An Interesting Idea

Hmm.

Apparently, Quebec has given up on the carrot and is ready to try the stick. According to news reports, the roughly 13% of the province’s population that haven’t gotten at least one shot will have to pay a tax penalty.

It’s obvious that appeals to common sense have gone as far as they’re going to. And incentive programs have probably reached their limits as well. One can only offer so many lotteries, after all, and anyone who might be lured in by cash payments, offers of food and beverages, or merchandise promoting local sports franchises has probably succumbed to said temptation.

Although, as the BBC notes, this isn’t the first attempt to force the unvaccinated to pay–they cite a monthly fine in Greece and Singapore’s refusal to pay for health care for the unvaccinated–it does seem to be an approach that few politicians of any stripe are willing to propose.

So, kudos to Quebec for trying something a little different. Some details remain to be worked out, of course. The size of the tax bill hasn’t been set–one wonders if it’ll be a flat amount, a flat percentage, or some kind of graduated number based on age, income, or political affiliation–and I doubt whether there’s any agreement yet over whether refunds are possible if people do get vaccinated after paying up. Or, for that matter, whether a cut-off date has been set yet, or if there’s still time for people to get their shots and avoid the charge.

Any such plan in the U.S. would inevitably allow for medical and religious exemptions–making it entirely useless–and then be tied up in the courts for years anyway. Plenty of well-known anti-vaxxers north of the border; will Quebec’s plan run afoul of them?

All that said, I’d love to see a similar plan tried in a region with a much lower vaccinated percentage*. Any brave state politicians want to give it a shot?

* As of a couple of days ago, less than half of the populations of Mississippi, Alabama, Wyoming, and Idaho were fully vaccinated. For that matter, Quebec is doing better than any U.S. state: Vermont had the highest vaccination rate at 78.21%, slightly behind Quebec’s 78.32% rate.

There must be ways to make it slightly less of a political suicide pill. Plenty of states have taxes that are only imposed on certain people: gas taxes to pay for road repair, property taxes to pay for schools, and so forth. Maybe some states could make a non-vaccination tax fly by making it conditional: you only pay the tax–with the funds being earmarked to go to state hospitals–if you’re unvaccinated and are hospitalized for COVID-19.

Nah, never going to work in the U.S. But I look forward to hearing how it goes over in Quebec–and whether it actually raises the vaccination rate.

Inevitably

What is it about me and Christmas?

It wasn’t all that long ago that I was gifted with kidney stones.

This year, Christmas began with a headache and mild nausea. A couple of Ibuprofen took care of the first, and breakfast largely resolved the latter. The lassitude and general unwillingness to move I blamed on “weekend” and “interrupted sleep due to pre-Christmas work schedules.” All went well until late evening, when the shivers started.

A couple of minutes, I could have blamed on the not-so-great insulation in our walls–nighttime temperatures around here have been in the low forties lately–but when they go on for the larger part of an hour, one has to admit to sickness. In any year that didn’t begin with “202”, I’d have said “seasonal flu” and retired to my bed. Not this decade, of course.

Sunday, I skipped breakfast–a once-every-half-decade-or-so event–because the thought of anything with any sugar in it made me a bit green around the gills. Fortunately, the chills had stopped, because finding my way to a testing center* while shivering violently would have been problematic. Pre-emptively called out sick to work for my Monday shift, ate a small dinner with no dessert, and basically fell asleep, rousing only to feed felines.

* Big “thank you”s to the person who recommended that testing center and to the staff who explained how to work the system so they could take me as a walk-in.

Felt much more functional on Monday. Got the results in the afternoon and, no surprise, they were positive*. So, despite being almost back to normal–as I write this on Tuesday, I’ve got a sore throat and am intermittently sneezy; at this rate of improvement, I should feel fine by the end of the week–I’m sidelined for an indefinite period.

* For the record, Maggie got tested on Tuesday, despite being largely asymptomatic, and we expect to get official word of her status sometime today.

Naturally, this has been playing out against the backdrop of the CDC’s new recommendation for shorter quarantines. Will they be adopted by my corporate masters? Or, more importantly, by my cow-orkers? They really ought to have some say in the matter.

Because, frankly, it’s only a matter of time before COVID-19 nails them too–as several people have said, it’s a minor miracle it took this long for me to get it–and I fully support what I assume is their desire to put it off as long as possible.

Regardless, the weirdest thing about the whole experience so far has been how normal it’s felt, and how matter-of-fact everybody has been about it.

“Hey, I’ve contracted a potentially life-threatening disease, and I might have given it to you, too.” “Don’t sweat it. Get lots of rest and feel better.”

I mean, yes, I’m fully vaxxed and boostered. It’s probably omicron*.

* The next person who tells me that omicron’s comparatively mild symptoms mean the end of COVID-19 is near is getting smacked across the face. The next variant could have omicron’s breakthrough infection abilities with symptoms as severe (or even worse) than the original strain. And the next person who refuses to get vaccinated because “omicron isn’t so bad” gets a baseball bat to the head–if you’re not vaccinated, there’s no guarantee that you’ll get omicron, rather than some other variant when your number comes up.

But still.

It’s not that people seem numb. It’s just, COVID-19 has become normal. A part of daily life.

And it’s putting me off balance. I expected to feel more alarm.

[Cat]food for Thought

With all of the doom and gloom in the news these days, it’s nice to know that there are still some uplifting stories out there. For some values of uplifting, anyway. And, since it’s been quite a while since we’ve had a cat in the news, let’s grab the opportunity.

Multiple sources* are talking up a cat who–according to the headlines–rescued his elderly human.

* I’m only linking one of the stories, because there aren’t a whole lot of details available. Consequently, the news stories all read pretty much the same.

In short, the human fell down a ravine. The cat sat at the top of the ravine and meowed. As a result, searchers found the woman sooner than they might otherwise have, and as of last reports, she’s receiving medical care and doing well.

Based on the story, it doesn’t seem like Piran, the cat, did much actual rescuing. But as we all know, headlines are often exaggerated. We’ll cut Piran some slack there. But still, there are a number of unanswered questions here that lead me to wonder if Piran is quite as much of a hero as the press suggests.

Why was the woman walking near the ravine? Was this a normal part of her routine, or a deviation?

Perhaps more significantly, why was Piran in the area? Did he normally join her on her walks? The story notes that he wasn’t actually at the top of the ravine, but outside a “nearby gate”. Near the ravine? Or just near the home of the neighbor who located the woman?

Maybe we can take the story at face value. Maybe Piran does follow his human around, saw that she was in trouble, and–disdaining the “Lassie” paws-on approach–hollered for help.

Or perhaps it was just a tragic accident. An argument that got out of paw–perhaps about the amount or type of food in Piran’s bowl–leading to an exchange of words and an angry stomp across the corn field. A careless step–or a distracted step as Piran calls a warning about the ravine–and now dinner is further delayed. And if the woman had, in fact, been down there for hours, Piran might well have tried a more active approach rescuing her, only resorting to calling for help when it became clear he wasn’t going to be able to drag her up the 70 foot slope.

But there’s a more sinister possibility, as well. Let us not forget that there are villainous cats as well as heroic ones. Ever had a cat underfoot while you were climbing stairs? How difficult would it have been for Piran to trip his human down that hillside?

Has anyone checked her will to see what provisions she’s made for Piran?

A State of Confusion

It’s been a week since California reopened. Is anyone surprised that now nobody seems to know what the rules are?

Hey, did you know you can take your own bags to the grocery store now? You can, even if no stores have put up signs saying so.

In theory, it should be simple. Nobody policed social distancing or capacity limits*, so officially removing those rules hasn’t really been noticeable.

* Officially, somebody did. Someone was responsible for making sure restaurant tables were far enough apart, “wait here” line markers were spaced correctly, and department stores weren’t packed shoulder to shoulder. But in practice–and, admittedly, in my experience–people have been amazingly good about self-policing. I’ve seen and heard of very few incidents of people being snapped at to back off, or self-appointed line monitors slapping knuckles.

For most people, the only question mark is whether they have to wear a mask. And apparently most people don’t have a clue. And really, that may be a good thing, at least around here. Because the overwhelming majority are defaulting wearing their masks. Granted, the SF Bay Area is one of the most highly vaccinated regions in the country, and I have no doubt that in places where people aren’t getting vaccinated in job lots, they’re also not wearing masks. Unless it’s at gunpoint*.

* Hey, there’s a thought: it’s no coincidence that areas where gun ownership is high are, for the most part, anti-vaccination and anti-mask. Maybe we need a public campaign to encourage vaccinated gun owners in places like Texas (39.76% vaccinated), Wyoming (33.58% vaccinated), and Mississippi (28.87% vaccinated) to defend their lives and property by “escorting” their neighbors to vaccination centers. Or maybe escorting teams of door-to-door vaccinators around their neighborhoods. Probably wouldn’t work–if only because volunteer escorts would be wildly outnumbered–but it’s worth considering.

At my day job, I’ve had several people ask me for permission to take their mask off. And yes, I mean ask. Politely. One of them was someone who, mere weeks ago when masks were still required, assured me loudly that he was fully vaccinated and he didn’t want to “wear the damned mask”. Quite a turnaround, and all because he now has options.

Even more people have asked me if masks are still required, but kept them on even after I tell them they’re free to remove them.

(For the record, my job is not one that requires mask-wearing, but I and all of my cow-orkers have agreed to continue wearing them indefinitely.)

I know my experience isn’t typical when looked at from a national perspective, but still, it’s nice to know that there are still a few pockets of sanity in the world.

Scammy: A Public Service Reminder

The malware scam has a long and ignoble history. We’ve talked about them before, most notably in the context of confusing the scammers. Back then (2014), we were seeing the rise of the robo-scammer. Surprisingly, it seems that was a short-lived phenomenon.

For the record, I keep an eye on what scams are making the rounds both out of personal curiosity and as part of my day job. A rare occurrence, being paid to do something I’d do anyway (that doesn’t involve writing).

Anyway, in the absence of data, I speculate that people hate talking to a computer so much that not enough people pressed 1 to allow the auto-dialer to connect them to a human being. It seems logical, anyway: the reason these scams are so successful is that the caller has a well-written and well-practiced script to panic the recipient into forking over their money and opening up their computer. No one is going to trust a robotic voice that says “Your computer is under attack.”

Heck, most people are going to assume that the robotic voice is the one that’s doing the attacking.

So we’re back to more traditional methods of scamming. But there are still new wrinkles.

Remember those popups that claim you need to install a special codec to see the video you’ve clicked on? They’re still around, but they’ve been joined by a new come-on. With the long-awaited and well-publicized demise of Flash, now we’re seeing popups telling would-be viewers that they need to reinstall the Flash player that has been removed from their browser.

I would have thought people would stop to ask themselves why Flash was removed in the first place, but apparently there’s a sufficiency of people who aren’t that self-inquisitive. Sufficient enough to keep the scammers happy, anyway.

Of course email spam is still a potent venue for scammers. The “I’ve hacked your webcam and will send your family pictures of you masturbating” letters seem to be on the decline. And good riddance. The current popular approach is a subscription renewal. “Hey, this is [large corporate entity]. Your subscription to our service is about to expire. Your card will be charged [outrageously large fee] tomorrow.” This scam works well because the fee is so high. “Five hundred bucks for a magazine/website/streaming service?” If the victim is actually a subscriber, they call to correct what they figure must have been a typo; if they don’t have the service, they call to prevent the large charge. Of course, if they aren’t a subscriber, the scammer is set with a script to apologize for the incorrect message, pitch the service in glowing terms at a much more reasonable price, and get a credit card number that can then be wildly abused.

Oddly, while the scammers go to great lengths to make the emails look like they’re coming from the real company, incorporating stolen graphics and boilerplate legal text lifted from actual emails, they often don’t make the slightest effort to forge the “From” on the email. Though the evidence suggests that they don’t need to make the attempt. People seem to be quite willing to assume that “john.smith@yahoo.com” is fully authorized to speak for Netflix, Fox News, or Xfinity. Or, more likely, nobody even looks at the sender’s address. Those big numbers apparently attached to their credit cards exert a magnetic attraction on the eyes.

The big winner from a scammer’s perspective, however, is still the phone call. Yes, Sam and Nancy and their ilk are still in business. Apparently, however, enough people have figured out that Microsoft and Apple aren’t monitoring their customers’ computers and phones that claiming to be “Sam from Apple” doesn’t work well enough.

Today, the caller is much more likely put a gloss of plausibility on their claim. “Hi, this is Jolene from Norton Security Services.” LifeLock is popular with the scammers, since so many people have subscriptions to LifeLock, either directly or through their association with Norton. Other name-brand security companies’ names are being abused as well: McAfee (many computers come with a trial version of McAfee antivirus installed, so people are used to seeing or hearing the name) and ADT–“Hey, I got my burglar alarm from them, I guess they’re protecting my Internet too”–are at the top of the list.

So let’s be careful out there. Remember, when someone says they’re watching out for you online, they’re telling the exact truth. They’re watching out for you and your wallet.

Onward

(aka Short Attention Span Theater 18)

True story.

I was coming home from work the other day–along Richmond Parkway, as it happens–when I witnessed what was, if not the stupidest driving maneuver ever, certainly one of the top ten.

Picture this: I was waiting at a red light, fourth car in line in the right lane. Two cars in the left lane. Nobody in the left turn lane. There’s a small bunch of trees on the corner to the right, which means you can’t see into the cross street until you’re actually in the intersection.

And coming up from behind me is a Mini of some sort*, zipping along at the speed limit, which happens to be 50 along there.

* I think it was a Countryman, but I’m often clueless when it comes to vehicular makes and models.

The driver wasn’t showing any sign of slowing down, and I was starting to get nervous. One doesn’t think of a Mini as “looming”, but this one was unquestionably looming in my rear-view mirror.

And then it veered to the left.

Without slowing down, it slewed across the width of the street into the left turn lane and stormed straight through the intersection, back across the full width of the street to the right lane.

About fifteen seconds later, the light changed to green–which means it had to still be green for the cross street when the idiot went through the red–but nobody moved for a good ten seconds, too stunned by the sight we’d just seen.

My immediate reaction was that the driver must be the same kind of idiot who gets his first vaccination and immediately stops wearing a mask.

On reflection, I think that’s too gentle an assessment. More likely, he hasn’t gotten vaccinated, won’t get vaccinated, and threatens to sue businesses that require customers to be masked because he thinks makes spread disease.

Moving on.

In the interest of keeping you informed of the doings of Xathanael Todd*, I bring you this excerpt from a letter I received from his father on Monday.

* Previous mentions are here and here.

“April 23rd, 24th, and 25th will be Xathanael’s final theatrical performances before graduating High School.

On The Fringe Children’s Theater in Vallejo is presenting an online production of Elephant and Piggy: We Are In A Play. Xathanael has been working there as Assistant Choreographer and Music Director. He is also starring as Gerald.”

Unlike the earlier performance noted above, this production will, in the spirit of the times, be streamed online. Tickets–a mere $5 each, though you can pay more if you wish–are available through Showtix4U, so even those of you who don’t habitually frequent Fairfield, California can attend.

I’m trying to figure out whether I can get some time off one of those days. Working evenings does have a down side.

As you may have gathered, yes, I’m back.

Late March or early April is generally when I post my “State of the Fourth Estate” summary. Last year, I was hoping to send out Demirep to my beta readers in June. I actually beat that estimate. The draft went out in mid-May.

Since then, I’ve written a grand total of zero words of fiction.

What I’ve found is that I need a certain minimum amount of structure in my life in order to write. And even after I returned to work after the lockdown, I had no routine. Schedules changed frequently, responsibilities shifted on a weekly–sometimes daily–basis. And then there were all of those one-off disasters falling into life, both political and personal.

Finally, however, life and work are settling down. I’ve made plans to carve out regular writing times. First for the blog, then for the novels. It’s going to happen. I’m going to make it happen.

Moving on again: see you Friday.

There’s a Difference

I feel the pressure building up again, so I’m going to inflict another rant on y’all before the steam starts spraying out of my ears. Thanks for your patience.

Damn it, people, “stay at home” means you remain in your house.

It’s that simple.

Yes, I know the directives have exceptions. Here in California, the exceptions are to go shopping for essentials and for exercise.

I’m fine with anyone who goes for a walk, a jog, a bike ride, or other exercise. Solo or with someone they live with. Go for it. I won’t even complain if you take your mask off, as long as you’re actually in motion–keep it on if you’re doing stationary exercises, or face my wrath.

But apparently there are way, way too many people who are unclear on what constitutes “essentials”.

A few hints:

Buying groceries is essential. Having a sit-down meal in (or outside) a restaurant is not. Take-out is fine–no worse, epidemiologically speaking than grocery shopping–as long as you take it home to eat.

Shopping for a computer, cell phone, or tablet so you can work, go to school, stay in touch with family and friends, and, yes, entertain yourself is essential. Shopping for any of the above because your old one is the wrong color, weighs a couple of ounces more than the latest model, or has a small scratch on the back is not essential.

Entertainment media you can take home–books, movies, video games (yes, even video game consoles)–are essential; we don’t want anyone assaulting family members just to break up the monotony. Outside entertainment–movies, sporting events, concerts–not essential. Note that I’m not drawing a distinction between indoor and outdoor events. Yes, the risk is lower outdoors, but the constant vigilance required to stay six feet away from all the yahoos who won’t wear a mask outside is going to ruin your enjoyment of the event. Drive-in theaters? If everyone stayed in their car with the windows closed and the engine off, maybe safe enough–but essential? No.

Buying a new freezer? Depends. If you don’t have one or it doesn’t work, essential. If you want a second one to store the groceries you’re hoarding, not essential. And rethink your priorities if you accumulated a six-month supply of ground beef.

Getting the picture?

Think about it this way: remember “shelter in place” and how much you enjoyed that?* If we don’t stop breaking curfews and going out for non-essentials, we’re going find ourselves back in Shelterinplaceland.

* Man, March seems like a long time ago!

Viruses don’t care how stir-crazy you are.

Vaccines are not cures, nor are they 100% effective, and they won’t be universally available for months yet.

If it helps any, try pretending it’s a earthquake drill, like we had in school, back when we had schools. A very, very protracted drill.

Duck and cover!

(Note: duck is not essential–but it is available from many grocery and restaurant delivery services.)

SAST 16

Apparently someone at MLB.TV is reading this blog. Less than a week after I noted that nobody’s been talking about MLB.TV subscriptions, they decided to prove me wrong.

I said that I doubted we’d get a prorated refund. Surprise!

According to the email I received, we do get prorated refunds. We can have them credited to back to the cards we used to pay, or we can credit them against next year’s subscription.

That’s a no-brainer. I see no reason to give MLB half a year of interest on my money. More to the point, though, after the example of this year’s negotiations between the owners and players, I’m not the only person wondering if there will be a season next year.

Refunds will be issued around the end of July. I presume this is so they won’t have to go through the refund process twice if the 60 game season gets scrapped entirely–something that seems increasingly likely in the light of the ongoing problems with testing.

On a semi-related note, team schedules are now available online. You can subscribe to them with your Google, Apple, or Windows calendar.

If, that is, you’re willing to give an unidentified third party access to all of your calendars. At least, that’s the case in Google-land.

Maybe it’s different for those of you using Outlook or iCal; I suggest you check the permissions that come along with any calendar requests very carefully.

Moving on.

Douglas Adams was wrong. It’s not time that’s the illusion. Dates are illusions.

These days, I’m far from the only person who can’t tell whether it’s a Wednesday in July or a Tuesday in November without looking at a phone (or calendar for those of us who still use paper). I think we all know it’s still 2020, but I’m certain enough to bet money on it.

It’s not just the lack of stimulation, with our limited ability to spend time with friends, or the sameness of our personal schedules–especially for those working at home. It’s the sense of futility that comes from not having an endgame in sight. Nobody knows when life will return to normal–whatever that is or will be–and, worse yet, nobody knows when we’ll know when.

We’re just marking time. Seconds, minutes, hours. But not days. They’re just too big to grasp.

Moving on–in a limited way.

Along with the retreat from “reopening,” we’re getting a return of one of the most noxious notions from the days of “Shelter in Place.” You know the one I mean: “Look at all the free time you have. You can finally do those things you’ve been putting off!”

Poisonous.

Maybe it works for you. I’ll admit it worked for me early on. I wrapped up the third draft of Demirep and put it in the hands of my beta readers (and thanks to all of you!). But after that?

My usual practice is to start the next novel while the beta readers are reading. This time, nope. It’s not that I don’t have ideas. I do. But actually doing anything with them? Not happening.

And the last thing I need is somebody guilting me about it.

Same goes for you. If you’re not capable of working on one of your projects–whether it’s something artistic or practical–you’ve got my permission to not do it and to not feel guilty or defeated. We’re all different, and we all react to events differently.

If someone tells you that you have to work on something, feel free to politely tell them to get stuffed. And if they gloat about how much they’ve accomplished under lock-down, feel free to deliver them to your local taxidermist for stuffing.

On a related note, I will assault the next person I hear saying “Man, being a professional athlete is the worst job these days.” (Yes, people really are saying that. If you haven’t heard it–presumably because you’re being a responsible adult and socially isolating and being a smart adult and staying off social media–I envy you.)

You know what really sucks? Working in a field where you don’t have a choice about going to work every day, where your employer doesn’t pay for tests and won’t pay you if you get sick. Or not working because your former employer is out of business.

We’re all having to learn new ways to do our jobs–it’s not just ballplayers who have to figure out how to get the work done safely. And very few of us have the same safety nets they do. Well-funded unions that actually look out for their members, affordable health insurance, and well-off senior members of our professions who look out for their juniors* are increasingly scarce.

* Major kudos for the various MLB stars who’ve been chipping in money to help out the minor league players who aren’t getting paid at all now that the MiLB seasons have been cancelled.

Moving on.

Well, maybe. One of these days.Sometime.

Making Do With Uncertainty

It’s the uncertainty that gets me. I’ve seen “the foreseeable future” and “until at least” so much I’ve started mentally adding them to everything I read.

“Thank you for your order of three hundred twenty seven rolls of toilet paper. Your expected delivery date is until at least May 20. We hope you enjoy your toilet paper for the foreseeable future.”

Not that we’re actually hoarding toilet paper. We’ve got enough for a couple of weeks, and if we can’t get more when that runs out, we’ll cope. Paper towels. Newspaper. Too bad Sears doesn’t publish a mail order catalog anymore–though I suppose if they did, it would be on glossy paper, rendering useless for the traditional repurposing.

I sort of understand why people feel compelled to horde toilet paper in a crisis. It has so many uses beyond the obvious. And it’s not like it spoils. You can get away with buying a six month supply–or a six year supply, for that matter.

But other aisles in the supermarket are just as empty, and some of those make no sense to me at all? Why are people hoarding bread? How much bread do you need for two weeks of isolation? And how are you going to keep it from spoiling? I mean, sure, you can freeze it, but if your freezer is full of bread, where are you going to put the other perishables?

(For the record, we generally go through three loaves of bread in two weeks’ dinners. And another not-quite-one-loaf of sandwich bread for those peanut butter and something-or-other lunches. Which seems like a lot, now that I’ve written it down, but even if everyone else shopping at our local supermarket goes through that much, it shouldn’t amount to enough to totally empty the shelves.)

Other uncertainties.

Perhaps you’ve heard that most of the Bay Area is under a “Shelter in Place” order. Everyone is supposed to stay home as much as possible. Don’t go out unless you’re going to one of the essential businesses.

Reasonable, but “essential” is a rather ambiguous term. Apparently that category includes restaurants, but only for take-out. I’ve been told by fairly reliable sources that it includes businesses that help make it possible for people to work from home. But if that’s true, why will Apple not be able to reopen its stores in the affected counties until the order is lifted*?

* Which will not be until at least April 7. See? As I said, it keeps sneaking in!

Hardware stores are apparently essential. I guess that makes sense. As long as you’re stuck at home, you might as well do some of those little jobs around the house you’ve been putting off. Replace that faucet, those cracked electrical outlet plates, and the leaky toilet in the mother-in-law unit*. In a rare sign of good planning by a government, plumbers, electricians, and other such professionals are still able to come to our homes to repair the repairs we botch. Assuming we’re willing to let them in, of course.

* Haven’t you heard? Every home in the Bay Area has a MiL unit now. Not for our mothers-in-law; we rent ’em out. That’s how we solved the housing crisis.

Come to think of it, we’re being told to remain at least six feet away from other people if we have to go out. How’s that going to work at the grocery store or the doctor’s office?

Medical professionals are, of course, remaining open, but the public is being asked to cancel any non-urgent or non-essential appointments. More ambiguity. As it happens, I had an appointment yesterday to have blood drawn for some lab work. So I called the lab to ask if I should come in.

“It’s entirely up to you,” I was told. “We’re open, but you have to decide if it can wait.”

Hardly a decision I really want to make in the absence of professional advice, but in the spirit of coping, I did go and have a hole poked in my arm.

However, I decided to wait on the test results before deciding if I should cancel my appointment next week to discuss the results. If everything is normal, why risk the exposure of a face to face visit?

It may not be at the “London during the Blitz” level of making do, but it seems appropriate to this era.

Multiple Responsibilities

Sachiko, as I’ve said before, is the junior member of our home security force. The Ooki Brothers, Watanuki and Yuki, concentrate on external security, alerting us to intruders in the back yard. Sachiko’s remit is internal.

She can often be found on the landing halfway up the stairs. The security station there gives her a clear view of the upstairs hallway…
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and the foyer downstairs.
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As the youngest member of the security team, she’s also been given responsibility for our digital security. Here, for example, you can see her watching over Maggie’s abandoned laptop. Sachiko will guard it against theft, accidental damage, or unauthorized posts about lesser species, especially dogs, squirrels, and raccoons.
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Note, by the way, the mouse carefully positioned in front of her. Mice are, of course, a prey species. Sachiko her secondary role as Gravity’s Little Helper just as seriously as her other security duties. She’s more than happy to defenstrate any rodents she finds in the vicinity of valuable electronics.