Meet the Pirate Queen

I hope your Thursday was pleasant, regardless of whether it was Thanksgiving for you. And, as I promised, here’s more on MM’s situation.

Or, more accurately, on Emeraldas’ situation.

Yes, she does have a name, rather than a description*. Given her history and general attitude, naming her after a pirate of some sort seemed highly appropriate. Her backstory matches up well with that of the Leiji Matsumoto character–I hesitate to call her a heroine, but anti-heroine doesn’t seem quite accurate either–and when we realized we could keep the initial “Em” sound, everything came together.

* At various times in the past, MM stood for Mysterious Meezer, Ms. Meezer, and Meezer Mommy.

In addition to giving her a new name, we’ve also been giving her more freedom of movement and more opportunity to interact with the other felines.

You can’t see it in this picture, but the door to Maggie’s den is open, allowing Queen Em to get acquainted with Kaja and Rhubarb. Sachiko was also in the vicinity when this picture was taken, but I couldn’t squeeze her into the shot.

Em has developed a fascination with Yuki–one might even call it a fetish without stretching the point. When not separated by the fence, she’ll take every opportunity to rub against him.

Yuki seems to like her, and for the most part he tolerates her overly aggressive friendship, but sometimes it does get to be a bit too much for him.

As for the rest of the crew, Emeraldas’ relationships are works in progress. Kaja uses highly spiced language when Em appears, but then, Kaja does that for just about everybody except her littermate. With Lefty, Em alternates between friendship and slap fights.

As for everyone else, she maintains largely cordial-but-distant relationships.

Well, almost everyone else.

Kokoro, the senior meezer of the household, is distinctly unimpressed with the new arrival. Nose-sniffing sessions are punctuated with hissing and end quickly.

For the most part, however, Her Imperial Majesty prefers to ignore a mere Queen. Given her druthers, she’d far prefer to curl up on a warm blanket and wait for the pretender to go away.

That Time Again

It is the season–no, not the Christmas season; that doesn’t start until Friday at the earliest. This is the time when we’re grateful for stuff. Sure, that’s the case all year, but this is the time when we talk about it.

So, a few things I’m thankful for right now.

Georgia. Also Arizona and Nevada. Yes, it’s allowed to be thankful for what we got while wishing we got more. (That’s also part of the Christmas tradition–have you ever gotten everything you wanted? If so, be very thankful.) Don’t let the congressional faux pas bring you down.

Turkeys. Yes, even the thuggish ones hanging around our neighborhood: they’re cute and amusing in their own special way. And their domesticated cousins are darn tasty.

Modern medicine. Far from perfect, but far, far better than the alternatives. (See comments above about getting everything you want.)

Moisturizing soap. Cracked hands are a problem around this time every year, but frequent handwashing and use of sanitizing fluids have made this year worse than most. Moisturizing soap means I still have ten bandage-free fingers.

And, of course, Formerly Feral Felines. Our time with L. Rufus Alexander was far too short, but I’m very glad he came to us and thankful that he stayed as long as he did. And his companion, Lefty, makes me happy every day. He’s gone from a hissing ball of frightened rage to a purring snugglepanther who politely waits for his turn at the food bowl. Even MM is starting to come out of her shell–more on her Friday.

Happy Thanksgiving to those of you who celebrate the occasion and Happy Random Date to the rest of y’all.

Kaja, Reflective

Back in the day, Kaja was our little otter girl, going everywhere she shouldn’ta-otter.

These days, well, she’s slower and more inclined to reflection.

Granted, in her case, “more inclined” doesn’t mean a whole lot. When you’re starting from zero, anything is “more”.

But she’s not the svelte go-getter she once was. And she’s got her fleece-lined nest. Especially in the cold months, she just doesn’t see the benefit of getting up and going.

Well, except to the litter box and the food bowl. Those are at least as important as her nest.

Can’t Ignore It Forever

So, to no one’s surprise at all, the Lame Duck a L’Orange has fired Chris Krebs. One might almost be tempted to believe that Krebs wanted out of the Department of Homeland Security. What does he think is coming? (I did say “almost”; that sort of thinking smacks more than a bit of paranoia. On the other hand, now that the baseball season is over, paranoia is the nation’s first choice for a pastime.)

I haven’t written anything about the election because, really, what’s the point before the proverbial final aria has been belted out? The states are still certifying their votes, the Electoral College will have its say, and the Supreme Court could jump in. And don’t forget to obsess about the Senate runoffs in Georgia. But a few random thoughts intrude now and then, so I figured I’d inflict them on you all.

All that said, I’m delighted to see the Quacking One placing his faith in the legal talents of Giuliani. Donny can’t keep a consistent thought going from one end of a sentence to the other, and Rudy can’t keep a legal theory going from one end of an argument to the other. So well matched!

And, of course, there’s that other delightful news out of Georgia: according to the Secretary of State–the same guy who claims Lindsay Graham pressured him to lose Democratic votes–there were 24,000 Republican voters in the primary election who failed to vote this month, presumably because Trump told them voting by mail wasn’t safe, but they couldn’t be bothered to show up to vote in person. Talk about shooting one’s self in the foot while putting said foot in one’s mouth!

You’ve probably heard that toilet paper is in short supply again. My own theory is that people aren’t hoarding it in case of another shelter-in-place. I think they’re just collecting it for a massive TP-ing of the White House if donny (does he really deserve a capital letter?) refuses to vacate come January 20.

Not that it would matter if he locked himself into the Oval Office. As any number of people have pointed out, the Eisenhower Executive Office Building (home to the Vice President’s offices) is right next door, and is admirably equipped to serve as a center of government. If donny doesn’t want to leave the White House, that’s just fine. Lock the doors from the outside and he’ll be just fine. I’m sure the Secret Service would be delighted to toss a fast food burger through a window every so often. Wouldn’t do to let him starve, after all, and protecting his life is part of their job description.

And meanwhile, the election goes on. I believe Georgia is expecting to complete their recount and certify the election results shortly. One step closer to closure.

One Step Closer

Another milestone. Or perhaps two, depending on how you count.

Lefty partook of one of the most important rites of passage for a #FormerlyFeralFellow a little while ago.

He wore bling for the first time.

All went well for a few hours. He didn’t seem hugely disturbed by the collar, and only mildly uncertain about the clinking of the bell and nametag.

In fact, for a short time, he even seemed to be posing to show off his new apparel to best advantage.

About twenty hours later, he declared the experiment at an end–that possible second milestone.

The bling ended up on the living room floor, and Lefty has been happily naked since.

We’re not sure what triggered the disrobing. It might have been the noises. Maybe it was accidental, with the collar unsnapping while Lefty was adjusting it.

It was a slightly damaged collar that doesn’t have much to keep it closed. That was a deliberate choice: we wanted it to come off easily if Lefty panicked. So it might just have fallen off.

Regardless, he’s been resisting our attempts to put the collar back on. Not strenuously, and we haven’t been insistent. But someday soon, he will wear it again.

And we trust he’ll wear it with pride as a sign of his agreement that he’s found his forever home.

Apple Hardware Redux

And here we are again, talking about Apple’s latest hardware releases. Another symptom of a weird year. I mean, isn’t this about the sixteenth time?

Anyway, this announcement is for the first Macs running Apple’s own CPU–with the distinctive moniker “M1”–instead of one made by Intel.

The major feature of the new CPU, at least from Apple’s perspective, is that it combines all of the silicon into one convenient package. It’s not just a CPU, in other words. It’s also the security manager, the memory, the input/output controller, the machine-learning “Neural Engine”, and sixty ‘leven other things.

That allows for smaller motherboards, lowers the cost of production, and may simplify repairs.

On the down side, it also eliminates certain upgrades. Specifically, increasing the RAM isn’t going to be possible. Apple is confident that, rather than upgrading their machines when they get older, the majority of their customers just replace them. Which is probably a safe bet, given the cost of Apple-compatible memory.

There are three new machines: a MacBook Air, a MacBook Pro, and–the biggest surprise of the day–a Mac Mini. Interestingly, while the MacBooks will be selling at the same price point as the Intel-based models they’re replacing, the Mini will be $100 cheaper. Since I’m on record as considering the previous generation of Minis to be significantly overpriced, this is definitely an improvement.

Worthy of note: the Air and the Pro are nearly identical. The only differences, as far as anyone can tell until we get our hands on the machines, is that the Pro has a cooling fan–which may allow it to run faster for longer stretches than the fanless Air*–and at least some models will have faster graphics processing.

* Now there’s an irony for you: a mobile computer named “Air” that doesn’t move air around.

Accompanying the new machines is, of course, a new Mac operating system. Big Sur will be out tomorrow for all Macs (at least all made in the last five years or so).

It’s got the usual laundry list of new features: new look and feel, new privacy features, and so on, ad infinitum. The biggie, at least if you buy Apple’s thinking, is that it can run iPhone and iPad apps.

Was anybody really asking for that?

Granted, Google’s done a nice job in allowing Android apps to run on Chromebooks; they’ve shown the idea can be done well. But Apple’s history in cross-platform app support isn’t encouraging. Let’s be blunt here: the iPad came out in 2010. And yet, the best it can do when running an iPhone-only app is to show it at double its normal size with little support for rotation. And Apple hasn’t done much to encourage developers to add iPad-functionality.

To be fair, Google has done a lousy job of convincing developers to support Android table-specific apps either. But the wide variety in Android phone capabilities forces Google’s infrastructure, and thus phone-oriented apps, to be more flexible in terms of resolution and layout than is the case in Apple’s world.

I have a feeling we’re going to see a lot of people experiment with iOS apps on their MacBooks, decide the experience isn’t all that great, and give up. Developers will then say “Hey, nobody’s using apps on their computers; why should we waste time and effort on making it better?”

Bottom line: The new Macs sound good, but even with Apple’s experience in custom-designed silicon–the M1 is, after all, a variation of what’s been running iPhones and iPads for years–there are going to be teething problems.

Similarly, even if you ignore Big Sur’s need to support those new devices alongside the existing Intel devices, it’s still a major revision to the Mac OS (major enough that Apple is declaring it version 11 after seventeen years of version 10). Remember how rough the transition to Catalina was last year, when the biggest change was the move to eliminate 32-bit apps?

My advice is to wait until at least 11.0.2 to upgrade–Apple is already working on 11.0.1; odds are they won’t start building in fixes for real-world problems in the new Macs until 11.0.2 at the earliest.

And unless you’re comfortable dealing with random computer misbehavior, hold off buying an M1 Mac for at least six months to give Apple time to work out–or work around–the inevitable hardware bugs.

A Mixed Bag

Winter again, baseballically speaking.

And, with the election well-launched into its best-of-seven series–that’s a guess: this post was written prior to election night, so at this point I have no actual idea how many state results are going to be referred to the Supreme Court for a fiat decision–it’s time to take a look at my predictions.

As always, my goal is 70% accuracy in picking the playoff teams. Last year, I was a pitiful 40%. This year, in a season marked by weirdness, well…

In the NL, I correctly picked LA, San Diego, St. Louis, Chicago, Florida, Atlanta, and Cincinnati. My only miss was in picking Colorado instead of Milwaukee. Good start.

Over on the junior circuit, I was right with Tampa Bay, Oakland, Minnesota, Cleveland, Houston, and Toronto. Failed on LA and Kansas City; should have gone with New York and Chicago.

Overall, that’s thirteen out of sixteen: 81.25%! I believe that’s my best record yet. Amazing how much of a difference there is between a marathon and a sprint.

That said, I rather fell on my face in picking the actual winners.

I’d anointed Cleveland and San Diego as the World Series teams with the Padres winning in six games.

One team didn’t make the playoffs; the other got swept in the Division Series.

sigh

I take some small consolation in having correctly called the number of games in the Series.

And, as proof that I’m a man ahead of my times, I’ll note that I picked the Dodgers to win it all last year. I’m really going to feel weird if San Diego becomes the 2021 champion.

Assuming, of course, that there is a 2021 season. There’s a lot riding on the U.S. Series between the Donkeys and the Elephants. Don’t forget to watch Game Two of the series in the Supreme Court tomorrow!

Happy A Day Early

Sure, Halloween is going to be a bit weird this year. But then, why should it be any different than anything else that’s happened in the last seven or eight months?

And, yes, of course trick or treating is off the table–which hasn’t stopped anyone I know from buying candy.

But none of that means we can’t celebrate the occasion.

Maggie has been working with some of the cats, convincing them to get into the spirit of things.

Kaja is onboard.

Barely.

Rhubarb is Rhubarb. As long as it requires no effort on his part and there’s no pain, he’ll go along with the gag.

And Kokoro is up for any outfit that sets off her eyes.

Doesn’t mean she won’t attack us in our sleep in revenge, but sometimes one has to take one’s chances.

There Is Nothing More Important

The Rays couldn’t quite pull it off–couldn’t even push the Series to seven games–and we’re now into the Winter of our Discontent (which follows the similarly discontented Fall, Summer, and Spring).

I’ll have my usual season-ending post next week, looking at my predictions for the playoffs and taking a peek at next year.

For now, though, something a bit more important.

More important than baseball? Yes, there really is such a thing.

Have you voted yet?

If you have, thank you.

I’m assuming you made the only rational choices. This is not, as many people have been reminding us for months, even years, the time for protest votes; promotion of third, fourth, or fifth parties; or betrayal votes.

It doesn’t matter who she hugged.

It doesn’t matter how much you love their platform.

It doesn’t matter what party’s ticket he’s leading in your state.

Now is the time to vote Democrat. Even if it would be the first time someone in your family has ever voted Democrat, it’s time.

Because if the Republicans hold on to the White House and the Senate, there won’t be an election in 2024.

Not a real one with multiple candidates who could win. Maybe we’ll get a sham election with a single slate of candidates or multiple candidates from a single party.

Choose your reason: a massive death toll from this and the next pandemic, outlawing of the Democratic party as domestic terrorists, or flat-out executive fiat backed by a bought-and-paid-for Supreme Court. Doesn’t matter why. Only the result matters.

If you haven’t voted yet, get off your ass and do it. Don’t rely on the Post Office at this point. Check your county’s website for the official list of ballot drop-off locations* and early voting sites, and do it.

* I strongly doubt that California is the only state plagued with fake drop-off boxes sponsored by the Republican party.

If your state offers ballot tracking (parts of seventeen states use ballottrax.net), sign up. Make sure your ballot is received.

And if you have to cast your ballot in person, especially if it’s November 3 or nothing, be careful. Wear a mask, social distance as much as possible, and pack a lunch–and it probably wouldn’t hurt to take a dinner as well.

Keep your pro- or anti-candidate or issue shirts, buttons, or signs out of sight until after your ballot has been cast: don’t be a target and don’t give anyone even a specious excuse to prevent you from voting.

It’s going to take years to undo all the crap the Republicans have done. Let’s get started now, because if we don’t, we won’t have the chance at all.