Regression

Okay, so the regular season isn’t quite over, but we’re pretty close. Everybody’s last game will be Sunday afternoon. And, while the playoff lineup isn’t quite set, it’s close. Darn close, as in “could be settled by tomorrow”. So let’s get the postmortem on my predictions out of the way. If you don’t care about my prognostications, come back Tuesday when I’ll tell you who to root for in the post-season.

Getting the most depressing news out of the way first, none of the teams I follow regularly made the playoffs. The Mariners have extended their “no playoff” streak to sixteen years*; the Mets missed out on winning their division by a mere twenty-six games or so; the Orioles are, as of this writing, nine games under .500; and the best the Giants can say about their season is that it’s mathematically impossible for them to lose more than 100 games (if they manage to win one of their last three, they’ll keep the loss total to double digits–a pyrrhic victory if I’ve ever seen one).

* Two years ago, they were eliminated on the last day of the season. Last year, it was the day before the last. This year it was a week before the end of the season. Moving in the wrong direction, guys!

Worse, I predicted most of those debacles. On the face of it, that means my overall predictions should look good, right? Well…

As you may recall, last year I picked seven of the ten playoff teams and this year I was shooting for nine.

My picks in the NL–and I’m not even going to bother talking about division winners versus wild cards–were the Mets, Cardinals, Dodgers, Rockies, and Nationals.

We already know the story on the Mets. The Cardinals could still make the playoffs. If they win their last four games and the Rockies lose their last three, St. Louis will be in the playoffs and Colorado will be out. The odds at this point favor the Rockies. The dark horse here is the Brewers. It would take an unlikely combination of Brewers wins and Rockies losses for Milwaukee to make the playoffs. It could happen, but for the sake of this post, I’m going to assert that Colorado will be the second NL Wild Card team.

And my other two NL picks, the Dodgers and Nationals, nailed down their playoff berths weeks ago.

So, unless the Brewers pull off a major upset, I’m three for five in the National League. (If the Cardinals pull off an even bigger upset, they’ll be in and the Rockies will be out, so no change in my score.) So much for 90% accuracy.

Moving on to the AL, I called the Rays, Twins, Astros, Indians, and Tigers. All of those races are settled; there’s no chance of a change between now and Sunday in the AL. Picture me wincing.

The Indians, Astros, and Twins are in, but Tampa Bay is currently half a game behind Seattle. While they could theoretically finish a mere two games under .500 (the same as Seattle), that’s not even respectable. But they’re still better off than Detroit, who are currently fighting San Francisco for the worst record in baseball.

Three out of five in the AL as well.

Six out of ten overall, a slight regression from last year–with the slim possibility of the Brewers dropping that to five out of ten, a regression all the way back to my 2015 prediction.

One final note: You may remember that I looked at revising my predictions based on the first week’s play. Had I done so, I would have correctly called the Yankees and Red Sox as playoff teams in the AL–but would have incorrectly picked the Angels and White Sox. So I would have still been three for five in the Americal League. Similarly, over in the National League, I would have added the Cubs and Diamondbacks to the list, but only at the cost of adding the Phillies and Reds, neither of whom will even come close to .500. Again, three for five. A longer baseline, it seems, does nothing to improve the accuracy of the tool.

I will, of course, continue to refine my methodology. It’s something to do during the long, dark months of the off-season.

Sidewalk Supervisor

We’re well into an ongoing project to clean out the garage because, well, reasons. It’s going well, and we’re finding some amazing stuff. Things we’d totally forgotten we owned or have been saying “where the heck did we put…” about.

To give us room to work, we’ve been moving the car out and leaving the door open. Which means we get some curious looks from the neighbors.

And an occasional supervisor.
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Tuxie seems very interested in the process, no matter how often we point out that the garage is not and will not be his turf.

He’s not impressed with that argument.
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His attitude seems to be “If I can see it, I ownz it.”

We’re bribing him with extra krunchiez to leave–we don’t want him settling down in a box and getting trapped, after all–and so far it’s working.

So far.

Sorry About That

My newsfeed is full of doom and gloom. I’m not going to list the subjects; I’m sure you know them as well as I do. All I’m going to say is “Thank the gods for Bill Gates.”

Yeah, really. In the middle of all those depressing stories, I’m seeing a bunch of stories reporting that Bill Gates regrets using Control-Alt-Delete to log on.

I’m serious here. We’ve got to find a chuckle now and then, after all.

If I have any complaint about this story, it’s that it’s old news. Bill made the same comment as far back as 2013. But that’s a minor quibble.

Bill’s done a lot of good since he turned his attention to philanthropy, IMNSHO, more than enough to make up for “640K RAM is plenty” and all of the other geeky complaints we could offer.

Enough to make up for Microsoft Bob? Maybe. Yeah, probably. It’s not like Microsoft was the only company to come up with a laughable attempt at a user friendly GUI.

The worst thing about Ctrl-Alt-Del as far as I’m concerned isn’t that it requires two hands (or three fingers if you prefer to look at it that way). If anything, that’s a bonus. Makes it very difficult to hit it by accident.

My objection–and I’m well aware I’m far from the first to point this out–is that it violated years of user expectations.

Remember, back in those innocent days when DOS ruled the world, the three-fingered salute was your last ditch resort to regain control of your computer when something went awry. The idea was to give you a way to kill off a program that was frozen, deleting last month’s data, or just refusing to listen to you.

People being people, that quickly got generalized to “shut down”. Okay, so people are idiots, but never the less, the association was set. And suddenly Bill was telling us to shut down to start.

Bad vibes, dude.

But, hey. Here we are in 2017, and we’re so desperate to hear someone apologize for a mistake that we’ll take a four-year-old apology.

Works for me. Apologies, like Twinkies, never get stale.

OS Power Up?

My phone is running Android Oreo.

As I type this, my iPad is downloading iOS 11.

And I’m asking myself why. It’s not like either OS introduces new features on my years-old devices. Yes, there are security fixes. Those are important, certainly, and in both cases installing the entire update is the only way to get those fixes.

Okay, yes, some of my current disenchantment is depression brought on by looking at the current news. But still, why do we have to have major OS updates on an annual schedule?

Remember, Android and iOS upgrades are free. Google and Apple aren’t making any money directly off of them, and they’re spending a bundle to tout the new features. Sure, the iOS release is tied to the release of new iPhones, which is where Apple lives. But they’d sell just as many iPhone 8s and iPhone Xs if they came with iOS 10 point something.

For the record, it’s not just phones and tablets. OS X is doing the same thing. Windows is even worse–we’re getting two upgrades a year.

And every time an upgrade comes out, we get reports of bricked phones and scrambled computers, followed by the eternal reminder that “it’s impossible to test every combination of hardware.”

I’m not suggesting the OS vendors should stop upgrading their software. Just thinking the annual upgrade cycle might possibly have more downsides than up.

What about a slipstreamed approach: roll out new features year-round in a series of smaller upgrades that’ll be less likely to break things?

Of course there are problems there. Problems in design, development, and testing. I may not be doing much formal QA these days, but I haven’t forgotten that much about software development. But the approach works well at the application level. It’s worth a try at the OS level.

On a related note, remember a couple of years ago when I griped about software upgrades violating user expectations? I just found a nice example of not doing that in iOS 11.

For the past couple of iOS releases on iPad, swiping up from the bottom of the screen with four or five fingers has brought up the list of running apps. Quick and easy, and I’ve gotten used to it. (Windows users, think “Alt-Tab”.)

In iOS 11, Apple introduced a new “Dock”: a list of frequently-used and currently-running apps. You can pop the dock up over your current program by swiping up with a single finger. And swiping up a second time brings up the new-and-improved list of running apps.

But, and here’s the important thing, the four-finger swipe still works! Even though there’s now a new route to the task switcher, I can still use the old route.

Mind you, I wouldn’t be surprised if the four-finger gestures disappear in a later release, but at least my muscle memory is safe for another year.

Roll Call

Nobody’s done anything particularly cute lately, so how about a simple collection of relaxed cats in their favorite snoozing spots?

I’m putting them in order of seniority. Pecking order might be more useful, but it changes so quickly it would be out of date by the time the post goes live and probably change twice more while you’re reading it.

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Kokoro likes the tangle of wires under my desk. It’s shadowed, convenient for requesting cuddles, and if she gets bored, there’s an ARC of The RagTime Traveler to read.

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Kaja has several favorite hangouts, but Maggie’s office chair is currently the absolute winner. The sheepskin cover means its always at a comfortable temperature, and the seat itself is just the right size.

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Rhubarb is never happier than when he can curl up on the newspaper. If he can prevent me from getting to the sports section, it’s an even bigger win.

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Watanuki moves around a lot, but the hammock in the upstairs hall is a perennial favorite. It conforms to his shape while allowing him to leave limbs dangling (note the right rear paw). And there’s a window right there so he has a perfect excuse to turn his back on us.

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Yuki has long favored the bed, especially my side. Not only is it just the right degree of softness to gratify his sybaritic soul, but the red blanket sets of his fur most elegantly.

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Sachiko has resting places all over the house, but she spends most of her time on one the dining room chairs. “Ize da queen,” she says–and yes, she still speaks Kitten, probably because we spoil her immensely–“and I gotsa have da biggest fwone!”

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Rufus is still exploring the house and trying new possibilities. But at the moment his spot of choice is the floor next to my desk chair. Convenient when he wants pettings; directly in the path of the fan, so he stays nice and cool; and one of the few places ‘Nuki rarely goes.

Focus!

Oh, come on people, really?

Look, it’s possible that my Twitter feed is skewed toward New Yorkers. That’s gonna happen when you’re following (in a clearly non-obsessive, not-at-all-stalkerish way) a whole bunch of publishing industry folk. Publishing is centered in New York, so of necessity, so are agents and editors.

But my feed is absolutely full of moanings and groanings about Bodega.

For those of you who didn’t read the story, there’s a new startup that wants to wipe the mom-and-pop corner store out of existence. How? By setting up jumbo-sized vending machines. That you can only buy from with a cell phone.

What truly boggles my mind is that anyone thought this was a good idea. Even if one ignores the cultural appropriation of the company’s name and in their logo–which is what’s drawing about three-quarters of the ire in my Twitter feed–the concept is utterly doomed anyway.

Small cash transactions are the core of a real bodega’s business. Even if you assume that everyone has a smartphone and a credit card (hint: not valid assumptions), that still doesn’t mean everyone’s going to want to charge their 3 a.m. cigarette purchase. To say nothing of how little profit you’re going to make on that transaction after Visa takes its cut.

And that’s not even talking about booze. Heck of a lot of corner stores live on sales of beer. I don’t see Bodega getting legal approval to stock alcoholic beverages.

The corner store isn’t going away and the value proposition of Bodega just isn’t there. It’s a dead duck. I’d call them the next Juicero, but I’m not even sure they’ll make it as far as Juicero did.

So can we please drop the subject and talk about something more important?

Anything.

No, the porn picture that showed up in Ted Cruz’ feed isn’t more important. Focus, people, focus!

Apple Hardware Day

And now, without further ado, my thoughts on today’s Apple hardware announcements, written as the announcements were made.

New facility is 100% powered by renewable energy. Hooray. Aside from the environmental benefits, that ought to save Apple a few bucks–but I doubt that’ll result in any savings for their customers, though.

Their new stores in large cities will include plazas so you can kick back and chill. Because you can never find a coffee shop near an Apple store. Mind you, it doesn’t look like the plaza will include coffee. Just tables and chairs. Maybe you can hang out there and work on your iPad/Mac while you wait for your iPhone to get fixed?

I’m not sure what this has to do with new phones or other gadgets, but that’s Apple for you. Gotta build the anticipation before they reveal the news that’s already been leaked.

Moving on.

The Apple Watch is now, they say, the number one watch in the world–by what measure, they don’t seem to have said. I assume it’s by number of units sold or total dollars. Rolex, Swatch, and Fossil must be weeping bitter tears.

To celebrate, we’ll be getting WatchOS 4. Which should come as no surprise since they talked about it in June at WWDC. One new feature they didn’t mention back then is a focus on the heart rate app which will now proactively notify wearers if it spots potential problems, such as an elevated heart rate when you’re not exercising. Remember to take your watch off before getting amorously engaged unless you want your Apple Watch interrupting you.

There will also be a new hardware revision of the watch. The big news there is that it has cellular capabilities now. So you can get phone calls even if you left your iPhone home. Have you noticed that it’s getting harder and harder to become unavailable? Now you need to leave your phone and your watch home if you want to take a vacation without your boss interrupting you.

In more important watch news, there will be new colors and new styles in faces and bands. So you can better coordinate with your outfit, I suppose.

You’ll have to wait until the 22nd to get one, though. That’s a whole week and a half. Oh, the horror of delayed gratification! If it helps any, you can place your order on the 15th, and you can upgrade your current Apple Watch to WatchOS 4 on the 19th.

Moving on.

Apple TV is going 4K and getting HDR capability. Did this surprise anyone? Apple thinks it’s as important a transition as the move from black and white to color. Or at least that’s what they’re encouraging us to think. (Ooh, ouch–the first graphic they used in the demo is from La La Land.)

And yes, you’ll need to buy a new box–this is not a software upgrade. You’ve already got a new 4K TV with HDR, right? If not, you might want to get that first. On the brighter side, at some point before the end of the year, Apple TV will support Amazon Prime Video, so you can pay both “Big A” companies.

Same order and shipping dates as for the new watches, so you’ve still got time to go buy that new TV.

Moving on again.

Absolutely nobody should be surprised to hear that there are new iPhones on the way.

The iPhone 8–and thankfully they resisted the urge to skip a few version numbers and call it the iPhone 10 or (gag) iPhone X–has glass on both the front and back. That should make it smoother and easier to drop. But since the glass is “steel reinforced” Apple believes it’ll be more durable. And, as usual, we get two models, one at 4.7 inches and the other at 5.5. Everyone who’s been praying for an Apple phablet is again doomed to disappointment.

Both models have new Retina displays, the usual bumps in processing power on both the CPU and GPU, and new cameras with faster low-light focusing and optical image stabilization. The 8 Plus also gets upgraded sensors and improved realtime analysis of the picture so it can adjust its settings on the fly.

And, of course, the new phones are designed for Augmented Reality. Because that’s the new sexy. Hey, their first example strikes close to home! MLB will release an app that lets you add live player info and stats if you watch a game through your iPhone. Instead of, you know, watching the game directly and glancing at the scoreboard occasionally.

In other news, Apple really, really hates wires. They got rid of wired headphones, and now they’re taking on the power cord. iPhone 8s support the Qi wireless charging standard. It doesn’t look like they’ve eliminated wired charging, but I guess they have to save something revolutionary for the iPhone 9.

And yes, pre-orders open Friday the 15th, with phones shipping a week later. With iOS coming out on the 19th to give you one last upgrade adventure on your now-obsolete iPhone 7.

Whoops! I spoke too soon. There’s also an iPhone X (pronounced “iPhone Ten” *sigh*). It’s got a “Super Retina Display” that covers the entire front of the phone except for a small cutout for the selfie camera, packing at 2436×1125 pixel display into 5.8 inches. (Still not quite a phablet.) There’s no Home button, so you tap on the screen to wake it up and swipe up from the bottom to go to the home screen.

And, since the fingerprint sensor, aka Touch ID, is gone, it now uses facial recognition, billed as “Face ID”, to unlock. Yeah, it unlocks automatically when you pick it up, because there’s no security risk there. Hopefully it’ll be a little harder to fake a face than a finger, but still… They’re claiming it’s twenty times less likely that a random person’s face could unlock your phone than with the fingerprint reader. But the odds go down with relatives, so maybe you can use your phones to settle those arguments over whether your kid looks more like you or your spouse.

Ah–there’s also a passcode screen. If you can force it to require the passcode–and I’ve heard rumors you can–that should help with the scenario where the police hold your phone up to your face to unlock it.

And that AR stuff you can do on the iPhone 8? So passe. Imagine the possibilities when you combine AR with the facial tracking: animated emojis that lipsync to your voice. Yes, this is, in Apple’s vision, the ultimate pinnacle of technological evolution and the direction of phone technology for the next ten years.

As Daffy Duck says, “I demand that you shoot me now.” (The iPhone X should even let him say it in your voice–or let you say it in his.)

Say it with me now: “Pre-orders on the 15th, shipping on the 22nd.” Actually, no. Pre-orders open October 27 and it won’t ship until November 3. So you’ll have more than a month to play with your iPhone 8 before you hand it down to your kids. Assuming, of course, you can come up with the $999 for the iPhone X after buying that new TV, Apple TV, and Apple Watch.

A Leg and a Piece of Tail

Continuing our irregular series of posts featuring feline body parts left behind…

Watanuki is still the leader in this category, but Tuxie can do a rather respectable job of it, too. The other day I spotted him just outside the fence. Well, except for his tail and one leg.
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I was fairly sure something had distracted him as he was leaving. It took a couple of minutes, but eventually the distraction got far enough from the fence for me to see it.
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One lonely turkey. Which is fairly unusual, actually. When not going about as a flock, they most often travel in pairs or pairs of pairs*.

* I’d say “quartets,” but the Turkey Trot doesn’t lend itself to arrangements for four.

I’ll admit I still don’t understand the relationships among our various neighbors. I’d have expected wary detente or restrained hunger between feline and foul, but both of them seemed no more than casually alert. I’ve seen MM and Tuxie show more hunger at the sight of deer, which they would have even less chance of bringing down. On the other hand, the deer seem more afraid of the turkeys than they do of humans.

Politics make strange bedfellows, indeed. And when the politics are inter-species, there’s no telling who’s going to wind up in your bed. ¬†Or which body parts the negotiations will cost you.

Are We There Yet?

A bit of weirdness went down at the Oakland Coliseum yesterday.

Over on the East Coast, the Yankees and Red Sox are feuding over sign stealing. At issue is the Red Sox’ admitted use of Apple Watches in the process. (Let’s be clear here: despite what the headlines say, Apple’s technology has nothing to do with the actual theft. Video replay staff have been picking up signs from the TV feeds and using the watches to transmit the catcher’s calls to the dugout. They could just as easily have used cell phones, semaphore, or canine couriers. The whole process would be impossible if MLB had resisted the lure of video replay. Law of Unintended Consequences, anyone? But I digress.)

Apparently baseball teams over here on the West Coast can’t get their hands on Apple Watches. Rather than resorting to Android watches, it seems they’ve fallen back on more primitive technology: the human eye.

Seems that the Angels think the As’ batters are stealing signals by looking at the catcher. The As have not, as far as I can tell, denied the charge. And there’s no reason they should. Players on the field stealing signs has been a perfectly legal element of the game for more than a century.

And there are plenty of logical actions a team can take if they believe their opponent is stealing signs, including switching to an alternate set of signals or changing the sign after the batter looks away. Instead, Angles’ catcher Juan Graterol chose to give the As’ hitters the old hairy eyeball.

A literal example of “an eye for an eye”.

Graterol apparently also told several As to stop looking at him, which worked about as well as it ever does in the back seat of the car. “Mom! Make Mark stop looking at me!”

As you might expect, Graterol’s chastising wasn’t received with good cheer and a spirit of friendly sportsmanship. His words were met with other words. Possibly some that included four letters. The umpire stepped in, ejected As’ third baseman Matt Chapman, and warned both teams to shut up and play baseball. The game went on without Chapman.

From the stands–yes, I was there–it was an odd moment. We couldn’t hear what anyone said, of course, so we didn’t know why Chapman was tossed–or why Graterol wasn’t. Usually when only one player is ejected, it’s because he’s said something to the umpire, but we didn’t see any sign of that. Chapman kept jawing at Graterol, yes, but even on replays, I don’t see him saying anything to the umpire.

The crowd, unsurprisingly biased in Oakland’s favor, called for Graterol to be hit by a pitch on his later trips to the plate, but fortunately for common sense, the As’ pitchers declined to retaliate. It might have been justified under those “unwritten rules” we’ve talked about before–might–but putting a runner on base in a game you’re leading by only a run or two would be nearly as stupid as complaining about sign stealing.

I don’t expect anything to come of yesterday’s contretemps. The Angels and As don’t play again this season. Graterol and Chapman have a collective total of 100 major league ballgames under their belts; I’m sure some of the older players will take them aside and give them the “You coulda handled that better” speech.

But if a bunch of As’ players find Apple Watches in their Christmas stockings, we can safely assume they didn’t come from Santa.