For the Fancier

By my count, we’ve had three straight weeks of the Fabulous Formerly Feral Felines, so it’s time to give some attention to the rest of the gang again.

Unfortunately, feline cuteness and/or silliness have been in short supply lately. Or maybe I’ve just been oblivious to it. Either way, my supply of photos is a little light at the moment.

I do have this charming shot of Watanuki.
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Note the corner of the blanket neatly folded across his abdomen. He’s always been a burrower, and we take great care in checking any lumps in the blankets when we come into the bedroom.

Lately, he hasn’t been digging deep under the covers–perhaps a sign of warmer weather approaching. Instead, we find scenes like the one above, or on days when the temperature drops again, something more like:
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Devoted students of the toe bean are welcome to requests higher resolution images.

Yes, that is a bit of his leg visible toward the left of the picture, but it didn’t stay in sight long. Shortly after I took the shot, ‘Nuki twitched the covers down over his leg.

We still don’t know what the purpose of the exposed paw was. It might have been a form of temperature regulation or, since this is ‘Nuki–who’s forever leaving body parts lying around–it could just as easily have been an oversight or an artistic statement.

Too Soon?

The season has started. At least, that’s what MLB is saying. I’m having trouble believing them.

Not in a “The Mariners have the best record in baseball‽” way. (The complementary observation that “The As have the worst record in baseball!” has to be pleasant for fans of the Orioles and Royals: they now know it’ll be at least another week before their teams fall into the AL basement.*) Nor does it have anything to do with the games having been played in Japan in a stadium few of the players know. It doesn’t even have anything to do with my inability to watch those two games** because they’re played in the middle of the night***.

* Actually, since the MLB scoreboard sorts teams with the same record alphabetically by location, Baltimore is currently on top in the AL East. Not bad for a team that finished last year with a historically bad record. May this be a sign of things to come.)

** To be strictly accurate, I did manage to catch the radio broadcast of the last inning of the second game. Twelve innings stretched the game just long enough for me to hear the Ms break the tie.

*** Yeah, there’s a bit of East Coast envy happening. A 5:30 AM game would be a little easier to deal with than 2:30 AM.

I don’t get to watch the first few Mariners games in most seasons. For reasons known only to MLB’s schedulers, the As and Mariners often open the season against each other. Since I’m in the As’ broadcast territory, the games are blacked out on MLB.TV. Sure, I could watch the local broadcast on real TV, but how awkward and uncomfortable would that be, especially if the Mariners lost? So I content myself with radio–which isn’t blacked out–and wait for the second series of the year.

But I digress.

The truth is, an overseas Opening Series is just Too Damn Early.

There’s a rhythm to the seasons, whether you’re talking Earth-around-the-Sun or baseball. Shifting a few days, as has been done recently to keep the playoffs from running into November, is a little uncomfortable, but no worse than switching from Daylight Savings Time to Standard Time. You feel disoriented for a few hours–a day at most–but then your brain and body catch up.

But this year, MLB is trying to convince us that two games played a week and a half early are real. That’s more like a serious case of jet lag. The kind you get flying from, say, Arizona to Japan. It takes several days to get yourself back in sync with the rest of the world.

It’s nice that MLB wants to give us an opportunity to see what things are like from the players’ perspective. I suppose handing out VR headsets with a batter’s-perspective video of an Aroldis Chapman sinker* with every MLB.TV subscription would be prohibitively expensive.

* Or, to be fair, a pitcher’s perspective video of a Giancarlo Stanton comeback line drive.

It’s a well-known fact that some players need a longer spring training than others. Position players are generally ready before pitchers, even though the latter report to camp first.

But it’s also true that fans need a certain amount of time to be season-ready. We need to fine-tune our attention. Toughen up our throats and palms for maximum volume cheers and boos. And yes, even get a sufficient look at the minor league players who won’t be making the majors this year, but might feature prominently in our “Wait’ll next year!” fantasies.

So we’re a bit off center. Maybe next year MLB will give us that week and hold off the games that count until the last week of March or the first week of April.

As for this year, it’s okay to acknowledge that you’re not quite ready. Remember, there are millions of us in the same position.

Close your eyes, picture an outfield filled with summer sunlight. Think late September, a one game division lead, and the shade of Ernie Banks saying “It’s a beautiful day for a ballgame…Let’s play two!”

That’s the goal. We’ll get there.

Oopsie!

Oof. Just, like, wow, man.

Sorry. I don’t get a chance to talk about the theory and practice of QA very often, so when an opportunity like this comes along, it’s a bit overwhelming.

According to the Transbay Joint Powers Authority, four different groups of inspectors missed the construction goof that caused the Transbay Terminal closure. Four!

Granted, my QA background is in software, but I can’t imagine that construction is greatly different, at least in terms of the methodology. The basic idea is that QA sits down with the specifications–ideally, QA is involved in the process of creating the plans, helping to root out ambiguities and spot danger points early, but I’m trying to keep this simple–and produces a plan.

The plan describes what QA will test and how they’ll test it. The level of detail varies, but the intent is that it covers all the different types of tests in language that non-QA people can understand. QA then designs the specific tests, executes them, logs bugs (defects, places where the product doesn’t match the design), and eventually produces a final summary that describes what was actually tested, summarizes all the bugs, and documents any changes between the test plan and what was actually done.

Naturally, I’ve massively simplified this process. In the real world, many of the steps will be executed in parallel. There’s buy-in at multiple points in the process. Each test is documented: when it was run, who ran it, and what the results are.*

* In the software world, QA kills a lot of trees. I imagine it’s even worse in the physical world.

None of which explains how three separate groups–the outfit that made the beams, the company that installed them, and the general contractor who oversaw the whole process–apparently failed to confirm that the beams had been properly installed. Specifically, that holes cut in the beams had been ground down to prevent exactly the sort of cracks that developed over Fremont Street.

I have to wonder whether it was a planning failure–nobody said “Hey, we’ll test the welding access holes,” and none of the parties involved noticed the omission–or a failure to execute planned tests.

It’s worth noting that the holes in the First Street beam were cut differently, so that grinding wasn’t necessary. Why didn’t anyone notice the discrepancy? Was the change by design or error?

I’m less bothered by the failure of the fourth group involved. According to the Chron, a separate company did spot inspections. On the one hand, they specialize in QA. On the other hand, spot inspections will miss things. That’s part of the definition. They’re designed to give you a big picture; in the software world, you might do a spot check–a small fraction of your tests–to confirm whether a new module is ready for the full test. If, say, five percent of your tests (chosen to hit the areas of highest risk) show a lot of bugs, you’ll probably send the module back to development and say “try again.”

In this case, the Transbay Joint Powers Authority wanted checks to be sure the proper process was being followed. So, whether the tests were planned but not run, or never planned in the first place, it’s easy to see how the omission could have slipped through the cracks (sorry) of the spot check.

Anyone got an inside view of the TJPA? I’d love to know where the fault actually lies.

Scandalous

I’ll admit to some surprise over how much press the college university scandal is getting. It’s proving to be a remarkable distraction from whatever it is our darling president is up to today. And have you noticed that he’s been unusually silent about the subject? Sure, his usual crew of proxies, including DTJr, have been all over it, but as far as I can tell, he’s kept his own Twitter fingers out of the fuss.

Maybe he thinks the dignity of his former position as proprietor of a pay-for-play education institution would be compromised by taking sides on the issue.

Never mind.

Anyway, I really am surprised about the amount of attention being paid to the story. Is anyone actually surprised that the rich have a perk denied to the rest of population?

Is it because of the high public profile of some of the accused? Everyone loves a good scandal involving well-known actresses*, right? Or is it only because of the rather staggering quantities of money involved. Twenty-five million is a significant sum of money. On the other hand, annual tuition at Stanford is currently around $50,000. Add in living expenses, materials, and all of the other expenses of going to school, and you realize that $25,000,000 wouldn’t even cover the costs of a four year degree for all of the students involved.

* I have to wonder if there would be as much gloating and finger pointing if the big Hollywood names were men. But I digress.

And, speaking of the students… The Chron quotes US attorney Andrew Lelling as saying “For every student admitted through fraud, an honest, genuinely talented student was rejected.” That’s arguable, but if the goal of the investigation is to seek redress for those rejected students, why are all of those fraudulently admitted still attending their schools?

Granted, most schools probably don’t have a ranked list of candidates, and even if they did, it’s far too late to offer a slot to the top few who just missed the cut because their slots had been filled via fraud. But it would free up spaces that could be added to the available pool for next year.

Come to think of it, the goal of the parents involved was to get their kids into those colleges. Even if they’re eventually convicted of crimes, the punishment is going to be in the form of fines and jail time. The children are still going to be in school, benefiting from their parents’ misdeeds. And if someone was willing and able to pay half a million bucks to get their child into an Ivy League school, are they really going to quibble about a few thousand dollars more to satisfy the justice system?

Really, though, the most vexing thing about the scandal is that the schools themselves are unlikely to see any repercussions. A few employees have been fired and more probably will. It’s vaguely possible that the universities will be fined, but even if they are, they’ll likely be a tiny fraction of their operating budgets–but a great excuse to raise tuition. Maybe the NCAA will sanction a few sports programs–but who’s going to notice a loss of scholarships or forced forfeits in sailing and other minor sports?

What’s not going to be affected is the schools’ collective reputation. None of this year’s high school seniors are going to withdraw their applications. Nobody’s going to miss out on a post-graduation job because their diploma comes from one of those schools.

That, IMNSHO, is the real scandal.

Knowing the Cost

Nearly three years ago, I wrote about my compulsion to record the details every time we put gas in the car. At the time, I said, “Mind you, none of this information is of any particular use.”

I’m thrilled to announce that after thirteen years, I’ve finally found value in that spreadsheet. Value beyond soothing the need to collect the numbers, I mean.

Hey, I just realized: since I’ve found a use for the numbers, they’re no longer just semi-random noise. They have meaning! They’re officially information. Data! I’m sure the spreadsheet is very proud.

But I digress.

Anyway, the point is that I have a job. Which requires me to commute. And now I can calculate how much it costs me to go to work.

The bridge toll is six bucks in one direction and zero in the other. And, frankly, that’s the lion’s share of the expense. But, being compulsive, I had to add in the cost of the gas.

One round trip is approximately 35 miles, regardless of which route I take*.

* As I noted recently, crossing the Richmond-San Rafael bridge is essentially a requirement to get from here to there. But there are multiple ways to get from here to the bridge. Since all the routes are functionally the same length, and all the drivers are using the same small group of traffic apps, it’s probably no surprise that it takes the same amount of time to drive all the routes. In this case, about an hour and a quarter. As Bay Area commutes go, that’s staggeringly short for the round trip.

According to my spreadsheet, each dollar we’ve spent on gas has been good for 8.6 miles driven. So one round trip to work costs a hair over four bucks in gas. Add the bridge toll and we get the total price of the trip: ten dollars. No, I’m not compulsive enough to figure in depreciation on the car.

Apply my salary–net, of course–and you get forty-four minutes and a handful of seconds*.

* Yes, I realize that the mathematically astute curious types among you are now busy calculating my pay. Have fun. I’d just appreciate it if you didn’t spread the number around. Make anyone who wants to know go to the effort of punching a few digits into their calculators. And looking up the federal and state withholding percentages. And a few other little deductions that I’ll leave as exercises for the nosy.

With all the approximations I’ve included, you can call it three-quarters of an hour without straining the bounds of mathematics.

Why would I bother with all that math, other than to justify thirteen years of data collection? Well, it turns out that driving is two dollars cheaper than taking the bus. That says more about the cost of public transportation than anything else, but that’s a subject for another time.

More importantly, knowing the cost difference allows me to feel a little better about choosing convenience over saving the environment.

Fellowship

Contrary to what you might have thought after watching last week’s video, Lefty and Rufus actually get along well most of the time.

Even dinnertime is generally peaceful, now that they’ve arrived at a regular routine. Granted, the routine is “Rufus chows down on Lefty’s gooshy food,” but as long as they’re okay with it, we’re not going to interfere.

Oddly, Rufus seems to prefer Lefty’s gooshy to his own, but much as he loves his own krunchiez, he rarely touches Lefty’s. To be perfectly clear, they both get the same dry food, and the only difference between the wet food bowls is a little added water in Rufus’.

But I digress.

Despite the occasional spat, they hang out together and watch out for each other. Rufus guards Lefty when the horrible cat-eating monster (i.e. the vacuum cleaner) visits. In return, Lefty keeps an eye out when they’re sleeping.

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Take a closer look at Lefty’s face:

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Have you ever seen a better example of “Mess with my buddy and I’ll mess you up”?

Tiny Ball

Hey, remember last season, when I said I hoped the Mariners would be better on the field than in their commercials? Oy.

If the same thing happens this year, the Ms are going to give the Orioles some competition for the title of Most Painful Team to Watch.

At least there are only four this year. If you’re feeling brave enough, you can watch them here. Or you can just read on and let me save you the effort.

Let’s start with the worst and save the–well, not the best, but the least bad–for last.

The only question about “Hanimal Fanimal” is whether it’s the bottom of the barrel or the leaky septic tank under the barrel. A couple of seconds of Mitch Haniger in actual game footage bookends this paen to clueless bandwagon fandom. Unfortunately, all the joy of the spectacular catch is sucked away by the relentless idiocy of the spokesperson for the folks sitting in the bleachers. If he’s the sort of person the Mariners’ front office want to attract to games, I’m glad I’ll be watching on TV. Maybe there’s supposed to be an unspoken message here–that Mitch is too nice a guy to shove the moron away and get back to the game. But if so, it’s as poorly thought out as the rest of the ad. Leo Durocher may not have said “Nice guys finish last,” but there’s some truth to the sentiment. At the very least, the game comes first.

“Moving Target” isn’t bad. It’s just cliched, repetitive, and forgettable. Okay, Mallex Smith is fast. We get it. Couldn’t you find some way to show that without falling back on the quick cut? And there’s poor Kyle Seager forced into being the deadpan straight man again, just like in last year’s “Flip”. At least this year, he’s not clueless. But can’t somebody give him a decent punchline?

Next is “SpeeDee”. It’s cliched and forgettable, but at least it’s not repetitive. Okay, Dee Gordon is fast. We get it. Yeah, they really went with “he’s fast” in half of the commercials this year. I rank this one slightly ahead of “Moving Target” only because of the parachute. Having it pop open before Dee crosses the finish lineplate is the only real spark of creativity in either of the “fast” commercials. I’ll admit, that got a small chuckle out of me.

Finally–and not a moment too soon–we’ve got “Arts & Crafty”. Props for a decent pun and for giving Felix a decent punchline. The moving stadium roof makes me laugh, even on repeated viewings–I love the implication that Yusei Kikuchi knows the King is about to rain on his hard work. Unfortunately, the “It’s crafty” line just doesn’t quite work, leaving the ad about two-thirds of a joke short of brilliance. “Craft” does have additional meanings that could have been worked in to send the bit in a whole different direction. “It’s not just craft, it’s witchcraft.” Eh, maybe not. Have the stadium transform into a boat, thus alluding to both watercraft and Mariners. Better. Not perfect, but better. Seriously, with months to think about it, this commercial could have been fixed.

Call the tally a triple, a sacrifice bunt, a weak pop-up, and a three pitch, no swing strikeout. In the right order, that’s one run anyway.

May this be the year the Ms play betters the standard set by their commercials. Because if it’s not, this will be a long season–and not in the good way.

Gender Free

Would you believe it’s been more than two years since I last ranted about the Decline of Civilization? Me neither, but it’s true.

Lest you think I’m getting soft, I’m going to remedy the lack. And no, it’s got nothing to do with politics. At least not directly. Today, we’re all about language. Specifically, the gender-prefix.

Oh, you know what I mean. The addition of a gender-linked modifier to a perfectly good gender-irrelevant word. Man bun. Man purse. Man cave.

Don’t think I’m exaggerating my disgust with this phenomenon for the sake of a blog post. I loathe the trend. Not to put too fine a point on it, this creation of invisible–in truth, non-existent–gender distinctions is exactly the process that leads to gender-linked pay disparities, “just kidding” harassment, and rampant discrimination.

Really. Think about it.

There’s no such thing as a man bun–or a woman bun for that matter. It’s a bun. Period. Exactly the same hairstyle regardless of who’s wearing it. I’ve got no dog in this race: one look at my photo will tell you my hair isn’t ever going to fit into a bun.

The only reason the style looks odd on a man is because you’re not used to seeing it. It’s a style traditionally worn by women, so there’s that moment of cognitive dissonance until you get used to it. Regrettably, neophobia is a real thing, and those who suffer from it are going to prevent themselves from accepting something new by labeling it as “different” or “other”.

Excise man bun from your vocabulary.

Ditto man purse.

Don’t want to call a moderately sized bag you carry in your hand or on your shoulder a purse? Fine. How about “shoulder bag”? It’s a perfectly good term, gender neutral, and with a long history. And it exactly describes the object in question.

Then there’s man cave. What’s wrong with “basement”? Or “rec room,” “TV room,” or even “game room”? Because, let’s be honest here, calling that room where you go to watch the ballgame a man cave not only does a disservice to all the women who enjoy sports, a game of pool, or a handy supply of beer and life-shortening snack foods, but it also devalues the room itself.

Caves, by and large, are cold and dark. Frequently damp, too. None of which is going to make the man cave sound appealing. You want a word to describe that cozy space where it’s just you, your favorite chair, and the biggest damn TV you can afford? How about “den”?

Now there’s a word with all the right connotations. It hints of the wild, but retains notes of “warm and cozy”. The kind of place you want to bring a few of your best friends to hang out.

Don’t think, by the way, that I’m just ticked off at the male gender here.

I swear I will projectile vomit on the next person who uses the phrase “she shed” in my presence.

If it wasn’t invented by some alliteration-addicted marketing executive, it should have been. Like man cave, it’s needlessly exclusive and designed to sound superficially appealing while actually being dismissive. And, also like man cave, the so-called she shed can easily wear the proud badge of “den” with pride and dignity.

A pox on both houses, man caves and she sheds alike.