Kitteh Parteh Time!

We have multiple kitteh partehs each evening. Kokoro gets a private party, because her treats contain her meds. The Flying Monkeys have their party, the downstairs gang gets two–partly for historical reasons, partly to help ensure that Emeraldas gets her fair share–and, of course, Yuki gets a parteh before we close him into his room for the night.

Yuki’s parteh is actually the first of the evening, and it’s the only one that’s open invitation. Whoever shows up gets treats. And, naturally, his brother-in-all-but-genetics is always there. In fact, Watanuki often shows up before Yuki does.

But it’s still Yuki’s parteh, and Mr. Floof gets the first treat.

And, yes, we do use tongs to distribute the treats. Only at Yuki’s parteh. Because while the Ooki brothers are generally safe enough to hand-feed, something about being next to each other like this brings out their darker sides (no pun intended).

You do not want to get your fingers too close to the fearsome, chawmpin’ jaws of the Floofigator.

Nor do you want to risk digital integrity when Thugzilla shows up.

I mean, seriously. Right-click those photos and “open in new tab” to see them full size. Take a close look at the toothmarks in the tongs. Picture them on your hands.

We’re considering adding puncture-proof gloves to our Yuki Parteh outfits.

A Different Way of Thinking

I thought this was an interesting difference in how people think.

For background, Cloudflare was down for a while Tuesday. That meant a substantial chunk of the Internet was down, because Cloudflare is, in essence, a provider of web capacity. When you make a request for a web page from a site that uses their services, the request goes first to Cloudflare. If they have a local copy of the page–they pass it to your browser. If not, they request it from the original site, give it to you, and keep a copy to fulfil future requests*. It’s all transparent to you and your web browser and it protects your favorite web sites against denial of service attacks.

* There’s more to it than that, naturally. Controls to ensure that Cloudflare doesn’t keep pages containing personal information and serve them up to others, for example.

Everything is fine and the Internet is a happy place until Cloudflare itself runs into problems.

When that happens, they generally send your browser an error message, most commonly one in the 500 range. (400-type errors are indicative of problems on your end; for example, most people are familiar with the 404 error, meaning you–or your browser–asked for a page that doesn’t exist.) 500 errors are for trouble at the other end of the connection: the server crashed, can’t handle the volume of traffic it’s getting, can’t contact the site it’s trying to be a front end for, and so on.

And most of Cloudflare’s 500-type error messages identify Cloudflare as the location where the problem occurred and make a recommendation: click a link to try to contact the original site directly, try again later, etc.

As I write this on Tuesday afternoon, Cloudflare is back up and the Internet is running as smoothly as it ever does. And, naturally, people what to know what went wrong.

According to Google’s trending searches list, the Number One search in Japan, by a significant margin, is for “Cloudflare”. (I find it vaguely amusing that this is the only English language search term on the list.)

In the UK, “Cloudflare” is the third most common search, trending well behind “Xavier Musk” and “Tom Mann”. Makes sense, right? Get your popular culture news first, then go learn why you couldn’t get the news earlier.

Then there’s the US. “Cloudflare” didn’t even make the list. Instead, there was a mass of searches for “500 error”. Google helpfully directed them to a random web page that promised to explain what they are (reasonable) and how to fix them (you can’t; see above).

Americans, it seems, are more interested in fixing a problem than in fixing responsibility. Elsewhere, there appears to be some recognition that many problems are transient, and once they’re resolved, it might be a good idea to take a look at who caused them.

Think I’m reading too much into this? Long-time readers will remember the Bay Bridge Bolt Botch. Lots of energy around the bolts, determining how many were failing, what the effects of failure would be, and on and on. Zero desire to determine who was responsible for a design that included bolts that might not have been needed, who specced the wrong bolts, who signed off on their installation, who may have tested them improperly (or not tested them at all, according to some reports).

It gives one to think, doesn’t it? Because, after all, if nobody knows who’s responsible, it could be anyone–Saudi Arabia! The President! Bill Gates! Joe Shlabotnik!

Or even nobody at all: Natural cycles! Sunspots! UFOs!

Sedalia 2022

So, yes, Sedalia.

The festival came off, despite three musicians having to cancel due to COVID-19. Alternates were found, programming went on, and a good time was had by all. Or all in attendance, anyway. I won’t speak for those who were stuck at home. And more than a week after returning, I remain symptom-free, nor have I heard anything suggesting widespread post-festival infections.

The music was, as always, excellent. The upgraded Pavilion venue is a rousing success. And good fellowship ran rampant—unsurprisingly, variants of the phrase “it’s great to be back after two years” were heard everywhere. Arguably, heard a bit too much. Mad props to Taslimah Bey for being the only person* to refer on stage to those we’ve lost over the past two years, whether to COVID-19 or other causes.

* Granted, with three widely separated stages going at once, it’s possible I missed someone else making note of our losses during the outdoor sets. But she’s definitely the only one to comment during the concerts when—theoretically—everyone was present in one place.

I believe attendance was down—unsurprisingly—but there did seem to be more local residents attending than in years past.

One of those unable to attend, regrettably, was Bill McNally. Since Bill is the director for the Ragtime Kids Program, I was worried about how it would work out, but he pulled it off remotely. Both of the Kids did stellar turns—highlights of the festival IMNSHO. Leo Roth’s symposium was well worth getting up for* and Tadao Tomokiyo’s performances drew rave reviews.

* Why does the festival only schedule symposia in the morning? There always seems to be at least one I’d like to attend, but can’t quite drag myself out of bed for. Time zones suck.

The presentation of the Ragtime Kids at the Friday afternoon concert—you can see the whole event on YouTube—went smoothly. Those long, skinny things we gave them are inscribed piano keys; part of their loot bags, which also included posters, books, and their honoraria.

All in all, the festival was a success. But being in Sedalia was, well, uncomfortable. The inhabitants don’t think the same way as us West Coasters. Which I knew going in, but it was still a bit of a shock to see and hear it.

Case in point: over the four days we were there, we went into six restaurants. One had removed tables to allow more space between patrons. Only one—a different one—had added outdoor seating. No locals were wearing masks. And the drugstore we passed every day had a sign out front begging people to drop in for COVID-19 vaccinations (around here, you need an appointment, but apparently even that’s too much to ask of a Sedalian.)

Nor does there seem to be any recognition of climate change. As we were driving into town, we noted a significant paucity of corn fields. When we mentioned it to locals, the response was a shrug and “It’s been too wet to plant corn this year. Now that it’s drying out, we’re planting soybeans.” No one seemed concerned about next year.

But the biggest barrier to understanding between the edges of the country and the center? Gas.

My local gas station has the lowest prices around. When I passed it on my way to the airport, the price per gallon was $6.139. That day, prices everywhere between Kansas City and Sedalia were between $4.129 and $4.159. Over the course of the festival, the price rose to $4.549. When I got home, the California price was $6.359.

Sure, there were some grumbles about the high price of gas. But not the sort of “this is outrageous” rumblings that are driving Californians—and other Coasters—to buy hybrids and electrics. Why should they worry? Filling the tank doesn’t require a bank loan.

If the EPA really wants to drive adoption of alternatively powered vehicles, they should push for legislation setting a single price of gas across the country. Never fly, of course; the oil industry would love the short-term profits, but they’re smart enough to know the long-term effects would kill off their business. A pity.

Good Morning

We all have our crosses to bear.

Mine is that I’m decidedly not a morning person. Doesn’t matter how much sleep I get, I just don’t function at peak capacity until afternoon (and aftercaffeination).

So you might think that I’m distinctly unfond of opening my eyes to see, well, this:

After all, for most cats this would be the “It’s morning and I want my breakfast” greeting.

Lefty is not most cats.

This is his “Don’t get up. Take five more minutes* to give me snuggles before you crawl out of bed—and feel free to keep your eyes closed if it makes the day easier” greeting.

* Or five more hours. Whatever works for you.

Thank all the greater and lesser gods and goddesses for our SnugglePanther.

WWDC 2022

Bet you thought I was going to talk about Sedalia and the Ragtime Festival. I will, of course. Just not today. I mean, I rearranged the blog schedule so I could talk about Google’s last event, so it’s only fair not to keep Apple waiting.

And there is a fair amount to talk about.

Starting, naturally, with what to expect from the upcoming iOS 16. The biggest news there as far as I’m concerned, is that Apple has finally pulled the plug on the ancient iPhone 6 series and the iPhone 7. If you’re still clinging to those phones, it’s time to put them away. It’s only going to get harder to fix them from here on. Better to move to something newer now while the phone is functioning.

Once you’re on iOS 16, you’ll be getting some goodies, too. Like live widgets on the lock screen. So you can do things like checking the weather or sports scores without unlocking the phone. And you can personalize the appearance with new fonts and color options. Once Apple introduced the massive home screen personalization in iOS 15, personalization of the lock screen was inevitable. People really don’t want their phones to look just like everyone else’s. Who knew? (I’m particularly excited about the “live notifications” which will let a single notification update with new information. Think sports scores here: instead of getting a new notification every time the score changes—all of which you’ll have to swipe away—now you’ll just have one notification that updates. Google’s been doing this for a while with things like the Google Assistant traffic notification; it’s good to see Apple keeping up.)

Here’s a nice one: Apple will add a Quick Start feature to Family Sharing to ensure that it’s set up properly. No more having the kids “hack” the system to get around the limits you set for them by discovering that you forgot to add a password…

And here’s a horrible one: iCloud Shared Photos. Everyone who has access to the shared library can add, edit, and delete photos for everyone. Apple, kill this. It’s already too easy for people to manipulate the information on their exes’ phones. Don’t give them another avenue of approach.

And yes, I say that even though Apple is also rolling out “Safety Check”, which is intended to give you a one-click method to stop sharing with specific individuals. Safety Check is a great idea. I’m just dubious about how effective it’ll be—and how easy it will be for someone being stalked to find and turn on.

That aside, it’s unclear what effect editing or deleting a photo in the shared library has on the original. People are already confused about how to delete photos from their phones to free up space without also deleting them from the iCloud. Now there’s a possible additional level of complexity. I predict chaos.

Moving on. Updates to WatchOS: new faces, new metrics, custom workouts, and so on. I do like the sound of the Medication app: there are a lot of people who could use the reminders to take their drugs on time. I just hope there’s an easy way for doctors to add the meds for their patients; anyone with a long list is probably going to be slow to get them entered. That said, if the app also tracks when prescriptions need to be refilled and gives users an in-app reorder button, it’ll be a big win.

As for the Mac world, yes, the M2* is finally a thing. A slightly larger than the M1, with a higher ceiling and lower power requirements. The first device to get it: the MacBook Air. Redesigned to be thinner and lighter, with a larger screen. And it’s got a MagSafe charging port, so you don’t lose one of your two precious Thunderbolt ports when you need to plug the machine in. And yes, the M1 MacBook Air will still be around, if you don’t need the ultimate in power and want to save a bit of cash.

* Presumably the M2 Pro and M2 Ultra will be along in the near future.

MacOS is getting an update as well, of course. Fare well, Monterey; welcome Ventura.

This is cool: Stage Manager is a new feature that will put small thumbnails of your active programs off to one side of the screen so whatever you’re working in can be centered without having to maximize it, but still letting you keep track of what’s going on in the background.

Naturally, Apple wants you to have an iPhone to go along with your MacBook. So they’re tying the two platforms closer together with the ability to pass FaceTime calls from one to the other—and to use your phone as a webcam. Much better than the laptop’s built-in camera, especially if your iPhone is a 12 or more recent.

Nor is Apple forgetting about your iPad. Collaboration is the big focus there, with document sharing front and center, and a new app called Freeform. It’s basically a shared whiteboard. Useful for business, especially when it arrives on phones and computers.

The iPad is also getting Stage Manager. Now that is a big win. It should make multitasking on the iPad immensely easier, especially if the rumored freely resizeable windows put in an appearance.

You all know I’ve been underwhelmed by Apple’s last few system iterations—evolve rather than revolutionize. But with the exception of the shared photos mess, I’m genuinely impressed with what’s coming. Maybe not quite enough to buy a Mac, and definitely not enough to replace my Pixel phone with an iPhone. But I can legitimately say there are several things I’m looking forward to seeing in the real world.

Kudos, Apple.

…When They’re Asleep

The comings and goings of the hoomins are generally of little concern to ‘Nuki. As long as dinner is served on time, he’s not much interested in who provides it. And away from the food bowl, he concerns himself exclusively with running the security force and sleeping.

Looks so peaceful, doesn’t he?

Not all is as it might seem, however.

That tail he’s cuddling? Not his.

Hard as it might be to believe, but Knuckles Malloy, local asshole-about-the-house and head of Ooki Brothers Security Services, sleeps better with a stuffed animal.

A very well-stuffed animal in this case.

Srs Kitteh Is Srs

Sachiko considers it very important to keep on top of the news.

She is, without question, the most dedicated butt-reader in the family.

And, while her choice of reading material speaks well of her determination to stay informed, the sad truth is that–appearances notwithstanding–much of the content is over her head.

Next Week

This time next week, I’ll be on my way to Sedalia for the Scott Joplin Ragtime Festival.

Yes, there’s an actual, in-person festival happening this year.

Is this a good idea? Well… On one forepaw, it is Missouri–which the Mayo Clinic says has the 40th lowest percentage of the population fully vaccinated. And we won’t even talk about masking.

On the other forepaw, the performers and audience are coming from all over the world. I suspect as a group they’re going to be more highly vaccinated than the people who live there. And there’s nothing stopping me, or anyone else in attendance, from wearing a mask.

In truth, the exposure risk seems on a par with what I experience dealing with the public every day at work.

So there’s that.

To be honest, I’m no more immune to the lure of “Get out of the house and do something normal” than anyone else. But this isn’t solely an exercise in COVID denial.

The cancelation of the 2020 festival was a big disappointment, even more so than the reasons why canceling everything else that spring and summer disappointed everyone. That was, if you recall, the Year of the Woman, marking the hundredth anniversary of women getting the vote in the US. And the Sedalia festival was going all-in on the theme, emphasizing female performers and composers.

And on a more personal level, 2020 was going to be the year the SJRF’s Ragtime Kid program–funded by donations to the Foundation in Dad’s memory–would debut. Obviously, that didn’t happen.

We used the time to refine our concepts, figuring to go live with the 2021 festival. Which also didn’t happen.

So now we’ve got 2021 and 2022 Ragtime Kids to introduce. Somebody’s got to be there to represent, right?

As if three-plus days of good music and catching up with friends we haven’t seen in three years isn’t enough incentive to attend*.

* And, of course, Sedalia is just about halfway between Kansas City and St. Louis. That’s prime BBQ country; hard to resist for a family that travels on its stomach as much as mine.

All of which is a long-winded lead-up to letting y’all know that there won’t be a Wednesday post next week. I’ll do my best to cue up a Friday post so nobody feels fuzzy-deprived, and I expect everything to be back to normal on June 8.

And, of course, this is also a commercial message, reminding you that the Foundation will still cheerfully accept donations in Dad’s memory and use them to support the Ragtime Kid program. Contact information is here.