SAST 18

[Administrative Note: The last SAST post was 19. The one before that was 17. Oops. Consider this a modest nod in the direction of numerical consistency.]

I was pondering the fact that the two stories everyone knows about George Washington both involve wood. That is, of course, that he chopped down a cherry tree and that he wore wooden dentures.

The first, obviously, is a myth. But I wondered if the infamous dentures were made of cherry wood. That would be at least an amusing coincidence–because the tree-chopping legend surely doesn’t predate the real dental appliance–and possibly even a source of the legend.

So, a bit of research ensued. And, annoyingly, it turns out that the wooden dentures story is totally fictional as well.

Okay, not totally. George did wear dentures. Just not wooden ones.

Still, it does leave room for some creative fictionalizing. Anyone want to help spread the story that President Washington’s wooden dentures were made from the very same tree he chopped down as a nipper (sorry)?

Moving on.

Gotta love the rumor mill.

There was a rumor making the rounds that Apple was going to release a new Mac Mini this year. Perfectly logical: the entry level Mini now has an M1 chip, but the high end Mini still has an Intel processor. Gotta have a high-end M1 Mini, right?

Then Apple introduced the Mac Studio. Which is, to all intents and purposes, an ultra-high-end Mini.

So now, of course, the rumor is that Apple is not going to come out with a new Mini this year. It will be next year.

Personally, I don’t see why we even need a high-end Mini. The original Mini was unveiled as a “bring your own peripherals” deal that would let Apple sell you on their hardware and software at a significantly lower price than the rest of their line. It’s still a great idea, and the M1 Mini fits the niche admirably.

Leave it at that, Apple. Keep the Mini low-end and low-rent and let the people who need power go with the Studio.

Moving on again.

Thanks to Eric for pointing me at this article in Politico.

There isn’t much in it that will be new to anyone paying attention to the Oakland As efforts to convince the city to give them a dream platter of goodies–though I’m somewhat amused by the author’s characterization of the Mets as the antithesis of the As.

What struck me while I was reading it, though, was the thought that perhaps we’ve been misreading the situation. The team’s ownership keeps presenting it as “give us what we want or we’re moving to Vegas.”

Totally standard sports team tactics. Except that the Athletics keep moving the fences back. Every time it starts to seem that they’re going to get what they’re asking for, they add something to their demands.

At this point, they’re promising to put $12 billion dollars into constructing their megafacility–if. Given the typical lack of correspondence between construction estimates and actual costs, the bill is likely to be closer to $25 billion than the twelve the team is promising.

What if the As ownership doesn’t want to get handed their dream package? If the city coughs up the land, the tax district, and whatever add-on gets added to the demands next, then ownership is on the hook for those big bucks.

I’m starting to think they want the deal to be rejected. They’re just looking for an excuse to head for Nevada, where they can rejoice in actually being a small market team, rather than having to fake it enough to get those subsidies from the teams in larger markets.

At this point, I’m almost ready to hope Oakland does give the As’ ownership everything they’ve asked for, just so I can see what kind of verbal gymnastics they go through in denying they’d ever promised to build a ballpark…

And, finally, on another baseball related note:

Commissioner Manfred (spit) is trying to butter up the players. He’s gifted every player on a big league roster with a pair of $200 Beats headphones.

Let us not forget that, under the just-signed collective bargaining agreement, every one of those guys is making at least $700,000 this year. I think they can probably afford their own headphones–and probably already have a set or six.

Hey, Rob! Instead of making nice on the players–who aren’t going to believe for an instant that you’re on their side, or even that you like them–why don’t you try making nice on the fans? You know, the folks who contribute the money that lets owners pay those players, not to mention the salary that you used to buy all those headphones.

We could really use a no-local-blackouts, no social-media-exclusives broadcast package.

How Can You Resist?

Turns out there is at least one thing Lefty doesn’t consider to be food.

Aside from feta, that is.

We continue to give him opportunities to broaden his culinary palette, and he generally adopts them with enthusiasm. Surprisingly, however, yoghurt turned out to be beyond the food event horizon.

Granted, stereotypes about cats and dairy products are greatly overblown. But Rhubarb is an enthusiastic yoghurt eater–even though it causes various sorts of digestive upset–so we rather expected Lefty to give it a try. Nope. A couple of sniffs were followed by burying motions.

And, yes, we know we really shouldn’t be feeding him at the table.

But he’s so polite about his requests. He sits quietly on the floor between our chairs and gives us the “Hey, hoomins, here I am, how about it?” look.

Maybe you could resist.

We can’t.

Not a Good Look

Full disclosure–a phrase that’s highly relevant to today’s post–here: I have a Wyze camera. We use it for monitoring cats. At various times, it’s been the RufusCam, the LeftyCam, and the MeezerCam. Currently, it’s pointed at the Backyard Bowl, so we can see who shows up to indulge in gooshy fud and catnip.

So, given the background, you can easily understand why I’m rather perturbed by the recent reports of a significant security flaw in Wyze’s equipment.

Brief pause to remedy a potential knowledge gap: Wyze started out making amazingly cheap wi-fi cameras. Where most companies were selling cameras for $100 and up, one could buy a Wyze camera with most of the same features for $20. Obviously, they quickly became popular with people who wanted to keep tabs on pets, property, and progeny.

Wyze has since branched out into related products (video doorbells, door locks, camera accessories, for example)–and some not-so-related products like vacuum cleaners and headphones. Their focus has remained the same, though: most of the same features, but at a fraction of the cost.

A company selling security products should take great care to make sure their products are, you know, secure. Right? Maybe not. The latest reports suggest that Wyze not only knew about a bug for years before they fixed it, but Bitdefender, the security company that found the issue, kept quiet about it as well.

This isn’t the first time Wyze has been involved in security issues. As recently as 2018, there were reports that their cameras were sending information–metadata, if not actual video–to servers in China. Wyze eventually confirmed the reports, but blamed a third-party that was part of their backend infrastructure. In 2019, they accidentally removed security features from an internal customer database, leading to information on 2.4 million customers being exposed to the Internet.

To me, this latest failure is the worst. Not because of the severity of the bug. As I understand it, it’s not an over-the-Internet vulnerability; any attacker would need to be close enough to get onto the same wi-fi network as the target camera. My concern is that Wyze sat on the bug for three years before fixing it; even after it was fixed, they didn’t give their customers any information about the bug or how they might have been affected; and, arguably worst, they somehow persuaded Bitdefender* not to release any warning to the world about the bug until after they had finally fixed it.

* Highly annoying: Bitdefender’s much-delayed press release even suggests people should use Bitdefender’s products to identify vulnerable devices on their home networks.

More full disclosure: I recently started using Bitdefender’s “Total Security” software and like it. Ironically, the thing I like most about it is that it gives more information about threats it’s blocking than the anti-malware package I used to use.

As a society, we don’t require companies to reveal security breaches in a timely fashion, or to accept meaningful accountability–“Oopsie, my bad. So sorry we let hackers get your personal information,” is not accepting responsibility, right [insert the name of darn near every company in the world]?

But companies that specialize in security need to be held to a higher standard. They need to keep their clients in the loop when things go bad. And they have to make up for their errors. Not necessarily fines, though in some cases that might be the right thing, but something that makes them share the pain they’ve inflicted on their customers.

I’m not quite ready to toss out my Wyze camera–though I doubt I’ll be buying any more of them–and I’m not uninstalling Total Security either. Yet.

Nor am I urging anyone else to dump Wyze or Bitdefender. But I am considering it, and you should too.

Dance, Kitteh, Dance!

This time I’ve got a legit excuse for the Friday-Post-On-Saturday thing: It took way longer than I expected to get even somewhat usable photos.

See, Watanuki does the “Gimme a treat, hoomin” dance whenever we hold a Kitteh Partay. Which is several times every evening, as part of the food distribution ritual. And I knew you would all like to see that.

But video just wasn’t happening for some reason. Still not sure why; I need to do some experimenting. And, whatever good you can say about the Pixel 6 camera system, it’s not the speediest thing going when light levels are low enough to require flash.

So it took a couple of nights of attempts to bring you, well, this.

I’ll keep trying on the video. I’m quite sure y’all will love the little hop that goes along with that pose.

He seems graceful and elegant in that shot, doesn’t he? But that’s the first steps of the dance. The end looks rather less exalted.

Enjoy that face in your nightmares, folks.

What To Do?

People like leftovers. If they didn’t, why would there be so many websites about them?

Nearly nine years on, my infamous leftover sauerkraut post still pulls in views–as I write this, so far this year, that post has been seen six times more often than anything I’ve written in 2022*.

* Granted, the numbers are somewhat skewed, because most of the readers see new posts on the blog’s home page, so they don’t get counted as views for the individual post. But the point stands: leftover sauerkraut gets looked for hugely more often than anything else on the blog.

And it’s great that so many people are willing to help their fellows repurpose the stuff in those half-empty containers in the back of the fridge. But unused ingredients are one thing; complete dishes are another.

Turkey can go into sandwiches, soup, tacos, and a dozen other things. Extra cheese has roughly ten thousand uses (beer and cheddar soup, anyone?) But what are you going to do with the last of the turkey soup after you’ve had it for three days straight? Freezing it just kicks the decision down the road. And the example of Chopped notwithstanding, most of us aren’t prepared to repurpose a complete main course into something totally new.

We ran into a double dilemma of this sort recently.

The chili was bad enough. As has been noted previously, our chili tends toward a souplike nature. That makes it impractical to do chili burgers (or dogs) or put it on baked potatoes. I suppose we could make ice cream, but (a) there’s significant cognitive dissonance there and (b) we don’t have an ice cream maker.

But the Mac and Cheese? It’s really a monolithic dish, not amenable to breaking down into its components.

When in doubt, go with the classics: “embrace the power of ‘and'”. Pour chili over the mac’n’cheese.

The train of logic went something like this: tomato and pasta is a classic combination; cheddar cheese goes well in chili; and, hey, in Cincinnati they put chili on spaghetti. Okay, maybe that last isn’t a good precedent: can we really trust the judgement of an area that thinks cinnamon is a mandatory spice in chili?

But, we mixed our cinnamon-free, bean-laden chili with our vegetable-free m&c. And it worked. Got two large pots out of the fridge.

Somehow it had escaped both of our notices that chili mac and cheese is a thing. I won’t tell you how long it took us to figure that one out.

So we recreated the wheel.

But this “throw two meals together” notion has possibilities. Clearly we need to experiment further.

Fauxtisserie Chicken and potato soup? Could work.

But rest assured we will not be adding sauerkraut to mac and cheese.

Moving Forward While Sitting Still

Queen Emeraldas has taken a huge step forward.

Yes, those are my legs she’s curled up between.

We’re not entirely sure she recognizes legs and feet as being part of reclining bipeds. And she definitely didn’t jump up on the bed to hang out with me.

She’s been showing up in the late evening recently, hopping up on the bed to snuggle with Yuki. Interestingly, she’s allowing him to wash her ears, which is often a submissive signal. It’s hard to picture Em as submissive with anyone, but there it is.

Anyway, on this particular day, Yuki happened to be sprawled between my knees, so Em had no real choice but to curl up where she did.

Every time I so much as twitched, she looked up in alarm, so I wound up holding as still as I could for about half an hour. Naturally, my legs went to sleep, so I did eventually have to restore circulation by moving. At which point, she leapt off the bed and sulked on the floor.

But the truly wonderful thing is that she apparently decided the bed is a comfy place to hang out, even when Mr. Floof isn’t present.

Witness the scene a few days later when I went into the bedroom:

Rather than disturbing her more than I already had by taking the picture, I decided to read elsewhere.

Remarkably Relaxing

When approached with the proper attitude, Spring Training exhibition games are amazingly relaxing. The games don’t matter*, so it’s easy to disengage from the score. Nobody cares who wins the Cactus or Grapefruit League titles, not even those teams’ fans. There’s no advantage carried into the regular season.

* Ignore anyone who tries to tell you that the regular season games don’t matter either. Obviously a heathen.

You can take the games as they come. Pitcher can’t find the strike zone? No matter. Last year’s Gold Glove shortstop bobbles three ground balls in one inning? ‘Sokay. Pricey new slugger can’t lay off the fastball a foot over his head? Eh, he’ll figure it out.

I’ve almost reached the point where I can watch the Yankees win a game and not swear. (Not that I’ve had much opportunity to practice that particular skill this year. As I write this Tuesday afternoon, the Yanks are 1-2 and are losing to the Blue Jays.)

Team stats don’t matter. If they did, I’d be calling our World Series teams now. (Red Sox versus Brewers–both currently have a +21 run differential. I don’t know about you, but I’d rate the probability of that happening as “very low”. For what it’s worth, BetMGM agrees: their picks are the Dodgers and White Sox.)

Neither, for that matter, do individual stats. Does anybody think Jose Rojas is going to keep his 2.278 OPS into the regular season? No? There are eight pitchers who have yet to let anyone on base. They’re not going to do that for long in the regular season–and at the other extreme, I’d put long odds against Caleb Smith continuing to give up three and two-thirds walks and hits per inning.

What isn’t relaxing is trying to actually watch or listen to the games. MLB’s app has always been notoriously bad in the preseason, but this year they’ve outdone themselves. Reports of audio streams cutting out every few minutes are rampant, and many are reporting video problems as well. In my case, it’s been even worse: I couldn’t even start the audio streams because the buttons weren’t tappable (or rather, nothing happened when they were tapped). Any attempt to start a video stream gave a generic “something went wrong” error*.

* I seem to have fixed the non-responsive buttons and the video errors by deleting all the app’s data and setting it up again from scratch. So now I just have to deal with the audio stream cutting out every couple of minutes–not good when trying to listen to a game in the car.

And, of course, MLB’s response is to tell anyone who complains to read their troubleshooting webpage, which offers such helpful suggestions as “MLB Audio does not broadcast pre-game or post-game shows , and may not broadcast during rain delays or commercials.” That’s great, but it’s no help at all for the playback not starting.

That said, radios and TVs still work. We can get our baseball fixes via local broadcasts. History suggests MLB will have stomped on most of the app bugs by the time the season starts–or at least by the end of June, just in time for the update they’ll be issuing for the All Star Game to break everything again.

Sit Right Down

I promised you a critter post this week, and by gosh and by golly, here it is.

(Good thing I didn’t promise it for Friday, huh? No, Saturday is not, as Maggie suggested, the new Friday. I’ll put ’em up on Friday as often as possible, but there will still be occasional slippage to Saturday.)

Anyway, onward to the actual post.

Emeraldas and Lefty both enjoy sitting in my chair in the dining room. Em will often grab it overnight and up until the bipeds start stirring. Lefty takes over after breakfast and generally maintains possession until dinner time.

In the evening, though?

Yeah, neither one is willing to give way to the other.

Cats being cats, joint possession needs to be negotiated. With extensive meepling, ear nibbling, and forehead bopping. Every. Single. Evening.