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.

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"
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.

… 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);

\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.

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);

\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.

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.

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.

It’s been a while since I last presented to the world our cat, Master Rufus.

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.

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.

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.

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…

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

“I don’t always lie on the floor,” Master Rufus told me today…

…”but when I do, I do so with dignity.”

August 8 is world cat day. As a proud servant to two feline masters, I celebrate.

We have had at least one cat in the house for nearly 24 years. More than one, for nearly 20 years.

Never before did I have a problem with cats and wires. And believe you me, I have plenty of wires in this house, especially in my study.

A few days ago, our cat Freddy overnight decided to attack my wired earbuds that I use with my desktop computer for Skype. He completely chewed through the (thin, rubbery, and I guess tasty) wire in several places, and eventually left the scene with his “trophy”, the separated earbuds.

Needless to say, I was not amused.

And then two days ago, while I was sitting on the porcelain throne in the little programmers’ room, I suddenly heard a loud noise from my study. A few seconds later, I heard my wife cry out in anguish: “Your mouse!”

Yup. The poor mouse, completely separated from its plug, was by then hanging from Freddy’s mouth as he was proudly exiting the scene.

Was I ever pissed. Before I even got downstairs, my wife locked Freddy in the downstairs powder room. I went there with the remnants of the mouse and impressed upon him just how angry I was. No, don’t worry, I did not harm Freddy. I would rather poke my eyes out first. I love the little guy dearly, but even if I didn’t, I do not harm living creatures. Darnit, I feel bad swatting fruit flies. I would most certainly not hurt a cat. But yell at him? Oh yes. Throwing the remnants of the mouse wire at him? Yes. Smashing the mouse in front of him showing just how upset I was? Absolutely.

When I left him in the sink with the remnants of the mouse, I think he knew. When I let him out of the powder room some time later, he was not afraid of me (much to my relief) but he remained very subdued. And when I was finally talking to him again the next day, he seemed relieved.

Will he stop chewing wires? I hope so. I am now liberally applying cat repellent to the wires on and under my desk and also around my servers. We are also giving Freddy snacks rich in fiber; cats supposedly don’t need fiber, but sometimes they do. And we will visit the vet soon for a checkup, just to be on the safe side.

Silly cat. What kind of a cat steals a mous… Oh wait.

Last night was the 30th anniversary of the beginning of the demolition of the Berlin Wall.

It was a momentous event. I spent days glued to CNN, watching things unfold and wondering if I was witnessing the beginning of a new world order or prelude to nuclear Armageddon.

Yet here we are, three decades later, alive and kicking, and still no world war in sight (though looking at global politics in the past decade, I cannot say that I am not worried.)

For now, though, here is a nice picture with which to celebrate, courtesy of a Twitter account dedicated to giant military cats.

This is Master Rufus.

Master Rufus would like to wish a Happy New Year to all our family, friends, indeed all good people who stumble upon this blog post.

Between the tragic, sudden loss of our cat Kifli and the unexpected arrival of our new cat Freddy, there is also our now oldest cat Rufus.

Rufus is a gentle giant. For a few days after Freddy’s arrival, he seemed a bit depressed, but I think he mostly got over it. (Just to be sure, we had his bloodwork done at the vet; there were no concerns.) Now that they’ve known each other for ten days or so, it seems that Freddy and Rufus are getting along quite well.

Incidentally, the shredded fabric that is seen in the lower left of this picture is fabric hanging from the edge of a sofa. A very comfortable piece of furniture, to be sure; sadly, also a cats’ favorite when it comes to regular claw maintenance.

Supposedly, at one year and two months, a kittycat is fully grown.

But in case we mistook “fully grown” for “adult”, Freddy is here to remind us of our mistake.

I think this picture illustrates my point well. Although he isn’t actually misbehaving at the moment the picture was snapped, you can see it in his eyes. Something is about to happen. Soon, there will be a cat where no cat should be, or there will be things flying that were supposed to sit, undisturbed, on tables or shelves.

But this is why cats are so much fun.

It all began with a short discussion after Kifli passed away. My wife was wondering if we’d ever find a pair of kittens like Kifli and Szürke.

On a whim, I decided to check out the Ottawa Humane Society’s adoption site. They have had littermates available for adoption in the past. Not this time, though.

However, I did stumble across a photo of Freddy, a 14-month old fawn tabby not unlike Kifli.

Silly, we said. You should not be thinking about adopting a cat less than 24 hours after you lost one, we said.

Nonetheless, we decided to check this cat out. And when he was out of his cage, first thing he did, he climbed onto my wife’s back, to perch there.

How can you say no to a cat like this?

So world, this is Freddy. Freddy, say hello to everyone. And we’re back to being a two-cat household. While we still grieve over the loss of Kifli, instead of crying, we smile as we endure this new cat’s antics, while he is discovering the house.

About a week ago, our seventeen-and-a-half year old cat Kifli lost his appetite and started to have a bit of a diarrhea. Nothing too concerning, but we decided to take him to the vet come Monday.

Kifli in happier times sitting on top of a server he should not have been sitting on. May 2018.

By Monday morning, things were obviously more serious as Kifli stopped eating. He was still drinking though, so we were not too concerned. But an urgent visit to the vet was no longer merely optional. Still, our main concern at this time was to request the vet to clip Kifli’s claws, because he always managed to get them stuck in pieces of furniture (not to mention our own rather tender skin.)

But then, once the bloodwork came back on Tuesday, the vet told us that the symptoms were those of pancreatitis, quite possibly a result of lymphoma or some other form of cancer. The prognosis was poor.

An ultrasound exam was recommended. The ultrasound specialist was booked for Wednesday evening.

By Wednesday morning, Kifli was doing a lot worse, so I called the vet and took Kifli there in the morning, to make sure he is under proper medical care. He received some fluids. When I went to pick him up in the evening, his belly was shaved (for the ultrasound) and he was still very wobbly from the anesthesia. The vet, in fact, was concerned and recommended a stay at an overnight hospital nearby. However, when it became clear that the kitty may not live to see the morning, we opted to keep him home instead, closely monitoring him for signs of distress.

When we got home, Kifli was agitated. He released a few drops of urine. We presented him with a litterbox near his basket, but that was not good enough for him; though wobbly and groggy, he ambled and stumbled downstairs, to use the regular litterbox (more or less successfully.)

The night was uneventful. Kifli even seemed to recover a little. But in the morning, his condition was getting worse.

But then, a ray of hope! A cytology result arrived late in the morning, and it showed that the likely cause was a massive bacterial infection, not cancer. So suddenly, instead of planning for euthanasia, we were discussing a treatment plan with the vet. An aggressive plan involving multiple medications and a feeding tube (and no guarantee of success) but… well, a very thin, anemic ray of hope, but a ray of hope nonetheless. So I took Kifli to the vet again, to get him prepared for the mild anesthesia required to insert the feeding tube.

The call from the vet came much sooner than I expected. Not with good news. Kifli was collapsing. He already had a seizure, and he was now breathing pure oxygen, kept alive by a heated blanket as his heart rate and body temperature were dropping both. We knew what this meant. A final trip to the vet, from which we would come home with an empty cat carrier.

As we made our way through an unusually heavy traffic jam (a combination of afternoon traffic and a road closure), the vet called us again. “What would you like me to do in case Kifli goes into cardiac arrest?” His condition was that bad. I asked the vet to use her best medical judgment.

Kifli was barely alive when we got there, about ten minutes later. We had one final discussion with the vet and then agreed to the inevitable. My hand was on Kifli’s chest when he received the first injection. His little heart stopped instantly, without waiting for the second injection. It was truly his time.

What I feel right now is unbearable heartbreak, but I know that soon enough, I’ll be able to smile again as I recall his antics. He was… quite a cat, that’s all I can say.

Good-bye, Kifli. Jó éjszakát.