Equal Time

Rhubarb was greatly offended by last week’s post. “You do Kaja pictures alla time. Been forever since I getted attentions.”

He’s got a point. Not a great one: Kaja wasn’t actually the main focus last week. On the other forepaw, though, her most recent starring role was last August, while he hasn’t had a major appearance since July of 2020.

“Sorry about that, Buddy. Wanna pose for me?”

“I’m ready for my close-up, hoomin.”

Indeed.

Google I/O 2022

And here we go.

Historically, Google I/O has been light on hardware announcements–fair enough, given that it’s really intended as a forum to alert developers to what’s coming. This year, though, Google did twin keynotes, one for developers, and one for the hardware enthusiasts. Unless you’re writing code for Android devices, you’re probably not interested in the former at all, and if you are interested, you don’t need me to explain what’s what. So let’s just take a look at the keynote for the rest of us.

Twenty-four new languages in Google Translate. Handy, especially if you’re planning a trip or doing business internationally. And if you’re not, the new languages won’t get in your way; language packs for Translate are optional add-ons.

I have a dubious about the forthcoming “immersive view” for Maps. Putting you at the center of a 3D reproduction of the city you’re navigating–complete with machine-generated interior views of restaurants–sounds both entertaining and fascinating. I can only hope, however, that it only works when you’re on foot. Way too distracting when driving. And Google hasn’t yet figured out how to tell if you’re a passenger or driver without relying on self-reporting.

A bunch of enhancements to YouTube, Google Meet, and Search around video quality and pictures. All cool stuff, and especially the part about incorporating skin tone data to improve video quality and searching while avoiding future iterations of the infamous “gorilla” effect.

Over on the Android side of things, we will, of course, be getting Android 13. The most interesting thing I see coming there is the ability to set different languages for different apps. Mind you, I didn’t say “useful”, though I’m sure many people will find it so. But from the standpoint of being able to customize your device to work better with the way you think, it’s a fascinating tweak. I’m sure Google will be collecting data on how it’s used–what apps most often get set to a different language than the device’s default, for example. I rather hope some of that information gets shared.

Moving on to hardware.

The Pixel 6a, a budget version of the Pixel 6, will be out around the end of July. $449 gets you essentially the same camera as the 6, the same 5G capabilities, and, of course, the same photographic abilities. Including that improved skin tone management as it rolls out across the entire line of Google devices and software.

Improved earbuds, inevitably tagged “Pixel Buds Pro” will also be out at the end of July. Active noise cancellation, of course, and the now-mandatory “transparency mode” to let some outside sound in so you don’t get run over crossing the street. If you remember to turn it on…

Looking a bit further out, probably just in time for the Christmas season, we’ll apparently be getting the Pixel 7. Not much in the way of details on that; I imagine we won’t hear anything much officially until after the Pixel 6a launch. Don’t want to cannibalize the market, after all.

And around the same time, we’ll be getting a Pixel Watch. As rumored. Sounds like Google will be folding much of the Fitbit’s functionality into the watch. That’s a no-brainer if it’s going to compete with the Apple Watch. And, no surprise, tap-to-pay functionality and the ability to control smart devices around the house. Reminder: tap gently. Smart watches are more fragile than the manufacturers would have you believe, and they’re expensive to repair.

Even further in the future–sometime in 2023–Google is going to release a new tablet. Interestingly, they’re not positioning it as a standalone device, but rather as a “companion” to a Pixel phone. Whether that means it’ll primarily act as a large replacement for the phone’s screen or if it will “intelligently” display contextual information to enhance whatever you’re doing on the phone remains to be seen. The former strikes me as rather a niche market; the latter could be very handy. Imagine pulling up a map search for restaurants on the phone and having the tablet immediately start showing menus, reviews, and online ordering, while the phone stays focused on where the places are and how to get there.

Bottom line: Google is innovating. Not in big, “revolutionary” ways, but in little ways. It would be a bit unfair to call what’s coming “evolutionary”, but it’s certainly closer to evolution than revolution. Recent years have seen a lot of “catching up with Apple”. This year seems to be declaring that a done deal and trying some different things to see what sticks.

A Life Lesson

Kokoro may be a lady of a certain age, but that doesn’t mean she’s lost her sense of fun.

She’s not about to let Kaja hog the toys when there’s a chance to play with her hoomins.

A certain, carefully measured, application of the “I’m still the boss of you” stare, and the toy was hers.

Of course, being the intelligent lady she is, and possessing the wisdom that comes of applying that intellect over the course of her life, Kokoro knows that victory, however tasty…

…never lasts. Sometimes you catch the toy, true. But it’s equally true that the toy sometimes catches you.

(She’s got that look of martyred patience down, doesn’t she?)

And those rumors that Kaja, lacking said wisdom, had a not-so-quiet chuckle?

Regrettably true.

Welcome to May

As the Beatles said, “I read the news today. Oh, boy.”

All in all, four thousand holes just about anywhere would be an improvement.

I’m not going to say much about the Supreme Court’s leaked draft opinion, but I do recommend you check out Charles Stross’ post for a quick rundown on other rights that are on the chopping block if the opinion stands as currently written.

That said, I find it interesting that none of the stories I’ve seen have even speculated about how the draft was leaked. I saw one passing mention of the leak being “unprecedented”, but not Word One about how it got out*.

* If you value your sanity and your breakfast, do not read anything Fox News has to say. The pieces I dipped into explicitly state that the content of the decision is unimportant; what matters is to find and punish the leakers before ‘The Left’ can turn them into heroes. I’ll leave what the commenters are saying to your imagination. Trust me, it’s worse than you might come up with.

Anyway, what I found most interesting, and least predictable, was the other main topic of reporting. Suddenly, over the past few days, the papers* are full of stories about suicide.

* Including the all-electronic ones. Which raises a question: what do we call those sources of information and information-like content? “The electrons”? Might be overbroad. But I digress.

To the extent that they focus on suicide prevention, this is a GoodThing™. But I find the timing interesting. Yes, there have been several high-profile suicides lately. But when has that not been true? What makes this batch so significant that so many news sources feel the need to cover the subject in depth?

For the record, I’m not suggesting that it’s anticipatory of an upswing in abortion-related suicides. I refuse to believe that knowledge of the impending leak could have been that widespread in newsrooms without the general public hearing about it. No conspiracy theory here.

I don’t have an answer to “why”. Why does anything become a trend–or a fad, for that matter?

But whatever the reason, I’m hoping the trend continues. With everything else in the news these days, we’re not going to see a reduction in the suicide rate without positive action.

Dance, Kitteh, Dance: The Sequel

A couple of weeks ago, I promised to share video of Mr. Knuckles at the Kitteh Partay.

Never let it be said that I reneged on a promise.

He’s not the most graceful dancer you’ve ever seen–but let’s be fair: he does have two left feet.

As for his repeated drops, this was an unusually clumsy day. Typically he’s more likely to swallow somebody’s finger along with the treat.

Thoughts About Muesli

I don’t know why it took me so long to try muesli. I like granola and oatmeal, both of which are twigs on the same branch of the breakfast family tree. Yet, every time I saw muesli on the shelf, I’d think “Looks interesting. Maybe one of these days” and then buy something else.

So I finally decided that one of these days had arrived and bought a bag of Bob’s Red Mill Muesli. They’re my go-to for oatmeal, so it seemed like a safe bet for the experiment.

I’ll admit to being both intrigued and bemused by the notation on the package that it can be eaten hot or cold. I don’t think there are any other breakfast foods designed for eating both ways. Granted, in my somewhat misspent youth, I’d occasionally eat English Muffins without toasting them, but that’s hardly what the makers intend. And, as Maggie pointed out, while there are people who eat Grape Nuts hot and Pop-Tarts cold, neither is standard behavior*.

* Yes, Pop-Tarts’ packaging pays lip service to eating them straight out of the box, but really, that’s not what anyone expects. Remember, the “Pop” refers to them popping up out of the toaster.

So, anyway, I expected cooking instructions for the “hot” option. And they’re there. I didn’t expect instructions for eating the cereal cold. I mean, do you really need to go beyond the standard “Pour into bowl, add milk to taste, eat”? Actually, yes. Those rolled oats need to soak up some liquid or they’re going to taste like cardboard.

I followed the instructions. I won’t make that mistake twice.

Served hot, it was an uncomfortable combination of sweet, hot sludge and weirdly warm nuts. The sunflower seeds were especially peculiar: their mouthfeel was different from anything else in the bowl–and not in a good way–and when heated, their flavor didn’t harmonize with the oats. Maybe if I’d used milk instead of water, per the alternate instructions, it would have turned out better, but I’m dubious enough that I’m not going to risk it.

The cold preparation was much better. But I found the recipe incorrect. Using the recommended quantity of milk, even after somewhat more than the recommended soaking time, I wound up with something that closely resembled soup. Maybe that’s the tradition, but when I finish the solid contents of my cereal bowl, I don’t want to have enough milk left to require a drinking glass.

Fine-tuning ensued. I find that about 2/3 the recommended quantity of milk and about 50% more soaking time results in something quite tasty.

In the final analysis, I’m not sure whether the experiment was a success.

I’ve still got about half the bag of muesli left. I plan to finish it, mostly on days when I’m not working and don’t have to balance soaking time with commuting. But will I buy it again? Not Bob’s; I’m quite sure of that. But I might try someone else’s interpretation.

Cold.

Triad

Yuki, Emeraldas, and Lefty have an interesting relationship.

Or, I suppose, set of relationships.

As best we can tell, Em is madly in love with Yuki, taking every opportunity to snuggle up, groom him and be groomed by him. Yuki seems to enjoy the attention–except when she gets too vigorous and knocks him over (he’s not very stable on his feet)–but doesn’t go out of his way to spend time with her.

Her Majesty also spends much of her time with Lefty. There’s far less grooming, mutual or otherwise, but significant amounts of quiet chilling, especially in the late evening when they share my chair in the dining room.

As for the boys, they’ll snuggle up and indulge in a bit of mutual grooming, but there’s a definite air of making do, especially as they only occasionally do it when Emeraldas is around.

So a scene like this one is rare.

No question, Em is the hinge pin in the scissor of their triad.

Or maybe that’s the wrong metaphor. Never mind, it’s late and so is the post. I’ll go with it.

And close with a shot of Yuki, showing just how he feels about her grooming efforts.

2022 Prognostication

It’s time for me to make my predictions for the 2022 playoffs. And, since there’s a new playoff format–12 teams instead of 10, with an additional Wild Card team with no tiebreaker games–I’m going to tweak my approach.

My picks are, as in previous years, primarily based on Run Differential, modified by record and prejudice. This year, however, I’m going to throw out the record and just go with the traditional “personal prejudice” metric.

With no further ado, our American League playoff teams.

The East winner will be the Yankees (spit) with a +4 RD.

In the Central, it’s the IndiansNoNamesGuardians with a staggering +23 RD through their first six games.

The West will be won by the Athletics (spit) at +12.

And our Wild Card teams are going to be the White Sox (+10), Houston (+10), and Texas (+3). For seeding purposes, MLB would award the top Wild Card spot to Houston, based on their 3-1 record against teams in their own division. Since I’m only predicting teams, not their relative ranking, I won’t argue MLB’s methodology.

Turning our attention to the National League, the picture is even simpler.

In the East, nobody is even close to the Mets’ +15.

The Cubs have a firm grip on the Central with a +9 RD.

And the West winner can only be the Dodgers (spit) thanks to their +14 record.

Which means that all three Wild Card teams are coming out of the West: the Giants (+11), Padres (+10), and Rockies (+6).

One has to pity the Diamondbacks; the only NL West team sitting out of the playoffs this year.

Just as a side-note, the two teams trailing their respective leagues–and guaranteed to miss the playoffs with identical -17 RDs–are the Royals and Nationals. Sorry, Kansas City; but a big Simpsonsesque “Ha-Ha” to Washington.