It’s a Question of Style

Kaja has laid claim to Maggie’s office. She spends much of her time surveying her domain from the highest available spot.

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She brooks no trespass on her domain. Anyone attempting to join her on the shelf is soundly cuffed, and non-resident felines entering the room are resoundingly cussed.

By contrast, Watanuki rules a much smaller territory. The foot of the bed is his and he only grudgingly shares it with bipeds.

As for other felines, one can tell how much favor they’re in by how close he allows them to settle.

For example, he’s generally on good terms with Sachiko, and they frequently hang out near the kitchen window together. But when it comes to the bed…

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Enough said.

Yuki, however, is another matter. ‘Nuki isn’t much of a snuggler, at least with other cats–he’s a master drooler upon biped legs–but he’ll generally make an exception for Yuki.

They’ve been together since late kittenhood, and the Knucklehead watches out for his less agile brother.

Cuddles are common.

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How’d I Miss That?

I freely admit to being a bit slow. Somewhat oblivious, even.

But even so, I can’t believe it took me almost forty-five years to spot this.

Still, as far as I can tell–a quick web search, a perusal of the relevant Wikipedia article, and a consultation with a couple of people with a grounding in the music of the mid-seventies–nobody else has noticed it either.

Which really surprises me. Forty-five years and nobody has noticed that “Take the Money and Run” can be read–heard?–as a lesbian story?

Stop laughing. I’m serious.

Check out the lyrics.

Every person mentioned in the song is mentioned with a pronoun. Except for one.

“…shot a man while robbing his castle”

“Bobbie Sue…she slipped away”

“Billy Mack…he knows just exactly what the facts is”

But Billy Joe is always referenced by name. The song wouldn’t change an iota if their name was spelled “Billie Jo”.

Still think I’m crazy?

Okay, maybe I am. Granted, certainly, Steve Miller isn’t noted for being the most socially activist musician out there. Not now, not back in the mid-seventies.

But, still, I can’t help picturing some record company executive taking a look at a proof of the lyric sheet for the Fly Like an Eagle album and choking. “Stevie-baby. Love the album, but this one song? Just can’t do it. Two chicks in love? Totally kill sales in the Midwest. Look, just make one of them a guy. Whatdya say?”

Perhaps that’s overblown. Heck, maybe Mr. Miller himself didn’t realize the implications of his lyrics–there’s a well-known story that when author Isaac Asimov confronted a critic over his interpretation of one of Asimov’s stories, the critic replied, “What do you know? You’re only the author.”

Still, as a writer, I’d like to think Steve Miller’s been slipping this bit of (none-too-effective) subversion past listeners for more than four decades. Fiction is far more fun than boring Reality.

Chillin’

My apologies for the late and short post. Blame the virus for detaching us all from the concept of linear time. (Translation: I forgot what day it was and by the time I remembered, it was too late to put something together.)

I’ll shoot to have something more substantial next Friday, but for now, enjoy this infrared shot of Lefty and MM hanging out last night.

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MM is definitely more nocturnal than the rest of the crew, including Lefty. She’ll come out of the cage and explore the room at night, but once the sun comes up, she returns to the comfort of her caves–the condo and the milk crate–to sleep until dinnertime.

It will be interesting to see if her schedule changes once we start allowing her to roam the rest of the house.

SAST 17

You Know Who has never been subtle, but even by his standards, the paired assault on the Post Office and on mail-in ballots is crude and obvious.

Fortunately, the counter move is just as obvious. To misquote Pogo, vote early and vote widely.

Fill your ballot out as soon as you get it*–you know who you’re voting for–and get it in the mail immediately. Better yet, if your state offers a way to drop off ballots in person in the days or weeks preceding Election Day (California does; I’m sure others do as well), use one. They generally have a shorter wait than actually voting, and they often keep longer hours than polling places. Best of all, they avoid the Post Office completely.

* And if it hasn’t shown up within a couple of days of the mail-out date, use whatever process your state has for dealing with lost ballots. Don’t wait around, hoping it’ll show up.

And vote in every contest on the ballot. And vote Democrat. This is not the time for a protest vote, much less a no-vote protest. It’s not the time for voting for a third party candidate. Anyone who runs as a Republican is automatically complicit with You Know Who. Defeat ’em all.

Moving on.

Watching baseball on TV doesn’t feel quite real.

It’s not the fake crowd noise–or fake crowds–though those don’t help. Nor is it the omnipresent threat of a sudden end to the season. It’s not even the universal DH or the fake baserunners in extra innings.

What it really is, is the contrast with everything going on outside the stadiums. Defined beginnings and endings. Rules known to everyone and largely accepted, however grudgingly. Even, Goddess help us, leaders–team captains, coaches, managers–who lead.

Still, I don’t let the fantastic aspects stop me from watching. Heck, I write fantasy; I can deal with a universe totally unlike the real world.

Aspirational? Sure. Achievable? Probably not–but we can dream.

And moving on again.

In a move that surprised absolutely nobody, Google announced their latest phone, going head to head with Apple’s announcement of a few new models of computers.

I’ve been trying to get excited about any of the forthcoming gadgets, but it’s touch. None of them, Apple or Google, is radically new. They’ve all got minor advancements over the previous generation, but nothing to make anyone want to rush out and buy one.

Which seems weirdly appropriate for today’s universe.

Apple is nominally targeting the Back-to-School audience, but with so many schools being virtual, there’s not much scope for the usual implied message of “be the envy of your peers”.

Google, on the other hand, seems to have announced the Pixel 4a solely because it was already developed and in production. Might as well push it out there, collect a few news stories, and prepare the way for the Pixel 5, possibly as soon as a couple of months from now.

Maybe if Microsoft ever gets around to releasing their dual-screen Android phone, we’ll have something to get excited about. Right now, though? Gadgets: boring.

Home Turf

There are at least four deer in our neighborhood.

A few days ago, a small family group–Mom and two spotted* kids–came by. They ambled up the side of the house toward the street. A few seconds later, I heard a car drive by and all three deer came running back down the side of the house and around the corner of the fence.

* Pun intended. Their hides were spotty and I did spot them. Not sorry.

Less than two minutes later, this one showed up.

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We’re calling her “Where’d Everybody Go Dude”, because she looked all around the area, clearly expecting somebody to turn up and hang out.

When nobody put in an appearance, she decided on a solitary breakfast.

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I left her to her meal and went to prepare my own. And then I heard fowl language. (Sorry.)

Sure enough.

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I got to the window just in time to see one of the Turkey Gang peck Where’d Everybody Go Dude’s hind leg, chasing her from the scene.

With the evil intruder vanquished, the newest members were allowed to come out and familiarize themselves with the gang’s turf.

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The lion may lie down with the lamb, but there’s no sign of impending peace between the poult and the fawn.

2020 Foresight

If it does nothing else, this weird season has at least given us a year away from reminders that “the MLB season is a marathon, not a sprint.”

Of course, robbed of their favorite truism, broadcasters are now continually reminding each other–and us–that this season is a sprint. Can’t win ’em all.

It’s also given us a heck of a lot of complaining that the new playoff scheme will result in large numbers of teams with losing records making the playoffs.

I beg to differ.

Had this season’s rules been in effect last year, only one sub-.500 team would have made the playoffs: the Texas Rangers. That’s hardly a flood, and only mildly annoying.

I also checked to see who would have made the playoffs had the season ended at about 60 games. (I say “about” because off-days and rainouts mean that not every team has played the same number of games on any given date.)

In this case, had the season ended on June 5, no teams with losing records would have made the playoffs. Even the Rangers started off well: after sixtyish games, they were at .525.

Granted, two teams–the Athletics and the Padres–were at exactly .500, but I’d have been fine with that.

Additional food for thought for anyone who thinks adding teams to the playoffs will increase competition: of the sixteen teams that would have made the playoffs had 2019 ended after 60 games, only three would have dropped out with the full 162 game schedule. The Phillies, Rockies, and Padres all started strong, but faded later, and would have been replaced in the playoffs by the Mets, Diamondbacks, and–amusingly enough–the Nationals.

I don’t know about you, but I think if the playoff lineup is more than 80% determined a third of the way through the season, increased competition down the stretch isn’t going to have much impact.

Moving on to this season, I’m going to modify my normal prognosticatory technique. Since the season is a sprint–sorry–I’m just going to go with the run differential and won/lost records as they stood at the end of the day Tuesday and use them to predict the playoff teams and the eventual World Series champions.

For purposes of this post, I’m going to assume that the full sixty game season will be played, as will all the playoff games. That’s seeming wildly optimistic, but it wouldn’t be much fun to declare the season a washout this soon.

In the NL, our playoff teams–determined by run differential, not record–are Miami, Atlanta, Chicago, St. Louis, LA, San Diego, Colorado, and Cincinnati.

Over in the AL, we’re looking at Tampa Bay, Toronto, Minnesota, Cleveland, Houston, LA, Oakland, and Kansas City.

For what it’s worth, the last team in each league has a DIFF of -1. Clearly, while run differential is indicative of victories, it’s not a one-to-one relationship. But we knew that.

Anyway, once we get into the playoffs, actual victories are more critical. In the NL, the Cubs and Padres sport identical 4-1 records. While Chicago has scored more total runs, they’ve also allowed their opponents to score more; their run ratio is a hair under 1.5. The Padres, on the other hand, have scored more than twice as many runs as their opponents. Accordingly, I’m calling the Padres the probable NL World Series representatives.

Turning to the junior circuit, the Rays and the Possibly-Soon-To-Be-Nameless-Team-From-Cleveland are also sitting at 4-1. Again looking at the run ratio, the Cleveland PSTBNs (that’s a mouthful. I’m going to call them the Postbins.) have outscored their opponents by exactly two to one. That puts them comfortably ahead of Tampa Bay and their 1.7 ratio.

Postbins versus Padres in the World Series. And won’t that set a lot of prognosticators’ teeth on edge?

The winner? Based on run ration, it would be San Diego. But 2.0 versus 2.1 is awfully close, and could easily be overcome by moderating factors such as home field advantage or even pure luck. Even allowing for the Padres having scored more runs than Cleveland (26-21), it still seems close.

Let’s look at the historical record. San Diego has made it to the World Series twice and lost both times. Cleveland’s been in the Series six times and won twice. History is on the side of the Postbins.

But. They haven’t won since 1948. And people like round numbers and multiples of five. Cleveland’s best chance for a World Series victory isn’t until the seventy-fifth anniversary of their last one. That’s 2023.

I’m calling 2020 now. Padres over Postbins four games to two.

Rhubarbian Thoughts

Rhubarb in a pensive mood.

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I believe his exact thought is “How long do I need to lie here looking cute before somebody rubs my tummy?”

Or perhaps it’s “I’m beginning to see the point of vertical mice.”

On a third paw, this being Rhubarb, it could well be “On the whole, I’d prefer a chin skritch.”

Regardless, cuddles were awarded shortly after Maggie took the picture.

And there was, as Monty Python would say, much rejoicing.

Continuing a Theme

And, speaking of balls in the air in a somewhat less metaphorical sense…

Yes, today is Opening Day in what will–for however long it lasts–be the strangest season in MLB’s modern history.

I have to say I feel sorry for the poor folks tasked with putting together the schedule. One would have thought the best way to kick the season off with a bang would be to have everyone playing–especially given the need to squeeze 60 games into 66 calendar days. But, no. Somebody decided the way to go was with a major East Coast match and a major West Coast game.

Giants/Dodgers makes sense. A long, storied rivalry involving both ends of California. Okay, so it’s the disease center of the US right now, but what can you do?

But over at the far end of the country, the schedulers had a major dilemma. They didn’t have much choice about including the Nationals. They won the World Series last year (though, to be honest, that feels so long ago, I had to double-check to be sure I was remembering correctly). But who to pair them with?

The best choice from a rivalry perspective would be the Orioles, but nobody’s going to schedule a team that lost 108 games last year for a “big bang” opener.

Rematch of the World Series? Sorry, nope. Houston is in the AL West; the only way they’ll play against Washington this year is if they meet in the World Series again.

How about Atlanta? There are plenty of reasons to dislike them, dating back at least as far as Ted Turner’s heyday. Even if you can’t get behind rooting for the Nationals, you can root against the Braves. But given the current socio-political climate and the team’s adamant refusal to even consider a name change, that must have been too much hate for MLB’s liking in an Opening Day matchup.

So the schedule makers went with the default choice. If you don’t root for the Yankees, you passionately detest them. Unlike Atlanta’s case, though, it’s just because they’re the Yankees. It’s sanctioned hate. There’s no real rivalry, but it’ll work for MLB’s needs. And if New York is currently the national virus runner-up, well…the game is in Washington. Good enough.

Rivalries or no, virus or no, we’re finally getting what MLB insists we call “meaningful baseball”. As though games that don’t count in the standings–or, worse yet, where the players don’t get paid–are meaningless. But I digress.

It’ll be a strange season, no matter what happens. But it is a touch of the familiar, and perhaps more importantly, something we can use to set one day apart from the day before and the day after.

See you next week, when I’ll share my usual predictions for the post-season.

Poke, Poke

Last month I said I was curious whether MM’s next move would be to explore the room outside her cage or to regularly eat with us present.

Vexing creature that she is–it’s a meezer trait, after all–she’s chosen the middle path. She eats with us present irregularly, but increasingly often, and she has begun to explore the room at night, but her explorations generally last no more than a minute or two.

To be fair, some of the tentative nature of her explorations can be laid at Lefty’s paws. He has a regrettable tendency to invade the cage and eat MM’s food.

She hasn’t yet figured out that if he’s eating her dinner, there’s nothing stopping her from eating his, but we expect that bit of insight any day now.

She generally defers to him when the cage door is open, allowing him to munch at will, and then moving in quickly to hoover down whatever he left uneaten.

But recently we’ve seen signs that MM is not going to let Lefty establish dominance unchallenged. The cage door does, after all, change the dynamics of the room–as does the presence of bipeds.

Leading to this little dance routine:

Despite what you might think, we’re regarding this as a good sign. Interaction with the rest of the house’s inhabitants is an indication that she’s starting to come out of her isolation funk.

There’s a huge distance between MM poking Lefty’s neck while he’s distracted and allowing us to brush her tangled fur*.

* It should be noted that Lefty has discovered the pleasures of the brush. He’s not entirely comfortable with the concept, but then, he’s also still not sure about the whole patting-and-neck-scratching thing either. But he does enjoy a good brushing when he allows us to do it. Progress!

But in many ways, she’s come almost as far already, from hiding at the back of the cage to sitting just outside arm’s reach. We’re quite pleased.