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!

Taking Note

There are a few things that annoy me about SiriusXM–most notably the amount of time spent reminding listeners that there are no commercials and their programmers’ habit of preempting channels for special events (and rearranging the channel lineup with little or no warning).

Even so, as you may have gathered, I like the service. It could improve–less channel segmentation, or at least more channels that cover a range of genres would be nice–but it’s worth the annual subscription.

It’s starting to scare me, though.

Not too long ago, on a cold, gray day when I was more than normally ambivalent about going to work, I got a station break as I backed out of the garage. That ended as just as I shifted into Drive, and I headed up the hill listening to “Mama Told Me Not to Come”. That was followed by “Old Man” and then “Stairway to Heaven”.

At this point, having been informed that I shouldn’t go to work because I was old and going to die, I was seriously considering turning around and going back to bed. Unfortunately, at that point I was halfway across the bridge, where turnaround points are non-existent–and besides, I’d already paid the bridge toll.

So I made the decision to go on, only to be reminded that “People Are Strange”. I could only agree. And change to the 40s channel. Which had, of course, been preempted in favor of “Holiday Traditions”.

I managed to switch to an 80s alternative channel before succumbing to the urge to rip the radio out of the dashboard, but it was a close call.

Despite the warning and the obstacles SiriusXM put in my path, I did make it to work, survived the day, and made it home in one piece, but the next time the radio gives me a warning like that, I think I’ll take its advice. Far easier on the nervous system.

Actually, I should clarify one thing.

My car radio is an older model–I got it at Circuit City, back when there was a Circuit City. So, no touchscreen, no bluetooth, no voice or steering wheel controls. What it does have is a simple segmented LCD panel just wide enough to show eleven characters in all-caps.

So my warning was actually “MAMA TOLD M”, “OLD MAN”, and “STAIRWAY TO”.

Generally not a problem, but it does mean I occasionally get a bit of cognitive dissonance. Did you know The Kinks had a 1966 single called “SUNNY AFTER”? After what? The lyrics don’t give much of a clue.

Then there’s that immortal Stones’ classic “LETS SPEND “. I hadn’t thought the song was quite that explicit about what Mick and Keith were planning.

The real prize, however, was learning that “JEFFERSON A” had a top-ten hit in “WHITE RABBI”. I didn’t know Grace Slick was Jewish…

Despite its limitations, I have no plans to replace the radio with something newer and more capable.

Something else I won’t be getting: Apple’s new AirPods Max* headphones.

* Yes, that is the official name for them. The hazards of applying a single name across a product line. “AirPods”–plural–makes sense for a set of those things you stick in your ears, but rather less so for a single device that covers both ears.

Even if Apple is correct in calling them the greatest auditory experience since “musician” meant “that guy who bangs two sticks together” (I’m paraphrasing their advertising, if you hadn’t guessed.), we can’t lose sight of the fact that, like the rest of the AirPods line, they’re Apple-only.

There’s also–and I can’t believe I’m writing this–the price tag: $550!

That’s more than half the cost of a new M1-based MacBook Air or an iPhone 12.

Reminds me of those legendary restaurants that are so expensive they only need one party of four to pay their rent for the month.

Granted, Apple has always had a reputation for expensive gear, but even by their standards, this is excessive.

If you have to have Apple-made headphones to go with your Apple-made electronics, stick with Beats. Unless you’re in the hundredth of a percent of the population with absolutely perfect hearing you only listen in an acoustically-sealed room, you’re not going to hear the difference.

Seasonal Sickness

Can I share something with you?

No, strike that. I’m going to share something with you.

I’m sick of Christmas carols.

Not in my normal “If I hear ‘The Little Drummer Boy’ one more time, someone is going to die–and it won’t be me,” way.

A few out of the ordinary holiday songs can usually lift me out of that mood.

This year, not so much. I mean, it’s only December 2nd, and I’m at the point where not even Lefty curling up in my lap and purring until his ears–and mine–vibrate does the trick.

I’m not sure I can take another three weeks of “I’m here in prison/the army/quarantine and won’t be able to guzzle eggnog/open presents/smooch my sweetie this year, so you all have a great time without me” songs.

Have you ever noticed how much thematic overlap there is between the non-canonical Christmas songs and Country music? I’ll admit I hadn’t until just now. But I digress.

It doesn’t help a bit that the SiriusXM Forties channel has been replaced with their holiday music channel. If I want a little Gene Krupa or Cab Calloway, I have to fall back on my own music collection! Oh, the horror! The inconvenience!

Yeah, okay, I exaggerate for effect.

But I’m serious about the carols. I don’t usually reach this point until around the 22nd or 23rd.

I’d blame it on reaction to COVID-19–a desperate attempt to establish some normality in the face of the current-and-impending surge, but really, nothing in the onslaught is any different than it was in previous, virus-free years. And, while I’ll cop to a certain amount of virus-imposed weariness and ennui, that doesn’t seem relevant to Early Onset Carol Intolerance.

Hmm. If this malaise to get any significant attention from the medical community, it’s going to need a better acronym.

Am I alone in this suffering? Or is anyone else out there in the same position? If so, should we form a mutual support group?

“Hi, I’m Casey, and I only disemboweled three carol-spouting speakers today. And none of them were human.”

Maybe we’d better each go this one alone.

Meet the Pirate Queen

I hope your Thursday was pleasant, regardless of whether it was Thanksgiving for you. And, as I promised, here’s more on MM’s situation.

Or, more accurately, on Emeraldas’ situation.

Yes, she does have a name, rather than a description*. Given her history and general attitude, naming her after a pirate of some sort seemed highly appropriate. Her backstory matches up well with that of the Leiji Matsumoto character–I hesitate to call her a heroine, but anti-heroine doesn’t seem quite accurate either–and when we realized we could keep the initial “Em” sound, everything came together.

* At various times in the past, MM stood for Mysterious Meezer, Ms. Meezer, and Meezer Mommy.

In addition to giving her a new name, we’ve also been giving her more freedom of movement and more opportunity to interact with the other felines.

You can’t see it in this picture, but the door to Maggie’s den is open, allowing Queen Em to get acquainted with Kaja and Rhubarb. Sachiko was also in the vicinity when this picture was taken, but I couldn’t squeeze her into the shot.

Em has developed a fascination with Yuki–one might even call it a fetish without stretching the point. When not separated by the fence, she’ll take every opportunity to rub against him.

Yuki seems to like her, and for the most part he tolerates her overly aggressive friendship, but sometimes it does get to be a bit too much for him.

As for the rest of the crew, Emeraldas’ relationships are works in progress. Kaja uses highly spiced language when Em appears, but then, Kaja does that for just about everybody except her littermate. With Lefty, Em alternates between friendship and slap fights.

As for everyone else, she maintains largely cordial-but-distant relationships.

Well, almost everyone else.

Kokoro, the senior meezer of the household, is distinctly unimpressed with the new arrival. Nose-sniffing sessions are punctuated with hissing and end quickly.

For the most part, however, Her Imperial Majesty prefers to ignore a mere Queen. Given her druthers, she’d far prefer to curl up on a warm blanket and wait for the pretender to go away.