Aug 122017
 

Machine translation still leaves a lot to be desired.

I was watching a cute YouTube video this morning, about a tiny kitten kept warm by a chicken.

The title of the video was in Spanish. My Spanish being nonexistent (in fact, at first I thought the title was in Italian) I used Google Translate. When I used Google Translate most recently, I was tranlating something into Hungarian, so that was the default target language. And Google dutifully translated the sentence, “gallina cuida gatito del frió”, into “Sült csirke cica-ellátás”.

Which means, literally, “Fried chicken kitty-supply”.

Not sure how Google managed to produce this gem of a translation. It offers a reasonably decent English translation: “Hen cares cold kitty”. But the French (“soins chaton de poulet frit” – “kitten care by fried chicken”) and German (“gebratenes Huhn Kätzchen Pflege” – “fried chicken kitten care”) versions are just as atrocious. And the Russian version? “Fried Chicken уход за котенком”… Google didn’t even deign to translate the “Fried Chicken” part (but where did it come from in the first place, when I am translating from Spanish to Russian?) although the rest of the translation (“care for the kitten”) is acceptable.

As I said… machine translation still leaves a lot to be desired.

 Posted by at 9:47 am
Jul 142017
 

An old friend showed up on our doorstep a short while ago, just as I was getting ready to call it a day:

This is MJ the cat. He has been visiting us for more than 12 years already, but tonight was his first visit in 2017.

We know where he lives, and we have seen him in recent weeks, so we knew he was okay. But he is getting a bit old. So we were not surprised that he wouldn’t come this far (his home is several hundred meters from here, across Cobourg street, which is not free of traffic even late at night.) But lo and behold, tonight we noticed him peeking through the vertical window pane next to our front door.

He stayed for a while. He gobbled down some cat food so vehemently, it’s as though he has been starving. (For the record, we know that he is treated well by his owner.) He even got some cat treats and a little bit of catnip. Then finally, once he had enough of our company, he just turned around and left.

Good old MJ. I hope he will keep coming back for many more years to come.

 Posted by at 2:17 am
Apr 182017
 

I sometimes take pictures of our cats.

Very rarely, the pictures are actually interesting. (I am no photo artist.)

This morning, I snapped a picture of our cats Kifli and Rufus, as they found a place on top of some Amazon shipping boxes.

What I didn’t expect is the effect of light, filtered through the blinds, on their fur, especially Rufus’s.

 Posted by at 6:56 pm
Mar 312017
 

Here is an old friend from the neighborhood that we have known for 12 years already, but whom we haven’t seen since October:

 

But today, he was outside, enjoying the warmth of the early spring sun.

Hello, MJ. It is so good to see you again.

 Posted by at 12:46 am
Nov 112016
 

Hello, world, please say hi to my cat Rufus. No, Rufus does not think he is people. He just likes to stand on his hind legs from time to time.

Master Rufus, please say hello to the world.

 Posted by at 10:37 pm
Nov 082016
 

It was 16 years ago today (well, technically yesterday, since it is now past midnight) that our very first cat, our much loved Marzipan, a perfectly ordinary tabby housecat, died.

And it was also 16 years ago today that a plurality of American voters cast their ballots for Al Gore, who nonetheless didn’t become president, because of the way the electoral college works and the way votes were counted in the Sunshine State of Florida.

Today, I am happy to report, none of our kittycats are in any imminent danger of dying, as they are all (as far as we know) in good health. The outcome of tomorrow’s election in the United States is unlikely to be influenced by the health of our feline companions, but still, I take it as a good omen: I desperately hope that the sane person makes it to the White House tomorrow night.

 Posted by at 12:17 am
Sep 142016
 

Tonight, the two most important women in my life are both in the stratosphere.

My wife is en route to Hungary, to visit her Mom. At this moment, she is about halfway across the North Atlantic Ocean.

Meanwhile, my Mom is about to land in Beijing, on a memorable adventure I hope: a one-week trip to China with a friend.

And I am stuck here with three cats, fending for ourselves in the Ottawa wilderness. I would say that life is not fair, but I actually enjoy staying at home for a change. I like my home, and travel is such a chore.

 Posted by at 11:40 pm
Nov 122015
 

I almost forgot: The International Space Station just celebrated fifteen years of continuous occupation.

Continuous occupation by humans, that is. I wonder if they’ve had the same ship’s cat all this time.

 Posted by at 10:01 pm
Oct 112015
 

Even as I hope that the wheels are indeed falling off Mr. Harper’s election bus, I am trying to do my part by listing more of the Harper government’s shenanigans on catsforharper.ca.

The idea is simple. Harper likes cats. He should have more time to play with cats. And he should atone for his political sins by adopting lots of shelter cats.

The site is growing, by the way; I still have a ways to go through my list of political sins so new topics are added daily, sometimes several times a day.

I am disappointed, however, with my Canadian friends: So few of you registered and “voted” on catsforharper.ca! I honestly hoped it would be more popular. But then, there is still time… 8 more days until Election Day. And I hope most sincerely that after October 19, I can safely retire the site, as Mr. Harper will no longer be in a position to do any more political damage.

 Posted by at 9:58 am
Aug 082015
 

Today is International Cat Day (sadly, it is also the anniversary of the death of our beloved cat Szürke).

This means it is also a good opportunity to remind my (Canadian) friends of my Web site, http://catsforharper.ca/, which documents the sins of Stephen Harper’s government, and offers a means to vote by assigning a number of cats (between 1 and 9) that Mr. Harper would need to adopt to atone for each particular political sin.

I chose this whimsical way to express my disagreement with Mr. Harper, in part, because I do not believe in the politics of hate. I do not dislike Mr. Harper; I dislike (some of) his policies, and these are numerous enough for me to hope for either a Liberal or an NDP victory this fall. (Yes, I know, be careful what you wish for and all that…)

In any case, my friends, shame on all of you who have not yet registered, or registered but not yet voted. (Needless to say, if you ran into any technical issues while trying to register or vote, don’t hesitate to let me know. Oh, and in case it needs to be said, only I see your e-mail addresses when you register, and I have no plans to use your addresses to sell you penile enlargements or Nigerian investments.)

 Posted by at 11:42 pm
Jul 282015
 

Warning: I don’t usually use strong language in my blog. This post is an exception. Sometimes a spade has to be called a spade… or an asshole has to be called an asshole. If you are offended by strong language, please stop reading now.

I am writing this blog entry on account of the fact that a famed lion in Zimbabwe, a 13-year old male named Cecil, was killed by an asshole. An asshole whose pecker is too limp, I suppose, so he has to supplement his masculinity by killing rare, magnificent animals.

The asshole’s name is reportedly Dr. Walter Palmer, an American dentist from Minnesota. And yes, Dr. Palmer, you are a class one asshole. A disgusting, sad, pathetic, sick moron. (Palmer is on the left in the archival picture below, but his smiling buddy is a sad, pathetic, sick moron, too.)

A picture like this actually makes you feel proud? Happy? The carcass of a beautiful big cat gives you a sense of accomplishment? That you made the world better? Contributed something to humanity? Something for your children to remember you by? Or are you just one of those jackasses who doesn’t care one way or another, so long as you can prove that you have money to waste and creatures to kill?

The killing itself was reportedly quite gruesome. Shot not by a gun but by an arrow (possibly to avoid the noise that might have called attention to the fact that the lion was illegally lured from a nearby national park; the jackasses claim though that this is a way to “honor” the animal) the lion escaped and was tracked for a day or two before it was finally shot dead, skinned, its head removed as a trophy.

To be clear: I eat meat. I am perfectly comfortable with people hunting for food or survival. Yes, that includes hunting for seals, too. But hunting for glory? In the 21st century? When we have the power to destroy most living things on this planet in a matter of minutes? Yes, successful hunters had reasons to be proud back in centuries past when hunting skills were essential for survival. But today? The real heroes are those who help preserve fragile ecosystems, who save species from extinction. The real heroes are those African park rangers, for instance, who earn pennies a day trying to protect such glorious creatures from sickos like Palmer.

This animal was not killed for food or because it threatened someone. It was killed because a pathetic asshole wanted to collect its preserved head as a trophy.

I was hoping that Dr. Palmer is still in Zimbabwe; that he would be caught there and would spend a few years rotting in an unpleasant, dirty, hot, smelly African jail. Sadly, it appears that he is safely back in the US, and he is unlikely to be charged.

Fuck you, Dr. Palmer. Really, really, really fuck you. Fuck you for drawing pleasure from destroying some of the most magnificent things that exist on our shared planet. It is shitheads like you that make me want to get off the planet at the earliest opportunity. You might think that what you have done was legal… but it only shows the kind of human garbage that you really are. So from the bottom of my heart… fuck you.

 Posted by at 9:34 pm
Jul 252015
 

This is an idea my wife and I have been thinking about for months: a Web site that lists Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s political sins, where visitors can vote by assigning the number of cats that, in their opinion, Mr. Harper must adopt to atone for said sins.

Finally I realized that rather than coding the site from scratch, I can implement it using existing blogging software and plugins.

So here it is: catsforharper.ca.

stylized_cat

In the coming days/weeks, I will keep adding topics. Votes, which require registration (to cut down on comment spam and clickbot activity), are welcome.

 Posted by at 10:31 pm
Jul 212015
 

And now we are down to three cats in the house.

Our long-haired kitty, Fluffy, came to the end of her life today. Having lost nearly all her mobility due to not one but two tumors (one near the heart, another one compressing her spine), and often lying in her own waste in the past week, we came to the conclusion that it was time to let her go.

So today, a very kind and compassionate Dr. Lianna Titcombe of Claire Place Mobile Veterinary Services came to our house and euthanized Fluffy, after we said our final goodbyes.

I knew what was happening, I have been through this before, I know there are people in the world going through suffering unimaginably worse than ours. Yet it still broke my heart.

Fluffy was a stray that we adopted her back in 2008. She looked like a miniature mammoth with her winter fur.

In contrast, yesterday she was more like a rag doll: wherever you put her down, that’s where she stayed, her once luscious fur matted with urine.

But her eyes were still hers. And her purring motor was still in excellent working order. And she still enjoyed the final treat that we gave to her before she was sedated.

Damn, my heart breaks still.

 Posted by at 3:45 pm
Apr 222015
 

Alas, Poppy, the 20th century cat, is dead.

We just learned that this beautiful little cat, who stayed with us for a few weeks several times in the past 15 years when her owner was out of town, is gone. She was not young; her exact age was unknown, but she was at least a couple of years old when she was adopted back in 2001. So she was definitely a 20th century cat. While some cats do live 20 years (in rare cases, even 30 years) or more, the average age of a house cat is more like 15 years or so, therefore it is not surprising that it was Poppy’s turn. But sad nonetheless.

Especially sad today, as I learned only a few hours ago that a beloved relative, aunt Éva, wife of my late uncle Jóska, passed away just yesterday, after a brief illness.

Here is the last picture of Poppy that I took, less than nine months ago when she was in our house for the very last time:

Poppy was one of the most beautiful cats I’ve ever known: tiny, with an asymmetric color pattern dividing her face. It always took a day or two for her to acclimatize (I learned always to release her upstairs, where she felt less trapped) but afterwards, she was friendly, gentle, and got along very well with our own cats, too.

Poppy’s owner used to use a cardboard carrier to transport her. This is what the carrier looked like over 10 years ago:

IMG_0915

In the past ten years, I often repaired this carrier using packing tape and even duct tape. Somehow, it managed to hold together. We were wondering if the carrier would outlast the cat. Now we know.

 Posted by at 7:10 pm
Mar 262015
 

Meet MJ, a neighborhood cat. (Before we learned his name, we called him Pajamas, because of the night attire like appearance of his coat.)

MJ is a famous cat; he even shows up, along with his buddy Misty, on a Google Street View frame.

We’ve known MJ for a decade. He’s a lovely cat. He also likes to explore the neighborhood… even though he lives on the other side of a wider neighborhood street, he regularly appears at our doorstep late evenings, saying hello, sometimes begging for some food.

We haven’t seen MJ since October. He always disappears for the winter months; our guess is that his owners keep him indoors, or perhaps he just doesn’t feel like roaming too far in the dark, icy cold of an Ottawa winter.

But this morning, walking by MJ’s house, I spotted him:

Yay! This is the surest sign yet that spring may happen this year, despite all the snow and ice that still surrounds us. I just hope I’ll soon spot Misty, too. I asked MJ about his buddy, but he wouldn’t say. Hope Misty is okay.

 Posted by at 9:38 am
Dec 132014
 

Meet Rufus, our newest cat.

I don’t usually like the idea of accessorizing kittycats, but Rufus is such an elegant creature, a bow tie seemed like an absolute necessity.

The cat who photobombed the shot in the background is our oldest kitty, Kifli.

And, since someone will inevitably ask for it, here is a picture of Rufus in the infrared (sans bow tie, this time):

 Posted by at 9:18 am
Aug 092014
 

The sweetest cat my wife and I have ever known, will ever know, is gone.

Our kitty cat Szürke, who used up at least ten of the usual allotment of nine cat lives while he fought kidney disease and anemia in the past ten months, could no longer cope. The combination of worsening kidney failure, a serious heart and lung condition, and severe ulceration in his mouth was just too much… acting on the veterinarian’s best advice and keeping the animal’s well-being foremost on our minds, we accepted the inevitable.

Szürke finished his journey on this good Earth at 11:56 PM EDT last night, August 8.

Good-bye, Süsüke.

 Posted by at 7:58 am
Aug 082014
 

This is our kittycat Szürke two days ago.

He looks okay. What is not evident in this picture is that he is suffering from severe pain, due to open sores and ulcers in his mouth. This now makes it pretty much impossible for him to eat, and giving him pills is torture.

And I certainly don’t want to continue torturing him just to prolong the inevitable. But Szürke still has a fighting chance. His kidney are ill, but not that ill. If we can control the pain in his mouth, he may still spend some time on this Earth as a reasonably happy cat.

Having consulted with our veterinarian specialist along with Dr. Google, we therefore decided to accept the doctor’s advice: today, Szürke will get a feeding tube.

I hope we will not have reasons to regret this decision.

 Posted by at 11:09 am
Jul 282014
 

Well, since I referred to the Katzenbande using a German word, I think it’s only appropriate to use German again to describe tonight’s visitor.

This cat, called MJ by his owner but Pizsomó (pajamas, but in a diminutive form) by us due to the pajama-like pattern of his coat, has been calling on us for many years. We think he first paid a visit sometime back in 2005. He doesn’t come often anymore (a good thing, too, as he has to cross a somewhat wide street to get here) but tonight, he must have gotten wind that I am inventorying the Katzenbande; he showed up just a few minutes ago.

MJ is a famous cat, by the way. Along with his buddy, Misty, they can be seen in an April, 2012 Google Street View image.

 Posted by at 11:08 pm
Jul 282014
 

It has been a while since I last wrote about our cats.

First and foremost, about our sick kitty, Szürke, whose name means gray in Hungarian. Szürke spends most of his time nowadays in cardboard boxes, where he feels comfortable and safe.

His anemia is under control, but his kidneys are not getting any better, and he is also struggling with a severe oral infection. He is getting lots of medications, and we are having a hard time keeping him well hydrated and fed. For now, though, he still enjoys a reasonable quality of life… I hope he will be with us for at least some time to come.

And then there is his brother, Kifli (the word is a type of thin croissant popular in Hungary; Kifli has the color of a bun, but he was much too thin as a kitten to be called “Zsömle”, so this is the name that he got stuck with. He doesn’t seem to mind.) When we got these two kittens, they were so small, both of them fit on the palm of one of my hands. And Kifli was the sickly one: we were so concerned about his health at one point, even his vaccinations were delayed.

Nonetheless, Kifli is now a healthy, big cat with no signs of any health problems at the age of 13 years and a few months.

Kifli’s best buddy these days is Pipacs (the name means poppy in Hungarian, and refers to his strikingly red fur of course.) Orange tabbies flock together! Pipacs is a scaredy cat who likes to hide under blankets a lot.

I guess this has to do with the fact that Pipacs was a stray; he showed up at our home during a time of major construction, and eventually we adopted him. He is sweet and lovely, but I hope I’ll never have to give him pills or feed him with a syringe; unlike Szürke, I am sure Pipacs will put up a mighty fight!

We also have another stray, Fluffy. (How else would you name a cat that is, well, just fluffy?)

Fluffy is not nearly as easy to scare as Pipacs, but she likes to hide under my desk during thunderstorms. I guess when you have such long, fluffy fur, getting wet is no fun.

Finally, we presently have a house guest: her name is Poppy and she is a return visitor.

Unlike our four cats, who are younger, Poppy is a 20th century cat. Her exact age is unknown, as she was adopted from a shelter, but she is believed to have been born in 1999 or perhaps even a little earlier. Poppy is an improbably small cat, with an improbably loud and deep voice. For instance, the other day, I was walking up the stairs when Poppy appeared on top, and I swear she honked at me like she was equipped with a foghorn or something. Poppy is such a fun cat, more than once my wife and I contemplated some grand conspiracy that would allow us to keep her.

So there you have it… a herd of five cats, a Katzenbande (I love that made-up German word). For what it’s worth, all these pictures were made earlier today.

 Posted by at 9:18 pm