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…

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.

Of course, her ambition does sometimes lead her into territory where she probably shouldn’t go.

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.

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 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.


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.


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.


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.


WQTS is ten posts old! To commemorate this milestone–one post per finger (for most of us)–I’ve got an unusually large selection of items for us to shake our heads in despair over.

Looks like a fairly standard calendar page, doesn’t it? Take a closer look at the middle of the month. Maybe I’m an old fogy, not up on the latest* in matters calendrical, but I still prefer my dates to follow the pattern “18, 19, 20”.

* OK, almost the latest; this is actually a calendar from 2015.

It’s easy to see how this happened, though I would have expected dates to be computer-generated, rather than hand-keyed. But how did nobody notice before the company printed and shipped thousands of these? I’m guessing that a “boundary” test went awry: somebody confirmed that the first was a Wednesday, the thirty-first was a Friday, and assumed that meant¬†all of the dates in between had to be correct. In short, an incorrect choice of tests.

No, I’m not talking about “remodelation” or the lack of capitalization. This is one where QA was lacking in the development of the specifications. Another pair of eyes might have caught the omission of any indication of what name to look for on Facebook. I checked: it’s not the name of the restaurant.

“Code hoping”? Ouch! This is from the packaging for a device that’s supposed to let you start your car remotely if you were too cheap to buy the manufacturer’s remote-start option. Let’s hope that the QA folks who tested the security features that ensure nobody can start your car without the fob are not the same ones who reviewed the package copy.

Oh, who am I trying to kid? Chances are neither the package nor the code were QAed. After all, that’s what advertising writers and software developers are for, right?

Ignore the fact that it’s a pretzel covered in some chocolate-like substance (bleah!). Ignore the fact that nobody at Olivier’s Candies Ltd. can spell “chocolatey,”¬†since my dictionary swears this is an accepted variant* and more importantly, what they meant was “chocolate-” (yes, with a hyphen). But didn’t anybody realize that since these are inanimate objects, they cannot be patriots? Please, people, use your adjectives! “Patriotic Chocolate-Covered Pretzel” Oh, and you might want to add an “s” at the end, since I can clearly see there are at least six per package.

* At least they didn’t spell it “chocolatty”.

Again, a case where there clearly wasn’t any QA done at all. Guys, “copywriter” and “copy editor” are NOT synonyms!

One more case where a copy editor should have been engaged. Not just for “bakering,” though there is that. But “eaten out of hand” does not mean what the sign-maker thought. Clearly, she* thought it meant to eat something you’re holding. But “out of hand” is actually an idiomatic** expression meaning “out of control” or “immediately, without thinking.”

* Pronoun chosen by coin flip.

** An expression that doesn’t mean what a literal interpretation of the individual words would suggest.

I’ve cropped the picture, so you can’t see the apples, but they’re sitting very peacefully in the bin, hence, not out of control. They also look ripe, but not overripe, so eating them immediately doesn’t seem warranted. Perhaps the intention was to suggest that they should be eaten thoughtlessly. But thoughtless eating is generally the province of less nutritious fare–Patriot Chocolaty Covered Pretzels, perhaps.

Well, whatever. Just remember: No matter what happens,


I won’t say that we spoil cats around here, but the other day MM stopped by and demanded tribute just after I poured the milk on my cereal. I think Charles Schulz described the ensuing events best. I’m still not sure what else I could have done but to give her the treats she wanted.

Lest that story and the recent post on the outdoor shelters lead you to think that all of the goodies go to the outdoor cats, let it be known that the indoor crew have also gotten new quarters recently.

The Pod came first.

Sachiko is the most frequent inhabitant, probably because her size makes it much easier for her to get in and turn to face the opening. Seeing her emerge is a little disturbing.

And yes, it doubles as a bed.

Sachiko again, but we’ve seen everyone except Yuki sitting on the Pod. I’m not sure what Mr. Floof has against it. Maybe he thinks it clashes with his eye color.

The other new hangout is a more conventional condo.

Oddly, only the Tuxedoed Terrors seem interested. ‘Nuki took possession of the hammock portion almost as soon as we set it up, and we’ve seen Sachiko in it a few times.

It may be a question of opportunity. Watanuki seems to find it very relaxing, and he’s spending a lot of time in it. Perhaps nobody else is willing to try to kick him out.

An Odd Anniversary

Some of you may already be aware that I have several compulsive behavior patterns. I’m a hoarder, for example. Need a cable for some computer gadget that hasn’t been made in a decade? If I ever owned the gadget, I probably still have it and its cable. I may not be able to figure out which box it’s in, but I’ve got it.

I have e-mails going back to 2002 (essentially, everything since I converted my main computer from Windows to Linux). And I’ve got text files going back to 1991, roughly when I was moving from an aging Atari ST to DOS. Note, however, that the ST is still around here somewhere–as is its external hard drive. The monitor, on the other hand, gave up the ghost in, if memory serves, 2004.

When I learn about a band I like, I’ll probably buy as much of the back catalog as I can find, not just the latest–I do the same thing with authors. And, more to the point, I’ll keep them. I may not listen to the CDs any more (or read the books), but I won’t get rid of them. Heck, there’s a box of books out in the garage; they’re all duplicate copies, and they’re showing no signs of going to the used book store.

My compulsions go beyond physical objects. I count stairs* and sneezes.

* No, I’ve never found a staircase with a different number going up than when going down. Hasn’t stopped me from making sure.

And I track things. When I started this writing gig, it took me a while to figure out that blog posts advising new writers to track where they had submitted stories were serious advice. I had set up a spreadsheet to do that before I had even written the first story. Doesn’t everyone? Apparently not.

And–finally coming to the crux of this post–I also have a spreadsheet tracking every single time Maggie and I have put gas in the car since we bought it.

I had the spreadsheet open earlier today and noticed that it’s the tenth anniversary of the very first fill-up. Nice to know we celebrated by filling it again.

Over ten years, we’ve averaged 27.35 miles per gallon. The average fill-up has been 10.55 gallons and $35.21*. Put another way, we’ve driven 8.20 miles for every dollar we’ve spent on gas.

* For those of you outside of California, gas prices here run higher than the national average. We keep hoping the refinery on the other side of town will open a factory seconds outlet store, but so far, no such luck.

Mind you, none of this information is of any particular use. I can see that we’ve lost just over one mile per gallon comparing the most recent ten fill-ups to the first ten. But is that significant? Damned if I know. I suppose I should really compare those first ten fill-ups to the next ten to better control for environmental variations (temperatures after April are noticeably warmer than before, for example.) But that’s beside the point.

Simply having the data is immensely satisfying, regardless of its utility. Knowing we’ve put $5,809.34 of gas into the car is soothing, even though I have no idea what percentage of the total cost of ownership has been–it never occurred to me to track what we’ve spent on maintenance and repairs.

I don’t have any particular point to this post, so if you were waiting for a punchline, please accept my apologies. And my thanks for sticking around for the entire ramble through my subconscious.