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Today’s word of the day was nemesis.  Just a little snippet of real life.

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Nemesis, noun.  A source of harm or ruin.

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“And now, my fuzzy nemesis, your time has come!”

Jasper looked up at the human looming over him.  She was going away again, he could tell.  He stretched slightly and snuggled deeper into her lap, starting to purr.  She sighed and stroked his head.

“Really, Jasper, I need to go to bed.  You’re going to have to get up.”

He lifted his chin and she obediently started to stroke his throat.  She was so easy to manipulate it was ridiculous.  On a good evening he could hold her in place for half an hour or more past the time she first started trying to leave.

“I mean it,” she said.  “I’m going to bed.”

She stroked his head and sides for a few more minutes and then sighed.

Gently she started to insinuate her hands under his body.  Rebelliously, he went as limp as possible, almost sinking into her legs as she struggled to remove him.  Eventually, though, she managed to get enough of a grip to lift him, and then he knew it was over.

He shook himself slightly and stalked a few paces away before sitting down and looking reproachfully back at her.

She laughed and stroked his head again.

“Sorry, darling, but you should be used to this by now.”

I have been deemed a suitable place to sit.Jasper

This is exciting, because Jasper has known me for less than four weeks, and in a past life he was not treated well by humans.

Unfortunately, the first two times he decided to sit on me moments before I wanted to go to bed.  Not wanting to scare him off, I put off going to bed and spent the rest of the week very tired.

Today, however (it being Sunday when I wrote this post), he chose a much more reasonable 3pm, and remained happily in place through cups of tea, hoovering, and typing.  All except the last one, by the way, were done by someone else.  It’s now 7pm, and he’s still there.

This has several side effects, other than my happiness.

Firstly, as fortunately my laptop was within reach, I have managed to get a lot of things done.  I’ve planned the Pack Holiday my Brownies are going on, done some writing, added lots of past books to Goodreads, caught up on the Brownie accounts, and read some blog posts I’ve been a little behind on.

Secondly, I could really do with stretching my legs a little.

Half an hour of Crazy Time appears to be mandatory just before dinner, so I suspect he’ll be off soon.  It’s been a productive afternoon, thank you Jasper!

I haven’t felt much like blogging recently.  I haven’t had much to say, which is odd considering all of the things I’ve been up to!

My Brownies had a Christmas Bazaar – lots of random stalls of interesting things, refreshments, even Santa was there.  My Brownies, though, are not your typical believe-in-everything girls.  We had a long debate just before the bazaar about Santa.  Does he live at the north pole?  In Lapland?  Somewhere else?  Was the Santa we were getting for the bazaar the real one?  A fake?  One of Santa’s actual helpers?  (I did have to admit in the end that he was a fake – because he was one of the girls’ grandfather!)

IMG_1466And then there was Christmas, and all that entails.  A mulled wine and mince pie party, in which the Christmas Tree was edible.  Travel, family, presents, food, walks in the semi-country (it was very wet, so we stuck to pavements), church, games, food, Doctor Who, and the (surprisingly disappointing) finale of Merlin.  I think my favourite present this year was actually one that I gave. Who knew contractual variations could be so fun?

New Year’s has mostly been concerned with Dave’s present.  More on that when the Grand Plan has been successfully executed.

So that was the last few weeks.  Hopefully a more normal schedule will resume shortly.

 

There’s an article on the BBC with a large picture of a cat at the top.  The picture is captioned,

“This is the author’s cat.  This cat is not dead.”

The caption is needed.  The cat is sprawled on a pavement, legs all akimbo, chin turned towards the sky.  It looks dead.  In the article, the author comments that once it did this sprawl on top of a bin, and a passing cat-lover thought it had been thrown out and took it to an animal rescue centre.

The article, however, is about human mortality – and how it compares with that of the feline race.  Schrodinger is mentioned, as he so often is when cats are involved.  In a strange twist, the cat used to demonstrate that point doesn’t look at all dead, even in the half of the picture in which he is supposed to be.

But I digress.

How long will we live?  It’s a question that haunts many people, that nobody knows the answer to.  All indications are that we will continue to live longer and longer as the human race moves boldly into the future, but who really knows?

I note that actuarial mortality tables only go up to age 120.

As I mentioned yesterday, Curiosity landed on Mars.

There’s so much fun you could have with missions to Mars, but my question today is simply this: like Dorothy landing on the wicked witch of the west, did the rover land on any poor unsuspecting Martian cats?

(Blast, now I have an idea for a modern retelling of the Wizard of Oz, with Dorothy as an AI on a spaceship.  I don’t have time for more ideas!)

 

Specifically, I am considering the naming of pets.  It occurred to me that I had never met a cat called “John”, or “Alice”.  I’ve met a dog called “George”, but most of the pets I’ve met are called more exotic things, like “Juanita” or “Rover”.

Why is that?  Do we have a bias against naming pets with human names?  If so, it doesn’t extend to cattle, who are quite often called “Bessie”, and goats, called “Billy”.

Names are self-reinforcing through the generations.  Having a grandfather called Jack makes it more likely that you will call your son Jack, and knowing that countless generations have called their Sheepdog “Shep” makes it more likely that you will call your dog that, or something similar.  It just sounds right.

Interestingly, a quick internet search revealed that people have actually researched this and discovered the opposite.  In the 50s and 60s cats and dogs were all called “Blackie” and “Spot”, but in the past few years pet names have been mostly the same as those for human children – “Max”, “Oscar”, “Chloe”, “Bella” and so on.  The authors speculate that as people have fewer children their pets become more important to them, almost substitute children.  I’d like to put forth a different argument – as people have fewer children, there is less chance of children naming the animals!

Of course, some people like to have more imagination when naming their pets.  One of my old housemates had rats called “Sin” and “Pasta” (short for Yersinia pestis and Pasteurella multocida).  My husband wants to call our cats (when we get them) “Pyewacket” and “Balsamic” (because it won’t be a tom cat, so “Vinegar Tom” won’t work).  He also suggested “Apatosaurus” (because “Pat the Cat” sounds fun), or “Alley”, short for “Allosaurus” (because they have sharp teeth and are kind of tabby coloured).

How much thought do you put into naming people or animals in your books?  Do you try to stick to your own culture or do you deliberately pick odd names to give a sense that the people are somehow alien?  What if the animals are main characters?  Does it change the type of name they get?

The nice people at Google have put together a “neural network” of computers which is capable of learning.  In three days it learned to spot cats in pictures, even though it had never been told what one looked like.

Ah, neural networks.  Everyone’s favourite method of creating supercomputers and robots.  Say, Matt, how do you feel about doing a post on different types of robot-brain?  Is there enough variety out there to make it interesting?

The thing that really gets me about it, though, is that right at the very end there is this sentence:

As well as spotting cats, the computer system also learned how to pick out the shape of the human body and to recognise human faces.

A one line throw-away at the end of the article?  I guess they thought people would be more impressed by kitties

The Author

Nicola Higgins is a 30-something martial artist who runs two Brownie packs and works full time. She somehow still finds time to write.

Her favourite genres are near-future and alternate world science fiction and fantasy.

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