Mensa Cat Monday: One Year Ago…

It’s been exactly a year since J.B. (Jason Berry of Vacuum Tree Head) posted the very first Mensa Cats comic strip. Here it is:

Mensa Cats, original strip

Looking forward to many more scenes from the Mensa Cats universe in the future.

Happy 10th Gotcha Day, Luna!

It was exactly ten years ago, June 10, 2005, that I brought Luna home from the Santa Cruz County animal shelter. And so we are celebrating her 10th “Gotcha Day” (adoption anniversary) over the next few days in style. It began the evening before with a festive meal, complete with main course, treats, and a “cocktail.”

Gotcha Day dinner

The “cake” didn’t quite come out of the can perfectly, but as we can see that did not bother Luna at all. She devoured her special dinner with enthusiasm.

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It is hard to believe that 10 years have gone by, but it is hold hard to imagine life without my special little girl. We have been through a lot together – adventures and transitions – more than be documented on these pages.

Here is her official photo from animal shelter, followed by a portrait from her first week at home.

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Baby Luna at home

At the time, she was 7 months old. Still a baby in many ways. Over the years, I have watched her grow into a beautiful cat. Here are just a few photos, including one of the most recent.

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We are certainly looking forward to many more years and adventures together, wherever life leads us. Please join me in wishing Luna a Happy 10th Gotcha Day!

CatSynth 8th Anniversary

Well, our eighth blog anniversary occurred this weekend.  So today we celebrate that milestone as we do every year, with some statistics and a look backs.

First, as always, the photo of Luna that launched it all on July 19, 2006.

We are always happy to receive visitors from all over the world, and we do.

Our top countries are:

  1. United States
  2. United Kingdom
  3. Canada
  4. Germany
  5. France
  6. Australia
  7. Switzerland
  8. Italy
  9. Netherlands
  10. India

Not surprising, the largest English-speaking countries are on the list (I include India), but also a strong presence in countries of Western Europe, especially Germany and France. Beyond India, several countries an Asia were well represented, especially Japan and South Korea. Notably, China had only 6 visitors this year, perhaps we have been blocked? Our top country in the Middle East was Iran, in Africa it was South Africa, and in South America it was Brazil.

Our top ten cities were San Francisco, New York, London, Zurich, Los Angeles, Oakland, Sydney, Melbourne, and Chicago.

Our top post from this past year was Our review of new modules from Make Noise. Indeed, we saw the highest overall engagement on our NAMM coverage.

Our top commenters for the year were:

  1. Georgia and Julie, along with the late Tillie (we miss Tillie)
  2. meowmeowmans of Animal Shelter Volunteer Life.
  3. Snowcatcher
  4. Louis la Vache (of the now closed Bay Area Photo blog)
  5. Beth F of Beth Fish Reads
  6. Our friend “Kitty” from Canada
  7. Gattina
  8. Sukhmandir Kaur
  9. Sue St. Clair
  10. Lee County Clowder

Overall, activity on the blog itself is down, while participation via Facebook, TwitterInstagram are increasing. Our top “liked” posts via Facebook were:

  1. Chris Broderick Farewell Bay Area Concert
  2. Happy Gotcha Day to Luna!
  3. CatSynth pic: Belly Rub
  4. Cat Museum of San Francisco’s Morrissey Birthday post
  5. CatSynth pic: Nina the Studio Kitty

Our Facebook channel has become particularly strong on its own, often with distinct posts and readers from the blog. As for the blog itself, my own activity has gone down quite a bit this year, due to a variety of work and personal issues. In particular, I’d like to get back to more of our interest posts, including more music and art reviews, “Fun with Highways”, etc. And of course more cats and synths.

And finally, thanks to everyone who has stuck with us through any or all of our channels. You are what makes this such a rewarding experience!

Happy Gotcha Day, Luna!

It has been exactly 9 years since I first brought Luna home from the Santa Cruz County animal shelter. This was her official photo from the shelter.

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It was already clear with that face and those green eyes she was going to grow up to be a beautiful cat. And she has been a sweet and faithful animal companion for almost a decade now.

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Please join me in wishing Luna a Happy Gotcha Day!

CatSynth 7th Anniversary!

Today we mark seven years since CatSynth first went online!

Here was the photo of Luna from that first post on July 19, 2006.

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As we do every yeah, we celebrate this occasion with some stats.

2,278 posts.
12,218 comments.
538,771 visitors.
760 “cat-and-synth” posts.

Some overall stats for the past year:

Our top day for visitors was January 26, 2013. This was during NAMM.
The greatest number of visitors came from the United States, followed by the United Kingdom, Canada, and Germany.
The top cities are San Francisco and New York. The top city outside the U.S. is London.
iOS and Android are among the top five platforms used by our visitors, surpassing Linux.

Our top commenters over the past year:

Tillie and Georgia 187
meowmeowmans 142
Gattina 70
Snowcatcher 57
Kitty 56
CatSynth 53
Beth F 45
Sukhmandir Kaur 42
AVCr8teur 42
Louis la Vache 40
Sue St Clair 39
KatzTales 37
Cafe au lait 34
Marilia 33
The Chair Speaks 29
Sweet Purrfections 27
Cats of wildcat woods 25
Marg 24
Team Tabby 23
Beth @ 990 Square 22
SandyCarlson 22

It’s great to see longtime readers continue to participate over the years, and always good to see newcomers as well.  Interestingly, the number of comments has gone down significantly over the past year.  My conjecture is that an increasing amount of the engagement around CatSynth has migrated to our Facebook page, and to Twitter, where we have lively communities of commenters.  In terms of Facebook, here are our most shared/liked posts over the past year:

The Green Wood, an opera by David Samas 64
CatSynth pic: Brian Eno Purina ad 44
Weekend Cat Blogging: Good News from PAWS 38
Pitta of the Mind, Red Thread, and Pet the Tiger at Turquoise Yantra Grotto 36
CatSynth pic: Gary Mew-man 33
CatSynth pic: Moog Little Phatty 31
Superb Owl 29
Outsound Music Summit: Fire and Energy 28
CatSynth pic: Chewie on Ensoniq EPS 26
CatSynth pic: Pinto and Moog Little Phatty 25
Jay Korber Benefit Performance, Berkeley Arts 25
The Fashion World of John Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk, De Young Museum 23
CatSynth pic: Maggie Monotron 23
Military Cats 20
CatSynth pic: Schnuffi and Modular 19

It’s gratifying to see a mixture of “cat-and-synth” posts and art/music reviews in this list.  It supports my belief that mixing all the different topics together into one stream is worthwhile.  I particularly enjoy our many cat enthusiasts commenting on the music reviews or highway posts.

We hope to continue this project for a long time, and hope it continues to be a valuable and worthwhile resource.  And a big thank you to all our readers and fans!  You make this a joy to work on.

On the Night of War

I wrote this poem on the night the Iraq war began, ten years ago.

On the night of war…
March 19, 2003

A light rain has fallen
A trio of snails marches up the main path towards my front door
Upon the thinnest of thin sheets of wet
Like the one who came into my garage a week ago
To say “hi neighbor, what is all this stuff in your garage?”
A week ago, before I turned thirty, before we entered this latest war
I was unaware there was such an abundance of large snails
Before this night which is a second day
Rising after collapsing from exhaustion of the stress, agony, exhilaration, guilt
Of being alive and flourishing at this strange time

© 2003 Amar Chaudhary

Wordless Wednesday: Oak Grove (5 Years Later)



NAMM: MIDI at 30

MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface), the protocol that we use to connect musical instruments together, has officially been around for 30 years now, and the occasion was being marked with an exhibit at NAMM:

There were some of the earliest instruments as well as those demonstrating how it is being used today. The Yamaha Disklavier series was quite prominent, as an instrument that is both acoustic and a MIDI device at the same time. There was also the Prophet 600, a forerunner to the Prophet 12 we reviewed yesterday and the first commercially available instrument to implement MIDI.

In the middle, between “1983” and “2013”, were a few of the devices I remember from the mid-1980s.

I had a Yamaha box (a sequencer) with the same beveled shape as the TX7 pictured here. And I was quite interested in the Atari ST computer, though was never able to get one. Both devices seem quite primitive today. Unlike the analog synthesizers that we have been reviewing, earlier digital devices don’t seem to hold up as well. Nonetheless, the MIDI protocol itself is still vital for much electronic music-making, despite its well-documented limitations in speed and resolution.

CatSynth 6th Anniversary

Today marks our 6th anniversary! It’s amazing to think that we have been going on with this for 6 years. The past year has been a good one, in terms of quality of the post and engagement with readers here on the blog as well as via Facebook and Twitter, and we’re looking forward to an even better year ahead.

And we are celebrating as we always do, with statistics.

1933 posts.
10714 comments.
463,958 visitors.
258 reviews of art, music and technology.
621 catsynth pics and videos.

57% of posts feature cats
19% of posts feature Luna

Most frequently-cited synthesizer brands:
Korg (100)
Moog (72)
Roland (70)

Via Google Analytics, a map of where people are visiting from:

Top countries:

United States
United Kingdom
Canada
India
Germany
Australia
France
Italy
Poland
Netherlands

The non-anglophone country that sent the most visitors to CatSynth is Germany.

Our top commenters for July 2011-July 2012:

Kitty 141
Tillie and Georgia 135
meowmeowmans 132
Gattina 77
Snowcatcher 61
AVCr8teur 55
Beth F 50
Sue St Clair 46
Marg 45
Beth @ 990 Square 44
Daisy the Curly Cat 39
SandyCarlson (USA) 39
Cafe au lait 37
Judi 33
Louis la Vache 33
Mitch 32
Maria @ LSS 32
The Chair Speaks 31
caite@a lovely shore breeze 29
Indrani 29
Robin from Israel 27
Sweet Purrfections 26
Carol @ There’s Always Thyme to Cook 24
Sukhmandir Kaur 24
Katz (And Other) Tales 21
Li 19
Cats of Wildcat Woods 18
Daisy Deadhead 15
Fuzzy Tales 12

Our most commented articles this past year:

 

Happy Birthday Luna! 36
Happy Gotcha Day, Luna! 27
Wordless Wednesday: Green Window 26
Wordless Wednesday: Cat and Koi Street Art 24
Wordless Wednesday: Installation views of upcoming show 24
Wordless Wednesday 24
Wordless Wednesday: Portals 24
Wordless Wednesday: Blue Barrels 23
Wordless Wednesday: Oakland Maze 23
Wordless Wednesday: View from Brooklyn 23
Wordless Wednesday: Ominous Sky 22
Wordless Wednesday: Ferguson 22
Dona Nobis Pacem 22
Wordless Wednesday: Union and Octavia 22
Wordless Wednesday: Looking Upward 21
Wordless Wednesday: Quicksilver 20
Wordless Wednesday: LACMA 20
Wordless Wednesday: Jungle Cat 20
Wordless Wednesday: Doll and Fish 19
Wordless Wednesday: Mystery Sunburst from New York 19

 

And finally, the posts most “liked” by Facebook users.

Broadside Attractions | Vanquished Terrains at Intersection for the Arts 40
CatSynth pic: Happy Minimoog Monday (On Tuesday) 37
CatSynth pic: Bengal Cheetah Cat on a Moog Little Phatty 22
CatSynth pic: Bessie and Korg Monotron 21
Pas Musique and Thomas/Levin duo, Luggage Store Gallery 21
CatSynth pic: Mog Moog 20
CatSynth pic: Missy and Nord 20
Paul Stapleton improvisation sets, Luggage Store Gallery 17
CatSynth pic: Mimi and Korg MS-20 16
CatSynth pic: Techno Puff (JL Cooper CS-32) 16
CatSynth pic: Binary Heap 16
CatSynth pic: VideoCat and Korg Mono/Poly 16
CatSynth pic: Video the cat with Wurlitzer and Fender 15
CatSynth pic: Steerke and Korg Mono/Poly 14
ReCardiacs Fly, Surplus 1980, PG13 at Hemlock Tavern 13
CatSynth pic: Lenny 13
Robert Reich at #OccupySF 13
CatSynth pic: I smell a rat 12
Alan Turing and Computability 12

It is quite interesting how the set of posts receiving the most blog comments and those receiving the most Facebook likes are completely disjoint.  The former tends towards Wordless Wednesday and Luna, while the latter tends towards cat-and-synth pics and art/music reviews.  Certainly something to reflect on as we move forward into this next year.

 

Alan Turing and Computability

Yesterday (June 23), would have been the 100th birthday of Alan Turing, the mathematician who was one of the founders of modern computer science – indeed he is often considered to be the “father of computer science.”

In the 1920s and 1930s, much attention in the mathematics was on the subject of “computable numbers” and finding automatic systems for proving mathematical statements.   Based on a series of problems stated by David Hilbert, the mathematician Kurt Gödel ultimately proved that this not possible.  Essentially, there is no formal mathematical system that can decide the truth or falsehood of all mathematical statements.   This is quite profound and simple to state, but Gödel’s mathematics is cryptic and at some times impenetrable.   By contrast, Alan Turing’s formulation of the mathematics as a simple device is quite accessible and laid the groundwork for the positive use of Gödel’s results.  Sure, we cannot solve all mathematical problems computationally, but we can do quite a lot with the right tools.  The Turing Machine is one of the simpler of such tools.

 

A Turing Machine consists of a tape, or an infinite sequence of cells, each of which contains a symbol that can be read or written.  There is a head, which (much like the head on a tape recorder) moves along the tape and is always positioned at one cell.  The state register contains one or more states of the machine.  Finally, the transition table contains a series of instructions of the form qiaj→qi1aj1dk where q is a state, a is a symbol, and d is a number of cells to move the head left or right along the tape (including not moving it at all).  So, if the machine is at a given state qi and the head is over a symbol aj, switch to state qi1, write the symbol aj1 at the head, and move the head dk positions to the left or right.

The description of the Turing Machine is very mechanical, which makes it a bit easier to understand.  But it is nonetheless a formal mathematical model.  It was used to demonstrate that the “halting problem”, the ability of such a machine to determine if any set of states and transitions will stop or repeat forever, is not solvable.  This remains today, one of the great unsolvable problems in computer science.

About the same time as Turing published his results, American mathematician Alonzo Church published an equivalent result using lambda calculus, a system I personally find more intuitive and elegant because of its basis in functions and algebraic-like expressions (it will be the subject of a future article).  But Turing’s work has been more prominent both in mainstream computer science and in the culture at large, with computer designs and languages being described as “Turing complete”.  And then there is the “Turing Test” for evaluating artificial intelligence systems.  So far, no system has ever passed the test.

During this centennial, especially coming as it does during Pride Weekend in much of the United States, there has been much written about Turing’s homosexuality and his being convicted for homosexual activity that was then illegal in the UK and stripped of his security clearance.  This is a very sad statement on the time in which he lived, that someone who was both one of the most influential mathematicians in a growing field of computation and a hero of World War II for is code-breaking exploits was treated in such a mean and undignified way.  There was also much written about the mysterious circumstances of his death – long considered a suicide, a recent BBC article on the centennial suggests otherwise.  You can read for yourself here.  As for us at CatSynth, we prefer to focus on his achievements.

Google honored Turing yesterday with one of their trademark “Google Doodles” in which they implemented a functioning Turing Machine.