A Sensitive Subject

The only people I have any sympathy for right now are Senator McCain’s kids. Bottom line: they’re going to lose their father. I don’t know what their relationship with their father is really like, once you get behind the obligatory political facade, but you know what? It doesn’t matter.

Per the New York Times, the median survival for glioblastoma is 12 to 18 months. That means the odds are 50-50 that they’re going to lose him before the 2018 elections. No matter how they feel about him, that’s not something anyone can skate past. It will mess up their lives.

And nobody beats glioblastoma. With all due respect to Presidents Trump and Obama, saying “He’s a fighter,” and suggesting that McCain can stare down cancer is a slap in the face to everyone who’s died of cancer.

I know my biases are showing here, but I don’t give a shit. I lost my father to cancer less than a year ago, and to hear anyone implying that he’d still be around if he’d been stronger makes me want to run amok with a baseball bat.

Bluntly, what kept Dad alive was medicine. Medicare, in particular. Yes, a positive attitude and doing what he loved helped. But it was radiation treatments, chemo, and a whole slew of medical personnel that made the difference.

So to have McCain come to the Senate practically straight from the hospital and vote to continue debate on a plan to take medical care–the same medical care that’s keeping him alive–away from millions of people is following up the insult with injury.

I disagree with him politically, but I’m happy to agree that Senator McCain’s done many things worthy of respect. His vote Tuesday is not one of them. Nor does his “no” vote on the “skinny repeal” make up for it.

Unless he publicly and explicitly commits to vote against any proposal that will raise premiums or strip insurance coverage from even one person–and then follows through on that pledge–all the pretty words he gave us Tuesday are meaningless.

I’ve lost a lot of respect for McCain this week, but even so, I sincerely wish him a long life. For his children’s sake. And, I hope, for every child who will gain or keep medical insurance as the result of Senator McCain’s actions from now on.

Checking Out

I’ve made three attempts to write something coherent about health care, Senator McCain, and the Boy Scouts. None of them are readable, and two of the three quickly devolve into a stream of four letter words. The other one gets there too, it just takes longer–and that was the first attempt.

So instead, here’s a belated look at how my predictions for the MLB playoff teams are holding up. I warn you: it’s not much less painful than the subjects of the first paragraph. But at least there’s less cursing, and the implications for America are slightly less severe.

Let’s start with the National League, since that’s what I did in the original post.

I awarded the NL East to the Mets. New York is currently third in the division, five games under .500 and thirteen games behind the division-leading Nationals.

My pick for the Central, the Cardinals, are three games under .500–do you sense a pattern developing here? At least they’re only four games out of the division lead. I did say the Central was going to be slow. So that’s something.

And, following the pattern, the Dodgers, who I expected to run away with the division are at 69-31, eleven and a half games up– Uh, what? Hey, I’ve got one right!

Over to the Wild Card. I picked the Rockies and Nationals. The Nationals probably won’t be taking the second Wild Card, seeing as how they’re currently running away with the NL East. The Rockies are currently holding onto the second Wild Card, five and a half games ahead of the Cubs, and mere percentage points behind the Diamondbacks.

Two out of five (or three if you just look at the teams qualifying for the playoffs and not how they get there) isn’t too great. Let’s move on to the AL, shall we?

How are the Rays doing in their quest to win the East? Put it this way: it could be a lot worse. They’re in third, three and a half games back. But at least they’re over .500!

In the Central, my pick of the Twins is looking, uh, not so great. They’re currently in third, three and a half games back. (Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?) But at least they’re at .500!

Out West, the Astros are destroying the competition, as predicted. What is it about the West divisions this year? Houston’s got a seventeen game lead, and nobody else is even at .500.

Initially, I had called the Wild Card for the Indians and Red Sox. However, after the Tigers beat the White Sox in their first game of the season, I bumped the Red Sox out, giving their slot to the Tigers. At the moment, the Indians are leading the Central by a game and a half and the Red Sox are leading the East by two games. The Tigers, meanwhile, are fourth in their division and ninth in the Wild Card, behind such noted powerhouses as Seattle and Baltimore. For what it’s worth, Tampa Bay is only one game out of the Wild Card and the Twins are right behind them at two back.

So as things stand, I’ve got one correct pick in the AL (or three if you look only at the teams).

Overall, that’s either 30% correct or 60% correct.

As I said in the original prediction post, “I’m in the peculiar position of hoping my system implodes spectacularly.” I can’t even get that right, it seems. 60% is more like deflating than imploding. And while you could make a case for 30% being an implosion, it’s hardly a spectacular one.

Come on Mariners, Orioles, and Giants, time for you all to make late runs at the playoffs so I can look appropriately stupid!

Some Things Never Change

I hope nobody thought I’d leave you without a cat picture or two today, just because I posted the Rufus picture on Wednesday.

Oh, no, I wouldn’t do that. Special means exactly that.

So, without further ado, Rhubarb and Yuki, doing what they do best.

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Even when the politics get furrier than usual–and they have been, what with Rufus’ integration, ‘Nuki’s determination to be boss, Sachiko’s on-again-off-again feud with Kokoro, and too many more continuing dramas for me to conveniently count–they still find time to snuggle up and snooze.

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Is there anything lovelier than a pair of intertwined tails?

A Very Special Event


So a thing happened last weekend. You may have heard me warning you about it. Yeah, that. The event* at Borderlands. I’ve never been a special event before. Nor did I know beforehand that it was going to be special, or I would have publicized it that way.

* Loosely speaking, there are three kinds of author appearances: signings, readings, and events. The names should be obvious, but in order to get the word count on this post up**, I’ll spell it out. When the author sits behind a table, chats briefly with everyone who shows up, and scribbles something semi-legibly in their books, it’s a signing. If the author also reads part of the book aloud to the audience, it’s a reading. And if the author does anything else–reads part of another book, sings and dances, juggles flaming chainsaws–it’s an event.

** No, I’m not being paid by the word. I just want enough words to balance the pictures a bit.

The room wasn’t packed, but there were enough people there that I feel justified in calling it a crowd. (I should point out that I didn’t take most of these pictures. Credit and copyright belong to Maggie Young, Eric Zuckerman, and Beth Zuckerman. Thanks, gang!)

Many thanks to Jude Feldman, front and center in that picture, for ensuring everything ran smoothly. Everyone’s first event should have a Jude.


Since this was an event, I didn’t read from The RagTime Traveler. Instead, I gave a 50,000 foot overview of the histories of ragtime music, Scott Joplin–the man who made ragtime into America’s first popular music–and TRTT.

That card on the desk? Let me zoom in and rotate:

Just something I found in the greeting card rack before the event. It seemed remarkably appropriate, so I offered it as a suggestion to the crowd. The card is now hanging on the wall over my desk, where I hope it will encourage and inspire me when the words misbehave.

My thanks to those of you who attended, as well as those who couldn’t make it, but sent good wishes. Hope to see a few more of you at future events. Nothing’s scheduled yet, but there will be more, and naturally, I’ll announce them here.

One final note: You need signed copies of TRTT–even if you’ve already got one, remember that they make great gifts, and it’s never too early to get your Christmas shopping out of the way.

Coincidentally–or rather, conspiratorially–

Borderlands has a stack of signed copies they’d love to sell you. I’m sure they’d be happy to ship one or more to you, even if you’re not in the San Francisco area.

Why not pick up the phone and give them a call?

Special Day, Special Post

Happy Rufusversary!

It was one year ago today that we took the feline formerly known as GT to the vet to have his abscess treated, an act which led, nearly inevitably, to his becoming a member of the family.

He’s still finding his place–he and Kokoro are bopping each other on the head as I write this–but on the whole, he’s doing well and seems happy.

Here’s to many more Rufusversaries.

It’s About Time

Oh, noes! The next Doctor is going to be a woman! Oh, the horrorz!

There’s a lot of that sort of thing floating around the Internet these days. Makes me want to find a wall and apply a forehead to it it. Repeatedly and forcefully. Maybe mine, but those of the people making the comments seem more in need.

Okay, I know there are some non-SF fans reading this, so let me take a moment to explain.

Doctor Who is a long-running show from the BBC–it’s been running since 1963, albeit with a rather long hiatus in the 1990s and early 2000s. I won’t attempt to summarize nearly forty years of storytelling; the important thing here is the title character. Over the course of the show, The Doctor has been played by twelve different actors. Doctor Who is not, of course, the only show to replace a star. What made it nearly unique is that the change was written into the show: acknowledged and made a part of the character.

From a storytelling standpoint, it was a brilliant idea, and undoubtedly a major contributor to the show’s longevity. Changing performers without trying to find someone who looks and behaves like the previous person in the role allows writers and actors an opportunity to take the character in a radically new direction every few years. Even better, the backstory developed to explain the changes has been a rich source of story ideas.

Every Doctor’s retirement since Tom Baker’s in 1981 has been accompanied by speculation that the newcomer might be a woman. That’s apparently Baker’s fault. Supposedly (and I can’t validate this), when he announced his retirement, he wished his successor, “whoever he–or she–might be,” good luck.

But until now, every Doctor has been male. Old, young, or somewhere in between. Oh, and white. Let’s not forget that.

Suddenly, everything’s changed.

Well, no. Not really. The Doctor will still be The Doctor, dedicated to preserving Earth and the universe from the forces of…well, not necessarily evil. Perhaps “chaos,” “entropy,” and “greed” would be better tags.

It’s been a long time coming, but remember what I said about “radically new directions”? It’s time to let the show and the character do something new. I’m not ashamed to admit that I felt a quite literal chill of excitement watching the trailer introducing Jodie Whittaker.

In the end, it comes down to storytelling. If the writers use Ms. Whittaker as a plug-in part and keep retelling the same old stories, it’s a waste. If she’s used as an excuse to show some same-sex snogging, it’s a lost opportunity. But if they truly embrace the chance they’ve been given, we’ll get a freshness we haven’t seen since the show’s reboot–pardon me, “relaunch”–in 2005.

To those crying doom and gloom, I say, “Give it chance. If it sucks, stop watching.” And to those who are complaining because we still haven’t gotten a Doctor of color, I’d add, “Hang in there. It’ll happen. And I’m quite sure it won’t take another forty years.”

Topsy Turvy

Everything’s a bit topsy-turvy around here.

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Yes, even Watanuki. (All joking aside, he spends hours in positions like that. I know when they want to be, cats are, for all practical purposes, boneless. But how can he possibly be comfortable?)

It’s all because of the political implications of Rufus joining the gang.

Truth to tell, he’s doing very well. Negotiations rarely come to violence in the halls–at least not of the sort that requires human intervention with leather gloves and/or squirt bottles.

Clashes, yes. But for every moment when somebody gets a paw-slap to the forehead or a cold nose up the ass,14-2

there’s also at least one like this:

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Housekeeping

Today’s a housekeeping day. The dishes are in the dishwasher, there are clothes in the dryer, and we’re collecting estimates to replace our fence.

No, seriously. I know it’s hard to believe, but we actually do dishes occasionally and–what? Oh, yeah, that. Really:

So, that being the case, I might as well do a little electronic housekeeping and clear out the pile of stuff that’s been piling up because they’re not even long enough for a Short Attention Span Theater post.

But first, this commercial message:

On Sunday, I’ll be at Borderlands Books in San Francisco, pushing The RagTime Traveler. The plan is to cover the history of ragtime music and the history of TRTT before I sign copies. That’s darn ambitious for an hour, so if you’re into train wrecks, come watch this one develop!

Moving on.


I’ve griped about greengrocers’ apostrophes before (customer’s what?), so I’ll just note that this is the first time I’ve seen single quotes used instead of double for those darn useless quotes. But why didn’t they put quotes around “customer’s” and “manager”?

Ahem.

In the “you only had one job” category. If that qualifies as a rolled hose, I really want to look inside the bin and see how many scraps of paper, broken tools, and rotting vegetables qualify as not trash.

Sigh.

Back to grammar. The way I read this, it’s perfectly fine for me to play with the condiments for sanitation purposes. My kids will just have to watch. Or I can let them play with the condiments as long as it has nothing to do with sanitation. Hey, kids, how high can you stack the creamers? No, Billy, you can’t clean the spilled jelly off that container; that would be sanitary!

Argh.

OK, last one.

Lawyers have a strange view of what is necessary and appropriate.

Case in point: a few years ago, our local hospital closed. That’s a whole rant of its own, so I’ll spare you for now. But unwinding its affairs has been a protracted affair.

Earlier this week, both Maggie and I got letters from a law firm representing our county healthcare district informing us that the hospital’s patient records will be destroyed in a few months.

Frankly, that seems like a good idea to me, especially since they’re providing a way for former patients to claim their records if they need them for their new doctors.

But what struck me as odd is that the letters also informed us why we got them. It’s because each of us is either (1) a former patient; (2) a family member of a former patient; (3) an insurance company “known or believed” to have given insurance to a former patient; or (4) “the Attorney General of the State of California.”

Let that sink in for a moment.

They consider it appropriate to send these letters to insurers who might have had clients who were treated at the hospital. OK, so there are no names on the letter; it’s not a privacy violation. But where the heck did they get the names of those companies “believed” to have served former patients? If they were listed in the hospital records, shouldn’t they be considered “known” rather than “believed”? Or did they just send one to every insurance company they could find a name and address for?

The real kicker for me, though, is that this law firm apparently believes there’s a one in four chance that I’m the state attorney general.

Really, guys, it wouldn’t have cost that much more to send a separate letter to the AG? Heck, the savings in ink from not printing Item Four on those millions of letters would more than outweigh the cost of some clerk’s time.

Mid-Season Form

We’re here at the All-Star Break again. The official mid-point of the season. As always, it’s a time to take stock and contemplate the ruin your team has made of the season thus far.

And a ruin it has been for the teams I follow. The Mariners are four games under .500–and the really depressing thing is that’s the best record among my teams. The Mets are eight under and the poor Giants are sitting at twenty-two games below respectability. (At least I’m not a fan of the Phillies: twenty-nine games under .500)

It says something about the quality of play this year that nobody–not even the Phillies–has been eliminated from the playoffs yet. Heck, the Mariners are only four games out of the Wild Card. Of course, so are about six hundred other teams, but we’ll take what cheer we can find.

I watched the Home Run Derby last night, of course. No visible injuries among the youngsters chasing balls in the outfield. No spectacular catches either, but a few good ones. And I saw one lucky young boy overrun a pop-up by about twenty-five feet. (I say “lucky” because he clearly had no idea where it was going to come down. Having it land on his head on national TV would have scarred him for life–probably physically as well as psychologically.)

As for the event itself, all I’m going to say is “Aaron Judge is amazing.” Check out his four longest home runs.

Just before the break, I celebrated my birthday with a trip Sacramento for a minor league game. The Tacoma Rainiers (the Mariners’ AAA team) visiting the Sacramento River Cats (the Giants’ affiliate).

It was hot. And I’m not talking about the game. Games. (I’ll get back to that.) According to my phone, it was 101 at game time.
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Fans in the outfield were packed tightly under the trees. Even squeezing shoulder-to-shoulder into the shade was cooler than sitting in the sun.

For those of us with actual seats, let’s just say that dark green plastic above concrete floors raised the temperature to “How did I get into this effin’ frying pan‽” We took an usher’s advice and moved to seats further away from the field, but in the shade.

We got free baseball. No, not extra innings. That ain’t free baseball. Our single game got upgraded to a double-header. Almost. The second game of the season, back in April, was suspended on account of rain and scheduled to be completed on my birthday. Very nice of the teams, we thought.

The game picked up where it left off: bottom of the first, two on, two out. Since Sacramento won, we didn’t get a bottom of the ninth, so we got seven full innings, plus the top of the ninth, plus one batter in the first.

On the other hand, in order to fit in both games and still leave time for post-game fireworks, the game scheduled for that day was shortened to seven innings. That happens in the minors. So the upshot was that we had an extra approximately 2/3 of a game.

Which would have been great, except that the Rainiers played like they thought they were the Mariners. Mind you, they’ve been playing that way all year–they’re currently three games over .500–but since the River Cats have been playing like their own MLB club (33-53 at the beginning of the day), we had hoped for better than we got.
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When the most excitement your team generates is Tuffy Gosewisch taking a pitch to the hip, you know it’s not a good day.

Tuffy, by the way, is a catcher. He’s used to getting hit, though it’s usually balls thrown by his own team’s pitchers. It’s a great baseball name, though. Tuffy. Tuuuuffy. Tuuuuuuuuuuuffy. Can’t you just hear forty-thousand fans chanting it?

“Tuf-fy” [clap, clap] “Tuf-fy” [stomp, stomp]

He needs to up his stats if he wants that to happen, though. Right now he’s looking distinctly average-ish, both behind the plate and at it.

But the post-game fireworks show as good. And it was Star Wars Night at the park; I couldn’t resist buying myself a birthday present.
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The actual All-Star Game is tonight, followed by two days of no MLB action. If you need a baseball fix, there are low-minors games going on all week, the AAA All-Star Game is Wednesday, and high-minor league games resume Thursday. Plenty to get you through to Friday.

Chillin’

Rhubarb and Sachiko hope you’ve had as good a week as they have.

Rhubarb’s spent most of it chilling on his favorite chair.
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It’s also my favorite chair, which has made for a few awkward moments, but since he gets it for approximately twenty-two hours a day, I don’t feel too guilty about dispossessing him for the other two hours.

Sachiko, on the other paw, has resumed her on again/off again love affair with the spare chair on the other side of the table.
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It’s got a nice, comfy cushion, but more importantly, it’s conveniently placed for her to stare at Rhubarb for hours on end.

It doesn’t bother him much, as far as we can tell. But when I take over the chair, her staring sure makes me nervous.