Happy–Ooh, Shiny!

I had plans for today’s post. Really, I did. Unfortunately, distractability kicked me in the rear, as it has so often these past few months.

So, instead of the elaborate disquisition I had planned, you get a quick “Then/Now” post. Well, it is–as best we can tell–more or less her birthday.

Sachiko at age (approximately) three months:

In constant motion, fierce to defend her toys, but always eager for a cuddle.

Sachiko at age (approximately) six years:

No longer a model of hyperjettic behavior, much more willing to share toys, and considerably more rotund, but still an enthusiastic snuggler.

Happy Approximate Birthday, oh Pampered Princess Pointy-Bits.

Apple Hardware (sans iPhone)

I’m going to give you my usual recap of Apple’s latest hardware unveiling in a moment, but first, a public service announcement.

Ahem.

I DON’T CARE WHAT YOU’VE HEARD ABOUT TOILET PLUMES. IF YOU USE A PUBLIC BATHROOM, FLUSH THE DAMNED TOILET WHEN YOU’RE DONE!

Okay, on to Apple.

As expected, Apple is coming out with a new Apple Watch. All the features of the previous versions, and now adds blood oxygen level monitoring, an always-on altimeter, new faces, new bands, and one big new feature.

That’s Family Setup, which lets you set up watches for other people who don’t own iPhones. This could be really nice–though I suspect anyone willing to buy their kid a $500 watch isn’t going to balk at getting them a $400 phone to go with it. But I know plenty of older people–who can really use the health-monitoring capabilities of the Apple Watch–who don’t feel the need for an iPhone each. One phone to handle the watches of both members of the couple? Win!

The other big watch announcement is the Apple Watch SE. Like the second-generation iPhone SE, it’s got most of the hardware of the new watches, but at a significantly lower price. In the case of the phone, the SE’s cost savings are the display and camera; for the watch, they’re in the CPU: it’s faster than the Series 3 phones, but not up to the speed of the Series 6. (It looks like the SE is replacing the Series 5 watch; the 3 is still around at an even lower price, but the 5 appears to be gone and the SE will use similar or identical components.)

Moving on to the iPad, we’re getting a new generation with (surprise!) a faster CPU, the dedicated machine learning chip, support for the Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil. Nothing really new here.

Ditto for the new iPad Air. More colors (whoopie!) and a USB-C port instead of Lightning. New CPU–faster–and larger. I thought the selling point of the Air was that it was light and easy to handle. At eleven inches (diagonally), it’s definitely getting into the “rest it on a table or your lap” territory. I do like the idea of a fingerprint sensor in the power button. No more Home button, but still keeps the ability to unlock the device without removing your face mask.

iOS 14 comes out today (Wednesday), along with the iPad, Watch, and Apple TV variants. Nothing new there we didn’t already know about from WWDC and the last couple of months of public betas.

No iPhones, thanks to (according to rumor) problems testing the 5G capabilities. No doubt, those will be coming later this year, along with the new Apple-CPU Macs and a few other little projects in the pipeline.

Usually there’s one product line that looks generally good, and the rest are highly snarkworthy. Certainly this set of announcements is no exception. It’s nice to see the Apple Watch finally getting out of the snark category (“Breathe” app, anybody?) but we’ll have to see how long that lasts.

Sound Off!

The weird lighting and rapidly changing temperatures have everyone in the household a bit unbalanced and prone to hiding in caves and/or under the covers*. The result is a notable lack of entertainingly cute pictures this week.

* I include the two-legged inhabitants in that assessment.

So, instead, how about a Rogues’ Gallery of all of the quadrupeds with a minimum of commentary?

In order of increasing seniority:

MM

Lefty

Sachiko

The Ookis came into the house at the same time, but ‘Nuki is clearly the senior of the two.
Yuki

Watanuki (three months older and far more dominant than his shelter-brother)

The Flying Monkeys don’t fly as much as they used to when they were kittens. But again, Kaja is the obvious senior.
Rhubarb

Kaja (a born leader and much more aggressive than her littermate)

And the grande dame, Ms. Kokoro

What’s Up With You?

Strange weather we’re having around here. Two straight days over 100 (plus or minus local micro-climate variation), and then yesterday it was a good thirty degrees cooler.

Not because of any normal weather change. No offshore winds breaking up a high pressure zone or anything like that. This is totally due to smoke from the fires to the north.

I hasten to add that they’re all a significant distance away from us. There’s been no suggestion that we’re at risk, at least from the existing fires*. We’re as safe as we can be in an era where the California state motto seems to have become “Burn, baby, burn.”

* Our vegetation is just as profuse and desiccated as anyone else’s. A poorly timed and aimed firework or discarded cigarette could cause plenty of trouble around here.

But even the smoke was unusual. There wasn’t much scent of burning, and visibility was nearly as good as normal, because the smoke was staying high up.

Really, really thick, though. Thick enough to make 9:00 in the morning feel like late evening, and make 6:00 PM feel like a torrential downpour was immanent. Regrettably, the later was not the case: a heavy rainfall would be a big help with the fires.

Maybe we just need more moisture in the air. Let it condense around all those ash particles, and we’ve got a flood of biblical proportions.

Which would bring its own problems, of course, but we’re used to floods around here. A homey little well-known disaster would be an almost pleasant change.

I did say “almost”.

Though, come to think of it, heavy rains and (minor) flooding would tend to encourage people to stay inside; quite different from outrageously high temperatures that lead people to go to parks and beaches. Solving our social distancing and state burning problems at the same time?

No pitcher is going to sneer at a double-play ball.

The unusual conditions have some of the cats a bit off their feed, but not to the point that we’re worried about anyone.

In short, we’re doing about as well as can be expected in the current conditions. Hope the same is true of you all.

Major Milestone

Lefty has been making excellent progress in his acclimation to the indoor life. He has, in fact, been doing so well, we’ve officially declared him “no longer feral”.

The key milestone? He’s spending time on the bed.

Often with his best buddy Yuki–we’ve taken to calling them the Sable Saboteurs for their joint effect on the social hierarchy–but sometimes by himself as well.

There’s still some distance to go before we can declare him a fully-accredited indoor kitty.

Case in point: he’s still somewhat skittish about humans–

–especially humans with cameras. But then again, so are Maggie and I, so we’re not casting aspersions on our house panther.

But Lefty is coming to the realization that humans do have their uses, even beyond the delivery of food and treats. Pettings are nice–and they do require fingers–enough so that he’s begun actively requesting them.

And humans also make excellent pillows if you can pin them down.

Lunacy

Seriously?

I’m used to every unusual astronomical phenomenon sparking a wave of “news” articles about its history, etymology, and economic impact. Not to mention the obligatory “How to watch…” pieces.

But, really, we’ve hit the absolute bottom of the barrel.

See, the moon is full.

You don’t get it? Neither did I. Doesn’t that happen every month, sometimes more than once a month?

Well, yes. But it turns out that once every three years or so, the full moon in September is not called the “Harvest Moon”.

Remember, this is just a naming convention. It has absolutely nothing to do with the moon’s appearance.

The Harvest Moon is the full moon closest to the Autumnal Equinox. Two years out of three, that’s the full moon in September. The third year–including this year–it’s the October full moon.

And yet, presumably because we’re all so bored out of our skulls staying at home all the time, there’s a spate of articles urging us not to miss this “rare” phenomenon.

I haven’t gone searching, but I’d be willing to bet there’s at least one news story from a conservative website blaming the Democrats for moving the Harvest Moon from it’s “traditional” spot in September.

But that’s okay. There’s probably also a liberal site somewhere blaming the president for separating the Harvest Moon from the Corn Moon.

It’s not just Internet click bait, either. Well, it is, but it’s not just the usual sources of click bait.

Would you believe CNN has a “How to view…” page up?

Solemn truth.

It’s the flipping moon, people! Go outside after dark and look up! You can’t miss it!

*sigh* One more thing to blame on 2020.

Oh, well. At least there don’t seem to be any articles claiming that the moon is about to smash into the Earth and destroy civilization.

Everchanging

Sachiko and Watanuki have a peculiarly inconsistent relationship. Sometimes he’s her idol, sometimes her best friend, and sometimes beneath her notice.

Simultaneously, but not synchronously, she’s his favored companion and security consultant, sometimes his chief rival, and sometimes his best chew-toy.

The constantly changing combinations can be dizzying.

Take, for example, the other night. The Tuxedoed Terrors were sitting together at the foot of the bed. Suddenly, ‘Nuki began washing Sachiko’s ears.

By the time I was able to reach the headboard and grab my phone, he was affecting boredom while she washed his ears.

And then, by the time I adjusted the flash settings in hope of getting a better shot, Sachiko had been demoted to “Evil Villain Who Must Be Gnawed Into Submission” and ‘Nuki had been laterally transferred to “I’m Getting Away From Him Before He Eats My Throat”.

I believe Sachiko bounced off of three different walls and the ceiling in making her escape.

Watanuki turned, sprawled across my ankles, and dared me to move.

I knew better.

Distance Learning

A rant:

I was going to ask for a little restraint, but on reflection, I don’t think there’s any of it in stock these days.

Specifically, I was hoping we could avoid developing herds of self-appointed distance monitors.

Yes, social distancing is necessary. Absolutely no argument from me on that.

But demanding that people move is not the way to get it done. Humans are contrary creatures. “You have to move,” or “Hey, you, six feet!” just make the recipient want to move closer, strictly out of spite.

It’s in the presentation.

Try “Could you please move a further away?” That’s not so hard to say, now is it?

Or, if you’re in a place of business, just pointing to the tape marks on the floor will probably get the job done–and if there aren’t tape marks, say something to the staff, don’t excoriate your fellow customers!

Because, let’s face it, most people don’t have a clear mental picture of what six feet is. (Hint: your foot is probably not a foot long, and even if it is, you’ve never seen six of ’em heel to toe.)

I have a pet theory that many people, if asked to estimate six feet, say to themselves, “Well, I’m a few inches shorter than six feet, so it’s a bit longer than I am tall.” Then they picture themselves lying down, think, “Ew, this floor is filthy, I don’t want to lie on it,” and completely forget to add the necessary inches to turn five-foot-something into six feet.

All that aside, though–and taking the whole flies/honey thing as given–the possibility for escalation is scary. Because moderation and restraint are, as previously noted, in short supply.

These days it’s a small step from admonishing a random stranger to move a aside to demanding they clear off “your” sidewalk, then to calling the cops on someone you think is too close. After that, the weapons come out, and we have a whole different class of virus-related deaths.

Again, yes to social distancing. But remember that “seventy-two inches” is an arbitrary distance chosen for a number of reasons, not all of which have any grounding in virology.

The whole point of social distancing is to not crowd together, to not loiter near other people.

It is not to get in people’s face in the name of getting them out of your personal space.

Another Style

Coincidentally*, at just about the same time last Friday’s post on feline land-ownership styles went live, MM declared herself the owner of the room which she previously shared with Lefty.

* Or perhaps it’s no coincidence at all. There is a computer with unrestricted Internet access in that room. I may need to check the browser history.

The key word in that sentence is, of course, “previously”. MM’s style appears to be both autocratic and intolerant. She rules with a set of iron claws and doesn’t bother hiding them in a velvet mitt.

The immediate result of her declaration was Lefty pounding on the door and demanding to be let out. He has refused to return to the room since then, even though MM retreated to the cage and demanded that we lock her in.

MM, it should be noted, appears to exhibit a certain amount bipolar behavior. Her explorations of the room were during an “up” period, during which she’s curious, calm, and almost charming. Her declaration of ownership and subsequent retreat to her stronghold are typical of the other pole.

In any case, since Lefty won’t go into the library–in fact, he won’t even go upstairs–no matter what treats we offer, he has necessarily become a citizen of the house. There’s a learning curve: he’s still working on the concept that there’s nothing to stop Sachiko from stealing his dinner if he doesn’t eat when it’s served, and he’s still not sure about his right to sit on the dining room chairs (he’s allowed, as long as ‘Nuki doesn’t get there first.)

It’s been less than a week, but he’s seeming more comfortable downstairs than he had been before the change. He’s beginning to request patting and neck scratching. And he’s trying out new experiences.

That has a learning curve as well. His early attempts at condo living all resulted in a dangling tail.

Many had dangling paws as well.

He’s been working on it, though, and has several times succeeded in getting his entire body inside.

As for MM, she is, for now, content to remain in the cage. Since that room is one of the hottest in the house, especially in our current heat wave, we’re willing to let her stay caged and leave the door of the room open for air circulation.

We’ll revisit the situation in a week or two, when temperatures and tempers go down. For now, though, MM is happy in a grumpy sort of way, Lefty is happy in a cautious kind of way, and we’re happy in a no-thud-thud-thud-yowl-thud-hiss-yowl-in-the-middle-of-the-night way.

Odd Associations

Argh!

Forgive me if I sound a trifle aggrieved. I’ve got “Escape” on my mind.

Or to put it another, perhaps more accurately, I’ve got “The Piña Colada Song” running through my head.

Yes, as you may have gathered from last week’s post, I’ve been listening to the Seventies Pop channel on SiriusXM recently. I appreciate the sheer variety satellite radio offers, and for the most part I like hearing an occasional track that’s not in my own record* collection (I won’t go into just how often “occasional” is; just keep in mind that I grew up listening to the radio in the seventies.)

* Okay, yes, these days it’s an mp3-with-intrusions-of-flac collection, but that doesn’t exactly fall trippingly** off the tongue. And much of my accumulated music does exist on rarely-played Lps.

** The spell-checker wants to change “trippingly” to “cripplingly”. Which may be an appropriate word for the way that phrase does cross the lips, but would rather change the meaning of the sentence.

I mean, I’ve got no Ike and Tina Turner in my collection, but their version of “Proud Mary” is nice–and rough. Chicago, The Who, Elvin Bishop, and Fleetwood Mac in the span of an hour? Sure.

Curiously, I’ve yet to hear “Stairway to Heaven”. Is it too “rock” and not sufficiently “pop”? Or do I just have bad timing?

But anyway, doesn’t SiriusXM have some moral responsibility to keep tripe like “Escape” off the airwaves? Haven’t we suffered enough?

Apparently not.

Who decided this was a love song, anyway? She’s cheating on him, he’s cheating on her, and they coincidentally discover they’ve got complementary kinks.

This is not a revitalized relationship. It’s a poisonous hellpit that’s bound to end in tears, murder, or both. Thank all the gods they’re not inflicting their inability to communicate on anyone else. Though Rupert Holmes has a hell of a lot to answer for.

But I digress.

I’ve had three different people tell me the disinfectant we use at work smells like margaritas.

Seriously? It just smells like bleach to me. Which is what the stuff actually is.

Are three people having identical COVID-19 olfactory distortions? Nasal hallucinations? Or am I the only person in the world who doesn’t think margaritas smell like bleach?

Maybe I just don’t drink enough margaritas.

Maybe I should ask someone if I should be salting the rim of the disinfectant bottle.

Maybe I’m thinking about this too much. Rest assured, I’m not planning a taste test. It’s just one of those ideas I can’t quite get out of my head.

Like “The Piña Colada Song”.

Damn.

I think I want a martini.