HOF 2019

The Baseball Hall of Fame voters continue to perplex me.

This year, there were five candidates receiving what I can only assume were sympathy votes. As usual, no offense to the gents in question, but Lance Berkman? Roy Oswalt? And I hope neither of the voters who named Placido Polanco seriously thought he’d make the cut.

That’s not the perplexing part of the ballot, though. There are always a few of those votes.

Nor is the election of Edgar Martinez perplexing. As we’ve said before, the only peculiar thing about that result is how long it took. Congratulations, ‘Gar. Well deserved!

Nor are the changes in the votes received by the PED Players unexpected. Barry Bonds got a small jump from 56.4% to 59.1%. Roger Clemens climbed from 57.3% to 59.5%.

And, if we needed proof that assholery is less offensive to baseball writers than PED use, Curt Schilling got the big bounce-back I expected last year, jumping from 51.2% all the way up to 60.9%. That’s still well short of the 75% necessary for election, but let’s not forget that two years ago, Edgar was two points lower than Schilling is this year. Last year I said “Vote on his performance, guys.” It appears the voters did exactly that. Will he make the grade in his last three years of eligibility? Stay tuned.

Other non-surprises: Mike Mussina, Roy Halladay, and Mariano Rivera were all elected.

So what has me perplexed?

Let me put it this way. Back in 2016, Ken Griffey Jr. scored 99.3% of the votes–the highest percentage ever recorded–and it was generally agreed that if Junior (arguably the greatest player in the history of the game) couldn’t get elected unanimously, nobody ever would.

So how the [expletive deleted] did Mariano Rivera pull it off? I don’t doubt he’s hall-worthy. But unanimously hall-worthy?

I doubt anybody would call him the greatest player in the history of the game. I’m certainly not. Greatest pitcher? Nah. There’s a case, but no. Greatest reliever? Sure, I’d go that far.

But I don’t see how that’s enough to get him a unanimous election.

I know, I know. The vote isn’t over who’s the greatest, just who’s hall-worthy. But again, how is Rivera that much more obviously worthy than Griffey?

I hesitate to suggest bias, but we shouldn’t ignore the fact that Junior’s glory years were played in Seattle–out there in the boonies–while The Sandman played for the Yankees. The New York Yankees. I’ll say no more. Just think about it.

And, those of us who remember Junior in his prime can console ourselves with the thought that he got twelve more votes than Mariano. It’s a tiny fire to warm ourselves with, but it’ll do.

Stay tuned for next year, when the pool will include such worthies and potential worthies as Derek Jeter, Jason Giambi, Paul Konerko, J.J. Putz, and Raul Ibanez.

Oh, and my leading candidate to rock the sympathy vote tally, Chone Figgins.

Quietly Bad

One bit of tech news that hasn’t gotten as much attention as I expected is Bose’s announcement that they’ve come up with noise reduction technology for cars.

They’re not making the cars quieter. They’re reducing the amount of road noise inside the car. Yes, like noise-canceling headphones, only for an entire vehicle instead of one person’s ears.

This is, IMNSHO, a bad idea.

Maybe not as bad as electronic license plates or the no-pitch intentional walk. Not quite.

Look, I don’t fly without my headphones. They work brilliantly at filtering out continuous sounds–like the plane’s engines–and not quite as well on repetitious sounds–like the crying baby in the seat behind me. But you know who doesn’t wear noise-canceling headphones on a plane? The flight attendants and the flight deck crew. In other words, the people who are responsible for the safety and comfort of the passengers.

Because the technology isn’t perfect. It also partially eliminates conversation. It glitches occasionally, allowing the background noise to leak through. Those glitches are distracting, and the unintended reduction of non-continuous sounds is a potential safety concern.

Consider how this would apply in your car.

Will Bose’s technology filter or reduce the siren of the police car behind you? Will it make your navigator–human or GPS–quieter? Will it be smart enough to know that droning noise is your favorite bagpipe CD, or will it filter out part of your music? Except, of course, for the occasional glitch where it cuts out and lets through a sudden burst of B flat.

All that aside, even if the technology was perfect, reducing only road noise, without hiccups or glitches, it’s still a bad idea.

Road noise is one of the signals a driver uses to keep tabs on the state of the car and the road. The pitch is part of the feedback system that lets you hold a constant speed on the freeway (traffic permitting, of course). Sudden changes in the sound signal a change in the road surface, alerting you to the possibility of potholes or eroded asphalt.
Do we really want to increase driver distractions and decrease their awareness of what’s going on outside their cars?

Apparently we do. Bose’s announcement says the technology “is planned to be in production models by the end of 2021.” Given the lead time involved in automotive design, that means contracts have been signed and engineers are hard at work now.

I’d offer congratulations to Bose, but they probably wouldn’t hear me.

Personal Growth

As I’ve noted from time to time, Rhubarb is the perennial undercat around here. Nearly everyone bullies him; the lone exception is Sachiko, who’s treated him with a sort of wary respect ever since she was a kitten. (Which is not to say that there’s no strife between them. Sometimes she just can’t resist a casual claw swipe in his direction. But that’s Sachiko being Sachiko.)

Of late, Rhubarb has been trying to assert himself more. It doesn’t work very well, but it’s nice to see him trying. He just hasn’t figured out that he needs to sustain his effort. One hiss or paw slap to the forehead gets attention, but not the kind of respect he’s looking for.

It’ll come to him eventually, I suspect.

And until then, he’ll be our contemplative smoked-salmon-and-cream-cheese fellow.

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Mind lost in rapturous thought, butt firmly planted on the bed.

Two Bits on Seven Gigs

Time to put in my two bits* on a technology story that’s been making the rounds. Sure, I’m late to the party, but I’m going to jump in anyway because it gives me a chance to exercise my contrarian side.

* Yes, I know the expression is “two cents worth”. I could claim it’s inflation, but the truth is, I like to think my opinion–however belated–is worth more than a couple of pennies. Either way, though, you’re getting it for free, so take it for what it’s worth to you.

Word on the street is that Microsoft is again tweaking the way Windows upgrades itself. This time it’s got nothing to do with forced reboots while you’re trying to get work done. Microsoft has noticed–and, gosh, it only took them three and a half years–that Windows 10 often runs out of disk space during upgrades.

There are all kinds of ways to avoid this problem. Making updates smaller springs to mind immediately. Upgrade files in use–a technique Linux has been using for years. Hardcore geeks will undoubtedly have other ideas.

Microsoft’s idea is to set aside a chunk of the hard drive for its own use. About seven gigabytes.

It has the advantage of simplicity.

To be fair, I’m making it sound worse than it is. On any reasonably sized drive, either 7GB is so small as to be unnoticeable or the drive is so full that sacrificing 7GB to the Deities of Richmond isn’t going to make any difference.

Where this will be a problem is on computers with small drives. Like, say, tablets, which often have no more than 32GB drives. (If the rumors are true that Google is going to allow Chromebooks to dual-boot Windows, the same will be true there.)

Much as I love my Windows tablet, space is tight. As I said in that original post, once the initial Windows updates were installed, it was down to a mere 1.5GB. After two years of use, installing just a few programs, and putting as much data on an SD card as I can, I usually have around 5GB free. If Windows sets aside 7GB for its own use, I’m going to be in negative numbers.

It may not be quite that bad, actually. Supposedly, certain temporary files will be stored in that reserved area, freeing up space elsewhere. But while zero is better than negative, it’s an awfully slim margin.

On the other hand, I have gotten rather tired of the semi-annual reclamation of disk space.

Bottom line–and this is where the contrarian bit comes in–I think this news is completely irrelevant to ninety percent of Windows 10 users.

If your hard drive is 256GB or larger, ignore the fuss. You’ll never notice those seven gigabytes.

Same goes for those of you with 128GB, unless you’re in the habit of carrying around your entire library of cat videos. If you’re in that group, embrace the cloud. Put the videos in OneDrive or Dropbox and enjoy the digital elbow room.

If you’ve only got 64GB, you’re in an odd spot. Space is likely to be tight enough that seven gigabytes will hurt, but you’ve probably got enough accumulated junk that you can free up that much space after Microsoft claims its share, and be right back where you are now. Cloud storage will definitely be your friend.

Case in point: my Windows laptop is currently using 57GB. That’s a bit tight, but quite usable. But I’d better clear out some deadwood before the spring Windows update. I note that I’ve got about eight gigabytes of photos and videos on there–a few Ragtime Festival movies and pretty much every picture of the cats I’ve ever taken. Maybe I’ll move those out to OneDrive.

As for those of us with itty-bitty teeny-weenie 32GB drives. Find that space is going to hurt. But on the bright side, once it’s done, we shouldn’t have to do it again. No more trying to scrounge those last few megabytes every six months. No more installing updates manually from USB drives and hoping the tablet’s battery doesn’t run down halfway through the upgrade. I’m inclined to think that right there is worth the initial pain.

So, yeah. Thank you, Microsoft, for trying to solve the problem. You may not have the most elegant solution possible, but if it works, don’t listen to the hip crowd. Take my seven gigs. Please!

Two for the Price of One

It’s not a Short Attention Span Theater*, but I’ve got a couple of items for you today.

* For reasons too complicated to explain**.

** Which is entirely untrue, but sounds better than “For reasons.”

First up, raise your hands if you remember multimedia artist Xathaneal Todd. Don’t feel embarrassed if you don’t. That was way back in ’15–practically prehistory in blogging terms. You can and should refresh your memory.

It turns out his skills aren’t limited to the material arts. Turns out he’s also a composer and actor.

Okay, I’ll admit I have no proof the musician and performer are the same person as the artist. But how likely is it there might be two, much less three, Xathanael Todds? Of the same age? All living in the Fairfield area?

One of the wonderful things about blogging is the way the unexpected turns up. I’ll admit to having forgotten about Xathanael myself. Until Sunday afternoon when a modest little press release popped up in my mailbox.

I say “modest” because it refrains from waxing eloquent about its subject, choosing instead to simply announce the appearance of Mr. Todd as the star of a forthcoming production of Alladin Jr..

Regrettably, Fairfield is a bit outside my usual range. But if any of you are going to be in the area January 31 through February 2, I’d encourage you to check out the show. You will, of course, be obliged to report back. In detail.

Moving on.

Gratifying as it was to hear from Xathaneal (or his press agent), what really warmed my heart-cockles this past weekend was a story in the Chron.

Remember how, despite all of the Bay Bridge’s well-publicized problems, nobody has ever taken any of the blame? No accountability, no public apologies. And there’s certainly been no indication that Caltrans will do anything differently in the future.

Well, it turns out the Transbay Transit Center officials are made of sterner stuff. The article quotes Mark Zabaneh, the Transbay Joint Powers Authority executive director as saying “Obviously, something went wrong with the process for this to happen.” It goes on to describe–at a very high level, naturally (it is a newspaper, after all)–the review processes during design and construction and then cites Zabaneh again as specifically stating that officials need to find out where they went wrong.

Look, I know that’s a long way from resolving the mess–and we still don’t have even an estimate of when the terminal will reopen*. It’s not even an actual apology. But it is a recognition of responsibility. That’s such a major improvement over Caltrans’ handling of the Bay Bridge Bolt Botch that I’m quite giddy with delight.

* Unofficially, the Chron suggests that the repair work could last well into March, which, with the need for testing the fix, could push the reopening into April. One hopes they won’t cut the new ribbon on the first of the month.

Kudos to Mr. Zabaneh for his honesty. May it continue through the repair and the post-mortem project examination.

Floof Is Everywhere

Floof is everywhere.

For starters, here’s a picture of Yuki I missed last week.
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Maggie calls it “Swirl of Floof.” It’s convincing evidence in support of the theory that cats are liquid and will take on the shape of whatever container they put themselves in. In this case, it’s the condo we refer to as “The Hammock,” a favored hangout for Yuki, as well as Sachiko and Watanuki.

And, speaking of Mr. ‘Nuki, here you see him field testing Maggie’s new blanket. Yes, the purple and blue one.
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She got it because it’s warm and snuggly–floofy, even–but ‘Nuki is a suspicious sort and he takes his role as head of household security seriously. He’s not going to approve it for use without extremely careful testing.

So far, he’s been testing it around the clock for ten days.

He won’t commit to a schedule to wrap up the testing. Though it should be noted that the actual testing process requires quite a bit of wrapping up.

Maggie may yet get to use it without Mr. Knuckles’ supervision, but at the rate he’s going, that may not be until June.

Bad Behavior

No matter how hard I try to avoid it, politics continue to suck me in.

My first draft of this post assumed you’d heard about our Fearful Leader’s latest faux pas. Then I realized that even if you have, by the time the post goes live, he’ll have committed at least two or three more. So let’s be more explicit.

So perhaps you’ve heard how You Know Who behaved in a meeting with Congressional leaders over the current government shutdown? If you missed it, he again revealed his total inability to negotiate. When the House Democrats again refused to submit to his flat demands, he slapped the table and walked out of the meeting.

I just have one question.

That’s not acceptable behavior in any context. Not in business, not in social life, and certainly not in politics. Though, given Trump’s love of everything Russian, I’m surprised he didn’t take off his shoe and pound that on the table. But I digress.

The question is why his supporters condone this sort of behavior. If their kid demanded a raise in their allowance, slapped the kitchen table, and stormed out of the room, would they praise their negotiating tactics and give them the money? Would they go into a job interview, insist they be hired immediately, slam their fist on the table, and leave, then expect to be called back and put to work?

So why do they continue to say he’s a wonderful negotiator, a great president, and absolutely should get his giant Lego set?

Moving on. Not very far, though.

I can’t help but feel a certain amount of schadenfreude over the situation Chipotle is in. Because, let’s face it, they brought it on themselves.

In case you’ve missed it, this has nothing to do with the Salmonella Story–that just reduces whatever small amount of sympathy I might have had for them. This is about claims of wage theft, corporately sanctioned policies that forced workers to work without pay.

The case goes back to 2013. More than 10,000 current and former workers filed suit and attempted to have the case certified as a class action. In response, Chipotle adopted a mandatory arbitration provision for all new hires, and last summer roughly a quarter of the complainers were required to drop out of the suit and go to arbitration.

The result? Not only is the suit continuing on behalf of the workers who were hired before the arbitration clause was added to contracts, but now Chipotle is facing hundreds, possibly thousands, of arbitration cases–which it may have to pay for itself.

All they’ve accomplished is a temporary delay in the main suit and increased their own potential financial burden.

At this point, they’ve probably spent more money on their legal maneuverings than they would have shelled out if they’d simply settled the case when it was first filed. Or–assuming there’s merit in the claims–if they’d just treated their workers fairly.

I can’t help but wonder if Chipotle’s executives have gone to the same school of negotiation as Fearful Leader.

I’m Back

And I’m back. Did–no, on second thought, I won’t ask if you missed me. If you did, I’ll be mortified at denying you the pleasure of my company for two weeks. And if you didn’t, you’ll be mortified at having to admit it. So let’s just not go there and save us all the embarrassment.

Taking the time off was definitely the right move. Not having to fit blogging around a work training schedule, holidays, and family time simplified my life enormously. I’m still on a training (read that as “variable”) schedule, but everything else has settled down enough that I think I can get back to blogging on the usual Tuesday/Thursday/Friday plan. I’ll worry about possible changes to the blog posts once I’m done with training and have a more predictable work schedule.

No, I didn’t get much fiction writing done over the break. But I’m ready to get back to that as well. As soon as this post goes up, I’m starting the second draft of Demirep. Unlike many authors, I enjoy revising. Finishing a first draft is a rush, but sometimes the actual writing is a slog. Rewriting is almost always easier, because I know where I’m going and how I’m getting there. Fewer false trails means faster, more enjoyable writing.

Moving on.

There’s progress on the Bay BridgeTransbay Transit Center. The repair plan has been made and approved. Not a whole of detail has been released yet–it sounds like there will be more after the Transbay Joint Powers Authority board meets on Thursday–but the gist is that steel plates will be attached on the upper and lower surfaces of the vulnerable beams.

Standard disclaimer: I’m not a structural engineer. That said, the fact that the plan calls for reinforcements to be added to both the Fremont Street and First Street beams suggests to me that the tests found nothing wrong with the metal–that the problem is more likely to be design or construction. I’m looking forward to hearing more, including the estimated date for reopening the Transit Center, which will depend in large part on how long it takes to find a source for the reinforcement plates.

Moving on again.

Actual employment that requires leaving the house does mean I’ll have less time for television. That may be a problem come baseball season–though, as I’ve said before, I find having a ballgame on in the background helps my writing–but at this time of year, it’s arguably a good thing. Yes, the latest seasons of Worst Cooks in America and Kids Baking Challenge* started this week, the former on Sundays at 9:00 and midnight Eastern, the latter on Mondays at the same time. Which is, by the way, very nice scheduling for those of us on the West Coast: 6pm and 9pm fit very nicely around dinner and bedtime. (As usual, those of you in other time zones get the awkward scheduling.)

* Shouldn’t that be “Kids'” with an apostrophe? It’s a competition for, i.e. belonging to multiple kids.

But I’m having doubts about WCiA. It’s a cooking show, supposedly. But it seems as though each season we see less cooking, and the antics of the competitors are getting more predictable. Both, IMNSHO, are the result of competitors being chosen for their personality traits, rather than their willingness to actually learn to cook.

We’ve got the wacky ones. We’ve got the one with a crippling lack of self-confidence. The annoying fan of one of the instructor chefs. The one whose mother still cooks all his meals. The model (and, goddess help us, we’ve got two models and a bodybuilder this season). The one who thinks sugar is a universal ingredient and the one who thinks the same of capsaicin. And, of course, the one who thinks her cooking is just fine and doesn’t understand why her relatives forced her to go on the show.

The producers think this will lead to wacky hijinks. The point they’re forgetting is that arguments aren’t story. Nobody wants to see watch people snapping and snarling at each other. We want to see the contestants successes and, yes, the failures that don’t threaten to fill the set with flames. It’s their growth as cooks that’s the story.

Last season the show spent so much time on personality clashes that the cooking seemed halfhearted. Even in the finale, the cooking competition seemed muted and the food wasn’t up to the standard set in previous years. If this season goes down the same path, I won’t be watching. Which would free up an hour a week for writing. Hmm.

KBC, on the other hand, is still a delight. The kids all have their quirks, but they’re not extremely exaggerated stereotypes. They’ve clearly all been working hard at their craft for years, they’re thrilled to be on the show, and they understand that stuff happens–forgotten ingredients, knife cuts, and bad days–and has to be dealt with.

And it’s obvious they’ve studied the show’s earlier seasons. They know what’s coming, and it was charming to see them literally fleeing in terror when the twist arrived in yesterday’s episode. And yes, though we’ve seen it before, it’s still nice to see them pitch in to help each other finish when time is short.

That’s an hour of potential writing time I’m going to sacrifice willingly every week.

Floof Face Friday

It’s important for me to remember that all the fuzzies need attention. I can’t allow myself to get caught up in over-posting the latest arrivals. Though anyone who’s followed the blog for a while knows I’m not always good at following that rule. Sachiko got a disproportionate amount of attention until Rufus came along, and he got more than his fair share until Lefty arrived.

In an attempt, however fleeting it might be, to redress the balance, I’ve chosen to devote today’s post to Yuki. And the fact that he tried to climb into my lap and demand pettings yesterday had absolutely nothing to do with it.

Without further ado, please enjoy this installment of Floof Face Friday.

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Call this face “Inquistive”. Also known as “What the heck are they doing now?”

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It’s not uncommon for “Inquisitive” to be followed by “Regal”. Yuki is above such mundane matters as humans wielding cameras. Ignore the blob of goo in the corner of his right eye. Yuki is also above such mundanities as grooming himself for his closeup.

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“Reproachful Irritation” is the face he presents when his grooming is interrupted.

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And “Sleepy Ire” is what Yuki displays when awakened from slumber by the camera’s infrared focusing light.

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Then, of course, we have “How Can You Resist Those Big Yellow Eyes?” which is also known as “I Can Haz Pettins Nao?”

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And finally, there’s this one. It’s either “There’s a Bug On the Ceiling” or “Chin Skritch Time”. Yuki’s facial enunciation isn’t always perfectly clear.

Two Left Paws

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that Lefty had accidentally tipped over his condo. Now that I’ve had a chance to review the footage, I’m not so sure it was an accident.

It looks to me like he really put his back into it. And is it just my imagination, or does he have a satisfied expression on his face after the second flip?

Maybe it was an accident. Or maybe it was encroaching cabin fever. After all, he’s been in the cage for more than a month. His nightly interaction with Rufus and the occasional brief visit from the other cats will only go so far for entertainment value.

Regardless of the cause of the Great Condo Flip, Lefty settled down after that. For about a week and a half.

Christmas Eve morning, he had a little accident with the litter box. No, not that kind. He’s been very well-mannered about using it. This kind:

That was unquestionably an accident. Just look at his bereft expression as he hunts through the debris. Not quite as grim a disaster as the California wildfires, but Lefty was only able to rescue one toy: his ball*.

His favorite catnip lemon turned up later, safely hidden in the condo. There was much rejoicing.

Alas, less than two hours later, a second disaster struck.

Despite Lefty’s best efforts, the ball remained in his water bowl until we came upstairs and discovered the wreckage, some four hours later.

Clearly, something had to be done.

Lefty’s Christmas present was a broadening of his horizons.

(No, he didn’t have to wait until that late in the day to receive his gift. We opened the door several hours earlier, but he wanted to be sure it wasn’t some kind of trick, so he kept it under surveillance.) I find it significant that his first action outside the cage was to examine the tools we use to clean the litter box.

He’s now spending most of his time under the futon, but he’s still going back to the cage to use the box and eat.

Relations with Rufus are largely cordial but wary. There’s a certain amount of jockeying for dominance–Lefty’s gotten a slap or two upside his head, but pushed back by stealing some of Rufus’ food–but we haven’t seen any sign of full-blown fighting, or even much in the way of foul language.

We’re still discussing the next steps. Whatever we decide, he’ll have plenty of time to grow accustomed to having the freedom of the library before we stress him with anything new.

But it’s progress. A Merry Christmas, indeed.