SAST 10: Feline Edition

It’s been a busy week in the feline world, so we’ll hit the highlights in a Very Special Edition of Short Attention Span Theater.

20-1For those among us who love toe beans, there are fewer cuter than ‘Nuki’s. They’re amazingly soft and delicate looking; quite the contrast to his thuggish personality.

20-2Kokoro and Sachiko are far from the closest of friends, but when the weather turns unexpectedly cold, they manage to share a heat vent in relative tranquility. Note that Sachiko is kind enough to place a paw on the dome to ensure it doesn’t slip out of place. Kokoro, as is her wont, returns the favor by not alerting her junior to the fact that it’s warmer in front of the dome than behind it.

20-3Rufus has been in one of his exploratory moods this week. And he’s slowly getting more comfortable being around the other cats. Except ‘Nuki, of course. The Two Roos spent an hour or so hanging out on the stairs together–a definite first.

20-4And there’s action outside as well. Only a meezer would choose to sleep on a piece of old school, hard plastic Astroturf. Maybe MM was guarding the water bowl. Maybe she just didn’t want to get dirt on her fur. Regardless, it’s more proof–not that any was needed–that meezers are weird.

Oh, Right

Post? What? Oh, yeah, it is Thursday, isn’t it?

Sorry. I’m about to send the main character of my current Work in Progress–let’s call them “Peeby”–off on a quest straight out of their least favorite fairy tales.

After I finish screwing up their life again, just as they thought they was getting it under control*.

* No, I’m still not happy about “they/them” as a singular pronoun, but Peeby insisted. Darn uppity characters.

Because that’s what writers do. See, there’s a school of writing that says when you don’t know what happens next, ask yourself “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” and then do it. I don’t usually follow that advice literally, but this time I am. It’s amazingly cathartic, but I suspect it’s taking me down several paths that’ll get cut in the next draft.

But I digress.

Anyway, Peeby’s about to go on a quest. Literally. One of those “Find these things, and I’ll make you ruler of the world,” deals. Of course, they is all “I don’t care what that damned song says, I don’t want to rule the world.” But they doesn’t have a choice because, hey, “worst thing,” right?

The problem with quests, though, is they need an object. Or, in this case, a set of objects. Three to be precise.

Why three? Well, as I’ve said before, I generally subscribe to the “Rule of Three” in my work. And in this case, it makes sense in the context of the story because–well, I’ll save that for another time.

I’ve got three targets for Peeby, but at the moment it’s a Three Bears’ Porridge set of objects. One is just right, but one is more video game than fairy tale, and one is clichéd and boring.

I can work with the video game one. In context, it even makes some sense.

But boring is death and cliché is eternal damnation.

The destination shapes the journey–very literally in the case of a fairy tale quest. I can’t send poor Peeby off on a quest for something that’s going to get written out of the book before they finds it. I need a replacement before they sets out, and so I’ve been on an extended ramble around the Web in search of a quest object.

Yes, I’m fully aware of how meta that is. Questing for a quest. Ha ha.

And that’s why I’d forgotten it was Thursday, and thus had to subject you to my ramblings on the creative process.

It’s all Peeby’s fault for not wanting to rule the world.

A Cold Truth

While I’m thinking of it–I just got back from the store–Saturday is Ice Cream for Breakfast Day.

As TFoAHK reminds us, this holiday is not a corporate invention. There’s no mascot, no gifts to wrap*, and you need not give a single cent to our corporate overlords**.

* Do not hang tubs of ice cream beside the fireplace unless you like cleaning up sticky messes.

** I’m too lazy to make my own, hence the aforementioned trip to the grocery store (Tillamook Mountain Huckleberry, if you’re curious). But don’t let my laziness prevent you from digging out the ol’ churn.

Even better, ICfB Day is an international celebration, not something confined to the United States, or even the North American continent. Nearly everybody loves ice cream, so observing the occasion can only bring us all closer together. Imagine how much calmer the country would be next week if Robert Mueller and Donald Trump shared a Saturday morning sundae.

Okay, maybe that’s a little optimistic. But it can’t make their relationship any worse–at least not as long as nobody hogs the hot fudge.

Anyway, before you start leaving me nasty notes about good nutrition in the comments, I’m well aware of the issue. And, to preempt the comments from the other side, I’m also aware that the much-touted “ice cream for breakfast” study has been roundly debunked. (If you missed it, the study supposedly showed that eating ice cream for breakfast improved alertness and mental performance. What it actually showed–if it was even performed; there’s some doubt about that–was that eating anything for breakfast wakes you up and helps you think. So don’t skip breakfast, but don’t feel obligated to eat ice cream. Except for Saturday.)

No, eating ice cream for breakfast isn’t the greatest thing you can do for your body. Not even in the top ten. But unless you’ve got an overriding medical issue that requires you to avoid ice cream under any circumstances, a scoop for breakfast once a year isn’t going to do you any significant damage.

Live it up. Give yourself a treat. Cone optional, because I’m too chill right now for an argument over cake versus sugar versus waffle.

Here We Go Again

A quick question before I get into the main post. This is directed to those of you who have rear window wipers on your cars.

See, we had our first rain of the year yesterday, and noticed that only one driver out of a couple of dozen had turned on their rear window wipers.

So the question is, why not? Do the rear wipers not work? Do you forget they’re there? Do you just not care you can’t see anything in your rearview mirror? (The way many people change lanes these days makes me wonder if they even have rearview mirrors.)

Or is there an explanation I haven’t thought of?

Moving on.

Here we go again. The latest call for technology to rethink the book comes from David Pierce over at Wired. He might charge me with oversimplification, but I’m not seeing anything in his piece that differs from any of the “print is boring, we need to jazz it up” opinions we’ve gotten since the dawn of ebooks.

Mr. Pierce has a few more examples than we’ve seen before, because people keep experimenting, but it’s still the same idea: “books don’t have to consist only of hundreds of pages set in a row.”

Let’s skip the question of what a “book” is. Whether you consider something delivered as a series of tweets, something that allows readers to text with the characters, or something that comes with a musical soundtrack to be a book is beside the point. And yes, I’m including audiobooks as “maybe they’re books, maybe they’re not” here because they’re one of the earliest and most enduring approaches to “jazzing up the book”.

The critical problem with the idea of evolving the book is that people want books to remain books. Mr. Pierce himself points out that what made the Kindle popular was its replication of the reading experience. No pop-ups, no advertisements, no distractions from the act of moving the writer’s words into the reader’s brain. As a reader, you get to choose when to read, where to read, how fast to read, and how you react to what you read.

It’s about control. The more multimedia features you add to a “book,” the more you take control of the experience away from the reader. Add pictures, and you control the reader’s mental image. Add audio and video and you increase that control. Constrain the delivery options, and you limit the ability to decide where and when to read.

I have no problem with experiments in new ways of delivering stories–provided they don’t turn into advertisements–but any claim that such experiments will lead to the replacement of books-as-we-know-them should be regarded with great dubiety.

What I do see happening with books is that publishers will find ways to increase the reader’s control–and successful publishers will use those techniques.

A case in point: I recently purchased an ebook collection of short stories, the complete set of stories about a single character. In the foreword, the author notes that, while she would prefer people to read them in the order they were written, she recognizes that many people would prefer them in order of their internal chronology.

In a printed book, the author and editor would get to decide. If the reader prefers the other option, it means tedious flipping back to the table of contents, then flipping forward to the next story. But an ebook can be built to support both options. In this case, turning the pages as usual gives the “as written” story order, but at the end of each story there’s a link to go directly to the next story in internal chronological order. Either way, it’s a single click/tap/page turn to go to next story. At the reader’s discretion.

Convenience features, ideas to make the act of reading as we already know it more pleasant, are the future of books. Multimedia, text messages, and other bolt-on features are the future of something else.

Thugbutt

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Yes, that is Sachiko’s box seat. (No, it’s not a permanent installation, but we’re in no particular hurry to get rid of it.)

Lately Watanuki has been waiting for her to settle down in the box before he walks up and looms threateningly over her until she leaves. Then he settles in and gives her a mock-innocent look.

All very 1930s gangsterish. It’s not by accident that one of his nicknames is “Thugbutt”.

Feeling Lucky?

It’s raining here. I say this, not to evoke sympathy–after all, I’m inside, warm and dry–but to set the stage.

Rain is coming down, and Casey is under-caffeinated. A messy combination that usually leaves me staring out of the window at the rain instead of doing what I should, i.e. writing a blog post.

There’s a soggy crow on the nearest street light, an even soggier deer halfway up the hill across the road, and what looks like the paper wrapper from a fast food burger disappearing around the corner.

This is all fascinating when I need to make another mug of tea.

Suddenly, my idyll is interrupted. An unmarked white van pulls up across the street. No more than three seconds pass before the driver, who’s wearing a dark-colored hoodie with the hood up, leaps out and takes a single step toward the house.

He hurls something over the front fence, frisbee-style. Before the object touches down, the driver is back in his van and halfway down the street, chasing the hamburger wrapper.

Folks, earlier this week four people were shot less than a block away from here. The police believe they were targeted, but say they have no suspects and no motive.

So I did what any sensible person would do: I got the hell away from the window.

I waited a couple of minutes, and when nothing had gone boom, I figured it wasn’t a bomb and went to investigate.

Turned out to be small padded envelope decorated with the Amazon logo. Considerately, it had been wrapped in a large plastic bag to protect it from the rain. I’m fairly sure it isn’t explosive.

I’m not about to open it. Not because I think I might be wrong about its explosive properties, but because it’s addressed to Maggie. But it’s sitting on the dining room table. Who knows what it might do half an hour from now?

I hadn’t realized I was this nervous.

But, sleepy paranoia aside, the situation is ridiculous, and not in a humorous way. In today’s restive–I might even say “hair-triggered”–environment, how many people would have taken a shot at the driver? “I was scared! It could have been a bomb!”

How long will it be before someone does disguise an explosive device in an Amazon box?

Gig economy drivers are even less visible than salaried, uniformed drivers in trucks bearing corporate logos.

It’s a hell of a murder method. You don’t need to shell out for anything but a box: no uniform, no rented truck. And, unlike a mail bomb, you’ve got complete control over when it gets delivered.

Like Herding Cats is going out to the beta readers nowish. Maybe I should take advantage of my time away from it to write something cheerful. (Which is not to say LHC is a depressing book, but it’s not all rainbows and unicorns either.)

But I can’t believe this hasn’t happened yet.

Feeling lucky?

Cuteness Overdose

Into every life some kittens must fall…
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Meet Fortitude and Patience.

Yes, I know those names traditionally go the other way around. But try telling that to the furbeasts. Getting a picture of them in the same place at the same time and not moving wasn’t easy. No way was I going to sacrifice the photo op by trying to get them to exchange places.

No, we’re not theirs. We’ve said it before: our limit is three five six seven. Mr. Fort and Ms. Nickname-to-be-determined are the new feline overlords of our friends Eric and Beth.

Patience is the brains of the outfit. She’s the one who leads their voyages of exploration and who figures out how toys work.
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Of course, her ambition does sometimes lead her into territory where she probably shouldn’t go.
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Despite what this next picture might suggest, Fortitude is no more likely than his sister to stay still very long. That said, as the team’s muscle, he does burn a lot of energy, and he’s likely to go from flying across the floor to snoring before he even comes to a halt.
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He is a bit more photogenic than his sister. She’s handicapped by her all-black coloration. He not only has those lovely leopard spots, but also the white blob at the tip of his tail and the cute pink toe-pads.

But they’re both cuties, and we’re delighted to welcome them to our extended family. (And for those of you keeping track, yes, they are rescue kitties.)

Beth, Eric, feel free to put links to your photo collections of the kids in the comments.

Stuff

Stuff accumulates. It’s a law of nature.

You may not agree. Maybe you can pack all of your possessions in a single suitcase. You might even be smug about it.

Just wait. Someday–probably fairly soon–somebody’s going to give you a new suitcase. Maybe it’ll be larger, or sturdier, or in just the right shade of purple (with neon green polka dots) to express your personality. And you’ll move all of your possessions into the new suitcase.

But what happens to the old suitcase? You toss it in the closet because it’s crunch time at work and you can’t run it over to the donation center. Two years later, that closet is full of suitcases. Because suitcases are unisexual organisms that breed when left alone in a dark place.

Not that I’m gloating. It’s just that stuff accumulates.

I’ve got boxes of accumulated stuff in the garage. Some of them have been through four moves. Some of them I’m not sure I’ve ever seen before. Seriously–I’d remember having bought that shirt, right? I found a computer I could have sworn I had sold a decade ago. I certainly didn’t put it in that box. But there it was.

And that’s the problem with accumulation. No index. How could there be with stuff multiplying behind your back?

I can’t find my favorite jacket.

Mind you, it wasn’t my favorite jacket the last time I wore it, or even the last time I saw it. It’s my favorite jacket because I don’t know where it is. When it turns up, I’ll wear it–assuming it’s not too warm out–and then put it somewhere. If I put it someplace where I’ll see it regularly, it won’t be my favorite jacket anymore.

Emotion is like that sometimes.

Anyway.

I got started on this train of thought because the homeowners’ association won’t let me put two stories of storage on top of the garage. Since I need some garage space (only partly for a pending accumulation), the only choice is a grand de-cluttering project.

I’ve thrown away a lot of stuff. Donated a bunch. Repacked, merging multiple boxes together.

I swear there’s more stuff out in the garage than before I started. There’s not–there can’t be. But it sure feels that way.

Emotion is like that sometimes, too.

Anyway.

Need a box, four feet on a side, filled with USB cables? Original USB, not this new-fangled USB 2 stuff, much less the even newer-fangleder USB 3. I could swear the box was a two-foot cube when we moved into this house.

Help.

Such Fun!

Congratulations, Northern California!

While most of the US has had exciting weather for the past few years–blizzards, hurricanes and tornadoes, punishing heat–it’s been quiet around here. Sure, we’ve had a drought going for more than five years, but you can’t call that exciting. “Yep, no rain again today. Guess we better hide in the no-storm cellar till it passes.”

But it looks like things are starting to change, and we’re getting a little weather excitement of our very own this weekend. According to the Chron, meteorologists are saying the storm expected to hit Sunday “…is shaping up to be a significant event.”

We’re being warned about flooding in all the major rivers, possibly at record-setting levels in some cases.

OK, so maybe it’s not much for those of you in the soggier parts of the country, but a foot of rain is pretty darn thrilling around here.

Coming as it does after an unusually wet fall–some weather stations around the Bay Area are running as much as 150% of normal rainfall–there’s much rejoicing over this storm. “The drought is over!” goes the cry.

Not so much.

Yes, most of the reservoirs are full and the snowpack is more than 80% of normal levels. (The snowpack provides nearly a third of the water the state uses during the spring and summer, so 80+% is nice to see.) A foot of rain will help, right? Nope.

The problem is that most of what we’re going to get this weekend is going to fall as rain, not snow, even in higher elevations. The snow is thoroughly saturated already, so when the rain hits, the snow is going to melt. A good chunk of that 80+% is going to be headed downhill. And, as I said, the reservoirs are already full.

Thus, it “…could be the most significant flood in six years, and more significant than that in other parts of the state.”

Don’t bother with ankle boots and hip waders, folks. Stock up on wet suits and personal flotation devices.

Stay clear of trees and power lines, try to enjoy the thrills the rest of the country’s been hogging for the past half-decade, and pray that the rest of the winter will be slowly wet to re-replenish the snowpack.