Gravity’s Little Helper

Sachiko comes by that particular nickname honestly.

As she says, “I helps Grabity and Grabity help me. It moochooally ‘fishal ‘rangement.”

While she does sometimes settle down to read the paper with her butt, more often, she’s on the table to decide what to assault next.

“Too much up here, even if I knocks it over. Gotta put more on floor or Grabity not cut me slack. Dat salt grinder easy target…”

-=*=-

OK, for those of you with sensitivity to spiders, stop here.

 

For the rest of you, scroll down a little further for one more shot of our new neighbor. I love how this one turned out with the light behind her web.

 

[more protective spacing]

 

An Unpaid Advertisement

Ooki Brothers Security wishes to make it clear that they are serious

and sober

Fine, upstanding servants of the public good–or whoever’s paying them in gooshy fud–at all times.

Don’t believe a word of it. Off duty, they’re quite happy to indulge in a catnip binge, groom themselves or each other in public, or just generally act like the goofballs they really are.

But don’t take my word for it. Photographic evidence exists.

And will haunt them forever.

Staying the Course

Every so often–especially when I’m having trouble coming up with something to post about–I’ll read through some of the blog’s archives. And, yes, today was one of those times. I spent an hour or so browsing through the posts from mid-2017 and, geez, not much has changed.

I mean, yes, there were some highlights: getting my author’s copies of The RagTime Traveler, Rufus integrating himself with the rest of our menagerie, watching the Mariners come from behind to beat the As in extra innings (with no Manfred Man!).

Some lowlights as well, naturally. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, Senator McCain leaving the hospital to vote against making medical care more widely available, and the reminder of how little time we would have with Rufus.

But there’s a lot that I could have written in the past couple of months. The public’s increasing willingness to rush to judgement without evidence. The Mariners flirting with .500 (though this July, it’s Baltimore instead of Seattle). Apple trying to pass of incremental changes as revolutionary. Illegal fireworks. People claiming the inclusion of women in significant roles destroys their childhood memories.

Does this mean I’m stuck in a rut, or that everyone else is?

But all that aside, one post caught my attention. No, not the thing about the Project Fi Travel Socks (though, in keeping with the theme here, I’ll note that I still have ’em and wore ’em on last month’s trip to Sedalia). No, it’s the part about the Sedalia Holiday Inn Express’ horrid approach to computers and computer security.

Because five years after I wrote that post, the situation is even worse.

The Wi-Fi still offers the same three choices for signing on. Only now the HIE Club members’ method explicitly states that no password is needed. And you still need to log on multiple times over the course of your stay–though to be totally fair, the frequency has dropped to daily, rather than “every time you leave and come back”.

But the worst was that “Business Center” in the lobby. During our entire stay, I never saw anyone using them. Not once. And I don’t blame my travelers a bit. The only reason I tried them was to print boarding passes for our flight home*. And I mean “them” literally: I tried both computers.

* Yes, I know one can check in via smartphone and get the boarding pass there, too. I’m sure that’s what everyone else staying at the HIE did. But I needed paper passes. For reasons.

One of them wouldn’t turn on. At least that one’s not going to be giving away anyone’s credit card information. The other had a distinctly green screen, suggesting either an about-to-die video card or a really, really bad VGA cable. Either way, annoying but ignorable for my purposes. However, five minutes after I turned it on, I was still waiting for it to load the Windows desktop. And I mean literally five minutes, which means either a failing hard drive, a full-to-the-point-of-explosion hard drive, or an operating system crammed full of malware and harmless-but-unnecessary software. Or all three.

At that point, the helpful woman behind the registration desk offered to let me use her computer. Yes, the one that gives full access to HIE’s reservation system and all of that lovely customer data–including credit card numbers. Oy.

I didn’t lecture her. I thanked her profusely and tried to use the browser tab she helpfully opened for me before she turned away to talk to my mother. Oy, again.

Alaska Airlines refused to let me check in. Why? Because that browser was Internet Explorer, which is now officially unsupported by Microsoft and about to be removed from millions of Windows computers around the world. Oy, a third time.

Add a fourth “oy”, because there was nothing–including the helpful woman–stopping me from opening Edge to, you know, actually do what I needed to do. I could have opened any other program on that machine, or gone to any website in the world, and installed anything I wanted to.

I still didn’t lecture her. I checked in, printed our boarding passes*, thanked the helpful woman again, and went up to the room.

* By the way, there’s still no printer in that so-called Business Center. I suspect those machines are still network-connected to the printer I used under the front desk. Which implies that those printers are on the same network as every other computer in the hotel. So all of the malware on the Business Center computers has completely unimpeded access to the reservation system.

Ethically, I probably should have said something about the hotel’s inexcusable laxity, but what could she have done? She’s only a pawn in HIE’s corporate structure. Not that she would have understood why any of the issues were issues; in the few words we exchanged, it was clear that her computer knowledge is limited to turning on the computer she let me use and using HIE’s reservation system. I couldn’t spend the necessary hours to explain the basic concepts of access control, hardened perimeters, and software vulnerabilities, even if I thought she’d sit still for it.

Oh, and that green-screened “Business” computer? I checked on it as I went past. It had finally brought up the desktop, but was still struggling to open Microsoft Teams, Skype, and–I kid you not–Steam. Wait, it gets even worse. There was a Minecraft icon on the desktop and a recovered Chrome tab for a bank–with a user name and password prefilled in the Login fields, thanks to Chrome’s ever-helpful password manager.

Change. Who needs it, right?

Big Spider Is Really Big

I’m not kidding here. If spiders are on your squick list, stop reading now.

 

Seriously!

 

Here’s a small picture of Emeraldas, as protection against getting too much of the post on screen. (She’s warming up her eye lasers to save you from the evil arachnid.)

 

 

So, yes. Continuing last week’s recognition of new visitors; though in this case, she’s not hanging out at any of the bowls. She’s strung her web in front of the house. Across the path to the front door, in fact. We suspect she wouldn’t mind a bit if she snagged a UPS or Amazon driver.

Not a great shot, is it? Night photography in gusting winds is tough.

Of course, so is Ms. Arachnid’s web. It’s held up remarkably well against those winds and a week’s worth of foot traffic.

Hang on, let me get a shot from a different angle.

Much better.

She’s rather cute, in a “way too many legs” kind of way, don’t you think?

A Little Different This Time

Now that we’ve arrived at the All Star Break, I took a look back at my last few ASB posts. There’s a consistent thread running through those posts: all of the teams I root for suck.

This year, not so much. The Mets are sitting on top of the NL East with a solid six game lead over Atlanta, the Giants are a mere half game out of the third NL Wild Card slot, and the Orioles have a respectable* .500 record (and are only three and a half out of the Wild Card).

* When it comes to baseball, I define “respectable” as .500 or better. So, okay, yes, the O’s are there by the thinnest of possible margins. But there they indeed are.

And then there are the Mariners. A fourteen game winning streak has brought them from irrelevant unrespectability to nine games over .500, the second Wild Card slot, and–with seven of their first ten after the break against Houston–a chance to challenge for the division.

The streak can’t last forever; it’s one short of their best-ever, and even if they surpass that mark, the all-time longest winning streak is 26. That was set in 1916, a lapse of time which should give you a very clear picture of just how hard it is to string together wins in MLB. And, let’s face it, the All Star Break has ruined more than a few winning streaks; momentum is a thing. But the beauty of baseball and the 162-game schedule is that you don’t need to win every game to succeed. Just win consistently.

But enough daydreaming.

I’m writing this post Tuesday afternoon. The actual All Star Game is tonight, which means yesterday was the Home Run Derby. The universe being the intermittently cruel place that it is, I was at work. And I especially wanted to watch this year, what with the Mariners connection: Julio Rodriguez. At the very least, he figured to erase the pitiful performance we got from the last M to play Derby (Cano, 2016: 7 home runs).

I hate watching pre-recorded sporting events. It’s too hard to avoid spoilers, and cheering your favorites doesn’t give them any help*.

* Of course cheering for your team while watching on TV helps them. Well-known scientific fact. But if cheering worked retroactively, teams with small fan bases would never win: the fans rooting for the Yankees to complete their 162-game sweep would drown them out every time.

I recorded it anyway and watched it earlier today.

Let me tell you, Rodriguez put on the most impressive rookie performance since Aaron Judge in 2017. He didn’t hit as many long bombs as Judge had, but a total across the three rounds of 81? Holy Flying Salmon! (For the record, Judge only needed 47 for his win.) He didn’t win–that was Juan Soto–but he sure turned a lot of heads.

Soto, by the way, is available for a trade, and just about every team within sniffing distance of contention would love to have him. He’ll be expensive; probably too expensive for the Mariners, still smarting from the result of that huge contract they gave the aforementioned Robinson Cano. But can you imagine how much opposing pitchers would hate to face the reigning Derby winner and runner-up hitting back to back?

I know, I know. I said “enough daydreaming”. But some dreams are irresistible.

A New Face

Although the classic Backyard Bowl is no more, we continue to maintain the tradition of offering goodies* to the neighbors. The actual food bowl is on the other side of the house, near the catio, but the bird feeders and the free-and-open water bowl are still where they’ve always been.

* Primarily cat food and catnip.

And every so often, somebody new stops by and discovers the offerings.

This handsome individual showed up earlier this week and hung around for half an hour or so, snarfing down the sunflower seeds that had fallen from the bird feeder.

We’ve always said that anyone is welcome, as long as they’re well-behaved. Which is why the coyotes are distinctly unwelcome, the trash pandas get periodic reminders of the rules, and there’s cayenne in the bird feeders for the edification of the squirrels.

This person, however, was minding their own business and performing a useful function–denying the squirrels a free meal–so we made no effort whatsoever to suggest they go elsewhere.

Though, to be fair, Sachiko–as the closest member of the Ooki Brothers Security Service–kept a watchful eye out.

As far as we know, they haven’t been back. But if they continue to comport themself with dignity, we’ll be happy to say hello.

From a safe distance, of course. Welcome only goes so far; 3-methyl-1-butanethiol goes much, much further.

Chicken Fairy

When I was growing up, our family had its own version of “When You Wish Upon a Star”.

Well, not a full version, just a single verse:

When you wish upon a bird

Makes no difference if you’re heard

Legendary Chicken Fairy

Dreams come true

Seems like the sort of thing you would hear on the playground, but I never did. And nobody I’ve asked ever heard it on their playground either.

I always figured Dad had written it. It’s not an unreasonable assumption: like many writers, he liked playing with words. He was responsible for many of the new words that made up our family-specific vocabulary. And many writers string together a parody verse now and then.

And no, the verse doesn’t quite scan. If anything, that lends credence to the theory that Dad wrote it. He had a notoriously poor sense of rhythm–and counting syllables only gets you so far.

But the other day, I decided on a whim to see if anyone else knew that verse. I googled “Legendary Chicken Fairy” and found

The tune is different, of course, but there’s a definite similarity in the lyrics.

When you wish upon a bird

Makes no difference how absurd

The chicken fairy hears each word

And all your dreams come true

I didn’t find any matches for Dad’s verse.

So do we have a case of independent parallel development? Or did Dad–whose grasp of melody was even worse than his rhythm–hear the Blanchard and Morgan song and sometime later warp it into something that matched his spotty recollection?

No way to know, of course. But “Legendary Chicken Fairy” made it to Number 38 on the Country chart in 1972. I’d have been of an age to find the concept of a chicken fairy hilarious*.

* That I still find it hysterical is irrelevant to this discussion.

I could even make a case for the theory that I heard the song, sang my best kid-memory version of it, and Dad, having no idea where it came from, modified it further.

As I said, there’s no way to know for certain, but to me the evidence suggests that our family Chicken Fairy is a derivative work. Which is not going to prevent me from singing it at the top of my lungs next time “When You Wish Upon a Star” comes on the radio.

Fair’s Fair

Can it really have been five years since we last went to a county fair?

I know we haven’t gone the last two years, for obvious reasons. But further back, my memory fails to confirm or refute attendance.

On one paw, scheduling time to go to a fair has been difficult for several years. On another, fairs are high on our list of priorities. On a third paw, I sometimes have trouble remembering what I had for lunch yesterday, much less a couple of weeks ago; three or four years is hopeless. But on the fourth paw, fair food is…memorable.

So, anyway, there was a Marin County Fair running up until the Fourth of July. I was working Monday, but I was off Sunday; the Fair had fireworks every night, and I had some cash in my wallet. Done deal.

The Fair was stripped down: almost all of the judging was done online and none of the indoor events or exhibits were happening–they’re supposed to return next year, COVID-19 willing.

But there were a few animals, including my favorite plush bunnies.

And the fluffy chickens Maggie likes.

And, while there were a few ducks in cages, there were significantly more of them roaming free.

The Fair’s focus this year was on vendors and carnival rides.

File this one under “Oh, hell no!”

This is a bit more my speed.

Okay, I exaggerate. If I’d gone on any rides, it would have been something in between those extremes. A carousel. Maybe a Ferris wheel.

The food offerings were a bit of a disappointment. Not in FairQuality, I hasten to add, but in cost and accessibility. I didn’t even consider the Lobster Fries when I learned the Fish & Chips I’d been pondering were $22–and the line looked to be on the order of a twenty minute wait just to order. How much of the cost was “Well, it’s Marin,” and how much was “COVIDflation” I wouldn’t even try to guess. And the lines were, I believe, a result of the plenitude of choices. With only one booth specializing in most flavors (fried stuff, bbq stuff, etc.) lines for the popular or unusual were inevitably going to get excessive.

I wound up with “California Fries”: French fries covered in refried beans, melted cheese, guacamole, sour cream, and carne asada. Basically, cross-cultural nachos. Good fair food and quite tasty. We didn’t quite manage dessert. No strawberry shortcake on offer and the funnel cake vendors (both of them) were only selling funnel cakes (and we’re not fond of those). So the only option for true FairDessert–deep fried Twinkies, Oreos, or some other thing that really shouldn’t be deep fried–was that fried stuff vendor with the twenty minute lines. Strawberry crepes might have done the job, but the crepe vendor’s line was even longer.

My arteries are grateful, even if my stomach and taste buds were (and still are) disappointed.

Anyway, strawberry shortcake notwithstanding, fireworks were the main reason I wanted to go to the fair.

We got good seats.

Maybe not quite as good as those people on the other side of the lake, but it’s hard to say. The show was aimed slightly toward our side, but explosions are largely omnidirectional, and the wind was blowing right-to-left, so the smoke didn’t block either side’s view. Call it a wash.

And the show was well worth it. Yes, the long lines, the high prices, the four hour wait on a backless bench–next time I’ll at least take a cushion–and even the traditional painful cold after the sun went down. From first boom, through rainbow arcs and blossoms (it was Out at the Fair day), several different variations on crackly/crinkly/twinkling, to the finale, one of the best low altitude shows I’ve seen.

Inevitably, it’s online. Not from the night we went, and not the best vantage point, but it’s almost like being there. Okay, that’s an exaggeration. But if you crank up the air conditioner to chill your house to 40 degrees and full-screen the video, it’s a reasonable approximation.

Bottom line: A well-spent afternoon (sorry). Would go again.