Highs and Lows

A few quickies to wrap up October. The last few days have been a strange mix of good news/bad news and excitement/terror.


It rained on Halloween. The rain started around 9:00 and stopped about 2:00. Naturally, Sunday’s newspaper was full of bad puns about the “reign” on the Giants’ parade.

Other than puns, the only significant effect of the rain was to discourage trick-or-treaters. We had about ten, considerably below last year’s high water mark (sorry) of three dozen or more.

No pumpkin spice costumes* and no broken bolts. Superheros predominated, but there was at least one ballerina/fairy princess. That’s a tough distinction to make when you can’t see if she has wings, and I didn’t want to hurt her feelings by asking.

* Now that Halloween is over, can all of the pumpkin spice foods please just go away? No, really. No need to wait until after Thanksgiving. Honest!

The Kitten Chow was popular. We had a mixed assortment of Reese’s Pieces, Almond Joys, Reese’s Miniatures, and Hershey Bars. Most of the kids were young enough that being told to take a handful of candy was so mind-blowing they didn’t even care what kind it was. So, no statistics on popularity, just some very happy faces.


Did I say there were around ten young bandits? Actually, there were two who didn’t show up in costume. Meezer Mommy showed up shortly before sundown with Little Black and Tiny Tux in tow. They all shared a bowl of kitty krunchies and a few cat treats we tossed from the window.

More happy faces.


The sad news arrived Saturday when MM showed up with only Tiny Tux. As promised, we had put out an offering for the little grey critter (gooshy food, which was quite enthusiastically devoured by Faux Tux and Grey Tabby) both Friday and Saturday. But when Little Black didn’t show up, our tenuous grip on our willpower failed.

Tiny Tux, aka Little Bit, aka TBD is now living in our spare bedroom. Yes, we went out and snagged her* Saturday afternoon. She had her first vet visit yesterday, and will remain in isolation until we’re sure she’s healthy. She’s getting antibiotics for an eye infection and she’s sufficiently undernourished and dehydrated that we don’t want to give her vaccinations or flea medications quite yet. Nor, at her age (estimated at 6-8 weeks), are the tests for FeLV and FIV accurate. So, isolation for her, multitudinous hand-washings for us.

* She’s still at an age where sex is a matter of opinion. We think “she” is the genetically correct pronoun, and will work on that basis unless proven incorrect. And if she has a different gender identity when she grows up, we’ll support her completely.

Taking on another kitty, especially one who’s going to need special care and attention to civilize, is a bit of a scary prospect, but, well… Let me put it this way: Sunday night we gave her a bowl of food, tucked her in (figuratively speaking), and went to bed ourselves. Five minutes later, a coyote started howling just beyond our back fence. I can’t think that bringing Little Bit inside was the wrong decision, though I suppose the coyote would beg to differ with me.


Meanwhile, Meezer Mommy is now temporarily residing in our garage. Or rather, around the time this post goes live, she’s at Fix Our Ferals to ensure that she doesn’t gift the neighborhood–or risk her own health–with another litter of kittens.

We suspect she’s a stray, rather than a lifelong feral, and she’s such a beautiful lady that we wish we could (re?)socialize her and find her a new home. Unfortunately, that’s just not going to be possible at this point. Perhaps she’ll forgive us for the indignity of her current incarceration and non-consensual surgery, and continue to hang around the backyard bowl. If so, well, who knows about the future?

Trick or Treat! Lick My Feet! Give Me Something Good To Eat!

Happy Halloween!

Can you imagine our surprise and delight when this crew of junior trick-or-treaters showed up last Sunday?
tng1

Now we know why Meezer Girl has been gobbling so much of the kitty krunchies. Added bonus: we can set aside any question of whether “Girl” is appropriate in her name–although for obvious reasons, we’ve renamed her Meezer Mommy.

We don’t know if Faux Tux is the (or even a) daddy, although I’d swear he’s concealing a blush under his fur in that photo. Certainly the evidence of the kids’ markings suggests that he was involved in some capacity.

I think Meezer Mommy was a bit embarrassed about getting the date wrong. She showed up very late for Monday’s feeding–without the kids–and, which she showed up on time Tuesday, she left the kids home again.

She didn’t let embarrassment spoil their Sunday, however. They hung around most of the afternoon, including taking nap time in the sunlight. I think we startled Little Black when we walked through the yard. Not enough to bother getting up from his nest in the abandoned fountain, but enough to get us a bleary-eyed once-over.
tng2

And Meezer Mommy did bring the kids along Wednesday and Thursday. Unfortunately, the little gray guy hasn’t been seen since Sunday. We fear foul play–or, given the number of raptors in this area, perhaps fowl play. We’ll put out a Día de Muertos offering for him/her tomorrow.

Black cats have an unfortunate reputation, and it’s never more awkward than this time of year. If Meezer Mommy brings Little Black and Tiny Tux out again today, we hope she’ll make them wear costumes that hide most of their fur.

Of course, if they’re in costume, we might not recognize them. Since chocolate is bad for cats, we’ve decided to play it safe. We will not give out candy to trick-or-treaters this year. Instead, all costumed extortionists, regardless of size and apparent lack of fur, will get Fun Size packages of Kitten Chow. Hopefully Zillow will appreciate the lengths we’re willing to go to in protecting our neighbors’ health.

PS: Yes, we’re aware of various TNR organizations in our area. We’re already discussing our options and responsibilities. I’d prefer not to have that discussion in the comments. Thanks!

Happy Pre-Halloween

Zillow has released their 2014 list of the best cities and neighborhoods for trick-or-treating. That means it’s time for my promised pre-Halloween post.

Once again, San Francisco tops Zillow’s list, and Noe Valley returns as the best neighborhood. Congrats to all. When does the billboard go up? “Welcome to Noe Valley. Come for the candy, stay for the… um… hang on, we’ll think of something.”

As usual, the best cities are clustered on the coasts. Likely that’s the influence of median home value on the rankings. Zillow gives that equal weight with their proprietary Walk Score®, population density, and crime. Oddly enough, the rankings don’t give any weight to quantity and quality of candy. That seems an odd omission. I realize that sending covert trick-or-treaters to every neighborhood in the country would be prohibitively expensive, but how about crowdsourcing the data collection? A simple web form soliciting qualitative assessments from the public would be a nice addition to their arsenal.

“On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being awesome beyond belief and 1 being half a granola bar, how do you rate the quality of the candy you received this year?”

Moving on.

Last year the most popular costumes were obvious: Miley Cyrus, Breaking Bad, and zombies.

This year, not so much. Zombies are still popular, but beyond that, there really doesn’t seem to be anything claiming a significant chunk of the public’s attention. OK, odds are there will be a bunch of Giants costumes in the Bay Area and Royals costumes in the Kansas City, but going by ubiquity, the most likely costume candidate seems to be pumpkin spice. For those of us who think pumpkin pie is a tool of the devil, that would be a truly scary costume.

Strictly as a local item, I’ll give bonus points (and bonus candy) to anyone who shows up dressed as a broken Bay Bridge bolt.

Moving on again.

We do plan to decorate again this year, but I doubt that we’ll get anything close to last year’s three dozen candy bandits. The numbers do seem to vary around here: up in odd years, down in even years*. I’ll go out on a limb and predict that the count will be right around fifteen.

* Hmm. A negative correlation with the Giants’ success? Must research further.

We’re still pondering candy choices. Historical data shows that if we have Mounds, we’ll be eating most of them ourselves (not a problem, other than for our health). KitKats do fairly well. I’d suggest we do an all-Android Halloween with jelly beans, KitKats, and lollipops, but given their association with doctors’ offices, we’d most likely be stuck with a bunch of uneaten lollipops. Come to think of it, if we didn’t include Reese’s Cups in the assortment, Maggie would probably stage a revolt. I’m open to suggestions. What candy do you (or your kids) most want to find in your bags?

WQTS 05

Halloween is coming (and there will be a full-sized Halloween post tomorrow), but I thought it would be a good idea to remind you all how not to observe the occasion.

  • w5-2Your kids are going to want to collect “hella candy”. Or maybe “hello candy”*. Either way, this collection bag isn’t going to do it for them. Considering how much of the lettering has flaked off already, by next Friday, it’ll probably be down to “hell and,” leaving the kids to supply the damnation.* That sounds like either a disturbing porn movie about hospital volunteers, or an attempt to subvert Sanrio’s intellectual property.
  • w5-1No matter what they collect their loot in, you can bet that they will not want to find any of these “Despicable Me Fruit Flavored Snacks” in with the candy. What do despicable me fruits taste like, anyway? Judging from the picture on the box, much like a faded, hairy Twinkie. Bleah! (Full disclosure: I’ve never seen “Despicable Me,” so my apologies if the movie discusses the flavor of the fruit it’s named after.)

Last Week In Review

There was a lot going on in the world last week — much of it was even relevant to this blog*. Most of it was far from time critical, though, so I didn’t feel compelled to drop everything and put fingers to keyboard (I almost wrote “put pen to keyboard”, which seems like it could work, but would probably be a bit messy.) Instead, I bring you this assemblage of short items summarizing last week.

* Meaning, of course, “Casey found it interesting.”

  • Putting the most important story first, to ensure that it gets seen even by those with short attention spans. I hasten to note that nobody who regularly reads this blog could be suffering from that problem — the comment is aimed at the occasional drop-in reader. A moment of silence in memory of George Thornton, who passed away Sunday, 27 October. Mr. Thornton will be remembered for decades to come as the prime mover in the famous “Exploding Whale” fiasco. I won’t even attempt to summarize the events of 12 November 1970; I invite you to watch the video embedded below, and then to visit the commemorative website for more information. Let us mourn the passing of a mind that thought dead whales and dynamite were a natural combination. I’ll skip the inevitable jokes about proper disposal of Mr. Thornton’s remains, and simply refer you to the comment section of the NBC News story, where all of the jokes have already been made.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1_t44siFyb4
  • Google Announcements As many of you are aware, Google announced — and began shipping — the new Nexus 5 phone and Android KitKat. The phone is, as expected, similar to LG’s G2, and the OS is, as expected, similar to Android Jelly Bean. What’s most interesting, however, is what didn’t get announced (and thanks to go Ars Technica for pointing these out.) On the hardware side, Google’s Android.com promotional website was updated to include the Nexus 5; the updates include photos of what appears to be an unannounced 8-inch tablet. Since the Nexus 7 was just updated a few months ago, it seems improbable that this would be a replacement; however the Nexus 10 has not yet been updated. Perhaps this is Google’s next entry into the “large tablet” space, and intended to compete head-to-head with the new iPad Mini. Over on the software side, KitKat all but drops the standalone Home screen app that provides the home screen and app drawer: it’s now a stub that redirects calls over to the search app. Yes, you read that correctly: the home screen and app drawer are now part of the search app. It’s an interesting move on Google’s part to tie Android users closer to their own tools, and I look forward to seeing how device manufacturers and carriers react, as this will certainly affect their ability to differentiate their devices through home screen tweaks and proprietary UIs.
  • A major milestone in my professional development has been reached. With a rejection on Sunday, 3 November, I now have enough that each finger could claim one. Yep, rejection number 10. I realize the email was a form letter, but I take heart in the fact that they chose to use the form that says they “enjoyed reading” my submission, and that I should “feel free” to send them other works. Much better than the form that threatens lawsuits for mental damage and warns of restraining orders.
  • Halloween musings A few follow-ups to my comments on Halloween.
    • Apparently a lack of sidewalks isn’t quite the barrier to trick-or-treating that I had thought. Our modest decorations (a giant spider, a few themed lights, and a talking dog skeleton) sufficed to bring in almost 40 candy bandits, a new record.
    • For the record, there was only one zombie and no Miley Cyruses (Cyrusi?). There were also a couple of cats (hurray for tradition!) and fairy princesses. Most of the rest were clearly costumes, but not anything I recognized. I suspect my lack of engagement with most current popular entertainment is a drawback in these situations.
    • Reese’s Cups were far and away the most popular item in the candy bowl. KitKats were a distant second (sorry Google), and Mounds bars barely even registered on the consciousness of the average trick-or-treater.
    • Trick-or-treaters who politely ask “How many may I have?” are a distinct minority. I’ll allow you to write your own “decline of civilization” comments; my own suspicion is that politeness has always trailed well behind the lust for candy among the pre-teen set.
    • No wildly creative costumes this year. However, since the few older kids were obviously towing younger siblings and mostly declined candy, I forgive them their lack of effort. I’ll give them mild props for making a small effort and save my scorn for the parents that made no effort to costume at all, but sent their urchins to the door with an extra bag “for Daddy”.
  • The importance of conjunctionsCJ Maggie spotted this place on our way to dinner Sunday night, and I’m really looking forward to trying them out for breakfast. I’ve never had ham, bacon, or chorizo juice before. Should be quite the tasty — and artery-hardening — experience! (Lest you think this is entirely in jest, be aware that the Internet is full of suggestions for what to do with ham juice (stock, pea soup base, beans), bacon juice (mostly related to eggs), and even chorizo juice (predominantly potato-related). Hint: most people call these items “grease” or “fat”. I’m all for regional dialects and variant word usages, but when it leads to straight-faced suggestions regarding large glasses of liquid pig squeezings, I draw the line…) Seriously, guys, would it kill you to add an “and” before the last word?

Boo!

A clarification, since some people were confused: Lior is not responsible for providing the URL that triggered Tuesday’s rant about ebook vendors disemboweling the self-publishing market. He’s responsible for the URL behind my next rant. That exercise in curmudgeonality is now scheduled for next Tuesday so that I can bring you the following rare cheerful post.

Happy Halloween! (Relax, it’s not a baseball post.)

Yes, I know it’s two weeks early, but any holiday dedicated to the celebration of pranks and candy is worth a bit of build-up. Sure, April Fools Day is fun, but it doesn’t offer candy. It’s also a bit short on iconic mascots, so it’s got a lot of catching up to do. But I digress.

According to the real estate mavens at Zillow, San Francisco is the best city in the US for trick-or-treating for the third straight year. Noe Valley has captured the crown as the best neighborhood. Five of the top ten cities are on the West Coast, and three more are on the East Coat. I sense a marketing opportunity here: any airlines want to offer special “Trick or Treat” fares to parents in the middle of the country who want to give their underprivileged children a top-end Halloween experience?

Zillow’s rankings are based equally on their own Home Value Index, population density, local crime statistics, and Walkscore’s ranking*. That last one is clearly why my own neighborhood will never make the list. Our walkability score is 43 (out of 100) and should probably be even lower, given the lack of sidewalks in much of the neighborhood. (Side question: which is worse: no sidewalk or a sidewalk that just suddenly ends in mid-block? We’ve got both!)

* Edited 2 April 2018 to reflect Walk Score’s acquisition by Redfin. Note, by the way, that in the four and a half years since this post was written, our Walk Score has dropped from 43 to 34. At this rate, by 2030 our score should have dropped to zero, even if San Francisco Bay hasn’t risen to our doorstep.

We never get more than a handful of trick-or-treaters, unfortunately. The first couple of years after we moved in, we decorated the front gate and porch in the hope of encouraging visitors, but the results were so disappointing that we haven’t put up even the giant stuffed spider for a couple of years. In its absence, the regular spiders have stepped up to help out: large, ornate webs stretched across the entire width of the path from the gate to the front door are common. Despite their efforts, though, the spiders have yet to catch a single costumed urchin. Perhaps we’ll try decorating again this year in a bid to improve on last year’s visitor count: zero. If we hand out enough candy, maybe we can slow the kids down enough to give the spiders a fighting chance.

We’re charter members of the school of thought that says you should offer the kind of candy you would want to eat yourself — given the low turnout, it’s self-defense. Of course, these days we don’t eat as much candy as we used to (damn health-consciousness!), so we do still have some left-over Kit-Kat bars from last year. They’re still edible (I had one last night, just to make sure), but I suppose it could be seen as tacky if we handed them out this year, even if we pushed the tie-in with Android. (It’s an open question, by the way, whether Android 4.4 will be out before Halloween. There’s some speculation that the government shutdown may be delaying FCC approval of the Nexus 5 and the rumored Google watch that are expected to be released alongside Kit-Kat.)

OK, I can’t be totally curmudgeon-free: my perusal of Google suggests that the most popular costumes this year are going to be zombies, Breaking Bad, and Miley Cyrus. Inevitable, I suppose. Just please, a few requests:

  1. Don’t combine them. Anyone showing up dressed as Zombie Cyrus gets a lump of coal. I’m serious about this, kids. There’s a bag of Kingsford right next to the door.
  2. No twerking. Do I even need to expand on this?
  3. Keep contemporary community standards in mind. Nude five-year-olds carrying wrecking balls are not cute, mmkay?.
  4. Don’t be surprised if people look blankly at your costume. The odds are good that I’m not the only person in the world who wouldn’t recognize the ultimate Breaking Bad tribute costume.

You may be surprised to learn that I’m not the kind of curmudgeon who believes that there’s an upper age limit for trick-or-treating. However, I do insist that if you are 16 or older, you put in some significant effort on your costume. Note that I used the word “effort”, not “money”. Think and build, don’t buy.

Finally, I’ll be giving special bonus candy to any nude trick-or-treaters who swing in on a real wrecking ball — accompanied by a claim for damages for anyone who hits the fence or house.