Thanks for the…

It’s weird what you remember.

Case in point: I have a very vivid memory of failing a math test. This was way back in elementary school. Fourth grade, I think—the assignment was on fractions–so I would have been nine or ten.

It didn’t shape my life. It wasn’t fractions that killed my dreams of being a famous astronomer*. And yet, that assignment pops into my mind whenever I have to split things into equal portions. Halves, thirds, quarters.

* Calculus was my real nemesis. If it hadn’t been for that darn ∫ I coulda given Carl Sagan a run for his money.

The vexing thing is that I actually knew how to do the work. It was comparisons: which is larger, 2/3 or 3/4? I knew what to do: convert to a common denominator: 8/12 versus 9/12.

But I blew the test because of a paradox. If you make the denominator bigger, shouldn’t the number get bigger too? I knew it wouldn’t, but my brain insisted that was logically inconsistent. 1/2 should be larger than 1/3, not smaller.

So on that day, I got fixated on the denominators and answered the questions looking only at those. If all of the fractions had been 1 over something, I would have had a perfect score. As it was, because teachers are sneaky, I got about two-thirds of the questions wrong.

I had to do remedial exercises for days, because at that age, I couldn’t put what had gone awry into words.

The experience may not have had a major impact on my future career, but there’s no question I was scarred by it. To this day, I prefer decimals to fractions: .67 is clearly smaller than .75; what could be easier? Until you need to dish up .5 cans of cat food—regrettably, 1/2 a can is much simpler.

More than forty years later, I still remember that assignment. At least once a week.

Totally trivial, yet omnipresent.

Talk about a 1/2-assed excuse for an idee-fixe.

A Curious Fellow

Rhubarb is a curious fellow.

You know he was asking “What the heck are you humans up to now?”

Answers to such questions are important. Even more important than the catnip fishie left unguarded by its usual tormenters (‘Nuki, Lefty, and lately Emeraldas).

The answer was that we were taking pictures of his sister Kaja, who was exploring the dining room table.

Perhaps it would be better to say that asking the question is the important part.

When the Calendar Just Doesn’t

Apologies to everyone stopping by for their usual plateful of whatever the heck I serve around here. Wit? Wisdom? Cheap laughs? I know it involves cats. But, anyway.

I’m taking a break.

2020 won’t go away. The calendar ticking over Friday isn’t going to magically improve anything.

Or unmagically either.

I’m damn near out of spoons, and the rest of the silverware drawer is looking rather bare, too. Which is probably just as well when it comes to the knives–but that’s part of the problem, as undirected rage and pointy objects mix all too well.

How long a break?

I don’t know. I’d like to say “When the universe stops throwing rocks at me.” Not lemons. Lemons I could work with. I like lemonade. But you can’t get lemon juice from rocks.

Realistically, the rocks aren’t going to stop. Throwing rocks is one the universe’s major occupations, coming in third behind creating vast expanses of nothing and turning hydrogen into helium.

But I’m hoping the frequency of metaphorical boulders heading in this direction will decrease over the next few months.

I will be back eventually. I’m not giving up on writing–fiction or this whatever-it-is–or on taking pictures of cats.

But right now I need to step back and concentrate on necessary precursors. Like following Gary Larson’s advice.

No predictions on when I’ll resume higher functions, except that, as so often happens, it’ll probably be later than I hope but sooner than I fear.

Until then, write if you get work and hang by your thumbs.

Like They’re Magnetic

There’s just no accounting for tastes.

I mean, we love Yuki. He’s a charmer, a snuggler, and a cutie. Sure, he drools–one of his nicknames is “Slobbergoblin”–but he’s still quite a lovable fellow.

Emeraldas takes it to extremes.

She’d rather give Yuki full-body headbumps than eat krunchy treats (watch for the moment near the end of the video where she actually stomps on a treat in her haste to snuggle Yuki.)

The weirdest element of her fascination is that he’s the only cat she seems to like. She’s downright violent with Lefty, and treats the others with anything from wary disapproval to superior disdain.

What makes Yuki so attractive?

No telling. Maybe it’s the drool.

That Time Again

It is the season–no, not the Christmas season; that doesn’t start until Friday at the earliest. This is the time when we’re grateful for stuff. Sure, that’s the case all year, but this is the time when we talk about it.

So, a few things I’m thankful for right now.

Georgia. Also Arizona and Nevada. Yes, it’s allowed to be thankful for what we got while wishing we got more. (That’s also part of the Christmas tradition–have you ever gotten everything you wanted? If so, be very thankful.) Don’t let the congressional faux pas bring you down.

Turkeys. Yes, even the thuggish ones hanging around our neighborhood: they’re cute and amusing in their own special way. And their domesticated cousins are darn tasty.

Modern medicine. Far from perfect, but far, far better than the alternatives. (See comments above about getting everything you want.)

Moisturizing soap. Cracked hands are a problem around this time every year, but frequent handwashing and use of sanitizing fluids have made this year worse than most. Moisturizing soap means I still have ten bandage-free fingers.

And, of course, Formerly Feral Felines. Our time with L. Rufus Alexander was far too short, but I’m very glad he came to us and thankful that he stayed as long as he did. And his companion, Lefty, makes me happy every day. He’s gone from a hissing ball of frightened rage to a purring snugglepanther who politely waits for his turn at the food bowl. Even MM is starting to come out of her shell–more on her Friday.

Happy Thanksgiving to those of you who celebrate the occasion and Happy Random Date to the rest of y’all.

Still More Changes

Don’t let anyone tell you cats are complete slaves to tradition and doing things the same way they’ve always done them.

Lefty, for example, has gone from avoiding humans to being our handsome snuggle-panther.

At the same time, he’s progressed from preferring the carpet-covered floor through favoring the hard futon, then the foot of the bed, to, well…

That’s my pillow he’s curled up on.

Not bad for a Formerly Feral Fellow.

And, while it may appear he’s daring me to displace him, he’s actually suggesting I put down that stupid box I’m pointing at him and give him cuddles. More specifically, it was “There’s a spot behind my left ear that needs some skritches.”

A Pointless Tale

No deep insights, no hidden truths today. Just a bit of fluff I hope will brighten your day a smidge.

So there’s this stretch of road that’s a key part of my commute. Those of you who know the Bay Area, it’s Richmond Parkway. For the rest of you, picture this: two lanes in each direction, a wide median whose grass is desperately in need of trimming, half a dozen traffic lights, and a posted speed limit of 50.

Yes, 50. On a city street. Okay, the street in question connects two freeways, and it’s semi-rural. But again, those traffic lights and pedestrian traffic.

About half the cars–in these COVID-19 days, maybe more than half–take 50 as a challenge. Sixty is common, and even 75 isn’t unheard of. Then there’s a large minority who figure the speed limit signs are in error, so they stick to 35, whooping it up to 40 if they’re feeling reckless.

Add in the trucks. Did I mention the trucks? Sorry. Many of the businesses along Richmond Parkway are the kind that make use of trucks. Big trucks. Tankers hauling liquid nitrogen or molten sulphur. Huge pickups with poorly anchored loads of scrap metal. Multiple anonymous trailers.

Do you know how long it takes a big truck to go from zero to fifty? Hint: it’s about the distance from one traffic light to the next along Richmond Parkway.

Forget about trying to pass. The trucks and the curve of the road make it very difficult to see who might be coming up on you from behind. The major differences in speed encourage shark packs that block lanes. So if you’re behind a truck or an over-cautious driver, you’re going to stay there.

So, got the picture?

A few days ago, I was running a bit late on my way to work. Not enough to actually be late, but enough that I was worrying about traffic on the freeway. I’m sitting at the first traffic light, first car in line and nobody in sight ahead of me. The radio is tuned to a classic rock station.

The last vehicle through the light from the cross street is one of those molten sulfur tankers. It accelerates up Richmond Parkway–in my lane, of course–reaching a top speed of almost thirty before it starts slowing for the next intersection.

A new song starts playing just as the light changes to green for me:

You said it, Sammy.

PS: I did make it to work on time.