Holiday Photos

Thanksgiving is, or should be, among other things, a time to share with those less fortunate. This year, we elected to give something a little special to the Backyard Bunch. Several things, actually.

First, while preparing our turkey, we donated the bird’s liver to the gang. Surprisingly, the cats don’t seem to care much for liver. The raccoons and possums, however, appear quite fond of it. Enjoy!

We also saw that MM was after a bird of her own, though she is sensible enough not to try for a turkey. She had a couple of unsuccessful stalks, but did manage to bring down one unwary avian.
27-2 Apparently it was more feather than meat, as she gave up on the idea of eating it after partially plucking it.

So instead of the usual bowls of cheap kitty krunchies*, they got cans of gooshy fud. Turkey, of course.

* Costco’s house brand, actually. Unlike many of the low-priced foods, it actually has meat as the major ingredient. Obligate carnivores, remember. Their fuzzy little tummies don’t do well on a diet of rice or corn.

As usual, they queued up in an orderly fashion to enter the yard when we approached.
27-1 For local values of “orderly”.

MM was a bit skittish. She, even more than most cats, takes comfort in a set routine, and not only did we both go out with the food instead of just one of us, but we also went out somewhat earlier than usual.

But once the food was in the bowls and we left the yard, everyone settled in for their Thanksgiving turkey.
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I’m particularly taken by the sight of MM and GT sitting butt-to-butt, tails almost entwined as they nommed away, so here’s a closer look.
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And, in the interest of equal broadcast time, a closer look at Tuxie with his face buried in his bowl.
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I hope your Thanksgiving was as peaceful and pleasant as ours.

The Epitome of Cool Under Pressure

Thanksgiving is a week away, a time when the Universe really is out to get you. Assuming you’re a turkey, that is. And yet our local flock remains blissfully paranoia-free.
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They continue to roam the streets, staring down–sometimes even blocking–cars and terrorizing the local canines.

According to my sources, the flock is larger than it’s ever been. No doubt that gives them a sense of invulnerability. We’ll see if they still feel the same this time next week…

If You Insist

Somebody asked me why I didn’t do a “thank you” post this year.

“I didn’t do one last year, either,” I replied.

“Then it’s really overdue. And it beats writing about sauerkraut.”

I couldn’t argue with logic like that, so here’s the 2013 thank you post. Look for the 2014 post somewhere around 2018.

Let’s start with the obvious, just to get it out of the way. I’m thankful for people who suggest blog topics. I’m especially thankful for the ones who don’t suggest that I let them write a “guest post” that would be an advertisement for whatever piece of cheap junk they’re selling at an inflated price. (Oh, look: there are three of those suggestions in the comment spam today!)

I’m always thankful for Maggie. She deserves a medal for putting up with me and this career that’s chosen me. With a little luck, the career will produce enough money for me to buy her that medal. I suppose that means I need to be thankful for her patience.

I’m thankful for all of you who come by and read what I’ve written. Even those of you whose interest begins and ends with leftover sauerkraut (still the single most popular post on the blog, with more than eleven times as many page views as the next most popular*).

* For the curious, Number Two is Crimes Against Humanity, this past July’s semi-review of Weird Al’s latest album. It does make me wonder why I keep writing about baseball and cats, when you all obviously consider my strengths to lie elsewhere. But I digress.

How about baseball management that listens to my complaints? I’m thankful to them. A week after I complained that the Mariners hadn’t done anything to improve the team, they picked up arguably the best right-handed free agent bat available. (Allow me to extend apologies to Jackie and the rest of the Orioles’ fans who were hoping their team would re-sign Nelson Cruz. Jackie, since blogging clearly works, may I suggest an impassioned plea for your guys to use some of the money they offered Cruz to lock down Markakis?)

And, speaking of baseball, I’m incredibly grateful for those of you who read the baseball posts and don’t laugh hysterically when my predictions go massively wrong. Cases in point: In recent weeks, I’ve predicted that the Ms wouldn’t sign Nelson Cruz, that the Giants would re-sign the Panda, and that the As were one of the only three teams that wouldn’t be looking for a new third baseman this winter.

And finally, I’m thankful* for Caltrans and the Bay Bridge for providing me with a source of blog posts that will never run out. Even over the Thanksgiving holiday, they were busy giving me more material.

* I’m so thankful I almost sent them a check, but then I realized that the interest they earn on the funds sitting in my FasTrak account dwarfs anything I could squeeze out of my bank account (see the earlier comment about medals and delayed gratification).

Their latest offering? Why, they’re discussing the possibility of saving millions of dollars by not tearing down all of the old bridge! That’s right: the one that they determined was seismically unsound. The one that had to be removed in order to eliminate the risk it would pose to the new bridge in a major quake. The one they promised to remove in their agreements with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Coast Guard, and the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission.

Of course, those promises were made before the bridge ran billions over budget. A chance to save a few million dollars is almost irresistible, especially if it can be done in the name of “Art” and “the betterment of the bay”. The BCDC is especially dubious about the proposal, but claims to be willing to discuss terms–including “building bridges out to walkways”. Uh, guys, do you really want to trust these folks to build more bridges?

I expect the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s negotiations with the BCDC to be a source of high comedy for months to come. Stay tuned!

It Could Happen

Here we are again, approaching the end of another season. The last games of the regular season will be Sunday, then we get a day off to prepare ourselves before Thanksgiving, aka the playoffs, begin Tuesday.

Look for my annual rundown of who to root for in the playoffs Tuesday morning. I had hoped to do that today, so you would have time to run out and get appropriate ceremonial garb (caps, shirts, underwear, etc.), but unfortunately, the teams aren’t quite set. As I write this, three teams are still hanging on, hoping for a miracle.

In the National League, the Milwaukee Brewers are four games out with four games remaining. If they win their final four games and San Francisco loses their final four, the Brewers would face the Giants in tiebreaker game for the final wild card spot. It could happen.

In the American League, there are two teams pondering their faint hopes, the Seattle Mariners (three games out with four remaining) and the Cleveland Indians (three and a half games out with three remaining). The As and Royals are currently tied for the wild card; the Indians and Mariners will be looking to win out and hope that one or both of the leaders to tie their shoelaces together and fall on their bats in ritual suicide. It could happen.

It could happen. That’s a nice thought. We’ve talked about hope so many times before, and “it could happen” is the ultimate expression of hope. The chances are poor (the oddsmakers give the Brewers a 0.3% chance of making the playoffs, the Mariners a 0.4% chance, and the Indians a 0.9% chance*), but hey, four game winning streaks and four game losing streaks happen all the time. Hell, the Mariners currently have a five game losing streak, and Texas, the second-worst team in baseball this year, currently has a four game winning streak. It could happen.

* The Indians are getting slightly better odds than the Mariners despite that extra half-game because they’ve got a better record over the past ten games and because they only need to win three games instead of four.

Year after year–decade after decade in some cases–we continue to pin our hopes on “it could happen”. Why do we torture ourselves this way? I could say that if we don’t torture ourselves, who will? And yes, there’s an element of truth in that: if you want to be sure something is done right, do it yourself. And baseball is, as we’ve said repeatedly, a religion. Faith is the core of the religious experience, and you can’t pay someone else to have faith on your behalf.

More, watching those last few games, clinging to the hope that “next year” could actually be “this year” until the final out is recorded* on your team’s chances, is also a show of loyalty. We all know the majority of players have no loyalty to the fans. We all know the owners, by and large, have even less loyalty. So? That doesn’t reduce our responsibility to live up to our commitments. That’s the deal: you play the games, we’ll cheer, no matter how depressing it might be or how hopeless it might seem.

* Or even beyond in this age of video review and managerial challenges…

So, go Cleveland! Go Seattle! And yes, go Milwaukee!

It could happen.

Leftovers

Thanksgiving is known for leftovers, so allow me to share a few with you.


Literal leftovers first. The smart celebrator expects to have leftover turkey and plans accordingly. At this point, we have it down to a science. On the day after Thanksgiving, we have cold turkey and use up the leftover gravy, stuffing, and any other sides that didn’t get done in on Thursday. Saturday is turkey sandwiches for dinner. The next week, turkey sandwiches for lunch. Any remaining turkey goes into the freezer with the bones for use in soup.

Those of you who don’t eat meat may not be aware that there is a religious war over the proper semi-liquid for a turkey sandwich. Below is a poll to see how many sides of the war my readership represents. We’ll check in on the poll results next week, and I’ll let you all know just how misguided you are.


Thanksgiving’s post mentioned plans to watch the Mystery Science Theater 3000 marathon. As it turned out, we never quite managed to turn on the marathon, so we fell back on our own collection of shows.

MST3K, for anyone who doesn’t know, was the show that popularized the concept of actors heckling a bad movie for the entertainment of all. Just as The Daily Show carried on under the guidance of Jon Stewart when original host Craig Kilborn left, MST3K had multiple leads. The show began in 1988 with creator Joel Hodgson in the leading role; he left in 1993, and Mike Nelson took over until the show’s end in 1999. Joel/Mike arguments continue to this day. Not to fan the flames of that war, it should be noted that Mike was the head writer for the show, meaning he was responsible for many of the jokes during Joel’s tenure.

We watched two shows, one each from the Joel and Mike eras. “Master Ninja I“, a “movie” created by splicing together two episodes of a short-lived TV show starring Lee Van Cleef, Tim Van Patten, and a gerbil, came from season 3. It’s perhaps best remembered for it’s contribution to musical culture: a stirring rendition of “Master Ninja Theme Song” by Joel and the Bots.

Season 6’s “Girls Town” is a stunning mish-mash of date rape, stalking, bad girls, and nuns starring Mamie Van Doren, Mel Torme, Paul Anka, and The Platters. Unfortunately, the MST3K version isn’t commercially available (the link leads to Amazon’s page for the VHS release of the original film), but if you’re OK with downloading a copy from the Internet, your effort will be rewarded. Mamie’s Van Dorens try to dominate the show, but Gigi Perreau’s crazed stalker Serafina steals the show, clearly scaring the heck out of Paul Anka who struggles in the role of Jimmy, the object of Serafina’s unnatural affection. The MST3K crew is in top form and the jokes fly furiously. This episode ranks high on my list as it even includes a Seattle Mariners joke.

Interestingly enough, Kaja, our own bad girl, seemed fascinated with Girls Town. She sat up with her eyes on the screen for most of the show; the other cats slept through it.


Finally, reports are coming in that this year’s expanded Black Friday was a resounding failure. Purchases were down almost 3% compared to last year. Analysts expect panic sales over the next few weeks as stores try to make up the shortfall.

I’m inclined to regard this as a good sign. Not that I think it will cause retailers to rethink this year’s “Black Thursday” approach that caused so much protest, but I do think it will result in next year’s starting even sooner.

“Wait,” I hear you ask. “Why is that a good thing?”

Simple. History shows us that retailers are blind to the notion of diminishing returns when it comes to advertising. Black Friday will stretch earlier and earlier until it takes over the entire month, smashes into Halloween, and collapses into disorganized mass mess indistinguishable from regular advertising.

And, as a special bonus, advertisers will be so busy pushing “Black November”, that they won’t have time to start the Christmas advertisements until December. Anything that saves us from a whole month of Christmas carols is an enormous win for our sanity.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

No, no, the other Thanksgiving. We’ve already talked about the baseball one.

Note that this post was written a couple of days ahead of time. That means two things: I can’t complain if you wait a couple of days to read it, and I can’t comment on anything wildly topical. If an asteroid hits the Earth this afternoon, causing earthquakes, tidal waves, and the end of civilization, I’ll be sure to post something snarky about it on Friday.

Anyway, I’ll bet you were all expecting me to commemorate the occasion with a long list of things I’m thankful for (“Thanks to Maggie for putting up with the inconveniences caused by my career change,” and so on.)

I could do that, and it would certainly fill my quota of words for the day, but let’s face it: nobody ever reads that sort of list. They either tl;dr it or just Ctrl-F it for their own name. If you’re not going to read it, I’m not going to spend my time writing it. Let’s talk about something else.

Thanksgiving in its modern form is an occasion devoted to laziness and the consumption of one of my favorite foods: turkey! How could it not be one of my favorite holidays? I know many of you reading this aren’t meat eaters, so I’ll spare you most of the potential rhapsodies over the joys of turkey-eating. I’ll also spare you the recipes, since we don’t actually have any. We do a simple roast of the bird without stuffing, most of the leftovers go for sandwiches, and the carcass goes for soup. (I will note that vegetarians — at least the honest ones* — have been known to acknowledge the fact that a roasting turkey smells delicious.)

* You know who you are…

toikeysThose of you who don’t live in the Bay Area may not realize that the wild turkey population has been growing in recent years. There’s a flock near our house, so I’ve been able to keep an eye on them. The wild birds refuse to let The Man push them around. They have definite issues with obeying traffic laws. They’ve figured out that cars will stop for them and create traffic jams by wandering across the road en masse, usually near the freeway on- and off-ramps.

As I was writing this, eleven turkeys strolled out of the parking circle a couple of doors down. They looked around, then set off slowly down the middle of the street in single file. About two minutes later, a group of four more birds came running out of the loop and took off down the street. Obviously they were embarrassed about running late for the expedition. Then, over the next few minutes, another half-dozen turkeys came running out of the loop one at a time. Each of them stopped at the sidewalk, looked around anxiously, and then strolled casually down the street, radiating an aura that said “Oh, I’ve been here the whole time. Just stopped to tie my shoe.”

Why did the turkey cross the road? Because if he stood in the middle, he’d get run over.

Ouch. Talk about your jokes falling flat.

Actually, the local turkeys’ favorite on-ramp is just a few turkey-sized steps away from a synagogue. With Thanksgiving falling in the middle of Hanukkah this year, it’s making for some unusual events. I’m pretty sure I saw a couple of turkeys playing with a dreidel yesterday, no doubt gambling for gold-foil wrapped crickets. This temple holds periodic “jewgrass” services* throughout the year, however there seems to be no truth to the rumor that a turkey will be invited to join the band tomorrow night. Rumors of turkey hams on the dinner table tonight, however, seem well-founded.

* No, I’m not making that up. Honestly. According to the temple’s website, jewgrass is “a lay-led singing Shabbat service [which] features an instrumental band made up of congregants”. There are not any recordings on the website; I’ll leave it up to you to decide if that’s fortunate or unfortunate.

Speaking of turkey hams… This piece was pre-written to allow me to take the day off. I intend to spend a large part of the day sprawled on the couch, wallowing in the intoxicating scent of roasting turkey, and watching the Mystery Science Theater 3000 marathon.

Oh, and Maggie? Thanks.

Happy Thanksgiving

Surprise! It’s a special bonus post!

Happy Thanksgiving!

(Yes, it’s another baseball post. Heathens may flee now.)

Thanksgiving in the Baseball religious calendar is a protracted event, lasting most of the month of October, and marked by the ceremony known as “the playoffs”.

At the beginning of the month, two-thirds of us are consigned to the children’s table, a rickety affair set up in the rec room, where we can console ourselves with shared tales of “almost” and “next year”. All the time we’re eating, we can listen to the happy conversations of those who made it to the real table in the dining room.

Over the next few weeks, some of us will reach our limits, stop eating, and retire to the living room, where we’ll sprawl in front of the TV and occupy ourselves with football, stirring only to make room on the couch for new arrivals from the ranks of those whose teams have been eliminated from the playoffs.

The true faithful are in it until the end, be it bitter or sweet. The World Series begins today, and all true fans, even those with deep ties to the Cardinals or Red Sox, are rooting for the same thing: a seven game series. Sure, some, perhaps even most, of the fans of those two teams are rooting for a four game sweep, but the True Fan of The Game watches because it’s baseball. Even a game in which you have no rooting interest is preferable to no game at all, and so we cheer for Game 7 and hope it goes into extra innings; conversely we weep over a sweep. The end of the World Series means no more games until Spring Training rolls around. Naturally, we want to put that off as long as possible.

Wait, so where’s the “thanks” in “Thanksgiving”? Certainly it’s obvious for the fans of the ten teams who made the playoffs, but what about those sitting at the kiddie table? Well, the fans of the six teams that had 90 or more losses this year are giving thanks that the season is over and they’re free to turn their collective attention to the off-season trade and free agent news. Fans of the six teams that finished at .500 or better but missed the playoffs are thankful for having stayed in contention until the last few days of the season, for achieving a measure of respectability, and for the knowledge that they really are likely only one puzzle piece away from making it next year. Then there are the fans of those other eight teams that finished with records between .450 and .499. They’re thankful to have avoided the ignominy of 90 losses, that they’re not fans of the Astros, the Marlins, or the White Sox. In short, they’re thankful for the existence of schadenfreude.

Hang on, back up a second. I keep saying things like “we watch it because it’s baseball”. That’s not really a help, is it? Why do we watch baseball, even when we don’t care who’s playing? Thousands of writers have used millions of words trying to answer that question. As you might imagine, I have my own ideas on the subject. I’ll be rambling about that a couple of times over the next few months. I need something to occupy myself with during the long, dark winter.

In the meantime, it’s still Thanksgiving, and will be for another four-to-eight days. Pass the turkey, please.