Conceived above a saloon, delivered into this world by a masked man identified by his heavily sedated mother as Captain Video, raised by a kindly West Virginian woman, a mild-mannered former reporter with modest delusions of grandeur and no tolerance of idiots and the intellectually dishonest.

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Saturday, October 30, 2004

AFLAC!! (cough, cough)

GENEVA (AP) - Domestic ducks may be infecting humans with bird flu, even though they show no external signs of having the disease, the U.N. health agency warned.

Bird flu has been reported in ducks that exhibit no clinical signs of the disease, Dr. Klaus Stohr, the World Health Organization's influenza chief, said on Friday.

"In the last few months there is an increase in the number of human cases which cannot necessarily be linked to poultry exposure," Stohr said. "We don't know the infectious dose for humans, but assuming that poultry can infect humans, we must consider that apparently healthy ducks can also infect humans."

There is a high risk of transmission to humans because many villagers in affected areas in southeast Asia have ducks inside their houses, Stohr said.

"What is urgently needed now is that governments invest in research to discover just how widespread H5N1 (bird flu) is in domestic ducks," he said, adding that no human cases can be directly traced to ducks.

The deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu appeared throughout Asia early this year, ravaging poultry farms and sparking a region-wide health scare. Authorities in Asia culled tens of millions of birds in an attempt to thwart the spread of the disease, but it resurfaced in July.

In Thailand, a death this week brought to 12 the number of humans killed by avian influenza in that country this year. Twenty people have died from the disease in Vietnam.

Thailand recently announced its first probable case of human-to-human transmission of bird flu. Infections could increase rapidly if the virus links up with human influenza, Stohr said.

Bird flu does not transmit easily from human to human, he said, while human influenza is highly infectious.

Stohr said there is no vaccine for bird flu.

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Friday, October 29, 2004

Bumper sticker of the day.

George W. Bush
Like a rock.

(but dumber.)

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Y2K Redux?

The hysteria over next Tuesday's possible Presidential election deadlock reminds me of the Y2K hoohah... same news media hyperbole, same grim experts, same Cassandra-like predictions.

My gut feeling here is that it won't be as close as people are predicting. Remember Jesse Ventura? In 1998, he was elected governor of Minnesota due to an outpouring of unexpected support by newly-registered voters, primarily young people under the age of 30 who were untrackable by the experts.

There are signs the methods used by the pollsters are ineffective. Roughly 1/3 of people called by the opinion takers refuse to talk on the big national polls, and a whopping 2/3 now clam up on the "overnight" surveys that hit the news every day.

Worse, the pollsters can't reach people who don't have telephones- and cell phones, the only way to reach most young people these days- aren't included in the canvassing.

I suspect there may indeed be a clear winner, if not next Tuesday night, at least by Wednesday morning, absentee and provisional ballots notwithstanding.

Even this isn't good news, though. About a quarter of the electorate on both sides of the aisle say they'll question the validity of the count, regardless of the outcome. The lawsuits are already starting, and it seems there will be more lawyers than voters at some polling places.

My biggest fear is that the U.S. Supreme Court will get involved in the mess. If the Court again inserts itself into the issue, it's going to get ugly, no matter which candidate comes out on top. The Supreme Court is the hem of the fabric of America, and if it starts to fray - if the people decide not to consent to be governed by the rulings of a court they deem to be partisan - well, I don't want to think about it.

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Thursday, October 28, 2004

But can they find my luggage?

Brain In A Bowl Flies Simulator

(AVWEB) Someone once said he could teach a monkey to fly but researchers at the University of Florida have taken it a quantum leap further. The biomedical team says it has a dish full of about 25,000 rat neurons that can keep a PC flight simulator on the straight and level. "It's as if the neurons control the stick in the aircraft, they can move it back and forth and left and right," Professor Thomas DeMarse told Wired News. Now, the researchers aren't explicitly looking to replace pilots with rat neurons... at least not yet. DeMarse said the team needed something for their neurons to do so they could try to decode the "language" they use to communicate with one another. After a few first-flight jitters (we all have them, right?) the rat neurons got the hang of keeping the simulated F-22 straight and level. "Right now the process it's learning is very simplistic," said DeMarse. "It's basically making a decision about whether to move the stick to the left or to the right or forwards and backwards and it learns how much to push the stick depending upon how badly the aircraft is flying." Hmm. We know some pilots who haven't quite grasped those concepts, yet ...

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No good deed goes unpunished...

I sent the following to the writer of the Quick Takes column in the Chicago Sun-Times yesterday:

True, poor song title grammar is a major problem, but song lyrics containing major errors in physics are far more damaging.

Consider the Faith Hill song "This Kiss":

It's the way you love me
It's a feeling like this
It's centrifugal motion
It's perpetual bliss

Centrifugal motion is directed away from a center or axis. Its use here seems paradoxical; why would someone in love move away from the center of one's romantic interest?

The correct term is centripetal: movement toward the center or axis. And it even has the same number of syllables.

And while on the subject of music, my friend Doug Cogan points out the first four notes of the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's "Messiah" are identical to those in the equally majestic "Yes, We Have No Bananas."

Doug Cogan, who is my boss' boss, mentioned the "Bananas" line in the lunchroom the day before. Note that I gave proper attribution in my e-mail.

So, what appears in the Sun-Times this morning?

Kevin G. Barkes, a Chicago reader, wants you to know that the first four notes of the "Hallelujah Chorus" from Handel's "Messiah" are the same as the first four notes of "Yes, We Have No Bananas."

So much for accuracy in the media.

And I don't know anything about any missing explosives, either. Sheesh.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Bush (finally) makes sense

"Even when you might not agree with me, you know what I believe and where I stand and where I intend to lead our country."
-George W. Bush (10/27/2004)

Wow. Talk about scaring the voters...

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Words fail me

"...a political candidate who jumps to conclusions without knowing the facts is not a person you want as your commander in chief."
-President George W. Bush (10/27/2004)

You probably also don't want one who doesn't understand the concept of irony.

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Oh, that Bush...


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Howard phones it in...

I'm not a big Howard Stern fan. He's an intelligent, funny guy who too often takes the low road. I listen to him from time to time and often find his humor to be hilarious. But when his show starts down the path to dumbness, I change the station.

That's how it's supposed to work in this country.

That's why it doesn't bother me that the drug-addled Rush Limbaugh or the bribe-taking, Congress obstructing, document destroying Oliver North have talk shows. That's the great thing about freedom of speech. I don't have to listen to them.

But I want to choose.

As Mike Godwin said, "The First Amendment was designed to protect offensive speech, because nobody ever tries to ban the other kind."

Free speech has been under assault by the government and, more specifically, the FCC, during the Bush administration. The agency's been levying fines and intimidating stations which carry Stern and other outspoken personalities.

Fortunately, it wasn't the boob-obsessed shock jock but the intelligent, literate Stern who confronted FCC Chairman Michael Powell yesterday. It probably won't change anything, but you have to admire Stern for his chutzpah.

Stern says FCC chairman's daddy got him job

Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO - Howard Stern knows very well who FCC Chairman Michael Powell's daddy is and said that's how Powell got his job.

Stern surprised the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission by calling in during a live interview Tuesday on San Francisco's KGO radio station. Stern quickly launched into attack mode against Powell, saying he's in his position only because his father is Secretary of State Colin Powell.

"It is apparent to most of us in broadcasting that your father got you your job...," Stern said. "I really don't think you're qualified for this position."

Powell denied the charge, reading off his credentials for the job, including being chief of staff of the Justice Department's Antitrust Division.

"I think you have a right to be concerned about the way the indecency fines are done...," Powell said. "I think it's a cheap shot to say that just because my father is famous, I don't belong in my position."

The Republican was appointed to the commission by President Clinton in 1997 and became chairman when President Bush took office in 2001.

Stern said he called Ronn Owens' show because Powell "avoids answering my questions."

Stern, who battled for years with the FCC and conservative critics over his salacious show's content, is moving his show to Sirius satellite radio when his contract with Infinity Broadcasting Corp. expires in 2006.

"I don't think we've made any particular crusade of the Howard Stern Show or you," Powell said.

"Yeah, OK, Michael," Stern replied. "That's why I've received the largest fines in history."

Stern's show was dropped by media conglomerate Clear Channel Communications in April after the FCC proposed a $495,000 fine against it for comments made by Stern.

Clear Channel reached a record $1.75 million settlement with the FCC in June to settle complaints against Stern and other radio personalities.

"If you don't believe the commission should have any rights to draw limits, I think that's a respectable position. But it doesn't happen to be the law," Powell said.

Stern finished by saying he didn't take Powell's actions personally.

"I don't think that you personally hate me," he said. "I think what you've been doing is dangerous to free speech. I don't think just against me, I think things have gotten way out of control. I am not personally vindictive."

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Tuesday, October 26, 2004

It makes sense to me...

I usually agree with the Quick Takes column in the Chicago Sun-Times, but an entry there today gave me pause:

Puppy love
We Have Seen the Present, and It Does Not Work:
Service dogs are now designated in California not only for the blind, deaf and otherwise physically disabled, but also for the depressed, who may find themselves in need of "love and affection" in public places.

As someone who knows something about depression and dogs, I think California has the right idea. Of course, you're reading something written by a guy who has a large, life-life stuffed toy dog under his desk at work.

As Bern Williams noted, "There is no psychiatrist in the world like a puppy licking your face.".

Here's the story from the San Francisco Chronicle. You be the judge.

In this dog-eat-dog world, Frank Jackson finally found solace in a sweet-faced cocker spaniel named Topper.

Jackson, 55 and HIV-positive, had trouble with depression and was feeling isolated, not really wanting to leave home. But two months ago, he adopted Topper from a rescue agency. “It's the best thing I've done in 20 years,” he said. “He needed love and affection as much as I did.”

One of the first things Jackson did was register Topper with the Animal Care & Control agency in San Francisco as an “assistance dog.”

The official designation gives Jackson the legal right to take his four-legged companion on the bus or in a taxi and into shops, restaurants and public buildings. And, perhaps most importantly, his landlord had to make an exception to the no-dogs policy for the apartment Jackson rents in the city's Upper Market neighborhood.

Topper is not alone. By last week, San Francisco had issued 658 tags for assistance dogs- a number that reflects a big jump since a 2002 ruling by a state regulatory agency that gave people troubled by psychological and emotional problems the right to keep companion dogs and to exercise the legal benefits that go along with it.

Service dogs traditionally have been paired with the visually and hearing impaired, and people using wheelchairs. Now, however, more are helping people who are depressed or anxious and who rely on canine companionship to help them cope.

San Francisco began issuing assistance dog tags in 1998. In 1999, the first full year of the program, 60 tags were given out. The number issued last year ballooned to nearly 160, and the applications keep coming.

“The bottom line is that we're seeing a lot of people come down here with notes from their doctors saying they need a companion dog to improve their quality of life,” said Carl Friedman, director of the city animal control agency. “Now we're seeing a lot of people applying for the tags who have psychological issues.”

Just about all it takes to get an assistance tag in California is a note from a doctor and a signed statement from the owner that the dog has been specially trained. That training, however, can be done by the owner and can be as simple as teaching the dog to wag a tail and lick a face if that's what it takes to make someone with a diagnosed depression feel better.

“Most dogs do that- lift your day,” Friedman said. “The difference between lifting someone's day and helping them get through the day is a fine line.”

San Francisco trumps other jurisdictions in the Bay Area when it comes to the number of tags issued. For instance, county and humane society officials say 199 have been approved in Marin County, 48 in San Mateo County, 19 in Alameda County, 60 in Contra Costa County and only a handful by the Silicon Valley Animal Control agency, which includes Campbell, Monte Sereno and Santa Clara.

When asked why San Francisco- a city with a dog population estimated at 100,000, or about one for every 7.5 humans- is so different, Friedman sat back in his chair and laughed. “Boy, ” he said, “I'd need about two hours to explain.”

One reason, he suggested, is that San Francisco started the program before other counties. But on top of that, the city has a large population of people with disabilities and a keen awareness of individual rights.

California law stipulates that county animal control agencies only have to process applications for assistance dogs- not the miniature horses, monkeys and other critters some disabled people have used to help them out.

“We had one person come in who wanted a tag for a pot-bellied pig, but we rejected the request,” Friedman said. “I didn't want to get into that. What if a guy comes in asking about his hamster, and wanted to take his hamster to Macy's? Because this is San Francisco, we had to draw the line somewhere.”

San Francisco business owners, building managers and public agencies are starting to get the hang of what's required of them, said Sgt. Michael Sullivan, the Americans with Disabilities Act coordinator for the San Francisco Police Department. He helps mediate disputes between merchants and customers, trains officers on how to enforce the intricacies of access laws and tries to educate Muni drivers and others working with the public.

Patty Hontalas, manager of Louis' restaurant, up the street from the Cliff House in San Francisco, said she had to be educated when a man came into the oceanfront dining spot with his small dog last year. At first she told him that dogs weren't allowed- the health code generally bars animals from entering eating establishments- but the customer insisted otherwise, arguing his dog was an official companion animal. With the customer showing no noticeable disability, Hontalas wasn't sure what to do and called the SPCA for a quick lesson on the law.

“Now I just ask if they have a tag for their dog,” said Hontalas, adding that she doesn't have any problem with well-behaved dogs in the restaurant. “I am seeing a lot more people bringing their dogs into businesses.”

The spike in San Francisco started around the same time the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing issued a ruling in 2002 that sided with a Placer County couple. The husband and wife, both of whom suffered from depression, had been told by their condominium association that they had to abide by the no-dog policy and couldn't keep their wire-haired terrier mix, Pooky, on the premises.

The state civil rights agency ruled that the condo association discriminated against the couple based on their doctor-diagnosed disabilities. This past August, the state Court of Appeal upheld the agency's ruling, saying that the condo association failed to reasonably accommodate the couple.

“For the first time, the California courts have linked fair housing with the companion-animal question. The decision signifies that just as a service animal may assist a person with physical disabilities, the emotional support derived from a companion animal can help a person suffering from depression or other emotional illness,” the Department of Fair Employment and Housing said in a written statement.

Kristi Kissell has no doubt. She got the special tag from the city for her dog Rocky after she had a hard time renting an apartment in San Francisco. She told her new landlady after she signed the lease that her corgi-Chihuahua mix would be living with her. By that time, there was little the owner could do because of the legal protection afforded Kissell as long as she had the official stamp of approval.

“I'm HIV-positive, and a lot of times it's just me and my dog. He's always there for me and won't leave my side, helps with my loneliness,” said Kissell, 41, who lives in the Sunset District. “He really is great support and had made a big difference in my life.”

Jackson- Topper's human companion- said his life has profoundly improved after securing the special tag from the city's animal control agency, allowing him to keep a dog at home. “The most tangible thing I can point to is I wake up in the morning with a smile on my face now,” he said. “I can't remember the last time I did that.”

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Oh, swell

Another cold. I despise colds. Can't concentrate, easily distracted...

Dennis Miller noted that while seniors have to wait in line in the cold for their flu shots, the supply to the nation's prisons is fine. As he noted, you really don't want to gang-rape someone with a bad head cold...

The local news here in Chicago is reporting that ATA airlines will file for bankruptcy today, which means all three of the airlines I use to travel between here and my home in Pittsburgh- United, US Airways, ATA- are in the financial crapper. I'd take Amtrak, but the trip takes longer than the time available for my visits.

Quote of the day: Florida's number three industry, behind tourism and skin cancer, is voter fraud.-Dave Barry.

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Monday, October 25, 2004

The friendly skies...

Engine trouble forces jet's emergency landing
October 25, 2004
A United Airlines flight made a successful emergency landing at O'Hare International Airport Sunday night after experiencing engine trouble shortly after takeoff. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, United Flight 835 took off at 9:50 p.m....

3 flight attendants hurt in turbulence
October 23, 2004
Turbulence resulted in injuries to three flight attendants on a United Airlines flight Friday afternoon shortly before the plane landed at O'Hare International Airport, airline officials reported. The attendants on United Flight 650 from Santa Ana...

Jet's engine falls off, but plane lands safely
October 22, 2004
Michigan authorities searched Thursday for a jet engine that fell off the wing of a Boeing 747 cargo plane that departed O'Hare International Airport. The Kalitta Air cargo aircraft, bound for New York's Kennedy International Airport after leaving O'Hare...

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For every action...

...there's a reaction. If some self-righteous, intellectually superior, self-absorbed weenie tries using this anywhere near me, I'm going to use a technology that's primitive but just as effective.

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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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It's here!

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