Pillowed

Watanuki has some strange ideas about the proper role of a pillow.

Actually, he has a lot of strange ideas. But a detailed discussion of them all would take us far beyond the space allotted to today’s post, so we’ll stick with pillows.

28-1

Most people put their head on a pillow. Not Mr. Knuckles.

I’d think he was trying to keep his butt warm, but the temperature was in the nineties the day that picture was taken. Cold buns (not that he really has buns–but I digress) were not the issue.

Meanwhile, Yuki took the usurpation of his favorite head-and-tail-rest in stride.

28-2

He often finds Maggie’s pillow to be an acceptable alternate Rhubarb. Though it has to be said that I’ve never seen him twist his hindquarters into that position with any other pillow.

Meanwhile, I found the funniest part of the episode to be the way Sachiko completely ignored the boys’ antics.

28-3

More Blindness

About a month ago, I was talking about willful blindness, and I cited “climate change deniers, Trump supporters, and anti-vaccination activists” as examples of those who see only what they expect to see.

But let’s be fair. That self-inflicted severance from reality isn’t limited to the right wing and the lunatic fringe. There were a couple of letters to the editor in today’s Chron that make it clear as window glass* that sensible people on the left can be just as willfully blind as anyone else.

* For some values of window, anyway. Certainly clearer than our kitchen window where the cats press their noses against the glass when watching for interlopers. But I digress.

Wouldn’t it be great, one of the letter writers asks, if manufacturers of hygiene products would put together “welcome kits” for immigrants. “It seems like a win-win,” they says, suggesting that once the arrivals take up their new lives in America, they’ll be so grateful for the toothpaste and shampoo that they’ll continue to buy the same brands for life.

Sure is a nice thought. Apparently it’s escaped their notice that the administration is doing their utmost to ensure that would-be immigrants don’t leave the detention centers, unless it’s to go back where they came from–or, as best I can tell, to a small piece of America, six feet long, three feet wide, and four feet deep.

It suits the purposes of those in charge for the residents of the camps to be unwashed and unhealthy. That serves their narrative. “Look at them! Dirty and diseased. Why would you want them living next door?” How many times have we been told “They were already sick when they got here. We did the best we could, but…”?

Even if that weren’t the case; even if we assume the camp operators and those paying them have the best of intentions, how long is a hotel-sized bar of soap going to last? Not for a significant fraction of the weeks or months the typical person seeking asylum will be spending behind bars.

Then there’s the second letter.

The writer cites the self-evident fact that America has a literally unimaginable amount of wealth and asks why we can’t find “…the resources to provide basic human necessities for these tired and hungry children?”

There’s a very simple reason. The people setting the policies that deny food, medicine, and the basic rights this country once aspired to give to everyone are the same people who own the majority of that unimaginable wealth. And they control the distribution of what they don’t own.

And, yes, I realize there are exceptions, people of great wealth who don’t toe the “immigrants are scum” party line. But again, no control. They could spend every dollar they have trying to get past the barriers the administration has put up to preserve their narrative and never make a dent in the problem.

None so blind.

Look, I’m not saying anyone should give up. But ignoring the root of the problem isn’t going to solve it. (Neither is proposing solutions that require other people to do the work and put up the money, but that’s a topic for another day.)

One need look no further than the Wayfair Walkout to see how well ignoring the role of the dollar is going to work out in any venture.

Smile!

And here we go again.

Well, not immediately. But another round of furor over hidden cameras is likely on its way.

I can’t be the only person who remembers how much fuss there was when smartphone cameras got good enough to take pictures that were more than vague, fuzzy blobs.

Bans on phones in health club dressing rooms. Mandated “shutter” sounds. And, naturally, the debate over “creep shots,” which is still raging in Britain, years after pretty much the entire rest of the universe has agreed they should be criminalized.

As SlashGear reports, Apple is resurrecting the idea of putting a camera in a watch.

The kid’s “smartwatch” I got for Christmas a few years back has a camera. It’s a lousy camera, but it works. And, as SlashGear points out, it’s incredibly awkward–and obvious–to use. Unless you’re taking a picture of something directly in front of you at sternum level, you’re going to have to contort your wrist in a direction wrists were never intended to bend to aim it, and then hope you can press the shutter button without pushing the camera off target.

Mind you, kids are, generally speaking, much more flexible than I am. Your typical preteen likely would have no trouble at all using the darn thing.

But even on the wrist of a child, it’s still very obvious when they’re taking a picture.

Apple’s patented notion of putting the camera in the watch band will make it possible to snap a picture subtly. And, don’t forget that you probably wouldn’t have to press anything to trigger the shot. After all, Siri is listening through your AirPods. Twist the watch band a little and mutter, “Hey, Siri, take a creep shot,” and it’s done.

Okay, maybe I’m blowing this out of proportion. We can trust Apple with our privacy, right? Maybe they’ll build in a mega-bright red LED that flashes whenever the camera is operated.

Or perhaps they’ll sell an “Apple Watch Camera Blocker”. The Atlantic noted a couple of years ago that Apple had filed for a patent for a device that would use “infrared rays to force iPhone cameras to shut off”.

If Apple built the Watch-Blocker into the iPhone XII, releasing it at the same time as the Apple Watch 6 with iStrapCamera, how many people would plunk down $1500 for the phone?

When I reviewed my Kidizoom watch, I said “Ball’s in your court, Apple.”

Looks like Apple is finally getting ready to swing their racquet.

Fellowship

As we’ve seen, Rhubarb and Yuki often hang out together. Our bed is their usual venue, so Yuki can use Rhubarb as his pillow.

But, since we’ve started giving Lefty and Rufus the run of the upstairs hall, the Bed Boys have made a point of keeping an eye out.

No more bed–but they do stay in touch.
21-1

Yuki must have the best-rested tail in town with a comfy mattress like that.

It’s So Simple…

Oh, yeah. It’s Thursday, isn’t it? Sorry about that. Got distracted by the Internet.

Actually, what distracted me was trying to figure out how to rearrange my computers. I’m trying to change my setup to make it easier to switch between working at home and working elsewhere. There were a number of reasons why I didn’t get much writing done in Sedalia–starting with the music, of course–and one of them was just the simple disruption of not being at my usual computer with all my usual tools.

The answer seems simple: set up my portable machine as my main writing machine.

But wait. This is computers. It’s against the law for anything computer related to be simple.

Or, in the words of Tom Lehrer, “It’s so simple / So very simple / That only a child can do it.” Anyone got a child I can borrow?

If I’m working at home, I don’t want to use the comparatively small laptop screen. I want the big screens on my desk. Yes, plural. (A hint for the budget-minded: at any given price point, two medium-sized monitors give you more screen real estate than one big monitor.)

I like to have the document I’m working on directly in front of me on one screen. Then I put my research web browser on the same screen, but off to the side where it’s handy for looking things up at a moment’s notice*. And then I shove my email onto the second screen, where it’s out of my peripheral vision; that way it doesn’t constantly distract me, but it’s running, so it can use audio alerts to get my attention for important messages.

* Most recent mid-paragraph search: how much space would twenty pounds of gold take up? Hey, it’s an important plot point. I couldn’t leave it to fill in later, right?

Sure, there will be compromises in doing all that on the road. But I work at home more than anywhere else, so the goal is to tune the home experience for maximum efficiency, then scale it down for traveling.

The big gotcha, though, is that laptops aren’t really designed to connect to multiple external monitors. “Hey,” the manufacturers say, “it’s got a built-in screen and an HDMI port. That’s plenty.”

Not in my universe.

My laptop doesn’t even have an HDMI port. What it does have is a USB-C port and there are zillions of USB-C docking stations. Many of them even have multiple video outputs.

And that’s where I got distracted.

The most common combinations of ports are two HDMI or two DisplayPort. Next most common are one of each. VGA? Not so common. DVI? Hen’s teeth.

You know what’s coming, right?

My monitors are so amazingly outdated that they don’t have either HDMI or DisplayPort inputs. VGA and DVI all the way.

Which has never been a problem before. Every desktop computer I’ve owned for the past decade or more has had DVI outputs. HDMI-to-VGA and HDMI-to-DVI adapters are cheap and effective.

Every single docking station I’ve looked at has had warnings against using adapters. “They may not work” is the usual phrasing. That’s tech-speak for “It probably won’t work, but we want you to buy the product, so we’ll cover our posteriors with a maybe.”

I found one line of docking stations that have one DP, one HDMI, and one VGA output. I figured I could go VGA-to-VGA on one monitor and take my chances with an adapter for the other.

Then I saw the small print: if you use the VGA output, the DP and HDMI are disabled. Seriously!

I refuse to buy new monitors for this project. The ones I’ve got work perfectly well.

So, if you don’t hear from me or that kid you loaned me for a while, assume that we’re buried beneath an enormous pile of docking stations and video adapters, fruits of the search for the one magic combination does something mindbogglingly easy.

A Forgotten Virtue

Seen this paean to obsolescence? I hadn’t until Jackie brought it to my attention, and now I’m passing the favor on to you.

It is fairly lengthy–though that shouldn’t bother anyone who reads my ramblings here–but if you don’t have the patience right now, the tl;dr is that the author, one Ian Bogost, believes that computing technology reached its peak in the early 1990s.

He argues that all of the advances since then–the ability to run quietly, multitask, go online without dialup, use a display big enough to see clearly, and so on–are actually regressions.

I detect a certain amount of Mr. Bogost’s tongue in his cheek, yet the final impression is that he’s quite serious in his praise of archaeo-computing*.

* Yes, I know that the term “retrocomputing” is in common parlance. Mr. Bogost, however, takes the concept to a whole ‘nother level.

Look, I’m not immune to the lure of the small, underpowered computer. You know my love for my Windows tablet. I’ve got a couple of netbooks*. They still work, and I still use them occasionally.

* I’m convinced that what doomed the netbook was not its lack of power, but its lack of screen resolution. 1366×768 just isn’t big enough to get any serious work done in a GUI environment. Give me a ten-inch screen large enough to display something close to a full page of text at a readable size, and I’m in. Why do you think that the iPad is so popular? It’s basically a netbook that swaps the keyboard for a high-resolution screen.

But there are things that just can’t be done with a small computer. Writing, sure. Editing? Probably. Software development? Only if you’re building something to run on that same device. Art? Video editing? Forget it, unless you’re okay with an input lag measured in seconds and rendering times measured in weeks. Games? Anything more taxing than a crossword puzzle or hand of solitaire is going to run slower than real time.

Mr. Bogost, it appears, considers the greater part of the last two decades to have been wasted effort. There is, he says, virtue in a computer that makes you wait and that pummels you with noise while you twiddle your thumbs.

The lack of capability and speed and the noise generated combined to force computer owners to limit their screen time (to use an expression that dates to 1921).

Apparently he missed–or has forgotten–the online communities of the time. There might not have been a Facebook sucking up hours of users’ time. But there was GEnie. Prodigy. AOL. Usenet, for crying out loud.

Text adventures. I can’t count how many hours I spent on the computer game of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”. Heck, anyone else remember “Leisure Suit Larry”? I wonder if Mr. Bogost remembers “Zork”.

It’s the final paragraph of Mr. Bogost’s piece that really sets my teeth to grinding. He concludes by turning off his ancient computer and declares that act to be literally impossible today.

I’ve got news for him. Every flipping piece of technology he references–his laptop, his tablet, and his smartphone–has a power switch. He can do exactly the same thing as with his Macintosh SE.

Why doesn’t he? Because he doesn’t want to wait for them to turn back on. Waiting, it seems, is only a virtue when you have no choice.

Settling In, Settling Down

Lefty is definitely relaxing around us. Which is not to say he’s comfortable; we’re nowhere near the point of giving him pettings. But when he retreats from our presence, he no longer does it at high velocity. He’s sniffed our fingers a few times. And he’s decided that the camera might not be his enemy.
14-1

Note the calm-but-cautious expression. A considerable improvement over last month’s “alert” to say nothing of the even earlier “get thou away from me, oh evil biped!”

Rufus, of course, has no trouble relaxing.
14-2

The computer desk is one of his current favorite spots. I’m not crazy about having a fur-bearing creature right in front of the computer’s cooling vents, but he does seem to be making an effort to leave an air gap, so I haven’t made an issue of it.

And, while he’s always been a very mellow fellow, amiable and eager to please, he does have some firm opinions.

Currently, his firmest opinion is that the desk is his spot.

I was working at the computer earlier this week, upgrading the OS, when Rufus decided it was time for a nap. He strolled up the back of the futon (just visible to the left side of the picture), shoved the mouse off the desk, and flaked out.
14-3

Bets on whether that’s an innocent blep or a message aimed at anyone who would try to usurp Rufus’ computer desk?

Run It Up!

Because that’s how the game is played, of course.

Oh, sorry. I’m talking about the biggest sports story that many news outlets aren’t covering. Editorial departments are covering it, though…

Specifically, the Women’s World Cup is under way and the US team–the defending champions–are off to a hot start.

Ferociously hot, in fact, beating Thailand 13-0.

I imagine there will be more coverage on the Sports page of your local paper (if you still have one) eventually, but so far most of what’s seen print or electrons has been pontification.

“Why didn’t they ease up when it was obvious they were going to win?”

Which brings us back to my opening paragraph.

Blowouts are a fact of life in every sport. They may be rarer in soccer than in other sports–thirteen goals is a monstrously large number–but they happen.

Some sports do have unwritten rules against running up the score. In baseball, for example, some people consider it bad form to steal bases when you’re five runs ahead. Or seven. Or only if it’s the seventh inning or later. Maybe more people would follow the rule if everyone agreed what the rule is. But I digress.

It’s common to pull your starters out when you’ve got a big lead late. Not universal, though. And those replacements you put in are going to be playing hard, because putting up good numbers is the only way they’ve got to petition for more playing time (which–indirectly–means a bigger paycheck).

Other sports, not so much. I’ve never heard of a hockey team going easy on an opponent after running up a six goal lead. Not saying it doesn’t happen, just that I haven’t heard of it.

And soccer is more like hockey than baseball: continuous action, an opportunity to switch from defense to offense at any moment, a set length to the game, and so on.

Looked at from another perspective, letting up could be seen as establishing a bad habit. If you relax and lighten up after taking a five goal lead today, are you going to unconsciously do the same next week when you’ve got a four goal lead?

There are other reasons–off-field reasons–why the US Women’s National Team would want to make every game a major blowout if they can. That’s beside the point here.

Because most of the editorials I’ve seen start from an unstated premise that “women don’t act like that.”

I call bullshit.

Competitive sports are, by definition, competitive, and the people who play them–male, female, or decline to state–compete. Granted, in my experience, women are more likely to commiserate with a defeated opponent after the game. But the key word there is “after”.

Hey, last Wednesday the Mariners beat the Astros 14-1. Nobody said they should have stopped hitting home runs after the sixth inning. They lost 13-3 a few days before that, and nobody called for the Angles to take it easy after they scored their seventh run in the second inning.

In the moment, you play to win. If that means an occasional blowout, so be it. No matter what your sport or your sex.

Misinterpretation

I know I’ve been talking about advertising a fair amount lately, but I hope you’ll indulge me in one more take on the subject. If it helps any, today’s focus is not TV commercials. We’re taking a look at poorly thought out and poorly presented print advertising.

Notice anything wrong about this ad? (Kate, I know you do. Give the rest of the group a minute to spot it.)
11-1

It’s an interesting bit of technology, intended to solve a real-world problem. Unfortunately, the virtues of the product are undercut by the advertising department’s mistake.

Here me now: Unless there’s a deliberate joke involved (see, for instance, Chick-fil-A’s “Eat Mor Chikin” ads*), it is never acceptable to release an ad with a misspelled word.

* Great ads, deplorable corporate practices. But that’s beside the point today.

Does the copywriter know the difference between “hear” and “here”? It’s possible they don’t–their spellchecker would have flagged “hereing” after all.

But how does a blooper like this slip past? Does the company not realize there’s a difference between a copywriter and a copyeditor? Or were they too cheap to pay for a copyedit? If so, makes you wonder what they’re doing with the $120 bucks they take in for each set of headphones. (Yes, that is the price; I had to trim the photo.)

Stupid, easily avoidable mistakes like this one give a poor impression of the company. At some level, anyone who sees it is going to associate poor quality control in an advertisement with poor quality control of the actual product.

Moving on.

There’s nothing wrong with this ad.
11-2

Okay, let me amend that. Regardless of one’s feelings about King’s Hawaiian buns and bread, the actual ad here is reasonable. It gives prominence to the unique feature of the product (an–IMNSHO–overly sweet roll), communicates the price and the product variations (beef and chicken), and incorporates a relevant tagline.

Perfectly legit.

The problem is that the advertisers (the Sonic chain of drive-in restaurants) didn’t consider all of the ways and places they’d be hyping the product.

What works well in a full-page graphic format doesn’t work so well in a text-only medium where space is constrained. Like, say, an LED ad board outside the restaurant.

Simplifying the message to “Try our King’s Hawaiian Clubs” points the viewer in the wrong direction:
11-3

That’s a real King’s Hawaiian club, and yes, those are shark’s teeth around the perimeter. This is not something to sink your teeth into; it’s something that’ll sink its teeth into you.

(The maker of that particular weapon, by the way, sells a variety of related products. They look great and the prices are reasonable for what they are. I could quibble with some of the text on that webpage–I’d have said “indigenous” rather than “endemic”, for example–but most of my objections are concerns over artistic matters rather than effectiveness or appropriateness.)

It’s an oversight on the advertiser’s part. Not fatal–the context of the ads plays a part in conveying the message–but vexing.

Plan ahead, consider alternate points of view and possible misinterpretations, and–especially where multiple cultures are involved–include people from a variety of backgrounds on your planning team.

Not a Neighbor

I can’t possibly let a Friday go by without a post. But the gang hasn’t done anything photo-worthy since I got home from Sedalia.

Fortunately, I have alternatives.

Meet Missy, official shop cat of Chelsea’s Antiques.
07-4

That’s a typical pose for her. Usually, if she’s not asleep on a sun-warmed chair, she’s actively ignoring the store’s clientele.
07-3

Which is not to say Missy is unfriendly. She’s almost always willing to accept the pettings that are her due. She just doesn’t make a big deal out of it.

At least, that’s the way she’s been on all of my previous visits to Chelsea’s.

This year, however, she was in quite a different mood.
07-1

She met us at the door and demanded attentions. Naturally, I obliged with ear rubs and back strokes. She appreciated those, but seemed uninterested in chin scratching. When I offered, she retreated a few steps.

And then she circled around me, sometimes leading, sometimes following, as I walked around the shop. Every time I stopped to look at something, she started rubbing against nearby surfaces: an obvious request for more patting.
07-2

Of course I succumbed to her pleadings.

And, every time, she accepted no more than four pats, then retreated and resumed circling around me. Tsundere in action.

Next time you’re in Sedalia, drop by Chelsea’s Antiques. There’s plenty of good stuff there–in addition to Missy.