Spring is Here and I Smoked Some Country Ribs

Country Ribs

On today’s menu…

I’m probably jinxing us to a massive freak April snowstorm, but I’m going to say Spring has finally arrived. Not that it’s all that spring-like out there at this moment. It’s 44℉ and I think it’s only supposed to hit 52℉ today. But the sun is out and the birds are singing and the grass is greening up. The Astros are 2-2 and took two out of three from the Yankees.  They got hammered last night 11-1 by the Angels, but it’s a long season and I feel OK thinking at this point that they won’t lose 1oo games this year.

So of course I’ve fired up The Egg.

Part of the motivation came from texting back and forth with my friend Nate last weekend when we were down in Evansville, IN visiting Carla’s nephew. Nate has writes a blog called Bread & Whiskey that documents his passion for cooking. Before I had the Egg I had an offset New Braunfels Black Diamond that my mom bought Carla and me for our wedding present. When I was turning 50 and decided to step up my game with respect to smoking, I knew I wanted the old smoker to go to a good home. It had always served me well. Long story short, I ran into Nate out at the 50 West Brewing Co. and we talked barbecue. It came up in passing that he was looking for an offset smoker to restore and modify and I told him he could have mine for the price of coming to get it. It was a win-win-win.  He got his smoker and I got it off my back patio and it went to a home where it would be treated with the love it deserves. I haven’t seen the smoker itself, but I’ve seen pictures of the restoration job he did.  It looks awesome. I’m so happy that it all worked out.

Smoker Underway

Aaaaaaand we’re underway

So anyway, Nate was getting a chance to cook on a Big Green Egg for the first time last weekend. He was over at some friends who bought their Egg the same place I bought mine (Wardway Fuels on the West Side. Cannot recommend them highly enough). He was excited, to say the least. He did things a little different than I’ve been doing. He ran his top vent open all the way and just used the bottom to regulate the temp. He was also using a water pan, which I hadn’t done up to this point. The pictures he sent looked great and I’m sure the meat was fantastic. But what it mostly did for me was get me in the mood. Then Tuesday was really nice and Carla and I were able to sit out on the back patio. Looking at the covered Egg I decided that I was going to cook something today.  And here we are.

Thursday I had my “Congratulations!  You’re 50! Let’s shove a camera up your ass!” colonoscopy. It went fine. No problems. Don’t have to worry about another for 10 years. Knowing it was coming, then the joy of the prep on Wednesday, made it a less than fun-filled week. Funny thing about the anesthesia:  I wasn’t knocked out all the way, but its effects really hung on.  I slept for much of the day Thursday and even last night I slept hard. How this all matters to what I’m cooking today is Carla rightly suggested I do something easy. I rushed the last cook. The country ribs were terrible (about half were pitched) and the sliced butt was uninspiring.  Edible. OK, even. But not all that great. I need to nail something to get the season off to a good start, and a good tray of country ribs are the way to go. They only take 4-5 hours and that let me sleep in and take it easy this morning.

Country ribs aren’t ribs, of course. They’re actually chops from the shoulder near the front end of the baby back ribs. I love the damned things. My usual pattern is to do a tray of country ribs in addition to something else — a pork butt or brisket, even — with the intent of eating on the ribs that day to scratch the itch of getting some barbecue and giving the larger hunk of meat the time it deserves. Since I just have a tray of ribs on now I decided to try a couple of things a little differently this time around.

I started the fire the same way I did last time, but it started much easier this time. I may have had too much small lump pieces the last time because I got to the nice blue smoke really fast this time. Last time I let the fire establish itself for 20 minutes with the lid up and the vents all the way open, then went another 20 minutes with the lid down but the vents wide open before the smoke cleaned up. This time?  Once I got the plate setter and the grids placed after the first 20 minutes the fire and the smoke were perfect. I’m thinking I had too many small pieces of lump in a single layer that choked the air flow. This time the lump was piled much looser and I think that’s the difference.

I’m using a water pan this time. That’s straight from Nate’s experience last week and I figured it was time to try it. So far so good.  If nothing else, having another thermal sink between the fire and the grid has kept the temps pretty well planted between 215 and 220. I’ve been writing this post for several hours now and — as I was expecting — using the water pan is inhibiting the formation of a good bark, but the color on the meat is beautiful and I’m really happy with the moisture level inside. I suspect I’ll be using a pan of water when I do my next large cut of meat. I started with just under a gallon of water in a 9 x 17 pan. Three hours about half the water was gone and I put the remainder water from the glass jug so the pan won’t go dry. What I may do when I do a large butt or brisket is just let the pan go dry so bark has a better chance of forming.

I thought about doing what Nate did and trying to control the temperature strictly with the bottom damper, but I wimped out. I did some reading on any number of the Big Green Egg forums and came to the conclusion I’d try it the other way around. So what I’ve done is tried to keep the bottom damper at a single position and tweak the top damper to adjust the temperature (open increases the temperature, while closing lowers it). Following what I was taught by Chef JJ the weekend I got the Egg, I’ve always moved the top and bottom dampers together under the assumption that the input and output should be equal. I don’t think you can ever go wrong doing it that way.

What I’ve seen today, though, is that you can seemingly affect the rate of airflow through the bottom simply by manipulating the top damper. Opening the top allows more air to vent which forces air to be drawn in faster through the bottom damper because the pressure has to remain equal inside and the bottom aperture size remains constant. The only way to account for the increased outflow due to a larger top opening is to draw more air faster through the same sized bottom opening. This sets up more rapid air circulation within the Egg, which encourages a bit hotter fire and the temperature rises. I’m probably screwing up the physics, but that’s what I think is happening. The key thing to remember is never let the top be open less than the bottom. The top isn’t tight enough to shut off all airflow, but you could easily starve the fire and create some nasty smoke.

I’m well over 1300 words and I apologize if at any point I’ve actually had anything useful to say. I don’t write regularly enough and spending the day tending the Egg gives me an excuse to write about something I actually care about. I start and stop as the day goes on and I do other things as needed. My practice up to this point has been to start a post and publish it before things are done, then add to it throughout the day.  Since I’m doing things differently today while cooking, why not blog it differently as well?

That said, this is how the meat pictured above looked 4.5 hours later when I was taking it off. You can assume they taste as good as they look.

Finished Country Ribs

I think these turned out pretty well.

Posted in Baseball, You Bet, Food, The Cult of the Big Green Egg

A Pause In the Winter of Our Discontent

Smoker topper

That there is what you call clean smoke.

There’s no nice way to say it. This winter has sucked. I mostly mean the weather, but there have been no shortage of things that have sucked. Tomorrow we’re supposed to get an ice and snow storm. I’m so ready for winter to be over it’s not even funny. If there’s a day where I don’t say “What fresh hell is this?” I consider myself lucky.

I’ve not used The Egg all winter. Part of the reason I got it was because its thermal properties are such that outside temperatures are basically irrelevant. I don’t mind cooking in cold — I don’t stay out there that long — but dealing with an eternal snow cover and the ice and the gunk that sort of coats everything just hasn’t been appealing. Early in the week it because pretty clear that today wasn’t going to be too bad weather-wise, so I decided to fire up The Egg.

The last thing I cooked was a brisket and it was OK. Nothing great, but still better than most we can get around here. I still have some work to do on that. I went ahead and got a better dual thermometer. This time it’s the classic Maverick ET-732. I’ve been using it for all of an hour, but I believe I already have some evidence that it’s a better unit than what I used before (also a Maverick, but a cheaper model). For one thing, both probes agreed with each other when I turned them on away from the smoker. That right there is an improvement over the old unit.

thermometer

This is how the smoking began.

Today I’m doing a pork butt that’s going to wind up being sliced and some country ribs.  I don’t plan to be as obsessive about documenting the details, but there are a few things I want to note mainly so I don’t forget them. I tried yet another way of starting the fire, and I think this is a keeper.  I stacked the lump and (oak) chunks around a central stick of fat wood.  I lit that off and let it go for about 20 minutes to get it nice and lit.  Then I put on the plate setter and grids and lowered the lid (lower vent wide open, top vent unit removed so it’s wide open) and let it go until the grid temp hit around 400.  The smoke was really dirty up until it got to around 350, and then it cleared out.  This probably didn’t take more than 10-15 minutes.  I put on the meat (dual grids: butt low, ribs high) and shut the dampers down to barely open.  The shot of the thermometer is where things settled. In the first hour there was a small fall off that I stopped at around 210 and I’ve got it pretty much dialed in a 235 now. It’s been going an hour and a half.  The ribs will come off for dinner.  The butt will take longer, but I got a late start today.

It’s nice to be doing this again.

UPDATE @ 4:30: I actually left the smoker unattended for a little more than two hours. That’s an all time first. Maybe it’s maturity setting in?

Nah.  It was brunch.

Carla and I met some friends for brunch, though it wound up just being lunch. Wunderbar, mmm. Just before we left the temp spiked to around 250 (+ or -) and … I did nothing.  I just left. Here’s my thinking: given constant ventilation, a temperature spike is most likely the result of new fuel lighting off. Rather than trying to chase the temps (which I’ve always done in the past, only to have to try to bring them back up), I just let it go. I figured it’d peak out somewhere and start dropping back toward the mean of 235 that this vent setting seems to be dialed in for holding. I don’t know that it happened, but I’ll pretend it did, When I got home the grid temp was 220.

The ribs were done. They’d been on for about 5 hours at that point and some of them were really shrunken.  While wrapping them up in foil I checked for toughness and none of them were rocks, so I didn’t let them go too long. Glad we didn’t hang around for another beer, though.  That would have been bad.  The butt is moving right along.  5.5. hours in and it’s at 156 internal. I’ve yet to hit the stall, so I’m figuring I won’t be taking this off the smoker until well after dark. I’m targeting 180 and I’ll probably just wrap it whole and worry about slicing it tomorrow. The big thing is that I want to get the smoker covered tonight before the crap starts moving in. I suspect the cover can take some heat, but I’m going to have to give it some time to cool off. Getting the butt off by 8 would be great.

And that’s a sentence that’s not acceptable in any other context.

Posted in The Cult of the Big Green Egg

Religion

Life.  The Universe.  Everything.

You’re welcome to believe what you want to believe. I believe what I believe. What I believe is none of your business, by the way. And what you believe is none of mine. Let’s keep it that way.

Religion is meant to define how we navigate through a world where, individually speaking, we’re not the point of the exercise. It’s meant to teach us how to treat others.

It doesn’t say a damned thing about how people are supposed to treat you.

Hell, if you wanted to sum up the teachings of most religious traditions, it comes down to “A lot of things that really suck are going to happen to you, but this is how you’re supposed to act anyway. Just because.”

I understand evangelism. If you believe your system of deciding how you treat other people is a really good one, it’s probably a bad idea to keep it to yourself. It might do someone some good. Feel free to mention it. Feel free to live it and show it to the world.

Just don’t expect everyone to thank you for it.

If you’re in it for the thanks, you’re doing it wrong anyway.

Treat others the way you’d want to be treated. And don’t freak out when people don’t treat you the way you want to be treated. That’s just how it works. If you can’t live in a world where people don’t do what you want, that’s not a religious issue. That’s a potty training issue.

Don’t confuse them.

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Posted in The Ol' Curmudgeon, The Ol' Philosopher

There’s nothing wrong with vertical video. Nothing. N-o-t-h-i-n-g.

Hi. I’m Tom. I’ve been shooting video for more than 35 years. And I don’t have a problem with vertical video. In fact, I’m starting to have a problem with people who have problems with vertical video.

What am I talking about?  Here’s a video shot the “right” way:

Apparently this is virtuous video. Video that won’t curl your hair, lead to halitosis or Make America Lose the War™. (I think I owe George Carlin’s estate royalties for that line.)

This is vertical video:

Even Dunkel is bored with your aversion to vertical video. And yes, I snuck in a cat video.

I first learned this was a thing when I saw this video:

I’ll be the first to say that this is hilarious. It’s also about as intellectually rigorous as most of the arguments I’ve seen. I haven’t (and won’t) do an exhaustive analysis of those arguments, but there seem to be four of them:

  1. History:  Video has always had a horizontal orientation.
  2. Physiology: Our eyes are side-by-side and our perceptual range is roughly horizontally-oriented.
  3. Wasted space: A vertically-oriented video is often presented with black bars on the left and right when presented on a horizontally-oriented
  4. It looks funny: I think this is really just some fuzzy combination of the first three, but maybe not.

I’ll say right up front that the first three sound perfectly reasonable on their face. Each statement is actually true. Irrelevant, but true. Here’s why:

History

The ratio of a video’s width to height is referred to as its aspect ratio. Most of the time it’s expressed as a proportion:

Number Units Width : Number of Units Height

So a 4:3 aspect ratio would equally describe a screen 4-inches wide and 3-inches tall as well as one 40-inches wide and 30-inches tall. Don’t misunderstand: the units can be anything:  feet, millimeters, squares of chocolate, or the mark my forehead makes on the desk as I collapse from tedium. You’ll also see aspect ratios expressed as the quotient of width divided by height. Our screen with a 40-inch width and 30-inch height can also be said to have a 1.3333 aspect ratio.

I didn’t just pick that size out of the air as an example. You’ll learn, if you go to the Wikipedia article I just linked to, that this was film’s original aspect ratio. For reasons lost to the mists of time, Dickson and Edison (and likely more Dickson than Edison) decided the height of a frame would be four sprocket-holes and the width was based on what was left over on 35-mm film after you accounted for the space the sprockets took up.  So the Ür moving-image aspect ratio wasn’t sent down by the Almighty on stone tablets, it was tied to the physical characteristics of the first standardized film system.

So it’s true that video images have historically been horizontally-oriented. First it was a little wider than tall, now it can be a lot wider than tall. The thing is, it’s pretty tough to flip a movie projector or TV on its side. Still images never had that limitation. You’d never hear anyone being taken seriously if they tried to argue that landscape orientation is the only true photo orientation and portrait is the spawn of the devil. Digital video images are closer to still images than traditional analog moving images in that the display devices can be made to arbitrarily rotate the image so that up is always up and and down is always down.

So sure, we’ve always had horizontal video. We had to.  Now we don’t.

Physiology

Everyone’s a little different, but we have a little bit more range of vision side-to-side than up and down vision.  It isn’t in focus all the time and we actually pay attention to very little of what’s in front of us, but our visual fields of view tend to be horizontally-oriented. Not as horizontal as even old-school 4:3 video, but horizontal nonetheless. The argument against vertical video seems to be that moving images are somehow “wrong” if they aren’t mimicking the physiological characteristics of our eyes. That seems like a safe assumption on its face, but it falls apart pretty quickly.  Here’s a non-exhaustive list of things people accept in film and video all the time that the human eye isn’t capable of:

  1. Zooms
  2. Pans and tilts
  3. Fast-forward / Slow-motion
  4. Dissolves.  Heck, pretty much any transition except for (possibly) the cut.

Don’t start on me about pans and tilts. “What do you mean?” you say “I can certainly turn my head from side to side! I can look up and down!”  Yes you can. But what you don’t notice is that your eyes don’t stay fixed forward as your head moves. What basically happens is your eye tracks very quickly to where you’re looking and your neck catches up. You change your “shot” as fast as you possibly can and “edit out” the motion of your eye so you aren’t disoriented. Google “fixation” and “saccades” if you want to know more.

That’s why I’m willing to say the eye can sort of mimic a cut, but unless your name is Steve Austin and you’re the Six-Million-Dollar Man, your eye isn’t doing a zoom. So it’s kind of silly to insist on a horizontal orientation for video when we accept all kinds of things the eye can’t do.

At a deeper level, the whole language of the moving image is predicated on two things:  The interplay of light and shadow and the notion of directed attention. The camera’s gaze isn’t supposed to fall equally on all objects in the field of view. One of the hardest things to do is watch video shot by an unmoving camera. It’s like talking to someone who doesn’t blink. It takes a while, but after a couple of minutes your skin is crawling.

Is vertical video always the best choice to direct attention? Of course not.  Lawrence of Arabia would have been a silly movie shot vertically. What I find hilarious, though, is that the effectiveness of the Vertical Video Syndrome PSA up there really relies on the vertical video to create the negative space necessary for the joke to work. And speaking of negative space …

Wasted Space

This is the one I find the funniest: that somehow you’re not getting your money’s worth if every pixel of your display device isn’t taken up with video. It’s kind of like back in the days when TVs had a 4:3 aspect ratio and you’d hear screaming from people when they saw a letterboxed video. Or now when people are perfectly comfortable distorting the aspect ratio of a 4:3 source video to fill a 16:9 screen. Somehow people looking shorter and fatter (and circles appearing to be squashed ovals) is preferable to there being pixels on the screen that aren’t earning their keep by just showing black. To each their own, I guess. For the record, videos with distorted aspect ratios drive me nuts, but Carla can watch them without noticing. And I love her very much. I can accept mystery in my life.

For reasons no one will every really understand, YouTube doesn’t accommodate vertical video and to people who leave comments on YouTube (a scary, depressing group of people), that makes vertical video A Bad Thing.™   Here’s my video from above as it appears on YouTube.

Note how they blow up the still frame and then BAM! Black bars left and right. Other services allow vertical video. The fact that YouTube doesn’t isn’t a valid indictment. Sounds more like a lack of imagination on their part to me.

I really don’t know what to do with the wasted space argument. It’s a taste thing, I guess. But just because it bothers you doesn’t mean it bothers everyone.

And finally!

It Looks Funny

When I’m being charitable I say that this is probably a way for people to express their discomfort over some combination of the other objections. When I’m not being charitable I ask when in the course of human events we’ve ever seen things go wrong when humans immediately dislike something because it’s strange and unfamiliar. It usually works out pretty well, right?

Conclusion

This has been a long post.  I have a simple point. You may not like vertical video. That’s fine.  You don’t have to. No one’s making you. Just understand that it’s not the video that’s having the problem.

It’s you.

Don’t mistake the two.

 

Posted in Tech, The Ol' Curmudgeon, The Ol' Philosopher, Video

Be Kind. Always.

I’ve been seeing this quote — or some variation — floating around the Internet for the last few days. It’s probably because of everything that’s happened to Carla and me recently, but this has really resonated.
Be kind. Always.We’ve been the recipients of many kindnesses large and small through these many months.  A lot of times it’s what’s kept me going. It’s in my nature to see a glass half-filled with water and see only a roiling pit of despair and futility.

Hey, it’s a gift.

It’s a toxic way to think and it’s been mostly through things others have done for me — things large and small, things that are part of their jobs or done just because they wanted to — that I’m anywhere near functional. I will always be grateful.

Months ago Carla wrote a piece on the culture of snobbery that I think is the other side of the coin. She talked about beer and music as things people get all holier-than-thou about, but we all know it goes deeper than that.

How much pain does a person have to be in to want to deny others small things that bring them happiness?

There’s nothing I can say and nothing that I can do that won’t attract condemnation from someone. I’m a liberal who doesn’t think much of the Obama administration. The line of people who would be happy to spit on me is a very long one. Mucus-filled, but long.

“Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.  Be Kind. Always.”

That cuts both ways, doesn’t it? I may lash out at you about something because of something completely unrelated that’s bothering me. You may be lashing out at me because of something I don’t know about. I’ll feel bad later when I do it. I hope I apologize to you, but there’s a good chance I won’t. I don’t know about you.  You probably will, or would if you could. Or maybe you don’t even realize it happened?

“Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.  Be Kind. Always.”

But what is kind? I live just a few miles from the infamous Creation Museum. I’ve always called it the “Moron Museum” because, to me, that’s what’s really being displayed there. If the place has done no other good it has, at least, given the impetus for Charlie Pierce‘s book Idiot America.¹ In his formulation there are three premises that define life in this country:

  • Any theory is valid if it sells books, soaks up ratings, or otherwise moves units.
  • Anything can be true if someone says it loudly enough.
  • Fact is that which enough people believe. Truth is determined by how fervently they believe it.

I believe these to be true. I don’t believe that because it feels good for them to be true or that it confirms some dark suspicion I have about people. It doesn’t feel that good and I kind of wish there wasn’t so much evidence to support them. The book itself is nothing more than extended set of examples of the three premises in action.

So how am I to be kind when faced with something like the Creation Museum? Or being very liberal in an area that prides itself in opposing liberalism? (They call themselves ‘conservative’, but I can’t see what they stand for other than really, really hating people like me.) How am I to be kind? Because I think I really need to be. I like it when people are kind to me and I think I don’t really know what’s going on inside people. I don’t know what their battles are.

I think it comes down to dignity. It comes down to recognizing that other people have dignity simply by existing. Not by their actions. Not by their beliefs. Not by their color or gender or sexual preference or how they burp. And not by what I think about how they treat others. None of those things should influence how I treat others. Recognizing that others have dignity no matter what and acting accordingly is, I’m thinking at this point, the path to being kind.

I think the first thing I need to do is quit calling the Creation Museum the Moron Museum. I’ll call it the Idiocy Museum instead. It is idiocy. It’s disingenuous, willfully ignorant and claiming truth simply because they can get people to walk through the doors. Calling it the Moron Museum attacks the dignity of those who hold beliefs I think are wrong. I think those beliefs are quite definitely and demonstrably wrong, but calling the people who hold those beliefs morons denies their dignity. How can I object to attacks on my dignity if I’m willing to attack the dignity of others? People have dignity.  Ideas don’t. I don’t have to be kind to all ideas, but I think I do have to be kind to all people.

Can you separate the people from the ideas? Read this again and again:

“Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.  Be Kind. Always.”

I think the struggle of being kind is understanding that people get to where they are by ways you can’t imagine. You have two choices at that point:  decide you can read minds and (what are the chances?!) conclude that you’re a better person than the other and look at them as less than human.  Or, you can take the leap and deal with them the way you’d want to be dealt with regardless of how that works out for anyone in the long run.

I can wish for kindness from others.  I can point out how they are being unkind. But nothing someone else does removes my obligation to be kind to them. If I can help them fight their battle, great. Often I cannot. I can still be kind, though.

Always.


¹ Based on an earlier Esquire article that can be found here.

Posted in The Ol' Philosopher

I remember being warm

Carla and I took a cruise on the Disney Fantasy over Christmas. This is one of the few reminders I have right now that it’s possible to be warm outside. This is the timelapse video of us leaving Port Canaveral. Silly us.  We thought it was breezy and cool. Silly us.

This is when we were approaching Grand Cayman on December 23, 2013. Sun. Warmth. I remember those.

I reserve the right to bitch about the heat this summer.

I look forward to it.

Posted in Nothing in Particular, Travel, Video

A riddle: How is our cat Dunkel like Times Square?

Answer:  They both made it 23 days into the new year with only one ball dropping.

Someday we’ll have two healthy cats around the house. Maybe by next week? That’d be nice. Porter’s back to his old self. He talks, he purrs, he rolls over on his back to beg for belly rubs (feet preferred, but hands are OK).  He does this yoga stretching routine when he gets up and he attacks the scratching posts (and furniture) with much gusto. I guess I never mentioned it here that the vet called and his blood work was fine.  “Perfect” is the word she used, and I’m never going to argue with that. We kept the painkillers going until yesterday and I’m not seeing anything in his behavior that makes me think he still needs them. I did the thing this morning where I dug under the bookcase downstairs with the long spoon to dislodge what’s been put under there.  There was a healthy supply of twist ties.

Picture of cone

As a medical device it makes a great cat toy.

Dunkel, on the other hand, got snipped yesterday.  Unfortunately for him, one testes didn’t descend and they had to go into his abdomen to get it. He handled the surgery just fine and the anesthesia didn’t seem to bother him.  There was no throwing up or anything. It wasn’t really obvious until this morning, but he was clearly still pretty doped up when he came home yesterday.  He’s moving around pretty stiffly today, to say the least. He was licking his incision, which was OK, I guess, but he was also biting at it. Carla went back up to the vet’s to get a cone-of-shame which wound up being almost, but not entirely, useless. We have a hard enough time keeping a collar on the little guy. A cone? Not gonna happen. There hasn’t been much of an issue since the drugs wore off.  Porter isn’t the roughhousing type, really. He’s more the “chase me, chase me, chase me” type. Dunkel is sore enough today that getting into a position to bite at the stitches isn’t really something he can do. He’s definitely been slowed down by all this.  He’s walking gingerly and he doesn’t like jumping onto things. Stepping gently is more his speed.  Except he’s managed to get up to the top of the tower. That’s pretty impressive. Sure hope he’ll be able to get down.

I want to make sure I mention that we knew going into this that we’d likely be dealing with this. Typically pets you get from the shelter are already fixed. We knew he wasn’t and why and we were fine with it. We got a voucher to cover what the cost of a typical procedure would cost, which was nice, but we would have taken him anyway.

The cold weather is holding on and I’m looking forward to the day we can just snuggle with our cats rather than running a feline health clinic. Of course, so are they.

 

Posted in Cats, Dunkel, Nothing in Particular, Porter

Quickie: Porter Update (and Bock comes home)

It turns out Porter probably is mourning, but the 105-degree temperature he’s running isn’t helping. I thought I’d noticed him limping yesterday and earlier today I saw him land awkwardly when he jumped off the desk. We decided pretty quickly that running him up to the vet wouldn’t be the worst thing for him. I can accept a cat in mourning, but I’d hate for it to be something else and miss it because I was too busy projecting my own problems on him. Cats can run temperatures when they’re stressed, apparently, but the vet thought this was a little high for just that. She’ll call with the results of some blood work tomorrow. She gave us some mild painkillers for him. There was nothing really wrong with his front paws, but you know how you just kind of hurt all over when you have a fever? It’s probably that. He’s not dehydrated, so that’s a load off my mind.

While I was checking out,  the receptionist — who was working that horrible day two weeks ago — told me that she had Bock’s ashes. She offered to walk out with me with them since I had Porter in the carrier. I took her up on it. It’s a beautiful carved wooden box and, like everything else at Hebron Animal Clinic, everything was done with the utmost class.

It was a hard drive home.

Posted in Bock, Cats, Porter

Blessed are those who mourn

Porter Alone

I’ve been struggling for the last couple of days to write a post that has nothing to do with cats or anything terribly serious. I’ve not been having much luck. I’ve got a post started. I’ll eventually finish it. Today has been hard, though. It appears that Porter is in mourning. He’s pretty much done nothing but sleep since yesterday. He’s always been a talker and he’s not had much to say. He’s lethargic. He does seem to be eating and drinking, so that’s good.

It really makes sense. From Porter’s point of view there was a lot of confusion a while ago and he saw us take Bock away in the carrier.  The carrier came home, but Bock hasn’t. We leave for a while sometimes, but we come home. Dunkel has been a distraction, but it’s pretty clear that Porter is ready for Bock to come home. And at some level I think he knows that’s not going to happen. We talk to him. We pet him. We make sure there are plenty of twist ties around for him to play with. He’ll half-heartedly paw at them. There’s a bookcase downstairs that most of them disappear under.  I use this long plastic spoon to dig under it and get them out and that’s turned into one of our little games. Even today he’ll come right over if he sees me by the bookcase. He’ll bat at the spoon while I’m digging around with it. But there haven’t been any twist ties under there today.

Dunkel is a pretty smart kitten. Last night he wanted to play with Porter and Porter was having none of it. He was sleeping at Carla’s feet, which is where he spends most nights now. This was more than the usual teaching moment; It was clear that Porter might have actually hurt him if it had been allowed to continue. I came out to the living room and slept on the couch knowing Dunkel would hang out with me. A couple of hours later I woke up and saw Dunkel walk over to me, yawn and stretch. “Hell,” I said to him, “if you’re sleeping, what the $%@% am I doing on the couch?” So I went back to bed. All day Dunkel has been treading pretty lightly around Porter. Porter, for his part, has been perfectly willing to have Dunkel get close as long as he doesn’t want to play.

I’m sure this will pass. There’s no rushing it. Just like Porter accepted Dunkel in the house because his innate curiosity took over, I’m sure his playful nature will eventually overcome the sadness of losing his lifelong companion and he’ll form a bond with Dunkel.  A different bond, but a bond nonetheless. It’s an adjustment for all of us.

I just wish there were a way we could help him understand.

Posted in Bock, Cats, Dunkel, Porter

Give the people what they want: Cat pictures

We don’t have the holy grail yet, the photo (or video) of Porter and Dunkel playing. The only reason is because when they start playing, they’re moving too fast. I’m kind of in the mood to write about something else, but people have been asking for more pictures of Dunkel. So when he came up to snuggle on the couch this morning I went ahead and grabbed a few. I might write something else later, but … well … cat pictures.

Some random thoughts about Dunkel:

  • He sounds like a Tribble when he vocalizes. Given how furry he is, he kind of looks like one, too. All that fur makes him look almost twice the size he is. He has these muttonchops that make him look a bit like a lynx or a bobcat, but when you look at just his face you realize what a kitten he still is.
  • Curiosity and innate playfulness won the day yesterday. Porter has always been the ‘”I want to play: chase me!” cat and Dunkel is a rocket-powered fur delivery system. Yesterday afternoon Carla saw them both stalking some air pillow packing material we left out for them to play with. Later she found them both resting on the bed in our guest bedroom — on opposite sides of a suitcase. Within a couple of hours they had graduated to a game of tag. There is no better sound to me than the one of two cats tearing up and down the stairs. They’re still getting to know each other, but they’re well on the way to bonding.
  • We had to chase them both — together — off a kitchen counter. So Porter is taking his big brother duties seriously.
  • A soon as the Boone County Animal Shelter takes a new class of volunteers, we’re so there. They’re first-class folks doing amazing work. It will be a privilege to help however we can.

Yeah, I know. Enough with the words already.  Here’s your Sunday morning shot of cute:

IMG_2394 IMG_2393 IMG_2396 dunkel4

Posted in Cats, Dunkel, Porter

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