A Touch Shy of Perfection

Queen Emeraldas has come a long way. She’ll tolerate patting–on her own terms, of course–and even brushing in limited quantities.

Turns out she’s got very snuggle-worthy fur (not that she’s ready to actually, you know, snuggle).

All in all, nearly a picture of elegance.

Except…

There’s that tuft.

That one little tuft.

It’s a bit of matted fur from her under layer, and the white sticks out even more obviously in person than in the picture.

We’ve been working on it (see the comment above about brushings) but it’s a persistent snarl. It’s going to take more tugging than she’s willing to accept right now.

So, for the foreseeable future, we’ll be rooming with an almost-sleek meezer.

Which we’re just fine with.

One of Many

One of many things I don’t understand: Why is Louis DeJoy still Postmaster General?

This is a guy who admitted when he was appointed that his intent is to destroy the organization he’s supposed to be running.

It might not seem like it when you look at the piles of junk it delivers, but the USPS is a key piece of the national infrastructure*.

* It’s also a key piece of the government’s efforts to keep tabs on its citizens, but let’s not go there right now.

Seems like getting a new Postmaster General installed should have been one of President Biden’s top priorities. Certainly something that should be done well before the mid-cycle elections.

Okay, granted, it’s not as simple as just handing the incumbent his pink slip and appointing a replacement. The president doesn’t have the power to remove a Postmaster General. That’s reserved to the USPS’ Board of Governors. Ditto for the governors themselves.

The board is supposed to have nine members, plus the Postmaster General and the Deputy Postmaster General. Legally, no more than five of the nine can belong to the same political party. Prior to Biden taking office, there were three vacancies, and the lone non-Republican–a Democrat appointed by Trump–is (per Wikipedia) considered one of DeJoy’s strongest supporters. Not exactly an unbiased group, in other words.

And one that’s hard to update. Fortunately, unlike the Supreme Court, appointments to the USPS Board of Governors aren’t for life, so there is a possibility of rebalancing it.

Still, it seems like Biden is dragging his feet. It took him until May to fill the three vacant slots. That’s not enough to remove DeJoy, but one would have hoped that prompt action might have let the new members slow him down a bit. Remember that, while the PG is responsible for the day-to-day management of the USPS, it’s the board that sets policy.

And there are two more slots coming open soon. Both are Trump appointees–one being the aforementioned Democrat–and their terms expire next week, though they’ll continue to serve until their successors are approved by Congress.

Biden has announced his nominations, but as far as I can tell, no date has been set for Congress to act on the nominees. Bets on how long it’ll take–and, assuming the nominations are approved–how long it’ll be before DeJoy is looking for a new job?

Thanksgiving Chillin’

It was, if not the quietest possible Thanksgiving, far quieter than it could have been.

We all did as little as possible.

Including Her Batshit Majesty, Princess Pointy Bits.

She’s laid claim to the entire condo complex on the landing outside the bedroom. From time to time–intervals measured in weeks or even months–her preferred perch shifts from one structure to another. Lately, it’s been this round condo: well placed to observe everything going on in the front hall, the bedroom, and the upstairs hall.

It wouldn’t do for the junior ruler of the universe to be uniformed about the actions of her subjects, after all.

Details, Details

Due to a scheduling misdemeanor a couple of days ago, I wasn’t able to have dinner with Maggie. Fortunately, there’s a very dapper gentleman who was happy to keep her company while she ate.

In truth, Lefty often keeps both of us company during meals–but usually from the floor. Since my chair was vacant, however, he decided to move a little closer to the action*.

* He wishes it to be known that he was not responsible for my placemat’s slow glide toward the floor. In all likelihood, that was Sachiko’s doing: dumping placemats is one of her favorite pastimes.

Lefty is well aware of the house rule regarding cats on the table: not during mealtimes.

He’s not as dialed in on the other table-related rule: Cats do not get to share meals until they demonstrate minimum proficiency with standard tableware. We’d accept proper usage of a fork and knife, a spoon, or even chopsticks.

Nobody, including Lefty, has managed the feat yet, but that doesn’t stop him from sitting between our chairs, looking hopeful.

It’s a little embarrassing to admit it, but he’s often successful in extorting some goodies. And he’s approved of darn near everything he’s tasted: chicken (prepared several ways), tilapia, salmon, steak, burgers (both beef and lamb), cheese (cheddar, naturally), Cheetos®, and even pasta (red sauce only–we’re not going to imperil his tummy with pesto).

So far the only thing he’s turned up his nose at is feta. He took one sniff, declared it “Decidedly not cheese,” and stalked off, radiating offended dignity.

[photo credit to Maggie, naturally]

It’s Back

Yep, 2021 strikes again.

Black Friday was a non-event last year. Oh, sure, it happened. But the lines of people camping outside stores, the crushing rush inside when the doors opened, and the screaming fights over deeply discounted items were rare in comparison to the past*.

* It’s possible that being on the West Coast gives me a biased perception. Anyone in a state that didn’t have mask mandates, social distancing, and/or stay-at-home orders want to chime in with local data on last year’s Spend-a-Thon?

This year, though, it’s shaping up to be a doozy.

Not only is Black November gaining force–several major retailers have been pushing variations on the “Early Black Friday” theme since about 12:01 AM on 11/1–but those same stores are ramping up the publicity for their sales on the actual Black Friday.

Because, of course, people are sick and tired of shopping from home–even in the Southwest and Florida and all those other areas where they never started shopping from home–so they have to show up in the malls at Oh Dark Hundred Hours.

Feh.

On the bright side, the stupidity of starting the Black Friday sales on Thursday–better known as Thanksgiving–seems to have gotten lost. And good riddance.

What’s going to be really interesting is seeing what happens with Cyber Monday. Remember that? In case you’ve mercifully forgotten, the premise of Cyber Monday has been that people save their online shopping for the Monday after Thanksgiving when they’re back in the office and can use their employer’s bandwidth.

Man, that sounds quaint, doesn’t it? “Back in the office”? It is to laugh.

It’s only a little more than a week to Thanksgiving and, while your experience may differ, I haven’t gotten a single ad for an upcoming Cyber-whatever event.

Could Cyber Monday turn into a regional event? Only advertised in places where the concept of “working from home” hasn’t caught on?

Probably not. It’s cheaper for national advertisers not to filter their mailings, after all. Our best hope is that PR departments decide the optics of telling people to go to work are just too ugly this year.

Approaching Em

Queen Emeraldas is still skittish when it comes to humans. However, plenty of bribes in the form of treats have reduced the distance at which her flight reflex kicks in. So we occasionally get treated to near visits:

Contrary to what her location and posture might suggest, she was not waiting for the food bowl to be filled. Her bowl is downstairs (though that doesn’t stop her from occasionally raiding this one) and she knows that the bowls get filled in the late evening, not mid-morning.

So this visit was just “Trying to peer around the doorframe to check up on what the bipeds were up to.”

Timing aside, she also knows that dinner is preceded by a meet-and-greet session. (I’d call it a cocktail hour, but no drinks are served.)

(Top to bottom: Sachiko, Kokoro, Watanuki, Emeraldas, and Lefty*.)

* For those newcomers who may be wondering, no, not all of the cats have Japanese names. It just seems like it sometimes. Not visible in this picture (though present): Kaja, Rhubarb, and Yuki.)

Even though no booze is on offer, we still get the occasional “private” breakout session. When it comes to Yuki, Em is an enthusiastic proponent of the full-body head bump.

So enthusiastic, in fact, that we can occasionally manage to pat her. While she still takes off if she sees us reaching toward her, she has–to bring the post full-circle–reached the point where she doesn’t flee in terror when she belatedly realizes a human is touching her.

First Thoughts on 11

I decided it was time.

Microsoft has fixed a few of the most egregious Windows 11 launch bugs, I’d done my weekly backup, and I had a day off coming. So I went ahead and did the upgrade.

It’s been less than a week, so don’t expect a detailed catalog of everything that’s right and wrong with the latest opus from Redmond. Remember: it’s never too soon to make a good first impression.

The upgrade itself went smoothly enough, though Microsoft sucks at estimation. After ten minutes or so, the progress indicator said 70%. Ninety minutes later, it said 91%. The last nine percent took another couple of hours. Then, of course, there was the inevitable reboot, followed by more thumb-twiddling while Windows shuffled things into place.

Once my desktop appeared, it looked a lot like the old one. Some exceptions: the Taskbar can’t be at the top of the screen–my preferred location–any more, and having the icons centered instead of at the left side of the screen* looks decidedly odd.

* Windows 11 does allow you to left-align the icons, but I stuck with the default. It’s been easier getting used to than I expected, but I do have a lot of muscle memory around the Start button being in the upper left corner of the screen; there are still occasional delays while I reorient myself.

So far, I’ve only found one major annoyance. You may have heard that the Windows 10 Live Tiles (those tiny windows and icons to the right when you open the Start menu) are gone in Windows 11. It’s true. They are gone. I mean really gone.

At least three-quarters of Windows users will never notice or care–there’s a reason Microsoft got rid of Live Tiles, after all. But some of us actually used them. Clean out all the useless games links and other such nonsense Microsoft put there, and the Tile area became a convenient place to put frequently used files and programs. Anything you put there was no more than two clicks away.

Windows 11 does let you pin things to the Start Menu. It does not, however, transfer your pinned items from Win10. Instead, you get a no-doubt-carefully curated selection of useless nonsensepinned programs. Unpinning Microsoft’s choices and re-pinning mine took almost as long as installing the upgrade.

* Sources online seem to be unanimous in saying that you cannot pin individual documents–Word files, pictures, and so on–to the new Start Menu. This seems to be a half-truth. I was able to pin several spreadsheets, but Word documents and pictures don’t seem to work. I suspect it has something to do with the spreadsheets having been pinned in Win10. Further investigation seems warranted.

I could run through my list of Things That Don’t Work Right, but there’s not much point. Most of the glitches are minor-but-annoying, and can probably all be fixed with a little effort. I shouldn’t need to, mind you, but again, Win11 is new and needs some polishing. The upgrade experience should get better over time.

And now that I’ve finished playing the Upgrade Blues, Win11 seems to be working well. Anecdotally, it feels snappier than Win10. Searches are a little faster, programs feel like they’re launching more quickly, and the Windows Photos program–which used to take forever to load and display the first picture–is enormously faster.

WSL–the part of Windows that allows you to run Linux programs–finally supports graphical programs. There were already ways to run those programs, using some third-party tools. Now the functionality is there without any special setup. In theory, one can even add Linux programs to the Start Menu or Taskbar, but that doesn’t seem quite functional yet. Or maybe it’s one of those little glitches.

It’s going to take people some time to get past the whole “It doesn’t look like what I’m used to” thing, but once they do, I think the consensus will be that Win11 is an improvement over the past.

I’m still not recommending a general upgrade. There are plenty of issues that Microsoft needs to work out. Unless you have a specific need for something in Win11, stick with Win10 for now.

On the other hand, if you’re looking to buy a new computer, it’s probably going to come with Win11. Don’t be put off by it and don’t try to downgrade to Win10.

Trust me, Windows 11 will not be the horrid shock that was Windows 8.

Who Else?

Black cats are notoriously hard to photograph*. So who else could I use as the subject of my first experiment with the Pixel 6 Pro’s camera?

* Beth, your royalty check is in the mail.

I guess I could have gone with Lefty, but he’s an easier target. Just for starters, he usually hangs out in well-lit spaces. And his sleek fur doesn’t tend to introduce artifacts.

So it had to be Yuki.

Just hanging out in his favorite cave late one night.

His floof all a-bristle as he waits for me to get out of his face so he can go to sleep.

I love his white, curvy wild whisker.

And the camera did quite well, I’d say. These shots were taken without flash and I didn’t compose the shots or allow time for the autofocus to do its job. Just point, select the zoom level (1x, 2x, and 4x), and shoot.

Obviously, more testing is necessary, but I’m encouraged.

Closing the Loop

And here we are again. Another season has ended with the sodden thump of a rain-soaked newspaper splatting on the doorstep.

I mean, really? Atlanta and Houston–a pair of Rule One teams–in the World Series?

But anyway, before we move into the dark part of the liturgical calendar, let’s close out 2021 with a look at my predictions for the season and the playoffs.

Back in April, I picked Miami, Cincinnati, LA, San Diego, and Milwaukee to make the playoffs on the NL side. Instead, we got Atlanta, Milwaukee, San Francisco, St. Louis, and LA. Two of five.

In the AL, I called Boston, Minnesota, Houston, Cleveland, and Chicago. A much better assortment that who actually made the playoffs: Tampa Bay, Chicago, Houston, Boston, and New York? Three out of five.

So, once again I wound up with the moral equivalent of a 81 win season. I should do an experiment: see if I can get better results by picking the winners at random. Maybe next year.

As for my playoff predictions, well…

I take some solace in the fact that I predicted the Astros to make it to the World Series and lose. But I also said the series would only go five games, and I certainly didn’t expect the Braves to make it to the Series, much less win it. Even if I’d picked them to face Houston, their respective run differentials should have meant a quick exit for Atlanta: +205 versus +134 shouldn’t even have been a contest. (For what it’s worth, Atlanta outscored Houston 25 to 20.)

Ah, well. Next year.

And now, onward to the Winter Meetings and the WabbitDuckFree Agent Season.