Her Majesty’s a Pretty Nice Girl

Perhaps some of you are wondering how Emeraldas is doing.

Last I updated y’all, we’d given her limited freedom of movement: restricted to the upstairs hall–with occasional forays into Maggie’s office–and only during daylight hours.

Interestingly, despite her meezer fascination for heights and climbing, she never made an attempt to climb the fence, even when the other cats started jumping over it to harass her.

Inter-feline relationships are still a work in progress for Queen Em, but they have progressed far enough that we’ve removed most of the restrictions. The fence is down and we only lock her in her room for a few hours at night–and that’s only so she can eat in peace.

Her Majesty still stays mostly in her room, though she has been seen in the bedroom closet, down in the living room, and in the kitchen–briefly.

Other than at dinner time, she remains cautious about bipeds. However, her love of Yuki continues strong, enough so that she’s jumped up on the bed to cuddle with him a couple of times.

If she’s cautious about humans, she’s downright paranoid about cameras. I’ve been trying for weeks to get a shot of her in her latest hangout: the back of the futon in her room–it’s a favorite of every cat who’s spent time in that room, thanks to its combination of comfort, a view, and morning sunlight. Every time she sees me coming with a camera or phone, she hides under the futon.

So for now, make do with this telephoto shot of Emeraldas and Yuki hanging out on the stairs.


 

Or is that “stares”?

2021 Prognostication

Here we are, a week and a half into the MLB season. Time for me to try my hand at picking this season’s winners and losers.

In addition to the traditional rainouts, this year we once again face the prospect of covidouts. Makes looking six months out a bit tricky, but hey, as the saying goes, if it was easy, everyone would do it. Okay, so maybe everyone does do it. Never mind, I’m forging ahead.

I’m going back to my original practice of picking the playoff teams without weighing in on the playoff results. I’ll leave that prediction for the end of the season.

As usual, my picks are based primarily on run differential, with ties broken by a combination of won/loss record, run ratio, and personal prejudice. In other words, much the same approach every prognosticator uses.

Data is as of the end of the day yesterday, April 13th.

Starting with the National League, it appears our East Division winner will be Miami, thanks to their stellar accomplishment in scoring exactly as many runs as they’ve given up.

Cincinnati claims the Central Division on a +22 run differential.

Impressive, but it’s not even close to the stunning +30 LA put up to claim the West. Darn it.

As for the Wild Card, San Diego strolls in with a +16, distantly followed by Milwaukee’s +7.

Not much controversy there. And, disappointingly little opportunity for me to exercise my prejudices. I will note that it warms my heart to see the Nationals, owners of the MLB-worst 2-6 record are also holders of the NL-worst run differential at -18. There are, of course, many games left this year (we hope!), but it’s not unreasonable to count Washington out.

Moving on to the AL, the outcome looks just as clear. (Amazing what a difference it makes when you use data from ten to twelve games instead of one or two.)

Our Eastern winner is obviously going to be Boston. Despite a slow start, they’ve still managed to put up a +17 to dominate the division.

Minnesota is going to take the Central Division; their +19 handily beats out Cleveland and Chicago.

To nobody’s surprise, Houston is dominating the AL West: not only do they have a solid +13 record, but only one other team–LAofA–is even in positive numbers, at +1.

I’ve already mentioned the Wild Card winners. The WhateverTheirNameIs gang are well out in front of the rest of the league at +16 and the White Sox narrowly squeezed past the Blue Jays, +10 to +9.

No controversy there, but more heartwarming data: the owners of MLB’s worst run differential are the Oakland Athletics. They’re clearly out of the playoff hunt at -26. Even the fact that they’re somehow at 5-7, better than half a dozen other teams invalidates my prediction.

The season ends October 3–at least, that’s the plan–and I’ll check on the results and give you my playoff guessespredictions before the Wild Card games on the fifth.

Sisterly Affection

Kokoro and Kaja have a fraught relationship.

In Kokoro’s opinion, Kaja is a late-arriving interloper on her turf. Contrarily, Kaja considers Kokoro to be an old fuddy-duddy, blocking her ascent to rulership of the household.

At least, that’s the way it has been for years. Recently, however, we’ve bee seeing signs of moderation. Maybe it’s because they’re getting more accepting as they age. Maybe they’re banding together against all the new arrivals. Or perhaps it’s just that in order to make sure Kokoro gets her meds and plenty of nutritions, we’re making her spend more time in Kaja’s presence.

Regardless, we’re pleased to see moments like this:

Onward

(aka Short Attention Span Theater 18)

True story.

I was coming home from work the other day–along Richmond Parkway, as it happens–when I witnessed what was, if not the stupidest driving maneuver ever, certainly one of the top ten.

Picture this: I was waiting at a red light, fourth car in line in the right lane. Two cars in the left lane. Nobody in the left turn lane. There’s a small bunch of trees on the corner to the right, which means you can’t see into the cross street until you’re actually in the intersection.

And coming up from behind me is a Mini of some sort*, zipping along at the speed limit, which happens to be 50 along there.

* I think it was a Countryman, but I’m often clueless when it comes to vehicular makes and models.

The driver wasn’t showing any sign of slowing down, and I was starting to get nervous. One doesn’t think of a Mini as “looming”, but this one was unquestionably looming in my rear-view mirror.

And then it veered to the left.

Without slowing down, it slewed across the width of the street into the left turn lane and stormed straight through the intersection, back across the full width of the street to the right lane.

About fifteen seconds later, the light changed to green–which means it had to still be green for the cross street when the idiot went through the red–but nobody moved for a good ten seconds, too stunned by the sight we’d just seen.

My immediate reaction was that the driver must be the same kind of idiot who gets his first vaccination and immediately stops wearing a mask.

On reflection, I think that’s too gentle an assessment. More likely, he hasn’t gotten vaccinated, won’t get vaccinated, and threatens to sue businesses that require customers to be masked because he thinks makes spread disease.

Moving on.

In the interest of keeping you informed of the doings of Xathanael Todd*, I bring you this excerpt from a letter I received from his father on Monday.

* Previous mentions are here and here.

“April 23rd, 24th, and 25th will be Xathanael’s final theatrical performances before graduating High School.

On The Fringe Children’s Theater in Vallejo is presenting an online production of Elephant and Piggy: We Are In A Play. Xathanael has been working there as Assistant Choreographer and Music Director. He is also starring as Gerald.”

Unlike the earlier performance noted above, this production will, in the spirit of the times, be streamed online. Tickets–a mere $5 each, though you can pay more if you wish–are available through Showtix4U, so even those of you who don’t habitually frequent Fairfield, California can attend.

I’m trying to figure out whether I can get some time off one of those days. Working evenings does have a down side.

As you may have gathered, yes, I’m back.

Late March or early April is generally when I post my “State of the Fourth Estate” summary. Last year, I was hoping to send out Demirep to my beta readers in June. I actually beat that estimate. The draft went out in mid-May.

Since then, I’ve written a grand total of zero words of fiction.

What I’ve found is that I need a certain minimum amount of structure in my life in order to write. And even after I returned to work after the lockdown, I had no routine. Schedules changed frequently, responsibilities shifted on a weekly–sometimes daily–basis. And then there were all of those one-off disasters falling into life, both political and personal.

Finally, however, life and work are settling down. I’ve made plans to carve out regular writing times. First for the blog, then for the novels. It’s going to happen. I’m going to make it happen.

Moving on again: see you Friday.

When the Calendar Just Doesn’t

Apologies to everyone stopping by for their usual plateful of whatever the heck I serve around here. Wit? Wisdom? Cheap laughs? I know it involves cats. But, anyway.

I’m taking a break.

2020 won’t go away. The calendar ticking over Friday isn’t going to magically improve anything.

Or unmagically either.

I’m damn near out of spoons, and the rest of the silverware drawer is looking rather bare, too. Which is probably just as well when it comes to the knives–but that’s part of the problem, as undirected rage and pointy objects mix all too well.

How long a break?

I don’t know. I’d like to say “When the universe stops throwing rocks at me.” Not lemons. Lemons I could work with. I like lemonade. But you can’t get lemon juice from rocks.

Realistically, the rocks aren’t going to stop. Throwing rocks is one the universe’s major occupations, coming in third behind creating vast expanses of nothing and turning hydrogen into helium.

But I’m hoping the frequency of metaphorical boulders heading in this direction will decrease over the next few months.

I will be back eventually. I’m not giving up on writing–fiction or this whatever-it-is–or on taking pictures of cats.

But right now I need to step back and concentrate on necessary precursors. Like following Gary Larson’s advice.

No predictions on when I’ll resume higher functions, except that, as so often happens, it’ll probably be later than I hope but sooner than I fear.

Until then, write if you get work and hang by your thumbs.

Enthusiasm Is a Variable Quantity

The cats got their Christmas present a couple of days early.

As one would expect, reactions are mixed. Nor, for that matter, has everyone expressed an opinion. But early returns are encouraging.

Yuki is neutral. He knows it’s there, but hasn’t shown much interest.

Watanuki, on the other forepaw, is enthusiastic.

Very enthusiastic.

Lefty is interested. Cautiously interested.

Especially cautious with Mr. Knuckles watching him. Lefty needs a certain amount of reassurance that he’s allowed to use it.

However, there’s no question about who’s most enthralled by the new playground. That’s Sachiko, paws–and all other body parts–down.

Well, okay, toe beans up, even if the other parts are down. But it’s hard to beat a twenty-beans-up rating.

There’s a Difference

I feel the pressure building up again, so I’m going to inflict another rant on y’all before the steam starts spraying out of my ears. Thanks for your patience.

Damn it, people, “stay at home” means you remain in your house.

It’s that simple.

Yes, I know the directives have exceptions. Here in California, the exceptions are to go shopping for essentials and for exercise.

I’m fine with anyone who goes for a walk, a jog, a bike ride, or other exercise. Solo or with someone they live with. Go for it. I won’t even complain if you take your mask off, as long as you’re actually in motion–keep it on if you’re doing stationary exercises, or face my wrath.

But apparently there are way, way too many people who are unclear on what constitutes “essentials”.

A few hints:

Buying groceries is essential. Having a sit-down meal in (or outside) a restaurant is not. Take-out is fine–no worse, epidemiologically speaking than grocery shopping–as long as you take it home to eat.

Shopping for a computer, cell phone, or tablet so you can work, go to school, stay in touch with family and friends, and, yes, entertain yourself is essential. Shopping for any of the above because your old one is the wrong color, weighs a couple of ounces more than the latest model, or has a small scratch on the back is not essential.

Entertainment media you can take home–books, movies, video games (yes, even video game consoles)–are essential; we don’t want anyone assaulting family members just to break up the monotony. Outside entertainment–movies, sporting events, concerts–not essential. Note that I’m not drawing a distinction between indoor and outdoor events. Yes, the risk is lower outdoors, but the constant vigilance required to stay six feet away from all the yahoos who won’t wear a mask outside is going to ruin your enjoyment of the event. Drive-in theaters? If everyone stayed in their car with the windows closed and the engine off, maybe safe enough–but essential? No.

Buying a new freezer? Depends. If you don’t have one or it doesn’t work, essential. If you want a second one to store the groceries you’re hoarding, not essential. And rethink your priorities if you accumulated a six-month supply of ground beef.

Getting the picture?

Think about it this way: remember “shelter in place” and how much you enjoyed that?* If we don’t stop breaking curfews and going out for non-essentials, we’re going find ourselves back in Shelterinplaceland.

* Man, March seems like a long time ago!

Viruses don’t care how stir-crazy you are.

Vaccines are not cures, nor are they 100% effective, and they won’t be universally available for months yet.

If it helps any, try pretending it’s a earthquake drill, like we had in school, back when we had schools. A very, very protracted drill.

Duck and cover!

(Note: duck is not essential–but it is available from many grocery and restaurant delivery services.)

Like They’re Magnetic

There’s just no accounting for tastes.

I mean, we love Yuki. He’s a charmer, a snuggler, and a cutie. Sure, he drools–one of his nicknames is “Slobbergoblin”–but he’s still quite a lovable fellow.

Emeraldas takes it to extremes.

She’d rather give Yuki full-body headbumps than eat krunchy treats (watch for the moment near the end of the video where she actually stomps on a treat in her haste to snuggle Yuki.)

The weirdest element of her fascination is that he’s the only cat she seems to like. She’s downright violent with Lefty, and treats the others with anything from wary disapproval to superior disdain.

What makes Yuki so attractive?

No telling. Maybe it’s the drool.

Take a Deep Breath and…

The good news is that there is a vaccine being distributed in the U.S., and more are likely to be approved for distribution soon.

The better news is that front line healthcare workers are getting the first doses. This is so logical and sensible that I can’t believe it’s actually happening in 2020.

Granted, that may not be the case in all states–each state gets to set its own priorities–but most are putting doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals first, with the most vulnerable elderly close behind.

Amazing.

Naturally, there are those who disagree. Not because 2020, depressingly enough, but because the world is full of people who either can’t or won’t think logically.

“But what about the essential workers?”

“But what about the food service and restaurant workers?”

“But what about the teachers?” (Often followed by “…and the high school and college students?”)

I haven’t heard, “But what about the hair dressers and barbers?” yet, but I figure that’s only a matter of time. After all, nearly a dozen California state senators are petitioning the governor to classify restaurants as essential businesses and allow them to open for dining.

Remember, folks: a vaccine is not a cure. They only stop you from getting a disease if you don’t already have it. And in this specific case, it takes several weeks and two shots to reach its full effectiveness.

So let’s be blunt and look at the bottom line. We can’t vaccinate everyone at once. Can not. There aren’t enough doses available and there aren’t enough people to administer the shots and do the record keeping (especially including the part about ensuring that people show up on time for their second shots).

The more classes of people you including in the first wave of “must haves”, the more likely failure becomes. Heck, if you don’t think there’s potential for abuse of the process, just look at what your state classifies as “essential businesses”. Not matter where you live, I guarantee you’ll find at least one–probably several–that you vehemently disagree with. Or just look at how poorly testing services have been managed.

For the record, in California, I’m considered an essential worker. Doesn’t change my opinion. Realistically, most of the members of the public I come into contact with are not going to be carriers. Measures to prevent the spread–masks, barriers, and distancing–are onerous, but they work.

Would I like to be vaccinated? Do I intend to get the shots when it’s my turn? Yes and yes. But I’m not one of the people most in need.

We need to focus on smaller, more attainable goals than “give it to everyone”.

In this case, it means starting with the people who have the most confirmed contact with the virus: emergency room and ICU personnel, their support staff, and their immediate families.

Spread out from there: more medical professionals, nursing home and hospice staff and–to the extent possible–patients. Again, where it can be done, make vaccines available to families, not just individuals.

Note that I said “immediate family” not “family”. Those closely related and living in geographic proximity. Spouses or partners, parents, children. Yes, that policy is subject to abuse, but so is every other policy. But the benefits are huge: pockets of the vaccinated can act as the viral equivalent of firebreaks.

We’ve seen that social bubbles can slow the spread of the virus. Think of family vaccinations as strengthening bubble walls. If your life depended on staying in a physical bubble, would you want it to be a soap bubble or a rubber balloon?

Hey, there’s a slogan I can get behind:

INFLATE THE BALLOON!