Was It Something I Said?

I’m not sure how they wound up like this. Less than half an hour earlier, all four cats were snuggled together–the weather has definitely turned colder, and feline snuggling levels have gone way, way up.

Did Em get stroppy? Maybe, though I didn’t hear any feline politics.

It’s probably not a “she who smelt it, dealt it” situation: none of the cats seems particularly bothered when someone emits an unpleasant odor.

It can’t have been a male bonding ritual, because nobody had a drum.

Just one of those “you’re a hoomin, you wouldn’t understand” things, I suppose.

Oh, Crap

I’d use a stronger word, but Sledpress beat me to it a couple of years back.

Yes, it’s Christmas “music” time again. And already it’s clear that whoever is programming our collective soundtrack for the month of December hasn’t developed an imagination over the past eleven months.

I’m on record with my feelings about “The Little Drummer Boy”. This year I warned my cow-orkers that if I hear it 25 times, I will go postal*. I’m keeping track on the staff whiteboard, because I believe in giving fair warning. Granted, they’ll probably laugh and cheer me on–does anybody like that song–but if so, I wouldn’t want anyone to miss out on the fun.

* To be clear, the only potential victims are the speakers. After all, the music is programmed by someone at company headquarters. Though if I find out who keeps cranking the volume up, a kneecapping or other non-fatal remonstrance might be on the table.

Nor is TLDB the worst we have to face this year. Early returns suggest that “Last Christmas” will be the go-to song this year. The season only started a week ago, and I’ve heard that piece of tripe* played multiple times within an hour. Once might have been a bit of carelessness in building the playlist, but it’s happened twice. Normally the rule is that once is chance, twice is coincidence, and three times is enemy action. But when it comes to Christmas music and other deadly weapons, I prefer to play it safe: I’m assuming malice aforethought.

* No offense intended to anyone who likes actual tripe–you know, that white honeycomb stuff that’s the foundation of menudo.

Music programmers, consider this a warning: I have a copy of “Christmas at Ground Zero” and I’m not afraid to use it. Bluetooth speakers are cheap and can be scattered around as necessary.

On the bright side, I’ve made it through the first week without hearing “White Christmas”*. In fact, I haven’t heard any songs that explicitly mention snow. I don’t know if that’s a conscious decision on someone’s part. “Maybe if we don’t mention the white stuff, we won’t get any major blizzards this year.” Probably not; it’s too logical a connection to have been made by someone who thinks “My Favorite Things” is a Christmas song.

* Mind you, I don’t especially dislike “White Christmas”. I just don’t particularly like it. Call me Crosbynostic.

Come to think of it, I’ve yet to hear last year’s “most tolerable” award winner (“All I Want for Christmas Is You”). Has it fallen out of favor? Or are the programmers saving it for later in the season? Could be the latter. After all, we’re still in the early stages, when the Christmas songs are mixed in with the regular playlist. Once they come to dominate, the selection will expand.

At least I hope it will. Can you imagine spending eight hours a day listening to the same five songs over and over? I can. Consider: given five songs, there are 120 ways to arrange them. If the average length of a Christmas song is roughly four minutes, that’s eight hours before you have to repeat a sequence.

I’m terrified.

Centerpiece or Main Dish?

Rhubarb wishes it to be known that, despite his pose, he never had any doubt that he was not on the menu.

He also wishes it to be known that at no time did he sample the wine in that bottle behind him*, despite vigorous marking of the bottle as his via cheek rubs.

* Mr. Goldkitty maintained a diplomatic silence on the question of what relationships he might have had with any other bottles of wine, past or present.

How Not to Do Customer Service

Number 31415926 in an infinite series.

As I write this Monday evening, the GoComics website is down. It was down when I tried to read my usual morning batch of strips on Saturday morning. It has not come back up. So it’s been down continuously for at least 60 hours.

The website simply says “The requested service is temporarily unavailable. It is either overloaded or under maintenance. Please try later.”

Not exactly helpful or informative.

In the early going, whoever was running their Twitter account tried to lighten things up by tweeting comics. However, a small, apparently random selection–although several of the later selections referenced people or things being broken. Hmm.

Finally, Sunday evening–48 hours into the outage–they posted an official statement.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Since then, the account has been silent. Reports are that their communication on Facebook is identical.

Granted, lack of access to comic strips is a first world problem.

But the people being inconvenienced are, one way or another*, paying customers.

* Some of us paying with actual currency, some by being exposed to advertising (while being tormented with repeated demands that we fork over the aforesaid currency).

And the only reason they can get away with ignoring paying customers is because they’re a monopoly. Some of the strips show up on the websites of newspapers that run the strips in their print editions. But no newspaper carries all of the hundreds of GoComics strips; some of them are even online-only, making them totally inaccessible during this outage.

And every moment that passes without an update, or even a “Geez, folks, we’re really sorry. We screwed up big time,” makes the pool of ill will deeper. Darker. Colder.

Never underestimate the ire of a Garfield fan denied their fix.

Late update just before posting: GoComics is back up today. I didn’t get a chance to check it last night, but it was down Tuesday morning, so the outage lasted 72 hours or more.

The Twitter account? Still no new posts. So much for status updates. So much for belated redemption. So much for actually appreciating your customers.

Quirks

We all have our little quirks, felines as much as us two-legged sorts.

For example, Kokoro has a habit of complaining loudly before drinking.

Sachiko bunny-hops down stairs.

Watanuki burrows under any blanket handy (all the better to lurk in hiding until a vulnerable set of toes arrives).

Lefty, on the other forepaw, detests being covered. Even the tiniest corner of a thin cloth settling on his haunches will trigger a rapid leap away from the offending article.

None of which, of course, prevents him from creating a warm nest amidst the blankets, especially when it’s been pre-warmed by a biped butt.

I Hadn’t Planned to Go Here…

…but once the press got involved, I didn’t feel I had much of a choice.

In last week’s post about the end of the Jodie Whittaker Era, I mentioned that breaks with established continuity tick me off.

I’ve just learned that there’s something that ticks me off even more.

One of those continuity breaks–the most prominent one–was David Tennant appearing in his own clothes, rather than in the outfit Jodie had sported for the last three seasons. Every regeneration to date has left the new Doctor wearing the previous Doctor’s outfit; part of the fun of the next episode has always been learning what the new actor will be wearing and seeing where the outfit comes from.

I’m sure there will be an in-show rationale for the change. Maybe it’ll even make it into a script.

But the real reason? Well, maybe “real” reason? According to showrunner Russell T Davies, it was done to avoid offending the transphobic and the bigots. Yes, the same idiots who have been offended for the past three seasons. Which, okay, we don’t want to get excoriated in the press any more than we have to. I can see that. But…

The other reason, Russell says, is to avoid offending the drag community. “To put a great big six-foot Scotsman into [a woman’s clothing] looks like we’re taking the mickey.” Fair enough. A better reason than the first, IMNSHO. But…

What about Sacha Dhawan? In the very same episode, Sacha, as the Master, forces a regeneration on the Doctor, effectively reshaping her body into his. Wearing–surprise!–her clothes.

Clothes which, I’ll point out, while tailored for a woman’s body, do not include a skirt, dress, burka, sari, or any other item of clothing that is not normally worn by men in Western European derived cultures.

Are the bigots or the drag queens going to be less offended by a five-foot-seven man of Indian descent wearing “women’s” clothes than the aforementioned six-foot-one Scot? Actually, the bigoted probably would be less offended by it. But if that’s also true of the LGBT community, that says something about that community I’d rather not know.

And yes, I’ll grant that Russell knows the British press far, far better than I do. But really, something’s just not adding up here.

I’m sure there was a good, valid reason why David didn’t wear Jodie’s clothes, but I’m equally sure the official explanation ain’t it. It smacks of a retrocon, and a particularly clumsy one at that.

Given that Jodie is only five-foot-five-and-change, it’s not impossible that the seams gave out when David tried on her pants (though a long jacket–and a well-prepared wardrobe mistress*–can cover a multitude of wardrobe malfunctions). Or maybe there’s some other innocent explanation.

* Is there a generally accepted gender neutral title for this role? My quick web search didn’t turn up any thing.

But clumsy attempts to cover Lady Godiva in a mantle of controversy avoidance? Nah, not buying it.

Shall I?

For reasons too complicated to explain right now, we keep a baby gate closed across the door to the bedroom. ‘Nuki, Lefty, and Em jump it with impunity, but Sachiko is less willing to do so. She’s perfectly capable, and has done it many times, but given her druthers, she’d rather sit in front of the gate and make goo-goo eyes until a hoomin lets her in or out.

So, a rare view of her looking over the gate, trying to decide if it’s worth the effort, or if there’s a hoomin around to do her bidding.

(Spoiler: After I took the picture, I did open the gate for her.)

End of an Era

And so we’ve arrived at the end of Jodi Whittaker’s time as the Doctor. (Yeah, as usual, I’m running a couple of weeks behind. Had to finish the first season of The Sandman first. Hopefully there’ll be a second season. But I digress. As usual.)

The haters can stop hating. Not that they will, of course, but they can. After all, their childhood is still there, safely in the past. And the next Doctor will (presumably) have dangly bits.

Which was probably inevitable. Gods and goddesses forfend we should have two female Doctors in a row. Ncuti Gatwa has been well-publicized as the next Doctor. But at the end of Jodi’s last show, we instead got former and now future Doctor David Tennant instead. Because the BBC apparently feels that a diamond anniversary has to be backward looking.

Is it unreasonable of me to suggest a connection between this little surprise, delaying the first appearance of a black Doctor*, and the announced deal with Disney+ for American broadcast and financial investment?

* Yes, we have already seen a black Doctor–and a female one at that–but Jo Martin hasn’t been the protagonist in any of the episodes she’s appeared in. Personally, I’d love at least a couple of seasons of her story, but I’m confident in predicting it’s never going to happen. It’s abundantly clear that nobody in a position to shape the future of the show is interested in exploring the Doctor’s past beyond what we’ve already seen.

Three episodes with David a year from now, before Ncuti steps in. At least, that’s the announced plan. Much could happen in a year; as the saying goes, maybe the horse will learn to sing.

Anyway.

There were missteps and missed opportunities during Jodi’s time, but on the whole, it was a good time. She’ll never be my favorite Doctor (still Tom Baker) or even favorite in the modern era (Peter Capaldi). But I don’t regret watching her shows*. Some I’d even rewatch: “The Haunting of Villa Diodati” and “Spyfall, Part 1” spring to mind.

* Except for “Orphan 55”. Now that was painful. But no more so than a dozen or so episodes starring other Doctors.

As for that final episode, well… Breaks with established continuity always tick me off and there were a few of them here. Underutilized characters. Unanswered questions (what flavor of ice cream does Yaz prefer?). On the other hand, there were some excellent lines–I’m particularly fond of “Volcano Inspector”–and I love the idea of a Former Companions Support Group. Hopefully that won’t be a one-off bit. I’d love to see them act as an ongoing resource for the Doctor. Including chapters on other planets in other times–we know the Doctor has scattered companions (and one-time friends and helpers) across pretty much the entire reach of time and space.

Like all of Jodi’s tenure, some hits, some misses, but overall positive.

Thanks for your time, Jodi. Don’t be a stranger.

Such an Elegant Gentleman

It’s been four and a half years since Lefty took up residency–highly involuntary residency–in the catio.

At that time, I said “And if we thought MM was unhappy in the catio, Lefty took matters to previously unconsidered depths. He complained. He prowled around, shoving shelters out of his way, and generally created chaos. Nor, to be blunt, did he get along with MM. She wanted him in the catio even less than he wanted to be there.” And I also said “If he’s still relatively chill, we’ll see if we can persuade him to adopt an indoor lifestyle. It’ll be a long haul, and an awkward one … But it’s worth a try.”

And here we are. Much less awkward and certainly much less quicker than we expected, that scarred and scared bundle of teeth and claws has become an elegant, cultured panther-about-the-house.

Don’t let that solemn look fool you. He’s not pondering the whichness of what, he’s considering the best approach to extorting another chunk of fish from our dinner.

It’s That Time Again

Halloween is over. Yes, the calendar called it Monday night (or Tuesday morning, if you prefer).

And that means it’s time to turn our attention to the next major shopping eventholiday. No, not Thanksgiving. Many retailers have announced they’ll be closed on Thanksgiving again this year–and huzzah for that small bit of sanity. No, I’m talking about [insert ominous chord here] Black Friday.

More intriguing than the Turkey Day closings are the announced opening times for Black Friday. So far, per blackfriday.com, very few national retailers are planning to open in the middle of the night. The most common opening time so far looks to be 6:00; Big Lots, Home Depot, and Jo-Ann are among those who’ve picked that time. Nearly as many stores are going with “regular hours”: Walgreens, Marshalls, and Half Price Books, for example. Only one major retailer–JCPenney–has announced an earlier opening, and that’s 5:00.

Granted, there are still plenty of announcements to be made (or non-announcements to be leaked). But so far, at least, it’s looking like significant numbers of retail employees will get to spend Turkey Thursday with their families, and still get a good night’s sleep before reporting for work Friday.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that, according to RetailMeNot, more than half the U.S. population is looking forward to observing Black Friday in the traditional in-store fashion. That said, however, the self-evidently biased survey doesn’t say anything about whether the public is clamoring for middle-of-the-night openings. That doesn’t have to be part of the equation, right?

I say not. I’ve got no problem with deeply discounted loss leaders to drag spenders into stores. No issues with people paying more than they can afford when they miss out on the doorbusters–after all, they can always return the goods the next day for a refund; retailers expect that and budget for it. And I’m already on record as being willing to allow monthlong sales.

But the quid pro quo here has to be an end to making employees arrive at work at dark o’clock and forcing them to wade through crowds of would-be shoppers who’ve been lined up since even darker o’clock.

If a few weirdos want to line up at midnight, let ’em. But don’t open the doors until your regular Friday opening time. Let everyone else sleep in. Remember: a happy, well-rested customer is one who doesn’t block the registers while they fumble around writing a check, screaming at a clerk because they couldn’t find the gizmo they wanted, or* corralling the store manager to complain about “that kind” being allowed to shop in the same store as “decent people”**.

* Or, goddess and gods help us all, “and”, not “or”.

** Based on current headlines, I figure it’s inevitable we’ll get at least one mass shooting at a store predominantly patronized by non-whites and/or non-Christians.

Let’s not aid and abet. Sleeping later won’t change anyone’s mind about their fellow Americans, but it might just help them suppress the impulse to “do something about them“.