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It's longer than you think it is
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Published Thursday, June 21, 2018 @ 11:39 AM EDT
Jun 21 2018

Here in Pittsburgh on the summer solstice, the elapsed time from sunrise to sunset today is 15 hours, 3 minutes and 49 seconds. Sunrise was at 5:49 am; sunset will be at 8:53 pm. Solar noon, when the sun reaches its highest point in the sky (73.0°) will be at 1:21 pm. While it's the longest day of the year, the latest sunset will not occur until next Thursday, June 28 at 8:54:28 pm.

Sunrise and sunset times are misleading. It's not like flicking a light switch. The sky gets lighter before rising above the horizon at sunrise, and stays light later than when the sun dips below the horizon at sunset... this period is called twilight, and includes dawn and dusk.

Twilight is the time between day and night when the Sun is below the horizon but its rays still light up the sky due to sunlight scattering in the upper atmosphere.

There are three phases of twilight: civil, nautical, and astronomical.

Morning civil twilight begins when the geometric center of the sun is 6° below the horizon and ends at sunrise. Evening civil twilight begins at sunset and ends when the geometric center of the sun reaches 6° below the horizon. Under clear weather conditions, civil twilight approximates the limit at which solar illumination suffices for the human eye to clearly distinguish terrestrial objects. Enough illumination renders artificial sources unnecessary for most outdoor activities. Civil twilight in Pittsburgh began today at 5:17 am, 32 minutes before sunrise; it ends at 9:27 pm, 34 minutes after sunset.

So we actually have an hour more daylight for outdoor activities than the sunrise and sunset times would suggest.

Nautical dawn is the moment when the geometric center of the Sun is 12 degrees below the horizon in the morning. It is preceded by morning astronomical twilight and followed by morning nautical twilight. Nautical dusk is the moment when the geometric center of the Sun is 12 degrees below the horizon in the evening. It marks the beginning of evening astronomical twilight and the end of evening nautical twilight. Sailors can take reliable star sightings of well-known stars, during the stage of nautical twilight when they can distinguish a visible horizon for reference. Under good atmospheric conditions with the absence of other illumination, during nautical twilight, the human eye may distinguish general outlines of ground objects but cannot participate in detailed outdoor operations.

Morning astronomical twilight (astronomical dawn) begins when the geometric center of the sun is 18° below the horizon in the morning and ends when the geometric center of the sun is 12° below the horizon in the morning. Evening astronomical twilight begins when the geometric center of the sun is 12° below the horizon in the evening and ends (astronomical dusk) when the geometric center of the sun is 18° below the horizon in the evening. In some places- away from urban light pollution, moonlight, auroras, and other sources of light- where the sky is dark enough for nearly all astronomical observations, astronomers can easily make observations of point sources such as stars both during and after astronomical twilight in the evening and both before and during astronomical twilight in the morning. However, some critical observations, such as of faint diffuse items such as nebulae and galaxies, may require observation beyond the limit of astronomical twilight. Theoretically, the faintest stars detectable by the naked eye (those of approximately the sixth magnitude) will become visible in the evening at astronomical dusk, and become invisible at astronomical dawn. However, in other places, especially those with skyglow, astronomical twilight may be almost indistinguishable from night. In the evening, even when astronomical twilight has yet to end and in the morning when astronomical twilight has already begun, most casual observers would consider the entire sky fully dark. Because of light pollution, observers in some localities, generally in large cities, may never have the opportunity to view even fourth-magnitude stars, irrespective of the presence of any twilight at all, and to experience truly dark skies.

(Sources: Wikipedia, timeanddate.com)


Categories: Astronomy, Solstice, Summer, The Daily KGB Report, Twilight


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Fun with personality disorders
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Published Wednesday, June 20, 2018 @ 12:43 PM EDT
Jun 20 2018

Section 7 of the American Psychiatric Association's (APA) Principles of Medical Ethics states that it is unethical for psychiatrists to give a professional opinion about public figures whom they have not examined in person, and from whom they have not obtained consent to discuss their mental health in public statements.

Fortunately, neither me nor, presumably, you, is a psychiatrist or a psychologist. Therefore, our opinions are not professional; they;re just opinions. And, as of yet, having an opinion is still something you're entitled to do in the good ol' US of A.

Use of this handy little checklist is not limited to public figures. Just about every family or workplace has someone who meets the criteria outlined below, cribbed from the APA's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

In the past 15 months or so, have you encountered anyone who acts as if they have oppositional defiant disorder? Someone so afflicted may:

  • Often loses temper
  • Often touchy or easily annoyed
  • Often angry and resentful
  • Often argues with authority figures
  • Often actively defies or refuses to comply with requests from authority figures or with rules
  • Often deliberately annoys others
  • Has been spiteful or vindictive at least twice within the past six months.

 

How about histrionic personality disorder? These folks:

  • Must be the center of attention
  • Craves novelty and excitement
  • Easily influenced by others, especially those who treat them approvingly
  • Socially skillful, but manipulative and exploitative
  • Overly dramatic and emotional, exaggerates problems
  • Blames personal failures or disappointments on others
  • Seeks reassurance or approval constantly
  • Excessively sensitive to criticism or disapproval
  • Exhibitionist behavior
  • Cannot tolerate frustration or delayed gratification
  • Makes rash decisions
  • Proud of own personality and unwillingness to change, viewing any change as a threat
  • Has emotional states that rapidly change and may appear superficial or exaggerated to others
  • Believes relationships are more intimate than they actually are

 

Perhaps a megalomaniac with narcissistic personality disorder?:

  • Exploits others to achieve personal gain
  • Fixates on fantasies of power, success, intelligence, attractiveness, etc.
  • Vainglorious, expects superior treatment and obedience from others
  • Intensely envious, believes others are equally envious of them
  • Needs the continual admiration of others
  • Arrogant and pompous
  • Believes they are unique, superior, and belong with high-status people and institutions
  • Refuses to empathize with the emotions, hopes, and needs of other people

 

Although not recognized in the DSM, you can do a mashup of the above to produce different flavors of narcissist:

 

Subtype Description Personality traits
Unprincipled narcissist Including antisocial features. Deficient conscience; unscrupulous, amoral, disloyal, fraudulent, deceptive, arrogant, exploitive; a con artist and charlatan; dominating, contemptuous, vindictive.
Amorous narcissist Including histrionic features. Sexually seductive, enticing, beguiling, tantalizing; glib and clever; disinclined to real intimacy; indulges hedonistic desires; bewitches and inveigles others; pathological lying and swindling. Tends to have many affairs, often with exotic partners.
Compensatory narcissist Including negativistic and avoidant features Seeks to counteract or cancel out deep feelings of inferiority and lack of self-esteem; offsets deficits by creating illusions of being superior, exceptional, admirable, noteworthy; self-worth results from self-enhancement.
Elitist narcissist Variant of pure pattern Feels privileged and empowered by virtue of special childhood status and pseudo-achievements; entitled façade bears little relation to reality; seeks favored and good life; is upwardly mobile; cultivates special status and advantages by association.
Normal narcissist Absent of the traits of the other four Least severe and most interpersonally concerned and empathetic, still entitled and deficient in reciprocity; bold in environments, self-confident, competitive, seeks high targets, feels unique; talent in leadership positions; expecting of recognition from others.
Fanatic narcissist Including paranoid features Grandiose delusions are irrational and flimsy; pretentious, expensive supercilious contempt and arrogance toward others; lost pride reestablished with extravagant claims and fantasies. Reclassified under paranoid personality disorder.
Hedonistic narcissist Mix of initial four subtypes Hedonistic and self-deceptive, avoidant of responsibility and blame, shifted onto others; idiosyncratic, often self-biographical, proud of minor quirks and achievements, conflict-averse and sensitive to rejection; procrastinative, self-undoing, avolitive, ruminantly introspective; the most prone to fantastic inner worlds which replace social life
Malignant narcissist Including antisocial, sadistic and paranoid features. Fearless, guiltless, remorseless, calculating, ruthless, inhumane, callous, brutal, rancorous, aggressive, biting, merciless, vicious, cruel, spiteful; hateful and jealous; anticipates betrayal and seeks punishment; desires revenge; has been isolated, and is potentially suicidal or homicidal.
Pure Narcissist Mainly just NPD characteristics. Someone who has narcissistic features described in the DSM and ICD and lacks features from other personality disorders.
Attention Narcissist Including histrionic (HPD) features. They display the traditional NPD characteristics described in the ICD & DSM along with histrionic features due to the fact that they think they are superior and therefore they should have everyone's attention, and when they do not have everyone's attention they go out of their way to capture the attention of as many people as possible.
Beyond The Rules Narcissist Including antisocial (ASPD) features. This type of narcissist thinks that because they are so superior to everyone they do not have to follow the rules like most people and therefore show behavior included in the ICD for dissocial personality disorder and behavior, included in the DSM for antisocial personality disorder.

 

Sources: Wikipedia

Anyone come to mind?


Categories: American Psychiatric Association, DSM, Histrionic personality disorder, Megalomaniac, Narcissistic personality disorder, Oppositional defiant disorder, Personality disorders, The Daily KGB Report


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Your brain is trying to kill you
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Published Monday, June 18, 2018 @ 1:13 PM EDT
Jun 18 2018


(Jess Milton/Getty)

Doughnuts are particularly difficult to resist- and now we know why. A study of how our brains respond to food has found that treats that are high in both carbs and fats trigger a super- charged amount of activity in our brain’s reward center.

Dana Small at Yale University and colleagues scanned the brain activity of hungry volunteers as they were shown images of foods that were either high in carbohydrate, such as candy, high in fat, such as cheese, or high in both, such as doughnuts. After the scans, the volunteers were asked to bid money in a competitive auction for the food they wanted to have for a snack.

Compared to food containing just carbs or fat, the team found that foods high in both of these together provoked far more activity in the brain’s striatum– a region involved in reward that releases the feel- good chemical dopamine.

The volunteers were also willing to pay more for the snacks that were high in both carbs and fat, despite all the food items having the same calorific value.

Small thinks we may have separate systems in the brain to evaluate fatty or carb-heavy foods. If both get activated at the same time, this tricks the brain to produce a larger amount of dopamine- and a bigger feeling of reward- than there should be based on the food’s energy content.

This could be because when the human brain evolved, our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate a diet consisting mainly of plants and meat, and never encountered food that is high in both carbs and fat. "The brain is used to seeing one signal at a time. Modern food is tricking the system," says Small.

The finding fits with studies on rodents which found they can regulate their calorie intake when given food containing only fat or carbohydrate, but over-eat and gain weight when given access to foods containing both.

-(Alison George in New Scientist)


Categories: Donuts, Dopamine, Food, New Scientist, Nutrition, The Brain, The Daily KGB Report


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What fresh hell can this be?
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Published Wednesday, June 13, 2018 @ 11:56 AM EDT
Jun 13 2018

A propaganda video, released by the White House. The freaking White House. Trump showed it to Kim Jong-un on an iPad before their meeting. It was also shown to the press pool.

The writer/director wasn't credited, but thankfully that person is no Leni Riefenstahl.

While there are several companies called "Destiny Productions", none seem to have been involved in this execrable exercise. It would appear the White House just chose it as a metaphor, and as usual, didn't bother to see if the name actually belonged to someone else.


Categories: Destiny Productions, Donald Trump, Kim Jong-un, Leni Riefenstahl, North Korea, Politics, Signs of the Apocalypse, The Daily KGB Report, Video


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Insanity...
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Published Thursday, June 07, 2018 @ 11:35 AM EDT
Jun 07 2018

...is, the old saying goes, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

So when for the fourth time in as many months all the wise gurus told me to do a clean reinstall of Windows 10, I got to thinking that there may be a madness to their method.

Whatever conditions that cascade into the inevitable implosion of my PC are probably just going to happen again if I follow this inane advice. I would feel more confident if there was a single explanation for my machine's instability. I spent eight hours reviewing seven different, well-respected technical forums and collected no less than 13 plausible reasons Windows self-lobotomizes itself after running for two weeks or so. And of course, each explanation is provided in the condescending, self-assured expert tone that leads me to believe the user just accidentally stumbled across something that worked on his specific computer.

My laptop has a hybrid hard drive. Part of the storage is a traditional, spinning disk drive, part is solid state disk (SSD). Through some magic, the drive supposedly knows what data is most frequently used and caches that information in the faster SSD storage.

In the past, my backup technique was to clone my laptop's hard drive to an identical drive connected via a USB adapter using a reliable third party utility. If the laptop drive went belly up, it was a simple matter of turning the machine off, flipping it over, removing two screws, swapping in the image backup drive, screwing the cover back on, booting up, and ordering a new external clone drive from Amazon.

Alas, this "superior" hybrid drive can't be cloned because of its magical structure. Instead, you need to use Microsoft's system image backup utility. Windows 10 doesn't have a native program to do this, so Microsoft included the one from Windows 7/8. Restoring this image requires performing a number of time consuming steps before having to arduously copy the external system image back to the new internal drive. To make things even more interesting, there are several references that Microsoft "deprecated" the system image restore function for this utility on Windows 10. Sometimes it will work. Sometimes it won't. If it does, you're welcome. If it doesn't, well, you were warned.

So, here's the plan: Once I restore all the stuff missing between my last backup and system failure- fortunately, just a few hours' worth, thanks to Mozy Online Backup- I'm going to create yet another system image. Then I'm going to replace this hybrid drive with a plain ol' reggly spinning microscopic rust particle drive. I then have to use a USB stick to boot into recovery mode and restore the system image to the new drive. The machine should boot and my problem should be solved.

I'm then going to revert to my old method of cloning to an external drive every day. So, if the drive in the machine fails, it's just a matter of taking out a couple of screws and swapping drives.

Did I say a couple screws? Ah, this is a premium laptop. I have to remove 11 screws, the optical drive, the battery, and then pry the back off with a special tool, being careful not to damage the dozen or so plastic retaining clips.

Ah, progress.


Categories: Microsoft, The Daily KGB Report, Windows


The web edition of KGB Report is published Monday-Thursday, except on holidays. Follow KGB Report and my personal account on Facebook for frequent daily updates.


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And now, for some entertaining insanity
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Published Wednesday, June 06, 2018 @ 3:40 PM EDT
Jun 06 2018

When the news becomes really grinding and intolerable, I jump over to YouTube to decompress. Here's a wonderful compilation of Steven Wtight's appearances on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. Wright said of his appearances, "we were like a bizarre comedy team after going on there for so many years. To me it was like two guys that were in an insane asylum, and we were in a waiting room. The audience didn’t see it like this but when I think back on it, the conversation was so crazy. It was like we were both insane and we were in a waiting room, waiting for our doctors to come in. 'The doctor will see you now. Mr. Wright, the doctor will see you now.' This was the conversation in the waiting room, two insane people. That's how I saw it."


Categories: Craig Ferguson, Steven Wright, The Daily KGB Report


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Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio
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Published Tuesday, June 05, 2018 @ 12:05 PM EDT
Jun 05 2018

Many have compared 2018 to America's annus horribilis, 1968. I started that year as a 13 year ninth grader and ended it as a 14 year old tenth grader, enjoying the triumph of Apollo 8 and watching episodes of Star Trek during its original run on NBC.

But those months in between...

Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In premiered, North Korea seized the Pueblo, the North Vietnamese launched the Tet Offensive, Walter Cronkite said Vietnam was "mired in stalemate," Robert Kennedy entered the presidential race, Johnson said he wouldn't run, Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, Hair opened on Broadway, the Supreme Court ruled that burning a draft card was not an act of free speech protected by the First Amendment, Andy Warhol was shot, RFK was assassinated, the Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia (nipping that Prague Spring nonsense in the bud), The Beatles' "Hey Jude" was released, the televised riots outside the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, CBS' "60 Minutes" debuted, the Boeing 747 was rolled out, the black power salute at the Olympic Games in Mexico City, Nixon was elected president, a Farmington, WV mine explosion killed 78, Elvis had his comeback special, and Apollo 8 orbited the moon.

Lots of other things happened, but these I actually remember, and clearly. Or, more precisely, as a self-absorbed teenager I remember these events because they in turn generated events which affected me personally.

Take Laugh-In. I remember watching the pilot episode with my grandmother on that Monday night in January. It was a big deal, because it meant her missing the last half of Gunsmoke and all of Here's Lucy. To my delight and astonishment, Grandma loved the show and we watched it together for years. I remember being surprised that someone as old as my grandmother would get the jokes. I was also somewhat surprised to have just realized that I am now about the age my grandmother was when Laugh-In first aired.

I remember my grandmother waking me up for summer band camp, crying and yelling "they shot Bobby! God help us!" I did trudge the ten blocks to the high school that morning, but the band director, Jerry Veeck, gave us the option of going home or staying in the band room and listening to the radio. I remember two songs on the charts that week: Simon and Garfunkel's "Mrs. Robinson" ("Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio, our nation turns its lonely eyes to you...") and Richard Harris' "MacArthur Park" ("I will take my life into my hands and I will use it; I will win the worship in their eyes, and I will lose it...")

Yet somehow, at the end of the December, I remainded optimistic. I felt, like many, that Apollo 8 had salvaged an otherwise horrific year. And we had somehow survived.

June 2018 feels a lot like June 1968. The current administration fills me with the same sense of dread I had that summer after RFK was killed. And society seems to be regressing, losing some of what we've apparently taken for granted the past half-century.

But at lot can happen in six months. Let's work so that it will happen.


Categories: 1968, 2018, Apollo 8, Hair, Laugh-In, Lyndon B. Johnson, MacArthur Park, Mrs. Robinson, Richard Harris, Richard Nixon, Robert F. Kennedy, Simon and Garfunkel, The Daily KGB Report, Walter Cronkite


The web edition of KGB Report is published Monday-Thursday, except on holidays. Follow KGB Report and my personal account on Facebook for frequent daily updates.


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The past ain't what it used to be
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Published Monday, June 04, 2018 @ 12:30 PM EDT
Jun 04 2018

"After you reach the age of 30, most popular music goes horribly wrong."
-variously attributed

It's obviously been going on for a while, and I suspect it's because of the summer months and the corresponding increase in broadcast radio listening, but the oldies stations are now playing stuff that makes me think, "That's an oldie?!"

For the longest time, "oldies" were limited from the beginning of the rock and roll era in the late 50s through the late to mid 70s. But time moves inexorably forward, and we've reached the point where our "kids", now pushing 40, want to hear music from when they were kids. They were kids in the 1980s. Q.E.D.

That being said, it is still somewhat jarring to hear "Thriller," or "Girls Just Want To Have Fun," or "Material Girl," or "Heaven is a Place on Earth" on an oldies or "classic rock" station. I think the modern definition of an oldie is anything 30 years old or older, which takes us back to 1988, the end of the Reagan era. Which was only three years from 1991, when N.W.A became the first rap group to claim the number one spot on the Billboard 100. Three years, people... then the apocalypse begins.

Of course, there's a good chance rock oldies stations won't play hip-hop or rap. Both actually surfaced in the late 70s but took a decade to reach prominence. One can hope there'll be rap oldies stations, where they'll leave us old fogies alone to our Beatles, Monkees, and Motown.

One disturbing thing about the "newer" songs entering the oldies genre: Some stations, like WWSW (3WS) here in Pittsburgh, have a playlist of only about 300 songs or so. Which means when they insert a song from the 80s, a song from the 60s gets ejected from the playlist, never to be heard on that station's airwaves again.

Frankly, I listen to 3WS only when I can't pick up the signal from Washington, PA's WJPA-FM, a locally-owned and operated station which has a much deeper library of songs. They also have news and local personalities; it's sort of like what KDKA-AM was in the 60s when the Westinghouse Broadcasting Company, "Group W", was still Group Wonderful.

Sorry for the disjointed ramblings of an old coot mourning the disappearance of the music of his youth. And get off my lawn.


Categories: Music, Oldies, Radio, The Daily KGB Report


The web edition of KGB Report is published Monday-Thursday, except on holidays. Follow KGB Report and my personal account on Facebook for frequent daily updates.


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Unintended benefits
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Published Thursday, May 31, 2018 @ 5:30 PM EDT
May 31 2018

Okay, so it turns out all those vitamin and mineral supplements I've been taking for years do not help in preventing various diseases.

"Published Monday in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, the findings were based on a study of trials conducted from January 2012 to October 2017 and found vitamin D, calcium and vitamin C did not help in preventing cardiovascular disease, heart attack, stroke or premature death. Although a 1993 study linked vitamin E to a lower risk of coronary heart disease, this study showed various other vitamins do not benefit patients but do no harm either, according to lead author Dr. David Jenkins."

The key term here is "do no harm." By my calculation, the amount of money I spend monthly on various supplements prevents me from purchasing and consuming over 20 pounds of M&M Peanuts candies. So the benefit, while indirect, is certainly there.

The study was apparently limited to cardiovascular disease. Most of the supplements I take are for cognition and brain health, and I can can say without reservation those work much more gooder better than the heart stuff.

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KGB Report on the web will return on Monday. Follow KGB Report and my personal account on Facebook for frequent updates.


Categories: Health, The Daily KGB Report, Vitamins


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Our privacy policy
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Published Tuesday, May 29, 2018 @ 12:05 PM EDT
May 29 2018

To be honest, we've never had one.

Our hosting company keeps records of every IP address that downloads a page from us, but that's just a function of the server's software. I don't look at those addresses to discover your personal identities, but rather to potentially block the addresses if they're engaging in abusive activtity, like loading pages hundreds of times or trying to hack the site.

We don't generate cookies. They might be generated by other sites when you click on a link here, but they're not coming from us.

If you send me an email, it's probably stored in Gmail somewhere.

But that's it.

We really don't care who you are.

But thanks for stopping by.

------

On privacy (from the KGB Quotations Database):

As a social good, I think privacy is greatly overrated because privacy basically means concealment. People conceal things in order to fool other people about them. They want to appear healthier than they are, smarter, more honest and so forth.
-Richard A. Posner

I do suspect that privacy was a passing fad.
-Larry Niven

It is hard to violate somebody's privacy if the person is completely anonymous.
-Dana Milbank

Never listen to a phone call that isn't meant for you. Never read a letter that isn't meant for you. Never pay attention to a comment that isn't meant for you. Never violate people's privacy. You will save yourself a lot of anguish.
-Edward Kennedy

Privacy is not explicitly spelled out in the Constitution as freedom of speech is in the First Amendment.
-Larry Flynt

Privacy under what circumstance? Privacy at home under what circumstances? You have more privacy if everyone's illiterate, but you wouldn't really call that privacy. That's ignorance.
-Bruce Sterling

Privacy- like eating and breathing- is one of life's basic requirements.
-Katherine Neville (author)

Relying on the government to protect your privacy is like asking a peeping tom to install your window blinds.
-John Perry Barlow

The fantastic advances in the field of electronic communication constitute a greater danger to the privacy of the individual. (in 1963).
-Earl Warren

The history of the notion of privacy would be an entertaining tale.
-Walter Lippmann

When it comes to privacy and accountability, people always demand the former for themselves and the latter for everyone else.
-David Brin

You already have zero privacy- get over it.
-Scott McNealy

You can go and find a mailbox right now, open the door to a tin box, tin door, no lock, with unencrypted information in English, sealed in a paper-thin envelope with spit, yet people are worried about online privacy.
-Scott McNealy


Categories: Privacy, The Daily KGB Report


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Fortunately, it still works in the opposite direction
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Published Thursday, May 24, 2018 @ 7:56 AM EDT
May 24 2018

Donald Trump cannot block critical Twitter users, court rules

WASHINGTON- A federal judge in New York ruled Wednesday that President Trump may not block users from following his Twitter account because the social media platform is a "public forum" protected by the First Amendment.

A group of Twitter users sued the president in July after the @realDonaldTrump account blocked them from replying to his messages. The seven users had each tweeted a message critical of the president before they were blocked.

"Blocking of the individual plaintiffs as a result of the political views they have expressed is impermissible under the First Amendment," Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald wrote in the decision.

"While we must recognize, and are sensitive to, the president's personal First Amendment rights, he cannot exercise those rights in a way that infringes the corresponding First Amendment rights of those who have criticized him," she wrote.

The White House did not respond to a request for a comment. The Justice Department said in a statement it disagreed with the decision and is considering its next move.

Trump has more than 52 million followers on his @realDonaldTrump account, which has become the platform he uses most often to communicate to voters.

"The president's practice of blocking critics on Twitter is pernicious and unconstitutional, and we hope this ruling will bring it to an end," said Jameel Jaffer, executive director of the Knight First Amendment Institute, which filed the suit.

(via USA Today)

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Windows 10 has crashed on me- again- causing another painful bout of trying to reconstruct everything. Backups are useful, but it doesn't help that Microsoft has designed an operating system and applications with file structures that resist or even conceal themselves from recovery utilities. I'm almost the at the point of considering getting a new system; I've rebuilt this one from the oxide up three times so far. Perhaps four years is the limit for the reliable operation of consumer PCs. Whatever... in the immortal words of Paul Simon, "You know, I don't find this stuff amusing anymore."

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Due to the Memorial Day holiday, KGB Report on the web will return on Tuesday. Follow KGB Report and my personal account on Facebook for frequent updates.


Categories: Donald Trump, Microsoft, The Daily KGB Report, Twitter, Windows


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We've got problems, but at least we don't have giant invading worms.
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Published Wednesday, May 23, 2018 @ 9:22 AM EDT
May 23 2018

\\

"The species are cryptic and soil-dwelling so can be easily overlooked, which often explains their inadvertent shipment round the world," said entomologist Archie Murchie of Britain’s Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute, who was not involved with the study. Worms like these are spreading and will continue to spread, he warned, especially "with increased global trade."

(via The Washington Post)


Categories: Giant Worms, Science, The Daily KGB Report


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Faux Trump
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Published Tuesday, May 22, 2018 @ 10:08 AM EDT
May 22 2018

(Read the full article in the Boston Globe)

WASHINGTON — The hallmark of President Trump’s Twitter feed is that it sounds like him — grammatical miscues and all.

But it’s not always Trump tapping out a Tweet, even when it sounds like his voice. West Wing employees who draft proposed tweets intentionally employ suspect grammar and staccato syntax in order to mimic the president’s style, according to two people familiar with the process.

They overuse the exclamation point! They Capitalize random words for emphasis. Fragments. Loosely connected ideas. All part of a process that is not as spontaneous as Trump’s Twitter feed often appears.

Presidential speechwriters have always sought to channel their bosses’ style and cadence, but Trump’s team is blazing new ground with its approach to his favorite means of instant communication. Some staff members even relish the scoldings Trump gets from elites shocked by the Trumpian language they strive to imitate, believing that debates over presidential typos fortify the belief within his base that he has the common touch.

His staff has become so adept at replicating Trump’s tone that people who follow his feed closely say it is getting harder to discern which tweets were actually crafted by Trump sitting in his bathrobe and watching “Fox & Friends” and which were concocted by his communications team.

Those familiar with the process wouldn’t fess up to which tweets were staff-written. But an algorithm crafted by a writer at The Atlantic to determine real versus staff-written tweets suggested several were not written by the president, despite the unusual use of the language.


Categories: Donald Trump, The Daily KGB Report


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Do not go gently, but please do be brief.
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Published Monday, May 21, 2018 @ 8:07 AM EDT
May 21 2018

One of the first- and surprisingly most important- skills I had to learn 47 years ago as a 17 year old cub reporter at a small daily newspaper was to transcribe obits.

Obituaries, that is. Paid death notices, called in by local funeral directors, often just a few minutes before the deadline for the day's edition.

Very, very few local people ranked a news obit at our paper. You had to be special- an elected official, a former athlete, a beloved numbers writer- to warrant editorial recognition of your passing. Even then, there'd usually just be a brief headline, a picture pulled from the files, and something along the lines of "The community is mourning the passing yesterday of so and so, a respected teacher and coach... See the obituary listings on page six."

Obits were- and remain- an essential, indispensable source of revenue for newspapers. Along with legal notices and the ever-shrinking classified ad pages, paid death notices generate much more money per inch than display advertising. And depending upon the average age of a publication's subscribers, the obits could also have more readers than the other, "real news" sections of the paper, possibly excepting the comics page. I recall that on days with no deaths and no published obits, word got around the community quickly and our newsstand sales for the day would actually decline.

My first day as a reporter at the "rim" of the city desk- a big, semicircular hunk of metal and vinyl furniture, with the editor esconced in the center (the "slot") and reporters seated around the outside- did not begin as I had expected. There was no lecture on ethics, the handling of sources, a review of the AP Style Book, or other journalistic exercises. The very first thing the city editor impressed upon me was the vital importance of taking obits over the phone.

Why make reporters take the obits, and not the classified department? In the unlikely event the deceased was someone of import, we'd know about it first. But mainly, management asserted those of us in editorial were the fastest, most accurate typists, would make the least mistakes, and would be more likely to hustle an obit down to graphics in time to meet deadline and generate billing for that day. Money was an important consideration. As my city editor made quite clear to me, the one-day publication of the death notice of an individual with lots of kids and grandkids- requiring the purchase of several column inches of space- would pay my salary and mileage expenses for an entire week. A newspaper is a business, after all.

When the phone rang in editorial and it was a local funeral director on the line, you put the police chief or mayor or your mother on hold immediately, stuffed a new sheet of paper in your manual Royal, and typed like mad.

My first day I think I did three obits, thereby justifying my existence and engendering a feeling of self-achievement. That lasted until about 2 p.m., when the paper hit the streets and I got the call from a furious funeral director.

"Look at that obit," he fumed. I shuffled to the page and found the listing. "Read it," he demanded.

"John Doe, 75, of Homestead, died Novem-"

"Stop!" he yelled. "What's that word in there after Homestead?"

"Died," I replied.

"Died," he repeated, his voice dripping with sarcasm. "It's the effing obituary column, you idiot. What the hell else would he be doing? Shooting hoops? Let me talk to your boss. Now."

I forwarded him on and sat there, genuinely puzzled at the outburst. A few minutes later, the city editor called me into a bare, vacant office adjacent to the newsroom.

"Bet you're wondering what the big deal is with that obit, huh?" he asked, not unkindly. I sat there in silence and nodded in bewildered agreement.

"Okay, it's like this. The funeral home business around here is pretty cut-throat, what with all the old people and competing parlors. Some offer special package deals- coffin, embalming, viewing, publishing the obit, hearse rental, everything- for a fixed price. By adding the word 'died', which he swears he didn't say to you, the obit ran one line deeper, which cost him like another ten bucks or so which, he emphasized, came straight off his bottom line. I told him we wouldn't charge him for the extra line, and that while I wouldn't fire you since you're new, I'd be sure to put the fear of God in you, which I assume I've done."

I shook my head again. He smiled and chuckled. "Don't sweat it, kid. You did okay for your first day. But from now on, you read the copy back to him and get him to approve it before you send it downstairs. Keep it as short as possible, and go easy on the punctuation marks, too. He complained about too many commas in his listings last week."

On the few occasions since my newspaper days that I've had the sad and unfortunate responsibility to write an obituary, I recall that first day on the job and the lessons learned. True, I've loosened up a bit. For the sake of readability, I don't skip on modifiers and articles, and I use complete sentences. Frugality does not trump coherency, and what's another 20 bucks or so? You only die once, may as well splurge a bit.

Due to my recent experience, for the past several weeks I've been reading through the paid death notices in the local papers, fascinated by their evolution since my professional involvement four decades ago. The new euphemisms, phrasings, magniloquence, and verbosity of modern obituaries are impressive.

It is interesting to note the term "obituary" is itself a tortured euphemism of sorts. One of the interpretations of its Latin root word "obit" is, indeed, death. But its first meaning is the act of going toward something, to approach, encounter, or visit. Its second is the process of descending, setting, or sunset. Death ranks a lowly third. This form of linguistic contortionism is still common today. Consider pass, expire, terminate, depart, move on, croak, etc. All of these words can describe death or dying, but it's not the primary definition of any of them.

My favorite circumlocution on the subject, which one could describe as almost poetic (if not for its source) comes from the famous Monty Python Dead Parrot sketch: "...he's shuffled off his mortal coil, run down the curtain, and joined the choir invisible." It also contains the assertion that the bird in question, "a Norwegian Blue", had not expired, but was rather "pining for the fjords," a phrase ingrained deeply enough within our zeitgeist that it's the title of a scholarly paper bemoaning the use of indirect terms referencing death.

But I digress.

In addition to the "departure verb" or description, the modern obit often features a mind-numbing litany of the individual's life. Some of these descriptions can be considered perhaps too brief, but most offend wildly in the other direction.

I suspect family members and survivors who ramble on in their social media posts are stunned when they receive a due on receipt, four-figure invoice from the funeral director or newspaper. What else could be expected from breathlessly recounting, in excruciating detail, the last ten years of dearly departed Nana's social and recreational activities at the assisted living facility, as well as listing the names of every miniature poodle she'd ever owned? And what was the reason for mentioning her recent in-hospital treatment for chlamydia? We all know there are no koalas in Turtle Creek. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink, eh? (Another Python reference).

In any event, here are some memorable phrases I've transcribed from paid death notices recently. No offense intended. I'm certain they were sincere in context.

...accidentally, while having the time of his life. (What was it that he was doing? It sounds as if it was something that should be avoided.)

...after a long, grueling battle with alcoholism. (Whose alcoholism? Whose batttle? Who found it grueling? Was this really necessary, or one last passive-agressive outburst?)

...after an extended illness, surrounded by his family, left home with the angels. (One assumes the angels dropped the family off somewhere en route.)

...shortly after the celebration of her 100th birthday ("You do not need to take a shot for each year, Grandma.")

...after long illnesses, including heart disease, diabetes and frontal temporal lobe dementia (When I read ones like this, I don't know if the family is expressing sympathy for the departed or relief for themselves.)

...after saying, 'Take me home, Jesus.' (Unfortunately, the Jesus in question was his Uber driver.)

...at age 95 (looks good for her age) (Well, not any more.)

...ascended to heaven, breathed her last breath and went peacefully to God's eternal home and into the arms of her husband, daughter, and son. (These always strike me as presumptuous, for some reason. And I think they got the sequence wrong.)

...born on the Feast of the Guardian Angels and was taken home on their wings. (Feast... wings... eww...)

...bravely faced death in the arms of his devoted wife. (Let's hope she didn't have him in a chickenwing over-the-shoulder crossface hold.)

...died peacefully beside his one and only true and forever love, his wife. (Please tell us they were home in bed.)

...died peacefully in his favorite chair. (I wouldn't mind going that way.)

...donned his wings. (This makes me think of Michael Keaton in "Birdman.")

...escaped this mortal realm. (Sounds like a Bifrost-related subplot from a Marvel "Thor" movie.)

...finally, after succumbing to illness. ("Finally"? Man, that's harsh.)

...found peace and rest after 36 years of a courageous and uncomplaining battle with a cerebral venous malformation. (If he didn't complain, why bring it up now?)

...has gone home. (This euphemism has always bothered me as well. Home is where the good wi-fi and dogs are. Period.)

He had just finished serving his mom and aunt breakfast in bed and said he was going back to bed to sleep in a bit longer. He died in his sleep. (Thereby giving his mom and aunt a sense of guilt that will haunt them the rest of their days. Thanks for reminding them.)

Her loving family sent her home to be with her mother, father, brothers, and sister. (Did she die, or did you just kick her out of the apartment above the garage?)

...joined his friends for their eternal golf matches. (According to those who played behind them, their matches down here seemed eternal as well.)

...made her transition at her residence. ("made her transition at her residence" vs. "died at home"? Someone's getting a kickback from the newspaper.)

...passed away and joined her late ex-husband. (Are we talking about heaven here? From whose perspective?)

...passed away on Christmas night, following a seven year battle with frontotemporal dementia. (The "Touched By An Angel" school of obit writing.)

...passed from this earth to a more beautiful and peaceful place. Leaving far too soon, his life cut way too short, he touched many lives and left the world and us better for his having been here. (You know, we remember "The Big Chill" too.)

...peacefully, after a long descent. (Descent? Hot air balloon? Airbus 380? Everest?)

...peacefully moved on to his next adventure. (Let's hope the next one ends better.)

...received a command from her Lord. She now resides in heaven and has been chosen to sing in God the Father's choir (Thanks for voting in "Heaven's Got Talent"!)

The Universe has shifted. (I'd like to see the math on that, please.)

...unexpectedly, doing what she loved at camp. (Please, for the love of God, say no more...)

...was called (adverb) by (some supernatural entity) to (engage in some empyrean activity). (Some funeral directors apparently use Mad Libs.)

Full disclosure: The author maintains his own obituary, which now stands at 738 words. Hey, I'm getting up there, and I've owned a lot of dogs.


Categories: Death, Newspapers, Obituaries, Passages, The Daily KGB Report


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Plan accordingly
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Published Thursday, May 17, 2018 @ 9:50 AM EDT
May 17 2018

Today is Brown Bag It Thursday, Hummus Day, International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia, National Apertif Day, National Cherry Cobbler Day, National Mushroom Hunting Day, National Pack Rat Day, National Walnut Day, National Notebook Day, World Telecommunication and Information Society Day, World Neurofibromatosis Awareness Day, and World Hypertension Day.

Of course, with Trump in office, just about every day is World Hypertension Day.

KGB Report on the web will return on Monday. Follow KGB Report and my personal account on Facebook for frequent updates.


Categories: The Daily KGB Report


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I miss the good old days...
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Published Tuesday, May 15, 2018 @ 3:05 PM EDT
May 15 2018

...when the only election that mattered was the Democratic Primary.

The only difference between the Democrats and the Republicans is that the Democrats allow the poor to be corrupt, too.
-Oscar Levant


Categories: Democrats, Elections, Republicans, The Daily KGB Report


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Trump does this 20 times a day; Star Trek unification torpedoed?
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Published Monday, May 14, 2018 @ 3:45 PM EDT
May 14 2018

I could think of several things, especially taking into account his prodigious consumption of Diet Coke. But it's worth considering another daily habit.

-----

CBS has filed a lawsuit to block merger with Viacom. Star Trek could be a casualty of this corporate war. This is certainly a major step backwards for the reunification of CBS and Viacom, owner of Paramount Pictures. Since Viacom split up in 2005, Star Trek has been divided between CBS and Paramount Pictures, with CBS owning the brand and television rights and Paramount owning the film library and holding the rights to make new feature films. A CBS/Viacom merger could create more opportunities for building the brand, cross-promotions and other synergies. Potentially it could eventually lead to building a coherent ‘Star Trek Cinematic Universe’ across TV and film. For now, any such dreams will have to be put on hold with CBS and Paramount continuing to forge their own independent paths with Star Trek.


Categories: Donald Trump, Star Trek, The Daily KGB Report


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Trump, explained
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Published Thursday, May 10, 2018 @ 11:32 AM EDT
May 10 2018

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Categories: The Daily KGB Report


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"A deal's a deal"
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Published Wednesday, May 09, 2018 @ 2:18 PM EDT
May 09 2018

Orange Douché again fails to follow his own advice.

(If video starts at the beginning, go to 0:55.)


Categories: Donald Trump, The Daily KGB Report


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Must See TV
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Published Monday, May 07, 2018 @ 9:21 AM EDT
May 07 2018

Saturday Night Live's cold open the other day was the Infinity Wars of Trump satire.


Categories: Donald Trump, SNL, The Daily KGB Report


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Can't anybody here play this game?
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Published Thursday, May 03, 2018 @ 4:43 AM EDT
May 03 2018

Perhaps Giuliani's paying back Trump for not making him secretary of state or leading the Department of Homeland Security.

Or perhaps he's contributing to what appears will be the President's main line of defense, incomptetent legal representation.

-----

KGB Report on the web will return on Monday. Follow KGB Report and my personal account on Facebook for frequent updates.

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Categories: Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani, The Daily KGB Report


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A few more questions
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Published Tuesday, May 01, 2018 @ 9:58 AM EDT
May 01 2018

While Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III has nearly 50 questions he wants to ask President Trump, there are a few more things I'd like to know:

How much time do you spend each day attending to that orange, quasi-living thing on your head? You're aware you're not fooling anyone, right? Isn't it really the caterpillar stage of a flannel moth?

Did you appoint Scott Pruitt to head the EPA to prevent the government from banning the sale of Tan in a Can? And that you hoarded a warehouse full of industrial strength aerosol lacquer for your hair?

Are you aware that photographic negatives of you look just like a rabid raccoon?

Are you still paying people to wander around Hawaii looking for Obama's birth certificate?

Why is your name in pedophile billionaire Jeffrey Epstein's little black book?

Is it fair for taxpayers to pay for security for a billionaire who doesn't pay taxes?

If your IQ is so high, why do you tweet Special Council instead of Special Counsel? And we won't mention 'bigly' or 'covfefe'.

So everyone can have the same opportunity as you, how about giving $10 million to every college grad, like your father did?


Categories: Donald Trump, The Daily KGB Report


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Quote of the day
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Published Monday, April 30, 2018 @ 1:35 AM EDT
Apr 30 2018

Michelle Wolf's speech last night is being criticized by people who say that kind of thing doesn't belong at a White House Correspondents' Association dinner. Unfunny, rude remarks should be kept where they belong: In presidential tweets.
-Mark Evanier


Categories: The Daily KGB Report


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What, Me Worry?
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Published Wednesday, April 25, 2018 @ 9:07 AM EDT
Apr 25 2018

You already have zero privacy- get over it.
-Scott McNealy

I'm probably an outlier here, but I can't get too worked up over the Facebook/Cambridge Analytics data privacy business.

Perhaps it comes from 30+ years of working with computers, but when I log onto a social media site, I really don't expect much in the way of privacy. That's why I don't put anything on Facebook that I don't want people (or companies) to know.

I also realize that by visiting these social media sites, my personal data is going to be monetized by the site. Remember the saying: "If you're not paying for the product, you are the product." (Some disagree.)

Some people are creeped out by the ads they see, which often include stuff they've viewed on other sites. Doesn't bother me... in fact, it's useful. I often go to a site to buy something, get interrupted or distracted, and forget about it. The ad jogs my memory and saves me the time of having to manually go back to the site. Often, the ad will be from a different seller who has a lower price.

I guess it can be reduced to one's sense of self-importance. Frankly, I don't think there's much about me on social media that's so secret or valuable that it must be protected. On commerce sites, I use strong passwords and two-step verification. On Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, I really don't care that much. To those who feel otherwise, I quote Fran Lebowitz: "Your life story would not make a good book. Don't even try."

Anyway, the real threat isn't Facebook, it's our own government. In the days after 9/11, the government started scanning everything. Everything. The Post Office has a photo of every piece of first class mail it handles. The NSA sees just about everything that travels across the net. Even science fiction couldn't keep up with reality:

And let's be honest... if the government really has some reason to single you out of the 324 million people in the United States, they would have no problem -especially under the present administration- fabricating incriminating information or, for that matter, just making you disappear. Donald Trump frightens me. Mark Zuckerberg, not so much.

Here's what I find disturbing:

A Google search for "Kevin G. Barkes" returns about 14,600 hits. I've been online since the late 1980s so, if anything, I'm somewhat under-referenced. A bit more vexing is what appears when you do an image search of me (see above). In case you're wondering, the photos appear to come from this website, and include L. Ron Hubbard, me, Joseph P. Kennedy, Immanuel Kant, Gary Busey, me, Bill Moyers, Grace Lee Boggs, and Michael Eisner. Since text containing "Kevin G. Barkes" appears on every page of this site, Google apparently grabs everything and files it under my name.

Fortunately, I have not been misidentified as Gary Busey.

Yet.


Categories: Facebook, Fran Lebowitz, Linked In, NSA, Peggy Noonan, Person of Interest, PRISM, The Daily KGB Report, The Machine, Twitter


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The cat is trying to kill us
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Published Tuesday, April 24, 2018 @ 8:55 AM EDT
Apr 24 2018


Pumpkin, aka Felis catus homicidus

A study a few years back reported that dogs and cats contribute to injuries that send an estimated 87,000 people to emergency rooms every year.

Most of the injuries are falls, and most are caused by dogs.

Not in my house.

Our two remaining dogs have never tripped me. The Sheltie is blind, rather large, and easy to avoid. The small, insane dog-like creature (Shih Tzu) is nimble and aware of her size, so she deftly stays out of our paths.

Ah, but Pumpkin, the 21-year-old black cat... we've decided she is intentionally trying to kill us both. On average, my and wife and I trip over her at least three times a day. She likes sleeping at the top of the cellar steps, especially at night when she's virtually invisible.

Trip over a dog, and the animal immediately presents a regretful expression. You can almost hear them say "I'm sorry."

Trip over my cat, and you get an emotionless stare. Her regret seems to stem from the fact we're still erect and undamaged.

I'm seriously considering having her wear a belled collar, something she hasn't done since she was a kitten.

Come to think of it, that would piss her off even more. Guess we're just going to have to fix our gazes downward as we navigate through the house. And pray my suspicion is unwarranted... that the furry little queen hasn't taken out rather large life insurance policies on my wife and me.


Categories: Cats, Dogs, KGB Family, The Daily KGB Report


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