SAST 22

No, you didn’t overlook a weekend post. There wasn’t one.

I’m not going to apologize, just lay the blame squarely where it belongs: with the critters.

If they refuse to do anything sufficiently photogenic when I have a camera handy, there really isn’t much I can do, now is there?

Of course, it doesn’t help that the recent cold weather has reduced their activity to “lie around on the bed, getting up only to eat and use the box”. Cute, but when the only difference from one day to the next is in who has staked out which chunk of blanket, the photos do get more than a bit repetitious.

Admittedly, we get minor variations.

For instance, there was an earthquake recently. Small, but centered only a few miles from our house. All cats vanished from the bed. But when you’re awakened at 3:30am by multiple paws thundering across your abdomen, photography is not the first thing that springs to mind. Or maybe it would be for you. It wasn’t for me.

A couple of days later, the smoke detector in the bedroom started making its “battery low” beep: one chirp every 40 seconds. Yuki couldn’t stand the sound and began yowling as though his tail was being pulled out by the roots*. Did I mention that this was at 6:00 am? It was. Again, photography not the first thing on my mind.

* He’s very proud of his luxurious plume. I dare say the psychological pain of having it yanked out would exceed the far-from-negligible physical pain.

Anyway, I’m still keeping my phone handy, but until the weather warms up and critters start moving around and doing things during hours I’m awake, there may be the occasional missed post.

Moving on.

File this under “WQTS”. It’s not significant enough to warrant a post of its own, but I thought it was worth pointing out.

Not too long ago, I had cause to install the Amazon Music program on my computer. It went through the usual steps*: download the installer, run it, twiddle my fingers for a minute or so, and then try to remember my Amazon password so I could sign into the program.

* Bother. I just noticed I could have installed it via the winget command I mentioned last week. Alas for missed opportunities.

All was well until after I closed the program and then realized I’d forgotten one of the things I’d intended to do. So I checked the All Programs menu, and was befuddled to see Amazon Music listed not once, but twice.

Normally, when a program wants to add itself to that menu, it creates a program shortcut in a specific folder. Done. Or, if the program needs multiple entries (for example, one for the program itself and one for a link to the company’s support website), it’ll create a folder inside that special Windows folder and put its links in that private folder.

Amazon, in an impressive display of bureaucratic bungling, does both: it creates a program shortcut named “Amazon Music” and a folder, also called “Amazon Music”, which–you guessed it–contains a program shortcut named “Amazon Music” (and also a link to the uninstall program, should you be so meanspirited as to want to get rid of “Amazon Music” in all its infinite incarnations. Which Windows, in its great wisdom mishandles, shows as two program icons, instead of one program and one folder.

“Well,” I said to myself, “that’s silly. And redundant.” So I deleted the standalone icon, thinking Windows would then properly display the folder.

Not only did that not work–Windows continued to show a program instead of a folder–but when I launched the program it recreated the icon I had deleted!

So Windows mishandles the situation where there’s a folder with the same name as a program. And Amazon overrides its users’ specific instructions. WQTS?

Moving on again.

Amongst all the nocturnal feline disturbances and the normal daytime alarums and excursions, I also found time to get my head examined. The conclusion: I still have a head.

More seriously, I’ve been somewhat concerned about my hearing, given the daily assault on my eardrums that is the retail environment.

It was, in its way, almost entertaining. I got the “raise your hand when you hear a tone” test, the “repeat the words this recording is saying” test, and the “repeat the sentence this other recording is saying with decreasing volume relative to background party noises” test. All while sitting in a soundproof room with earphones in. Okay, so maybe “entertaining” isn’t quite the right word. It was interesting and enlightening.

As I implied above, the results were generally good. I’ve got some marginal hearing loss in one ear, especially in the range of pitches typical of speech–which certainly explains the trouble I have hearing people at work when the background noise gets particularly excessive–but on the whole, I’ve still got two functional ears.

I’ll take my victories where I can. I will say, however, that the brochure on how to listen better is pretty darn useless.

Next Week

This time next week, I’ll be on my way to Sedalia for the Scott Joplin Ragtime Festival.

Yes, there’s an actual, in-person festival happening this year.

Is this a good idea? Well… On one forepaw, it is Missouri–which the Mayo Clinic says has the 40th lowest percentage of the population fully vaccinated. And we won’t even talk about masking.

On the other forepaw, the performers and audience are coming from all over the world. I suspect as a group they’re going to be more highly vaccinated than the people who live there. And there’s nothing stopping me, or anyone else in attendance, from wearing a mask.

In truth, the exposure risk seems on a par with what I experience dealing with the public every day at work.

So there’s that.

To be honest, I’m no more immune to the lure of “Get out of the house and do something normal” than anyone else. But this isn’t solely an exercise in COVID denial.

The cancelation of the 2020 festival was a big disappointment, even more so than the reasons why canceling everything else that spring and summer disappointed everyone. That was, if you recall, the Year of the Woman, marking the hundredth anniversary of women getting the vote in the US. And the Sedalia festival was going all-in on the theme, emphasizing female performers and composers.

And on a more personal level, 2020 was going to be the year the SJRF’s Ragtime Kid program–funded by donations to the Foundation in Dad’s memory–would debut. Obviously, that didn’t happen.

We used the time to refine our concepts, figuring to go live with the 2021 festival. Which also didn’t happen.

So now we’ve got 2021 and 2022 Ragtime Kids to introduce. Somebody’s got to be there to represent, right?

As if three-plus days of good music and catching up with friends we haven’t seen in three years isn’t enough incentive to attend*.

* And, of course, Sedalia is just about halfway between Kansas City and St. Louis. That’s prime BBQ country; hard to resist for a family that travels on its stomach as much as mine.

All of which is a long-winded lead-up to letting y’all know that there won’t be a Wednesday post next week. I’ll do my best to cue up a Friday post so nobody feels fuzzy-deprived, and I expect everything to be back to normal on June 8.

And, of course, this is also a commercial message, reminding you that the Foundation will still cheerfully accept donations in Dad’s memory and use them to support the Ragtime Kid program. Contact information is here.

An Extended Response to a Recent Comment

There are stories everywhere.

“Why did this happen?”

“How did it go down?”

Answer the reporters’ traditional questions–who, what, when, where, why, and how–and you’re telling a story.

Interesting point, though: you don’t need to answer all of the questions to make it a story. Sometimes each answer is its own story. And each story leads to more questions and more stories.

As a writer, it’s my job to tell stories. And because I write fiction, I’m supposed to make up those stories.

Every story has a starting point. Even the fictional stories. Maybe it was the who: many writers start with the characters and watch them interact. Sometimes it’s the what or the how: where would a locked room mystery be without the what and the how?

Just to be totally clear, darn near everything I write here on the blog is a story. And, guess what? Most of them are at least somewhat fictional. If I start with a news story, and I don’t know the answer to one of those questions, most likely I’m going to make something up. Because you (usually) don’t tell a story by not answering questions.

Put it another way: “How can you tell when a writer is making something up?” “He’s writing*.”

* A more accurate answer would be “He’s alive” but that doesn’t call back to the old joke about lawyers as well.

Because I’m the only person telling stories on this site–ignoring the ones that you all tell when you comment (remember what I said about stories leading to more stories?)–they have a number of common elements; if you read for a while, you’ll see similar word choices, subjects, and tonalities cropping up again and again.

My tastes run toward snark and satire, so when I have to make something up for a story, chances are I’m going to come up with something intended to trigger a smirk or a snicker.

What constitutes humor, snark, satire, and parody is heavily influenced by culture. It’s easy to miss those elements if you’re coming from a different cultural matrix.

One important point: making up answers for “why” can be risky. Oddly enough, some people take offense when certain motives are attributed to them. That being the case, I try not to fictionalize human motivations when writing about stories I’ve picked up from the news.

The key word in the previous sentence is, of course “human”. Cats, by and large, are unwilling to go to the hassle of filing lawsuits and–Grumpy Cat notwithstanding–don’t have money to pay lawyers.

Chillin’

My apologies for the late and short post. Blame the virus for detaching us all from the concept of linear time. (Translation: I forgot what day it was and by the time I remembered, it was too late to put something together.)

I’ll shoot to have something more substantial next Friday, but for now, enjoy this infrared shot of Lefty and MM hanging out last night.

07-1

MM is definitely more nocturnal than the rest of the crew, including Lefty. She’ll come out of the cage and explore the room at night, but once the sun comes up, she returns to the comfort of her caves–the condo and the milk crate–to sleep until dinnertime.

It will be interesting to see if her schedule changes once we start allowing her to roam the rest of the house.