Tag Archives: personal

Goodbye, Pearl

Post Syndicated from Eevee original https://eev.ee/blog/2022/01/25/goodbye-pearl/

Pearl laying on carpet, bathed in a sunbeam that highlights her peach fuzz

A Chronicling of the Lyfe and Times of one Miss Pearl Twig Woods, who has Passed at a Young Age from Troubles of the Heart. She is survived by Anise, her Arch Nemesis; Cheeseball, her Adoptive Ruffian; and Napoleon, her Star-Crossed Suitor for Whom she Longed from Afar.

Pearl is… difficult to describe. She had such a strong, vibrant personality.

She was lovely, that’s for certain. She loved everyone she met. And while various people — friends, vets, etc. — have met our cats and always liked them, I don’t believe anyone has met Pearl and not adored her. Anise will check out your stuff and perhaps jump on you; Cheeseball will do antics for you and rub on your leg; but Pearl would accept you into her life and be very directly, personally affectionate with you specifically. She made you feel special.

At the same time, she was very fussy, very particular, and had a very strong sense of… her place in the world, I suppose. If she liked something, she would be having it. If she didn’t like something, she would make that exceptionally clear. She was never mean, but she would be very vocal about her boundaries.

It wasn’t uncommon to wake up to Pearl repeatedly headbutting me right in the face, pressing her head up under my chin, or giving me a nuzzle with the entire length of her body, purring all the while. If she was happy to see you, she made an entire production out of it. It wasn’t just us; guests who slept on the couch also got the Pearl wake-up call.

It was also not uncommon to wake up because Pearl had decided that she needed my pillow, and somehow this very small cat took up the entire thing. I couldn’t move her; trying to displace her from a comfortable spot would generally earn you a sad, offended meow, after which you felt guilty for even having entertained the notion in the first place.

One of her particular quirks was to often “bury” her food when she was done with it, or at least paw fruitlessly at nearby carpet. On its own, this is endearing but not unusual — burying leftovers is a common cat instinct, even if we’ve not seen it in our other cats. What made it a uniquely Pearl trait was that she would also perform this ritual if offered something she didn’t want at all. I laughed every time; it was such an audacious way to indicate utter disinterest. Take it away, please. Put it in a hole, if you would.

She got, more or less, everything she wanted. If she claimed a spot, everything about her expression and body language indicated it was clearly hers, even if that spot was your body. (Naturally, if you moved too much or even sneezed suddenly, she would tell you off for that too.) If she wanted to ride on your shoulders, that’s what would be happening. If it was time to feed her and she was too comfortable in her cat tree, well, we’d just have to hold the food up for her. She had a way of looking very pleased with herself that was impossible to argue with.

I first met Pearl in 2014, shortly after we moved to Las Vegas. She was tiny, even for a kitten, and apparently the runt of her litter. I don’t remember what specifically compelled Ash to adopt another cat, except that they love cats, but what a selection.

I cannot stress enough how small she was. You know those solid wood desks that have a column of drawers built into them on one side? You know how they often have a little decorative shape carved out at the bottom with molded edges? Pearl could crawl into that space. I couldn’t believe it the first time I saw it; the gap is so short that I’d never even thought to categorize it as a space, let alone one a cat might enter, but she slunk into it like it was nothing. I was so worried we’d have to move the desk somehow to get her out, but she usually turned around and came right out again. I still remember the very last time she did it — I could tell she was having to shimmy a bit to fit in there, and she must have noticed too, because I never saw her even try it again.

The other cats had somewhat mixed feelings. Napoleon didn’t like her at all and hissed directly in her face, but… after that, I don’t remember any bad reactions from him at all, so I guess he warmed up quick. Anise did not seem to understand what a kitten was, tried to play with her, and then acted very confused when that didn’t seem to work. And Twigs…

Oh, Twigs. Twigs was jealous. He had always been Ash’s cat, he had made himself Ash’s cat, and he very quickly inferred that Pearl was a threat to his position. Another cat! In Ash’s lap! Unthinkable!

On one particular night Ash had barred Twigs from the bedroom to sleep with just Pearl, but came downstairs to visit the kitchen. Twigs ran up to them, looked them dead in the eye, and let out a huge sad wail to convey his feelings about the depths of this betrayal.

They let him into the bedroom after that, but he opted to sit across the room and stare daggers at Pearl, moving a little closer every half hour until he was on the far corner of the bed. Just staring.

Ash eventually had to bribe him by putting some cottage cheese on Pearl’s head, after which he decided Pearl was okay. Also he found out that he could fit himself in Ash’s lap alongside Pearl, so that probably helped.

Oh, and she loved to be cozy. She loved to be cozy. Sphynxes are naturally drawn to warmth, of course, but Pearl elevated it to an artform. If I’m propped up in bed, Anise might stand next to me to look at the covers expectantly, or he might just lay down nearby. Pearl would stand right on top of me and pull at the covers with impressive force until I lifted them for her, let her lay on my chest, and tucked her in.

We’d often find Pearl very awkwardly tucked under the edge of a blanket somewhere, having attempted to insert herself beneath it with mixed success. We described this as Pearl doing it all by herself, and complimented her on how talented she was, and then fixed the blanket for her.

We have heater vents in the floor, and one of her favorite pastimes was to sit on one of those, often covering the entire thing, and be gently toasted from below. Sometimes Anise would see what a great idea that was and try to share it and they would end up squabbling.

If there was a sunbeam to be found, Pearl would find it. Much like with vents, she didn’t like to share sunbeams, even if they were half the width of the room. She found it first, you see.

Other places she discovered that were lovely and toasty included: in front of the fridge where the warm air vented out from the bottom; straddling the PS4 so the fan blew onto her tummy; next to or underneath my laptop; on top of my computer case which has a fan vent on top; in front of the heat dish we got while our furnace wasn’t working; and in a laundry hamper full of freshly-dried laundry.

She liked to go outside, too, during the summer. All of our cats are indoor-only, but once in a while we’ll take the more well-behaved ones (not Cheeseball) into the backyard to wander around on the porch and sniff things and enjoy the sun and look at a bird.

And I have never known a cat to be quite so comfortable. Perhaps Anise, on occasion, but he doesn’t have the raw talent Pearl was born with.

You could tell she was settling in if she tucked her paws in against her chest, something she always did quite deliberately and distinctly. But that was only the first stage of comfort. If you were lucky, she would stretch out one arm really far, perhaps to place her paw on you. As she dozed off she might lay flat on her side with her limbs outstretched, which meant we always had to check blankets carefully for a flattened Pearl before sitting down. And if you were really lucky, you might witness Pearl in a chaos configuration, upside-down with her paws wherever.

But even just sitting up with her eyes closed, she looked so content. Looking at photos makes me want to take a nap with her.

Sadly, Pearl had some health troubles from the start. She had a kink right at the base of her tail from the day we got her, suggesting it had been injured while at the breeder and not healed right, so she was never able to raise her tail all the way. She also came home with some sort of intestinal parasite that gave her a lot of… um, gastric distress, and while we were able to clear that up quickly, it seemed to recur soon afterwards.

We took her to the vet again, suspecting more parasites, but multiple tests turned up nothing. We tried a number of things — different food, sensitive-stomach food, wet food, more water, different treats — but could not seem to figure it out, and so Pearl just had stomachaches on and off for a while. Sometimes she would sit by the litterbox and grumble, and all I could do was try to reassure her.

It wasn’t until a few years later that Ash’s then-husband, with no explanation whatsoever, spontaneously decided to just feed her some plain chicken mixed with pumpkin purée. Just like that, she was fine. I felt like kind of an idiot for not trying that earlier, but after giving her veterinary sensitive-stomach food and seeing no change, I thought we’d ruled out food sensitivity.

We swiftly outlined a general idea of what Pearl could or could not tolerate. Chicken, pork, pumpkin: OK. Beef or any kind of organs: she immediately threw up. Fish: no good. And yet manufactured food containing only very simple things still gave her stomachaches, so our best guess was that she also couldn’t tolerate fucking xantham gum or something, which is in pretty much all pet food, including the sensitive stuff.

Regardless, we had a diet she could stomach, so for the rest of her life we made her a custom diet of ground chicken, ground pork belly, pumpkin, and some nutrient powder that didn’t bother her (which took several attempts to find). That meant no more free-feeding the other cats, so we got a big dog cage to keep the kibble in, and we’d let the other cats in there while Pearl was eating her special princess food. Thus began a multi-year saga during which, every four hours, like clockwork, Anise would start bothering me to feed him.

Please do not tell me what I could have done to dissuade Anise or space out the schedule. I guarantee, he is vastly more dastardly and annoying than you are giving him credit for. The cats run this household, and I have long since made peace with that.

The closest to any real insight we got about Pearl was that perhaps her kitten parasites had left her with IBS — a very vague diagnosis of exclusion, and the best anyone could come up with. But Pearl was happy, so that was good enough. We eventually found new treats she could stomach, too.

Pearl had relatively intense relationships with the other cats, much like she did with people.

She adored Napoleon, our furred and largest cat, for some reason. She often trotted up to him, very eager to sniff him; or when he trotted towards the kibble cage in recent years, she would run alongside him, staring sideways at him. I don’t really understand what her feelings were, and Napoleon didn’t really return them, but he at least tolerated them. Curiously, I can’t remember many attempts on Pearl’s part to snuggle up to Napoleon; she mostly snuggled with the other sphynxes.

She and Twigs (her uncle, incidentally) spent a ton of time together, and Anise was often in the mix as well. They’d often end up in a pile under or within a blanket, or all wedged into the same cat bed, or piled on a chair that had a towel on it. Sometimes she’d grumble at Anise for being too much in her personal space, but somehow Twigs’s presence seemed to defuse everything. I can’t remember her ever grumbling at Twigs, in fact.

Cheeseball is the only cat we have who’s younger than Pearl. When he was a kitten, she kind of doted on him like a mom, frequently trying to groom his head. She kept doing this into his adolescence, even as he was swiftly growing bigger than her, which was endearing and also very funny.

We moved in 2018, and spent the summer with a former acquaintance’s parents, as they had a finished and furnished basement that was practically an apartment all on its own. Unfortunately, they had four cats of their own, for a total of nine crammed into a relatively small space. (One of the parents couldn’t be around cat hair in the medium term, due to reasons.)

One of the cats, Seamus, was a maine coon, and by all accounts kind of an asshole. He made a habit out of chasing Napoleon around, which Napoleon did not like at all, and which would result in Pearl chasing him to defend Napoleon, and then Anise chasing after Pearl because everyone is running around and he doesn’t quite understand why but he doesn’t want to be left out. We kept the cats separated as best we could, but we didn’t have much space to work with, and we were already trying to sequester Cheeseball, who we’d just adopted as a kitten. Everything was just kind of a mess.

Anyway this kinda stressed everyone out.

I bring it up because of one particular event. The only segregated parts of the basement were the bathroom and a somewhat awkwardly-shaped bedroom. The bedroom was exclusively for our cats. I don’t remember exactly what led up to this, but at some point Seamus made a beeline for the bedroom while Pearl was just inside the open door. I’m guessing Napoleon was in there too.

Pearl was absolutely not having this. She stood her ground and hissed hard enough to stop this absolutely massive cat in his tracks. She was so mad that she peed on the floor (which was, thankfully, vinyl). We got there to intervene about half a second later, but wow! She drew a line in the sand and under no circumstances was this bully going to cross it. We have always looked back fondly upon this “rage piss” incident.

I think Pearl was left a little rattled, though. Even at the time, she growled at the other maine coon there, who was an absolute sweetheart and rarely did more than sit nicely and ask to be pet. Once we were out of there, she seemed a little distrusting of Anise, often growling at him or biting his haunch merely for sitting nearby (which would entice a bewildered Anise into smacking her, justifying her reaction). I wish we hadn’t stayed there.

Cheeseball was also growing up and wanted to play with Pearl, because playing is how he engages with pretty much everything; alas, he was a bit too rowdy for Pearl. Twigs, infinitely patient, was there to absorb a lot of this.

But then Twigs died, and the cats’ relationships seemed to deteriorate. Cheeseball liked Pearl, but he always wanted to fight with her, which she didn’t like. Anise liked Pearl, but she seemed to resent him a lot of the time, and there was no Twigs to separate them. Pearl liked Napoleon, but Napoleon liked to be by himself.

It was okay, but tense.

Maybe I’m overstating this. Going back through photos of Pearl, I’ve found plenty from the post-Twigs era where she’s still hanging out with Anise peacefully. A number of their conflicts even started because she would approach Anise to sit by him, then growl at him. No wonder he was confused. Sometimes she would groom him and start growling, while licking his ear. Hello? What are you doing?? What do you want from him here.

Still, that must mean she still liked him. She just had some complicated feelings. It always made me a little sad when they couldn’t get along, though. I’d gotten Anise in the first place in part to give Twigs a friend, and Pearl and Twigs had always gotten along well, and now… well.

Having said all this about how great and lovely Pearl is, her presumptuousness also made her a huge pest in some very specific ways. For example, once we’d settled into the food routine that saved her from constant stomachaces, one of her favorite things to do was to go over to the kibble cage and try to find kibble that had escaped from it. If she could get away with it, she would stick her paw between the bars and pull kibble (or the entire bowl) out to eat.

It was slightly annoying, and also very funny. We called this pulling a heist. And then she’d have awful gas some hours later.

I also very distinctly remembering getting takeout one time, which happened to include a breaded and fried slab of fish. I had the little takeout container on the table in front of me, and I think I was fiddling with the wrapper on their plastic fork or something, when Pearl came along, sniffed it… and then bit the fish and pulled the whole filet out of the container. Right in front of me! Points for boldness, I guess. She wasn’t quite so audacious any other time, but she must’ve really liked the smell of that fish.

And while she was generally pretty picky about what she would consider a toy, she did, on occasion, like to bite the arms of my glasses. Once I was laying next to her and petting her while she purred, and she stuck a paw in between my glasses and my face, pulled them off, and tried to bite them — purring all the while.

My favorite Pearl trick was what we dubbed “mouse alert”. If Pearl was looking for someone — often anyone at all, but sometimes a particular person who was absent or in a room with a closed door — she would find one of her toy mice and carry it around doing a very loud, muffled meow. If she saw you she would then drop the mouse and trot over, making happy high-pitched meows instead.

Sometimes she’d start out with regular meows, which we could hear from the other side of the house, but then they’d abruptly turn deeper and longer, and we knew she’d picked a mouse up. It was so charming and so funny. Every so often we’d find a pile of mice outside a door and we knew that Pearl had been trying to open it. She later expanded her roster to include Big Mouse — a plush almost half her size who became her favorite — and a plush of a single HIV virus that she must’ve stolen from my desk.

She didn’t play with the mice, either. I have video of her playing with a mouse when she was fairly young, but it’s not one of the mice we have now. She seemed to regard them as precious, her comforting belongings that she could almost always lure us out of hiding with. “Come look at my mouse!” Sometimes she’d carry them around quietly, just to have one or two nearby in a comfortable spot.

I tried for her whole life to get a recording of this, which proved nearly impossible, because she’d stop if she knew anyone was nearby! I got a clear recording only once, a week before she died; I was in our dark bedroom, filming into Ash’s office, and I don’t think she realized I was there. There’s a link at the bottom.

Her other favorite possession was string. Pearl loved to play string. She would ask for it by name. No, really. If she wanted to play string, she would find (or bring) a string and sit on it hoping someone noticed, and if that didn’t work, I’m pretty sure she had a specific meow for asking you to please follow her to string and then play with it.

Playing string with her was a slightly frustrating affair, but perhaps I just didn’t understand the rules. They seemed to be: I should wiggle the string; then Pearl grabs the string; then Pearl keeps the string. That doesn’t end the game, though. I should keep trying, in vain, to get the string back, while Pearl simply keeps winning.

A great thing to do was dangle it above her, at which point she’d stand up to try to get it and chomp at it, audibly. I loved her little chomp sound. I can’t even do it myself; I feel like I’d hurt my teeth.

After she was through adolescence, string was the only thing she really wanted to play with. She might’ve chased a laser pointer a couple of times, but string was the one thing she would ask for. Occasionally I’d try to play with Anise with a string, but Pearl had a fucking sixth sense for when string was happening, and she would appear from nowhere and go absolutely nuts over it while Anise sat back and watched.

In March 2021, I took Pearl to an ER vet over very rapid breathing. They told me she’d had fluid in her lungs and diagnosed her with congestive heart failure. That’s when your heart can’t pump hard enough; part of Pearl’s heart wall had thinned and weakened, and one chamber was enlarged. She had to be hospitalized overnight. I drove home thinking I’d never see her again.

They couldn’t identify a cause. She was given a prognosis of “not fantastic” and prescribed a growing mountain of medication, which Ash dutifully gave to her every twelve hours for months on end, even when Pearl refused it. Sometimes Pearl had to be bribed with treats in order to eat at all, though I later traced that to a batch of food with insufficient pumpkin for her liking.

We had to keep her stress level low, which meant keeping her completely separated from the other cats (or at the very least Cheeseball) as much as possible. That meant Ash vanished into a closed room for most of every day to work while keeping an eye on Pearl — who was, after all, Ash’s cat. That also left me with three other cats constantly vying for my attention.

For several months we often couldn’t even sleep in the same room — Pearl and Anise couldn’t be left together, and Anise makes a racket all night if he’s shut out. Early on, our roommate would often take Pearl overnight (even despite being allergic to cats), but as time went on, Ash felt a stronger impulse to be around her as much as possible. Eventually we found we could have both Anise and Pearl overnight as long as we put a sweater on Anise and had sufficient extra blankets on the bed, but honestly it felt like a constant logistical nightmare.

Even with all this, we still had several more ER visits, several more hospitalizations.

Still, Pearl seemed to be doing okay. She was happy, she engaged with us, she purred, she snuggled, she nuzzled, she played. She was fine, and stable, until she wasn’t.

It was January 11, and it was the first ER visit for rapid breathing in a while. We handed her over, they hospitalized her, and we left, assuming we’d pick her up in the morning and she’d be fine, as had always happened.

We weren’t home for long before they called us. Pearl wasn’t recovering this time, and wouldn’t make it through the night.

We raced back. We saw Pearl, struggling to breathe, even on oxygen. We pet her and told her it would be okay. She cried out for help. Ash held her.

And then we let her go.

I love and miss so many little things. She had such beautiful eyes, like Twigs did, though she squinted a lot so it always felt like a special treat when I could see them clearly. Her whole face scrunched when she meowed. She had a marble pattern, so I guess she would’ve been a calico. I didn’t even notice it when we first got her, and then one day it jumped right out at me and I felt briefly like our kitten had been replaced with a different one. She had a funny little clump of four hairs that stuck out from her hip. She had marbling on her pawpads, too.

I love her wide vocabulary of very cute little meows, in contrast with Twigs’s more raucous ones. She reserved them for special occasions, opting to chirr most of the time.

I love how, when she was surprised by something, she would simply jump straight up in the air an inch, then come down. No other movement. It was like she was tweened. I never tried to spook her on purpose to see this, but she was a little prone to being spooked.

I love how, when she’d knead at a soft blanket, she did just a few quick little motions and then she was done. It was so dainty. I always called it kitty paws, to distinguish from cat paws.

I love how she’d do a straight upwards stretch that somehow made her ears flick inside out briefly.

I love the very deliberate way she tucked her paws, and how she would gently hold onto someone’s shoulders while getting a taxi ride. Everything she did came across as so purposeful.

I love how Ash had found that rubbing their face on Pearl’s side as a kitten would get her to purr, and that kept working for her whole life, and it’s basically what she ended up doing to people in return.

I love how she had a funny obsession with water. I can’t really explain it, and I don’t know what she found so interesting. If I took a swig from my water bottle with Pearl nearby, she would climb on whatever was necessary to sniff at the nozzle. If I opened a soda with Pearl nearby, she’d stick her nose right in the opening, then recoil when the bubbles fizzed her. She didn’t enjoy baths or anything, she just liked… water. From afar. Like with Napoleon, perhaps.

I love how she nuzzled so hard that she hit maximum nuzzle, and so she would also sort of gently swipe the air with her paw as well, for extra nuzzling power.

I love her funny “bug off” sweater, illustrated with a ladybug, which seemed to capture her personality well: don’t be rude to me, but expressed in a very cute manner.

I love how she adopted the sort of extended windowsill in our bathroom as her own, and would lay there on sunny days and roll around on a towel.

I love that she was pampered right to the end. Over the course of recent weeks, Ash would keep giving me updates on Pearl’s development of a new routine, where she would sit in a Treat Spot she had designated, possibly meow once or twice, and wait very nicely until Ash gave her a treat. And then Ash would eventually capitulate, helpful before the polite ministrations of this very tiny cat, and give her a treat. It seemed that the number of treats Pearl was managing to get per day was gradually increasing, and so I asked every time: why not simply not give her a treat? But I knew the answer.

If you cried, there were decent odds that Pearl would come and comfort you, come chirp at you and nuzzle until you felt better.

When we first moved here, Ash’s ex-husband had driven the truck containing all our stuff, and he slept here one night before leaving for good. The day after he’d left, we heard Pearl doing mouse alert in the room he’d slept in, and I just broke down sobbing at the kitchen table, thinking about how Pearl liked him despite everything and was just trying to find him, and we had no way to tell her he wasn’t coming back or explain any of it to her. To her, one of her favorite people had just disappeared, and that was so sad.

But Pearl heard me, came over, jumped on the kitchen table, and purred and headbutted me like crazy. The idea that I was sad for her and she still wanted to comfort me made me cry harder.

She would also headbutt and nuzzle Ash specifically on the mouth when they sang, or do the same to me if I whistled competently. I suppose she liked music, but only from us.

Most of all, I love… how much she doted on Ash. She slept alongside them (me only a few times), she followed them around, she waited outside doors for them. They were her favorite person. I feel so bad for them, to have lost both Twigs and Pearl back to back.

It’s been… two weeks now. Just over, because it took me another day to finish this post.

I don’t know if it’s fully clicked yet. I didn’t see Pearl much during the day, since she’d be tucked away in Ash’s office slash our bedroom. I saw her mostly at night and first thing in the morning. So while I’m out here, at my desk, it’s like nothing has changed. It only sinks in when I go upstairs and see the door left open, see a bed with no Pearl tucked in it somewhere.

It’s kind of dumbfounding just how much of this house and our lives had warped around Pearl, around this one tiny cat who loved everyone. So many things have disappeared or seem superfluous now. I was already free-feeding the other cats again since Pearl wasn’t allowed to roam the house unsupervised, but now we don’t need the kibble cage at all. Half our doors had been kept closed to make a few different places for Pearl to stay, but now none of that is necessary. Litterboxes had ended up scattered throughout the house so Pearl would always have access to one; now they’re back to being in a few central locations.

Ash doesn’t have to wake up at a specific time every day to give Pearl medicine. Pearl won’t wake us up to feed her. We don’t have to make her food, ever again.

And there are so many things that were only for Pearl. This wasn’t the case for anyone else. Styx only had communal cat sweaters; his favorite toy was loose change on my desk. Twigs, too, only had sweaters that Anise and Pearl inherited; his one dedicated toy was a single very tiny mouse he sometimes played with.

But Pearl? Half the sweaters we have only fit Pearl. Her mice were very much hers. Even her string was very much hers. We have a mortar and pestle that were specifically for grinding up her medication, oral syringes only Pearl used. She had possessions of her very own, things she’s left behind.

We knew this was coming, of course. Without the intervention of modern medicine, she would have died last March, and the outlook for heart failure in a cat isn’t great. I’ve already grieved for her several times over the past year. I didn’t see her much during the summer, but I’d been trying to spend more deliberate time with her in recent months, and I’m glad I did. I regret nothing. I earned her purrs, I played string with her exactly the right amount, I woke up to her stealing my pillow. I got the full Pearl experience.

And so did she. Ash took her outside extra over the summer, let her see a bit of the outside world (even if it was only our yard). We let her roam the house when we could, banishing Cheeseball to a room by himself if necessary, though she usually ended up sitting on a vent or my lap (or trying to heist some kibble). She got lots of treats, lots of love, lots of blankets, and even a vent all to herself. What more could she ask for?

She was living on borrowed time, but we borrowed every second we could. I don’t know what else we could’ve done. And we were there for her right up until the end. We didn’t have that opportunity with Twigs; he died in the back room, surrounded by strangers.

In the end, her heart was literally too big.

This sucks.

Pearl deserved better. She was dealt a bad hand from the beginning, but she was still friendly and kind, and then this happened. She was so young, too — her eighth birthday would’ve been next month. She, like Twigs, should’ve had twice as long.

Things won’t be difficult for her any more, I guess. I don’t know how much that comforts me.

Everything else moves on. Pearl continued until the night of January 11, 2022, but can go no further. We’re forced to leave her there, retaining only memories, while time carries us gently forward, ever further away.

So here is my landmark, my stake in the ground. Pearl was here. May this mark out the shape of who she was and leave that impression upon the world for much longer.

The finality of death resolves so many questions. I often wished I could improve Pearl’s tense relationships with Anise and Cheeseball, but now there’s no problem to solve. The interactions they had are all the interactions they will ever have. The tension is gone, now. The worries about how long Pearl’s heart will last are gone too.

The cat dynamic has shifted, again. Cheeseball and Napoleon have been much more affectionate towards Ash, and Napoleon has suddenly become a lap cat. I suppose the rest of the cats missed Ash while they were siloed away with Pearl for so long. Maybe they’re grieving? Cats are so open with their emotions, but sometimes they’re still inscrutable.

Pearl’s urn is on the dresser in our bedroom, right next to Twigs. Hers is bigger than his, somehow. But that’s Pearl for you — she always knew how to take up space.

No, this is too dire an ending. Pearl was dealt a bad hand, but she always tried to be nice despite that. She got to see a lot of places and make a lot of friends, both people and cats and even one dog. Even when she had complex and skeptical feelings about Anise, she kept trying to be friends with him. She faltered at times, but she always did her best to uphold her principles of loveliness, strong boundaries, and please give me a treat.

That’s a lot for a tiny cat. I admire her for it, and I will not forget it.

Pearl sitting contently next to Ash at their desk

Thank you for reading about Pearl. I hope you’ll remember her too. We loved her very much, and she put a lot of love back into the world. If you would like to experience more Pearl, here are some videos of her. I have some more to sift through, so this list may grow in the coming days.

And here are some games she has starred in. Or, rather, her fursona Purrl has starred in them.

Eevee gained 3367 experience points

Post Syndicated from Eevee original https://eev.ee/blog/2021/01/24/eevee-gained-3367-experience-points/

Eevee grew to level 34!

I super almost forgot to write one of these!

What a very, very long year. I went back through my dev journal to see what I’d done and could not believe most of this happened in the past year. Even stuff from August feels like it must have been at least a year ago.

I made our first Steam release: Cherry Kisses, a polished version of a jam game we made (though didn’t finish in time to get in the jam, oops) the year before. It’s sold pretty decently, especially considering the reduced audience (adult games are hidden on Steam unless you opt into them), so that’s been nice.

I started HRT! Then I stopped HRT. Alas.

I dipped my toes into Godot for real this time with Rogue Ike, a Strawberry Jam game that was perhaps much too ambitious for a first (and time-limited) attempt but worked out as a proof of concept. I don’t think I’ll pick this back up until I’ve made something a bit more substantial, though; I’ve got a lot of bits and pieces of Godot code now but still don’t feel like I have a solid grasp of how I’d approach architecture for a new game.

I poured some feelings into a little PICO-8 game: Star Anise Chronicles: Oh No Wheres Twig??, a charming little platformer about my cat’s fursona. It’s probably my favorite thing I’ve ever released.

I did actually an incredible lot of work on fox flux over the summer and made massive strides with it in a relatively short span of time? It was a broken hopeless mess at the start of the year, and now it’s… well, not. Better art, better physics, more plot ideas, a lot more little bits and pieces implemented, a whole minigame conceived and mostly implemented, a level tally… it feels like a real game, even!

I also took a crack at a possible port of fox flux to Godot, which was informative both about Godot itself and about designing complex actors in general, but I don’t think I’m going to continue with it. Godot does make some stuff easier, but at the cost of a lot of rough edges that will seriously slow me down — a lot of basic functionality I’ve been taking for granted in my current setup of LÖVE-duct-taped-to-Tiled just does not exist in Godot, and some of the 2D tooling has major oversights that I’d have to work around. Some of this will be fixed in Godot 4, but I don’t want to wait for that just to continue on this game that I’ve already poured a lot of work into. I’ll probably do something simpler in Godot 4 when it comes out.

I poured most of the last four months of the year into a surprise project, by which I mean, I surprised myself by doing it: Lexy’s Labyrinth, a web-based and unencumbered Chip’s Challenge 2 emulator — the first of its kind! It still has some teeny compatibility issues, but for the most part it faithfully plays both the original Chip’s Challenge 1 and 2 as well as tons of community levels created over the years. It needs a bit more polish, and then I’m gonna call it “basically finished” and make a bigger effort to drum up interest in it.

I think I worked on baz, the game engine I wanted to make that was intended as a bridge between MegaZeux and PuzzleScript and bitsy? But I haven’t touched it in a while now. I also started a web-based Sudoku player and then lost interest in Sudoku again. And then there was the AC:NH companion, which I kept up with until I lost interest in Animal Crossing. Hmmm.

I did dip my toe back into blogging with the well-received CSS post, and then not so much for a while. I started the “gamedev from scratch” series to replace the ill-fated book I toyed with writing, but it has yet to see a second installment.

I feel like I miss making video games, even though I did rather a lot of it this year. I guess I don’t feel like I released any; Cherry Kisses was an existing game, Rogue Ike didn’t get further than a handful of rooms, fox flux is still quite a ways off from being done, and Lexy’s Labyrinth is really a game engine. That leaves the Star Anise game as the only “““real””” one I released, but that may not be an entirely fair way to gauge how much work I’ve done.

I do miss writing more often. I guess after everything that happened three years ago, I never quite figured out how to reconnect with the universe. Sometimes I go on a tweeting spree for a couple days, and that feels nostalgic, but in general I’ve gotten more withdrawn and don’t quite know how to shake it. I’m still trying.

I like how well Cherry Kisses did, and I’d kinda like to do small adult game releases more regularly — they’re fun to design and write, they make folks happy, and they bring in a steady trickle of sales. I have a concept for one I’m going to start on during Strawberry Jam 5 next month, but it’s a bit more ambitious, so I might have to do something smaller for Steam purposes this year. Maybe I should take this as an opportunity to get a real foothold in Godot? Cherry Kisses wasn’t terribly complicated; I could recreate something like that without much trouble, and spend some time ironing out wrinkles.

I do want to keep working on fox flux — it’s been just about four years since the jam version now, and I still love the idea and would like to get it seriously going. I’ve spent so much time on engine and design stuff that I still barely have any areas to show!

And of course I would very much love to get that gamedev from scratch series going. I promised one installment per month, and I already missed December because I was neck-deep in Lexy’s Labyrinth, so I really ought to write two in the next week. We’ll see how that goes.

I don’t know how I feel about being 34. Solidly in my mid-30s. I still remember the days, twenty years ago now, when I was the youngest person I knew in almost any circles: online, at school, whatever. Now I’m usually one of the oldest, as most folks my age are off with children and careers; whereas I’ve made a life out of making weird stuff on the internet, just like I did as a teenager.

Still, I guess that means I’m exactly where I always wanted to be.

Browsers all have autoplay restrictions now, so you’ll have to hit play on this yourself.

Rowling is dangerously wrong

Post Syndicated from Eevee original https://eev.ee/blog/2020/06/11/rowling-is-dangerously-wrong/

I read J.K. Rowling’s essay.

I regret doing so.

Here are some thoughts. Trans readers, brace yourselves, especially if you didn’t read the original.

Some help came from Andrew James Carter’s response thread, which has many more citations but feels less compelling to a general audience to me.

This isn’t an easy piece to write, for reasons that will shortly become clear, but I know it’s time to explain myself on an issue surrounded by toxicity. I write this without any desire to add to that toxicity.

I admire that. I, too, would prefer not to add to the toxicity.

For people who don’t know: last December I tweeted my support for Maya Forstater, a tax specialist who’d lost her job for what were deemed ‘transphobic’ tweets. She took her case to an employment tribunal, asking the judge to rule on whether a philosophical belief that sex is determined by biology is protected in law. Judge Tayler ruled that it wasn’t.

We are off to a poor start. Framing an unrenewed contract as “losing her job” is dubious. And specifically, Judge Tayler ruled that “she will refer to a person by the sex she considered appropriate even if it violates their dignity and/or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment” — that is, she would be actively and knowingly rude towards people in the workplace, and that is not protected.

(Forstater later disingenuously claimed to have lost her job for “speaking up about women’s rights”. And I’m just now learning that she compared the use of correct pronouns to the use of rohypnol — the date rape drug — while this court case was pending. Charming.)

All the time I’ve been researching and learning, accusations and threats from trans activists have been bubbling in my Twitter timeline. This was initially triggered by a ‘like’. When I started taking an interest in gender identity and transgender matters, I began screenshotting comments that interested me, as a way of reminding myself what I might want to research later. On one occasion, I absent-mindedly ‘liked’ instead of screenshotting. That single ‘like’ was deemed evidence of wrongthink, and a persistent low level of harassment began.

This sounds like a simple misunderstanding which could have been resolved with a single explanatory tweet. Instead, your spokesperson referred to it as a “clumsy and middle-aged moment”. And now you categorize the tweet vaguely as something to research — suggesting to a casual reader that you had merely liked a link to a scholarly article, perhaps — when it was a mundane personal rant which referred to trans women as “men in dresses”.

I have a hypothesis about where the toxicity began — right there, when you clicked the heart underneath it. It’s something you know is mean and hurtful to the people it describes, and is intended to be so, and you not only defend it but cloak it in an obligatory 1984 reference. This is deceptive, mean-spirited, and shameful.

We are only on paragraph four.

Months later, I compounded my accidental ‘like’ crime by following Magdalen Burns on Twitter. Magdalen was an immensely brave young feminist and lesbian who was dying of an aggressive brain tumour. I followed her because I wanted to contact her directly, which I succeeded in doing. However, as Magdalen was a great believer in the importance of biological sex, and didn’t believe lesbians should be called bigots for not dating trans women with penises, dots were joined in the heads of twitter trans activists, and the level of social media abuse increased.

You are fucking blackface actors. You aren’t women. You’re men who get sexual kicks from being treated like women. fuck you and your dirty fucking perversions. our oppression isn’t a fetish you pathetic, sick, fuck.”

That’s what Magdalen Berns, whose name you misspelled, had to say about trans women. (Ironically, it’s not too far off from what folks used to say — and occasionally still do — about gay folks.) I’m going to hazard a guess that this was more of a concern than any discourse about who lesbians choose to date.

The funny thing is, while I’ve seen the “gender critical” crowd complain numerous times that trans women are somehow trying to force cis lesbians to have sex with them (by tweeting about it?), I’ve virtually never witnessed the phenomenon directly — and I am neck-deep in trans Twitter. Perhaps two or three times over the years, I’ve seen some discourse about “genital attraction” and whether it’s socially influenced, which I suppose is an interesting question. On one singular occasion, such a tweet came uncomfortably close to suggesting that people were obligated to correct for what’s presumed to be social influence in who they’re attracted to, and I swiftly pushed back against it.

But the way “gender critical” folks talk about this, you’d think it was the only topic trans women ever discuss! Meanwhile, do you know who most trans women I know are dating? Each other!

I mention all this only to explain that I knew perfectly well what was going to happen when I supported Maya. I must have been on my fourth or fifth cancellation by then.

Oh. So you didn’t follow merely to be able to DM her, as the last paragraph implied; it really was a show of support, one you knew people would take issue with. And you did it anyway, unapologetically. One begins to suspect you don’t care about anyone’s opinion of the cruelty you endorse.

I expected the threats of violence, to be told I was literally killing trans people with my hate, to be called cunt and bitch and, of course, for my books to be burned, although one particularly abusive man told me he’d composted them.

I am genuinely sorry that people are abusive on Twitter, but I don’t know how to avoid it when you have more followers than the populations of NYC and LA combined. It’s a much broader problem, though definitely exacerbated when you support someone who openly calls an entire minority group perverts.

I’m not sure what to make of the last part. Is composting a book worse than burning it? And are you hinting a comparison between burning one’s own personal property and the actions of Nazi Germany, or am I reading too much into this conspicuous phrasing? I hope the latter, because the former would be extremely tasteless, considering that part of what was burned was the research and library of a sex research institute which was founded by the man who coined the term “transsexualism” and had trans people as both staff and clients.

What I didn’t expect in the aftermath of my cancellation was the avalanche of emails and letters that came showering down upon me, the overwhelming majority of which were positive, grateful and supportive. They came from a cross-section of kind, empathetic and intelligent people, some of them working in fields dealing with gender dysphoria and trans people, who’re all deeply concerned about the way a socio-political concept is influencing politics, medical practice and safeguarding. They’re worried about the dangers to young people, gay people and about the erosion of women’s and girl’s [sic] rights. Above all, they’re worried about a climate of fear that serves nobody – least of all trans youth – well.

I note, conspicuously, that zero of them were from trans people, or you surely would’ve mentioned as much. You give trans youth a token mention at the end, but only as an object of external concern, not as people to be listened to and trusted about their own experiences. This is a theme that I see we’ll be revisiting.

I’d stepped back from Twitter for many months both before and after tweeting support for Maya, because I knew it was doing nothing good for my mental health. I only returned because I wanted to share a free children’s book during the pandemic. Immediately, activists who clearly believe themselves to be good, kind and progressive people swarmed back into my timeline, assuming a right to police my speech, accuse me of hatred, call me misogynistic slurs and, above all – as every woman involved in this debate will know – TERF.

I note for the audience that the “gender critical” crowd — you know, TERFs — love to use the term TRA (trans rights activist) to refer to pretty much any trans person who doesn’t buy what they’re selling. I don’t know if this is meant to be a dogwhistle, but it at least quacks like one.

More generally, “activists” is a favored scare word across the political spectrum, much like “ideology” — it conjures the image of someone who is angrily trying to push Politics on you, while neatly obscuring that the political view they’re trying to push is “please don’t be cruel to me or people like me”. Are you, Rowling, not an activist? What about the people you support, like Berns? You use “activist” ten times in this essay, and every single time to describe trans people.

It’s rhetorical sleight of hand. Trans people who want to live their lives without being called blackface actors are “activists”, while the people making those comments are merely expressing concerns. Telling people what they should be able to wear earns no mention in this essay at all, but replying on a public platform to tell you that you are being hurtful is “policing your speech”.

Do you know where I first learned about this trick? From people who opposed the gay rights movement. “Gay rights activist” was a phrase I saw bandied about a lot while I was growing up, as though wanting to be able to marry one’s partner instantly transformed a person into some sort of unreasonable lobbyist, while opposing it was just the normal and natural thing to do. Frequently they’d have one gay person who agreed with them to put on a pedestal, the proof that they didn’t actually hate gay people — at least not the ones who’d sit down and shut up and accept whatever scraps they were given.

If you didn’t already know – and why should you? – ‘TERF’ is an acronym coined by trans activists, which stands for Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist. In practice, a huge and diverse cross-section of women are currently being called TERFs and the vast majority have never been radical feminists. Examples of so-called TERFs range from the mother of a gay child who was afraid their child wanted to transition to escape homophobic bullying, to a hitherto totally unfeminist older lady who’s vowed never to visit Marks & Spencer again because they’re allowing any man who says they identify as a woman into the women’s changing rooms.

As any best-selling author would know, if a word is used incorrectly at least two times on Twitter, it loses all meaning.

From what I’ve observed, the vast majority of people referred to as TERFs are people who claim an interest in the well-being of women and lesbians, but exclude trans women from that (or outright classify them all as predators), treat trans men as confused women, speak over or outright ignore the people they claim to be defending, and spend an awful lot of time inventing or vastly exacerbating “concerns” about trans people so as to excuse spending an awful lot of the rest of their time saying incredibly nasty things.

Ironically, radical feminists aren’t even trans-exclusionary – they include trans men in their feminism, because they were born women.

This is trans-exclusionary. It’s feminism that ignores and talks over trans men, which is a strange thing for feminists to do to people they consider to be women.

But accusations of TERFery have been sufficient to intimidate many people, institutions and organisations I once admired, who’re cowering before the tactics of the playground. ‘They’ll call us transphobic!’ ‘They’ll say I hate trans people!’ What next, they’ll say you’ve got fleas?

Not wanting to come across as hating a group of people is generally considered polite. Imagine saying this about, I don’t know, lesbians.

Speaking as a biological woman, a lot of people in positions of power really need to grow a pair (which is doubtless literally possible, according to the kind of people who argue that clownfish prove humans aren’t a dimorphic species).

Is “courage is stored in the balls” feminist now?

But since you bring up dimorphism, here’s a fun anecdote that’s relevant to my field. It seems that one of the biggest factors a neural network (“AI”) uses to determine a person’s gender is… hair length! Which isn’t a dimorphic trait, at least not how you’d think. The sexes are not really all that distinct; much of it is decoration we put on ourselves to exacerbate the differences, for some reason.

For some more anecdotes, feel free to look for reports of cis lesbians being kicked out of public women’s restrooms for looking too masculine. Like this one, or this one, or this one, or this one. Whose activism do you suppose would exacerbate this?

Firstly, I have a charitable trust that focuses on alleviating social deprivation in Scotland, with a particular emphasis on women and children. Among other things, my trust supports projects for female prisoners and for survivors of domestic and sexual abuse. I also fund medical research into MS, a disease that behaves very differently in men and women. It’s been clear to me for a while that the new trans activism is having (or is likely to have, if all its demands are met) a significant impact on many of the causes I support, because it’s pushing to erode the legal definition of sex and replace it with gender.

What a perfect example. What does it mean for MS to behave very differently in men and women? “Man” versus “woman” isn’t a switch you flip; it’s a combination of dozens of factors. If the difference is caused by hormone levels — which looks plausible — then trans women on HRT will be affected similarly to cis women, because they have the same levels of estrogen! And by excluding them — by insisting we talk only about “biological” “men” and “women” rather than specific biological factors — you are miscategorizing them for no reason.

The second reason is that I’m an ex-teacher and the founder of a children’s charity, which gives me an interest in both education and safeguarding. Like many others, I have deep concerns about the effect the trans rights movement is having on both.

Ah, you mean Lumos, the charity you cofounded with Baroness Emma Nicholson, who just yesterday said that gay marriage is degrading women’s rights after attempting to repeal it in 2013? I have some deep concerns about the effect this person will have on the well-being of gay teens — and she’s not a mere “activist” or “movement”, but a lawmaker! Strange company you keep. And that’s not even getting into how she called it pedophilia for a trans charity’s website to have an escape button on it in case of abusive parents, a mere week and a half ago.

The third is that, as a much-banned author, I’m interested in freedom of speech and have publicly defended it, even unto Donald Trump.

Much-banned”? You wrote one of the best-selling books of all time and the best-selling series of all time. You have sold at least one book for every fourteen humans alive and made almost a dozen movie deals. When you tweet, it trends for days and makes national headlines. Your freedom of speech is not at risk here — and if it were, you could probably afford to inscribe whatever you wanted to say on the face of the moon.

The fourth is where things start to get truly personal. I’m concerned about the huge explosion in young women [sic] wishing to transition and also about the increasing numbers who seem to be detransitioning (returning to their original sex), because they regret taking steps that have, in some cases, altered their bodies irrevocably, and taken away their fertility. Some say they decided to transition after realising they were same-sex attracted, and that transitioning was partly driven by homophobia, either in society or in their families.

Yes, it’s truly tragic that homophobia is still rampant, such as in the baroness you cofounded a charity with. Especially in parents. Incidentally, the most common reason given for detransitioning — which is pressure from a parent (36%, see page 108); the next is harassment/discrimination (31%), followed by having trouble getting a job (29%). Most of the other reasons given were pressure from some other external source. Only 0.4% of the people in that survey reported detransitioning because they simply did not like transition. And, by the way, detransition (even temporarily) is several times more common in trans women than trans men.

If you really want to fight detransition, the most effective action you could take would be to delete this post. But you’re approaching this from the perspective that trans men are confused, just like swaths of homophobic parents have said of their gay children.

Most people probably aren’t aware – I certainly wasn’t, until I started researching this issue properly – that ten years ago, the majority of people wanting to transition to the opposite sex were male. That ratio has now reversed. The UK has experienced a 4400% increase in girls [sic] being referred for transitioning treatment. Autistic girls [sic] are hugely overrepresented in their numbers.

Of course they are. Trans people are disproportionately autistic, so this is to be expected. I’d think this would be cause for celebration — people are being treated who previously wouldn’t have been! That’s excellent progress.

But instead of celebrating it, you suggest here that autistic trans boys are being taken advantage of. No, worse; you suggest that autistic trans boys are incapable of making decisions about their own lives, and don’t even respect them enough to refer to them as they wish to be referred to. You speak over them, dismiss them as obviously wrong out of hand, and ignore how they wish to be referred to while pretending to care about their well-being. This is deeply condescending and appalling.

As an aside, it’s quite frustrating that you so frequently refuse to connect the dots — instead you leave a trail of breadcrumbs and let some haunting conclusion form in the reader’s head, while retaining plausible deniability for yourself because you never actually said the things you’re trying to imply. That leaves you free to claim that a response like this one, which spells out the winks and nods, is yet more dismissable harassment.

The same phenomenon has been seen in the US. In 2018, American physician and researcher Lisa Littman set out to explore it. In an interview, she said:

‘Parents online were describing a very unusual pattern of transgender-identification where multiple friends and even entire friend groups became transgender-identified at the same time. I would have been remiss had I not considered social contagion and peer influences as potential factors.’

Littman mentioned Tumblr, Reddit, Instagram and YouTube as contributing factors to Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria, where she believes that in the realm of transgender identification ‘youth have created particularly insular echo chambers.’

Her paper caused a furore. She was accused of bias and of spreading misinformation about transgender people, subjected to a tsunami of abuse and a concerted campaign to discredit both her and her work. The journal took the paper offline and re-reviewed it before republishing it.

This is probably because “rapid-onset gender dysphoria” is not a real phenomenon. The critical flaw in the idea is so blatantly obvious that you’ve very nearly spelled it out yourself: parents described an “unusual” pattern of behavior. Not the children themselves, not psychologists, not therapists. Parents. Parents who are upset that their children are coming out as trans, who are searching for some external factor to blame so they can rest assured that their children have simply been taken advantage of by some nefarious force.

I remember this all quite well from the 90s, except then it was about homosexuality. (A pattern begins to emerge.) There were no signs!, cry parents who punished their children for ever showing any signs, thus swiftly teaching them to put on a good act. It must be the media. It must be the evil other gays somehow influencing my poor child, who otherwise would be straight, like I want them to be.

The only difference is that this time it’s been given an acronym to lend it some veneer of credibility. But it’s not a clinical diagnosis; it’s a study of the feelings of parents who were caught off guard and are searching for an explanation other than “my child is trans”. Even the paper itself has a preface saying the term “should not be used in a way to imply that it explains the experiences of all gender dysphoric youth”.

There’s no mystery to be solved here, anyway. Talk to a single queer person (who isn’t isolated due to factors beyond their control) and I’ll bet you they have disproportionately many queer friends. People who are alike tend to clump together, especially if they sense that society at large is uncomfortable with them. All that’s been observed here is that trans teenagers form friend groups, and when one of them comes out, the others feel confident enough to come out as well. And their parents don’t like it, because of a culture that includes essays like this from household names with massive platforms.

However, her career took a similar hit to that suffered by Maya Forstater. Lisa Littman had dared challenge one of the central tenets of trans activism, which is that a person’s gender identity is innate, like sexual orientation. Nobody, the activists insisted, could ever be persuaded into being trans.

I remember this from the 90s, too. I remember the argument having to be made that sexual orientation is fixed and absolute and predetermined — because, regardless of how true or universal that may or may not be, the alternative is to leave the door open for parents and communities to try to “fix” gay children and ostracize the gay adults who had “persuaded” them into being gay.

Here we go again, except the “fix” for trans youth is to merely tell them to knock it off because they’re mistaken and leave it at that.

The argument of many current trans activists is that if you don’t let a gender dysphoric teenager transition, they will kill themselves. In an article explaining why he resigned from the Tavistock (an NHS gender clinic in England) psychiatrist Marcus Evans stated that claims that children will kill themselves if not permitted to transition do not ‘align substantially with any robust data or studies in this area. Nor do they align with the cases I have encountered over decades as a psychotherapist.’

They won’t necessarily kill themselves, but you could throw a rock and hit a study telling you that trans folks have a shockingly high rate of suicide attempts, and the absolute number one factor that drops that rate precipitously is transition. Or you could talk to a trans person and see if they have a friend who attempted/committed suicide because they were unable to transition (yes). Or at the very least, maybe cite someone who didn’t resign.

What a shockingly insensitive thing to say.

The writings of young trans men reveal a group of notably sensitive and clever people. The more of their accounts of gender dysphoria I’ve read, with their insightful descriptions of anxiety, dissociation, eating disorders, self-harm and self-hatred, the more I’ve wondered whether, if I’d been born 30 years later, I too might have tried to transition. The allure of escaping womanhood would have been huge. I struggled with severe OCD as a teenager. If I’d found community and sympathy online that I couldn’t find in my immediate environment, I believe I could have been persuaded to turn myself into the son my father had openly said he’d have preferred.

You call them clever, but immediately turn around and suggest that they are somehow artificially trans, that they have been “persuaded” into it. Again, you express ostensible care but use it as a springboard to dismiss them and talk over them. And what of trans women, who are well aware of what womanhood entails but still prefer it? This is precisely what I mentioned as the common TERF rhetoric, and is why people are calling you one: you speak piteously of trans men while suggesting with every word that you know better than they do what’s good for them, while trans women are… well, who knows what that omission might imply?

When I read about the theory of gender identity, I remember how mentally sexless I felt in youth. I remember Colette’s description of herself as a ‘mental hermaphrodite’ and Simone de Beauvoir’s words: ‘It is perfectly natural for the future woman to feel indignant at the limitations posed upon her by her sex. The real question is not why she should reject them: the problem is rather to understand why she accepts them.’

As I didn’t have a realistic possibility of becoming a man back in the 1980s, it had to be books and music that got me through both my mental health issues and the sexualised scrutiny and judgement that sets so many girls to war against their bodies in their teens. Fortunately for me, I found my own sense of otherness, and my ambivalence about being a woman, reflected in the work of female writers and musicians who reassured me that, in spite of everything a sexist world tries to throw at the female-bodied, it’s fine not to feel pink, frilly and compliant inside your own head; it’s OK to feel confused, dark, both sexual and non-sexual, unsure of what or who you are.

At last, you spell it out. But trans men are not confused and don’t need you to save them.

I want to be very clear here: I know transition will be a solution for some gender dysphoric people, although I’m also aware through extensive research that studies have consistently shown that between 60-90% of gender dysphoric teens will grow out of their dysphoria.

Flat-out incorrect. I assume you’re referring to research that the bulk (“65 to 94 percent”) of dysphoric prepubescent children will “grow out of it” — but if it persists beyond puberty (i.e., into their teens), it’s most likely permanent.

Again and again I’ve been told to ‘just meet some trans people.’ I have: in addition to a few younger people, who were all adorable, I happen to know a self-described transsexual woman who’s older than I am and wonderful. Although she’s open about her past as a gay man, I’ve always found it hard to think of her as anything other than a woman, and I believe (and certainly hope) she’s completely happy to have transitioned.

Describing them as “adorable” does not fill me with confidence that you listened to anything they had to say, especially in light of your repeated attempts to cast trans boys as confused or misled.

I’m glad you have 1 trans friend, whose viewpoint or input you manage to not actually mention whatsoever before using her as a foothold to make another “concerned” point:

Being older, though, she went through a long and rigorous process of evaluation, psychotherapy and staged transformation. The current explosion of trans activism is urging a removal of almost all the robust systems through which candidates for sex reassignment were once required to pass.

If you would “just meet some trans people”, you would know that the long and rigorous process is torture. Quite regularly I see tweets — from folks in the UK especially — about having to wait for up to a year or more just to see a gender therapist once, after which they have to wait even longer to even begin hormones. In the US, I’ve read no end of anecdotes from people who have to perform the right “kind” of transness to convince a therapist to write them a referral letter, after who knows how many sessions. And this is, quite often, after years of internal debate and questioning. Years and years of their lives lost forever.

All of this is predicated, once again, on the idea that trans people just don’t know what’s good for themselves.

A man [sic] who intends to have no surgery and take no hormones may now secure himself [sic] a Gender Recognition Certificate and be a woman in the sight of the law. Many people aren’t aware of this.

She would need a formal diagnosis and to have lived as a woman for at least two years. At least as written, a cis man cannot simply show up and get an F stamped on his passport. I don’t even know what possible purpose that would serve.

We’re living through the most misogynistic period I’ve experienced. Back in the 80s, I imagined that my future daughters, should I have any, would have it far better than I ever did, but between the backlash against feminism and a porn-saturated online culture, I believe things have got significantly worse for girls. Never have I seen women denigrated and dehumanised to the extent they are now. From the leader of the free world’s long history of sexual assault accusations and his proud boast of ‘grabbing them by the pussy’, to the incel (‘involuntarily celibate’) movement that rages against women who won’t give them sex, to the trans activists who declare that TERFs need punching and re-educating, men across the political spectrum seem to agree: women are asking for trouble. Everywhere, women are being told to shut up and sit down, or else.

I cannot believe you are comparing sexual assault and incels — who have committed mass shootings! — to angry trans people tweeting anime screenshots captioned “shut up” at you. “TERF” doesn’t even imply a woman — the most infamous one by far is a man, Graham Lineham!

Meanwhile, you have — multiple times in this essay — suggested that trans boys are misled and the choices they’ve made for themselves are somehow mistakes. I know you consider them women, because your exact phrasing was to call them “girls [sic] being referred for transitioning treatment” and then reframe their choices as actually being about misogyny. What kind of feminism is it to decide you know better than people you think are women? Not even decide, but take for granted, speak about as though their agency never existed to be dismissed in the first place?

I’ve read all the arguments about femaleness not residing in the sexed body, and the assertions that biological women don’t have common experiences, and I find them, too, deeply misogynistic and regressive. It’s also clear that one of the objectives of denying the importance of sex is to erode what some seem to see as the cruelly segregationist idea of women having their own biological realities or – just as threatening – unifying realities that make them a cohesive political class. The hundreds of emails I’ve received in the last few days prove this erosion concerns many others just as much. It isn’t enough for women to be trans allies. Women must accept and admit that there is no material difference between trans women and themselves.

Who has said that cis women don’t have common biological experiences? The issue is that most trans men and some nonbinary folks also have those experiences (and some cis women don’t), so if you’re going to talk about them, why not talk about the experience instead of saying “women” and presuming that everyone will intuit which of a dozen possible facets of womanhood you’re referring to?

And if the experience in question is a social one, based on other people’s perception of you as a woman, then guess what: loads of trans women will also have had those experiences.

But, as many women have said before me, ‘woman’ is not a costume. ‘Woman’ is not an idea in a man’s head. ‘Woman’ is not a pink brain, a liking for Jimmy Choos or any of the other sexist ideas now somehow touted as progressive.

The women saying those things, anecdotally, appear to have significant overlap with women who criticize trans women for not “looking” female enough. Or who, sadly, misidentify cis women as trans women for not “looking” female enough. You know, that refined classical sexism.

If trans women wear dresses, they’re treating womanhood as a costume; if they don’t, they’re faking it.

Moreover, the ‘inclusive’ language that calls female people ‘menstruators’ and ‘people with vulvas’ strikes many women as dehumanising and demeaning. I understand why trans activists consider this language to be appropriate and kind, but for those of us who’ve had degrading slurs spat at us by violent men, it’s not neutral, it’s hostile and alienating.

Clearly you don’t understand, as no one is blanket referring to “female people” as “menstruators”. The current kerfuffle started because you commented on an article titled “Creating a more equal post-COVID-19 world for people who menstruate”. It used that phrasing because it was about menstruation (and was written by three women). The only person in this whole mess who has tried to reduce women to their body parts is you, in your initial tweet, insisting that menstruation is a uniquely defining feature of womanhood.

Moreover, the article is about addressing a women’s health and women’s rights issue, and it mentions women frequently, but your only response was to criticize the title for trying to include the very people — trans men — that you keep trampling in this essay. I find your choice of priorities increasingly alarming.

If you could come inside my head and understand what I feel when I read about a trans woman dying at the hands of a violent man, you’d find solidarity and kinship. I have a visceral sense of the terror in which those trans women will have spent their last seconds on earth, because I too have known moments of blind fear when I realised that the only thing keeping me alive was the shaky self-restraint of my attacker.

I believe the majority of trans-identified people not only pose zero threat to others, but are vulnerable for all the reasons I’ve outlined. Trans people need and deserve protection. Like women, they’re most likely to be killed by sexual partners. Trans women who work in the sex industry, particularly trans women of colour, are at particular risk. Like every other domestic abuse and sexual assault survivor I know, I feel nothing but empathy and solidarity with trans women who’ve been abused by men.

So I want trans women to be safe. At the same time, I do not want to make natal girls and women less safe. When you throw open the doors of bathrooms and changing rooms to any man who believes or feels he’s a woman – and, as I’ve said, gender confirmation certificates may now be granted without any need for surgery or hormones – then you open the door to any and all men who wish to come inside. That is the simple truth.

I’m sorry for what you went through, but these few paragraphs horrify me. You understand and describe in vivid detail what some of these women go through, how their lives end, how at risk they are, and then immediately segue into how those women should not be given shelter — hell, not even just shelter, but a place to pee — because someone else might hypothetically abuse it.

I must be missing something, because this has never made sense to me. People who commit sexual assault are not especially interested in following the rules, so how is adding another rule meant to dissuade them from this contrived scheme? If someone is around to police who goes into the bathroom, why could that same person not instead intervene if someone tries to cause harm?

Anyway, what do you propose instead? You never say, which seems deeply at odds with your desire for trans women to be safe. The only alternative I ever hear involves checking identification and chromosomal analysis and all kinds of other absurdity — which is clearly aimed at trans folks and not nefarious men. Are you fine with the status quo, which is that trans people already use whatever bathroom they find most appropriate? Or do you think your trans woman friend should be forced into the men’s room, surrounded by men? Without saying one way or the other, you’re actively encouraging fear and hostility towards people who just want to pee — and not just towards trans people, but towards anyone who doesn’t “look female enough”.

On Saturday morning, I read that the Scottish government is proceeding with its controversial gender recognition plans, which will in effect mean that all a man needs to ‘become a woman’ is to say he’s one. To use a very contemporary word, I was ‘triggered’. Ground down by the relentless attacks from trans activists on social media, when I was only there to give children feedback about pictures they’d drawn for my book under lockdown, I spent much of Saturday in a very dark place inside my head, as memories of a serious sexual assault I suffered in my twenties recurred on a loop. That assault happened at a time and in a space where I was vulnerable, and a man capitalised on an opportunity. I couldn’t shut out those memories and I was finding it hard to contain my anger and disappointment about the way I believe my government is playing fast and loose with womens and girls’ safety.

Why did you take it out on the very people you just said you also want to be safe? Why did you take it out on an article that had little to do with safety and was pushing for better health and privacy? You’ve already said you know exactly how your actions will be perceived, so the backlash this time cannot have come as a surprise.

There was so much opportunity here for talking about cultural expectations and gender roles, how those foster and overlook violence and aggression from boys from a young age, how a lot of societal structures still suggest that men are “owed” something by women, or how violence is more broadly glorified in Western culture. As a world-renowned author who’s done extensive feminist research, you could surely make an impact.

Instead, you decided to hurt people.

Late on Saturday evening, scrolling through children’s pictures before I went to bed, I forgot the first rule of Twitter – never, ever expect a nuanced conversation – and reacted to what I felt was degrading language about women. I spoke up about the importance of sex and have been paying the price ever since. I was transphobic, I was a cunt, a bitch, a TERF, I deserved cancelling, punching and death. You are Voldemort said one person, clearly feeling this was the only language I’d understand.

You offered absolutely no nuance yourself, and this essay has carefully weaved around it the whole time as well. You, a straight person, co-opted the gay community’s struggle so you could wield it as a club against trans people — after tossing them Dumbledore as a token afterthought — despite having ties yourself to an MP who has actively tried to erode gay rights.

But yes, let us talk about Harry Potter and how it reflects your values. Zero non-heterosexual characters mentioned within the canon. But more of interest: where are the women? The main character, a boy; his mentor and the primary authority figure, a man; the teacher he’s at odds with, a man; the rival and entourage, all boys; his best friend, a boy; the awkward coward who gets a late redemption arc, a boy; the primary antagonist, a man; the sympathetic adult confidant, a man; the rediscovered long-lost family member, a man; the endlessly regenerating Defense Against the Dark Arts teachers, all men except for the cartoon villain Umbridge. The Weasleys have seven children; six are boys. Two of the Hogwarts founders are men, and two women… ah, but the men are the founders of the two plot-important houses. Vernon is clearly the head of the Dursley family, and their only child is a boy. On it goes.

Girls can aspire to be the nerd no one likes (hey, that’s me!), the insane woman no one believes, the abusive monster, the nurse with no personality, or one of a handful of love interests. McGonagall is extremely cool and can turn into a cat, I grant you. And I think there was someone named Bellatrix? But wasn’t she a Death Eater?

I don’t claim to be an expert on your series; on the contrary, I read them casually when they came out and haven’t revisited them since. This is the cast that left an impression on me. I have published half-hour video games with more female characters than I can name off the top of my head from the entire Harry Potter canon. Where was your concern for uplifting girls throughout the decade you spent writing the most popular book series in the history of the human race? Where was your interest in the well-being of gay teens as you dedicated untold pages to descriptions of wizard football?

I hope that’s enough nuance.

It would be so much easier to tweet the approved hashtags – because of course trans rights are human rights and of course trans lives matter – scoop up the woke cookies and bask in a virtue-signalling afterglow. There’s joy, relief and safety in conformity. As Simone de Beauvoir also wrote, “… without a doubt it is more comfortable to endure blind bondage than to work for one’s liberation; the dead, too, are better suited to the earth than the living.”

Virtue signalling” is not in itself a bad thing; it is literally the indication to others of what our values are, so others know what we believe and how we are likely to treat them. Your essay still signals your virtues, as does mine.

Of course” trans rights are human rights? I cannot even tell if this is meant to be serious or sarcastic, with how much seething resentment you’ve wrapped it in. Do you also consider your supposed support of lesbians to be “conformity”, since that’s no longer an especially controversial stance?

This is all outright reactionary rhetoric and you know it. You are using the very same catchphrases that the incels you so revile use when justifying their hatred for women.

Huge numbers of women are justifiably terrified by the trans activists; I know this because so many have got in touch with me to tell their stories. They’re afraid of doxxing, of losing their jobs or their livelihoods, and of violence.

Who is doxxing people? I tried to look into this and instead found a list of TERF websites with a prominent warning that they track and doxx and harass trans people; the Rational Wiki asserting that TERFs engage in doxxing; and this second-hand account that an ex-TERF was “threatened with doxing” by her own allies and “kept in a perpetual state of fear”.

And who on earth is sinking to violence over this? I find e.g. the “photo with a gun pointed at the viewer” phenomenon pretty distasteful, but it doesn’t seem to be unique to this issue, it’s not an especially credible threat of violence, and it’s the closest to actual violence I’ve ever heard of here. Surely, if anyone had come to blows, we’d never hear the end of it?

I note that Forstater’s contract wasn’t renewed because, as best as we can tell, she made her coworkers uncomfortable and the work environment hostile. Meanwhile, trans people can be (and are) fired for simply existing. Citing this as a fear people have of trans people, as though they were some large shadowy conspiracy, feels fairly tasteless.

But endlessly unpleasant as its constant targeting of me has been, I refuse to bow down to a movement that I believe is doing demonstrable harm in seeking to erode ‘woman’ as a political and biological class and offering cover to predators like few before it. I stand alongside the brave women and men, gay, straight and trans, who’re standing up for freedom of speech and thought, and for the rights and safety of some of the most vulnerable in our society: young gay kids, fragile teenagers, and women who’re reliant on and wish to retain their single sex spaces. Polls show those women are in the vast majority, and exclude only those privileged or lucky enough never to have come up against male violence or sexual assault, and who’ve never troubled to educate themselves on how prevalent it is.

By “young gay kids” and “fragile teenagers”, are you once again obliquely referring to young trans people who you take to be merely confused? What of their freedom of thought, of their right to decide who they are for themselves without seeing you use them as ammunition against other people like them? What impact do you think that will have on them, exactly?

Falling back on “freedom of speech” to defend one’s own hurtful speech is another reactionary talking point; when you cannot defend your speech on its own merits, you can only defend that it is not literally illegal to say.

What polls are you finding? 26% is not a vast majority, and it’s troubling that you proactively dismiss the women who disagree with you as aloof and uninformed. What kind of feminism is that?

The one thing that gives me hope is that the women who can protest and organise, are doing so, and they have some truly decent men and trans people alongside them. Political parties seeking to appease the loudest voices in this debate are ignoring women’s concerns at their peril. In the UK, women are reaching out to each other across party lines, concerned about the erosion of their hard-won rights and widespread intimidation. None of the gender critical women I’ve talked to hates trans people; on the contrary. Many of them became interested in this issue in the first place out of concern for trans youth, and they’re hugely sympathetic towards trans adults who simply want to live their lives, but who’re facing a backlash for a brand of activism they don’t endorse. The supreme irony is that the attempt to silence women with the word ‘TERF’ may have pushed more young women towards radical feminism than the movement’s seen in decades.

Absolute bullshit. You’ve consistently brushed off or spoken for women and trans men who disagree with you in this post alone, but frame your own stance as though it were shared by all women. Two women you’ve mentioned by name and made a point of supporting — Maya Forstater and Magdalen Berns — have said some astonishingly cruel things about trans people as blanket remarks, so I can only interpret their “non-hate” in the same way as people repeatedly told my younger self that they loved me but I would burn for all eternity if I kissed both boys and girls. If their “concern” for trans youth is anything like yours, then they’re only interested in trying to berate trans youth into not wanting to be trans any more — yet again, no different from how homophobia played out.

And, hang on, they’re hugely sympathetic towards trans adults who’re facing backlash? You must be joking. They — and you — ARE the backlash! What good is sympathy from the very people who are deliberately hurting you?

The last thing I want to say is this. I haven’t written this essay in the hope that anybody will get out a violin for me, not even a teeny-weeny one. I’m extraordinarily fortunate; I’m a survivor, certainly not a victim. I’ve only mentioned my past because, like every other human being on this planet, I have a complex backstory, which shapes my fears, my interests and my opinions. I never forget that inner complexity when I’m creating a fictional character and I certainly never forget it when it comes to trans people.

You’ve done so multiple times in this essay alone, and your heroes do it on a pretty consistent basis. What an insult to everyone who read this.

All I’m asking – all I want – is for similar empathy, similar understanding, to be extended to the many millions of women whose sole crime is wanting their concerns to be heard without receiving threats and abuse.

In the entirety of this essay, you didn’t even mention a single concrete concern. You did some vague fearmongering about how a cis man could get a piece of paper saying he’s a woman, and that’s all. Meanwhile, you managed to repeatedly misgender and patronize trans boys; paint trans adults as a nefarious political movement trying to “persuade” children; cite multiple people who’ve been fiercely nasty towards trans people as a whole, while avoiding mentioning what they actually did so you could frame them as innocent victims; invoke multiple homophobic and reactionary tropes with a quick coat of paint slapped on top; present “parents who wish their children were cis” as though it were a diagnosed phenomenon; and generally checked off every possible TERF talking point while smiling kindly the whole time.

You’re saying things you know are actively hurtful in the name of preventing a hypothetical harm that is so nebulous you can’t even describe it.

This sucks.

Eevee gained 3169 experience points

Post Syndicated from Eevee original https://eev.ee/blog/2020/01/14/eevee-gained-3169-experience-points/

Eevee grew to level 33!

I had kind of a rough year. Between medication issues, a lot of interpersonal tangles, and discovering ancient trauma, it feels like my head is full of static a lot of the time, and I don’t know how to create when I’m in that state. I might be able to function, even do rote programming work, but I just can’t synthesize.

And that sucks. I miss it. I miss writing! I barely wrote anything here all year. I’ve had a half-finished post open for months and just haven’t been able to wrap it up and get it out.

I’m working on it. It’s just hard.

Ash and I made Cherry Kisses (nsfw), probably the best puzzle game I’ve designed and the most polished game we’ve released, so that was nice. I also made a particle wipe generator out of the screen wipe effect I used in the game.

I started on baz, a game creator meant to kinda blend the styles of MegaZeux and PuzzleScript and bitsy, but it’s yet to see the light of day.

I worked a lot on fox flux — adding water physics, redesigning the player sprite, inventing some new mechanics, adding a menu, refactoring to use an ECS-like approach, massively cleaning up my collision code, and whatnot. I also got stuck in a quagmire of trying to make push physics work how I want, but never actually got it working despite pouring weeks and weeks into it, and now the whole codebase is in a broken shambles. Kind of a mixed bag there.

I finally started on GLEAM, an editor for the VN engine I’ve used for Floraverse for many years now. It’s not quite ready for public use, but it’s far enough along that I can make VNs with it and only a little manual adjusting, which is cool.

Twigs died.

After half a year of pulling teeth, we managed to get Ash’s divorce from Marl finalized.

Ash and I married.

I did the advent calendar, which included a dozen or so smaller projects. That was pretty fun, if a bit ambitious.

I drew more than the previous year, I think, and probably got better at it. I even drew some character references, at long last.

I don’t know what I’ll do this year! I’m tired of listing a bunch of ambitions and then not being able to do them. But I’ll keep trying.

Goodbye, Twigs

Post Syndicated from Eevee original https://eev.ee/blog/2019/10/26/goodbye-twigs/

Twigs lounging in a cat tree, while a bright sunbeam illuminates him from behind

I did not expect my return to writing to be like this.

Twigs, our nine-year-old sphynx cat, has died.

He is survived by Pearl, his lovely niece; Anise, his best friend and sparring partner; Cheeseball, his wrestling protégé; and Napoleon, his oldest and dearest friend.

Twigs was Ash’s¹ cat, more than I have ever known anyone to be anyone’s cat. He loved them so much. No matter where in the house they went to sit or lie down, Twigs was practically guaranteed to appear a short time later to insert himself into their lap.

¹ For those who’ve been following along for some time, Ash used to go by Mel.

If there was no room for him, or Ash rebuffed him for whatever reason, or if he was just in the mood, his backup plan was to sit somewhere else and keep an eye on them. Sometimes I’d be talking to Ash and catch sight of Twigs behind them, staring at them. Just watching. I’d tell Ash, and they’d turn around and giggle at him, and he’d keep on staring. Sometimes they played hide-and-seek with him, ducking out of sight and then peeking back out at him; he might still be staring, or he might have trotted over to see where they went. Or they could call out to him, just say his name, and he’d acknowledge them with a little meow and come over. They could summon him silently, too, with nothing more than eye contact and a particular nod.

Sometimes we’d be sitting apart and Twigs would sit on me instead, laying chest-to-chest against me. He’d play this ridiculous game where he’d nuzzle my chin a few times, then look at Ash for a moment before doing it again. As if to say, hey, look what you’re missing out on. Or maybe just to say he hadn’t forgotten about them.

Twigs liked to sit at the top of the cat tree in our dining room, right in the path of a huge sunbeam for much of the day, where he could watch Ash at their desk and also see most of the house. We got a huge beanbag over the summer and put it behind Ash’s desk, and Twigs spent a lot of time there as well. He did his own thing at times, certainly, but it was rare for a day to go by without Twigs trying to be close to Ash.

If Ash was inaccessible — in someone else’s bedroom with the door closed, or in the backyard, or even in the bathroom for too long — Twigs would sit at the objectionable door and yell for them. I can’t think of many other cat meow I’d describe as a yell, but that’s definitively what Twigs did. MYAOOOW? MYEHHHH! When Ash was out of town, I’d often hear him trotting up and down the upstairs hallway, yelling for them — until he gave up looking for the moment and came to snuggle with me, just as intensely, like I were the one he’d been looking for all along.

His favorite thing in the world was bedtime, when Ash would finally not be distracted by anything else, and he could lay with them all night. All the cats sleep with us to varying degrees, but Twigs was usually the first to show up. His arrival was so distinct: the quiet footsteps, the weight on the bed, and then the purr would start up before we could even see him. He’d spend all night with us most nights, laying on Ash’s chest in the classic Sphinx pose or curled up behind their knees under the blanket.

I loved how frequently he showed up already purring, apparently anticipating how good of a time he was about to have. It came across as this comical overconfidence, like he took for granted that of course he would be involved in whatever Ash was doing. But his purr, as common and subdued as it was, was such a deep and full and genuine rumble. He made me feel like I’d earned it, like I must’ve done something truly admirable to earn this level of praise. I always called it regal. The purr of a king.

In the early morning hours of October 13, early enough that it was still the previous night, Twigs came downstairs and yelled. That wasn’t unusual; he’d yell for Ash’s attention all the time. But then he lay on his stomach, angled straight up like the actual Sphinx, a pose he exclusively reserved for comfy places like laps and cat beds.

Ash and I went over to check him out, but we couldn’t find any tender spots, injuries, or other obvious problems. My best guess was a stomachache, which wasn’t unheard of for Twigs; perhaps laying on his stomach helped settle it? The room was a little chilly and he wasn’t wearing a sweater, so Ash wrapped him in a blanket and set him on the beanbag he liked, in the path of a heat lamp.

We went to bed only an hour or so later, and Ash carried Twigs with them. Without the heat lamp on him, he was noticeably cold to the touch now, and starting to stumble. I didn’t think of it until later, but as cold as he was, he never shivered once.

We rushed him to a 24/7 emergency vet.

His temperature was 92 when we arrived. Normal body temperature for cats is around 100.

They set about warming him up, rushed through some authorizations, drew some blood, told us results would come in about thirty minutes.

Twigs didn’t make it that long. At 4:26 in the morning, cold and confused, somewhere in a sterile room apart from everyone he’d ever known and loved, his heart stopped.

Only three or four hours had passed since he first showed any signs of distress whatsoever, and Twigs was gone.

Twigs was so expressive! He had so much personality, and he showed all of it. Sphynxes seem a little easier to read than furred cats, but… well, Pearl is a little reserved, and Anise is downright incomprehensible. Twigs was an open book.

Photos don’t quite do him justice, since cats are easiest to photograph when they’re relaxing. All of his body language and facial expressions felt really crisp and distinct, like he wanted you to know what he was thinking, but didn’t want to ham it up. How do I even explain this? How would I explain the faces a human makes, even?

His “I love sitting on you” face, his “I want to eat that” face, his “this is a bit annoying but I’ll put up with it” face… they were all so clear and distinct, moreso than any of our other cats, moreso than any cat I’ve met. He’d even turn up the corners of his mouth when he was really happy, making a little cat smile.

His eyes were huge and beautiful, and we got to see them a lot while he played sentinel, perched somewhere with a good field of view. They were different colors, too! Only slightly, but in the right light, one was distinctly greener and the other distinctly bluer. It was obvious from a glance at his eyes whether he was staring into space, watching you, wanting something from you, or wanting to come over to you.

He was always, always delighted when someone would pet him. I don’t think Twigs ever acted solitary; he stands out as the most readily and consistently affectionate cat we’ve had. He even had a specific expression for when he was in a good mood and wanted someone to pet him, which I called “bedroom eyes” — both because he lidded his eyes a bit, and because he mostly did it when laying in bed with us. If he was especially happy, he’d come lie on your chest, scoot forwards as far as he possibly could, and give you super nuzzles all over your chin.

Twigs had a very pettable head, too. Broad, with his ears more to the sides. I always said he had a cheese head, because it reminded me of a cheese wedge? For some reason? He had a good cheese head, perfect for kissing (“kitten kisses”), which he seemed to understand was a sign of affection. He loved having his head pet so much that he’d keep tilting his head further and further back, ostensibly to press harder against your hand — but if he was perched on the top level of a cat tree, that made it harder to reach the top of his head, so you’d have to do this silly little negotiation with him. It made his smile all the easier to see, though.

He had some other quirky little “tells” that seemed subtle, but that gave away what he’d almost certainly do next: hesitating in a particular way before inexplicably dashing away, or looking up and around at the ceiling before doing a big meow.

His meows! Twigs had a huge vocabulary, and so much of it was for asking politely for things. His “yell” for when he wanted Ash was big and boisterous, with a little characteristic warble to it, and he opened his mouth comically wide when he did it. If he wanted Ash’s steak scraps (which he loved), he had a very reserved meow for asking for them. If he couldn’t get under a blanket, he had a different reserved meow for asking for help. He was the only cat who regularly did that funny chirpy meow at bugs on the wall, though we hadn’t heard that one since we left the Seattle area — Vegas didn’t have nearly as many bugs.

When Anise would roughhouse a bit too hard, Twigs had a distinct pained meow for “this is too much” that would bring one of us running. I didn’t hear it much after we got Cheeseball, who acts as a more eager sparring partner for Anise, until one day I heard a distorted version of it — and I found Twigs and Cheeseball happily wrestling! Twigs came up with a new meow, ending on a happy note rather than a painful one, just for when he was playing with this new giant kitten friend.

One of the most frustrating parts of this is that it’s so hard to capture a cat’s meows, or a lot of other subtleties. As vocal as Twigs was, he still only spoke when he had something to say, and that was rarely when he was in front of a camera. I remember them so clearly now, but how can I convey them in text? Myehhh doesn’t really cut it. (I’ve been sorting through old cat videos, but it’s slow going; I’ll throw some of them up somewhere in the near future.)

I don’t understand what happened.

The test results only showed that he was severely anemic — he had far too few red blood cells, so he couldn’t warm himself or get enough oxygen. They didn’t explain how he’d reached that point in a matter of hours without showing milder symptoms first.

The day had been entirely normal. Twigs had been happy and active earlier in the afternoon. He wasn’t in the habit of chewing or eating strange things. We keep all our cats indoors, and the others are still fine, so he couldn’t have picked up a communicable illness. If he’d ever shown any sign that anything was wrong, I know with absolute certainty that Ash would’ve noticed, just as I immediately noticed when my cat Styx had lost weight. But there was nothing.

What, then, actually happened to him? I don’t know. I’ll never know. I briefly thought to ask for an autopsy, but at the time, I couldn’t bear the thought of what that would… mean.

No explanation, no reason, nothing to blame. Twigs was his healthy happy self all day, all week, all month, all year. Right up until he wasn’t. And then he died.

Twigs was so friendly. Kind, even. He never hurt anyone; he rarely did anything unexpected or rambunctious. He rarely even messed with things he shouldn’t, in sharp contrast to Anise, who tries to push my phone off my desk anytime he wants my attention; the most Twigs would do was gingerly tap something with a paw to see if it would react, then move on.

(Well, with one exception. If he found an unguarded glass of water, but the water level was too low for him to reach it, he was smart enough to tip the whole glass over and douse everything on your desk. We switched to reusable water bottles years ago.)

I can’t think of a single time Twigs was mean or angry or even wanted to be alone. All the cats have times they’re comfortable and don’t want to be disturbed, or just aren’t in the mood, or whatever — except Twigs.

If Ash scolded him (“Twigs!”), he’d dash off to a cat tree and scrabble at it briefly, taking his frustrations out with a few quick scratches and this funny little shimmy of his hips, then forget all about it. In extreme cases, he might run upstairs to our empty bedroom, yell once or twice, then come back down. Or in milder cases, when he couldn’t get something he wanted, he’d snort audibly and that was that. It was so, so charming — if he was upset, all he needed to do was go somewhere to yell about it for a moment, and then he was fine.

He was so patient, too. Ash put little costumes on him a few times, which he took in stride — well, for a cat, at least. He was always happy to be picked up, wrapped in clothing or a blanket, and/or held in all manner of silly positions. You could check his teeth and he’d hardly mind at all. Play with his ears, shake his paw, squish his lip, whatever; he was content just to be interacted with. (I suspect there was some mutual reinforcement between Ash doing goofy things to Twigs, and Twigs laying in increasingly obnoxious ways on Ash.)

He didn’t much like having his claws trimmed, and when Ash would do it, he used to bite the squishy part of their thumb — but not bite down, only put his teeth around their hand. Enough to communicate “I don’t like this” without trying to hurt them. Ash eventually started bribing him with cat treats every few claws, and then he disliked the process a bit less.

His good nature extended to the other cats, as well. He befriended every cat we’ve ever had! I didn’t really think about it until after he died, but if I ever saw two or more cats hanging out together, Twigs was almost guaranteed to be one of them. He was the binding force of our little cat sitcom.

There was one brief exception, when Ash first adopted Pearl — the first new cat since Twigs that was 100% Ash’s. They kept Pearl with them all the time at first, and Twigs got so jealous. Very early on he made his feelings very clear: he stood on the other side of the room, stared right at Ash (and Pearl), and made a huge meow at them. Then after like three days he found out that he and Pearl could both fit in Ash’s lap and everything was fine.

He’d cozy up with Anise or Pearl for warmth, and we’d often see all three of them nestled together, as though Twigs’s soothing presence deterred Anise and Pearl from their usual squabbling. He had an awkward but friendly relationship with Napoleon, the most aloof of the cats by far, who doesn’t show much affection towards any of the others except Pearl. I remember Napoleon used to refuse to groom Twigs anywhere but on the backs of his ears (the only place he had fur!), but after some years together, we started to see Napoleon grooming Twigs’s face and neck as well. For Napoleon, that was a really close friendship.

Twigs was even friends with Apollo, the German shepherd we used to have, who was much bigger than this tiny bald cat. I have a video of Twigs and Apollo playing, where Apollo is gently nudging Twigs around with his nose and Twigs alternates between nuzzling and lightly smacking Apollo. What a sweetheart. I don’t think any other cat interacted with Apollo quite like that.

He had a somewhat more complicated dynamic with Anise, who’s a good bit rowdier and more… destructive. Anise liked to start little brawls a lot, which wasn’t quite Twigs’s usual style, but he’d play along until Anise got too rough. (It probably didn’t help that Twigs would often respond by grabbing Anise by the sweater, which allowed Anise to wriggle backwards out of it and unleash his full powers.)

It’s been funny looking at older photos; when we first got Anise, Twigs was pristine, with maybe a scar or two on his haunch somewhere. (And all down the top of his tail, which he liked to nibble with some intensity.) At the end of his life, Twigs was riddled with little round scars from where Anise had bitten his back, and even a conspicuous dark spot right on top of his head. Who bites someone’s head?

I don’t remember his relationship with Styx as clearly, but I have enough photo evidence of it. The two of them were very close and spent a lot of time snuggled together, whether sleeping or just hanging out. We even got them matching pink sweaters! I’d forgotten that was deliberate. They played together, too, though much less seriously than Anise and on more “even” terms.

Six and a half years ago, my own cat Styx died. He’d been my cat, the way Twigs was Ash’s cat, sticking to me like glue the whole time I had him. But then Styx contracted a cruel and incurable illness, one that can strike even indoor cats and prefers to take the young. He wasted away over the course of a month.

I’d like to think that, whatever it was that took Twigs from us, maybe this swift departure saved him from the kind of long and excruciating ordeal that Styx went through.

I wrote his eulogy the day after he died. I avoided looking at it for years, but finally went back and read it a few days ago. It seemed so short! Was that really all I had to say about him? I knew him for over a year, yet I feel like I barely got to know him — I think Cheeseball is already older than Styx was when he died, and Cheeseball’s personality is still rapidly developing.

I was more shocked to find my own tweets from soon after Styx’s death, saying I couldn’t even look at photos of him. How long did that last? I don’t remember.

It hurt too much, so I avoided his memory, and now so much of it is a fragmented blur. Watching him deterioriate was gut-wrenching, and the worst part of his life — but it’s what I spilled the most ink on, and the part I need the least help remembering. Why did I write so much about that month? None of it was important in the end, yet I liveblogged every gratuitous medical detail. I guess I didn’t know what else to do, watching Styx wither away in my arms, while I couldn’t do anything about it.

I still cry for him, sometimes. I get a little sad over something else, and I remember Styx, and I cry. No matter how many of the details fade, I know I had a little cat named Styx who I loved dearly, and he loved me back.

This feels like a second chance, though. I won’t make the same mistake again.

It was hard to grieve with Ash all those years ago, back when things were so awkward. Now we can mourn together, and thinking about Twigs doesn’t sting the way thinking about Styx used to. It finally feels okay to remember Styx, too, and I’ve been rediscovering some old moments as I’ve sorted through photos in search of Twigs.

We’ve been celebrating and filling our space with both of them — we printed out physical copies of our favorite photo of each and put them in little thematic frames. Their pawprint casts are together on a shelf behind Ash’s desk. Nearby is Twigs’s urn, and I’d like to put Styx’s humble grave marker next to it, once I figure out where I packed it. Ash is painting portraits of them.

At my suggestion, we threw Twigs a little goodbye party — I baked a pumpkin cake (in honor of his homemade pumpkin cat food and the one fall he loved a tiny pumpkin), Ash decorated it, and we talked about Twigs and all the things about him that we miss. I insisted we wear party hats.

I’ve been taking notes on his life ever since he died, all so I could write this eulogy for him. It’s intimidating and even more difficult than I expected, trying to capture a life that meant so much to us in only a few thousand words. I hope I’m doing him justice. I want everyone to know how good Twigs was, and how much we’ve lost.

Twigs had his sassy side, but it was always sweet and harmless. Less like typical cat aloofness, more like that charming confidence of showing up to cuddle with his purr already in full swing, completely taking for granted that he was welcome and was about to enjoy himself. Or the similar energy he put on display when you were on a couch and he wanted to sit on you: he’d identify the most Twigs-shaped nook on your body and wedge his butt backwards into it, sometimes even hoisting himself with his front legs a bit, like a human settling into a recliner.

For example: if Twigs tried to approach Ash but Ash pushed him away — e.g., because they were eating or painting or their lap was occupied — then Twigs would often do a complete circle around the table or part of the room, only to approach Ash again from the other direction. It was so comical! So gentle and friendly, but cheerfully defiant about being near Ash. As if he couldn’t even imagine that he was disallowed for the moment. The problem must have been with his approach. There’s just no other rational explanation.

Since living in Colorado, we’ve occasionally come home and opened the front door only for Twigs to immediately dart outside… just so he could cross the front porch, stop at the nearest blade of grass, and bite it. None of the other cats have ever shown any interest in grass, but every once in a great while, Twigs would just get a hankering, and it’s the only reason he’s ever so much as attempted to leave the house. (Thank goodness.)

The thing that hit hardest right after he died was the feeding routine. Several of the cats eat storebought food, kept out of reach in a big dog cage we bought for this purpose, while Pearl and Twigs share homemade food. For the last couple months, whenever I went to go open the cage to let the other cats in, Twigs would trot along with them! He wouldn’t actually go in the cage, and he’d even slow down before getting to it (so the others would get ahead and it’d be easy to keep him out), but he acted like he belonged inside. It was such a perfect reflection of his personality: he went after something he wanted, yet he stopped short of breaking the rules.

Twigs knew how to have a good time, too. He loved rollin’ around on carpet. He’d wriggle on his back, grab the carpet with his claws and pull himself along it, and clearly be having the time of his life. Our Vegas home didn’t have any carpeted floors, but we added a little carpeted platform to the stairs (so the cats wouldn’t fall off!) and he had just as good a time on that. Later we got some small cat trees with singular round platforms, and those had a carpet texture he loved as well.

Rollin’ around would put Twigs in a feisty mood, and he’d reach out to smack anyone — cat, dog, or human — who came nearby. Ash would make a game out of this: they’d tap the floor nearby or the edge of the platform, then try to pull their hand away before Twigs “got” them. Sometimes Twigs would make a very riled-up face but not try to get you, and you could wind him up a little more by performing the “cat pat” — lightly and repeatedly tapping his haunch with your fingertips. You could watch him get more rowdy in real time, and then the game was to stop before he suddenly rolled over and tried to grab your hand.

Our home near Seattle was just up the street from a big park, and on a couple occasions, Ash took Twigs out for a walk on a little leash. On one such walk, while I was holding Twigs’s leash, he suddenly darted straight away from me and towards some underbrush! The leash caught him, of course, but he was running so fast that it actually yanked him right off the ground and flipped him over. (He was fine, albeit just as surprised as we were!)

(On another walk, Twigs stood right in front of Ash and made a huge myeehhhh up at them, clearly indicating that he was Done With Outside For Now. Poor baby. Ash picked him up, wrapped him in their sweatshirt, and held him until we got home. He really knew how to say exactly what he was thinking.)

Twigs played the typical cat games as well, when he felt like it — he might join in when we were playing string with Pearl, or teleport into the room when the laser pointer came out. One of the last things Twigs played with was a tiny mouse toy, ripped and with its stuffing pouring out. He sometimes liked to carry them around, roll around on the floor fighting them, then carry them somewhere else and do it again. He had a surprising ferocity with toys at times: wild eyes and incredibly quick pounces! It made me appreciate all the more how gentle he was with cats and people.

Once in a great while he’d play fetch, repeatedly bringing the same toy (or twist-tie or something) back to Ash’s feet so they could toss it and he could pounce it again. I even have an old video of Twigs playing chase: Ash would dash down the hallway, Twigs would dart after them with an intensely serious expression, Ash would yelp that Twigs “caught” them, and then they’d run down the hallway the other way. I don’t think any other cat we’ve had has really done that! They’ll run away from us, but not try to chase us around.

(Ash put fantasy “Luneko” versions of all our cats in NEON PHASE, a little game we made a few years ago, and I was struck by how Branch Commander Twig’s personality was so serious, when Twigs struck me as mostly lighthearted and friendly. But then, I suppose Twigs was very serious — about being lighthearted and friendly.)

I can’t tell what effect this has had on the other cats. They were all friendly with Twigs. Do they wonder where he is? Do they, too, assume he’s out of sight somewhere? Are they grieving? Will they grieve later?

The other cats got to saw Styx’s body, but Twigs died elsewhere. We have no way to tell them what happened to him. They just have to… guess? After living their whole lives with him? That sucks.

I think they’ve been more affectionate over the past week or so. Or they might be cuddling more because it’s getting colder. Or I might be paying more attention to them. Hard to say.

They do seem to be expanding their roles to fill Twigs’s niche. Napoleon, best known for spending almost all his time alone, has come and hung out on the couch — virtually unheard of. Anise and Cheeseball are, well, fighting each other instead of both fighting Twigs — but they’re starting fewer fights with Pearl. Pearl, who has had absolutely no tolerance for Anise since we left Vegas, has spent whole nights asleep next to him without making a fuss.

I guess they learned a lot from him.

Twigs was also fiercely loyal, but thankfully only had to show it a couple times.

We spent last summer in Marl’s parents’ unused (finished) basement, where they kept four cats of their own. (For a total of nine. We had quite a time.) One of them, Seamus, kept antagonizing our only furry cat, Napoleon.

We aren’t really sure how or why this started, but every so often, Seamus would start chasing Napoleon around, and Napoleon would scream. I don’t know why Napoleon was so scared of him, or what Seamus thought he was doing, or why he couldn’t understand that Napoleon didn’t like it. It was a constant source of stress for everyone; Seamus did it infrequently but seemingly on a whim, and we didn’t have many options for segregating the cats outright.

The incredible thing was, every time Seamus would start chasing Napoleon… Twigs would start chasing Seamus. And then Pearl would chase along with Twigs. And this would often end with Twigs and Pearl facing Seamus down, with Twigs saying some very nasty things that I will not repeat here.

(Anise would often show up and also run around, but he didn’t seem to understand why everyone was making such a fuss. While Twigs and Pearl were cornering Seamus, Anise would be standing next to them while mostly looking confused. Hey guys I see we’re playing chase!! I love chase too!! Oh why’d we all stop?)

I wouldn’t say it helped matters much, but it was strangely heartwarming. Twigs considered Napoleon his friend and had no problem telling this strange bully cat, a Maine Coon twice his size, to fuck right off.

Oh, but that’s nothing.

Apollo, that German shepherd we used to have, once somehow managed to knock down a whole set of shelves in Ash’s room. Ash, of course, yelled his name in response. They must’ve sounded really mad, because Twigs appeared instantly. He stood right in front of Apollo (separating him from Ash), in a very aggressive stance, making some very threatening growls and meows.

And he chased Apollo out of the room and right down the hallway.

All Twigs knew was that Apollo had seriously upset Ash, and that was that. No questions asked. This tiny little cat stood up to a giant wolf, because he thought Ash needed defending. Twigs was never aggressive or mean towards Apollo any other time, before or since. This only happened once, once ever, when Twigs thought Ash was in danger.

What a brave cat! If Apollo had wished Ash (or Twigs) harm, well, I don’t like those odds. But Twigs didn’t even think twice. We’ve never stopped marvelling over it.

I say “brave” very deliberately, because Twigs while was not fearless, he stood up to his fears. The only one we really saw was a fear of, ah, foam strips. See, we used to have a tiny “gym” in the corner of the kitchen, and the equipment sat on a foam mat made out of tiles with jigsaw edges that could fit together. To give the assembled mat a smooth perimeter, the tiles also came with thin edge pieces.

Foot traffic (or cats) could knock one of the edge pieces loose, leaving a strip of black foam alone on the floor. Twigs found this highly alarming. He would crouch down and eye it very suspiciously, creep up to give it a light smack and then back off, and generally treat it like a live wire. We assume it looked like a snake to him, though no other cat took interest in the edge pieces except to play with them, and Twigs never reacted the same way to anything else snake-shaped.

But he didn’t run away. He investigated, to see if it was dangerous, see if there was a predator in his home. Even after we’d find him doing this and put the foam piece back, Twigs would creep around for a while, looking for possible snakes until he was convinced it was gone. He was clearly very wary, yet he never ran, never hid.

The only other times I recall seeing Twigs anything close to scared were when he encountered a couple of accessories that resembled large animals: a Lucario hat Ash bought many years ago, and one of those goofy horse masks. I’m not even sure if “scared” is even the right word; he looked more annoyed? He neither backed down nor tried to attack them. I only remember him standing his ground and hissing, warning them to leave him alone.

I never heard him hiss any other time.

(Ash did, though. Once as a tiny kitten, our late cat Granite sat on him. A big furry cat just sat his ass right down on this little kitten. Kitten Twigs hissed about this, but kittens aren’t very ferocious hissers, so it came out khh! khh!, which Granite ignored.Funnily enough, once Twigs grew up, he developed his own habit of sitting on furred cats!)

We haven’t had a death since Styx. Twigs’s best friend! I never once expected Twigs would be the next to go. Now Napoleon is the only one left of the original crew.

Ash moved in with me not long after adopting Twigs. I don’t think he was even a year old. I knew him his entire adult life! I lived with him longer than I’ve lived with anyone, save my parents as a kid.

For so many years, it’s been Ash and Twigs. The inseparable duo, joined at the hip. I knew it would end someday, but I was so sure that day was much further off. I thought he’d be around for another five years at least, and secretly hoped he’d make it another ten. But we only got half of that. He loved twice as hard, and his heart burned out far too early.

He had so much life left in him. He played, he ran around, he wrestled (or, at least, was wrestled upon). He was still growing, inventing new antics and new ways to interact with us.

It’s been a strange experience. I couldn’t even absorb the factual knowledge of his death at first, even as I spent much of the first few days crying. How could Twigs die? That doesn’t make any sense; I haven’t seen him yet today, but he’ll show up soon. But I feel really sad. Oh, right, that’s because Twigs died. Rinse, repeat, over and over.

We picked his ashes a few days later. It’s been nice to have him home again, and it helps to have something physical to look at, rather than just the lack of his presence. Ash intends to paint his urn.

It got easier much more quickly than I expected, and that’s been weird as well. I wanted to hold onto his memory and be happy for the time I got to spend with him, and then that actually happened. I think about him a lot (especially over the multiple days it’s taken to write this), and a lot of little things remind me of him, but they don’t make me break down in tears. Usually.

That feels a little bad. But I know that hurting less doesn’t mean I loved him any less. And I know the last thing Twigs would want is for us to be sad.

Twigs was the best. I miss so much about him. I miss the way his whole nose scrunched up when he did a big meow. I miss his distinct little trot as he came down the hallway to see you. I miss watching him do eager little circles on the floor as I got the food out. I miss how he’d smack his lips as he showed up, a distinct and inexplicable quirk I’ve never seen in any other cat, a good compliment to how long he’d spend licking his chops after eating. I miss his huge ears! I miss “savannah cat” — when he’d hook his paws over the edge of something he was lying on, like an arm or the edge of a cat bed or the corner of my computer tower. I miss what a serene and calming presence he was.

It’s funny how some of the most memorable moments are things he only did one time. He joined Ash in the bathtub once — they were reading a book and Twigs came in, hopped in the bath, and sat in water up to his neck, just to be with them. He often announced his presence with a questioning meow when coming into Ash’s Vegas room at night, and once he did this really funny “meow-ow!” kind of double meow, and we’ve repeated it to each other as a nod to Twigs ever since, even though he never did it again.

One fall, we got a tiny pumpkin — the size of a slightly disappointing donut — and Twigs was enamored with it. We’d roll it along its edge and he’d chase after it and keep biting it, and it was so cute. Another fall, we bought another one, and Twigs wasn’t interested in it at all. Very cutting-edge of him. Tiny pumpkin is so last year.

He used to be really interested in eggs, too. For a while, we couldn’t turn our backs on an egg on the counter, because Twigs would materialize and start gently batting it around. Then he lost interest.

I miss how he slept with me. He’d always slept either behind my knees or on top of the covers, but right towards the end of his life, he invented a new trick, just for me. I sleep on my side, so he couldn’t lay on my chest; instead, he went under the covers, poked his head out, and lay against my chest with his head on my pillow. Like a little person! It was so sweet. He’d then keep nuzzling my face with his cold wet nose, which was kind of annoying. I miss that, too.

Even the annoying things are conspicuously absent. He frequently stepped on my hair while I was in bed, trying to get around me to get to Ash, and wow that is painful. Twigs groomed his cat sweaters more intensely than any other cat, biting the fabric and pulling so hard that it stretched and made this horrible high-pitched squeak, like nails on a chalkboard. He loved to groom people, too — usually on the chin or upper chest, since that’s what was accessible when he lay on you. Somehow Ash got used to it (and learned to redirect him to their palm, which he’d lick for ages), but I could never bear more than a few seconds of his cheese grater tongue.

What a good cat.

I felt like I’d been waiting for this all year. I don’t want to go much into it, but death has felt like a looming spectre almost since we moved in. The pointlessness of doing things, the feeling that I’m just passing time waiting to die, the occasional intrusive thought about a tragic accident befalling one of us or one of the cats. Never Twigs, though.

Last year was harder on me than I thought. I fired on all cylinders, trying to get Ash back on their feet, and once that happened… I deflated and never quite recovered. I lost a lot of my drive, my spark, my voice. I got frustrated with difficult work much more easily. I stopped writing. I stopped interacting. I stopped trying.

I didn’t even realize. Even as I felt increasingly distant and detached from the universe, I still thought I’d been pretty normal all year with only a few rough patches. It’s been hard to compare the past to the present, separated as they are by a strange and tumultuous six months that changed almost everything. Then Ash commented that I’d seemed kind of down all year. What a jolt that was, and only a few days before Twigs died.

Twigs’s death feels like a kick in the ass. I’ve felt a lot of despair over the past year, but all of it has been tied to anxieties and what-ifs — imaginary things. But this is sad, which is very different. This carries a pain for something tangible, something real, something important, something I want to hold onto. How can any of my little fantasy fears matter, when the loss of a cat outweighs all of them combined?

I don’t want to waste any more time. I want to reflect what I admired about Twigs: kind, patient, confident, and loving. I want to make this mean something.

Twigs had a good life. He spent it around people and cats he loved dearly, and who loved him right back. He had friends when he was lonely and blankets when he was chilly.

Oh, did he ever love blankets. Sphynxes are naked and tend to seek out warmth, of course, but of the four we’ve had, Twigs was by far the one who treated heat sources like a passion rather than mere physical comfort. His ability to identify the most snuggly spot to back his ass into was nothing short of superfeline. Sometimes he’d toast himself so well that he turned a little pink! And he used to do this incredible display of cat paws, with all four paws, accompanied by the occasional meow — but only on a specific blanket that we’ve long since lost.

He was also the one who tolerated cat sweaters the best (despite inflicting the most destruction on them). Anise’s powers of antagonism are greatly reduced in a sweater, and he will run away if he sees you approaching him with one; Pearl still does a funny awkward walk with her back half lower to the ground, even after wearing them through half a dozen winters. But Twigs in a sweater just acted like Twigs.

And what a well-travelled cat! He lived in four states and drove through half a dozen others. That’s more of the world than a decent number of humans see. He got to meet and snuggle with all kinds of other cats, and even some sort of giant wolf-cat who tried to herd him occasionally. He got to see the great outdoors, then decided he didn’t like it and returned to the great indoors.

Twigs did spend a couple of his later years afflicted with “pillow paw” — his pawpads swelled up one day, for seemingly no reason. Our vet couldn’t find an underlying cause, and meanwhile it was uncomfortable for him to land on his feet from a height. Poor guy. I’m eternally grateful to the vet we found last summer, who finally solved the mystery and cured him. He got to spend his final year active and unhindered again.

Ash spent much of our last couple Vegas years secluded in their office, too, so Twigs didn’t get as much face time as I’m sure he would’ve liked. But in our new place, both of our desks are out in the open and right next to each other, so Twigs could see them whenever he wanted. Sometimes he lay on a cat bed on my desk watching them, or strolled back and forth between us both, purring up a storm.

It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster for all of us, but I think the last year was the best year of his life.

I miss Twigs, but I smile when I think about him. He made us so happy while he was here.

Twigs came into Ash’s life while they were somewhat adrift — no clear goals, no home of their own, resigned to an unhappy marriage. He stuck with them for nine whole years, unwavering in his affection. He followed them down into the darkness, down where they couldn’t feel love from anyone — anyone except Twigs.

Now Ash has work and a community they love. We have a home together, and it finally feels like one. And by sheer coincidence, Ash’s divorce was finalized mere days after Twigs died. His entire life was contained within that marriage, from birth to death.

(Oh, we’re married now. Hurrah.)

Ash adopted Twigs almost on a whim, and he left us just as abruptly. As though he’d only shown up in the first place to help Ash when they needed it, and with Marl finally out of our lives, his work here was done.

The last thing Twigs did, the night that he died, was tell us he loved us. Ash put him under the blanket to try warming him up, and at first he was by our feet… but then he crawled up to slump against me, similar to how he did when I was alone in bed, and then he climbed on Ash’s chest and lay on them for a moment. Right at the end, as cold and confused as he must’ve felt, all he wanted was to be with Ash, to be with both of us.

I don’t know where Twigs is, now. He might be nowhere. But the universe has consistently proven itself to be more baffling and beautiful than I expect, so I’ll hold out hope that he’s somewhere — somewhere he can once again see Styx, his (other) best friend in the whole wide world. Somewhere that we can see them both again, one day.

Goodbye, Twigs! We’ll always love you, and we’ll always miss you.

Thank you, so much, for everything.

A colorful and abstract painting of Twigs

Eevee gained 2977 experience points

Post Syndicated from Eevee original https://eev.ee/blog/2019/01/14/eevee-gained-2977-experience-points/

Eevee grew to level 32!

This has been a surreal and difficult year, but everything turned out much better in the end.

I can’t possibly do the whole story justice, and I’m not eager to rehash it anyway, so here’s the incredibly short version. The players are myself, my partner Ash (formerly Mel, aka glip), and their (at the time) husband Marl.

Helpful context: for years, Ash has been the target of a stalking slash gossip campaign. A group of folks on a forum infamous for this sort of thing likes to dig through our online footprints for dirt and compile lengthy lists of awful things we’ve allegedly done. Every time this happened, we dropped everything and investigated. It’s exhausting. Virtually everything we’ve been accused of has been some combination of long since resolved, wildly embellished, carefully trimmed to remove any explanatory context, completely misunderstood, distorted through rounds of telephone, or occasionally outright fabricated — and what’s not, we gladly apologize for and try to repair. But there are so many fractalline complaints that no casual observer could possibly double-check the evidence (it sometimes takes weeks for us to comb through it all), and we can’t respond effectively without producing a massive tome that no one will bother to read.

This is where we’re starting from.

In early April, someone posted logs from 2012 of Marl having horny chats with someone who was 15/16 and suggesting a variety of other shady behavior. The teenager in question was someone Marl had briefly hired to help him assemble con merch; Ash and I had barely interacted with her at all and didn’t even know they’d spoken outside of that. Nevertheless, “warnings” about all three of us began to circulate rapidly, Ash’s friends started getting doxxed, and folks bailed on us in droves — all while Ash and I were still trying to grasp what was even going on.

Marl offered a general apology, told us the logs were bogus, then became upset and withdrew. He didn’t keep logs of his own, so we had little else to go on and had to trust him. I found some oddities in the logs: enough to make me skeptical of them and more trusting of Marl, but nothing concrete.

Ash was completely exhausted with this, which was by no means the first accusation leveled at them over events they hadn’t even known about. They couldn’t take any more, were on the verge of a breakdown, and decided to abandon the internet altogether. That left me as the obvious conduit for anyone trying to get at Ash, and I am very bad at not grouching about something annoying, so this presented a very tangible risk. Ash is more important to me than being online, so I left as well.

For various reasons, not least of which is that the forum had our address and was still whipping a rather lot of people into a bloodthirsty frenzy, we no longer felt safe in our home. We left that too.

We stayed with Marl’s parents for a while, which gave Ash time to think. They started to feel the full weight of a lot of things, big and small, that Marl had done over the course of their ten-year marriage: lots of breaches of trust; stretching Ash’s patience as far as it would go and then promising to improve for just long enough; leaving us to deal with accusations levelled against him with zero information more than once.

He also eventually admitted that the logs were not entirely bogus, although he never clarified more specifically, so I have no way to know what he actually did or not. At the very least, he did slide into the DMs of a high schooler (who was also his employee, no less).

We subsequently evicted him from our lives, leaving him with his parents when we moved to a new place.

I’m told the teenager dropped off the forum (which she’d been posting on anonymously), and no one but Marl knows her identity, so she’s effectively vanished. We haven’t had contact with Marl in months. That just leaves us.

I’ve explained a lot of this in gratuitous detail on Twitter, and it’s been relatively quiet for a while now, but the initial confused mess can’t be undone. Gossip cannot be un-spread. To this day, we still get folks trying to warn people away from us, based primarily on what Marl did behind our backs.

Oh, well. Can’t please everyone, right? Does that actually apply here?

It drives me nuts to be misrepresented, but on the other hand, maybe it’s okay that people who take gossip at face value are self-selecting themselves out of my internet experience.

Anyway, that’s why my output was a bit low last year: I was chased from my home and thought I would be leaving the internet forever! Then I had to spend a few months getting settled. Plus I’ve been on and off ADHD meds since May, which has kind of thrown me for a loop, but I finally got that all sorted out just a few days ago. Now I can finally get back to, um, whatever it is that I do.

In lighter news!

We live in Colorado Springs now! It’s beautiful and lovely and actually has weather, which is a nice change after five years in Vegas.

I changed my name! It was in part to stay out of public records so we wouldn’t be doxxed again, but then they doxxed the name change, so, that didn’t work. Oh, well, I’m still happy I did it. I’m Evelyn Woods now. That’s right: I legally changed my name to Eevee.

Ash and I are engaged! Also I love them a lot. Marl injected a lot of invisible, ambiguous tension into the household; without that smothering us, we are flourishing. We went through hell together and made it out the other side. I’m… well, I’m really happy.

We got a new cat: Cheeseball, a Lykoi! He loves to make friends and also fight them, and his antics helped a lot over the summer. He’s very good.

So good, in fact, that over the summer I started working on Cheezball Rising, a game about Cheeseball for the Game Boy Color! It is hard and I am not very far along. Also I’ve been in outer space and haven’t worked on it much in several months. But I’ve been blogging the whole thing which is at least moderately interesting.

I also wrote a stub of a game for the GBA in Rust over the past week for a game jam, though it hasn’t gotten especially far either.

And, some other games? Probably? I think Alice’s Day Off was this most recent February, right? God, that feels like it was a decade ago. So much for finishing it by June.

I kinda-sorta kept up with art over the summer, but art requires a certain kind of mood for me, and I… wasn’t in it. Which is a shame, because I was starting to feel like I was getting somewhere.

I slopped together little Pelican-based art galleries for my SFW and NSFW art, which I’d been meaning to do for a while!

I don’t know. I stopped tracking what I was doing every day quite so closely, since I wasn’t doing much every day for a while there. Maybe I’ll start the weekly roundup posts back up? Did anyone read those?

What about 2019, then?

I feel unleashed and am absolutely certain this will be a fantastic year. Mostly I have to catch up on everything I didn’t do last year. Well, that’s fine. Let’s see, what do I even have in the air right now:

  • Cheezball Rising, the GBC game
  • fox flux advance, the GBA game, maybe
  • fox flux, the continuation of the desktop game
  • Alice’s Day Off, which was only released as a demo
  • idchoppers, the Rust Doom tool
  • art, writing, music
  • idk half a dozen other things, god

So, the usual: make stuff.

AWS Resources Addressing Argentina’s Personal Data Protection Law and Disposition No. 11/2006

Post Syndicated from Leandro Bennaton original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/security/aws-and-resources-addressing-argentinas-personal-data-protection-law-and-disposition-no-112006/

We have two new resources to help customers address their data protection requirements in Argentina. These resources specifically address the needs outlined under the Personal Data Protection Law No. 25.326, as supplemented by Regulatory Decree No. 1558/2001 (“PDPL”), including Disposition No. 11/2006. For context, the PDPL is an Argentine federal law that applies to the protection of personal data, including during transfer and processing.

A new webpage focused on data privacy in Argentina features FAQs, helpful links, and whitepapers that provide an overview of PDPL considerations, as well as our security assurance frameworks and international certifications, including ISO 27001, ISO 27017, and ISO 27018. You’ll also find details about our Information Request Report and the high bar of security at AWS data centers.

Additionally, we’ve released a new workbook that offers a detailed mapping as to how customers can operate securely under the Shared Responsibility Model while also aligning with Disposition No. 11/2006. The AWS Disposition 11/2006 Workbook can be downloaded from the Argentina Data Privacy page or directly from this link. Both resources are also available in Spanish from the Privacidad de los datos en Argentina page.

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The Benefits of Side Projects

Post Syndicated from Bozho original https://techblog.bozho.net/the-benefits-of-side-projects/

Side projects are the things you do at home, after work, for your own “entertainment”, or to satisfy your desire to learn new stuff, in case your workplace doesn’t give you that opportunity (or at least not enough of it). Side projects are also a way to build stuff that you think is valuable but not necessarily “commercialisable”. Many side projects are open-sourced sooner or later and some of them contribute to the pool of tools at other people’s disposal.

I’ve outlined one recommendation about side projects before – do them with technologies that are new to you, so that you learn important things that will keep you better positioned in the software world.

But there are more benefits than that – serendipitous benefits, for example. And I’d like to tell some personal stories about that. I’ll focus on a few examples from my list of side projects to show how, through a sort-of butterfly effect, they helped shape my career.

The computoser project, no matter how cool algorithmic music composition, didn’t manage to have much of a long term impact. But it did teach me something apart from niche musical theory – how to read a bulk of scientific papers (mostly computer science) and understand them without being formally trained in the particular field. We’ll see how that was useful later.

Then there was the “State alerts” project – a website that scraped content from public institutions in my country (legislation, legislation proposals, decisions by regulators, new tenders, etc.), made them searchable, and “subscribable” – so that you get notified when a keyword of interest is mentioned in newly proposed legislation, for example. (I obviously subscribed for “information technologies” and “electronic”).

And that project turned out to have a significant impact on the following years. First, I chose a new technology to write it with – Scala. Which turned out to be of great use when I started working at TomTom, and on the 3rd day I was transferred to a Scala project, which was way cooler and much more complex than the original one I was hired for. It was a bit ironic, as my colleagues had just read that “I don’t like Scala” a few weeks earlier, but nevertheless, that was one of the most interesting projects I’ve worked on, and it went on for two years. Had I not known Scala, I’d probably be gone from TomTom much earlier (as the other project was restructured a few times), and I would not have learned many of the scalability, architecture and AWS lessons that I did learn there.

But the very same project had an even more important follow-up. Because if its “civic hacking” flavour, I was invited to join an informal group of developers (later officiated as an NGO) who create tools that are useful for society (something like MySociety.org). That group gathered regularly, discussed both tools and policies, and at some point we put up a list of policy priorities that we wanted to lobby policy makers. One of them was open source for the government, the other one was open data. As a result of our interaction with an interim government, we donated the official open data portal of my country, functioning to this day.

As a result of that, a few months later we got a proposal from the deputy prime minister’s office to “elect” one of the group for an advisor to the cabinet. And we decided that could be me. So I went for it and became advisor to the deputy prime minister. The job has nothing to do with anything one could imagine, and it was challenging and fascinating. We managed to pass legislation, including one that requires open source for custom projects, eID and open data. And all of that would not have been possible without my little side project.

As for my latest side project, LogSentinel – it became my current startup company. And not without help from the previous two mentioned above – the computer science paper reading was of great use when I was navigating the crypto papers landscape, and from the government job I not only gained invaluable legal knowledge, but I also “got” a co-founder.

Some other side projects died without much fanfare, and that’s fine. But the ones above shaped my “story” in a way that would not have been possible otherwise.

And I agree that such serendipitous chain of events could have happened without side projects – I could’ve gotten these opportunities by meeting someone at a bar (unlikely, but who knows). But we, as software engineers, are capable of tilting chance towards us by utilizing our skills. Side projects are our “extracurricular activities”, and they often lead to unpredictable, but rather positive chains of events. They would rarely be the only factor, but they are certainly great at unlocking potential.

The post The Benefits of Side Projects appeared first on Bozho's tech blog.

The Practical Effects of GDPR at Backblaze

Post Syndicated from Andy Klein original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/the-practical-effects-of-gdpr-at-backblaze/

GDPR day, May 25, 2018, is nearly here. On that day, will your inbox explode with update notices, opt-in agreements, and offers from lawyers searching for GDPR violators? Perhaps all the companies on earth that are not GDPR ready will just dissolve into dust. More likely, there will be some changes, but business as usual will continue and we’ll all be more aware of data privacy. Let’s go with the last one.

What’s Different With GDPR at Backblaze

The biggest difference you’ll notice is a completely updated Privacy Policy. Last week we sent out a service email announcing the new Privacy Policy. Some people asked what was different. Basically everything. About 95% of the agreement was rewritten. In the agreement, we added in the appropriate provisions required by GDPR, and hopefully did a better job specifying the data we collect from you, why we collect it, and what we are going to do with it.

As a reminder, at Backblaze your data falls into two catagories. The first type of data is the data you store with us — stored data. These are the files and objects you upload and store, and as needed, restore. We do not share this data. We do not process this data, except as requested by you to store and restore the data. We do not analyze this data looking for keywords, tags, images, etc. No one outside of Backblaze has access to this data unless you explicitly shared the data by providing that person access to one or more files.

The second type of data is your account data. Some of your account data is considered personal data. This is the information we collect from you to provide our Personal Backup, Business Backup and B2 Cloud Storage services. Examples include your email address to provide access to your account, or the name of your computer so we can organize your files like they are arranged on your computer to make restoration easier. We have written a number of Help Articles covering the different ways this information is collected and processed. In addition, these help articles outline the various “rights” granted via GDPR. We will continue to add help articles over the coming weeks to assist in making it easy to work with us to understand and exercise your rights.

What’s New With GDPR at Backblaze

The most obvious addition is the Data Processing Addendum (DPA). This covers how we protect the data you store with us, i.e. stored data. As noted above, we don’t do anything with your data, except store it and keep it safe until you need it. Now we have a separate document saying that.

It is important to note the new Data Processing Addendum is now incorporated by reference into our Terms of Service, which everyone agrees to when they sign up for any of our services. Now all of our customers have a shiny new Data Processing Agreement to go along with the updated Privacy Policy. We promise they are not long or complicated, and we encourage you to read them. If you have any questions, stop by our GDPR help section on our website.

Patience, Please

Every company we have dealt with over the last few months is working hard to comply with GDPR. It has been a tough road whether you tried to do it yourself or like Backblaze, hired an EU-based law firm for advice. Over the coming weeks and months as you reach out to discover and assert your rights, please have a little patience. We are all going through a steep learning curve as GDPR gets put into practice. Along the way there are certain to be some growing pains — give us a chance, we all want to get it right.

Regardless, at Backblaze we’ve been diligently protecting our customers’ data for over 11 years and nothing that will happen on May 25th will change that.

The post The Practical Effects of GDPR at Backblaze appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

AWS GDPR Data Processing Addendum – Now Part of Service Terms

Post Syndicated from Chad Woolf original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/security/aws-gdpr-data-processing-addendum/

Today, we’re happy to announce that the AWS GDPR Data Processing Addendum (GDPR DPA) is now part of our online Service Terms. This means all AWS customers globally can rely on the terms of the AWS GDPR DPA which will apply automatically from May 25, 2018, whenever they use AWS services to process personal data under the GDPR. The AWS GDPR DPA also includes EU Model Clauses, which were approved by the European Union (EU) data protection authorities, known as the Article 29 Working Party. This means that AWS customers wishing to transfer personal data from the European Economic Area (EEA) to other countries can do so with the knowledge that their personal data on AWS will be given the same high level of protection it receives in the EEA.

As we approach the GDPR enforcement date this week, this announcement is an important GDPR compliance component for us, our customers, and our partners. All customers which that are using cloud services to process personal data will need to have a data processing agreement in place between them and their cloud services provider if they are to comply with GDPR. As early as April 2017, AWS announced that AWS had a GDPR-ready DPA available for its customers. In this way, we started offering our GDPR DPA to customers over a year before the May 25, 2018 enforcement date. Now, with the DPA terms included in our online service terms, there is no extra engagement needed by our customers and partners to be compliant with the GDPR requirement for data processing terms.

The AWS GDPR DPA also provides our customers with a number of other important assurances, such as the following:

  • AWS will process customer data only in accordance with customer instructions.
  • AWS has implemented and will maintain robust technical and organizational measures for the AWS network.
  • AWS will notify its customers of a security incident without undue delay after becoming aware of the security incident.
  • AWS will make available certificates issued in relation to the ISO 27001 certification, the ISO 27017 certification, and the ISO 27018 certification to further help customers and partners in their own GDPR compliance activities.

Customers who have already signed an offline version of the AWS GDPR DPA can continue to rely on that GDPR DPA. By incorporating our GDPR DPA into the AWS Service Terms, we are simply extending the terms of our GDPR DPA to all customers globally who will require it under GDPR.

AWS GDPR DPA is only part of the story, however. We are continuing to work alongside our customers and partners to help them on their journey towards GDPR compliance.

If you have any questions about the GDPR or the AWS GDPR DPA, please contact your account representative, or visit the AWS GDPR Center at: https://aws.amazon.com/compliance/gdpr-center/


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Working with the Scout Association on digital skills for life

Post Syndicated from Philip Colligan original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/working-with-scout-association-digital-skills-for-life/

Today we’re launching a new partnership between the Scouts and the Raspberry Pi Foundation that will help tens of thousands of young people learn crucial digital skills for life. In this blog post, I want to explain what we’ve got planned, why it matters, and how you can get involved.

This is personal

First, let me tell you why this partnership matters to me. As a child growing up in North Wales in the 1980s, Scouting changed my life. My time with 2nd Rhyl provided me with countless opportunities to grow and develop new skills. It taught me about teamwork and community in ways that continue to shape my decisions today.

As my own kids (now seven and ten) have joined Scouting, I’ve seen the same opportunities opening up for them, and like so many parents, I’ve come back to the movement as a volunteer to support their local section. So this is deeply personal for me, and the same is true for many of my colleagues at the Raspberry Pi Foundation who in different ways have been part of the Scouting movement.

That shouldn’t come as a surprise. Scouting and Raspberry Pi share many of the same values. We are both community-led movements that aim to help young people develop the skills they need for life. We are both powered by an amazing army of volunteers who give their time to support that mission. We both care about inclusiveness, and pride ourselves on combining fun with learning by doing.

Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi started life in 2008 as a response to the problem that too many young people were growing up without the skills to create with technology. Our goal is that everyone should be able to harness the power of computing and digital technologies, for work, to solve problems that matter to them, and to express themselves creatively.

In 2012 we launched our first product, the world’s first $35 computer. Just six years on, we have sold over 20 million Raspberry Pi computers and helped kickstart a global movement for digital skills.

The Raspberry Pi Foundation now runs the world’s largest network of volunteer-led computing clubs (Code Clubs and CoderDojos), and creates free educational resources that are used by millions of young people all over the world to learn how to create with digital technologies. And lots of what we are able to achieve is because of partnerships with fantastic organisations that share our goals. For example, through our partnership with the European Space Agency, thousands of young people have written code that has run on two Raspberry Pi computers that Tim Peake took to the International Space Station as part of his Mission Principia.

Digital makers

Today we’re launching the new Digital Maker Staged Activity Badge to help tens of thousands of young people learn how to create with technology through Scouting. Over the past few months, we’ve been working with the Scouts all over the UK to develop and test the new badge requirements, along with guidance, project ideas, and resources that really make them work for Scouting. We know that we need to get two things right: relevance and accessibility.

Relevance is all about making sure that the activities and resources we provide are a really good fit for Scouting and Scouting’s mission to equip young people with skills for life. From the digital compass to nature cameras and the reinvented wide game, we’ve had a lot of fun thinking about ways we can bring to life the crucial role that digital technologies can play in the outdoors and adventure.

Compass Coding with Raspberry Pi

We are beyond excited to be launching a new partnership with the Raspberry Pi Foundation, which will help tens of thousands of young people learn digital skills for life.

We also know that there are great opportunities for Scouts to use digital technologies to solve social problems in their communities, reflecting the movement’s commitment to social action. Today we’re launching the first set of project ideas and resources, with many more to follow over the coming weeks and months.

Accessibility is about providing every Scout leader with the confidence, support, and kit to enable them to offer the Digital Maker Staged Activity Badge to their young people. A lot of work and care has gone into designing activities that require very little equipment: for example, activities at Stages 1 and 2 can be completed with a laptop without access to the internet. For the activities that do require kit, we will be working with Scout Stores and districts to make low-cost kit available to buy or loan.

We’re producing accessible instructions, worksheets, and videos to help leaders run sessions with confidence, and we’ll also be planning training for leaders. We will work with our network of Code Clubs and CoderDojos to connect them with local sections to organise joint activities, bringing both kit and expertise along with them.

Get involved

Today’s launch is just the start. We’ll be developing our partnership over the next few years, and we can’t wait for you to join us in getting more young people making things with technology.

Take a look at the brand-new Raspberry Pi resources designed especially for Scouts, to get young people making and creating right away.

The post Working with the Scout Association on digital skills for life appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Зукърбърг е приел поканата на Европейския парламент, но няма да има публично изслушване

Post Syndicated from nellyo original https://nellyo.wordpress.com/2018/05/17/fb_ep_transp/

Вера Йоурова, член на ЕК – Антонио Таяни, председател на ЕП – и брюкселска журналистка обменят мисли в Туитър.  Зукърбърг пристига в Брюксел “вероятно следващата седмица” – но няма да има публично изслушване, казва Йоурова.  – Не е ваша работа, казва Таяни.  – Гласувани сте от нас, наша работа е, пише Дженифър Бейкър (@BrusselsGeek) – Говоря на Йоурова, пояснява Таяни.








Practice Makes Perfect: Testing Campaigns Before You Send Them

Post Syndicated from Zach Barbitta original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/messaging-and-targeting/practice-makes-perfect-testing-campaigns-before-you-send-them/

In an article we posted to Medium in February, we talked about how to determine the best time to engage your customers by using Amazon Pinpoint’s built-in session heat map. The session heat map allows you to find the times that your customers are most likely to use your app. In this post, we continued on the topic of best practices—specifically, how to appropriately test a campaign before going live.

In this post, we’ll talk about the old adage “practice makes perfect,” and how it applies to the campaigns you send using Amazon Pinpoint. Let’s take a scenario many of our customers encounter daily: creating a campaign to engage users by sending a push notification.

As you can see from the preceding screenshot, the segment we plan to target has nearly 1.7M recipients, which is a lot! Of course, before we got to this step, we already put several best practices into practice. For example, we determined the best time to engage our audience, scheduled the message based on recipients’ local time zones, performed A/B/N testing, measured lift using a hold-out group, and personalized the content for maximum effectiveness. Now that we’re ready to send the notification, we should test the message before we send it to all of the recipients in our segment. The reason for testing the message is pretty straightforward: we want to make sure every detail of the message is accurate before we send it to all 1,687,575 customers.

Fortunately, Amazon Pinpoint makes it easy to test your messages—in fact, you don’t even have to leave the campaign wizard in order to do so. In step 3 of the campaign wizard, below the message editor, there’s a button labelled Test campaign.

When you choose the Test campaign button, you have three options: you can send the test message to a segment of 100 endpoints or less, or to a set of specific endpoint IDs (up to 10), or to a set of specific device tokens (up to 10), as shown in the following image.

In our case, we’ve already created a segment of internal recipients who will test our message. On the Test Campaign window, under Send a test message to, we choose A segment. Then, in the drop-down menu, we select our test segment, and then choose Send test message.

Because we’re sending the test message to a segment, Amazon Pinpoint automatically creates a new campaign dedicated to this test. This process executes a test campaign, complete with message analytics, which allows you to perform end-to-end testing as if you sent the message to your production audience. To see the analytics for your test campaign, go to the Campaigns tab, and then choose the campaign (the name of the campaign contains the word “test”, followed by four random characters, followed by the name of the campaign).

After you complete a successful test, you’re ready to launch your campaign. As a final check, the Review & Launch screen includes a reminder that indicates whether or not you’ve tested the campaign, as shown in the following image.

There are several other ways you can use this feature. For example, you could use it for troubleshooting a campaign, or for iterating on existing campaigns. To learn more about testing campaigns, see the Amazon Pinpoint User Guide.

Securing Your Cryptocurrency

Post Syndicated from Roderick Bauer original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/backing-up-your-cryptocurrency/

Securing Your Cryptocurrency

In our blog post on Tuesday, Cryptocurrency Security Challenges, we wrote about the two primary challenges faced by anyone interested in safely and profitably participating in the cryptocurrency economy: 1) make sure you’re dealing with reputable and ethical companies and services, and, 2) keep your cryptocurrency holdings safe and secure.

In this post, we’re going to focus on how to make sure you don’t lose any of your cryptocurrency holdings through accident, theft, or carelessness. You do that by backing up the keys needed to sell or trade your currencies.

$34 Billion in Lost Value

Of the 16.4 million bitcoins said to be in circulation in the middle of 2017, close to 3.8 million may have been lost because their owners no longer are able to claim their holdings. Based on today’s valuation, that could total as much as $34 billion dollars in lost value. And that’s just bitcoins. There are now over 1,500 different cryptocurrencies, and we don’t know how many of those have been misplaced or lost.

Now that some cryptocurrencies have reached (at least for now) staggering heights in value, it’s likely that owners will be more careful in keeping track of the keys needed to use their cryptocurrencies. For the ones already lost, however, the owners have been separated from their currencies just as surely as if they had thrown Benjamin Franklins and Grover Clevelands over the railing of a ship.

The Basics of Securing Your Cryptocurrencies

In our previous post, we reviewed how cryptocurrency keys work, and the common ways owners can keep track of them. A cryptocurrency owner needs two keys to use their currencies: a public key that can be shared with others is used to receive currency, and a private key that must be kept secure is used to spend or trade currency.

Many wallets and applications allow the user to require extra security to access them, such as a password, or iris, face, or thumb print scan. If one of these options is available in your wallets, take advantage of it. Beyond that, it’s essential to back up your wallet, either using the backup feature built into some applications and wallets, or manually backing up the data used by the wallet. When backing up, it’s a good idea to back up the entire wallet, as some wallets require additional private data to operate that might not be apparent.

No matter which backup method you use, it is important to back up often and have multiple backups, preferable in different locations. As with any valuable data, a 3-2-1 backup strategy is good to follow, which ensures that you’ll have a good backup copy if anything goes wrong with one or more copies of your data.

One more caveat, don’t reuse passwords. This applies to all of your accounts, but is especially important for something as critical as your finances. Don’t ever use the same password for more than one account. If security is breached on one of your accounts, someone could connect your name or ID with other accounts, and will attempt to use the password there, as well. Consider using a password manager such as LastPass or 1Password, which make creating and using complex and unique passwords easy no matter where you’re trying to sign in.

Approaches to Backing Up Your Cryptocurrency Keys

There are numerous ways to be sure your keys are backed up. Let’s take them one by one.

1. Automatic backups using a backup program

If you’re using a wallet program on your computer, for example, Bitcoin Core, it will store your keys, along with other information, in a file. For Bitcoin Core, that file is wallet.dat. Other currencies will use the same or a different file name and some give you the option to select a name for the wallet file.

To back up the wallet.dat or other wallet file, you might need to tell your backup program to explicitly back up that file. Users of Backblaze Backup don’t have to worry about configuring this, since by default, Backblaze Backup will back up all data files. You should determine where your particular cryptocurrency, wallet, or application stores your keys, and make sure the necessary file(s) are backed up if your backup program requires you to select which files are included in the backup.

Backblaze B2 is an option for those interested in low-cost and high security cloud storage of their cryptocurrency keys. Backblaze B2 supports 2-factor verification for account access, works with a number of apps that support automatic backups with encryption, error-recovery, and versioning, and offers an API and command-line interface (CLI), as well. The first 10GB of storage is free, which could be all one needs to store encrypted cryptocurrency keys.

2. Backing up by exporting keys to a file

Apps and wallets will let you export your keys from your app or wallet to a file. Once exported, your keys can be stored on a local drive, USB thumb drive, DAS, NAS, or in the cloud with any cloud storage or sync service you wish. Encrypting the file is strongly encouraged — more on that later. If you use 1Password or LastPass, or other secure notes program, you also could store your keys there.

3. Backing up by saving a mnemonic recovery seed

A mnemonic phrase, mnemonic recovery phrase, or mnemonic seed is a list of words that stores all the information needed to recover a cryptocurrency wallet. Many wallets will have the option to generate a mnemonic backup phrase, which can be written down on paper. If the user’s computer no longer works or their hard drive becomes corrupted, they can download the same wallet software again and use the mnemonic recovery phrase to restore their keys.

The phrase can be used by anyone to recover the keys, so it must be kept safe. Mnemonic phrases are an excellent way of backing up and storing cryptocurrency and so they are used by almost all wallets.

A mnemonic recovery seed is represented by a group of easy to remember words. For example:

eye female unfair moon genius pipe nuclear width dizzy forum cricket know expire purse laptop scale identify cube pause crucial day cigar noise receive

The above words represent the following seed:

0a5b25e1dab6039d22cd57469744499863962daba9d2844243fec 9c0313c1448d1a0b2cd9e230a78775556f9b514a8be45802c2808e fd449a20234e9262dfa69

These words have certain properties:

  • The first four letters are enough to unambiguously identify the word.
  • Similar words are avoided (such as: build and built).

Bitcoin and most other cryptocurrencies such as Litecoin, Ethereum, and others use mnemonic seeds that are 12 to 24 words long. Other currencies might use different length seeds.

4. Physical backups — Paper, Metal

Some cryptocurrency holders believe that their backup, or even all their cryptocurrency account information, should be stored entirely separately from the internet to avoid any risk of their information being compromised through hacks, exploits, or leaks. This type of storage is called “cold storage.” One method of cold storage involves printing out the keys to a piece of paper and then erasing any record of the keys from all computer systems. The keys can be entered into a program from the paper when needed, or scanned from a QR code printed on the paper.

Printed public and private keys

Printed public and private keys

Some who go to extremes suggest separating the mnemonic needed to access an account into individual pieces of paper and storing those pieces in different locations in the home or office, or even different geographical locations. Some say this is a bad idea since it could be possible to reconstruct the mnemonic from one or more pieces. How diligent you wish to be in protecting these codes is up to you.

Mnemonic recovery phrase booklet

Mnemonic recovery phrase booklet

There’s another option that could make you the envy of your friends. That’s the CryptoSteel wallet, which is a stainless steel metal case that comes with more than 250 stainless steel letter tiles engraved on each side. Codes and passwords are assembled manually from the supplied part-randomized set of tiles. Users are able to store up to 96 characters worth of confidential information. Cryptosteel claims to be fireproof, waterproof, and shock-proof.

image of a Cryptosteel cold storage device

Cryptosteel cold wallet

Of course, if you leave your Cryptosteel wallet in the pocket of a pair of ripped jeans that gets thrown out by the housekeeper, as happened to the character Russ Hanneman on the TV show Silicon Valley in last Sunday’s episode, then you’re out of luck. That fictional billionaire investor lost a USB drive with $300 million in cryptocoins. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen to you.

Encryption & Security

Whether you store your keys on your computer, an external disk, a USB drive, DAS, NAS, or in the cloud, you want to make sure that no one else can use those keys. The best way to handle that is to encrypt the backup.

With Backblaze Backup for Windows and Macintosh, your backups are encrypted in transmission to the cloud and on the backup server. Users have the option to add an additional level of security by adding a Personal Encryption Key (PEK), which secures their private key. Your cryptocurrency backup files are secure in the cloud. Using our web or mobile interface, previous versions of files can be accessed, as well.

Our object storage cloud offering, Backblaze B2, can be used with a variety of applications for Windows, Macintosh, and Linux. With B2, cryptocurrency users can choose whichever method of encryption they wish to use on their local computers and then upload their encrypted currency keys to the cloud. Depending on the client used, versioning and life-cycle rules can be applied to the stored files.

Other backup programs and systems provide some or all of these capabilities, as well. If you are backing up to a local drive, it is a good idea to encrypt the local backup, which is an option in some backup programs.

Address Security

Some experts recommend using a different address for each cryptocurrency transaction. Since the address is not the same as your wallet, this means that you are not creating a new wallet, but simply using a new identifier for people sending you cryptocurrency. Creating a new address is usually as easy as clicking a button in the wallet.

One of the chief advantages of using a different address for each transaction is anonymity. Each time you use an address, you put more information into the public ledger (blockchain) about where the currency came from or where it went. That means that over time, using the same address repeatedly could mean that someone could map your relationships, transactions, and incoming funds. The more you use that address, the more information someone can learn about you. For more on this topic, refer to Address reuse.

Note that a downside of using a paper wallet with a single key pair (type-0 non-deterministic wallet) is that it has the vulnerabilities listed above. Each transaction using that paper wallet will add to the public record of transactions associated with that address. Newer wallets, i.e. “deterministic” or those using mnemonic code words support multiple addresses and are now recommended.

There are other approaches to keeping your cryptocurrency transaction secure. Here are a couple of them.


Multi-signature refers to requiring more than one key to authorize a transaction, much like requiring more than one key to open a safe. It is generally used to divide up responsibility for possession of cryptocurrency. Standard transactions could be called “single-signature transactions” because transfers require only one signature — from the owner of the private key associated with the currency address (public key). Some wallets and apps can be configured to require more than one signature, which means that a group of people, businesses, or other entities all must agree to trade in the cryptocurrencies.

Deep Cold Storage

Deep cold storage ensures the entire transaction process happens in an offline environment. There are typically three elements to deep cold storage.

First, the wallet and private key are generated offline, and the signing of transactions happens on a system not connected to the internet in any manner. This ensures it’s never exposed to a potentially compromised system or connection.

Second, details are secured with encryption to ensure that even if the wallet file ends up in the wrong hands, the information is protected.

Third, storage of the encrypted wallet file or paper wallet is generally at a location or facility that has restricted access, such as a safety deposit box at a bank.

Deep cold storage is used to safeguard a large individual cryptocurrency portfolio held for the long term, or for trustees holding cryptocurrency on behalf of others, and is possibly the safest method to ensure a crypto investment remains secure.

Keep Your Software Up to Date

You should always make sure that you are using the latest version of your app or wallet software, which includes important stability and security fixes. Installing updates for all other software on your computer or mobile device is also important to keep your wallet environment safer.

One Last Thing: Think About Your Testament

Your cryptocurrency funds can be lost forever if you don’t have a backup plan for your peers and family. If the location of your wallets or your passwords is not known by anyone when you are gone, there is no hope that your funds will ever be recovered. Taking a bit of time on these matters can make a huge difference.

To the Moon*

Are you comfortable with how you’re managing and backing up your cryptocurrency wallets and keys? Do you have a suggestion for keeping your cryptocurrencies safe that we missed above? Please let us know in the comments.

*To the Moon — Crypto slang for a currency that reaches an optimistic price projection.

The post Securing Your Cryptocurrency appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

The US Is Unprepared for Election-Related Hacking in 2018

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2018/05/the_us_is_unpre.html

This survey and report is not surprising:

The survey of nearly forty Republican and Democratic campaign operatives, administered through November and December 2017, revealed that American political campaign staff — primarily working at the state and congressional levels — are not only unprepared for possible cyber attacks, but remain generally unconcerned about the threat. The survey sample was relatively small, but nevertheless the survey provides a first look at how campaign managers and staff are responding to the threat.

The overwhelming majority of those surveyed do not want to devote campaign resources to cybersecurity or to hire personnel to address cybersecurity issues. Even though campaign managers recognize there is a high probability that campaign and personal emails are at risk of being hacked, they are more concerned about fundraising and press coverage than they are about cybersecurity. Less than half of those surveyed said they had taken steps to make their data secure and most were unsure if they wanted to spend any money on this protection.

Security is never something we actually want. Security is something we need in order to avoid what we don’t want. It’s also more abstract, concerned with hypothetical future possibilities. Of course it’s lower on the priorities list than fundraising and press coverage. They’re more tangible, and they’re more immediate.

This is all to the attackers’ advantage.

Analyze data in Amazon DynamoDB using Amazon SageMaker for real-time prediction

Post Syndicated from YongSeong Lee original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/big-data/analyze-data-in-amazon-dynamodb-using-amazon-sagemaker-for-real-time-prediction/

Many companies across the globe use Amazon DynamoDB to store and query historical user-interaction data. DynamoDB is a fast NoSQL database used by applications that need consistent, single-digit millisecond latency.

Often, customers want to turn their valuable data in DynamoDB into insights by analyzing a copy of their table stored in Amazon S3. Doing this separates their analytical queries from their low-latency critical paths. This data can be the primary source for understanding customers’ past behavior, predicting future behavior, and generating downstream business value. Customers often turn to DynamoDB because of its great scalability and high availability. After a successful launch, many customers want to use the data in DynamoDB to predict future behaviors or provide personalized recommendations.

DynamoDB is a good fit for low-latency reads and writes, but it’s not practical to scan all data in a DynamoDB database to train a model. In this post, I demonstrate how you can use DynamoDB table data copied to Amazon S3 by AWS Data Pipeline to predict customer behavior. I also demonstrate how you can use this data to provide personalized recommendations for customers using Amazon SageMaker. You can also run ad hoc queries using Amazon Athena against the data. DynamoDB recently released on-demand backups to create full table backups with no performance impact. However, it’s not suitable for our purposes in this post, so I chose AWS Data Pipeline instead to create managed backups are accessible from other services.

To do this, I describe how to read the DynamoDB backup file format in Data Pipeline. I also describe how to convert the objects in S3 to a CSV format that Amazon SageMaker can read. In addition, I show how to schedule regular exports and transformations using Data Pipeline. The sample data used in this post is from Bank Marketing Data Set of UCI.

The solution that I describe provides the following benefits:

  • Separates analytical queries from production traffic on your DynamoDB table, preserving your DynamoDB read capacity units (RCUs) for important production requests
  • Automatically updates your model to get real-time predictions
  • Optimizes for performance (so it doesn’t compete with DynamoDB RCUs after the export) and for cost (using data you already have)
  • Makes it easier for developers of all skill levels to use Amazon SageMaker

All code and data set in this post are available in this .zip file.

Solution architecture

The following diagram shows the overall architecture of the solution.

The steps that data follows through the architecture are as follows:

  1. Data Pipeline regularly copies the full contents of a DynamoDB table as JSON into an S3
  2. Exported JSON files are converted to comma-separated value (CSV) format to use as a data source for Amazon SageMaker.
  3. Amazon SageMaker renews the model artifact and update the endpoint.
  4. The converted CSV is available for ad hoc queries with Amazon Athena.
  5. Data Pipeline controls this flow and repeats the cycle based on the schedule defined by customer requirements.

Building the auto-updating model

This section discusses details about how to read the DynamoDB exported data in Data Pipeline and build automated workflows for real-time prediction with a regularly updated model.

Download sample scripts and data

Before you begin, take the following steps:

  1. Download sample scripts in this .zip file.
  2. Unzip the src.zip file.
  3. Find the automation_script.sh file and edit it for your environment. For example, you need to replace 's3://<your bucket>/<datasource path>/' with your own S3 path to the data source for Amazon ML. In the script, the text enclosed by angle brackets—< and >—should be replaced with your own path.
  4. Upload the json-serde-1.3.6-SNAPSHOT-jar-with-dependencies.jar file to your S3 path so that the ADD jar command in Apache Hive can refer to it.

For this solution, the banking.csv  should be imported into a DynamoDB table.

Export a DynamoDB table

To export the DynamoDB table to S3, open the Data Pipeline console and choose the Export DynamoDB table to S3 template. In this template, Data Pipeline creates an Amazon EMR cluster and performs an export in the EMRActivity activity. Set proper intervals for backups according to your business requirements.

One core node(m3.xlarge) provides the default capacity for the EMR cluster and should be suitable for the solution in this post. Leave the option to resize the cluster before running enabled in the TableBackupActivity activity to let Data Pipeline scale the cluster to match the table size. The process of converting to CSV format and renewing models happens in this EMR cluster.

For a more in-depth look at how to export data from DynamoDB, see Export Data from DynamoDB in the Data Pipeline documentation.

Add the script to an existing pipeline

After you export your DynamoDB table, you add an additional EMR step to EMRActivity by following these steps:

  1. Open the Data Pipeline console and choose the ID for the pipeline that you want to add the script to.
  2. For Actions, choose Edit.
  3. In the editing console, choose the Activities category and add an EMR step using the custom script downloaded in the previous section, as shown below.

Paste the following command into the new step after the data ­­upload step:

s3://#{myDDBRegion}.elasticmapreduce/libs/script-runner/script-runner.jar,s3://<your bucket name>/automation_script.sh,#{output.directoryPath},#{myDDBRegion}

The element #{output.directoryPath} references the S3 path where the data pipeline exports DynamoDB data as JSON. The path should be passed to the script as an argument.

The bash script has two goals, converting data formats and renewing the Amazon SageMaker model. Subsequent sections discuss the contents of the automation script.

Automation script: Convert JSON data to CSV with Hive

We use Apache Hive to transform the data into a new format. The Hive QL script to create an external table and transform the data is included in the custom script that you added to the Data Pipeline definition.

When you run the Hive scripts, do so with the -e option. Also, define the Hive table with the 'org.openx.data.jsonserde.JsonSerDe' row format to parse and read JSON format. The SQL creates a Hive EXTERNAL table, and it reads the DynamoDB backup data on the S3 path passed to it by Data Pipeline.

Note: You should create the table with the “EXTERNAL” keyword to avoid the backup data being accidentally deleted from S3 if you drop the table.

The full automation script for converting follows. Add your own bucket name and data source path in the highlighted areas.

hive -e "
ADD jar s3://<your bucket name>/json-serde-1.3.6-SNAPSHOT-jar-with-dependencies.jar ; 
DROP TABLE IF EXISTS blog_backup_data ;
CREATE EXTERNAL TABLE blog_backup_data (
 customer_id map<string,string>,
 age map<string,string>, job map<string,string>, 
 marital map<string,string>,education map<string,string>, 
 default map<string,string>, housing map<string,string>,
 loan map<string,string>, contact map<string,string>, 
 month map<string,string>, day_of_week map<string,string>, 
 duration map<string,string>, campaign map<string,string>,
 pdays map<string,string>, previous map<string,string>, 
 poutcome map<string,string>, emp_var_rate map<string,string>, 
 cons_price_idx map<string,string>, cons_conf_idx map<string,string>,
 euribor3m map<string,string>, nr_employed map<string,string>, 
 y map<string,string> ) 
ROW FORMAT SERDE 'org.openx.data.jsonserde.JsonSerDe' 

INSERT OVERWRITE DIRECTORY 's3://<your bucket name>/<datasource path>/' 
SELECT concat( customer_id['s'],',', 
 age['n'],',', job['s'],',', 
 marital['s'],',', education['s'],',', default['s'],',', 
 housing['s'],',', loan['s'],',', contact['s'],',', 
 month['s'],',', day_of_week['s'],',', duration['n'],',', 
 poutcome['s'],',', emp_var_rate['n'],',', cons_price_idx['n'],',',
 cons_conf_idx['n'],',', euribor3m['n'],',', nr_employed['n'],',', y['n'] ) 
FROM blog_backup_data
WHERE customer_id['s'] > 0 ; 

After creating an external table, you need to read data. You then use the INSERT OVERWRITE DIRECTORY ~ SELECT command to write CSV data to the S3 path that you designated as the data source for Amazon SageMaker.

Depending on your requirements, you can eliminate or process the columns in the SELECT clause in this step to optimize data analysis. For example, you might remove some columns that have unpredictable correlations with the target value because keeping the wrong columns might expose your model to “overfitting” during the training. In this post, customer_id  columns is removed. Overfitting can make your prediction weak. More information about overfitting can be found in the topic Model Fit: Underfitting vs. Overfitting in the Amazon ML documentation.

Automation script: Renew the Amazon SageMaker model

After the CSV data is replaced and ready to use, create a new model artifact for Amazon SageMaker with the updated dataset on S3.  For renewing model artifact, you must create a new training job.  Training jobs can be run using the AWS SDK ( for example, Amazon SageMaker boto3 ) or the Amazon SageMaker Python SDK that can be installed with “pip install sagemaker” command as well as the AWS CLI for Amazon SageMaker described in this post.

In addition, consider how to smoothly renew your existing model without service impact, because your model is called by applications in real time. To do this, you need to create a new endpoint configuration first and update a current endpoint with the endpoint configuration that is just created.

## Define variable 
DTTIME=`date +%Y-%m-%d-%H-%M-%S`
ROLE="<your AmazonSageMaker-ExecutionRole>" 

# Select containers image based on region.  
case "$REGION" in
"us-west-2" )
"us-east-1" )
"us-east-2" )
"eu-west-1" )
    echo "Invalid Region Name"
    exit 1 ;  

# Start training job and creating model artifact 
S3OUTPUT="s3://<your bucket name>/model/" 
aws sagemaker create-training-job --training-job-name ${TRAINING_JOB_NAME} --region ${REGION}  --algorithm-specification TrainingImage=${IMAGE},TrainingInputMode=File --role-arn ${ROLE}  --input-data-config '[{ "ChannelName": "train", "DataSource": { "S3DataSource": { "S3DataType": "S3Prefix", "S3Uri": "s3://<your bucket name>/<datasource path>/", "S3DataDistributionType": "FullyReplicated" } }, "ContentType": "text/csv", "CompressionType": "None" , "RecordWrapperType": "None"  }]'  --output-data-config S3OutputPath=${S3OUTPUT} --resource-config  InstanceType=${INSTANCETYPE},InstanceCount=${INSTANCECOUNT},VolumeSizeInGB=${VOLUMESIZE} --stopping-condition MaxRuntimeInSeconds=120 --hyper-parameters feature_dim=20,predictor_type=binary_classifier  

# Wait until job completed 
aws sagemaker wait training-job-completed-or-stopped --training-job-name ${TRAINING_JOB_NAME}  --region ${REGION}

# Get newly created model artifact and create model
MODELARTIFACT=`aws sagemaker describe-training-job --training-job-name ${TRAINING_JOB_NAME} --region ${REGION}  --query 'ModelArtifacts.S3ModelArtifacts' --output text `
aws sagemaker create-model --region ${REGION} --model-name ${MODELNAME}  --primary-container Image=${IMAGE},ModelDataUrl=${MODELARTIFACT}  --execution-role-arn ${ROLE}

# create a new endpoint configuration 
aws sagemaker  create-endpoint-config --region ${REGION} --endpoint-config-name ${CONFIGNAME}  --production-variants  VariantName=Users,ModelName=${MODELNAME},InitialInstanceCount=1,InstanceType=ml.m4.xlarge

# create or update the endpoint
STATUS=`aws sagemaker describe-endpoint --endpoint-name  ServiceEndpoint --query 'EndpointStatus' --output text --region ${REGION} `
if [[ $STATUS -ne "InService" ]] ;
    aws sagemaker  create-endpoint --endpoint-name  ServiceEndpoint  --endpoint-config-name ${CONFIGNAME} --region ${REGION}    
    aws sagemaker  update-endpoint --endpoint-name  ServiceEndpoint  --endpoint-config-name ${CONFIGNAME} --region ${REGION}

Grant permission

Before you execute the script, you must grant proper permission to Data Pipeline. Data Pipeline uses the DataPipelineDefaultResourceRole role by default. I added the following policy to DataPipelineDefaultResourceRole to allow Data Pipeline to create, delete, and update the Amazon SageMaker model and data source in the script.

 "Version": "2012-10-17",
 "Statement": [
 "Effect": "Allow",
 "Action": [
 "Resource": "*"

Use real-time prediction

After you deploy a model into production using Amazon SageMaker hosting services, your client applications use this API to get inferences from the model hosted at the specified endpoint. This approach is useful for interactive web, mobile, or desktop applications.

Following, I provide a simple Python code example that queries against Amazon SageMaker endpoint URL with its name (“ServiceEndpoint”) and then uses them for real-time prediction.

=== Python sample for real-time prediction ===

#!/usr/bin/env python
import boto3
import json 

client = boto3.client('sagemaker-runtime', region_name ='<your region>' )
new_customer_info = '34,10,2,4,1,2,1,1,6,3,190,1,3,4,3,-1.7,94.055,-39.8,0.715,4991.6'
response = client.invoke_endpoint(
result = json.loads(response['Body'].read().decode())
--- output(response) ---
{u'predictions': [{u'score': 0.7528127431869507, u'predicted_label': 1.0}]}

Solution summary

The solution takes the following steps:

  1. Data Pipeline exports DynamoDB table data into S3. The original JSON data should be kept to recover the table in the rare event that this is needed. Data Pipeline then converts JSON to CSV so that Amazon SageMaker can read the data.Note: You should select only meaningful attributes when you convert CSV. For example, if you judge that the “campaign” attribute is not correlated, you can eliminate this attribute from the CSV.
  2. Train the Amazon SageMaker model with the new data source.
  3. When a new customer comes to your site, you can judge how likely it is for this customer to subscribe to your new product based on “predictedScores” provided by Amazon SageMaker.
  4. If the new user subscribes your new product, your application must update the attribute “y” to the value 1 (for yes). This updated data is provided for the next model renewal as a new data source. It serves to improve the accuracy of your prediction. With each new entry, your application can become smarter and deliver better predictions.

Running ad hoc queries using Amazon Athena

Amazon Athena is a serverless query service that makes it easy to analyze large amounts of data stored in Amazon S3 using standard SQL. Athena is useful for examining data and collecting statistics or informative summaries about data. You can also use the powerful analytic functions of Presto, as described in the topic Aggregate Functions of Presto in the Presto documentation.

With the Data Pipeline scheduled activity, recent CSV data is always located in S3 so that you can run ad hoc queries against the data using Amazon Athena. I show this with example SQL statements following. For an in-depth description of this process, see the post Interactive SQL Queries for Data in Amazon S3 on the AWS News Blog. 

Creating an Amazon Athena table and running it

Simply, you can create an EXTERNAL table for the CSV data on S3 in Amazon Athena Management Console.

=== Table Creation ===
 age int, 
 job string, 
 marital string , 
 education string, 
 default string, 
 housing string, 
 loan string, 
 contact string, 
 month string, 
 day_of_week string, 
 duration int, 
 campaign int, 
 pdays int , 
 previous int , 
 poutcome string, 
 emp_var_rate double, 
 cons_price_idx double,
 cons_conf_idx double, 
 euribor3m double, 
 nr_employed double, 
 y int 
LOCATION 's3://<your bucket name>/<datasource path>/';

The following query calculates the correlation coefficient between the target attribute and other attributes using Amazon Athena.

=== Sample Query ===

SELECT corr(age,y) AS correlation_age_and_target, 
 corr(duration,y) AS correlation_duration_and_target, 
 corr(campaign,y) AS correlation_campaign_and_target,
 corr(contact,y) AS correlation_contact_and_target
FROM ( SELECT age , duration , campaign , y , 
 CASE WHEN contact = 'telephone' THEN 1 ELSE 0 END AS contact 
 FROM datasource 
 ) datasource ;


In this post, I introduce an example of how to analyze data in DynamoDB by using table data in Amazon S3 to optimize DynamoDB table read capacity. You can then use the analyzed data as a new data source to train an Amazon SageMaker model for accurate real-time prediction. In addition, you can run ad hoc queries against the data on S3 using Amazon Athena. I also present how to automate these procedures by using Data Pipeline.

You can adapt this example to your specific use case at hand, and hopefully this post helps you accelerate your development. You can find more examples and use cases for Amazon SageMaker in the video AWS 2017: Introducing Amazon SageMaker on the AWS website.


Additional Reading

If you found this post useful, be sure to check out Serving Real-Time Machine Learning Predictions on Amazon EMR and Analyzing Data in S3 using Amazon Athena.


About the Author

Yong Seong Lee is a Cloud Support Engineer for AWS Big Data Services. He is interested in every technology related to data/databases and helping customers who have difficulties in using AWS services. His motto is “Enjoy life, be curious and have maximum experience.”



Права върху снимка: маймуната в джунглата

Post Syndicated from nellyo original https://nellyo.wordpress.com/2018/05/01/naruto/

Във вторник 9 -ти апелативен съд отхвърли искането, свързано с известното вече  селфи на маймуна (делото Наруто срещу Слейтър).

Дейвид Слейтър оставя оборудването си в джунглата и маймуната се е заснела сама. Организацията за защита на животните ПЕТА   твърди, че Слейтър е нарушил авторските права на маймуната, като е издал книга за фотография “Wildlife Personalities”.

Решението:  Животните   нямат право на защита на права по Закона за авторските права.

Решението подлежи на обжалване.