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Saturday, October 09, 2004

Instead of watching the "debates"...

Just go here, and see whose distortions are more egregious.

It would be helpful if the site could post a scorecard listing the total numbers of lies and distortions made by each candidate. That way you could choose, as comedian Jay Leno noted in the 2000 Presidential campaign, between "the lesser of two weasels."

(Note: factcheck.org's website is generally grossly overloaded during and after a debate. It's best to check the next day.)

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Quote of the day

Martha Stewart reported to prison in West Virginia yesterday. They wanted to do a cavity search, but they didn't have an ice pick.
-Bill Maher

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Friday, October 08, 2004

Quote of the day

The one thing I remember about Christmas was that my father used to take me out in a boat about ten miles offshore on Christmas Day, and I used to have to swim back. Extraordinary. It was a ritual. Mind you, that wasn't the hard part. The difficult bit was getting out of the sack.
-John Cleese

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Remembering Rodney

When I was born, the doctor came out to the waiting room and said to my father, "I'm very sorry. We did everything we could, but he pulled through."

My mother had morning sickness after I was born.

When I played in the sandbox the cat kept covering me up.

I could tell that my parents hated me. My bath toys were a toaster and a radio.

I worked in a pet store and people kept asking how big I'd get.

I remember the time I was kidnapped and they sent back a piece of my finger to my father. He said he wanted more proof.

I stuck my head out the window and got arrested for mooning.

Once when I was lost I saw a policeman and asked him to help me find my parents. I said to him, "Do you think we'll ever find them?" He said, "I don't know, kid- there are so many places they can hide."

I remember I was so depressed I was going to jump out a window on the tenth floor. So they sent a priest up to talk to me. He said, "On your mark..."

When my old man wanted sex, my mother would show him a picture of me.

I had a lot of pimples, too. One day I fell asleep in a library. I woke up and a blind man was reading my face.

My wife made me join a bridge club. I jump off next tuesday.

I met the surgeon general. He offered me a cigarette.

My problem is that I appeal to everyone that can do me absolutely no good.

I asked my wife if she enjoys a cigarette after sex. She said, "No. One drag is enough."

A girl phoned me and said, "Come on over... there's nobody home." I went over. Nobody was home!

If it weren't for pickpockets I'd have no sex life at all.

I once went out with a girl so ugly she was known as a two bagger. That's when you put a bag over your head in case the bag over her head breaks.

I once went with a girl so ugly they use her in prisons to cure sex offenders.

My wife always wants to talk to me during sex. Just the other night she called me from a hotel.

It's been a rough day. I got up this morning, put on a shirt and a button fell off. I picked up my briefcase and the handle came off. I'm afraid to go to the bathroom!

My sex life is terrible... my wife only has sex with me once a month. I'm not complaining, though... I know some guys she's cut out completely.

I remember when I swallowed a bottle of sleeping pills. I called my doctor. He told me to have a few drinks and get some rest.

My psychiatrist told me I'm going crazy. I told him, "If you don't mind I'd like a second opinion. "He said, "All right... you're ugly, too."

I was so ugly my mother used to feed me with a sling shot!

When I was born the doctor took one look at my face, turned me over and said, "Look...twins!"

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Thursday, October 07, 2004

Must-See TV

From a MyWay tv listing for today:

Star Trek: The Next Generation - SPIKETV , 12:00 PM
Descent
Data acts in anger when the Borg return to fight the Federation; with professor Stephen Hawking.

Somehow I pictured Stephen Hawking fighting for the Federation...

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Well, yeah, but the Cubs lost...

No one shot, murdered in Chicago Monday

CHICAGO (AP) For the first time since 1999, serious crime took a holiday Monday in Chicago.

Police Superintendent Phil Cline says none of the city's nearly three (m) million citizens got shot. And nobody was murdered.

Cline says he was amazed to wake up yesterday and find no news of any overnight shootings or killings. He attributes the success to the pressure the department's putting on gangs -- and a little bit of luck.

Last year, Chicago had 600 killings and just over three-thousand aggravated batteries by firearm.

Cline says the city's down 112 homicides and almost one-thousand shootings compared with last year.

(Thanks to Dave Dustin for pointing this out. I was in Pittsburgh on Monday and missed it. Dave is in New Zealand, but keeps on top of things.)

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Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Well, I liked it...

A guy lands at Logan Airport in Boston at dinnertime. He gets into a cab and says, "Take me someplace where I can get scrod." The driver replies, "You know, I've been driving this cab for 30 years, and that's the first time I've heard it in the pluperfect subjunctive."
Jay Trachman, quoted in the Chicago Sun-Times' Quick Takes column by Zay N. Smith

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Oops.

Vice President Dick Cheney wanted to reference the respected web site factcheck.org during last night's debate. Instead, he told listeners to take a look at factcheck.com.

Oops. According to whois, the site's been around since February. You'd have thought the Veep's handlers would have warned him about this.

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One bad Maryland farmer?

There are certain films that grab me as I spin through the channels. The Godfather, Real Genius, Office Space... and Jackie Brown.

The Bravo cable channel apparently has a license to run Jackie Brown until the coating falls off the videotape. Which is fine, except Bravo is on basic cable, and that means the language needs to be cleaned up. Samuel L. Jackson's character in particular repeatedly uses the phrase...uh... well, let's just say he makes continual colloquial references to Oedipus.

You can't use emeff on basic cable, so it's dubbed over. Instead of just using one replacement, however, it appears director Quentin Tarantino had Mr. Jackson substitute about a dozen meaningless intensives for the phrase. These include:

mo fo
mama jama
maryland farmer
mother's father
mighty fine
mighty fires
monkey brain
my my family
muddy thinkin'
moldy fingers
mutual funding

These replacements are, in some cases, so jarring that they pull you right out of the film. Muddy thinking? Mutual Funding?

Somehow, telling the wino in the L tunnel between State and Dearborn to get his mutual funding behind out of the middle of the walkway somehow lacks authority. Especially when he replies, "Leave me alone, you Maryland Farmer."

Jeepers.

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Tuesday, October 05, 2004

About that $10 million...

That SpaceShipOne is the winner of the $10 million Ansari X Prize shows that the technology exists for commercial spaceflight.

That it cost $20 million to win the $10 million shows it's ready to operate like a commercial airline.

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Monday, October 04, 2004

Quote of the day

Magnetism is one of the Six Fundamental Forces of the Universe, with the other five being Gravity, Duct Tape, Whining, Remote Control, and The Force That Pulls Dogs Toward The Groins Of Strangers.
~Dave Barry

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Beam me the hell outta here, Scotty...

Air Force pursuing antimatter weapons
Program was touted publicly, then came official gag order
Keay Davidson, Chronicle Science Writer
Monday, October 4, 2004

The U.S. Air Force is quietly spending millions of dollars investigating ways to use a radical power source- antimatter, the eerie "mirror" of ordinary matter- in future weapons.

The most powerful potential energy source presently thought to be available to humanity, antimatter is a term normally heard in science-fiction films and TV shows, whose heroes fly "antimatter-powered spaceships" and do battle with "antimatter guns."

But antimatter itself isn't fiction; it actually exists and has been intensively studied by physicists since the 1930s. In a sense, matter and antimatter are the yin and yang of reality: Every type of subatomic particle has its antimatter counterpart. But when matter and antimatter collide, they annihilate each other in an immense burst of energy.

During the Cold War, the Air Force funded numerous scientific studies of the basic physics of antimatter. With the knowledge gained, some Air Force insiders are beginning to think seriously about potential military uses- for example, antimatter bombs small enough to hold in one's hand, and antimatter engines for 24/7 surveillance aircraft.

More cataclysmic possible uses include a new generation of super weapons- either pure antimatter bombs or antimatter-triggered nuclear weapons; the former wouldn't emit radioactive fallout. Another possibility is antimatter-powered "electromagnetic pulse" weapons that could fry an enemy's electric power grid and communications networks, leaving him literally in the dark and unable to operate his society and armed forces.

Following an initial inquiry from The Chronicle this summer, the Air Force forbade its employees from publicly discussing the antimatter research program. Still, details on the program appear in numerous Air Force documents distributed over the Internet prior to the ban.

These include an outline of a March 2004 speech by an Air Force official who, in effect, spilled the beans about the Air Force's high hopes for antimatter weapons. On March 24, Kenneth Edwards, director of the "revolutionary munitions" team at the Munitions Directorate at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida was keynote speaker at the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC) conference in Arlington, Va.

In that talk, Edwards discussed the potential uses of a type of antimatter called positrons.

Physicists have known about positrons or "antielectrons" since the early 1930s, when Caltech scientist Carl Anderson discovered a positron flying through a detector in his laboratory. That discovery, and the later discovery of "antiprotons" by Berkeley scientists in the 1950s, upheld a 1920s theory of antimatter proposed by physicist Paul Dirac.

In 1929, Dirac suggested that the building blocks of atoms- electrons (negatively charged particles) and protons (positively charged particles)- have antimatter counterparts: antielectrons and antiprotons. One fundamental difference between matter and antimatter is that their subatomic building blocks carry opposite electric charges. Thus, while an ordinary electron is negatively charged, an antielectron is positively charged (hence the term positrons, which means "positive electrons"); and while an ordinary proton is positively charged, an antiproton is negative.

The real excitement, though, is this: If electrons or protons collide with their antimatter counterparts, they annihilate each other. In so doing, they unleash more energy than any other known energy source, even thermonuclear bombs.

The energy from colliding positrons and antielectrons "is 10 billion times... that of high explosive," Edwards explained in his March speech. Moreover, 1 gram of antimatter, about 1/25th of an ounce, would equal "23 space shuttle fuel tanks of energy." Thus "positron energy conversion," as he called it, would be a "revolutionary energy source" of interest to those who wage war.

It almost defies belief, the amount of explosive force available in a speck of antimatter- even a speck that is too small to see. For example: One millionth of a gram of positrons contain as much energy as 37.8 kilograms (83 pounds) of TNT, according to Edwards' March speech. A simple calculation, then, shows that about 50-millionths of a gram could generate a blast equal to the explosion (roughly 4,000 pounds of TNT, according to the FBI) at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995.

Unlike regular nuclear bombs, positron bombs wouldn't eject plumes of radioactive debris. When large numbers of positrons and antielectrons collide, the primary product is an invisible but extremely dangerous burst of gamma radiation. Thus, in principle, a positron bomb could be a step toward one of the military's dreams from the early Cold War: a so-called "clean" superbomb that could kill large numbers of soldiers without ejecting radioactive contaminants over the countryside.

A copy of Edwards' speech onNIAC's Web site emphasizes this advantage of positron weapons in bright red letters: "No Nuclear Residue."

But talk of "clean" superbombs worries critics. " 'Clean' nuclear weapons are more dangerous than dirty ones because they are more likely to be used," said an e-mail from science historian George Dyson of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., author of "Project Orion," a 2002 study on a Cold War-era attempt to design a nuclear spaceship. Still, Dyson adds, antimatter weapons are "a long, long way off."

Why so far off? One reason is that at present, there's no fast way to mass produce large amounts of antimatter from particle accelerators. With present techniques, the price tag for 100-billionths of a gram of antimatter would be $6 billion, according to an estimate by scientists at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center and elsewhere, who hope to launch antimatter-fueled spaceships.

Another problem is the terribly unruly behavior of positrons whenever physicists try to corral them into a special container. Inside these containers, known as Penning traps, magnetic fields prevent the antiparticles from contacting the material wall of the container- lest they annihilate on contact. Unfortunately, because like-charged particles repel each other, the positrons push each other apart and quickly squirt out of the trap.

If positrons can't be stored for long periods, they're as useless to the military as an armored personnel carrier without a gas tank. So Edwards is funding investigations of ways to make positrons last longer in storage.

Edwards' point man in that effort is Gerald Smith, former chairman of physics and Antimatter Project leader at Pennsylvania State University. Smith now operates a small firm, Positronics Research LLC, in Santa Fe, N.M. So far, the Air Force has given Smith and his colleagues $3.7 million for positron research, Smith told The Chronicle in August.

Smith is looking to store positrons in a quasi-stable form called positronium. A positronium "atom" (as physicists dub it) consists of an electron and antielectron, orbiting each other. Normally these two particles would quickly collide and self-annihilate within a fraction of a second- but by manipulating electrical and magnetic fields in their vicinity, Smith hopes to make positronium atoms last much longer.

Smith's storage effort is the "world's first attempt to store large quantities of positronium atoms in a laboratory experiment," Edwards noted in his March speech. "If successful, this approach will open the door to storing militarily significant quantities of positronium atoms."

Officials at Eglin Air Force Base initially agreed enthusiastically to try to arrange an interview with Edwards. "We're all very excited about this technology," spokesman Rex Swenson at Eglin's Munitions Directorate told The Chronicle in late July. But Swenson backed out in August after he was overruled by higher officials in the Air Force and Pentagon.

Reached by phone in late September, Edwards repeatedly declined to be interviewed. His superiors gave him "strict instructions not to give any interviews personally. I'm sorry about that- this (antimatter) project is sort of my grandchild. ...

"(But) I agree with them (that) we're just not at the point where we need to be doing any public interviews."

Air Force spokesman Douglas Karas at the Pentagon also declined to comment last week.

In the meantime, the Air Force has been investigating the possibility of making use of a powerful positron-generating accelerator under development at Washington State University in Pullman, Wash. One goal: to see if positrons generated by the accelerator can be stored for long periods inside a new type of "antimatter trap" proposed by scientists, including Washington State physicist Kelvin Lynn, head of the school's Center for Materials Research.

A new generation of military explosives is worth developing, and antimatter might fill the bill, Lynn told The Chronicle: "If we spend another $10 billion (using ordinary chemical techniques), we're going to get better high explosives, but the gains are incremental because we're getting near the theoretical limits of chemical energy."

Besides, Lynn is enthusiastic about antimatter because he believes it could propel futuristic space rockets.

"I think," he said, "we need to get off this planet, because I'm afraid we're going to destroy it."

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

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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.


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