On Trial

12-1.jpg

Despite appearances, Lefty is not actually on trial for his life.

Yes, he is on trial, but that’s just the way Kokoro is with anything or anyone new and different.

Lefty has been making great progress lately. He no longer flees when we approach, though he still retreats. Just much more slowly and not as far. And he will take treats from our hands if we’re patient and let him go at his own pace.

So we’ve started giving him the run of the upstairs hall during the day. That means he’s had a chance to make the acquaintance of almost everyone. He’s only seen Kaja from a distance, and hasn’t gotten closer to ‘Nuki than a couple of feet, with the fence between them.

But he’s had nose-to-nose (and nose-to-butt) meetings with Yuki, Kokoro, and Sachiko without anyone getting violent. As I said, great progress.

Awesome feline.

Baseball Hiatus

By the time this post goes live, I’ll be well into my sixth consecutive day with no baseball. A little taste of winter in mid-summer.

Much as I’d like to blame it all on MLB, I have to take some of the blame myself. Sure, it’s partly because of the All-Star Break, but as I’ve noted in the past, the Home Run Derby and the All-Star Game itself are acceptable “almost baseball” events. No, it’s just been an unfortunate conglomeration of poor timing.

Friday we took in our annual minor league game. The ballgame itself was painful, at least for those of us rooting, however nominally, for San Jose. The Giants gave up four runs in the first three innings and never mounted a serious threat of their own. Nor did they keep their opponents* off the bases for the rest of the game, though they did keep them from scoring any more runs.

* The Visalia Rawhide, and isn’t that a name to conjure with?

The game ran long, pushing the fireworks–of course there were fireworks–out past ten. They were worth the wait, though. Proof that a massive aerial bombardment is not a requirement for a spectacular show.

Which reminds me: I need to take back something I said last year. I suggested that MLB should reintroduce the beer batter at the major league level to increase audience engagement. I said, “half-priced soda isn’t going to satisfy anyone when the beer batter comes up in the eighth or ninth.”

I hereby admit I was wrong about that. The San Jose Giants switch to apple juice after beer sales close, and the fans were chanting “Juice! Juice! Juice!” just as enthusiastically as they had earlier chanted “Beer! Beer! Beer!” And yes, sales of juice did jump dramatically when the beerjuice batter struck out in his final at-bat.

Whatever else you can say about the game–and there is a lot I could say, but I’ll spare you–it didn’t lack for engagement.

Anyway, there were ballgames Saturday and Sunday, but a combination of visiting with friends and family and work prevented me from watching. And more of the same prevented me from watching the Home Run Derby Monday or the All-Star Game Tuesday.

No games scheduled Wednesday, and today there’s only a single game–an inter-Texas match-up between the Rangers and Astros. The rest of the MLB teams start playing again tomorrow, but I’ve got a social engagement that will prevent me from watching more than a couple of innings of any of my teams’ games. More sociability will interfere with my viewing Saturday and Sunday. Monday, I may be able to catch part of the Giants/Rockies double-header, and Tuesday I’ll finally be able to settle in and wince at a Mariners’ game.

So, rather than face a ten-day hiatus, I’ll probably watch the game tonight, despite having no particular interest in the outcome. I’m fairly sure total mutual annihilation isn’t a possibility, after all.

Wouldn’t it be a kick in the pants if the game gets rained out? The forecast says there’s only a 20% change of rain, but the universe can be an evil place.

A Few (Not Especially Political) Thoughts

Random thoughts from the extended Fourth of July weekend.

  • If you put your mind to it, you can see a heck of a lot of fireworks. And that’s without even counting all the amateur shows. Still, it’s weird that nobody seems to know why the city of Richmond puts on its show July 3 every year. I can theorize endlessly, but I have a sneaking suspicion that regardless of how it got started, the answer now is “Tradition”.
  • Not that there’s anything wrong with tradition. That’s what brings us fireworks on the Fourth to begin with. (And no, I’m not going to debate the ethical pros and cons of fireworks today. We had that discussion a couple of years ago.) Some modification of the tradition might be in order, given the risk of wildfires and all. But abandon it completely? Heck no!
  • A well-planned low altitude show is actually enhanced by low clouds. That said, strong cross winds not only distort the blossoms, but blow the gunpowder away from the viewers. I hadn’t realized how much of the total sensory experience of a fireworks show is olfactory.
  • If the fireworks show starts while you’re giving a speech, just shut up. Nobody cares how important your message is or how long it took you to write. You’re not the headliner. (This is a concept that applies to fields completely unrelated to fireworks, by the way.)
  • Don’t bother with an assortment of random music. Doesn’t matter if the songs are patriotic, popular, or traditional. Unless the music is synchronized to the fireworks, it’s just a distraction.
  • Reptile petting zoos are a concept whose time is now. I don’t know if kids are bored with goats, llamas, rabbits, and chickens (and who wants to pat a chicken anyway?) but snakes and giant lizards are a much better draw. Even the police are fascinated.
    09-1.jpg
    (Never has the “Scale Image” tool been more appropriate.)

 

Changing Times

People change over time. They develop new interests, try new things, and find new ways to avoid terminal boredom.

Case in point: Way, way back in 2013, I said that Watanuki isn’t “aggressive about sitting on newspapers…doesn’t have much interest in chewing on books…doesn’t unroll the toilet paper…and given his choice of dens, he’s more likely to hole up in a plastic cat carrier than a cardboard box.”

05-1

‘Nuki didn’t just stroll into the box and sit down. He had to knock it on its side first. That took several tries. Then there was a period of cautious sniffage, followed by multiple changes of position before he was comfortable.

Perhaps Watanuki has outgrown his early “reverse Maru’s syndrome”. He has taken to sitting on the recycle pile–which is primarily newspaper–and has been seen droolingnibbling on the corner of Maggie’s ebook reader (call it meta-paper).

Or maybe he’s just doing it to mess with our minds. I wouldn’t put it past our house-thug.

Regardless, Rhubarb wants to make it clear that he had nothing to do with ‘Nuki’s behavioral change, has never met Watanuki, and in fact, doesn’t even see the cat to his right.

05-2

While it’s true that times and people change, some things remain the same.

05-3

No matter how lazy a cat may get (Garfield notwithstanding), mice remain a hunter’s favorite target.

Not That Simple

To those of you celebrating the Fourth of July and what remains of our civil liberties, happy holidays. Stay safe and sane.

I thought I’d give you a bit of a tech post for the occasion, because what could be more American than spending money on electronics? Remember, most retailers are having holiday sales through the weekend.

Note: I have not been paid for any of the comments below, nor will I receive any benefit should you run out and buy anything on my recommendation. That said, if the various manufacturers mentioned want to toss piles of cash in my direction, I’ll be happy to accept.

As you may have gathered, I did not wind up crushed beneath a pile of USB-C hubs and docking stations. As it turned out, my first test subject proved adequate to the task. You may recall that the goal was to connect two monitors, one with a VGA input and one with a DVI input to a thoroughly modern laptop which has only a single USB-C port.

I chose to begin my search with the j5create JCD381.
04-1_jcd381

Note the symmetrical layout: two HDMI ports on the left, two USB 3.1 ports on the right, balanced around the network port. Symmetry may not be important in a device’s functionality, but it is aesthetically pleasing. There’s also a USB-C input on the end next to the cable. As that leaves the end unsymmetrical, I’ve chosen not to show it here.

The big selling point for the JCD381–aside from its cheapness compared to similar, larger docks–was that none of the ads I saw warned against using HDMI-to-something-else converters.

And it works fine with my converters (more on that later). It does not, however, Just Work. It is necessary to install driver software for the computer to recognize the HDMI ports. And, in a reversion to the Days of Yore, it was even necessary to reboot the computer after installing the drivers. I may be a fan of tradition, but that was a little too retro for my tastes.

However, drivers installed and computer restarted, I plugged in the cable and darned if both screens didn’t light up. A quick trip to the display settings made the biggest monitor the primary, and presto! Word processor in front of me, email to my left, and system monitor and other low-priority attention grabbers on the smallest screen where I’ll have to make a conscious effort to see them.

The JCD381 isn’t perfect. (You’re not surprised to hear that, are you?) This is not the dock to choose if you’re running a Mac. There are multiple reports that even after installing the drivers, you won’t be able to have different outputs on the two HDMI connectors. I can’t vouch for the accuracy of those reports, but they’re pervasive enough that I wouldn’t take the chance.

More significant to Windows users, the dock lacks an audio/headphone jack. That would have been handy and including one could have fixed the lack of symmetry on the cable end.

That, however, is a quick and cheap fix if you’re converting one of the outputs to VGA. Behold!
04-2_Rankie_HDMI-VGA

This is the Rankie HDMI-to-VGA adapter. Micro-USB port on the left to power it (and yes, it comes with an appropriate cable) and audio on the right. Eight bucks from that well-known purveyor of fine (and not-so-fine) goods whose name begins with an A.

Sure, I could have saved the eight dollars and just plugged my speakers into the computer’s headphone jack, but that would have meant an extra plug or unplug every time I moved the machine. Well worth the octodollar to have everything on a single cable.

There are other issues.

The USB-C input on the j5create box is a bit loose. If I accidentally move the dock when plugging or unplugging it, it can disconnect the power. Annoying, but not fatal, and I could probably find a way to anchor the plug more securely in the dock.

The dock does get hot in use. Not burn-your-fingers-and-set-the-desk-on-fire hot, but significantly toasty. Make sure it’s well-ventilated.

And, finally, the computer has lost track of the network port a couple of times. I’m still troubleshooting that one, but I suspect the problem is at the computer end–either a driver issue or a Windows bug–rather than with the hardware. Since the computer automatically falls back to Wi-Fi, I hardly notice. And the port comes back to life the next time I reboot the computer, so it’s not that big a deal. I’ll find a fix eventually, but it’s not affecting my quality of life right now.

So there you have it. Maybe not quite so simple that only a child can do it after all.

One Step Closer

San Francisco has its Transbay Center back.

You may note there’s a word missing from that sentence.

Actually, purists would argue there are a couple of words missing. But I just can’t see calling it the “Salesforce Transit Center”. Corporate naming is the modern equivalent of product placement.

Back in the day–mostly even before my time–companies would sponsor a radio or TV program. For underwriting a large chunk of the cost of the show, the sponsor would not only get to put their name in the show’s name (remember The Jell-O Program Starring Jack Benny or more recently, Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom?) but would also get to have their products appear in the show.

Now sponsors pay a small fraction of the cost of production (Salesforce is paying $110 million over twenty-five years; the total cost of the terminal–not counting the recent repairs–was around 2.2 billion) but still want total recognition.

Is it any wonder people ignore the new names or nickname them into oblivion? I suspect that building in downtown San Francisco will be widely known as “The Transit Center”.

But I digress.

Anyway, the rooftop park, complete with its new non-decomposing concrete paths, reopened to the public yesterday.

Crowds were, well, not very crowded. But then, the reopening was only lightly publicized. Judging by the Chron’s reporting, most of the traffic came from people who stopped into one of the coffee shops that have doors leading to the park and decided to add a little sunshine to their caffeine fixes.

Fair enough. I’d likely have done the same if I’d been in the vicinity. (Let it be noted here that my previous employment was a short block away from the large hole in the ground now occupied by the terminal. I dare say that if I were still working there, I’d be hanging out in the park at lunchtime on a regular basis.)

But back to that missing word. There isn’t yet any transit in the Transit Center.

Debris from the repairs and the major re-inspections is still being cleaned up. And, naturally, the bus drivers who’ll be using the center need to be retrained in how to get in and out of the building. Or in many cases, trained for the first time. Those direct freeway on- and off-ramps can be tricky (and no, I’m not being sarcastic here; it seems like a potentially confusing transition.)

No date has been set to resume bus service, but official-type people are bandying “August”. Let’s recall that the center officially opened last August 10th. It might be nicely symbolic to have the official re-opening on the same day this year. (And it would be almost purely symbolic. The tenth is a Saturday, and most of the transbay buses don’t run on weekends.)

As for the ground-level businesses that everyone hopes will attract non-commuters to the Transbay Soon-To-Be-Transit Center, they’re not scheduled to open until “fall”.

But the park is open. That’s progress.

Pillowed

Watanuki has some strange ideas about the proper role of a pillow.

Actually, he has a lot of strange ideas. But a detailed discussion of them all would take us far beyond the space allotted to today’s post, so we’ll stick with pillows.

28-1

Most people put their head on a pillow. Not Mr. Knuckles.

I’d think he was trying to keep his butt warm, but the temperature was in the nineties the day that picture was taken. Cold buns (not that he really has buns–but I digress) were not the issue.

Meanwhile, Yuki took the usurpation of his favorite head-and-tail-rest in stride.

28-2

He often finds Maggie’s pillow to be an acceptable alternate Rhubarb. Though it has to be said that I’ve never seen him twist his hindquarters into that position with any other pillow.

Meanwhile, I found the funniest part of the episode to be the way Sachiko completely ignored the boys’ antics.

28-3

More Blindness

About a month ago, I was talking about willful blindness, and I cited “climate change deniers, Trump supporters, and anti-vaccination activists” as examples of those who see only what they expect to see.

But let’s be fair. That self-inflicted severance from reality isn’t limited to the right wing and the lunatic fringe. There were a couple of letters to the editor in today’s Chron that make it clear as window glass* that sensible people on the left can be just as willfully blind as anyone else.

* For some values of window, anyway. Certainly clearer than our kitchen window where the cats press their noses against the glass when watching for interlopers. But I digress.

Wouldn’t it be great, one of the letter writers asks, if manufacturers of hygiene products would put together “welcome kits” for immigrants. “It seems like a win-win,” they says, suggesting that once the arrivals take up their new lives in America, they’ll be so grateful for the toothpaste and shampoo that they’ll continue to buy the same brands for life.

Sure is a nice thought. Apparently it’s escaped their notice that the administration is doing their utmost to ensure that would-be immigrants don’t leave the detention centers, unless it’s to go back where they came from–or, as best I can tell, to a small piece of America, six feet long, three feet wide, and four feet deep.

It suits the purposes of those in charge for the residents of the camps to be unwashed and unhealthy. That serves their narrative. “Look at them! Dirty and diseased. Why would you want them living next door?” How many times have we been told “They were already sick when they got here. We did the best we could, but…”?

Even if that weren’t the case; even if we assume the camp operators and those paying them have the best of intentions, how long is a hotel-sized bar of soap going to last? Not for a significant fraction of the weeks or months the typical person seeking asylum will be spending behind bars.

Then there’s the second letter.

The writer cites the self-evident fact that America has a literally unimaginable amount of wealth and asks why we can’t find “…the resources to provide basic human necessities for these tired and hungry children?”

There’s a very simple reason. The people setting the policies that deny food, medicine, and the basic rights this country once aspired to give to everyone are the same people who own the majority of that unimaginable wealth. And they control the distribution of what they don’t own.

And, yes, I realize there are exceptions, people of great wealth who don’t toe the “immigrants are scum” party line. But again, no control. They could spend every dollar they have trying to get past the barriers the administration has put up to preserve their narrative and never make a dent in the problem.

None so blind.

Look, I’m not saying anyone should give up. But ignoring the root of the problem isn’t going to solve it. (Neither is proposing solutions that require other people to do the work and put up the money, but that’s a topic for another day.)

One need look no further than the Wayfair Walkout to see how well ignoring the role of the dollar is going to work out in any venture.

Smile!

And here we go again.

Well, not immediately. But another round of furor over hidden cameras is likely on its way.

I can’t be the only person who remembers how much fuss there was when smartphone cameras got good enough to take pictures that were more than vague, fuzzy blobs.

Bans on phones in health club dressing rooms. Mandated “shutter” sounds. And, naturally, the debate over “creep shots,” which is still raging in Britain, years after pretty much the entire rest of the universe has agreed they should be criminalized.

As SlashGear reports, Apple is resurrecting the idea of putting a camera in a watch.

The kid’s “smartwatch” I got for Christmas a few years back has a camera. It’s a lousy camera, but it works. And, as SlashGear points out, it’s incredibly awkward–and obvious–to use. Unless you’re taking a picture of something directly in front of you at sternum level, you’re going to have to contort your wrist in a direction wrists were never intended to bend to aim it, and then hope you can press the shutter button without pushing the camera off target.

Mind you, kids are, generally speaking, much more flexible than I am. Your typical preteen likely would have no trouble at all using the darn thing.

But even on the wrist of a child, it’s still very obvious when they’re taking a picture.

Apple’s patented notion of putting the camera in the watch band will make it possible to snap a picture subtly. And, don’t forget that you probably wouldn’t have to press anything to trigger the shot. After all, Siri is listening through your AirPods. Twist the watch band a little and mutter, “Hey, Siri, take a creep shot,” and it’s done.

Okay, maybe I’m blowing this out of proportion. We can trust Apple with our privacy, right? Maybe they’ll build in a mega-bright red LED that flashes whenever the camera is operated.

Or perhaps they’ll sell an “Apple Watch Camera Blocker”. The Atlantic noted a couple of years ago that Apple had filed for a patent for a device that would use “infrared rays to force iPhone cameras to shut off”.

If Apple built the Watch-Blocker into the iPhone XII, releasing it at the same time as the Apple Watch 6 with iStrapCamera, how many people would plunk down $1500 for the phone?

When I reviewed my Kidizoom watch, I said “Ball’s in your court, Apple.”

Looks like Apple is finally getting ready to swing their racquet.

Fellowship

As we’ve seen, Rhubarb and Yuki often hang out together. Our bed is their usual venue, so Yuki can use Rhubarb as his pillow.

But, since we’ve started giving Lefty and Rufus the run of the upstairs hall, the Bed Boys have made a point of keeping an eye out.

No more bed–but they do stay in touch.
21-1

Yuki must have the best-rested tail in town with a comfy mattress like that.