Eyes of the Kitten


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.



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.

Homework, Coffee, Settlers of Catan, and Color-Coded Stuff: A Tale of a Night When I Didn’t Sleep

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9:39 PM

Cups of coffee: 0

M&Ms: 0

Homework done: None

Games of Catan: 0


The pattern is now familiar. I make a list of homework and a plan of attack, I get some M&Ms and make some coffee, and I sit down in front of my computer to document my sleepless night by writing random and rambling things about it, which shall then appear on my blog for all the world to see. Generally, these all-nighter chronicles begin with a remark that I wasn’t expecting to need to do this. That is certainly the case in this situation; I really thought that this semester wouldn’t call for any all-nighters. Academically, this is the lightest semester I’ve ever had. But around midterms, there’s no such thing as an academically light semester.

To be honest, this all-nighter probably isn’t necessary. I think that I could be ready to call it a night by about two O’clock or so. That’s really late for me, but it is much less drastic than pulling an all-nighter, especially since I don’t even need to be up at a reasonable time tomorrow. This semester, I only have morning classes on Mondays and Wednesdays, and tomorrow is a Tuesday. I prefer to be up at a reasonable time anyway, but I could make an exception to that habit if I felt it was necessary.

But, after giving the matter due consideration, I decided to pull an all-nighter. That way, I have all the time I need and don’t have to feel stressed about finishing by a certain time. Besides, it gives me an excuse to eat M&Ms, and it makes it possible for me to take the time for Catan breaks. Anyone who has been reading my blog regularly may have noticed a bit of a pattern lately, which is that I have a tendency to mention Catan quite frequently.


I didn't win. Life is tough.

I didn’t win. Life is tough.

11:26 PM

Cups of coffee: 1

M&Ms: 10 blue, 7 red, 3 yellow, 3 brown, 8 green, 8 orange

Homework done: All of my calculus homework and one single-spaced page of a paper that shall be double-spaced later

Games of Catan: 1. I lost. It wasn’t fair. I totally should have won.


I would say that I was making pretty good time, except that I’m supposed to have three pages of this paper done by midnight. That is, I’m supposed to submit a three-page draft online. Three pages really isn’t a big deal, especially because this draft isn’t going to be graded. The professor is just having us submit it to make sure that we actually have that much done. Originally, the paper was going to be due tonight, but now it’s due on Wednesday instead. Compared to certain papers from last semester, this will be quick and easy; it’s basically a paper on a project that was already presented in class today. But I’m a very slow writer. For me, any paper is a long paper. That’s a little ironic, considering just how much writing I do, even outside of schoolwork. I’m also very slow at math. I’m slightly proud of myself for being done with my calculus homework for tonight, even though it was a pretty easy homework assignment. It was on the partial derivative. Partial derivatives are pretty simple. Incidentally, I really don’t seem to have many yellow M&Ms here. That’s a little odd.


11:57 PM

Cups of coffee: Still just one

M&Ms:  12 blue, 9 red, 4 yellow, 3 brown, 9 green, 9 orange

Homework done: All of my calculus and that draft of that paper

Games of Catan: Still just one. I still think I should have won.


An incredible and very good thing as happened. As I logged onto the thingy to submit my paper draft, nothing went wrong. This is rare indeed. My college’s internet system doesn’t like me; whenever I try to log into something that’s through the college, it won’t accept my password the first few times I try. Sometimes, I keep on trying over and over and over and never even get in because it eventually blocks my access because of so many failed attempts to enter the password. This is extremely frustrating. But it didn’t happen tonight, which is good because I submitted that draft at 11:54, which was cutting it pretty close. The uncool part is that it’s a pretty lousy draft, but that’s not a big problem. I still have two days to finish it and clean it up, and I’ll probably be able to dedicate a significant portion of tonight to it. But I do have to concentrate on my algebra homework for tomorrow first.


Here's why the number of green M&Ms isn't a whole number.

Here’s why the number of green M&Ms isn’t a whole number.

1:57 AM

Cups of coffee: one and a half

M&Ms: 21 blue, 10 red, 8 yellow, 4 brown, 12 ½ green, 10 orange

Homework done: All of my calculus, that draft of that paper, and practically all of the computer assignment for linear algebra

Games of Catan: Just one. I really want to play another one now, but it isn’t time yet, according to my detailed plan for tonight.


Normally, whether I’m staying up all night or just staying up really late, I don’t actually leave my room in the middle of the night. Tonight was an exception, though, because the aforementioned computer assignment for linear algebra required a computer program that I can only use on the computers in the math building. So I headed over there a little after midnight and spent about an hour and a half on that assignment. It was weird being outside at that time of night; for once, it was quiet. There were a few people in the math building, because that happens to be a favorite late-night-studying place and all-nighter place. The assignment in question was actually pretty cool; it had to do with ciphering. I made a slight mistake on a cipher that I was supposed to be deciphering, so it came out correct except for one word in the middle, which said ‘rMOk’. This amused me greatly. But I redid the exercise anyway, and it came out with real words that time. I couldn’t quite figure out how to do the last exercise, though, so I’ll have to do that one later. I’ll probably do it right before class, because that’s the only way I’ll have a chance to ask the professor about it.


3:08 AM

Cups of coffee: Two and a half

M&Ms: 31 blue, 14 red, 14 yellow, 14 brown, 22 ½ green, 18 orange

Homework done: All of my calculus, the draft for that paper, almost all of that algebra assignment, and the reading for my postmodernism class on Wednesday

Games of Catan: Still just one. But the time for game number two is near at hand. First, I have some algebra homework to do, but Catan is next after that.


Colored index cardsThere are five greatly awesome things that are within inches of my hands right now, all of which I have used quite a bit within the past few hours. The list is as follows: coffee, M&Ms, colored index cards, sharpies, and dry erase boards. A few minutes ago, I was surprised and confused to discover that my fingers were speckled, but a moment’s reflection enabled me to realize that this was because I had been using my fingers to erase numbers off of my dry erase board in order to replace them with other numbers. I love using dry erase boards to keep track of random and inconsequential details of my life. ‘Tis an entertaining thing to do. The appeal of colored index cards and sharpies, of course, is that they allow you to color code stuff, and color coded stuff is automatically cooler than non-color coded stuff. As a matter of fact, this point also can be extended to explain the coolness of M&Ms, and to relate to my interest in keeping track of M&M colors on my dry erase board. But coffee isn’t colorful. The coolness of coffee is independent of its visual appearance. Maybe someone should invent colored color-coded coffee. By definition, that would be incredibly cool, but I can’t actually think of a good purpose for it. I’ll have to think about this.


4:06 AM

Cups of coffee: Two and a half

M&Ms: 31 blue, 18 red, 14 yellow, 15 blue, 26 ½ green, 19 orange

Homework done: See above, plus just a couple algebra problems. But those couple that I did took a really, really long time.

Games of Catan: Two and a half. The website’s down, so that last game was aborted. That’s okay; it was making me really mad because I was losing really badly because nobody was rolling fours, sixes, eights, or nines, which just shouldn’t happen. People were basically just rolling tens every single time, which was very much in orange’s favor and did me no good at all. It was really unfair, especially since I had had a very similar problem in the previous game. Sometimes I wonder if other people have discovered ways to rig the dice on internet board games. It seems feasible, since those are just imaginary dice anyway. Presumably, if someone was really good with computers, they could figure out a way to trick the system. I’m not necessarily saying that’s what happens, I’m just saying that it sure seems like it.


101_9851Aside from the Catan problems which I have lamented in the previous paragraph, I’m also frustrated that this algebra homework isn’t going well. I still have several hours before class, but I don’t want to spend that entire time on this one homework assignment. At the rate I’m going, that’s how long it’ll take.

The weird thing is that it’s almost morning now, and it really doesn’t feel like it’s been that long since I got back from dance class at around eight O’clock. It’s no wonder I always feel tired; apparently nights go faster than days, and so one doesn’t get a lot of sleep by sleeping through the night. But it wouldn’t be any better to sleep during the day, since I have just determined that nights aren’t long enough for doing homework.

The only solution I can think of is that days just need to be longer. Since the length of a day is determined by the amount of time it takes the Earth to revolve around its axis, we just need to slow the Earth’s rotation. I wonder what kind of an impact this would have on the Earth’s climate. Of course, in order to minimize these effects, it is important that the Earth’s orbit around the sun should not be changed at all. I think years are a pretty good length.

Although it would be nice if the number of days in a year was something a little nicer than 365 ¼. That’s such a random number. I would like to suggest 350. That’s close enough to the current year length that it wouldn’t make a big difference, but it’s easier to remember and it has more factors than 365 or 366. We could divide the 350-day year into ten months of 35 days each, which I think is a lovely length for a month to be, and ten is a nice number of months. And there will be exactly 50 weeks in a year, which would be convenient. It would also mean that holidays and birthdays would fall on the same day of the week every year, which is an appealing idea and would make it very easy to keep holiday traditions the same from year to year. And Advent would always be the same length, so Advent calendars could actually be Advent calendars instead of December calendars that call themselves Advent calendars.

It would seem that I don’t feel like returning to my algebra homework.


Between various math problems, you can see my M&M statistics.

Between various math problems, you can see my M&M statistics.

5:08 AM

Cups of coffee: Three and a half. Now my coffee is gone, but that’s okay, because I’ll be able to go and get some more from the cafeteria in just a couple hours. It is worth noting that, on days when I sleep, I hardly ever drink more than one cup of coffee.

M&Ms: 43 blue, 22 red, 19 yellow, 24 brown, 38 ½ green, 26 orange. This is a final count; my M&Ms are now gone.

Homework done: All I have accomplished since the last update was another couple paragraphs on that paper.

Games of Catan: Two and a half.


It’s still dark and will be for a while, but I hear birds singing. Some people on campus complain about how loud the birds are, and I am puzzled by their annoyance. Personally, I don’t mind the birds nearly as much as I mind the leafblowers and lawn mowers, which are also noises that one hears almost constantly on this campus, and frequently right under one’s window when one is trying to do homework.

I think I’m going to go take a shower now. After that, I have to get back to my algebra homework, and then I’m allowed to take a break to check tumblr.


6:26 AM

Cups of coffee: Still at three and a half.

Homework done: See above, plus a couple more algebra problems.

Games of Catan: Still at two and a half.


I actually didn’t take a shower shortly after five, like I said I would, because my roommate was in the shower. In my residence hall, we have suites, and each suite has its own shower. I definitely prefer that to a communal bathroom, but it’s more than a little annoying hearing water running when I’m trying to do homework. It’s weird how some noises, like showers and squeaky doors, drive me crazy, while other noises, like ticking clocks and the strangely loud hum of my desk light, don’t bother or distract me at all.

Right now, I’m a little annoyed at the world in general for the fact that it’s morning. I don’t know where all the time went last night. I was expecting that I’d get more done. Now I still have homework to finish and stuff to study for midterm exams later this week, but I have lost the quiet and solitude that the nighttime offers.


7:34 AM

Cups of coffee: A little more than three and a half. I just came back from breakfast in the cafeteria, and I brought back a cup of coffee with me. Coffee is good stuff.

Homework done: None since I last gave an update, actually. Unless I’ve done a couple algebra problems since then. I can’t remember how many I’d done before that point. I’m still less than halfway done with what I have due today.

Games of Catan: Two and a half


This is what one of my dry erase boards looked like by morning.

This is what one of my dry erase boards looked like by morning.

Today’s sunrise was disappointingly nonspectacular, but that’s okay, because now that the sun’s up, it’s a really beautiful day. Maybe it’s a bit chilly, but it’ll probably be really nice in a few hours.

Next on my agenda is the game I like to play where I use a random number generator to get twenty random digits and then try to memorize them in under a minute. Lately, I’ve only been doing this once a day. I’m on a good streak now, though. I’ve gotten a perfect score four out of the last five times. This may not be an achievement that means anything to anyone besides me, but I am rather proud of it. I just hope I can keep this streak going. Considering the fact that I haven’t sleep in over a day and I’m dead tired, my brain might not be at its best this morning, though.

I really wish I was playing Settlers of Catan right now. And I really wish I was winning.


9:13 AM

Cups of coffee: Four and a half

Homework done: More algebra, but I’m still not done with today’s assignment yet. I am actually making progress; it just really takes that long. Seriously, math is hard.

Games of Catan: Two and a half. But I’m getting close to my next Catan break. This excites me greatly.


Here is a picture of outside, despite the fact that the picture doesn't look as pretty as it really is.

Here is a picture of outside, despite the fact that the picture doesn’t look as pretty as it really is.

I just opened my window. It’s so ridiculously beautiful out there today. The thing about Alabama is that you never know from one minute to the next what the weather is going to be like. On Sunday, it was nice like this, but yesterday, it was gloomy and wet and rainy and just really ugly. But then it suddenly cleared up in the middle of dance class, very shortly before it got dark. And last night it was pretty chilly. As clear as the weather is now, there’s no telling whether it’ll rain again. For all I know, it could snow tomorrow.

I’m trying to remember what I normally write in my all-nighter blog posts. I seem to recall that they aren’t normally about the weather, but right now, the weather seems to be the most noteworthy thing. I tried to take a beautiful picture from my window so that I could show the beautiful weather, but it didn’t turn out looking very beautiful because most of the trees still don’t have leaves yet. I’m guessing that will happen soon.


10:28 AM

Cups of coffee: I’ve stopped at four and a half.

Homework: A couple more algebra problems


CatanOkay, I admit it, I just played several consecutive games of Catan; I don’t even know how many because I lost count. Most of those games were ridiculously short because one person got all the luck and won before I’d even had a chance to do anything. It was getting quite frustrating. I mean, here I’ve been awake all night, working long and hard in an effort to learn stuff. I feel like the universe at least owes me a few lucky rolls. So I just kept playing until I finally won.

And now, here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to put this on my blog, then I’m going to finish my algebra homework (which is finally almost done), and by then, it’ll probably be about time for me to get all my books and stuff together, go to the cafeteria for lunch, check my mailbox quickly, and then head off to math class.



Relative Degrees of Christmasness

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Today is Black Friday, which means that many Americans who spent yesterday acknowledging how thankful they are will now act like greedy consumers by spending a whole day obsessing over the acquisition of material objects. I realize that I’m being unnecessarily cynical in saying that; there’s nothing immoral about choosing to go shopping on a certain day because of the fact that most stores offer excellent bargains on that day. In fact, I think that the day after Thanksgiving is a good day for the Christmas shopping season to begin in earnest. My objection to the shopping tradition of Black Friday is that it sometimes seems to overshadow Thanksgiving, which doesn’t make any sense. Whether you consider Black Friday shopping to be a special occasion in its own right or a preparation for Christmas, there’s no reason that it should be more noteworthy and facebook-status-worthy than the major holiday the day before.

With that being said, it is now officially getting close to Christmastime. Unlike Christmas and Easter, Thanksgiving is a holiday that really only lasts for a day, or for the weekend at most. Christmas, on the other hand, is a momentous occasion that deserves weeks of preparations, followed by weeks of celebration. I’ve never been in favor of extremely early Christmas decorating or of Christmas store displays in October, but life is too short and years are too long to restrict Christmas to just a few days in December. Personally, I think that it’s cool to observe Christmas in one way or another year round. After all, Christmas is the celebration of Jesus’ incarnation, and Jesus was incarnate for more than a few days.

But, of course, a holiday celebration isn’t so special if it literally lasts all year. The twenty-fifth of December is still the apex and zenith of all Christmasness. And the twelve days of Christmas are still to be considered more Christmasy than, for example, a random day in the middle of the spring. I therefore propose the point of view that it’s always Christmas, but some times of year are more Christmas than others. According to this way of looking at the calendar, I have helpfully constructed the following diagram that demonstrates the spectrum of Christmasness. I have thus divided the year into seven distinct phases of Christmas, although it should be noted that some of these, particularly the Advent season, also contain a subspectrum of Christmasness according to the exact day or week within the phase. Like most cool things, this diagram has been color-coded. It has not, however, been drawn to scale, nor has it been drawn neatly, for the simple reason that I am lazy.

As seen straight-on

Angled to emphasize the right-hand side

Dark green: The period of time that begins at about sunset on December 24 and ends in the early-to-mid afternoon on December 25

Red: The range of days that begins on December 25 and extends to January 6, that is to say, the twelve days of Christmas plus Epiphany Day


Dark Blue: The period of time before Christmas that includes four Sundays and the intervening weekdays and Saturdays, that is to say, the season of Advent

Orange: The period of time beginning a few days before Thanksgiving and extending to the first Sunday of Advent

Light Blue: The range of weeks between the beginning of Epiphany and the beginning of Lent, which occurs at different times in different years, with the result that this phase varies in length from year to year

Purple:  A few short phases, usually located in the mid-to-late summer or sometime in October, in which one inexplicably finds oneself desiring to listen to Christmas music, wishing it would snow, and thinking it would be cool to put Christmas lights in one’s room

Light Green: The majority of the time of year between the beginning of Lent and the approach of Thanksgiving