HOF 2023

It’s that time again; one of the surest signs that Spring Training is on the way: the Hall of Fame votes have been announced.

Once again, only one player made it into the Hall: Scott Rolen, making the jump from 63.2% of the votes, past the magic number of 75%, all the way to election with 5 votes to spare at 76.3%. Welcome, Scott!

At the other end of the voting, seven players failed to garner a single nod. Five more scraped up a single sympathy vote, and, to my surprise, nobody had more than one. The next lowest total was Torii Hunter hanging onto the ballot for another year with nearly 7%.

I don’t have any significant disagreements at either end of the balloting. I’d have liked to see R.A. Dickey get a few more votes in recognition of his contributions to the art of the knuckleball, but even there, I agree with the voters that his career wasn’t Hall-worthy. And I’ve got no problem with Todd Helton, Billy Wagner, Andruw Jones, and/or Gary Sheffield being elected; none of them made it this year, but they all had significant jumps, at least in part because the Bonds/Clemens logjam is gone.

As for those guys in the middle, there are arguments to be had.

Alex Rodriguez, for one. Last year, he scored 34.3% on 135 votes. This year, he soared to 139 votes, good for 35.7%. I like this trend. If it continues, he’ll hit 171 votes (somewhere around 58%) in his final year of eligibility. I’m more than okay with that.

On the other hand, we’ve got Omar Visquel. IMNSHO, he belongs in the Hall. But his 19.5% score this year is a significant drop from last year’s 23.9%. I don’t see him falling off the ballot before his eligibility runs out after 2027, but I don’t see him getting elected either.

All in all, 2023 was a quiet year as far as Cooperstown was concerned. Next year should be more interesting, though. There are several newcomers to the ballot I expect to make the cut: Adrian Beltre, Joe Mauer, and Bartolo Colon spring to mind. But will any of them get in on their first ballots? Somehow I doubt it.

Only a bit over two weeks until pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training. Three weeks until positions players check in. And the first exhibition games are a mere three and a half weeks away. Everyone ready for something resembling baseball?

Snugglepanther!

I believe I’ve mentioned from time to time that Lefty has come a long way from the original raging, fearful bundle of fangs and claws he presented as when we first abdopted him from the yard. He still has his moments of hoomin-suspicion, but for the most part he’s a cheerful, cuddly creature.

His latest favorite pastime is to wait until I lie down on the bed, and then snuggle into my armpit.

I give him skritches and pettings, he gives me purrs. Works for both of us.

Until my fingers get tired and I stop patting. Then he reminds me that he’s still got those claws.

It’s a slow motion slap, taking a good five seconds or more, so I have plenty of time to resume the active cuddling before he makes contact. And even if he reaches me, he doesn’t dig the claws in, just rests them on my cheek–or tangles them into my beard.

Unusual Doings

A couple of unusual, even unique, things are happening in Seattle.

In sports. And they’re good things.

Seriously.

Check this out: This season, the Mariners had a rookie make the All-Star Game. So did the Kraken. And the Seahawks had a rookie make the Pro Bowl*.

* For those not oriented to sportsball, the NFL’s Pro Bowl fills the same ecological niche as the All-Star Game does in the other major sports.

Congrats to Julio Rodriguez, Matty Beniers, and Tariq Woolen, respectively.

This is the first time in the recorded history of the four major professional sports (baseball, hockey, football, and basketball) where one city has had rookies get this level of recognition in three sports in the same year.

That’s impressive.

But, to be fair, Seattle has often done well with their rookies. Developing and accumulating talent to make for a winning team has been rather more difficult in the Northwest.

So that makes the other thing going on now even more impressive.

Consider:

After 21 years, the Mariners made the playoffs. Granted, they didn’t make it very far, but it’s still an achievement of note.

The Seahawks, despite a truly horrendous mid-season and a 9-8 record also made the playoffs. Admittedly, they didn’t even last as long as the Mariners, nor has it been nearly as long a playoff drought (they lost their Wildcard game a mere two years back). But still, playoffs.

And then there are the Kraken. Remember, this is a team in only their second season, who in their first roundly fulfilled my prediction that they would “dive to the sea floor, subsisting on a diet of the occasional bottom-dweller that strays into reach of their tentacles.” They finished the 20/21 season with a mere 60 points, 37 short of the Wild Card (at least they finished three points ahead of Arizona). This year, with the season a bit more than half done, they’re a single point out of first place in their division. It’s not quite a ’69 Mets turnaround–and they still theoretically could finish with a worse record than last year–but it’s pretty darn impressive.

Making the playoffs in three different sports in one year? Not bad, Seattle, not bad–if you can pull it off.

Could this be the start of a sport renaissance in the Northwest? Probably not. A little respect in the national press? Even less likely.

A heck of a lot of fun while it lasts? Oh, yes.

Reflective

The end of the year is traditionally a time for reflection.

Watanuki isn’t generally one for such introspection, but he’s been known to lapse into the occasional contemplative mood.

Note not just the furrowed (and furry) brow, but also the elegantly crossed paws symbolizing deep thought.

Granted, in his case, it’s likely to be thoughts of mischief and/or thuggery.

But at least he’s thinking, rather than doing.

The Damp Isn’t the Worst of It

You may have heard that it’s been wet in California lately. I’m here to confirm that the rumors are true.

We’ve had rainfall of biblical proportions*.

* Overstatement. It hasn’t rained continuously for forty days and forty nights (though it does feel like it). But there have been record-setting quantities of precipitation, and I suspect that more than a few residents of the Bay Area wish they had built arks.

Yesterday was the worst so far. Not in the quantity so much as in the special effects department. There was just a tiny bit of thunder and lightning* to go along with the rain and hail.

* Understatement. Multiple thunderstorms with massive, multi-second, literally house-shaking rolls of thunder.

We’ve been fortunate (picture me knocking on wood at this point). No flooding (other than a leak in the garage roof, directly over the spot where our phone line comes in), the foundations are still solid, the storm drains in our area are keeping up with the precipitation, and we haven’t lost power.

But I can say with no fear of contradiction that Bay Area felines aren’t used to thunder and don’t have a clue what to do about it.

Hiding seems to be a popular choice. Sachiko and Lefty disappeared into the master bedroom closet the first time the house shook and didn’t reappear until nearly dinnertime. Emeraldas vanished into an undisclosed location and wasn’t seen until this morning.

G’aw curled up in the Rose Cottage in the back yard, tucked his ears under his stomach and appeared to sleep through the afternoon storm.

‘Nuki, self-proclaimed master of the universe, slunk into my office making pitiful meepling noises and required a good fifteen minutes of snuggles before he calmed down enough to sink a couple of claws into my leg.

Kokoro’s been around long enough to have seen and heard it all; she woke up when the thunder hit, looked around, and went back to napping. Smart lady.

To be fair, Bay Area humans aren’t all that great with thunder either. My reaction has been to hold my breath, waiting for the lights to go out. Hypoxia was a real risk.

Reports say we’ve got at least another week of rain. Here’s hoping it doesn’t include thunder.

Ottergirl Strikes

I believe I’ve mentioned before that Kaja and her littermate, Rhubarb, spend most of their time in Maggie’s office, but they do sometimes decide a bit of whole-house exploration is warranted.

I’ve also noted that Kaja’s days as Little Miss Ottergirl, going wherever she otter not* are largely past.

* In particular, it’s been a long, long time since she’s tried to walk up the underside of the staircase.

Occasionally, rare events intersect.

Prior to Kaja’s arrival on top of the washing machine, that space had been occupied by half a mincemeat pie. Fortunately, Maggie was able to remove the pie before it wound up decorating the mighty huntress’ hindquarters*.

* That Maggie also managed to get this picture before Kaja decamped (de-washered?) is nothing short of amazing. Yes, photo credit to her.

Customer Service from a Sandwich Perspective

Bell peppers don’t belong on a meatball sandwich.

No, don’t bother arguing. This is non-negotiable.

A meatball sandwich–a proper meatball sandwich–has but four components: a solid roll (and no, not Dutch Crunch) that can absorb liquid without falling apart, tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, and meatballs.

Anything else distracts from pure appreciation of the star of the dish; a well-spiced meatball is a thing of purity and beauty. And bell peppers are a wishy-washy, waxy substitute for food, barely a step up from lettuce on the “why would you want to eat that on a sandwich” ladder.

Not that I’m trying to convince you about any of this. It’s not the point. Today.

I bring up the subject of the meatball sandwich because it was recently the catalyst for a lesson in customer service done both poorly and well.

There’s a localish pizza chain around here, Me-n-Ed’s, that does a quite good meatball sandwich*. They use well-toasted focaccia, the meatballs have flavor, and the sauce-to-cheese-to-meat ratio is darn near perfect. And then they spoil the sandwich by adding those darn peppers.

* They do add onions, but I can live with that. Onions, unlike bell peppers, are actual food. Interestingly, now that I look at the online menu, it appears that not all the locations have the meatball sandwich. Nice that they allow some local variations instead of enforcing a single menu across all locations.

Fortunately, experience has shown that they’re quite willing to let you customize your order; omitting the peppers doesn’t even cost extra.

We usually phone in our order, then drive over and pick it up. This weekend, with all the rain, we thought we’d try ordering online for delivery. It didn’t go well.

The online order system is provided by something called intouchposonline.com. Intouch is, to put it bluntly, out of touch.

First, the site doesn’t work in Firefox. Windows close without saving data–including the registration window closing if you try to select anything other than “Mobile” as the type of phone. Granted, Firefox is only the fourth most popular browser out there, but why would you do so little testing that you prevent 5% of your potential customers from becoming actual customers?

So I switched to Chrome, registered, and signed in.

Strike One: I registered using the same phone number I’ve given them in the past when making a phone order, but there was no indication that I had a history with them. No saved credit card information, no previous orders, nothing to show there’s any communication between the online and offline systems.

Strike Two: Each sandwich has an “Add to cart” and a “Customize” button. But clicking either one takes you to a page where you select whether you’re making a delivery, take out, or dine in order. If that choice needs to be made before you can order, maybe ask for it before you display the menu? Otherwise you’re yanking your customers from one mental workflow to another.

Strike Three: Once I was able to customize my sandwiches–NO PEPPERS!–and add them to the cart, they displayed as non-customized. Clicking the Edit button showed the customization, but by that point, I’d lost faith that my order would be processed properly.

Contrast with the telephone order process:

“Hi, I’d like to place an order for pick up.”

“Can I have your phone number, please?”

I gave my number, he asked if I was Casey, and when I said yes, he said “Last time you ordered two meatball sandwiches, no bell peppers. Would you like the same thing?”

I confirmed that that was what I wanted, and he said they’d be ready in twenty minutes.

Took less than a minute from when I picked up the phone to when I put it down, and I had complete faith that I’d get the food the way I wanted it.

As I said, there’s a lesson there.

Clearly, whoever designed the phone order system was thinking about it from the customer’s perspective: “How do we make this fast and easy?”

By contrast, whoever designed the online system approached it from the perspective of intouchposonline.com and the developers: “How do we deploy the system quickly and start making money?”

I know which system I’ll be using in the future. And saving the online order surcharge means I can give the guys at the store a bigger tip. That’s the real win of a properly designed, customer focused system.

An Uncommon Trio

I know I just said, or at least strongly implied, that I wasn’t going to post pictures of cats on the bed. But this one is unusual enough to be an exception.

Most often, if there are three cats on the bed at the same time, it’s either Watanuki, Yuki, and Lefty (The Big Bruiser Boys Brigade)–in which case they’re all on separate corners–or it’s Yuki, Lefty, and Emeraldas snuggled up together.

Behold the variance.

I interrupted some serial grooming here: ‘Nuki was washing Yuki’s neck, while Yuki was cleaning Em’s ears. Important work, no question, so it’s not surprising that Em stalked off shortly after the picture was taken, muttering darkly about impertinent bipeds who can’t mind their own business.

Of course, she did come back about half an hour later–after ‘Nuki had migrated to the foot of the bed–and began grooming Yuki herself. But her point had been made.

Say Hello

Actually, these guys–or their kinfolk, anyway–have been around for years. They’ve been coming around more frequently than usual over the past few weeks. I’m assuming the quality of the graze is better here than wherever they’ve been hanging out.

As recently as a week ago, one of them was still pointy, but he seems to have finally shed this year’s decorations. Not, unfortunately, anyplace we’ve visited. They’d look good as yard decorations, I think. Properly placed and mounted, they could do fine work discouraging door-to-door leaflet distributors.

Despite their inconsiderate antler-disposal practices, on the whole they’re polite, at least by comparison with the turkey gangs and the marauding bands of trash pandas.

SAST 22

No, you didn’t overlook a weekend post. There wasn’t one.

I’m not going to apologize, just lay the blame squarely where it belongs: with the critters.

If they refuse to do anything sufficiently photogenic when I have a camera handy, there really isn’t much I can do, now is there?

Of course, it doesn’t help that the recent cold weather has reduced their activity to “lie around on the bed, getting up only to eat and use the box”. Cute, but when the only difference from one day to the next is in who has staked out which chunk of blanket, the photos do get more than a bit repetitious.

Admittedly, we get minor variations.

For instance, there was an earthquake recently. Small, but centered only a few miles from our house. All cats vanished from the bed. But when you’re awakened at 3:30am by multiple paws thundering across your abdomen, photography is not the first thing that springs to mind. Or maybe it would be for you. It wasn’t for me.

A couple of days later, the smoke detector in the bedroom started making its “battery low” beep: one chirp every 40 seconds. Yuki couldn’t stand the sound and began yowling as though his tail was being pulled out by the roots*. Did I mention that this was at 6:00 am? It was. Again, photography not the first thing on my mind.

* He’s very proud of his luxurious plume. I dare say the psychological pain of having it yanked out would exceed the far-from-negligible physical pain.

Anyway, I’m still keeping my phone handy, but until the weather warms up and critters start moving around and doing things during hours I’m awake, there may be the occasional missed post.

Moving on.

File this under “WQTS”. It’s not significant enough to warrant a post of its own, but I thought it was worth pointing out.

Not too long ago, I had cause to install the Amazon Music program on my computer. It went through the usual steps*: download the installer, run it, twiddle my fingers for a minute or so, and then try to remember my Amazon password so I could sign into the program.

* Bother. I just noticed I could have installed it via the winget command I mentioned last week. Alas for missed opportunities.

All was well until after I closed the program and then realized I’d forgotten one of the things I’d intended to do. So I checked the All Programs menu, and was befuddled to see Amazon Music listed not once, but twice.

Normally, when a program wants to add itself to that menu, it creates a program shortcut in a specific folder. Done. Or, if the program needs multiple entries (for example, one for the program itself and one for a link to the company’s support website), it’ll create a folder inside that special Windows folder and put its links in that private folder.

Amazon, in an impressive display of bureaucratic bungling, does both: it creates a program shortcut named “Amazon Music” and a folder, also called “Amazon Music”, which–you guessed it–contains a program shortcut named “Amazon Music” (and also a link to the uninstall program, should you be so meanspirited as to want to get rid of “Amazon Music” in all its infinite incarnations. Which Windows, in its great wisdom mishandles, shows as two program icons, instead of one program and one folder.

“Well,” I said to myself, “that’s silly. And redundant.” So I deleted the standalone icon, thinking Windows would then properly display the folder.

Not only did that not work–Windows continued to show a program instead of a folder–but when I launched the program it recreated the icon I had deleted!

So Windows mishandles the situation where there’s a folder with the same name as a program. And Amazon overrides its users’ specific instructions. WQTS?

Moving on again.

Amongst all the nocturnal feline disturbances and the normal daytime alarums and excursions, I also found time to get my head examined. The conclusion: I still have a head.

More seriously, I’ve been somewhat concerned about my hearing, given the daily assault on my eardrums that is the retail environment.

It was, in its way, almost entertaining. I got the “raise your hand when you hear a tone” test, the “repeat the words this recording is saying” test, and the “repeat the sentence this other recording is saying with decreasing volume relative to background party noises” test. All while sitting in a soundproof room with earphones in. Okay, so maybe “entertaining” isn’t quite the right word. It was interesting and enlightening.

As I implied above, the results were generally good. I’ve got some marginal hearing loss in one ear, especially in the range of pitches typical of speech–which certainly explains the trouble I have hearing people at work when the background noise gets particularly excessive–but on the whole, I’ve still got two functional ears.

I’ll take my victories where I can. I will say, however, that the brochure on how to listen better is pretty darn useless.