Wrong Way

Warning: venting ahead.

If you didn’t agree with my opinions about the New England Patriots’ and the NFL’s handling of the Aaron Hernandez case, you might as well skip today’s post. Quite bluntly, it’s more of the same.

The bottom line is that there’s no longer any such concept as “innocent until proven guilty” in this country.

A couple of weeks ago, a man who lives in one of the communities near me was arrested. I’m not going to say anything about his race or the specifics of the crime because they’re irrelevant to the point I’m trying to make.

A report of his arrest was posted on Fugitive Watch. Mind you, he’s not a fugitive. He’s in custody, and as far as I can tell, he never tried to evade arrest. I’m not sure how reporting his arrest will help “solve crimes, apprehend wanted fugitives and provide education and crime prevention information” (as Fugitive Watch’s mission statement suggests). But I suppose we’ve reached the point where “It’s related to a crime” is sufficient excuse to ensure that the site always has new stories showing up.

But I digress.

I found out about the case when somebody posted a brief mention on social media, and included the statement that “I hope the authorities closed this ‘[type of business deleted]’ for good.” The business in question provides social and psychological services. The news story specifically says that the alleged offense has nothing to do with the business. Nor can I find any indication that there’s ever been a complaint about the company. But the poster included those quotes to suggest that it’s a fraudulent operation.

So, yeah. In Aaron Hernandez, we had a situation where an arrest was presumed equivalent to guilt. In this case, not only is the presumption of guilt, but it’s extended to include everyone who worked for the alleged offender.

In fairness, bail in the case is high, indicating the severity of the alleged offense and, presumably, that the judge believes he’s a flight risk.

Never the less, I find it immensely disturbing that an accusation against a business owner–again, accusation, not conviction–now leads to immediate calls to shut down his business, throwing the employees out of work*, and depriving the accused of the resources he needs to defend himself. And it’s worth noting that as of when I wrote this post, the company’s website was down.

* Per Glassdoor, it’s a fairly sizable business, too: 51-200 employees.

Regardless of the outcome of the case, the accused man’s life is effectively over. He’s not just “guilty until proved innocent,” he’s “guilty in the court of public opinion.” Even if he’s acquitted–even if the accuser recants and the case is dropped–the mere fact that he was once accused will follow him forever.

And that’s just wrong.

Yes, the public has the right to know about arrests in their community. Secret arrests and secret trials are not a direction we want to go.

But that necessary transparency leads directly to this sort of situation.

I don’t have an answer. Just indignation.

SAST 05

A few quickies for you today.

I’m betting that most of you have already seen the fuss over Juicero, but for those who missed it, the short version is that the company sells a variety of juices in bags–and a $400 machine (marked down from $700) to squeeze the juice out of the bags.

The controversy is not over “Why?” That’s quite clear: because there are enough people willing to shell out the money to buy the squeezer and the juice packets (at $5 to $8 a pop–though one hopes they don’t pop easily).

The controversy is over the fact that Juicero’s investors feel they’ve been defrauded because customers don’t need to use the squeezer to get the juice out of the bags. According to Bloomberg, hand-squeezing the bags produces almost as much juice as the squeezer, and does it faster.

Apparently, neither the investors nor Bloomberg have heard of a device called “the scissors,” which could be used to empty the bag even more quickly.

Let’s note, by the way, that the bagged juice is a perishable product, enough so that the bags can’t be shipped long distances.

My advice? Go to your local hardware store and buy a hammer. Stop at the local grocery store on the way home and pick up a box of zipper-seal baggies and a couple of pieces of your favorite fruit.

Place the fruit in a baggie and zip it closed. Pound the fruit with the hammer repeatedly. Unzip and pour.

When you finish your juice–which cost you considerably less than $400 unless you got the hammer on a military procurement contract–repeat the process, substituting Juicero’s executives and investors for the fruit.

Mmm, yummy!

Moving on.

There’s a letter to the editor in today’s SF Chronicle from one Lorraine Peters addressing the United Airlines fiasco. Ms. Peters suggests that United should have handled the matter differently. Instead of using force, she says, they should have made a loudspeaker announcement: “Attention all passengers, this flight cannot take off until the gentleman in seat (so and so) vacates it and disembarks with the other three passengers.”

I presume Ms. Peters is an investor in United Airlines.

Let’s not forget that the “gentleman in seat (so and so)” paid for that seat in the expectation that United would supply the service he paid for. Placing the blame on him when United failed to meet their obligation is disingenuous at best.

Allow me to propose an alternate loudspeaker announcement. “Attention all passengers. We fucked up and didn’t get a flight crew to the right place at the right time. The only way we can think of to fix our mistake is to kick four of you off this flight. So we’re going to sit right here at the terminal until four generous souls agree to disrupt their travel plans for the benefit of the rest of you. Complimentary drinks and meals will not be served while we wait.”

It wouldn’t have done any better by United’s reputation, but at least it has the virtue of being honest.

Moving on again.

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District (that’s the San Francisco Bay Area, for those of you in the outer provinces) has announced a regional plan to combat climate change.

Among the proposals included in the plan are such sure-to-be-popular items as “Explore vehicle tolls in high-congestion areas to discourage driving,” “Discourage installation of water-heating systems and appliances powered by fossil fuels,” “Encourage the removal of off-street parking in transit-oriented areas,” and (my personal favorite) “Start a public outreach campaign to promote climate-friendly diets.”

That first one’s interesting. I see some potential pitfalls in implementing it, of course. It’s taken months to get the local metering lights to work reliably; adding an automated payment system on top of that seems fraught with peril. Imagine the fuss the first time someone gets charged a four-figure fee to get on the freeway. More to the point, though, we had major congestion on the freeway yesterday outside of commute hours because of an accident. The metering lights at several on-ramps detected the slowdown and kicked in. If the payment plan had been in effect, would we have been charged to use the freeway while the police were examining the car that went off the road?

That last item, by the way, translates as “encourage people to eat less meat,” because meat production creates more pollution than growing and shipping plants. Maybe they should also tax “add-on” gadgets such as Juicero bag squeezers, since building and shipping them creates unnecessary pollutants. But I digress.

Needless to say, not everyone thinks the agency’s plan is a good one. According to the Chron story, the opposition–they quote a Chevron employee–is suggesting that local action is pointless because climate change is a global problem and needs a global solution.

Let’s not examine that logical fallacy too closely. Let’s just rejoice in the fact that a Chevron employee actually admitted that climate change is real and related to human activity.

SAST 3

More short notes, not because I have a short attention span*, but because I’ve collected a few items that just don’t warrant a whole post to themselves.

* Well, no shorter than usual, anyway. Yes, the flu is mostly gone. Despite the ongoing coughs, my lungs are still inside my chest, rather than splattered across the keyboard, and my temperature has been normal for more than a week.

Last June, NASA announced the discovery of a small asteroid, 2016 HO3, which orbits the sun on a path that keeps it near the Earth. Near in astrophysical terms, that is: it never gets closer than about thirty-eight times as far away as the moon.

The animation at that link is a little deceptive. It seems to show the asteroid orbiting Earth, but if I’m reading the story correctly, that’s not really true. It’s on a separate orbit around the sun, but because it’s sometimes closer to the sun than we are and sometimes further, it appears to be circling us.

What I find most interesting about 2016 HO3, though, is that I’m starting to see tweets suggesting that it’s existence means that Earth should no longer be considered a planet.

You remember the fuss a few years ago when the IAU redefined the word “planet” and demoted Pluto to a “dwarf planet”? If you don’t, pick up a copy of How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming by Mike Brown–actually, pick up a copy even if you do remember; it’s an entertaining read–to refresh your memory.

Part of the new definition is that to be a planet, a celestial body has to “clear the neighborhood” around its orbit, meaning that in the late stages of planet formation, it should either sweep up the smaller bodies near its orbit, incorporating them into itself; capture them as satellites; or shove them into orbits away from its own.

However, such neighborhood clearance is never perfect. The presence of 2016 HO3 is not going to get Earth demoted to “dwarf planet”. Sorry, Pluto-lovers.

Moving on.

A story out of Maine has been popular with those who feel strongly about grammar and punctuation. There’s a good writeup at Quartz; briefly, a court based its ruling on the lack of an Oxford comma.

Long-time readers know I love me some Oxford comma. But, happy as I am to see the question get some judicial notice, I’m well aware that one court decision isn’t going to make any difference. The AP isn’t going to change its stance on the use of commas. Neither is Maine’s style guide for legislation. But I can–and will–dream.

And finally.

One of the proposals being considered for speeding up baseball games is to start extra innings with men on base. I was dubious when I first heard about the notion. After seeing it in “action” last night, I’m completely revolted.

Yeah, it shortened the game. In an aesthetically impoverished way that sucked all of the joy out of what should have been a thrilling conclusion to the Netherlands/Puerto Rico World Baseball Classic game.

Consider how both halves of the eleventh inning started. Runners were plopped down on first and second. The first batter laid down a sacrifice bunt. The second batter was intentionally walked–yes, that same intentional walk that MLB is killing off this year because it’s boring. That brings it down to one less-than-thrilling question: will the next batter hit into a double play, or manage a sacrifice fly.

Sure, there are other possible outcomes. Never assume the double play–the throw to first could go sailing into the seats. The batter could get a base hit, even a grand slam. He could strike out. But those are all low-probability events.

Where’s the fun in watching where the strategic choices are so constrained that neither manager could justify a different approach?

If Commissioner Manfred forces this rule change down our throats next year, as seems likely, I predict a major dropoff in attendance.

SAST 3

I seem to be fever-free, which is nice. My attention span has improved. I haven’t gotten lost in mid-sentence in almost two days!

The cough is still distracting, however. Writing is a race to get words on the page before I drape my lungs over the keyboard.

Sorry about that image. But it is the only way to accurately describe the sensation.

So, another day of short notes, as I write a bit, cough a bit, lather, rinse, repeat.

Daylight Savings Time, how I loathe thee.

It’s not the lost hour of sleep Saturday night. It’s not the next several days of disrupted sleep. It’s not even the need to reset the non-Internet-connected clocks*–or the confusion to the Backyard Bunch, who are suddenly getting their dinner an hour earlier according to their stomachs.

* The stove. The microwave. The thermostat. The answering machine. The car. Half-a-dozen wall and table clocks. Hey, I just gained two wall outlets by unplugging a clock radio instead of resetting it!

No, what really pisses me off is that I’m suddenly getting up before sunrise again. I like having daylight when I stagger upstairs to say good morning to Rufus and take my first look at e-mail. Why should I have to turn on a light for that?

Mr. Trump, if you want to boost your approval rating, do away with Daylight Savings Time. That’s something both parties and the independents can get behind.

I’ve been following “Jim’s Random Notes” for several years. It’s an interesting mix of computer, wood carving, and cycling geekery. A post last week, North Dakota Mexican Food, amused the heck out of me.

You’ve played the game where one person recreates a drawing based on somebody’s description of the original, right? An NDMF is the culinary equivalent: someone describes a dish, and someone else thinks “Hey, that sounds interesting. Let me see what I can do.”

Is there anyone out there who doesn’t have a NDMF experience? I can think of three right off the top of my head:

  • The Mexican restaurant that thought fajitas were a stew.
  • The diner whose barbeque sauce was red-eye gravy with a couple of chili flakes.
  • The Mexican restaurant that served Saltine crackers instead of chips.

Maybe the Internet will make the NDMF less common. But really, it’s never been particularly hard to find a cookbook…

Moving on.

Google and Apple have been in the news around here lately over their new campuses. Most of the press has been positive, but I’ve noticed they’re both taking a ding in the letter columns because neither company has included housing in their developments.

Excuse me? Yeah, OK, finding housing in the Bay Area can suck. You don’t have to tell me horror stories about extended commutes, thanks; I’ve got plenty of my own.

But do we really want to return to the days of the company town, where your boss owns the factory, the house you live in, the store you shop at, the air you breathe, the booze you drink, and everything else?

Aside from anything else, if the company owns your apartment, it’s a five minute walk from your office, and they own the phone you’re required to carry, are you ever going to get any down time? Or are you going to be unofficially (or officially!) on call twenty-four/seven/three-sixty-five?

I think it would have been wonderful if Apple and Google had included some subsidized affordable housing for non-employees in their construction. Didn’t happen, but would have been great. But captive housing for employees? Bad idea.

Moving on.

Let’s wrap this up with a positive note. I write a lot–a hell of a lot, actually–about useless gadgets full of security holes and loaded with disappointment.

So it’s a real pleasure to write about a gadget that looks like it does exactly what it’s designed to do without putting your money and privacy at risk.

Take a look at the Fidget Cube.

Pretty slick, huh? Everybody fidgets differently, and the Fidget Cube is designed to offer fidgeting options for anyone.

I’ve carried a fingering stone in my pocket for decades. I’ll turn it around in my hand or rub the smooth side with my thumb when I’m on a phone call. Much less distracting than fiddling with the phone cord and quieter than tapping my pen on the desk.

The Fidget Cube’s got me covered with a smooth curve for rubbing on one side. A trackball for spinning. A joystick for sliding.

And several other goodies that I might never use, but somebody else will find addictive. Click-wheels. Toggle switches. Push-buttons. Spinners.

And it looks to be solid enough to stand up to a pocket full of keys, nail clippers, and thumb drives.

Would it replace my rock? Maybe not; it’s hard to top the appeal of a natural object shaped by wind and water. But who says it needs to replace the rock? Why not try some two-handed fidgeting?

Changeless

Some things don’t change much at all.

The spider’s had to rebuild her web a couple of times, but she’s still hanging around in front of the house.
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And hiding on days when I have the good camera handy. I presume she’s concerned about having her picture out on the Internet in this age of facial recognition.

Yuki still thinks Rhubarb is the greatest pillow known to felinity.
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And snoring. Not surprising with his head at that angle.

The turkeys are still terrorizing the neighborhood. This shot was taken shortly after they held off the dog next door while stealing everything edible in his yard.
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And they’re beginning the preliminaries to their mating rituals. It is that time of year.

Rufus is still negotiating territorial rights with Watanuki.
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And there is much staring.

Nor Any a Drop

Those of you outside of California are probably wondering what’s behind our ongoing and ever-changing problems with water.

Believe me, we’re wondering too.

First we don’t have enough. Then we’ve got too much and can’t figure out what to do with it.

The bridges we build over it would be better suited to deserts. We’ve got some of the world’s biggest dams–but apparently we can’t maintain them.

A quick summary of the background: As a result of the unusually heavy rain in January and February, the reservoir behind the Oroville Dam is quite literally full to the brim. With two more months left in the rainy season and higher-than-usual snow melt expected, it’s necessary to release some of the water in a controlled fashion to avoid flooding. Unfortunately, a large chunk of the main spillway collapsed, reducing the amount of water that it can safely carry. A secondary spillway was activated for the first time in the dam’s history, and it quickly eroded to the point where the integrity of the dam itself was threatened.

The collapse of the dam, releasing the entire contents of the second-largest reservoir in the state would be, well, let’s say, not an ideal outcome. An evacuation order has been issued covering some 200,000 people. Engineers are trying to reinforce the secondary spillway, and the main spillway is running at its maximum safe capacity. With luck, the next round of storms, expected to being tomorrow, will hold off long enough for the reservoir to drain enough to hold the inflow.

The question everyone is asking now is “Why is the main spillway disintegrating?” And the answer is “We don’t know yet.”

What we do know is that the Department of Water Resources (DWR) has known about problems in that part of the spillway for nearly a decade. Defects were found in 2009, and repairs were made in 2013, 2014, and 2015–in exactly the area that collapsed last week. The obvious inference is that the repairs didn’t address the underlying cause of the problem; treating the symptoms rather than the disease.

It’s worth emphasizing that this is not the same situation as we’ve been hearing about with the Bay Bridge. No violations of the guidelines for proper construction. Testing is being done and issues are being addressed. The Chron–as usual, my primary source–quotes several engineering experts as saying that the DWR has been doing “everything that normally should be done.”

So the question we should be asking is “What changes in the ‘normal’ processes need to be made to avoid this situation in the future?”

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has ordered a forensic analysis to determine the root cause of the spillway failure. Let us hope that the outcome of that analysis is used to update the definition of what normally should be done. At least Caltrans isn’t involved. There’s hope.

Well, That Was Super

So another Super Bowl has passed into history. In this case, more impressively than most. Greatest comeback in the game’s history (or, if you’re a fan of the Falcons, the biggest collapse in the history of the “Big Game”).

But I’ll leave dissection of the actual game to the actual fans of the sport or the teams. I’d like to see someone who knows the NFL culture address the proverbial elephant: Since the Patriots have made such a big deal about drawing motivation from the “excessive” punishment Tom Brady received for his role in the Deflategate scandal, are we going to see the other teams demanding to be punished to restore competitive balance to the game?

While the experts are pondering that, here are a few other semi-random thoughts about the spectacle.

Points to Coke for their pre-game re-run of the multilingual “America the Beautiful” commercial from the 2014 Super Bowl. But I had the same sense of a false note this year as I did then at the decision to switch back to English for the “God shed his grace on thee” line. Fear of a backlash from the rabidly outspoken Christian fringe at the merest hint of the suggestion that non-English speakers might have valid religious beliefs?

Why am I not surprised that Fox hyped the heck out of their coverage of the Daytona 500? After the fifth or sixth commercial, their attempts to convince viewers outside of the nation’s heartland, where NASCAR reigns, that an automobile race is even more important to Life, Liberty, and the Purfuit of Happineff than the football game they were nominally watching got more than a trifle pitiful.

And then there were the commercials for APB. Apparently the world needed a weekly TV show glorifying the militarization of the police and celebrating the ability of the ultra-rich to literally purchase public servants. Fox certainly thinks so.

Was I the only person bothered by the fact that right after the tribute to football players from historically black schools, we got a commercial for Mexican avocados in which it’s the black conspirator who doesn’t understand the concept of secrecy?

And, speaking of being bothered, Kia, what the heck were you thinking with that Melissa McCarthy ad? If we’re to believe you, environmentalism is dangerous to life and limb. And if we shouldn’t risk ourselves to save whales, trees, and polar ice caps, why should we bother spending the money on your new hybrid? How about giving us some idea of what makes the Niro better than every other low-emission vehicle out there?

Mixed messages from Anheuser-Busch as well. Big props for not pulling their pro-immigration Budweiser ad, which they had to know was going to trigger calls for a boycott even before the events of last week. But then they literally brought back the ghost of Spuds MacKenzie. Couldn’t they have let the poor, alcoholic pooch rest in peace? There’s got to be a better way to sell light beer than with a “Christmas Carol” rip-off.

And then there’s Lady Gaga.

Kudos for carrying the entire halftime show herself. First time we’ve had a single act do the show without supporting acts since The Who in 2010.

For that matter, I believe she’s the only female performer to go it alone in the history of the Super Bowl. I only have data going back to 2000 handy, but the solo performers since then have been Paul McCartney, Prince, Tom Petty, and Bruce Springsteen. Add the bands that didn’t need supporting acts, and you get the all-male U2, Rolling Stones, and The Who.

It’s about time the Super Bowl Halftime Show got an anything you can do moment.

But more importantly, she gets big props for invoking “This Land Is Your Land” on Immigration Weekend and bigger ones for ramming “Born This Way” down Mike Pence’s throat–live on Fox!

So I’m willing to ignore the thousands of acres destroyed in mining all the rhinestones that went into her costumes–land that is, of course, the native habitat of the innocent nauga.

But maybe I’m being hasty. There’s something to be said for her final outfit (for those of you who missed it, she finished the show wearing much-Bedazzled shoulder pads and sparkly shorts). It could be a great thing for the NFL if it caught on. No, not with the cheerleaders. With the players.

Reduce the amount of armor they wear, and the players might be a little more cautious about hurling themselves headlong at each other and the ground. That ought to cut down on injuries just a bit.

And–be honest now–who wouldn’t want to see Tom Brady dropping back to pass in that uniform?

Three Quickies

Another entry into our catalog of clues that decline of civilization is at hand.

No, wait, come back! I promise it’s got nothing to do with politics.

In addition to being one of the half-dozen people who still reads a printed newspaper, I’m also one of the three who still reads Usenet. (I know you all remember newspapers; please tell me you remember Usenet. Oh, all right: TFoAHK–or you can just think of it as a blog without posts, just comments.)

So, of course, in bringing my Windows tablet up to speed, I had to find a newsreader. Amazingly enough, there is is one in the Microsoft App Store. Yes, there are plenty of pre-Windows 8/10 programs out there, but about half of them are intended for downloading dirty pictures and pirated TV shows, and two-thirds of them have user interfaces that work fine with a mouse, but suck with a finger. So I wanted a UWP app if there was one.

I started reading the reviews, as I do, and then I found this gem:
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Oh, FFS‽ A lousy two bucks for something that you literally can’t get any other way, and you think so strongly that the developer should just give it to you that you give it a one star rating?

The level of entitlement this showed had me so flabbergasted that I bought the app without even taking the time to see if it suits my needs. And I’m going to abuse my lofty position as the Guardian of Civilization to encourage every one of you who has a Windows 8 or newer computer to click that link above and buy NewsgroupsRT. I don’t care if you have no idea what Usenet is all about, just give $1.99 to Mr. Schaffernak. Think of it as a contribution to staving off the Decline of Civilization.

And another item for the collection.

Last weekend, I went to Sizzler for dinner. (Yeah, I have some low tastes. Wanna make something of it?) It is possible to eat healthily at Sizzler, but that’s not really the point. And I wasn’t planning to be particularly healthy on this visit. I had been thinking about a hunk of cow, but then I saw this on the menu:
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It took a couple of seconds to sink in. (A hint for my readers in the UK: what you call “chips,” we call “fries”.)

My first reaction was that this was an item for the WQTS file. Obviously, the copy had been written by someone unfamiliar with fish and chips, and somehow bypassed the copy editor.

But no. This is by design. I know this because when I placed my order, the young woman at the register asked–completely straight-faced–“Would you like fries with that?”

I confess that my brain crashed. She took in the vacant look on my face as I struggled to reboot, and in a slightly defensive tone said “Some people want to substitute a baked potato or rice.”

I rigidly suppressed the fifteen minute rant about how, without fries, it’s not “fish and chips” and managed to mutter “Fries, please.”

But the more I think about this mess, the more it bothers both my QA and writer sides. Declaring “fish without chips” to be “fish and chips” is an orwellian devaluation of the language. Can we assume that their 8oz sirloin is actually eight ounces? How sure are we that it’s actually sirloin?

Bottom line: If Sizzler is going to put rice and baked potato on the same level as fries/chips, then they shouldn’t call the dish “fish & chips”. “Beer Battered Fish with choice of sides” is perfectly serviceable and accurately descriptive, and it doesn’t actively increase the public’s levels of doubt and uncertainty.

Civilization as we know it: doomed.

Maybe.

This might be a bit a bit of bread and circuses, but I’d prefer to think of it as a sign that there might be a little hope for civilization.

Remember when you could get toys and other prizes in your cereal box? That hasn’t been the case for quite a while*, but the mail-in prize hung around rather longer.

* I blame AOL. After finding a shrink-wrapped AOL disc in your shredded wheat, would you really want to risk eating that cereal again?

For those of you who are too young to remember, the idea was that you would collect a certain number of box tops, proving that you had bought (I won’t say “eaten”) enough of a particular cereal to justify a reward. You then mailed the box tops along with a couple of bucks for “shipping and handling” to the cereal manufacturer, and six-to-eight weeks later, a Postal Packin’ Person would bring your prize.

Of course, the prizes cost the manufacturers a tiny fraction of the profit they made on your cereal purchase, and the offer always included those dreaded words “While Supplies Last”.

But you know what?

Modern technology has made it so darn simple and inexpensive to produce cheap gimcracks that it’s completely revolutionized the concept of the mail-in cereal prize.

Consider: In August, I saw that Kellogg’s was offering a “Free Lantern” in a promotional tie-in with Disney’s release of Finding Dory. Actually, the offer started running in March, but I didn’t notice it until August.

Since I’m a sucker for “free” if it doesn’t inconvenience me too much, and since the necessary purchase involved cereals that I eat anyway, I decided to get me one.

So, four boxes of cereal later, on September 23, I went to Kellogg’s website and typed in four sixteen character codes. Nothing to clip, nothing to mail, and no “shipping and handling”.

The site informed me that “The promotion has been extremely popular and we’re currently awaiting stock of additional lanterns”. Right. It’s gotten so cheap to make toys, that they made more instead of invoking “while supplies last”. Imagine!

Apparently they were seriously backlogged. The site said to allow 12 weeks for delivery. This past Tuesday, guess what showed up on my doorstep? Yup. It took more than 17 weeks–really backlogged–but I got my cheap prize.

And you know what? It’s not nearly as cheap as I expected. It’s plastic, yes, but it feels solid. And it came with batteries installed. All I had to do was–well, let Kellogg’s show you:

So, yeah. A large company promised me something, and they actually exceeded my expectations in fulfilling that promise.

If that’s not a sign of civilization, I don’t know what is.

Batter Up

Welcome to 2017!

The beginning of the year is completely arbitrary. There’s no relationship to any specific event*, but it is when it is, and we’ll have to make the best of it.

* I’ve long been of the opinion that the year should begin with the Winter Solstice, when the days begin getting longer again. Better yet, set it in mid-February, when pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training. But there’s too much cultural inertia behind the current system to make a change at this point. A shame nobody thought to introduce Pope Gregory to baseball. The 1582 season was a thriller, and might have converted him. As it was, the confusion caused when Italy adopted the new calendar in October, while Greece remained on the old calendar forced the abandonment of the World Series with Milan and Athens tied at two games apiece. But I digress.

My first post of 2014 covered continuing problems with the Bay Bridge, BART, and the San Francisco Giants. In 2015, I talked about BART and Caltrans again, and added a few thoughts on the NSA, police militarization, the Oakland As, and phablets. Despite the initial gloom and doom, both years had their ups and downs, but turned out relatively well.

I started 2016 with “The Tale of Knuckles Malloy” and we all know the general consensus on last year. I won’t accept sole responsibility for the state of the world, but it’s clear I should begin this year with a rant instead of trying to entertain.

Unfortunately, I really don’t have anything new to say about the problems besetting our transportation infrastructure, super-giant phones, or the increasing number of threats to privacy and security. And the less said about the Giants’ and As’ off-season moves thus far, the better.

How about a generic admonition instead of a rant?

If you’re one of the majority who regards 2016 as the worst year since [insert date here*], don’t just sit back and hope 2017 will be better. That’s not going to work.

* Popular choices include 1969, 1944, and 1930. If that seems rather 20th Centuryist, you might want to consider 410, 1066, or 1348.

Granted, there isn’t much any one person can do about some of the depressing aspects of 2016. But some can be dealt with. Pick one–any one–and do something–anything–about it.

It doesn’t have to be something big. I’ll spare you the usual platitudes about grains of sand and beaches or acorns and oak trees. But you’ll feel better for having made a contribution.

Caution

We began the year with the tale of Watanuki’s unauthorized experiment in outdoor living, so let’s go back to the feline contingent to close out 2016 with a cautionary tale.

As I’ve mentioned, the dining room heat vent has been very popular lately.
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Although some people seem a trifle unclear on the basic concept.
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Joint use is possible.
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But sometimes…
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conflicts arise.
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And when limited resources are the subject of a fight, there can be at most one winner.
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A lesson we should all keep in mind as the Western US draws ever closer to the inevitable water wars.


On a cheerier note, Rufus is doing well. He enjoyed a Christmas treat of salmon gooshy fud, and he’s rocking his new bling. No heat vents in his catio, but he’s got a warm lap every evening, and seems quite happy with that.
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