Your leaking thatched hut during the restoration of a pre-Enlightenment state.


Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


decay & ruin
Biosphere II
dead malls
Irving housing

got that wrong

appropriate tech
Arduino μcontrollers
Backwoods Home
Fractal antenna

fun social media stuff

(nobody does!)

Like my brownhouse:
   so long, Stripey
Monday, March 6 2017
It was another bitter cold morning, though at least the sun was out, and a March sun is a lot stronger than the January sun more typical of these kind of air temperatures. At some point during their morning walk, the dogs (or, more accurately, Ramona) treed some critter and then remained at the base of that tree barking obsessively, perhaps in hope the critter would be convinced to come down and be torn to ribbons. I could hear the barking while I was visiting the brownhouse, and I could tell whatever had been treed was most interesting. So I went back to the house, grabbed my Nikon camera (the newish one with the long telephoto lens) and headed off into the woods. I was a little under-dressed for the weather; I had a hat for my ears, but my bare hands didn't like exposure to the cold air, and, because I was holding a bulky camera, I couldn't put my hands in my pockets (they were little sweat-pant pockets anyway).
Neville wasn't wearing his Whistle tracker, so I was forced to home in on the dogs by listening for Ramona's barks. (Neville wasn't barking, but he was surely with her.) But of course Ramona wasn't barking continuously. She'd take long breaks, and I'd have to guess my way as best I could. I made a miscalculation that took me down the Chamomile nearly to the bus turnaround before I heard Ramona's barking again and could change my direction. It turned out that she (and Neville) were on a very steep slope downhill from the Gulleys Trail about a third of a mile from home (at 41.927675N, 74.102852W). I approached from below, climbing the impossible slope across fallen trees and what not. Neville doesn't have great eyesight, so when he saw me approaching, he lost all interest in the treed creature and started barking at (and cautiously approaching me). I wanted to see how close he would get before recognizing me, so I said nothing. I just continued to shuffle and clamber his way, occasionally backsliding due to a bad foothold. Neville was only twenty feet away and still regarding me suspiciously, so I whispered something to him and he suddenly lost all his concerns and excitedly greeted me. He seemed bored with Ramona's plan to wait in the cold for a creature to fall from a tree, and he perhaps sensed that I might be bringing this adventure to its merciful end.
When I finally saw the creature, I was pretty sure it was a fisher. It was about fifty feet above the ground in a group of branches that offered a secure perch. I began taking pictures immediately, gradually working my way around to the south side of the tree so I could get the creature's face illuminated by the sun (or at least the southern sky). After taking a good number of photos, I continued up the slope to the Gulleys Trail and headed for home, occasionally calling for Ramona. But she wasn't done with her fisher stakeout. Neville certainly was, and he accompanied me for awhile. But as Ramona's barks receded into the distance, his progress slowed and eventually he quit following me as well. He wanted to go home, but not if it meant abandoning Ramona in the forest. That's the kind of dog he is.

The treed fisher. Click to enlarge.

The fisher's face. Click to enlarge.

A obsessed Ramona who wishes she could climb trees. Click to enlarge.

Neville on the Gulleys Trail thinking maybe he should go back to be with Ramona despite being so tired of that treed fisher.

This morning Gretchen had arranged with the Hurley Vet for us to take Julius (aka "Stripey") in to have his weird, worrying, and worsening abdominal distension examined. When we were later offered an earlier slot, we took it. Stripey was listless in the laboratory, planted in front of an fan-driven electric space heater. His abdomen was so wide that he barely fit into our cat carrier, though he managed to turn around once inside. This was the firs time he'd been in a cat carrier since he first arrived here from the shelter on July 14, 2004 as a four month old kitten.
There was a loose cat wandering around in the waiting area at the veterinary office, and he (or she) took an immediately liking to me, climbing into my lap and staying for a rather long time (considering we'd just met). Stripey normally reacts badly to strange cats, though he was too listless to react in any noticeable way. He seemed more interested in watching what was going in at the check-in desk through the little ventillation holes in the side of his carrier.
In the examination room, Stripey didn't want to come out of his carrier, somehow clutching its inside with his back claws. The vet tech who gave Stripey his initial examination was definitely concerned about the distension in his abdomen. But his breathing seemed normal, as did his heart beat. His temperature was also normal. But the fact that he gave so little resistance to all that was being done to him was an ominous sign. Normally he would be beside himself with terror in the presence of strangers. It seemed he had just given up.
Then the vet (a nice youngish woman we've dealt with before) came in and examined Stripey's abdomen. She couldn't feel any masses of any sort when she touched the turgid surface of his belly and sides and soon decided that the problem was fluid leaking out from somewhere it shouldn't. Whatever the problem was, it wasn't good. In cats, the only time a rapidly-swelling abdomen isn't bad is when a cat is pregnant. And that's not really all that good either. The leak could be caused by organ failure, various forms of cancer, or perhaps (I suppose) some sort of internal injury. I mentioned that I'd seen Stripey licking rusty metal surfaces in recent months; perhaps that had something to do with it.
In hopes of learning more, the vet took Stripey off for an x-ray. By now it was looking like our poor little guy probably wouldn't be coming home alive. This was indeed sad, but it was mostly sad for me. Stripey had been my official lab partner ever since he moved in with us back in 2004. He hasn't been a great cat; he rarely gets along with other cats (particularly new adult males), he acts like a freak around strange humans, he long has had an active dislike for Gretchen (that feeling came to be mutual), and he had the obnoxious habit of urinating in various places in the laboratory. But he adored me. He would follow me around when I was around and aggressively greet me whenever I'd returned from an extended absence. He especially liked to curl up in my pants when they were down around my ankles while I was sitting on the toilet. I'm going to miss all that. But I'm the only one who will be negatively affected by his absence at all. Gretchen won't miss him, and none the animals will either.
The vet came back in and showed us the x-ray (which I later photographed on my phone. It showed a large globe-shaped body of liquid pressing up against Stripey's diaphragm. Few details were visible in the liquid except for a few pockets of gas in the intestines. It was likely Stripey hadn't been eating much for awhile because the pressure of that liquid had fooled him into feeling full. This probably accounted for the wasting-away of the muscles along his spine.

Stripey's xray today.

While it would be possible to drain the liquid and put Stripey on a regime of pills to help control its return, it wouldn't do much to solve the underlying problem, whatever it was. And that problem was likely severe and incurable. The idea of torturing Stripey by forcing pills down his throat in exchange for a few additional weeks of misery struck me as a bad bargain. So Gretchen and I agreed that he should probably be euthanized. It was an easy decision, and the vet thought it a reasonable solution. Still, when the little guy came out with a hypodermic port installed in his arm, already for the great ball of string in the sky, there was a part of me that wanted to call it all off. But it all happened so quickly. The first dose seemed to make Stripey fall asleep immediately, and the pink stuff worked even faster. He wasn't completely inert though. There was at least one weird spasm and a gasp of air that skeeved us all out. But all of that is normal (if unwanted), at least according to the vet.
We couldn't get Stripey's corpse back into the carrier. So I swaddled him in a pee pad and towel and carried him like a 13 pound sleeping baby out to the car. Gretchen settled up in record time and soon we were headed for home.
Back at the house, the dogs were still off in the forest. It had been four hours and I thought that was long enough. So Gretchen went to fetch them while I had my morning video conference with my IT remote team.
I'd told them all I was taking Stripey to the vet, and they'd all wished him well. So it was a little awkward to announce that he'd been put to sleep. The Organization is very clear that animal bereavement is a thing and my boss Da asked if I wanted to take the day off. How could I explain that I was sad, but not so sad that I needed to take the day off? At the same time, I didn't want to bring everyone down or act like some kind of callous stiff-upper-lip asshole. So I stuck around through the meeting and tried to behave as normally as possible.
Later I took Stripey's body and interred him in an existing hole just west of the doghouse (and just east of Sally's grave site). I'd dug the hole back in May in hopes of burying Eleanor there. But the ground there had proved too full of rocks and roots, so I'd had to abandon it. It was still way too shallow to be a proper grave, but I didn't have a lot of options. In the aftermath of the recent unseasonable cold spell, the ground was like concrete. So I wrapped Stripey in the pee pad and filled the hole above him with pine needles. To keep him from being exhumed by Ramona or a coyote, I laid a flat rock atop the hole and piled rocks on top of it.

The laboratory definitely seemed empty without Stripey, though his ghost seemed to haunt the place. I kept seeing him out of the corner of my eye in every dark breadloaf-sized shape. Him watching me from a distance as I puttered around was a surprisingly big part of the laboratory experience, and I felt momentarily sad whenever I realized it wasn't there. Part of what makes his death so sad is a completely narcissistic feeling that time just keeps passing and everything that in my life now will some day be gone. With Stripey, it had all come so fast. A month ago he'd been a little chubby and perhaps a bit lean along his spine. But he hadn't looked like an old cat and he behaved as he always had. And now, today, he was gone. Another milepost along the entropy highway.
I took advantage of Stripey's absence by doing a lot more painting of the floor, particularly the white shapes near the laboratory's north end. It's always good to have sad music for days like this, and what seemed to work was "Primer Coat" by the Drive By Truckers, which spontaneously came up on Bagel Radio and which I then sought out on YouTube.
The idea of immediately replacing a missing cat is not something I usually feel anywhere near as much as Gretchen does. But Stripey was more "mine" than any of the other critters have been, and by this evening I was already lobbying for a replacement. Gretchen soon found a couple options. One was a nine year old cat named Charlie, who looks like a slightly cuter version of Stripey. From his description, he sounds like a better cat generally. How great would it be to have an identical plug-in replacement for Stripey who was actually a good cat?

a walk down memory lane with Julius (aka "Stripey")

Stripey the day after first arriving, under the purple couch in the teevee room. July 15, 2004.

Stripey comfortably hanging out in the laboratory two days after arrival. July 16, 2004.

Stripey walking with his goofy kitten feet in front of the house. Aug. 1, 2004.

Stripey harassing Lulu the Cat. Aug. 1, 2004.

Stripey hanging out between Eleanor and Clarence in the living room. Lulu is in the background. Aug. 1, 2004.

Stripey hanging out in the teevee room. Aug. 5, 2004.

Clarence and Stripey were initially pals. Over the years their friendship transformed into grudging tolerance. Dec. 4, 2004.

A painting of the previous photo. Dec. 8, 2004.

Stripey hanging out in the teevee room. That's Eleanor with the glowing eyes. Dec. 16, 2004.

Stripey as a beached whale in the laboratory. Nov. 29, 2005.

Another of Stripey as a beached whale in the laboratory. Nov. 29, 2005.

Stripey on the steps to the upstairs from the main floor. Feb. 20, 2006.

Stripey (right) with Marie (aka "the Baby") in front of the woodstove. Dec. 7, 2006.

A painting of that previous photo.

Stripey (right) with Marie (aka "the Baby") in front of the woodstove. Dec. 7, 2006.

Stripey with boxes of crap in the laboratory. May 13, 2007.

Stripey in the grass in front of the house. May 31, 2007.

Stripey (left) hanging out with Marie (aka "the Baby") in the deconstructed remains of a wrecked Honda Civic. Apr. 23, 2008.

Stripey on the laboratory deck. Aug. 1, 2009.

Stripey (in the upper righthand corner) with Marie (aka "the Baby") (to the left) and Eleanor (to the lower left) and Sylvia (the black cat in the lower right) on the bed in the upstairs bedroom. It was very rare for him to be on this bed. March, 2010.

Stripey with hydrangeas, Jul. 8 2010.

Stripey on the steps with Sally nearby Jan. 21 2011.

Stripey with the freshly-assembled Makerbot. Mar. 31, 2012.

Stripey checks out the greenhouse upstairs insertion project. Jun. 22, 2012.

Stripey with pokeberries near the greenhouse. Oct. 20, 2012.

Stripey in his beloved laboratory. Apr. 8, 2014.

Stripey in the laboratory. Jun. 16, 2014.

Stripey in the laboratory with Oscar (his nemesis for over a year). Aug. 3, 2014.

Stripey in the laboratory finding an actual use for an ancient Windows XP laptop. Feb. 2, 2015.

Stripey went through a phase in the fall of 2016 where he hung out in this bowl in the living room. It might have had something to do with a recent flea infestation. Nov. 12, 2016.

Poor Julius (aka "Stripey") yesterday.

For linking purposes this article's URL is:

previous | next