Feb 282024
 

Our cat Rufus is no longer. Today, his journey on this planet came to an end. He has been our companion for nine and a half years.

We mourn him.

 Posted by at 2:44 pm
Jan 312024
 

This here is our ~11 year old cat Rufus. Exact age unknown as he was a stray when we adopted him back in early autumn 2014, but he was assessed to be about 1 year old back then.

This picture was taken late last night. Today, Rufus had an ultrasound that confirmed what we feared: That not only does he have a tumor in his abdomen, but that it is inoperable, and chemotherapy is also unlikely to help.

So we are left with the final option: Palliative care, taking care of Rufus as long as we can, so long as he can still have some quality of life.

So far so good. Tonight, despite the hours-long stay at the vet, Rufus came home ready to eat a little, drink a little, even play a little. So it’s one day at a time, all the while recognizing that in this increasingly troubled world, we are among the lucky ones, so long as our main concern is the welfare of our cat.

 Posted by at 10:28 pm
Nov 112023
 

The fate of animals in wars was often tragic. They served their human masters (and all too often, died with their human masters) faithfully.

One of the most touching war memorials I ever came across was the Animals in War memorial in Hyde Park, London, that I stumbled upon completely by accident, unaware of its existence. Not that the animals themselves care, but it’s nice that they are remembered. And as of 2012, Ottawa has its very own Animals in War memorial, in Confederation Park.

Neither of these memorials specifically mention cats, though, despite the fact that cats played no small a role in making the otherwise unbearable conditions a teeny bit more tolerable. Many were killed. Occasionally, they even helped save their masters’ lives.

Long story short, last night I asked Midjourney to depict a gentlecat, thinking about his lost comrades.

 Posted by at 12:45 pm
Nov 082023
 

Sometimes it feels… so pretentious.

Here I am, saying all sorts of clever things in my blog. I once declared blogs to be write-only media, my way of shouting at the world without the world saying anything in return, but that kind of ceased being true when I decided, eons ago, to share my blog posts on social media, where a few friends at least reacted occasionally.

So who do I think I am, proclaiming my wisdom to the world, really?

For instance, a few days ago I thought I’d blog about the first precision clock arriving in America centuries ago, and promptly failing, leading to a better understanding of how the gravitational acceleration on the surface of the Earth may change with geographic location. But is there anything I can add to the subject other than what’s in the article I am citing?

Or take this report from earlier today, about Singapore’s Prime Minister expressing very much the same concerns that I have about the world experiencing a moment of danger not unlike the moments before the Great War. OK, so I blog about it. Is there anything I can add other than, hey, look, I am ever so clever, even Singapore’s PM shares my views!?

I suppose I feel most comfortable blogging about my actual research or my work. These are subjects that I can address with some competence.

Or maybe just blog about cats. They know how to be wise and silent, after all.

Meanwhile, in the world of humans…

F-15s strike weapons facility in Syria

By Lauren C. Williams and Jennifer Hlad

ABOARD A MILITARY PLANE—Two U.S. F-15 fighter jets attacked a weapons storage facility in eastern Syria on Wednesday, in what Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin called a “precision self-defense strike” in response “to a series of attacks against U.S. personnel in Iraq and Syria by the [Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps]-Quds Force” and related groups.

So I must now follow my cats’ example and resist the urge to blog about how the US and Iran might already be at war…

 Posted by at 9:51 pm
Aug 252023
 

Last night, much of the world even outside the great United States was consumed by a mugshot of an angry, defiant, entitled man, in his seventies, elegantly dressed with his thinning blond hair in a combover.

Meh. You call that a mugshot?

[In my best Crocodile Dundee impersonation] THIS is a mugshot!

A lot more pleasant to look at, too, if you ask me.

 Posted by at 4:49 pm
Aug 082023
 

Sticking to the cat theme (in case anyone has any doubt, yes, I am quite fond of cats) here’s Midjourney’s take on some gentlecats and ladycats celebrating this momentous occasion.

 Posted by at 3:24 pm
Mar 252023
 

I managed to piss off Bing’s version of the GPT-4 chatbot. I swear I didn’t mean to. All I wanted was to check if it inherited the capability to do simple art in text-based languages like SVG or TikZ. Instead, it told me (politely) to be somewhere else.

I admit I felt hurt. I went back to my old friend ChatGPT and asked it to draw me an SVG cat instead. It gladly obliged. Its cats are not perfect but always make me laugh.

 Posted by at 1:26 pm
Mar 232023
 

My latest interaction with ChatGPT:

vttoth: Please write a short piece of music, suitable to be played while showing the stylized image of a cat, in Lilypond.

ChatGPT: LilyPond is a text-based music engraving program that uses code to create beautifully engraved sheet music. Here’s a short piece of music written in LilyPond, suitable to be played while showing a stylized image of a cat. This piece is intended to have a playful and curious character, much like a cat.


\version "2.22.1"
\header {
  title = "Cat's Paws"
  composer = "ChatGPT"
}

upper = \relative c' {
  \key g \major
  \time 3/4
  g4. g8 a g8~ | g r8 a2 |
  a4. a8 b a8~ | a r8 b2 |
  b4. c8 d b8~ | b r8 c2 |
  g4. g8 a g8~ | g4. r4. |
}

lower = \relative c {
  \key g \major
  \time 3/4
  g2 d4 | g2 r4 |
  a2 e4 | a2 r4 |
  d2 c4 | d2 r4 |
  g2 d4 | g2 r4 |
}

\score {
  \new PianoStaff << \new Staff = "upper" \upper \new Staff = "lower" \lower >>
  \layout { }
  \midi {
    \tempo 4=120
  }
}

Copy the above code into a text editor and save it with a “.ly” extension. Then, compile the file with LilyPond to create a PDF and MIDI file.

I admit I had to make a few adjustments to the code (specifically, the upper voice) as the timing was off in a couple of places, but I don’t think I altered the music.

 Posted by at 11:13 pm
Mar 152023
 

… with laughter.

Without further ado, here is what transpired moments ago.

vttoth: Can you produce TikZ code that draws a cat?

ChatGPT: Drawing a cat using TikZ can be quite complex, but here’s a simple representation of a cat using TikZ:

\documentclass[tikz, border=2mm]{standalone}

\begin{document}
\begin{tikzpicture}
% Body
\draw[fill=gray!30] (0,0) ellipse (1cm and 1.5cm);

% Head
\draw[fill=gray!30] (0,1.75) circle (0.75cm);

% Eyes
\fill[white] (-0.35,2.1) circle (0.25cm);
\fill[white] (0.35,2.1) circle (0.25cm);
\fill[black] (-0.35,2.1) circle (0.1cm);
\fill[black] (0.35,2.1) circle (0.1cm);

% Nose and mouth
\fill[pink] (0,1.8) circle (0.1cm);
\draw (0,1.8) -- (0,1.6);
\draw (0,1.6) -- ++(-0.15,-0.15);
\draw (0,1.6) -- ++(0.15,-0.15);

% Ears
\draw[fill=gray!30] (-0.75,2.5) -- (-0.4,2.4) -- (-0.65,2.0) -- cycle;
\draw[fill=gray!30] (0.75,2.5) -- (0.4,2.4) -- (0.65,2.0) -- cycle;

% Tail
\draw[thick, gray!30] (1.3,-0.5) to[out=-90,in=0] (0.5,-1.5) to[out=-180,in=-90] (-0.5,-0.5);
\end{tikzpicture}
\end{document}

This code will produce a simple cat illustration. Copy and paste the code into a LaTeX editor that supports the TikZ
package, or use an online LaTeX renderer like Overleaf to generate the cat drawing. Please note that this is a simplistic
and stylized representation of a cat and not a realistic drawing.

vttoth: I love it. I find the result irresistibly funny. Is it a copy of a TikZ example that you came across during your
training or did you come up with this image on your own?

ChatGPT: I’m glad you liked the cat drawing! The cat illustration was not copied from a specific TikZ example that
I came across during my training. Instead, I synthesized it on my own, using my understanding of TikZ commands and
my knowledge of cat features to create a simple and stylized representation of a cat.

vttoth: Can you add whiskers?

ChatGPT: Of course! Here’s the updated TikZ code for the cat drawing with whiskers added:

\documentclass[tikz, border=2mm]{standalone}

\begin{document}
\begin{tikzpicture}
% Body
\draw[fill=gray!30] (0,0) ellipse (1cm and 1.5cm);

% Head
\draw[fill=gray!30] (0,1.75) circle (0.75cm);

% Eyes
\fill[white] (-0.35,2.1) circle (0.25cm);
\fill[white] (0.35,2.1) circle (0.25cm);
\fill[black] (-0.35,2.1) circle (0.1cm);
\fill[black] (0.35,2.1) circle (0.1cm);

% Nose and mouth
\fill[pink] (0,1.8) circle (0.1cm);
\draw (0,1.8) -- (0,1.6);
\draw (0,1.6) -- ++(-0.15,-0.15);
\draw (0,1.6) -- ++(0.15,-0.15);

% Ears
\draw[fill=gray!30] (-0.75,2.5) -- (-0.4,2.4) -- (-0.65,2.0) -- cycle;
\draw[fill=gray!30] (0.75,2.5) -- (0.4,2.4) -- (0.65,2.0) -- cycle;

% Whiskers
\foreach \i in {-1, 1} {
\draw (\i*0.15,1.65) -- (\i*0.5,1.5);
\draw (\i*0.15,1.65) -- (\i*0.5,1.65);
\draw (\i*0.15,1.65) -- (\i*0.5,1.8);
}

% Tail
\draw[thick, gray!30] (1.3,-0.5) to[out=-90,in=0] (0.5,-1.5) to[out=-180,in=-90] (-0.5,-0.5);
\end{tikzpicture}
\end{document}

This code includes the addition of whiskers to the cat’s face. Copy and paste the code into a LaTeX editor that
supports the TikZ package or use an online LaTeX renderer like Overleaf to generate the updated cat drawing with
whiskers.

I am laughing my head off in part because these cats, especially now with the whiskers added, strongly resemble cats I used to draw on letter-size sheets of paper with my set of colored pencils when I was of kindergarten age.

But I am also staring at these images sensing a combination of awe and apprehension.

 Posted by at 3:21 am
Jan 162023
 

This is our cat Rufus, doing his darnedest best to look like Italy’s former fascist dictator, Benito Mussolini, aka. Il Duce:

Mind you, unlike Mussolini, Rufus has not established himself as the leader of a totalitarian tyranny. (He couldn’t. Our other cat Freddy would also have a say in the matter and I don’t think he would approve.)

On the other hand, Rufus occasionally craps in places where he shouldn’t, and that was not a habit that Il Duce was known for.

 Posted by at 11:12 pm
Jul 282022
 

So I’ve been playing this cyberpunk cat game (how could I possibly resist? The protagonist is a cat. I am quite fond of cats. And the game is set in a post-apocalyptic dystopia, my favorite genre, so to speak.)

But first…

* * * Spoiler alert! * * *

As I said, I was playing Stray. Beautiful game. The visuals are stunning, the story is engaging (reminds me of the quality of writing that went into the classic Infocom text adventure games in the early 1980s) and the cat is an orange tabby that looks and behaves just like our Freddy. What more can I ask for?

But then I realized that the story of Stray is incredibly sad. Even the ending can at best be described as bittersweet.

Because… because for starters, in Stray there are no humans. Only robots, which look very obviously robots, with display screens as faces showing cute emoticons.

The reason why there are only robots has to do with humans, and something unspeakably evil that these humans must have done in the distant past. The result: A walled city (“safest walled city on Earth!”) devoid of human inhabitants, infested with evolved trash-eating bacteria that now eat cats and robots both, and inhabited by kind, naive, incredibly gentle, almost innocent robots, former Companions, cleaning and maintenance staff who have become somewhat self-aware, mimicking the behavior of their former masters.

A few of these robots dream of the Outside, which is where the cat protagonist comes from, after falling off a broken pipe. His drone buddy, who turns out to carry the consciousness of a human (quite possibly the very last human), helps him navigate the dangers and eventually open up the city. He does so at the cost of his own life.

When the game ends, the cat is free, again walking under a blue sky chasing a butterfly. And this cat may very well be the last representative of our once great civilization. Because the robots do not form a functioning society. They go through the motions, sure, even running, rather pointlessly, barbershops and bars with robots for customers. They are so innocent, they are almost completely free of malice (apart from a few security robots and their drones) and they are incredibly polite: “What will it be today, little sir?” asks the robot bartender of the aforementioned bar, “Our world must seem gigantic from your little eyes. Wish I could be as tiny as you, so I could explore new hidden places.”

Yet their society is non-functional. They don’t make things, they just make use of the leftover remnants of a collapsed civilization.

The world of Stray, then, is more depressing than the various Wastelands of the Fallout game franchise. At least in the Wastelands, humans survive. Sure, the societies that emerge are often evil (the Enclave, the Institute) yet they present a path towards a better future. But the world of Stray, as far as humans are concerned, is irreversibly dead (unless a sequel introduces us to surviving enclaves of humans, but I sure hope that won’t happen, as it would ruin a great, if depressing, story.)

Hence my sense of melancholy when I was ultimately successful opening up the city, at the cost of losing my last NPC companion, the drone B-12. While it was hidden behind its impenetrable walls, the city of Stray preserved at least an echo, an image of the civilization that created it. Now that the city is open, what is going to happen as the robots disperse? What remains (other than lovely colonies of feral cats) after the last robot’s power supply runs out or the robot suffers some irreparable damage?

Not much, I think. The little eyes of Stray, the cat, may very well end up as the final witness to that echo of our existence.

 Posted by at 9:41 pm
Dec 242021
 

For the record: The Viktor Toth who has recently become quite popular on YouTube by placing his pet rat into a virtual reality harness and letting him play Doom is not me.

Even if I were inclined to do such an experiment with a live animal (I am not) it would be one of my cats, and the retro game of choice would be Duke Nukem.

You see, I was never really a fan of Doom.

 Posted by at 1:44 am
Nov 122021
 

Today, I saw a funny post on Quora about how to pet a rabbit. Apparently, rabbits should not be picked up (fragile skeletal structure, bones that break easily) and also hate it when their tail is touched. I was about to make a cheeky comment on pulling either a rabbit or a cat by the tail. But first I wanted to fact check something quickly on Google, and that’s when I came across this article about tail pull injuries that cats sometimes suffer.

Yikes!

I admit I pulled our cats by the tail every once in a while. It’s funny, but also effective when you need to pull a cat back when he’s about to run out of the house or do something he’s not supposed to do.

Except… Except that, as I now learn, cats’ tails get injured relatively easily, and the injury can be devastating, affecting the bundle of nerves that exit the spinal column, which control much of their lower body. The least devastating consequence is losing mobility of the tail, but the injury can also lead to paralysis of the hind legs and incontinence. In short, ruining a cat’s life.

I did not know this. I am glad I never inadvertently caused injury to one of our cats. But I will never pull a cat by the tail again.

 Posted by at 7:31 pm
Aug 122021
 

Fergus was a cat. A beautiful, beautiful gray cat, who belonged to my cousin and her husband.

This is Fergus, just a few days ago.

This photo shows just what a beautiful creature Fergus was. Yet perhaps it also reveals that he was not well. Though he still enjoyed the late morning sun in the backyard, he was already very unwell, sickened by leukemia.

Fergus departed this world Tuesday evening, euthanized by the same mobile vet who euthanized our long-haired cat Fluffy six years ago.

Even though I did not know Fergus well, I am deeply saddened by his passing. I am rather fond of cats. Every time I look a cat in the eye, I sense a miracle as I contemplate how those little eyeballs see this magnificent universe in which we live. And whenever a cat leaves us and walks away into the great unknown, the world that they leave behind feels like a much duller place in their absence.

 Posted by at 12:38 am
Apr 062021
 

World, please say hello to Freddy.

Freddy has been with us for more than two years now. He is a very funny cat. Strong-willed, to be sure; he might even bite you if he disapproves of your behavior. (No, he has not bitten off any fingers or earlobes yet.) And he likes… green peas. Or kernels of corn. And like one of our past kitties, Pipacs, Freddy also stole a freshly cooked potato from the kitchen not too long ago.

Last but not least, I should mention that his favorite toys are small pompoms. We have many of those, on account of my wife’s knitting. So I have a box of pompoms right here, next to my desk. Freddy often shows up here and, after carefully sniffing the pompoms, selects one, takes it from the box, puts it down on the floor and sits down proudly next to it, quietly meowing a few times. That is my cue to pick up the pompom and throw it down the stairs, with Freddy sprinting after it. Often, he then spends a good half hour playing with that pompom.

He also occasionally plays with his somewhat larger buddy, Rufus. I suppose Rufus looks just like a big gray-and-white pompom…

 Posted by at 9:33 pm
Mar 262021
 

Courtesy of The New Yorker, we now know the history of Lawyer Cat, otherwise known (as we now know) as Eldest Mouse.

 Posted by at 2:49 pm