Here We Go Again

You all know what it means when this happens, right?

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Yes, the transitional cage in Lefty’s room–formerly known as Rufus’ and Lefty’s room, formerly formerly known as Rufus’ room, formerly formerly formerly known as the library–is clean.

Parenthetically, this migration was in the works more than a month ago. It got put on hold by Rufus’ departure and an in-house epidemic of feline sneezing. So, please don’t think this is in any way an attempt to fill the Rufus-shaped gap in our lives. (Not that it would work that way. For somebody who didn’t wear clothes, Rufus left behind some very big shoes to fill.)

We’re hoping that Lefty will step at least partly into those metaphorical shoes and pass along some of the lessons he learned from Rufus. With that in mind, we’re not pushing him into full integration with the others: still feeding him separately and shutting him into the room at night; if he and the new arrival bond, it should smooth the transition for both of them.

It probably comes as no surprise to anyone that the new resident is MM*. She’d been obviously bored in isolation out in the catio, and had been neglecting her self-appointed sentry duties. We had to do something, and letting her go wild again still seems like a bad idea–yes, the coyotes are still around.

* Renaming will come later, when we get to know her as an indoor cat.

Her transition is going slowly. Which is fine. We’re not in a hurry, and we can give her as much time as she needs to adjust. For now, she still spends most of her time curled up in either the milk crate:

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or the condo:

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But she does seem healthy. Her appetite is good

and while she definitely prefers gooshy fud to kitty krunchiez, she doesn’t neglect the later.

She interacts with the other cats–primarily Lefty, since he spends more time in the room than anyone else, even without counting the bedtime lockdown hours.

And she has been exploring her new residence–with, it must be admitted, mixed results.

Check out the upper right hand corner of the screen. That bright light is Lefty watching the show and, no doubt, laughing.

Goin’ Back

I’ve been listening to the Fifties channel on SiriusXM lately.

Yes, the decade when the saxophone was a legitimate rock and roll instrument. Because really it was a decade in transition. Swing was on the way out, but rock and roll wouldn’t take over the world until the Sixties. There were plenty of cuts that could have been either rock or swing (in fact, there were more than a few early rock releases that had been swing hits.) And, of course, there was a giant market for sentimental pablum*.

* Let’s be clear: every decade has a giant market for sentimental pablum. It’s just that the definition of both “sentimental” and “pablum” changes. But I digress.

Which, of course, meant there was also a market for that unholy (ahem) hybrid known as the religious love song.

Brace yourself and allow me to direct your attention to “One Hundred Pounds of Clay” which is my candidate for The Song Most Likely to Make You Cringe Harder Every Time You Hear It.

I’ve had a lot of practice cringing over this song lately. Specifically, it’s come onto the radio three times in my last four hours of listening–that was spread over two days, so it’s not like you’re guaranteed to hear it if you listen for an hour and a quarter. But still: heavy rotation.

Anyway, I’m not nominating it because of the religious content. Not my cup of fur, but there’s been plenty of good religious music.

Nor is it because the song suggests that women’s only purpose is to be sexual. I beg your pardon? The BBC banned the song for that reason, but I don’t hear that at all.

There’s a sexual element, yes, but the only way I can interpret this song is that women’s only purpose is to shine by her man’s light. That charming only “love, worship, and obey” thing. Take the guy out of the picture, and the gal goes poof as well.

Say, Mike Pence was born in 1959, which means he’d have been two years old when this piece of tripe was at the top of the charts. Psychological scarring anybody?

(The really vexing thing about the song is that it didn’t come out until 1961. Why is it even on the 50s channel? It’s not that Gene McDaniels’ career started in the 50s. Well, his career did, but he didn’t start recording until the 60s. But I digress again.)

So, yes, I do cringe or change the channel–usually both–when it comes on. But there’s enough good stuff on the station to make up for it most of the time.

And, by “good stuff” I mean plenty of silliness and fluff to help you forget that you’re living in trying times, with just enough seriously solid material mixed in to keep you grounded.

Who Put the Bop” (Also from 1961. Win some, lose some.)

Summertime Blues

Only You” (Or darn near anything else The Platters did.)

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting you rush out and subscribe to SiriusXM to get “’50s on 5”. But if you’ve already got the service, give it a listen.

But keep a finger near the power switch, just in case…

Some Things Never Change

Isn’t it nice to know there are some constants in life? Things you can rely on?

I’ve largely avoided Kickstarter for several years. It’s not well designed for browsing, it’s not like I really need someplace else to spend money*, and, to be brutally honest, the parade of people who seem to think “I want it” is sufficient reason to say “Give me money” can be depressing.

* And the “pay now, get your product when its ready” paradigm doesn’t work well for those of us who want instant gratification.

But I’ve been inside almost 24/7 for more than three weeks, and one can only watch so much TV and read so many books*. So why not take a look and see if Kickstarter is still a home to useless products, clueless creators, and shameless scamsters?

* Heresy, I know. But even with my e-ink reader, after six or seven hours, my eyes do start to itch.

As you might have guessed from the title of the post, the answer is yes.

I’m not sure which category “Petstagram” falls into, and apparently neither was anyone else.

The creators were asking for $9,100 to launch “social media for your pets”. Because, of course, one can’t post photos of one’s pets on any of the existing social media networks.

This project is clear proof that “Some people will buy anything”. As of Tuesday afternoon, their pledge total stood at one dollar. Did they overestimate demand or just do a really piss-poor job of promoting the product? We may never know.

Which is probably just as well, because it appears they believe that building front end apps for Android and iOS comes before creating backend infrastructure. That’s not just putting the cart before the horse, that’s crossbreeding zebras and giraffes and planning to buy the cart once your genetics project creates a horse.

Then there’s SocialShredder. I’m fairly sure this one falls into the scam category.

The goal of the project is software to allow people to remove their potentially embarrassing or unwanted social media posts. This can be done, the project creator assures us, for a mere $100,000.

To my surprise, as I write this, he’s only managed to attract two backers, who are putting up a grand total of $6. He’s got time, though: the kickstarter will run through the end of May.

The project page is remarkably silent on just how this project will work. Does he have agreements with Facebook to allow more thorough deletions than can be done on the site itself? What about Twitter, which doesn’t offer any way to track and delete retweets? Then there are all of those annoying independent bloggers, who have a nasty habit of taking screenshots and posting them; has he found a way to hunt them down and force them to delete anything someone doesn’t like?

I’m especially amused–and depressed–by the “Risks and challenges” section of the page, which essentially says “Hey, we’re going to be everywhere, forever.” Uh…is that a risk or a challenge?

Finally (for today, anyway), The Harmony Bible folks believe they’ve figured out why so few people have read “the most significant book ever published.” The answer: it’s not arranged in chronological order.

They have, they say, rearranged the entire bible chronologically so it “reads just like a book, from beginning to end”.

Have they ever read a book? I’m assuming they’re talking about novels, because most non-fiction is arranged by subject just like the bible. Or maybe not, because I’ve read a heck of a lot of novels that start with something exciting, and then go back to show the origins of that thrilling bit.

The other problem with the regular bible is, of course, that it’s full of redundancies, with the same story being told several times by different people. Nobody wants to read the same story over and over again, right? So the Harmony Bible eliminates all those redundant retellings; somewhere Akira Kurosawa is crying.

It’s not even clear from the kickstarter what the money being raised will go to. The Harmony Bible is already available in two different ebook versions (only $9.99 each). Is this to produce a print version? If so, that $87,700 goal seems awfully high: there are any number of reputable Print On Demand publishers who would do it for substantially less. Even flat-out vanity presses don’t generally charge that much.

Still, this attempt to get funding is doing better the first try, earlier this year. That brought in $180 in pledges before the kickstarter was canceled; this time it’s up to $1,000 with more than a month to go.

And remember: your pledge of two dollars or more will get you the chance “the read the bible like a book very easy to read, understand and gain know, full copy of what you want 1 Pdf file Sent to you”.

Hopefully the actual Harmony Bible is a little easier to read than the kickstarter.

Continued Progress

Lefty continues to become more comfortable as a house cat.

He’ll occasionally indulge in some relaxed bonelessness.

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He always shows up at mealtimes to propose himself as the official can licker. To his credit, if the job goes to someone else, he’s content to sit nearby and wait for them to finish before checking the can for overlooked scraps. Would that the rest of the gang were so well-mannered!

When he takes up residence in one of the condos, it’s because he feels like it, not because he needs a hiding place.

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And he’s decided that hanging out on the bed with the rest of the gang is a darn good way to spend an evening.

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He even gets along with Watanuki. In fact, the only household member who refuses to associate with him is Sachiko. We’re not sure what’s behind her aversion to him. Perhaps it’s something to do with licking the gooshy fud fork: that used to be Sachiko’s exclusive job, but now Lefty gets to do it about half the time.

And, most impressively–but as yet unphotographed–he’s starting to come around to the idea that there might be something to the whole “patting” business.

He’s not enthusiastic, but he no longer takes a swipe at any hand that brushes against his back. He’s even been known to purr while being patted, at least for ten or fifteen seconds.

Progress has been slow, but have no doubt: he is making progress.

State of the Fourth Estate 08

Some traditions are easy to keep up. And this year has made one particular tradition easier than ever.

This is my eighth “State of the Fourth Estate” report*, and it is, per tradition, late. Only two weeks, which isn’t all that bad: in 2017, it was almost a month. That delay took real effort; this one was simple because there are so very few date references these days. Remembering whether it’s Monday or Thursday takes a conscious effort, and as for keeping track of the weeks and months, well, why bother? It’ll only depress you.

* The eighth report, but only my seventh year of writing. The first SotFE post came at the six-month mark.

That said, sheltering in place has been a great boon to my writing. I’ve made more progress on Draft Three of Demirep in the last three weeks than in the previous three months of squeezing it in around work. Prior to the lockdown, I was hoping to finish the draft and find beta readers around the end of the year. Now, assuming I can keep up my current pace for the rest of the Shelter in Place period, I could be starting the beta before baseball returns.

Which reminds me: it’s time for me to start thinking about the next project, since I’ll be working on that while the beta readers are doing their thing.

Anyway, I’m hoping that, once I go back to work, I’ll be able to keep some of the momentum on both projects. I’d love to have TBD go faster than Demirep has.

Meanwhile, Like Herding Cats continues to make the rounds of agents. Waiting for responses has always been one of the most frustrating parts of the writing business. It’s even worse now. “Agent X normally responds to all queries within six weeks. We’re at the two month mark. Is she running slow? Not reading queries because she, like so many others in every field, can’t concentrate? Maybe she did read it and I never got the response because her work-from-home setup has issues.”

Not surprisingly, writers are very good at creating speculative scenarios to account for normal variations in response times. These days, we could fill whole volumes with our panicked musings. Not that anyone would want to read them.

I wonder if I could get more–and more favorable–responses if I offered to send partial and full manuscripts printed on toilet paper. We’ve got a spare roll or two, and I could probably find a continuous feed printer fairly cheaply. Hmm. Probably not, considering current feelings about things people have touched.

As always, thanks for hanging around and reading what I write.

Onward into Year Eight!

Relativistic Vibrissae

Is it just me, or do Watanuki’s whiskers appear to have been designed by M. C. Escher?

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(For the best effect, display the picture full-screen and position your nose approximately three inches from your monitor. That’s the view ‘Nuki prefers to give me when I’m trying to go to sleep.)

Darn Near Homeopathy

One has to give strat-o-matic points for trying to help.

Need that MLB fix to get you through these days of social distancing? If you go to http://www.strat-o-matic.com/2020-season-simulation/ you’ll find the 2020 MLB season being played out.

Well, sorta.

It’s all simulated, of course. Which means we’re not going to get the wild surprises that come from real baseball. Players are going to perform at their career norms plus or minus an algorithmically-defined range. Teams will play at their cumulative skill level, more or less. How well will the algorithms replicate particularly bad managerial blunders, umpires’ missed calls, and Mother Nature’s interjections? I’m betting we can forget about unexpected player synergies and random callups that miraculously work out.

Still, it’s baseball of a sort. Just not, unfortunately, a helpful sort for me.

I mean, it’s great to see that the Mariners finally won a game Monday. (As I write this after Tuesday’s games are in the books, the Ms are 1-5. Nor are the other teams I follow doing much better. The Giants are 0-5. The Mets and Orioles are both 2-3.)

But I’d be saying the same thing if all of those records were reversed.

Stats and box scores don’t engage me emotionally. I need to hear the sounds of the game. See what’s happening. Sure, I can see in the box score or recap that Joe Schlabotnik went 0-4 again. But I can’t really appreciate the agony unless I see him complete the golden sombrero by swinging at a pitch a foot over his head.

Just the way my brain works.

I can’t watch delayed games either. I’m thankful to the various broadcasters for replaying classic games, but they don’t scratch that baseball itch for me. If I know my cheering isn’t going to affect the outcome, I don’t get engaged.

Yes, I’m aware that when I scream “Come on, Joe, get into one!” at the TV, he can’t hear me. But I’m firmly convinced that it helps his performance, nevertheless.

None of this is to say that rebroadcasts don’t have their uses. I sometimes turn them on while I’m writing; as I’ve said before, the rhythms of the game help me get into the flow and turn out better prose. (As it happens, I’ve got a replay of the Mariners/Red Sox game from last March 31 playing as I write this.) I sometimes put a game on while I’m reading in bed: I turned on a repeat of the 2012 World Series Sunday afternoon and let it run while Lefty warmed my shins.

In either case, though, I don’t watch the game. I just let the sounds fill the room. It makes the itch tolerable, without actually curing it.

Sooner or later, games will resume. Maybe next month, perhaps mid-summer, or surely by next spring. Whenever that is, it’ll be about damn time.

Understand, I’m not calling for a resumption of play before it’s safe. I’m just saying that placebos only get you so far. Sometimes you need actual medicine.

(Update after Wednesday’s results came in: The Mariners have now lost two games to the Twins by a combined score of 20-0. The Mets have fallen to 2-4. The Giants are no longer winless. And the Orioles have made it to .500! How long has it been since we could say that this late in the season?

It’s interesting. Amusing, even. Maybe it would help if the results weren’t all posted at once. As long as you’re simulating the season, simulating the schedule shouldn’t be a big stretch. Better yet, put up the results inning by inning so we can follow the games as they unfold. The added realism would go a long way to enhancing my emotional involvement.)

The Hardest Words

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The hardest words are “It’s time”. They always come too soon.

There’s a Rufus-sized hole in the universe today. Not in our hearts, because he’ll always be there, but in my office, the upstairs hall, and most especially the library, aka “Rufus’ and Lefty’s Room”.

Grief bombs abound. The “Rufus Inside” sign on the library door. His food bowls waiting in the kitchen. The way he always bravely placed himself to defend Lefty from the evil vacuum cleaner.

It came on so quickly. He was, to all appearances, fine last month when he had his annual vet visit. Even a week ago, he seemed his normal, snuggly self.

And then he refused to eat. Never a good sign.

We don’t, and won’t, know the full cause. Massive kidney failure linked with, or perhaps caused by, something gastrointestinal.

When we visited him at the vet yesterday evening, he seemed restless and only intermittently lucid. By this morning, he wasn’t tracking at all, and was clearly looking for a way out.

We said goodbye and let him go.

He never got to meet Dad, not in a cuddles and skritches way, but they would have loved each other. Hopefully they’re hanging out now, with Rufus shamelessly extorting tummy rubs.

We had three and half wonderful years with Rufus after he moved inside from the catio, and all those years getting to know him as one of the Backyard Bunch. Wouldn’t change a minute of it, up until the last few days.

We’ll miss you, Buddy. Always and forever.

 

Errata

I’m not afraid to admit when I’m wrong. I’m not eager to do it, and I’m certainly not going to go out of my way to announce every little misstatement. But some errors are so egregious that they can’t be allowed to stand.

On July 4, 2017, I said “It’s also probably the simplest recipe I’ll ever post here.”

What was I thinking? That recipe has three ingredients and five steps! A simpler one was inevitable.

You ready for a really simple recipe? I’m not going to claim this one can’t be beat–I’ve learned that lesson–but I can’t think how.

Normally, at this point I’d give credit to the originator of the recipe and explain how we’ve modified it. But in this case, variations are all over the Internet and very few of them are credited. If you want to trace the history, please let me know what you learn.

Slow Cooker Salsa Chicken

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs of boneless, skinless chicken thighs – Don’t use breast meat: it gets dry and doesn’t soak up flavor well.
  • One jar, bottle, or other container of salsa – Whatever variety appeals. Chunky and smooth both work well. Just check the ingredient list before you buy: an unexpectedly high bell pepper concentration can ruin an otherwise delightful salsa.

Steps

  1. Dump the chicken in your slow cooker.
  2. Slop the salsa on top of the chicken.
  3. Cook on Low for 8-9 hours.

The salsa cooks down and combines with the chicken juices to produce a rich liquid that tastes great over rice, and leftovers work well as a chili base. Be aware, however, that the mingling and cooking does reduce the spiciness. If you prefer some kick in your chicken, a mild salsa is not your friend.

The chicken itself can go into the rice along with the salsa liquid, or anchor a burrito. It makes great sandwiches–try it with some pickled carrots or onions–and stuffs into baked potatoes well (don’t forget to add some bacon as well).

This is, by the way, one of those recipes that reheats well in an Instant Pot: pressure cook on low for zero minutes, shut off the cooker, and vent the pressure manually.

There you go: a mindless recipe for taxing times.

And, rest assured that if I find a two-ingredient, two-step recipe, I’ll let you all know.