SAST 14

Today’s Short Attention Span Theater is not brought to you by disease or lack of sleep, it’s just an excuse to deal with my to-do pile.

First, a brief administrative note.

I will be attending the Scott Joplin Ragtime Festival at the end of the month. I’m not planning a book signing or any other formal event, but The RagTime Traveler will be available for sale*. Come on down to Sedalia, enjoy the music, pick up a book, and I’ll be delighted to sign it for you.

* Dad’s ragtime books, both fiction and non-fiction, will also be in the festival store. In my totally unbiased opinion, you need copies of all of those as well.

While I will take my laptop along, I don’t plan to write any blog posts. I’ll make sure to have a post for Friday, May 31–I don’t want to be responsible for riots caused by cat deprivation–but other than that expect silence between May 28 and June 4, with a return to the usual schedule on June 6.

Second, I’m a little disturbed to discover that El Sobrante* is more dangerous than I’d thought.

* For those unfamiliar with the Bay Area, El Sobrante is the closest of the several cities that border the part of Richmond where I live.

Over the years, I’ve gotten accustomed to the suspicious sorts lurking in the local undergrowth, but it appears that a new threat is moving in.

According to a recent post on everyone’s favorite unbiased news source–Nextdoor–“[…]a somewhat large buck with velvet covered antlers jumped out from the side… he mean mugged us hella hard and took a few quick steps towards the car…”

That’s right. As if street gangs of turkeys and terrorist coyotes aren’t bad enough, now we’ve got to deal with deer carjackers. It’s a bad neighborhood, obviously, and getting worse.

But I have to wonder: how the heck did the deer expect to drive the car to the chop shop? He could probably hold the key between his hooves, but it’s not like the driver’s seat can be adjusted to fit his shape. For that matter, what kind of payment would he have been expecting? I’ve heard that fences pay chicken feed, but salt licks?

Anyway, moving on.

The big story a few days ago was that Microsoft is working on tools to (as the Chron’s headline put it) “secure elections”. Which is great news as far as it goes.

Microsoft is doing it right: making the source code freely available, so anyone can audit it and any company in the voting machine field can use it.

The thing is, it’s not a complete voting system, and the value of Microsoft’s software is only as good as the implementation. Voting machine companies have a justifiably poor reputation for the quality of their coding. You can have the greatest software in the world for allowing voters to verify their ballot, and it’ll be absolutely useless if the rest of the software and the hardware it’s running on is riddled with security holes.

How many voting machines run on Windows XP, an operating system that has been completely unsupported for half a decade? (Probably fewer than the number of ATMs running on OS/2, which has been dead for three times as long. But I digress.) Sorry, not totally unsupported. Microsoft just released a security patch for XP. How many of those voting machines running the code are going to get the patch? I’m betting on a percentage in the single digits.

Also, as the articles point out, Microsoft’s new code doesn’t support Internet voting (something far too many people want, given the woeful state of the art) or vote by mail systems, which are increasingly popular.

I’m not running Microsoft down. As I said, it’s a step in the right direction. But we as a country need to take far more than just that one step.

And, finally, no SAST post is really complete without a mention of either the Bay Bridge Bolt Botch or the Transbay Terminal fiasco. I don’t have anything on the BBBB, but there was a brief note in the Chron a few weeks about about the terminal.

The cracked support beams are nearly repaired–though we still don’t have a date for the grand reopening. What we do have is word that the paths in the rooftop garden are going to be replaced.

Those paths, you may remember, are made of decomposed granite, and even before the terminal was closed, the granite was decomposing even further. So the decision has been made to repave the paths, this time using concrete.

As local megaconstruction repair projects go, it should be a comparatively cheap fix, no more than half a million dollars or so. The city and the contractors are, of course, arguing over who is at fault for the failure of the paths. We all know who’s going to wind up paying for the repair, though, and it isn’t either of the arguing parties.

Comfort Zone

I know I’ve posted a lot about the Formerly Feral Fellows lately, but I couldn’t resist today’s pictures. I promise I’ll give the rest of the crew some screen time soon.

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This is, by far, the best picture of Lefty I’ve taken. Admittedly, using a real camera with an actual zoom helped a lot. But even so, Lefty’s growing comfort with allowing us to look at him and point weird boxy things at him helped even more.

He did retreat into his safe space under the futon when I came closer, but I’m fine with that. One paw’s worth of gain at a time is better than we had hoped for.

The reason I stepped beyond Lefty’s comfort zone was to see what Rufus was up to. And the answer was adorable.

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Telephoto helped with this one as well. I couldn’t have gotten close enough to take this shot with my phone; Rufus would certainly have woken up.

Note the obligatory blep–silly pink tongue–and the handsome lavender toe beans.

Yes, he does look a bit bedraggled. The nap came squarely between grooming sessions, I think. By late afternoon, he was his usual dapper self.

Mind you, I’d prefer he not sleep in front of the computer. I’d rather he didn’t make it so easy for fur to get into the case. But there are tradeoffs in everything, and if he’s happy, I’m willing to open the machine and clean it out periodically.

Meet and Greet

Lefty continues to keep his distance from the bipeds, but his distance is getting smaller.

Case in point:
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Quite the change from two weeks ago, when the best shot we could get made him look like a little black blob with one glowing eye.

He spent several hours Wednesday exploring the upstairs hall. In addition to hanging out in proximity to the Tuxedos, he also exchanged a few mildly disparaging remarks with Rhubarb, and set aside time to sleep in the orange condo/footstool.

Six feet seems to be the edge of his comfort zone when food isn’t involved. Which seems highly appropriate, now that I think about it. After all, there are six feet involved here: his four and my or Maggie’s two.

Mix a few treats into the equation, and the boundary gets smaller. We’re not ready to hand-feed him, nor is he ready to be hand-fed, much less patted, but we’ve had limbs as close as a foot away from him without any bloodshed.

Excellent progress–though after a big gain like this, we’re fully expecting a plateau or even a partial retreat in his acceptance of attention.

Rufus, by the way, declined to participate in Wednesday’s meet-and-greet. The other cats, after all, are old news, and he had far more important things to do.
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In our current mini-heat wave (upper 80s, lower 90s), the upstairs bathroom is the perfect place for an extended snooze.

That Brightness Ain’t the Sunrise

Yes, I know yesterday’s post was a bit dark. For the record, no I’m not particularly depressed. No need to alert Facebook’s algorithms.

And, speaking of records, the Mariners did set that record–15 games at the beginning of the season with at least one home run–they did win yesterday in a very thrilling come-from-behind fashion, and they now return home bearing the best record in baseball and a four game division lead over the Astros. Who are, coincidentally, the team they’ll be playing for the next three days and who, historically speaking, the Mariners have always had trouble beating. As I said before, it can’t last. But it’s a great ride while it does.

Anyway, how about something cheerful as an antidote to yesterday’s doom and gloom?

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Hang on, let me enhance that a little. Or at least brighten it up a bit.

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Why, look! It’s Lefty, out of the room he shares with Rufus!

Yes, we’ve begun giving him opportunities to explore the upstairs hall. He’s been very cautious about it, not spending much time off his familiar turf, and certainly not letting us close (hence the low resolution of the pictures–they were cropped out of shots taken from halfway across the house).

But he’s taking steps in the right direction. Not only is he broadening his horizons, but he’s also had a couple of opportunities to exchange less-than-flattering personal observations with ‘Nuki.

Now that is a rite of passage!

Finally, lest you think I’ve merely exchanged dark words for dark pictures, here’s something bright and cheerful.

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It’s not often we see these three hanging out together. Enjoy.

Reputation

‘Nuki has a tough life. It’s his own fault, though.

He spends all his time working on his rep. “Mr. Murder Mittens.” “Knuckles Malloy, Notorious Mobster Feline.” Those are names with capital-P Power. Oompj. Even “Mr. Thugbutt,” for all its superficial silliness, has a touch of that menacing edge.

It’s exhausting to keep it up, all day, every day.

You gotta give the guy props, though. He’s in there doing the work and reaping the rewards.

24/7/365.

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Okay, okay. He slips occasionally.

But notice that right front paw. Even at his inadvertent cutest, ‘Nuki still stays on message. There may only be one claw exposed, but it’s a darn sharp one.

Then there’s his little sister, Sachiko.

She’s got a rep of her own, and she’s far less prone to slip than Big Brudder Nookles. And that’s a Really Good Thing, because she’s the current holder of the “Ms. Otter Girl” title. Has been for more than four years now.

That’s “otter” as in “always going where she otter not be.”

Case in point.

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She’s also been known to climb over the fence you see behind her. It would be beneath her dignity to simply go down a couple of steps and come back on the other side of the fence. Such sedentary behavior might be appropriate for old fogies like her siblings, but not for a young lady with athletic inclinations.

She wishes it known that, should she decide to go to Stanford, she will earn her scholarship. No need to bribe her way onto the rock climbing team.

Still the Best of Friends

Five years and eleven months ago, I wrote about how, two years before, we had become a five cat household, blowing right through all sensible limits regarding proper human to feline ratios.

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Yuki and Watanuki, I said then, had been hanging out together at the shelter, and it seemed far too great a sin to break up such a promising friendship. Now, here we are, more than eight years after the Ookis graced us with their presence in our lives, and they’re still great friends.

To the extent that ‘Nuki has friends, anyway. But leave his thuggery for another day.

They can often, as you see here, be found hanging out on the bed together.

They share common interests. Home security (“Ooki Brothers’ Security is on the case!”). Treats. Drooling.

Mutual grooming is far from unheard of.

And they have similar reactions to being photographed. “You get one shot. After that, I’m going to shift to a less photogenic pose.”

So it was an exciting day when I not only got the shot of the two of them sharing out the pillows, but even persuaded them to hold still long enough to get individual images.

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Mr. Floof isn’t actually gazing into your soul. I don’t think so, anyway. More likely, he’s assessing the odds that you’ve got a cat treat in your pocket.

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Mr. Knuckles, on the other paw, is definitely sizing up your soul and finding it lacking. He’s not using his eyes, though. Those whiskers of his are multipurpose implements whose utility goes far beyond mundane navigation. They weigh souls, field dress prey, and tune in FM radio.

For the Fancier

By my count, we’ve had three straight weeks of the Fabulous Formerly Feral Felines, so it’s time to give some attention to the rest of the gang again.

Unfortunately, feline cuteness and/or silliness have been in short supply lately. Or maybe I’ve just been oblivious to it. Either way, my supply of photos is a little light at the moment.

I do have this charming shot of Watanuki.
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Note the corner of the blanket neatly folded across his abdomen. He’s always been a burrower, and we take great care in checking any lumps in the blankets when we come into the bedroom.

Lately, he hasn’t been digging deep under the covers–perhaps a sign of warmer weather approaching. Instead, we find scenes like the one above, or on days when the temperature drops again, something more like:
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Devoted students of the toe bean are welcome to requests higher resolution images.

Yes, that is a bit of his leg visible toward the left of the picture, but it didn’t stay in sight long. Shortly after I took the shot, ‘Nuki twitched the covers down over his leg.

We still don’t know what the purpose of the exposed paw was. It might have been a form of temperature regulation or, since this is ‘Nuki–who’s forever leaving body parts lying around–it could just as easily have been an oversight or an artistic statement.