Still Here, Y’all

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Some of you may be surprised to learn that, despite the absence of any recent blog posts, I still exist. Yes, I know that there were three whole months where I didn’t post anything at all, even though I have indicated in the past that I have a personal rule about letting even one month go by without any new blog posts. Yes, I know that my identity is intrinsically linked to my internet presence and that it is necessary for me to express my thoughts online in order for me to prove that I do indeed think. Yes, I know that my blog is the repository for my mind and that I am essentially a zombie if I don’t utilize the opportunity to add to the archives of this repository on a regular basis. Okay, I just made up some of that stuff, but you get the point. The point is that it’s not cool that I haven’t been blogging at all this summer. I’m going to stick with my standard go-to excuse, which is that I have been really busy. I think I’ll also offer a sub-excuse by pointing out that sometimes, life kind of stinks and it isn’t really necessary to document all of it online. Nonetheless, the fact remains that I have this blog and that I think it’s kind of cool and that I would really enjoy to blog every single day. Unfortunately, I can’t do that. Even now that my schedule isn’t as ridiculously full as it was in the spring and early summer, there still are some days when it wouldn’t even be technically possible and other days where there are other things I need to be doing with my time. But I really do hope to get back into the pattern of posting something once or twice a week. We’ll see how that goes. So, yes, this blog post is just to let you all know of my continuing existence and to let you know that you can expect to see new content here in the near future. As a special bonus, here is a picture of my beautiful cat. Observe her great beauty.

Romana

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Eyes of the Kitten

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Romana's eyesMy cat Romana has beautiful eyes. If I had to describe them as being a certain color, I’d call them yellow, but they’re actually multi-colored and the shades vary. Sometimes they’re greenish blue near the pupil, then gradually range to greenish yellow, and finally yellow at the outside edge of the iris. Other times, they’re completely yellow, but the center is vaguely greenish and the outer part is orangish. They’re very fascinating eyeballs. And they make me wonder, why don’t cats have the same eye colors as humans? Why is it possible for cats’ eyes to change colors so much more drastically than humans do? And why does Romana have multiple eye colors?

So, of course, I googled it.

Bo and his yellow eyes

Bo and his yellow eyes

It is common knowledge that cats’ eyesight works differently than humans’. They can see in the dark, they are more nearsighted than people are, and their perception of color is less precise than that of humans. (Contrary to common belief, it is not true that cats or dogs can’t see color, but it’s true that they cannot distinguish nearly as many shades of color as humans can, particularly on the red end of the spectrum.) All of these differences are due to the fact that the anatomy of a cat’s eye is slightly different than that of a human’s eye. The most visibly obvious differences are that a cat’s eye is larger in proportion to its head than a human’s eye is and that the cat’s pupil varies more in size. This second property is related to the fact that cats’ pupils are slit-shaped rather than round, and it is one of the main reasons that cats have good night-vision. The other reason is that cats have a reflective layer behind the retina, which is called the tapetum lucidum. The reflective property of the tapetum lucidum is the reason that cat’s eyes glow in the dark, and that the pupil sometimes appears to glow green. Many other types of animals, including dogs, also have this layer, but humans do not.

Heidegger and her yellow eyes (which have more of a green tint than Bo's do)

Heidegger and her yellow eyes (Although you can’t see it in this picture, they have more of a greenish tint than Bo’s do)

All of these facts were the things that showed up on my google searches, but it took a little while longer to find information about eye colors. I know that eye color is determined genetically and has to do with pigmentation, and it makes logical sense that different species have different genes, but I was looking for an answer that was a little more technical and specific than that. I wrote a few paragraphs earlier today, which I later deleted, which speculated about the shape of a cat’s eyeball. Based upon various diagrams I found, it does appear that cats’ eyes have a greater space between the cornea and the iris than people’s eyes do. This is interesting, and it verifies something that I had already guessed, based upon the fact that the surface of a cat’s eye appears transparent when you see the cat’s face in direct profile. But I was just randomly speculating when I thought that might affect the appearance of the iris. The reason that I deleted those paragraphs, and instead summarized that information in just a couple sentences, is that I realized that it was probably wrong when I finally found more information about the pigments that determine eye color.

This lovely kitten lived on my college campus. I think I took this picture in May my sophomore year.

This lovely kitten lived on my college campus. I think I took this picture in May my sophomore year.

There are two types of these pigments.  One, melanin, determines how dark the eye is.  People with a lot of melanin in their eyes have brown eyes, while people with less melanin have blue, green, gray, or hazel eyes. The other type of pigment is called lipochrome. Lipochrome is yellowish, and people with a lot of lipochrome in their eyes will have green eyes while people with very little lipochrome have brown, blue, or grayish eyes. The amounts of these two pigments are determined by two different types of genes, and their combination defines the shade of eye color. For example, hazel eyes have a bit more melanin and a little less lipochrome than green eyes. As a side note, violet eyes occur when there is absolutely no melanin in the iris, which means that light actually reflects off the blood vessels in the retina. The purple color is a combination of the colors of the blue iris and the red blood vessels, and it is extremely rare.  This reflective phenomenon is also the cause of red eyes in photographs.

Much less research has been done on the pigmentation of cat eyes, but it is my guess that cat eyes have the same pigments, just in different quantities. Based upon the eye colors that are common in humans and cats, it would seem that cats, in general, have less melanin and more lipochrome in their irises than humans do. This explains why human eye colors are most often blue or brown, and the most common cat eye colors are yellow and green.

A picture of an odd-eyed cat that I got on Google, since I don't know any odd-eyed cats personally.

A picture of an odd-eyed cat that I got on Google, since I don’t know any odd-eyed cats personally.

Odd-colored eyes (which are more common in cats than in humans) obviously occur when the eyes have different amounts of pigment. Multi-colored irises, (like those in my Romana’s eyes, or the eyes of the actor Baconstrip Cucumberpatch, who plays Sherlock and who was Khan in the new Star Trek movie) evidently are caused by an uneven distribution of pigment throughout the iris. Based upon my observations, it would seem that lipochrome is more likely to be uneven than melanin. Green and yellow eyes are more likely than blue or brown to be flecked or to consist of a spectrum of shades

Pictured: the aforementioned eyeballs of Buttermilk Colorswatch. You know, that actor who plays Sherlock and who was Kahn in the new Star Trek movie.

Pictured: the aforementioned eyeballs of Buttermilk Colorswatch. You know, that actor who plays Sherlock and who was Kahn in the new Star Trek movie.

It is also worth noting that, strictly speaking, a person’s eye color doesn’t change according to mood or what they’re wearing. When the color of the iris appears to change, that is actually an effect of the lighting, which could be affected by the change of facial expression. The iris itself is a consistent color, except in the eyes of very young babies and eyes that have suffered some kind of physical trauma. However, cat’s eyes really do change colors drastically according to mood; I’ve seen it quite a lot. I’ve known many yellow-eyed cats whose eyes will definitely gain a greenish tint when they’re calm and relaxed. Romana’s eyes, which are more of a greenish color in the first place, sometimes get bluish when she’s very content and half-asleep. It’s undeniable that this happens, and I found a reasonable explanation for how it’s possible. The internet informs me that there is some pigmentation on the tapetum lucidum, that reflective layer in cats’ eyes that people don’t have. Cats tend to narrow their eyes when they are in a peaceful and happy mood, and I think it seems perfectly plausible that this could alter the position or angle of the tapetum lucidum, perhaps causing its color to show through the iris less clearly, resulting in a lower-lipochrome color.

Romana

Romana

According to this information, it would seem that the answer to my original question about Romana’s distinctive eyes is that she has a lot less melanin and a lot more lipochrome in her eyes than humans do, and that in her particular case, the lipochrome is concentrated more around the outer edge of her iris and less in the area of the pupil.

My kitten and her laser toy

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laser toyI’m pretty sure that if I was a cat, I’d find laser toys extremely frustrating. You just chase a spot of light, and even if you put your put your paw right down on it, you can’t catch it. The game could go on for hours, but you’d never win. You can’t even make progress, because chasing games are all or nothing; either you catch it or you don’t, and you can’t catch a spot of light. But my kitten doesn’t seem to mind at all. In fact, she thinks it’s a delightful game, and she prefers the laser beam to any of her other toys. When I turn it on, she trills with joy and proceeds to chase it all around the room, bouncing off the walls and doors as it seems necessary.

I admit that sometimes I do a mean thing to my cat. I hold the laser toy with one hand and “catch” the light with the other hand, while turning the laser off so that it looks like I actually did capture it. Then I turn the laser back on as I open my hand. My kitten is completely baffled as to how I can catch the laser light when she can’t. But if I alter the trick and turn the laser off when she puts her paw on the spot of light, and then congratulate her on her victory, this is unacceptable. She will stare at me accusingly, because I clearly cheated. I tried to end the game prematurely, and she wants to keep playing.

Here's a picture of my kitten not playing, because I can't get good ones of her when she is playing.

Here’s a picture of my kitten not playing, because I can’t get good ones of her when she is playing.

As far as she’s concerned, the goal isn’t to actually catch something, anyway. Running around and smashing into furniture is the whole point. Lasers are so much more fun than spiders, because when you catch a spider, it dies and stops running, and when you eat it, it disappears. This ruins the game, and it’s not cool. The other day, she found a frog. I’m not sure how it got into the house, but it did, and my cat found it. She was very pleased for a little while, but the frog wasn’t a fun toy because he kept playing dead. Whenever she started to walk away, he moved and caught her attention again, but when she stared right at him, he held perfectly still. When she lightly batted at him with her paw, politely requesting that he hop away so that she could chase him, he continued to hold still, and if she batted at him a little more forcefully, he actually slid along the floor. It was no better than playing with a fabric toy, so that’s what she did, and the frog got away.

I remember one time hearing about a study that said that people were happier when working towards a goal than they were after achieving a goal. On the one hand, this seems like one of those studies that was completely unnecessary and a waste of funding, because I think most people find that conclusion almost as obvious as my cat does. On the other hand, it’s also a very interesting point. But in the life of a human, I’m not sure if it’s always true. I think it depends upon the nature of the goal. Right now, I’m looking for a job and an apartment, and I find it hard to believe that my life won’t be cooler once I’ve acquired those things. But there are definitely some goals that are more fulfilling to strive for than to accomplish, and anything that exists solely for entertainment purposes falls into that category. If you’re glad or relieved to finish a book or a movie or a game, that probably means you weren’t really having that much fun with it. That’s why it’s so hard to resist watching several episodes of a TV show back-to-back. That’s why it isn’t frustrating to play a computer game where, every time you win, you just start another level that’s more or less exactly the same as the previous one.  That’s why most successful books and movies have sequels, and why those sequels sell even if they aren’t nearly as good as the original.

Glypha IIIBut there’s still some sense of achievement in getting a high score in a favorite game or finishing a long book or a jigsaw puzzle or craft project, no matter how much fun it was. I think most people are goal-oriented, even if the process is what they really enjoy. I think that people need small victories along the way in order to stay interested and motivated, regardless of whether the goal is something important and meaningful, like learning a useful skill, or something fun and comparatively trivial, like a game. This is one difference between the personalities of humans and animals; people like to work towards goals and animals live in the moment and enjoy the game regardless of whether anything cool happens when they win. That’s all for the best, since human beings are the ones who are responsible for running the world and getting stuff done, while animals are either just trying to survive or just trying to enjoy life. (Depending upon whether or not they’re domestic, because domestic animals generally have the survival part taken care of for them) The human way of living is a lot more purposeful, but it’s also a lot less fun.

Introducing My Kitten

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RomanaThose of you who know me in real life and/or other parts of the internet have already heard about the kitten whose picture is shown here. Her name is Romana, and she’s my new roommate and best friend. You can expect her name and face to show up on my blog pretty frequently from now on.

I’m not quite sure why this critter loves me so much. She hasn’t even been here long enough for me to spoil her very much. It’s true that I feed her with food that she likes and that she enjoys the attention I give her. But she decided she loved me before she even knew what it would be like to live with me.  I can’t get over the way she snuggles up against me every time I sit down and starts purring even before I pet her. And the misses me every time I leave for even a moment. Let no one tell you that cats aren’t capable of the unconditional love and affection that dogs have for their owners.

She took this picture and captioned it more or less by herself.

She took this picture and captioned it more or less by herself.

She is a little possessive of my attention, which is the main reason that it’s taken me two days to post about her on my blog. The first time I tried, she jumped up onto my laptop keyboard and pasted a screenshot onto the Word document I had open. She also has learned how to disable the internet, which is a useful skill for an attention hog to have. Alternatively, she can leave the computer online and hack into my internet accounts. She temporarily has had her internet privileges revoked because I had such a hard time this afternoon undoing some weird settings she had turned on, and I’m having to keep an eye on her to make sure she isn’t posting stuff under my name on facebook. Her spelling, incidentally, is terrible. Half the time, I have no idea what she’s typing.

She’s really a very playful kitten. I mean, she had a wonderful time learning to play chess this morning. But I think she’s somehow been in communication with my family’s cat Bo, because they use the exact same strategy. It’s a tried-and-true feline chess technique commonly known as “cheating”. Romana does it very well. Given a little practice, I bet she’ll be as good a chess player as Bo.

While it’s doubtlessly true that she’s a very clever cat, I suspect that she was faking it when she seemed to be able to read Greek last night. I mean, seriously. Where would she have learned something like that?

Before logging off, I just want to say that I should not be held responsible for what I appear to be saying on the internet, because goodness only knows what my kitten’s going to do when I’m asleep or not looking.

This is Romana's namesake. Her name is Romana.

This is Romana’s namesake. Her name is Romana.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I think someone needs me to sit down with a book so she can curl up on my lap.

That Cat Will Be the Death of Me and other stories

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At precisely 12:12 today, a cry went up in the hallway. “It’s 12:12 on 12/12/12!” said the cry.

Instantly, I opened internet explorer and yelled back, “Facebook or tumblr?”

“Both!” the cry instructed me.

But alas, I only had time to post it on tumblr. By the time I got to facebook, it was 12:13.

The aforementioned hallway was in fact the hallway at the house, and the aforementioned cry came from the mouth of one of my sisters. I left college and came to my house yesterday. (I refrain from using the word “home” here merely because I refer to both college and my house as “home”, depending upon the context.) This may not have been the brightest idea in the history of bright ideas, because I still have some final papers to finish. That is, I now have one final paper to finish, because I turned one in this morning. In the end, it turned out to be truly idiotic. But I’m now only about a day away from really being on Christmas break, which is nice, I guess.

One of the first things that happened upon my arrival at the abode of my kin was that my beloved cat Bo decided to sneak outside. He stood at the door waiting for an opportune moment, and then, as I re-entered the house bearing two armfuls of my luggage including my electric keyboard, he squeezed past me and escaped into the great outdoors.

I dropped my loot in the doorway and ran after Bo, who circled around the house once and then ran into the open space under the neighbor’s shed. Not long ago, he got out of the house, was lost for a whole day, and stayed under that shed until my parents and siblings found him and brought him back home. The incident entailed much distress and many tears, and his safe return was an occasion of much joy. Apparently, he wanted to reenact that scene for me, because he would not come out, despite the bribes of cat treats and turkey we offered him.

“Bo,” said I unto the cat, as I pushed my face against the wooden planks enclosing the space, “you can’t stay there. You have to come back. You know you’re going to get lonely out here.”

He rubbed his face against the planks from the inside with an expression of both affection and smugness in his eyes. “Why would I get lonely?” his face said. “You’re right here with me.”

He had a point there. We obviously weren’t going to leave him alone out there; we’d be too worried about his safety.

“But Bo,” I said, “You can’t stay there. You’re going to get hungry.”

“No, I won’t,” he said, “I’ve got grass down here. Look, yummy grass! Ooh, and look at all the dirt! Yummy dirt!”

“Ew, Bo, gross,” I said to him, “stop eating the dirt.”

He purred, because there was absolutely nothing I could do to stop him from eating the dirt.

“Bo Kitty,” I said, holding out a hand with a couple cat treats in it. “Come! You know you want them! All this and more can be yours! Come back to us!”

Bo cleverly calculated the speed at which he could snitch the treats out of my hand and moved into position to execute the feat. But I took a step backwards to thwart his plans. “If you want them, you have to let me take you back inside,” I informed him. “I’m not going to be that easy to trick.”

“Then I’m not going to be that easy to trick, either,” said Bo, curling up on a cinder block and taking a bite of dirt. He let his mouth hang strangely open so that I would worry that he’d already caught some fearsome disease.

“Bo,” said I, “How about if we stop trying to trick each other and you just come back to me?”

“Don’t be silly,” said Bo, “Why would I come back to you now when I can have attention, fresh air, and all the grass I want just by sitting here, and I know that you’ll be right there to bring me back home when I do decide to come back?”

I had to admit he had a point there.

To make a long story short, we eventually got him back inside. He was thoroughly covered in mud and highly offended by our annoyance with him, especially when one of my sisters and the other cat both scolded him for making them cry again. But then this morning, he suddenly remembered how long it’s been since he saw me and how much he likes me, and he rejoiced greatly. And I pointed out to him that he didn’t really want to go live out under the neighbor’s shed. He likes our food better than dirt and grass, anyway.