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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Friday, March 04, 2005

Fear of Flying

More precisely, fear of screening.

Flying doesn't bother me at all. I frequently fall asleep shortly after the plane pushes back from the gate and don't awaken until touchdown at the destination.

The cold sweat begins as I approach the security checkpoint. Did I make certain I removed all the contraband from my backpack and pockets? Did I forget something that will cause me to get slapped with a fine, a criminal record, and the TSA's secret "Harrass at every opportunity" list?

Think I'm kidding? Consider this post to Dave Farber's Interesting Persons list by reader Mary Shaw:

[M]y husband has long carried a small pair of needle-nosed pliers to repair his glasses when they get bent. The TSA permitted items (table at https: // says that "eyeglass repair tools (including screwdrivers)" are permitted in carryon. A couple of weeks ago in Bozeman Montana, a screener pulled him out for carrying these. My husband said "eyeglass repair tool." The screener said "that only allows the little screwdrivers." In this case he was allowed (and had enough time) to retreat from security and mail the pliers home. TSA personnel were entirely polite- my problem is only with their interpretation, not their other actions.

Further, the TSA policy says explicitly "the screener may determine that an item not on the prohibited items chart is prohibited." To the extent that means that if they neglected to list Ninja throwing stars I still should know not to carry them, I'm not distressed.

But it also seems to mean that I might someday have to choose between my grandmother's elaborate jeweled brooch and catching my flight. Even worse, someone might decide that my grandmother's elaborate jeweled brooch constitutes "artful concealment" (an "aggravating factor" in determining the seriousness of my violation) of a weapon and seize both the brooch and me.

I'm sure you'll be happy to know that "attitude of violator" is another "aggravating factor" in determining sanctions. See


Let me get this straight: TSA can arbitrarily decide what is or is not dangerous and, if I react in a manner they consider to be inappropriate, they can increase the level of the "offense?" So much for the ex post facto protection of the Constitution.

And what can they do?

Targeting all air travelers: the Feds are cracking down on the contents of your carry on bags!

Most passengers don't know it, but If you break the rules, you could face a hefty fine and have your name entered in a secret database.

Kirk Roth's business trip out of Manchester airport cost him much more than his plane fare.

First TSA Screeners discovered a utility knife like this in his bag.

"So I was a bit embarrassed that I had overlooked the fact that it was in the briefcase," Roth said.

But then the unexpected consequences: he was hit with a hefty fine and given a record with US homeland security.

Our investigation found he's one of thousands of travelers now caught by a little known TSA system to punish passengers who break the carry-on rules, not only with fines, but also with automatic placement in a secret government database.

According to the TSA, regular citizens cannot find out if their name is on that list.


I better go through my pockets again...

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Thursday, March 03, 2005


I have to teach a class on fonts today. As one of my former colleagues- a particle physicist in a previous career- commented: "Particle physics is easy. Fonts are hard."

Then it's off to the doctor for a blood pressure check and the inevitable medication adjustment. I just metabolize stuff too fast. An hour after taking the drugs, my blood pressure drops- for about 15 minutes. Then it's back up again.

I never had this problem when Clinton was in office.

Interesting statistic: my systolic and diastolic pressures are also the respective IQs of Clinton and Bush.

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Wednesday, March 02, 2005

More TSA Inanity

Ok, so now you can't take cigarette lighters on board commercial airliners.

Don't you feel safer?

This is another one of those inane TSA rules that serves no purpose other than to inconvenience passengers and waste resources which should be expended identifying real security risks.

The no-lighter rule, as well as the equally popular regulation which requires your shoes to be x-rayed at the security checkpoint, can be traced back to the convicted and incredibly inept would-be "shoe bomber", Richard Reid.

On an American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami on December 22, 2001, Reid tried to detonate explosives hidden in his tennis shoe by setting his shoe afire with matches. Passengers and crew overpowered him and, hopefully, beat him insensate.

The FBI said that Reid would probably have been successful if he had used a lighter instead of matches to ignite the device.

Shortly after this escapade, the TSA started x-raying shoes. Now, the stupid thing here is that you don't have to remove your footwear if you're wearing tennis shoes. That's because the TSA isn't looking for explosives. No, that would make sense and would actually be effective.

Unfortunately, there's no quick way to test shoes for explosives. But to give the appearance that they're doing something- anything- to enhance security, TSA tests what it's equipped to detect: metal, even though no one has ever tried to hijack a plane with a pair of metal-reinforced clodhoppers.

Your Nikes can be loaded down with two pounds of C4, but you can breeze right through security with no problem.

And while you can't have a lighter, you can have up to four packs of safety matches on your person or in your carry-on luggage. So you'll have to cool your explosives-encrusted heels while the TSA screener does a pack-count to make certain you're not endangering the aircraft with 81 matches. 80 matches- no problem; 81, you're going to the big house.

One can only be thankful that Reid didn't detonate his shoe bomb in private in one of the airplane lavatories. Otherwise, TSA screeners would be handing out slop pots to passengers as they boarded the plane.

Plastic slop pots, of course. Probably with smiley faces on the bottom.

There, don't you feel better?

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Too many ironies in the fire

The Parents Television Council reviewed an episode of Fox TV's “Arrested Development” in which a number of crude words had been spoken but bleeped out as part of a running joke, filled in what it thought the bleeped-out words were and filed a complaint with the FCC regarding the episode's indecent language.

What's particularly hysterical about this group is that they promote the very scenes they find objectionable by placing them here:

in their “Worst of the Week” clip gallery.

This is a great time-saver, in that one can find the most offensive broadcast-tv smut in a single, convenient place, without having to channel surf or tediously review Tivo recordings.

It also provides a source of easily-accessible, certified indency for children whose parents might have either programmed their v-chip or cable box to block the shows on their home televisions.

There are far too many ironies in the fire here.

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Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Quote of the day

“Nobody gets beaten to death like Hillary Swank!”
-Stephen Colbert on The Daily Show

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A sobering thought....

If greatness always skips a generation, it means the Bush twins could be this era's Roosevelt and Churchill.

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Monday, February 28, 2005

Peace at last

You know the feeling. You awake in the middle of the night, the nagging question of the ages rousing you from your peaceful slumber. The concern keeps you awake, the seconds ticking by with agonizing slowness. Eventually you doze off, but it's a restless sleep, one punctuated with disturbing dreams and the unease generated by the need to know: how's Abe Vigoda doing?

Well, rejoice. This site is the answer to your prayers. I especially like that you can refresh your browser at any time for the latest, up-to-the-second status.

Hey, don't mention it.

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Sunday, February 27, 2005

With a song in my heart...

I see skies of blue, clouds of white.
Bright blessed days, dark sacred nights.
And I think to myself:
"I sure hope a plane spots my raft soon."
The Covert Comic

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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.

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As a matter of fact, I *am* the boss of you.
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Truly great madness cannot be achieved without signficant intelligence

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

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Flies spread disease. Keep yours zipped.

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

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