without using a mouse. Consider what I do to edit a file. I hit the Windows key (or control-escape) to bring up the start menu; V, to invoke the VEDIT editor; Alt-F, which opens the file menu. This takes under two seconds to execute, and my hands never leave the keyboard.

Many command line utilities that were available on old non-GUI machines have been replaced by programs which require the user to deal with all the graphic folderol, and the functionality provided by many useful old Norton Utility-like programs like ts (text search) are missing in Windows.

I was fortunate to stumble over Poof!, a collection of 135 command line tools available for about ten bucks, along with a bunch of other stuff as well.

Look here for all the commands you get. If you're a command line junkie, this is the package for you.

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Thursday, January 23, 2003

The Chicago River: A Vast Government Coverup?

Okay, so I admit it. I've become obsessed with the Chicago River, and why the damned thing hasn't frozen solid yet, given the fact it's been below freezing for weeks now.

Yesterday morning it was -3°F when I walked across the Washington Street bridge. Not only was the river not frozen, steam was rising from it. Meanwhile, in New York City, where it's been warmer than it has been here, the Coast Guard is sending icebreakers into the Hudson River and ferry service to some communities has been halted because of the ice.

I decided to go to the horse's mouth, so to speak, and webbed over to the National Weather Service's Chicago Forecast Office, where I made my way to the Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service page. Here, I thought for certain, I could get the straight poop about the Chicago River.

Go ahead and take a look. I'll wait.

Notice anything? Yep. The Chicago River's not there.

Now I know the thing exists. I cross it twice a day, and it's visible from the kitchen at work. For God's sake, there's even an entire web site dedicated to it.

But the Feds have hushed it up. Obviously, people are asking questions The Powers That Be would prefer to remain unasked.

I'm not going to rest until I get to the bottom of this river thing.

Figuratively, of course. I hope. I mean, this is Chicago.


Allegheny River

Chicago River

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There's some sanity in the world...

If we're looking for the source of our troubles, we shouldn't test people for drugs, we should test them for stupidity...-P.J. O'Rourke

"If a person knows or should know that eating copious orders of supersized McDonald's products is unhealthy and may result in weight gain ... it is not the place of the law to protect them from their own excesses. Nobody is forced to eat at McDonald's."-U.S. District Court Judge Robert Sweet, dismissing the inane lawsuit against McDonald's by stupid parents who blamed their children's obesity on the fast-food chain's fare.

Justice would have been better served if Judge Sweet had tossed the parents across the street into criminal court, where they could have been charged with the real malfeasance: child abuse. Any parents who permit their children to eat five meals a week at McDonald's deserve to serve hard time.

Of course, here's the big McDonald's story:


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Wednesday, January 22, 2003

If you can read this, you're not the President

Some gems from

If you can read this
Regime change
One Person
I know what you did
I know what you did

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Curiouser and curiouser.

This is really weirding me out.

Not only has the Chicago River not yet frozen, it was giving off steam this morning as I walked across the Washington Street bridge. Not a trace of ice anywhere. Meantime, in Pittsburgh, the Allegheny is icing up like the missus does when I ask her... well, never mind.

Cursory Google searches have been unrevealing, and while the locals swear they've seen it frozen, none can remember a specific date.

I'm thinking of supplementing my income by bottling Chicago River water and marketing it as "natural" automotive anti-freeze. But I shouldn't be too critical. At least the ol' Chicago doesn't burst into flames, like the one in Cleveland did in the 70s.

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Deja Vu

History does not always repeat itself. Sometimes it just yells "Can't you remember anything I told you?!" and lets fly with a club.-Unattributed

Tom Lehrer, whom Weird Al Yankovic considers "the J.D. Salinger of demented music," wrote Send The Marines in 1965. Aside from the spoken introduction and the somewhat outdated reference to Mississippi (Mississippoli)- remember, this was just one year after the passage of the Civil Rights Act- the song continues to be depressingly relevant. Substitute Bush for Johnson, Iraqi for Vietnamese, and North Korean for Dominican, and you'll see what I mean.

Send The Marines

What with President Johnson practicing escalatio on the Vietnamese, and then the Dominican crisis on top of that, it has been a nervous year, and people have begun to feel like a Christian Scientist with appendicitis. Fortunately, in times of crisis like this, America always has its number one instrument of diplomacy to fall back on. Here's a song about it:
When someone makes a move
Of which we don't approve,
Who is it that always intervenes?
U.N. and O.A.S.,
They have their place, I guess,
But first - send the Marines!
We'll send them all we've got,
John Wayne and Randolph Scott;
Remember those exciting fighting scenes?
To the shores of Tripoli,
But not to Mississippoli,
What do we do? We send the Marines!
For might makes right,
And till they've seen the light,
They've got to be protected,
All their rights respected,
Till somebody we like can be elected.
Members of the corps
All hate the thought of war;
They'd rather kill them off by peaceful means.
Stop calling it aggression,
Ooh, we hate that expression!
We only want the world to know
That we support the status quo.
They love us everywhere we go,
So when in doubt,
Send the Marines!

To be further depressed, go here. This is the rocket scientist in charge.

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Tuesday, January 21, 2003

Thought bubbles

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Monday, January 20, 2003

Let Freedom Ring

On August 28, 1963, I was a few weeks short of nine years old and spending most of my time at the Ninth Avenue Playground across from the Homestead Police Station. It was the Wednesday before Labor Day, the end of summer vacation and the beginning of the fourth grade. I was on my way back out to the playground when my grandmother stopped me. She called me into the living room and told me to sit down and watch the television. Lots of people were in Washington, DC talking about something.

As a nine year old desperately trying to wring enjoyment out of the last week of his summer vacation, the last thing I wanted to do was watch a bunch of adults I didn't know give boring speeches about things that didn't matter to me. But She Who Must Be Obeyed wouldn't take no for an answer; she wasn't even swayed by the knowledge that the reason for my urgent trip to the playground was to retrieve a pot holder I had made for her before the lunch break.

She had been originally attracted to the newscast when she heard Mahalia Jackson singing. My grandmother claimed to be a Baptist (although I'd never seen her in a church in my life), and loved to listen to black gospel singers. I remember her sitting on her chair with her soiled apron, clutching a dishcloth and watching the screen intently.

"You listen to this," she told me. "This is important."

I plopped down on the floor and watched as a black guy I didn't recognize approached the microphone. He was standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial, and there were more people there than I had ever seen in my life.

Then he spoke.

"I am happy to join with you today, in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

"Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of captivity.

"But one hundred years later, we must face the tragic fact that the Negro is still not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize an appalling condition.

"In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

"It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check -- a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God's children. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.

"It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment and to underestimate the determination of the Negro. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

"But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

"We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny and their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

"And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

"I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

"Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

"I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

"I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."

"I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.

"I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

"I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

"I have a dream today.

"I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor's lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers.

"I have a dream today.

"I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

"This is our hope. This is the faith with which I return to the South. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

"This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring."

"And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

"Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

"Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks of California!

"But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

"Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

"Let freedom ring from every hill and every molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

"When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

Even as a nine year old, I knew I had witnessed something special. I looked over my shoulder and saw something that really disturbed me... my grandmother was crying.

"What's wrong?" I asked.

The unschooled old woman, born in the hills of West Virginia, shook her head. "Nothing, Kevie," she said. "You just remember what that man just said. Your Papa and me, we're too old to change. But you do what that man said, and everything will be all right."

It's advice worth repeating.

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Sunday, January 19, 2003

No Words Are Necessary

Men and women

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My Way

I was poring through the website log files and saw a referral to my site from something called Out of curiosity, I clicked on the link and discovered portal nirvana.

Yahoo and other portal sites allow you to create and customize a personal page displaying various elements important to you (news, weather, business, etc.).

Unfortunately, these sites have become more like web browser stress test engines, each trying to determine precisely how many pop-up windows it will take to totally freeze your PC.

I've moved to MyWay. Now I can actually access most of the important info I need in one place, without have to endure Britney Spears' or Enrique Iglesias' nauseatingly bleached white smiles smiling at me from a pop-up ad at 4 a.m.

Look here for some background info. Its parent company also runs

MyWay pays the bills by using Google's AdWords sponsored links, perhaps the least offensive form of online advertising.

Their mission statement says it best:

The Internet was once touted as the information superhighway. Instead of a superhighway, it has become more like an expressway at rush hour: slow moving and filled with obstacles, requiring that you navigate through the unwanted and the unexpected.

My Way is taking a significant detour from this road most that we believe makes all the difference. My Way has partnered with Google to feature the world's best search engine along with our full portal offering...all without banners, pop-ups, video ads, direct marketing and privacy concerns. (And a lot more.)


Some people don't mind a home page cluttered with ads and promos. It's hard to believe, but Yahoo! now has as many as 40 different advertisements and promotional placements on its home page on any given day.

However, we believe that most people would rather keep their Web experience simple, clean, and fast. And that's where My Way comes in. We don't serve banners or pop-ups on the My Way website. Period.

This means less clutter, lightning-fast pages, and more room for news, email, sports, finance, games, Google-powered searches and whatever else you want.


Have you ever looked at the privacy policy of your home page? There's a good chance you'll find pages upon pages of legal copy.

My Way's privacy policy is two paragraphs long. We will not rent, sell or trade your personal information. It's as simple as that.


My Way provides a world-class offering of portal services. However, we recognize that you may be hooked on one or more services offered by another provider. To give you choice, we offer you the following options:

1) My Way Settings - Found at the bottom of every My Way page, your settings provide an easy means of getting direct, one-click access from My Way to another provider's email service, portfolio product, calendar, groups or chat community. This way, you can make My Way your home on the Internet, while accessing another provider's service with one click of the mouse.

2) Data Importation - For Yahoo and MSN users ready to switch to My Way, we offer the ability to import your portfolio, bookmarks and email address book in seconds. Click here to learn how.


My Way makes money through clearly identified sponsored listings and text links. We also keep our expenses low by partnering with the best and most trusted providers in the business instead of doing everything ourselves.

Does it work? Yes. In fact, we have been profitable since our first month of operation.


We're glad you asked! Our goal is to become bigger than Yahoo! (hey, why not?), but we can't do it without your help. If you like what we're doing, please take a moment to spread the word about My Way.


It's worth a shot. Try it and see if you like it.

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Copyright © 1987-2024 by Kevin G. Barkes
All rights reserved.
Violators will be prosecuted.
So there.  
The e-mail address is now something other than saga. used to be until December, 2007 when the domain name broker Trout Zimmer made an offer I couldn't refuse. Giving up and adopting created a significant problem, however. I had acquired the domain name in 1993, and had since that time used as my sole e-mail address. How to let people know that was no longer but rather which is longer than and more letters to type than and somehow less aesthetically pleasing than but actually just as functional as I sent e-mails from the address to just about everybody I knew who had used in the past decade and a half but noticed that some people just didn't seem to get the word about the change. So it occurred to me that if I were generate some literate, valid text in which was repeated numerous times and posted it on a bunch of different pages- say, a blog indexed by Google- that someone looking for would notice this paragraph repeated in hundreds of locations, would read it, and figure out that no longer is the they thought it was. That's the theory, anyway. Ok, I'm done. Move along. Nothing to see here...


Crystal Methodist

Laugh while you can, monkey-boy

I am a professional. Do not try this at home.

I canna change the laws of physics

As a matter of fact, I *am* the boss of you.
(as a matter of fact, i AM the boss of you.)

Truly great madness cannot be achieved without signficant intelligence

I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

Left wing liberal nut job

Flies spread disease. Keep yours zipped.

Eff the ineffable, scrute the inscrutable.

If my answers frighten you then you should cease asking scary questions.

If evolution is just a theory, why am I surrounded by monkeys?

Nutrition makes me puke

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eat wisely

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