Meet and Greet

Lefty continues to keep his distance from the bipeds, but his distance is getting smaller.

Case in point:
26-1

Quite the change from two weeks ago, when the best shot we could get made him look like a little black blob with one glowing eye.

He spent several hours Wednesday exploring the upstairs hall. In addition to hanging out in proximity to the Tuxedos, he also exchanged a few mildly disparaging remarks with Rhubarb, and set aside time to sleep in the orange condo/footstool.

Six feet seems to be the edge of his comfort zone when food isn’t involved. Which seems highly appropriate, now that I think about it. After all, there are six feet involved here: his four and my or Maggie’s two.

Mix a few treats into the equation, and the boundary gets smaller. We’re not ready to hand-feed him, nor is he ready to be hand-fed, much less patted, but we’ve had limbs as close as a foot away from him without any bloodshed.

Excellent progress–though after a big gain like this, we’re fully expecting a plateau or even a partial retreat in his acceptance of attention.

Rufus, by the way, declined to participate in Wednesday’s meet-and-greet. The other cats, after all, are old news, and he had far more important things to do.
26-2

In our current mini-heat wave (upper 80s, lower 90s), the upstairs bathroom is the perfect place for an extended snooze.

Gods Bless

Mind you, the “God Bless America” fiasco could have been avoided if MLB hadn’t made it part of the seventh inning stretch ceremonies after 9/11.

Now that it’s become an issue, though, how’s this for an idea: drop the song completely.

The break between innings has been made shorter this season as part of the commissioner’s pace of play fetish. Between that song, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” (which has a much longer tradition behind it), the ever-popular DanceCam/KissCam, and the various staged races (presidents, dots, sausages, etc., etc., etc.), that pause between halves of the seventh inning is getting increasingly crowded.

This is a great opportunity to drop “God Bless America” and return to the status quo ante.

Not going to happen, though. Any attempt to remove the song will be spun as an attack on Christianity, just like the non-existent, so-called “War on Christmas”. Or, for that matter, the protests against restoring the Pledge of Allegiance to its original wording by removing “under God”.

Which is, of course, the whole problem in a nutshell.

Keeping the song offends those of us who think the proper place for deities at sporting events is in the stands, like all the other spectators*. That its presence is also offensive to non-Christians is merely the raspberry buttercream on the chocolate cake.

* Let’s be blunt here: a baseball player’s five tools are hitting for average and power, fielding, throwing, and baserunning. Nothing on that list about praying or otherwise getting God to work a few miracles on behalf of his team.

Removing it offends team owners’ wallets. Or, at least that’s what they think. “A highly visible boycott? Heaven forfend!”

Did you know, by the way, that baseball attendance has not been in decline? For all the fuss the commissioner has made about needing new fans, the total annual attendance across all MLB stadiums since 2000 has consistently been right around 72.5 million. (Which does, by the way, suggest that “God Bless America” has neither helped nor hurt baseball.)

The disruption to tradition hasn’t been in support of rescuing a dying fanbase. It’s about increasing profits, now that ticket prices have reached the point where any further increase would lower demand.

Not that that should surprise anybody.

God Bless Baseball. Some god. Any volunteers? Let’s not always see the same hands…

Preoccupied

How long has it been since I looked in on Google’s trending searches? A quick search of the archive suggests it’s been more than a year; that’s long enough that I can dip into that never-ending well of post ideas without feeling guilty.

Note that this post was written on Monday evening. It will thus be totally out of date by the time you read it. Consider this an archaeological snapshot of the ancient day 4/22/2019.

Unsurprisingly, the number one search–by an order of magnitude–is Earth Day. Nice to know people are still taking an interest, rather than focusing on reinvesting their oil stock dividends. That said, only two million searches? That’s a drop in the proverbial bucket compared to the size of the online population.

Moving on, we’ve got an interesting point/counterpoint in the second and third slots. On the one hand, we’ve got rapper YNW Melly accused of murder, complete with accusations of racism on the part of “the system”. On the other, we’ve got deceased singer Kate Smith accused of racism.

White male perspective here, so by definition, biased. I don’t know enough about the murder case to comment extensively, but I’ll note that, in what I’ve seen, the only person making the accusations is the accused. If I’ve missed a wider spread of outrage, my apologies to YNW Melly for the implications of my statement.

As for Kate Smith, again from the WMP, the rush to drop her recording of “God Bless America” seems excessive. It’s a “hate the artist, not the art” situation. Nobody’s suggesting that “Pickaninny Heaven” or “That’s Why Darkies Were Born” should get renewed airplay. But I haven’t heard any suggestion that “God Bless America” is racist*.

I’m not fond of the song, its default-Christian attitude, or the post 9/11 jingoism that made it a staple at sporting events. But if it’s going to be played without giving current, local artists a shot at it, hers is the definitive recording.

Moving on, another odd coincidence in the fourth and fifth slots. Apparently Americans don’t much care about the Easter terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka, except in how they affected the rich and famous. Searches for Anders Holch Povlsen, who lost three children in the attacks far outweigh searches about the attacks themselves. I’m only calling that a disgusting, despicable commentary on the American population because I can’t think of stronger words.

Even worse, the next most popular search is for Jenna Bush Hager, who is currently expecting her third child. Ms. Hager is, of course, the daughter of former president Dubya.

Why are we so obsessed with the children of the 1%?

It’s not a good look, America. Going forward, stick with Earth Day. Stick with the Coelacanth (Number Six), the earthquake in the Philippines (Number Eleven), and Pat Tillman (Number Thirteen). Forget Britney Spears’ psychiatric state, Jennifer Lopez’ tailor (or, rather, remember Luigi Massi, forget the pop star), and assorted Game of Thrones stars.

We’ll all be better off for your selective memories.

Construction Ahead

Here’s a question for you. No, it’s not a poll, and I don’t insist you answer in the comments. And I’m not sure there is a right answer .

Suppose you’re in the left lane of a three lane road. You pass a sign warning that, due to construction, the two left lanes are closed ahead.

Do you:

  1. Immediately start working your way over to the right lane,
  2. Wait until you can see the lighted arrows where the closure begins, then move to the right,
  3. Stay in your lane until you reach the point where it’s closed, then merge to the right?

As you might have guessed, I’ve got strong feelings about this one.

Remember the Richmond-San Rafael bridge? The one I use to get to and from work? The one where they’re busily replacing the expansion joints? The one where two lanes are closed in each direction for hours at a stretch so the construction can be done safely? Yeah, that one.

The backups are, to put it mildly, horrific.

Once everyone has gotten into a single lane, traffic moves at almost normal speeds. The problem is in getting to that point. Within minutes of the cones and signs going up, all three lanes are filled for miles leading up to the bottleneck.

It’s easy to blame the tie-up on the people who picked the third answer. After all, they’ve taken the “me first” approach. Sure, going all the way up to the point where they have to merge may save time for the first few people who do it, but when they stop and wait for a chance to merge across, they trigger a cascade of stopped cars in all the lanes.

On the other hand, one could just as easily point fingers at the people who were already in the right lane or who moved into it at the first warning sign. If they were more willing to allow late movers to merge, the delays would take longer to develop.

The rule of the road–written or otherwise–used to be “take turns, one from each lane”. That seems to have been kicked to the curb.

The people I don’t understand are the ones who picked the second answer. Do they think the first warning signs are a prank? Do they have to get stuck in the miles-long parking lot before they believe the signs are real? It seems like waiting but not going all the way to the final merge point just gets you the worst of the other two possibilities. But maybe I’m missing something. I await enlightenment.

As I said originally, I’m not sure there’s a right answer to the question, though I’m fairly certain that the second choice is the wrong answer.

But I hope we can all agree that the folks who repeatedly lane-hop into whichever lane is moving fastest and the ones who drive up the shoulder are the absolute worst.

Admirable

Strictly speaking, I should be writing something about Jackie Robinson today. It is, after all, his day in MLB. Everyone is wearing his number and his name is on everyone’s lips.

And maybe that’s part of my problem–and I emphasize “my” here. Yes, I have strong contrarian tendencies, but that’s not in play here. I wouldn’t not write about Mr. Robinson solely because everyone else is. That would be a form of disrespect for the man and his accomplishments. I try to be better than that.

In truth, the other Jackie said it best: “What Can You Say About Jackie Robinson that Hasn’t Been Said?” She found something, as she so often does. It’s good to be reminded that the Jackie Robinson story didn’t begin in Brooklyn in 1947, or Montreal in 1946, or even Kansas City in 1945. Go read her piece.

I, on the other hand, don’t have anything new to contribute. So, rather than rehash what everyone else is saying about Jackie Robinson, I’d like to say a few words about a different player. A current player.

He’s not going to be remembered as long or as fondly as #42. Or, if he is, it won’t be for the right reasons.

If you follow the sport, you’ve probably already guessed I’m talking about Chris Davis.

I have a sneaking admiration for Mr. Davis.

In 2016, he struck out 219 times. The all-time record for strikeouts in a season is 223, set by Mark Reynolds in 2009. Certainly, baseball has become more accepting of strikeouts since the turn of the century. The highest strikeout total before 2000 was 189 (Bobby Bonds in 1970–and he also had 187 in 1969. Ouch.)

Two hundred nineteen is an impressive record of futility, but it’s not what Chris Davis will be remembered for. Because Chris Davis does hold an MLB record.

Fifty-four consecutive at-bats without a hit. For what it’s worth, 54 is the number worn by Goose Gossage throughout his major league career, including the 1977 season when he struck out 151 batters. Imagine the result if Davis faced Gossage.

Both of them in their respective primes, I mean. Today, Gossage is 67 and he’s probably lost a bit of velocity since ’77 (though history suggests he could still strike Davis out.) And in ’77, Davis wouldn’t have been much of a hitting threat, seeing as how he was still a decade away from being born. Talk about your awkward silences if he’d been announced as the next hitter. And pace of game? Forget it.

But I digress.

I said I admire Davis. Not for his hitting prowess, though to be fair, when he does hit, he hits well. No, I admire his persistence and his ability to put the pressure of the slump aside.

By all reports, he stayed calm as his hitless streak reached historic levels. As George Harrison said, in a slightly different context, “All Things Must Pass“. He didn’t rant and rave, he didn’t bemoan his fate to the media. Equanimity. Grace under pressure. And persistence.

On Saturday, Davis broke the streak in classic fashion, collecting three hits and four RBIs. Mind you, he went 0-4 Sunday and as I write this on Monday morning, he’s 0-1. But the gorilla is off his back. After lugging the five hundred forty pound ape around, a fifty pound chimp is no big deal.

Persistence. He’s still up there swinging. He could be dogging it, playing out his contract–$17 million a year through 2022 and about $40 million over the next fifteen years–or even retiring. But that’s not Chris Davis. And sure, $100 million pays for a lot of patience. Therapy, too, if necessary.

Heck, pay me half of what Chris Davis is making this year, and I’ll go 0-600 on the season with a smile on my face.

But I wouldn’t be getting paid to hit. Chris Davis is. He knows the Orioles’ management is considering their options for getting rid of him. But he still goes out there every day and does what he does.

And that’s why I admire Chris Davis. In his position, I’d have blown up long ago.

That Brightness Ain’t the Sunrise

Yes, I know yesterday’s post was a bit dark. For the record, no I’m not particularly depressed. No need to alert Facebook’s algorithms.

And, speaking of records, the Mariners did set that record–15 games at the beginning of the season with at least one home run–they did win yesterday in a very thrilling come-from-behind fashion, and they now return home bearing the best record in baseball and a four game division lead over the Astros. Who are, coincidentally, the team they’ll be playing for the next three days and who, historically speaking, the Mariners have always had trouble beating. As I said before, it can’t last. But it’s a great ride while it does.

Anyway, how about something cheerful as an antidote to yesterday’s doom and gloom?

12-1

Hang on, let me enhance that a little. Or at least brighten it up a bit.

12-2

Why, look! It’s Lefty, out of the room he shares with Rufus!

Yes, we’ve begun giving him opportunities to explore the upstairs hall. He’s been very cautious about it, not spending much time off his familiar turf, and certainly not letting us close (hence the low resolution of the pictures–they were cropped out of shots taken from halfway across the house).

But he’s taking steps in the right direction. Not only is he broadening his horizons, but he’s also had a couple of opportunities to exchange less-than-flattering personal observations with ‘Nuki.

Now that is a rite of passage!

Finally, lest you think I’ve merely exchanged dark words for dark pictures, here’s something bright and cheerful.

12-3

It’s not often we see these three hanging out together. Enjoy.

Disaster Looms

“It can’t last.”

Any Seattle sportsball fan will know exactly what you mean.

We don’t use the sentence lightly. No, the Mariners aren’t going to win 160 games this season. They’re not even going to win 137 games, which is what their current record projects to. Obviously; not worth mentioning.

Let’s get real. Eighteen years ago today, the best Mariners team in history–by one crude measure, the best team in MLB history–was 6-2. The unspoken assumption in Seattle was that the Ms were one series away from a .500 record. That they kept winning can’t be laid solely at the feats of Ichiro, but he sure contributed mightily. Worth remembering, in this, his final season.

Nobody expects this year’s Mariners to win 116 games.

Good things come in waves, and so do bad things. That doesn’t mean they balance out. A little bad gives the good more savor. A little good gives the bad more intensity. Some clouds have a tin foil lining. Some roses smell as sweet as what comes out of the back end of a cow.

The latest predictions give the Mariners 81 wins and a 13.7% chance of making the playoffs. Before the season, they were expected to win 75, with only a 2.3% chance of playing into October.

Seattleites don’t expect a .500 season. They say “It can’t last” and “The original prediction sounds more accurate.”

Starting the season with thirteen straight games with at least one home run? “It can’t last.”

Seattle lost a major league, former champion hockey team and a major league, former champion basketball team. Lost an epically bad major league baseball team after one season. After going 116-46, the record-setting Mariners lost the ALCS to the Yankees; the next year they finished 93-69 and missed the playoffs by 6 games.

Failure isn’t a way of life. It’s the way of life.

I’m writing this post Wednesday, shortly before the Mariners take the field against the Kansas City Royals. They’re looking to win the series, go 12-2, and tie the record for games with a home run to start the season*.

* Yes, including those games in Japan. Just because they don’t feel real doesn’t mean MLB won’t count them.

I expect them to lose. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see them get shut out and start a ten game losing streak.

Because it can’t last.

But it’s sure fun while it does. See you at the ballpark.

(Post-Game Update: The Mariners won the game and hit a home run. No doubt the expected shutout and losing streak will start tomorrow. Won’t stop me from watching.)

SAST 13

Hello and welcome to the latest edition of Short Attention Span Theater. Lucky Number 13! For those of you new to the blog, sometimes I do an SAST because I literally don’t have enough mental focus to write a full post on any subject. More often, it’s my way of clearing the blog’s to-do list of ideas that aren’t worth an entire post of their own.

I’ll leave it to you to decide, based on the internal evidence, which category this is in.

Ready? Too late, here we go anyway.

Perhaps you remember my handy theatrical guide to long-running news stories. For the record, the Bay Bridge Bolt Botch stayed in Act One for an incredible length of time before zipping through Acts Two and Three, bypassed Act Four entirely, and is now in Act Five.

I’m pleased to see that the Transbay Terminal mess isn’t following a similarly distorted trajectory. We got out of Act One in a mere five months, and we’re now solidly in Act Two. In mid-March, the Transbay Joint Powers Authority threw all the blame for the debacle on the various contractors, individually and collectively.

Naturally, by the end of the month, two of the three contractor had responded, saying in essence, “Hey, we did everything right. Take a look at the third contractor and the designer. They’re the ones that really muffed it.”

Putting on my QA hat for a second, I’ll just note that one of the jobs of the QA team is to point out problems with the design. It’s always cheaper to fix an error before it gets built. That’s true whether you’re talking about software or buildings. If the contractors had concerns about stress on the beams, why didn’t they raise them before construction started?

Anyway, I find it interesting that, so far as I can tell, the third contractor has yet to respond to the accusations of the TJPA and the other two outfits. Clearly, we’re not quite finished with Act Two, but we’ve got clear signs that Act Three is imminent.

That being the case, we may find ourselves watching a bold theatrical experiment, with multiple acts being staged at the same time. If the gimmick works, we might even find ourselves watching Acts Three, Four, and Five simultaneously.

I expect rapid developments in the play come summer. Remember, the terminal is supposed to reopen in June; we can expect a large PR push to convince commuters that it’s safe. That’s almost sure to provoke a lot of finger pointing and the launch of the inevitable lawsuits and countersuits.

Moving on.

For anyone interested in our litter box experiments, we’ve settled on a new long-term litter plan.

We tried Sledpress’ recommendation of Dr. Elsey’s litter with the Formerly Feral Fellows, and it did work as promoted. There was some scattering, though not as much as with the Nature’s Miracle. It did well at controlling odor, and the dust wasn’t as bad as some of the reviews led us to expect. On the downside, it’s hard to find locally, and even allowing for the fact that we got an entire month out of one jug, it still comes out more expensive on a per use basis. Most importantly, though, it seemed as though the Fellows weren’t very enthusiastic about it. They used their other box, loaded with more conventional litter, more often than before we introduced them to Dr. Elsey.

The more conventional litter we tried out is SmartCat All-Natural Clumping Litter. It’s grass-based, clumps very well–I’d even say “frighteningly well” given the size of some of the clumps we’ve found, and does a decent job of controlling odors. We are getting more scattering than I’d like, but it’s at a manageable level. No litter is perfect, but this stuff seems good enough that we’ve converted all but one of the indoor boxes to it.

The exception is currently using up what we expect to be our final bag of World’s Best Cat, and we’re finding that the gang would rather use the SmartCat boxes than the one with WBC.

Finally, there’s this.

Regular readers are already aware of my feelings about the devil’s condiment.

I’m delighted to note that we now have scientific evidence to support my purely logical reaction to that stuff. Forget HoldThatMayo, Bon Appetit, and JSpace. While it’s nice to see fellow travelers, one can’t help but note that their appeals are based on paranoia, emotion, and prejudice.

That’s why it’s great to see the word from Popular Science that there’s well-grounded, firm scientific support for the contention that mayonnaise is eeevil.

Take cheer, my brethren. The battle will be long–I expect the pro-mayo forces to be at least as persistent as the anti-vaccination loons–but with Science! on our side, we’ll win in the end.

Reputation

‘Nuki has a tough life. It’s his own fault, though.

He spends all his time working on his rep. “Mr. Murder Mittens.” “Knuckles Malloy, Notorious Mobster Feline.” Those are names with capital-P Power. Oompj. Even “Mr. Thugbutt,” for all its superficial silliness, has a touch of that menacing edge.

It’s exhausting to keep it up, all day, every day.

You gotta give the guy props, though. He’s in there doing the work and reaping the rewards.

24/7/365.

05-1

Okay, okay. He slips occasionally.

But notice that right front paw. Even at his inadvertent cutest, ‘Nuki still stays on message. There may only be one claw exposed, but it’s a darn sharp one.

Then there’s his little sister, Sachiko.

She’s got a rep of her own, and she’s far less prone to slip than Big Brudder Nookles. And that’s a Really Good Thing, because she’s the current holder of the “Ms. Otter Girl” title. Has been for more than four years now.

That’s “otter” as in “always going where she otter not be.”

Case in point.

05-2

She’s also been known to climb over the fence you see behind her. It would be beneath her dignity to simply go down a couple of steps and come back on the other side of the fence. Such sedentary behavior might be appropriate for old fogies like her siblings, but not for a young lady with athletic inclinations.

She wishes it known that, should she decide to go to Stanford, she will earn her scholarship. No need to bribe her way onto the rock climbing team.