Ownership

Cats are territorial, but as I’ve noted in the past, ownership can change.

Case in point: the Condo at the Top of the Stairs* was previously Lefty’s spot. Not that he went inside much, but he frequently sat on top of it. Before Lefty took possession, Watanuki was a frequent resident.

* We’re still not sure if it’s supposed to be a TV or a microwave. Certainly the controls suggest the former, but the overall impression seems other. Perhaps it was designed by someone–probably on commission–who’d never actually seen a TV old enough to have a UHF dial. I can see him deciding that a Google Image search would be too much work. “Hmm, that microwave has a couple of dials and is square and boxy. Good enough.”

With the library–currently aka “Emeraldas’ Room–being open most of the day and night, Lefty is spending most of his time in there, leaving the CatTofS vacant. As we saw a couple of weeks ago, Yuki gave it a test, but ultimately he seems to have decided it’s not for him.

Never loathe to stake out turf in a high traffic zone, Sachiko moved in.

Not that gloats about her new habitat, of course.

She just has a smug resting face.

Saw That Coming

I’m just surprised it took this long.

The As are threatening to relocate out of Oakland if the city doesn’t roll over and a give the okay for them to build a new ballpark downtown. And, naturally, they have the full support of MLB for a possible move.

This, of course, is only the first step. Once the stadium location is approved, that same threat will be deployed again and again.

Remember, the Athletics currently own half of the Coliseum site and they’re negotiating with the city to buy the other half. Their plan is, apparently, to redevelop the site into housing and shopping–it’s right across the street from a BART station, so (assuming BART recovers from the COVID-19 transit slump) access is easy from anywhere in the Bay Area. There’s a lot of money to be made off that space.

Don’t be surprised if the As threaten to leave town if Oakland doesn’t sell to them (or a third party they’re confident they can work with). After all, they’re going to need that income to pay for the new ballpark.

Naturally, they’d never threaten to leave town if Oakland doesn’t kick in substantial money toward stadium construction. Significantly more than the ballclub is likely to pay for the Coliseum site.

The threat is as inevitable as it is depressing. We’ve seen it over and over again, every time a team in any sport wants a new home.

But to be fair, what other leverage does a sports team have? Fans will come out to see a losing team almost as readily as they will a winner, so threatening to tank (unofficially, of course, as saying it in so many words would get the team sanctioned by their league) wouldn’t accomplish anything. “Help pay for the new stadium or we’ll stay in the old one,” is no threat at all.

And it’s certainly a stronger threat for Oakland than it was in most of the occasions it’s been trotted out since the Sixties. After all, the Raiders are in Vegas now, and the Warriors are in San Francisco. If Oakland lost the As too, that’s one heck of a lot of tax money vanishing from the civic coffers.

So get ready to hear “we’re exploring our options” over and over and over for the next few years.

Victory!

I finally got a picture of Emeraldas enjoying the morning sun from the back of the futon.

Emeraldas on the futon

Okay, so it’s not the greatest picture ever. Even the iPhone 12’s much-hyped camera can only do so much with a backlit subject.

But given her aversion to being photographed, I’ll take it.

She has been interacting more with the rest of the gang, and we’ve actually discovered something she dislikes even more than having her picture taken.

Watanuki sniffing Emeraldas' rear

Like many of us, she does not like having her butt sniffed.

Post-slap

Watanuki took her slap to the side of his head surprisingly well–I think he realized a reprimand was in order for violating her royal dignity.

Not the Whole Reason

So, not the only reason Amazon is conquering the world, but a big part of it is that they make it easy to order.

A couple of counter-examples.

I recently placed an order with Retailer A (name concealed because it’s irrelevant). There were four items in my order, three of Item 1 and one Item 2. Here’s what I had to do after I added the items to my cart:

  1. Click the cart.
  2. Click to confirm the items were correct. All items were set to in-store pickup.
  3. Click again to switch Item 2 from in-store pickup to shipping.
  4. One of the Item 1 had changed from In-Store to “How do want to get this item?” It took three clicks to set it back to In-Store. And doing that changed Item 2 from shipping back to in-store, one more click to reset it.
  5. Click to confirm the order.
  6. The confirmation page reloaded with a message informing me that some of the delivery dates had changed. Click yet again to confirm the order with the changed dates.
  7. Click to confirm my payment information.
  8. Click again because one of the Item 1 had changed delivery dates back to the original date.
  9. Which, naturally meant I had to reconfirm my payment information.
  10. One final (amazingly!) click to confirm my address for the item being shipped.

Later the same day, I placed an order from Retailer B. Because I’ve shopped with this retailer before, I know I need to buy $35 worth of merchandise to get free shipping. No problem: I need a bunch of the same small item, so I’ll get enough of them to total $35. I go to the product page. There’s no ability to put more than one in the cart, so I add one.

  1. Click the cart.
  2. Change the order quantity to ten.
  3. Realized the price had dropped since I last bought this thing, and ten of them was still a bit under $35.
  4. Tried to change to a dozen. Discovered the system wouldn’t let me order more than ten. This was not documented anywhere.
  5. Returned to the product page and tried to add it to the cart again. Only at that point did I get a pop-up informing me I already had the maximum number of the item per order in my cart.
  6. Gave up, ordered one of something I didn’t need but can use because it was still cheaper to get that with free shipping than to pay for shipping.
  7. One click to confirm my address.
  8. Another click to confirm my payment information.

To be clear, these are not little Mom and Pop outfits; they’re both chains with national footprints and extensive experience in online sales.

Now, let’s contrast the experience with shopping on Amazon.

If there’s an item limit, Amazon tells you so on the product page right below the price.

The delivery date never changes during checkout. If there’s a change–to an earlier or later date–they tell you after the order has been placed and give you an opportunity to change or cancel the order.

Different items can have different shipping options and changing one never affects the others.

So even if you leave the one-click order process out of the discussion, it always goes like this:

  1. Click the cart.
  2. Click to confirm the address.
  3. Click to confirm the payment info.
  4. Click to confirm the shipping info.

Why would anybody shop anywhere but Amazon? In my case, the only reason I used Retailers A and B was because they had merchandise I wanted that Amazon didn’t. If I’d been able to get it from Amazon, I’d probably have given up at Step 5 in both cases. Given the way Amazon aggressively expands, “we have something they don’t” is never more than a temporary advantage.

And, really, who needs the hassle?

Nobody is going to compete with Amazon on price. You need to bring something to the party that Amazon doesn’t.

Something that customers want.

Nobody wants to be annoyed.

Overflow

I don’t know why pictures of cats who don’t quite fit into their chosen spaces amuses me so much.

Maybe it’s the subtle–or sometimes not-so-subtle–puncturing of their superior attitude.

Or perhaps it’s because it’s an excellent illustration of how flexible the parameters of “If it fits, I sits” can become in the right paws.

Or–most likely of all–because it’s just gosh-darned cute.

As Yuki demonstrated recently.

There is a cat attached to that tail, but I sure can’t prove it.

Not How It Was Supposed to Work

Cord cutting via online streaming services was supposed to free us from the stupidities of cable and satellite.

You know the ones I mean. Paying for dozens of channels you don’t want in order to get the two or three you actually watch. Losing channels because the channel and the carrier are feuding.

And yet, here we are.

Want to watch Food Network? You either need to have a subscription bundle from a streaming provider such as Sling, YouTube TV, or Philo, or you need to be signed up with a Dish, Comcast, or some local cable system.

Because if you don’t have a streaming bundle that includes the channel, Food Network’s standalone streaming app requires a sign-in via “your TV provider”. And may still be subject to blackouts for some shows.

Ditto for other popular channels.

There are some channels that have their own services. You can get ESPN+ for a mere six bucks a month. Not bad–but wait! That’s not the ESPN TV channels. It’s extra content and on demand access to the talk shows and other not-actually-sports content. Want the familiar channels and the sports from your local listings? You can stream ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, and ESPNEWS and the other channels in the ESPN family if you sign in via your “content provider”. What’s that? Yup, your streaming aggregator, such as Sling, YouTube TV, Fubu, or your satellite or cable provider.

Then there’s that lovely reminder of days not-so-gone-by, the carriage dispute.

Remember those? Your cable provider would threaten to drop a channel because of the cost; the channel would claim the cost was necessary to pay for the content; the cable system would remind everyone that if the popular channels didn’t subsidize the niche content, it wouldn’t be able to carry those small channels; and then they’d raise the cost of the cable subscription or drop the channel. Or both.

Now our streaming world has raised the ante. Instead of threating to drop channels, they threaten to drop whole streaming aggregators.

Seriously. Roku is currently feuding with YouTube TV and threatening to force them off of all Roku streaming boxes. Google is responding by complaining about Roku taking negotiations public.

And the viewers simply roll their eyes, well aware that there are plenty of other ways to get YouTube TV’s content on their televisions. Roku may be the big name in streaming boxen, but there are smaller companies playing in that pool. You might have heard of some of them: Google. Apple. Amazon.

There are only two ways this can go. If Roku gets too aggressive and throws too many services off their hardware–or starts charging a monthly fee on top of the cost of the box–customers are going to migrate to cheaper and/or more flexible systems. Or they can stay the course, keep themselves an open and independent portal, concentrate on convenience and ease of use, and they’ll still be around, still making money, years down the road.

Right now, though, the posturing and threats are a pain in the rear–or, more accurately, a poke in the ear.

Annoying that the brave new world looks and sounds so much like the old one.

Not As Advertised

Don’t believe anyone who tells you cats are graceful, elegant creatures.

They trip over their own feet.

They trip over each other.

They sprawl on the floor and melt into puddles of fur.

And, of course, they groom themselves.

At least Mr. Nookles was courteous enough to place that paw where he did. There are children present!

Well, okay, she’s not a child any more and she’s been guilty of the same infraction against public decency, but still…

Apple Springs Into Action

Kind of an odd place to start, Apple.

Kicking off a round of (primarily) hardware announcements by rolling out changes to the Apple Card is weird. Not that they spent much time on it–but I’m sure we’re all relieved to know that you can now share your Apple Card with your family. How this differs from every other credit card in the world allowing you to get additional cards for family members is unclear. I’m sure Apple will explain eventually, given their dedication to transparency and open access.

Anyway.

We all know the most important news goes up front, right? So apparently the biggest thing coming out of Apple is a new color for the iPhone 12: purple.

I like purple. I might buy a purple phone if I was looking for a new phone (I’m not). But I can’t help but think Apple is indulging in a bit of lede burial.

What else did they spring on us?

After literally years of speculation, Apple has finally released the AirTag. This is, of course, Apple’s version of the Tile and TrackR devices*. As long as you’re using it with a reasonably recent Apple device (maybe a purple iPhone?), you can get actual directional information. That right there puts them miles ahead of TrackR. It’s unclear how large AirTags are, but it’s worth noting that they use a CR2032 battery. Easy to find (sorry) but does impose a certain minimum size not all that much smaller than a quarter.

* Yes, TrackR is still around. Their latest product is the “pixel” (what is it about their refusal to use capital letters?) which they call their “lightest and brightest” tracker. It’s “about the size of a quarter” which isn’t much smaller than the old product I reviewed four years ago. I don’t plan to review them to see if they work any better.

What else? Hey, a new Apple TV. 4K, of course (I can hear all of the enthusiasts/first adopters asking why not 8K. Shush.) More powerful than any previous Apple TV and it comes with a new remote that doesn’t include the damn trackpad–actually it seems to be a callback to the much-loved iPod Classic with its five-way click wheel. That right there seems like sufficient reason to buy the new model if you’re looking for a streaming box.

Then, of course, there are the new Macs.

Remember the original iMac? The one that came in all of those cool colors? Check out the new iMac. Twenty-four inch screen with a more-than-4K resolution. Thinner than many TVs. And, of course, boasting the same M1 chip found in last year’s MacBook and Mini–that’s good and bad. On the plus side, they’ll be fast and not too power-hungry. On the down side, they’re limited to the same 8GB of RAM as the MacBook and Mini–that may be a bit limiting for a machine that’s historically been pitched as a good starting point for people who want to experiment with video.

And, as you may have gathered, a literal rainbow of colors–with matching keyboards and mice. Personally, I’d like to see an ability to mix and match. Purple computer with blue keyboard and red mouse, anyone? Or am I the only one who likes to get away from color coordination from time to time?

Anyhow, Apple also announced a new iPad Pro. With an M1 chip.

Way to blur the lines between computers and tablets, guys.

Though, as a friend of mine pointed out, pairing the new iPad Pro with a keyboard, and you’re getting awfully close to the touchscreen laptop Apple fans have been demanding for years. If you don’t mind being limited to the iPad version of apps. That’s probably a dealbreaker for me; I know the iPad versions of Office and the various Adobe apps are getting better and better, but there are still things you can only do with the computer versions of the programs. Hey, Apple, how about an iPad Pro variant running MacOS?

And that’s about it.

Most of the hardware will be up for preorder at the end of the month, with shipping in late May. Not too long to wait.

Oh, and if you gotta have a purple iPhone, you can pre-order it this Friday and get your hands on it April 30–assuming they made enough to keep up with the demand.

Her Majesty’s a Pretty Nice Girl

Perhaps some of you are wondering how Emeraldas is doing.

Last I updated y’all, we’d given her limited freedom of movement: restricted to the upstairs hall–with occasional forays into Maggie’s office–and only during daylight hours.

Interestingly, despite her meezer fascination for heights and climbing, she never made an attempt to climb the fence, even when the other cats started jumping over it to harass her.

Inter-feline relationships are still a work in progress for Queen Em, but they have progressed far enough that we’ve removed most of the restrictions. The fence is down and we only lock her in her room for a few hours at night–and that’s only so she can eat in peace.

Her Majesty still stays mostly in her room, though she has been seen in the bedroom closet, down in the living room, and in the kitchen–briefly.

Other than at dinner time, she remains cautious about bipeds. However, her love of Yuki continues strong, enough so that she’s jumped up on the bed to cuddle with him a couple of times.

If she’s cautious about humans, she’s downright paranoid about cameras. I’ve been trying for weeks to get a shot of her in her latest hangout: the back of the futon in her room–it’s a favorite of every cat who’s spent time in that room, thanks to its combination of comfort, a view, and morning sunlight. Every time she sees me coming with a camera or phone, she hides under the futon.

So for now, make do with this telephoto shot of Emeraldas and Yuki hanging out on the stairs.


 

Or is that “stares”?

2021 Prognostication

Here we are, a week and a half into the MLB season. Time for me to try my hand at picking this season’s winners and losers.

In addition to the traditional rainouts, this year we once again face the prospect of covidouts. Makes looking six months out a bit tricky, but hey, as the saying goes, if it was easy, everyone would do it. Okay, so maybe everyone does do it. Never mind, I’m forging ahead.

I’m going back to my original practice of picking the playoff teams without weighing in on the playoff results. I’ll leave that prediction for the end of the season.

As usual, my picks are based primarily on run differential, with ties broken by a combination of won/loss record, run ratio, and personal prejudice. In other words, much the same approach every prognosticator uses.

Data is as of the end of the day yesterday, April 13th.

Starting with the National League, it appears our East Division winner will be Miami, thanks to their stellar accomplishment in scoring exactly as many runs as they’ve given up.

Cincinnati claims the Central Division on a +22 run differential.

Impressive, but it’s not even close to the stunning +30 LA put up to claim the West. Darn it.

As for the Wild Card, San Diego strolls in with a +16, distantly followed by Milwaukee’s +7.

Not much controversy there. And, disappointingly little opportunity for me to exercise my prejudices. I will note that it warms my heart to see the Nationals, owners of the MLB-worst 2-6 record are also holders of the NL-worst run differential at -18. There are, of course, many games left this year (we hope!), but it’s not unreasonable to count Washington out.

Moving on to the AL, the outcome looks just as clear. (Amazing what a difference it makes when you use data from ten to twelve games instead of one or two.)

Our Eastern winner is obviously going to be Boston. Despite a slow start, they’ve still managed to put up a +17 to dominate the division.

Minnesota is going to take the Central Division; their +19 handily beats out Cleveland and Chicago.

To nobody’s surprise, Houston is dominating the AL West: not only do they have a solid +13 record, but only one other team–LAofA–is even in positive numbers, at +1.

I’ve already mentioned the Wild Card winners. The WhateverTheirNameIs gang are well out in front of the rest of the league at +16 and the White Sox narrowly squeezed past the Blue Jays, +10 to +9.

No controversy there, but more heartwarming data: the owners of MLB’s worst run differential are the Oakland Athletics. They’re clearly out of the playoff hunt at -26. Even the fact that they’re somehow at 5-7, better than half a dozen other teams invalidates my prediction.

The season ends October 3–at least, that’s the plan–and I’ll check on the results and give you my playoff guessespredictions before the Wild Card games on the fifth.