Elegance Personified

Some cats–arguably a near-majority–are naturally elegant. Their fur is just-so, they move through life with grace and style, and they would never deign to humiliate themselves in front of a human.

Then there’s Watanuki.

Yes, it’s time for the Kitteh Parteh.

And, yes, the bib was foisted on him by the bipeds who feared death by drowning in slobber.

And, yes again, standing on his hind legs gets the treats to his mouth a smidgeon sooner.

But he’s certainly not going to win any awards for elegance, grace, or table manners.

Amusing as that picture is, though, check out the scene after the treat goes down his throat and ‘Nuki begins to relax toward his normal four-legged posture.

It’s not so much the “Oh, my Cat, what have I done?” expression on his face that makes it hilarious. It’s the fact that this scene–right down to his expression–is usually repeated five or six times every night.


Why, yes, it has been an obnoxious month. How did you guess?

Something about the missed posts, right? Yeah, sorry about that. Too much going on, not enough sleep. It adds up to a lack of focus and ability to concentrate. And you know what that leads to.


Starting with a follow-up thought on the new MLB rules.

Now that I’ve watched a couple of games with those rules in effect, I have to say they’re not having as big an effect as I’d thought they would. Yes, the pitch clock is keeping things moving; I still have mixed feelings about that, but I’m leaning a little more toward the positive. The psychological battle between pitcher and batter can be exciting, but too often it degenerates into a rote call-and-response. So I favor anything that forces the players to find new ways to unsettle each other–though I have to admit, I do wonder how Ichiro would have coped with the pitch clock.

My biggest concern around the pitch clock and its associated rule changes is the limitation on how many times the pitcher can attempt a pickoff. Sure, unlimited tosses got abused from time to time. But I do worry that limiting the pitcher to no more than two attempts will put too much power on the batter’s side. Pitchers and catchers are either going to have to find other ways to hold the runner on–quick pitch and a snap throw from the plate, anyone?–or speed up their routine even further so the runner doesn’t have time to set himself and steal.

And, while I’m not looking forward to a game being decided on a clock violation, I have to admit it’s really not that different from a game-ending balk*. I expect we’ll see several clock-offs this year, but the numbers should drop quickly as players get more accustomed to the clock.

* That’s happened less than two dozen times in MLB history, by the way.

Moving on.

You may have noticed that St. Patrick’s Day was last week. As usual, America celebrated–if you can call it that–the occasion with green clothing, alcohol, and sales on “traditionally Irish” merchandise. Our local supermarket got into the act, of course, but it seems their ad crew started the celebration a little too early. By the look of things, the entire staff was either drunk or working through a hangover:

“Green Cabage” is a steal at 39 cents a pound, and ten pounds of “Patatoes” for five bucks isn’t bad either.

But I have to wonder about that “Guines Pub Draught”. We exclusively use Guinness in soups and stews; I don’t think I’m ready to try replacing it with a brew whose name sounds like a cheap copycat product, even at the remarkably low price of fifteen dollars.

Moving on one more time.

Saturday will be the tenth anniversary of this blog.

It’s traditional to mark significant anniversaries with noise and spectacle. I don’t think I’m going to do that. For one thing, the 25th is a work day. For another, Sunday is a far more important anniversary: the 44th anniversary of the day Maggie and I met. Forty-four isn’t one of those “significant” numbers, but since the blog anniversary never could have happened without her support, I’d rather devote what time I have available this weekend to her.

Deer Dere

For a number of reasons, most of them irrelevant to anyone on the other side of my keyboard, today seemed like a good day to remind you that not all of the four-legged cute things around here are cats.

Case in point:

They worked their way along the hillside, and I was hoping to get some video of them eating when they got a little closer.

It didn’t turn out very well:

Turns out that cameras work much more consistently when there’s electricity in their batteries. Who knew?

By the time I had swapped out the battery, they’d had their fill of hillside grass. The best I could do was a quick still of their departure.

I conclude that they’re English deer: Americans would presumably know that they should keep to the other side of the street.

Or perhaps they’re learning traffic safety from some of our less cautious local drivers.

New Modes of Transportation

Those of you who are fans of Japanese animation–or have gotten too close to a fan–are, no doubt, familiar with the catbus:

Allow me to introduce you to a somewhat–actually, significantly–more sedate form of transportation: the cattrain.

This is what happens when the lead engine gets hooked up the wrong way around: no one goes anywhere.

Spring Realization

I had a disturbing realization a couple of days ago.

For many years, I’ve marked the changing of the seasons by wearing some team’s cap. The day of the first Spring Training games, Opening Day, the start of the playoffs, and the end of the World Series.

That usually requires a haircut. Not all four times, of course, but at least for the first and third. Not that I couldn’t get a cap on, but without a shearing, it wasn’t very comfortable. So I got into the habit of getting a semi-annual haircut–the official joke being I’d get them whether I needed them or not.

Friday, I wore a cap to celebrate the arrival of Spring. It wasn’t until Sunday that I belatedly realized I hadn’t been cropped.

Yes, my hairline has been receding steadily, and I’m aware that it hasn’t been growing as fast as it used to*. I’m not in imminent danger of baldness.

* People complain about bum knees, hearing loss, and plenty of other hazards of advancing age–including thinning hair. And yet, I’ve never heard anyone grumble “I just don’t seem to need to visit the barber as often.”

Still, I find it disconcerting to think that I might have to shift to an annual haircut. Whether I need it or not.

Speaking of shifting, it occurs to me that I haven’t checked in with my thoughts about this year’s MLB rule changes.

I’m already on record as not being against the pitch clock. Doesn’t mean I’d have put it in place if I were the commissioner, but I don’t hate it. I’d like to see some flexibility there, though. Turn it off for any day game played in an outdoor stadium when there’s no rain in the forecast. A lazy, sunny, summer afternoon of baseball shouldn’t be squashed down to a measly couple of hours just so people can make their dinner dates. But for games indoors, when there’s a chance of adverse weather, or at night? Sure, whatever, commish.

Bigger bases? Again, not a fan, but won’t raise a ruckus. Fundamentally, it’s no different than adjusting the balance between offense and defense by raising or lowering the mound. Doesn’t change the game. There might be a few less bang-bang double plays, maybe a few more stolen bases, but it’s still baseball.

Which is why I hate the new shift rules.

They take away significant strategic options* in favor of more hits and fielder’s choices. Wasn’t the goal to speed up the game? Annoyingly, the rules are inconsistent: infielders can’t stray into the outfield before the pitch, but outfielders can be added to the infield. I’ll admit, I kind of like the idea of occasionally bringing the right fielder in between first and second, but I’m not sure the world is quite ready for the 9-6-3 double play on a regular basis.

* Offensively, too: do you pinch hit for the guy who’s a dead pull hitter with someone who can Wee Willie Keeler the opposition?

The absolute worst change, though, is making the frickin’ Manfred Man permanent. I hate that unearned runner. Hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.

And really, if we’re shortening games with the pitch clock, can’t we afford the occasional fifteen or sixteen inning game? After all, with the clock, it’s not going to run any longer than last year’s typical nine inning game.


The other day, I peeked into the library, aka “Kokoro’s Room”, to see how she was doing.

As is often the case, she was snoozing in her heated nest. I wanted a picture.

Taking a photo with a cellphone through a door that’s only slightly ajar is tough. I tried again.


I didn’t want to open the door further. That usually wakes her up, and I didn’t want to disturb her sleep.

Fortunately, we have tools we can use in these situations. A few minutes shoving things around in GIMP, and voilà!

Meezers look much better as (nearly) complete entities, rather than a collection of parts.

Knock It Off!

Seriously! Just cut it out.

There have been a lot of words expended on how much worse drivers have gotten since the pandemic started.

I’m going to expend a few more.

Not that I expect it to make a difference on the roads, but it’ll make me feel slightly better. Not as much as the start of professional baseball–first preseason games are Friday, World Baseball Classic starts March 8, MLB season begins March 30–but I’ll take what I can get.

Because drivers are really getting horrible out there. In the past week, I’ve seen:

  • Three drivers run red lights. I’m not talking about stretching the yellow past the point where it snaps. No, two of them were outright “blow through the intersection without even slowing down” and the third was a “stop, wait a couple of seconds, then proceed straight ahead”.
  • One case of a driver going straight ahead from a left turn lane (after flooring the accelerator to be the first through the green light, ahead of the drivers in the two adjoining non-turn lanes).
  • One driver turning right from the left turn lane. Fortunately, that was a one-lane-plus-turn-lane street and nobody was going straight.
  • One driver cutting across four freeway lanes into the exit lane, then apparently changing their mind and cutting back across to the express lane.

And then there are the innumerable drivers speeding. Not the traditional “five miles over the limit” speeding. The current standard seems to be to do forty where the limit is thirty, fifty where it’s thirty-five or forty, and a minimum of fifteen over the limit–whatever the limit is–on the freeway. Even more when it’s raining, presumably because there are fewer cars on the road to get in the way.

Lane markings have become purely advisory, and fewer and fewer drivers are taking their advice. Swing wide on turns? Sure, go ahead: it reduces your chances of running off the road when you take a thirty mph turn at forty-five. Weave back and forth from one side of the road to the other? Absolutely: it wouldn’t do to let anybody pass you–it might force you to slow down.

Turn signals? Nobody uses those. If you can’t guess what the driver in front of you intends, you shouldn’t be driving.

Why has it gotten so dangerous out there? Most of the pontifications I’ve seen on the subject say it’s all because of the COVID lockdown: fewer drivers on the road and lower levels of law enforcement leading to an “I can get away with anything these days.” And it’s probably true, at least to an extent.

But logically, if that was all there was to it, now that traffic is more or less back to pre-pandemic levels, shouldn’t drivers be getting more cautious? Or at least, not getting any worse?

It certainly doesn’t seem that way. The stoplight behavior I noted up there is new. Yes, there have always been red light runners. But they’ve been rare enough that, at least around here, one could go weeks or months without seeing it happen. Misuse of the turn lanes as passing lanes isn’t new, but that also used to be rare, even as recently as mid-2022.

So what do we do about it?

I’m forced to admit that execution seems a bit excessive.

Handing out driver access passes to local race tracks might help by giving drivers a chance to work out their unsafe impulses in a controlled environment. But how do we get them to the track safely? Besides, how to we give them the passes? If we had enough traffic enforcement going on to distribute meaningful numbers of race track passes, they could simply enforce the traffic laws with the traditional tickets, fines, and license suspensions.

What if we go back to a full lockdown? Not only would it minimize the number of potential innocent victims of their idiocy, but we might actually knock out COVID once and for all.

Nah, too much to hope for.


Overlooked, Part Two

A bit over two years ago, I vented about the increasing complexity and inconsistency in smartphone interfaces.

If you missed that post, or have forgotten it–two years is a long time to remember anything these days, given all the demands the ever-changing crisis du jour places on us–the gist was that Apple keeps changing their mind about how iPhones should work, while Google takes a laissez-faire approach, allowing developers to do pretty much whatever they want. The result is that, unless you’ve been following along with the evolution of your phone’s UI, there’s an Everest-level learning curve to surmount. At the time, I suggested that someone considering their first smartphone should take a look at the phones designed for seniors; two years on, I’m not sure that’s still a valid recommendation.

Because it seems as though there’s an unnatural law that the more complicated a product is, the less documentation comes with it.

For many smartphones, the documentation seems to consist largely of a single piece of paper showing you where to insert the SIM*–with no explanation of what it is and what it does–and a peel-off sticker on the screen that points to the various buttons and ports.

* Back in the day of the flip phone, your contact list was saved on the SIM. Moving to a new phone? Transfer the SIM and all your saved data was magically on the new device. Although SIMs can still store contacts, no phone has done so by default for at least a decade, and some don’t support it at all. Current phones store contacts on their internal storage, just like any other data. Yet phone salespeople are daily confronted by people who demand that their old SIM be installed in their new phone because “I can’t lose my phone numbers”.

Even the Jitterbugs and other senior-focused phones are cutting back on paper documentation in favor of on-device “Help”. If you can figure out how to access the help screens, you probably know enough about the device that you don’t need them.

And it’s not just smartphones.

Bought a computer lately? Very few come with any printed documentation beyond the legally mandated safety information. It’s a rare day when I don’t have to show someone how to turn on their new computer. As for the difference between “Shut Down” and “Sleep”? Don’t get me started.

Even gadgets that use to be simple enough for anyone to figure out are succumbing to the trend. Think about the simple alarm clock. You’ll have to think about it, because you probably can’t find one. First the manufacturers added radios. Then came multiple alarms, followed by on-ceiling displays, charging ports, and integrated coffee makers. And yet the manual will typically be four pages of illustrations intended to be language-independent.

Fortunately, one variety of device continues to keep documentation creators employed: the landline phone. I bought a new phone system for my mother a year or so ago. It comes with five phones, has a built-in answering machine, speakerphone capability, and large, (fairly) clearly labeled buttons. To make a call, you dial the number and press “Phone”. Maybe not totally intuitive for those used to waiting for a dial tone, but simple enough that most people eventually figure it out. Of course, if they can’t, they can always refer to the handy manual included in the box. It’s 104 pages long–and the section on making a call takes up a grand total of two of those pages. (I just read those pages, and it turns out if you miss hearing a dial tone you can use it in more or less the traditional way: pick it up and then dial (you do still need to press “Phone” for it to actually dial, but it’s still a nice nod to user expectations.

Even better, you can actually hang up the phone. That’s right: unlike your smartphone, if you set this phone down in its cradle, it disconnects the call! Try slamming your smartphone down to express your rage at the latest telephone scammer and all you’ll get is an expensive repair bill.

Too bad the telcos are doing their level best to do away with landlines, much less landline phones.

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?