Friday Felines

Smokey got into it with our hedgehog cat toy a few nights ago. He’s ready to start it up again here.

smokey ready to pounce

He’s our most playful cat. I think he was tired here, because he had already thrashed the hedgehog for a while. I wish I could have got him in action because he does go bonkers.

Catching up

This is a catch-up post for a few things that have happened recently that don’t really merit their own post.

First, we finally got our building permit last week. Two things surprised me about it. The first is that they handed me a permit right after they confirmed that I had all the documents they require. They didn’t require any kind of approval prior to giving the permit. The second thing that surprised me was the cost of the permit. The cost made it clear to me that the building inspection department uses permits as a revenue source.

The permit box, full at last

The permit box, full at last

So now the building site has an official document allowing us to proceed with construction. Unfortunately, it has been raining so much that neighbor John, who will excavate for the basement and foundation, hasn’t been able to work. We have a chance of rain through next Tuesday, and then, at least for now, a forecast of several sunny days. Those days will come right about when we leave for a few days on vacation. John isn’t sure whether his helper will be back from his own vacation by then, so maybe they won’t be able to work until I get back. I really need to be there when the work is done. I expect some questions to come up, especially when they hit bedrock a few feet under the surface.

The second event was Zeke’s most recent bid for freedom on Saturday. I opened the door onto the deck so that our little dog Lucy could go out. Some time later, after we had forgotten about the door being open, Zeke apparently squeezed out. We didn’t realize he had escaped until at least an hour later when we called the dogs to get some table scraps and Zeke didn’t come. He was out about five hours. I drove around looking for him, but never saw him. Around 10 pm I took Lucy out for her final walk and found Zeke in the back yard.

When he saw me he glanced around, like he was considering running, but something stopped him. That something was a fairly badly sprained right wrist joint. He had some real difficulty walking, and some obvious pain from it. Here he is looking sheepish back on his bed in the living room.

sheepish zekeNote the wet spot on his bed next to his left foot.

I gave him an NSAID prescribed for the back pain he has sometimes, and that seemed to help, at least by the next day. He has recovered enough that I can take him on a short walk, which he seems to tolerate, but an hour later he limps a little more. I won’t go back to our regular walks until next week.

I also discovered that he tore his left dewclaw again. He did that originally a few months ago when he wandered away from me while I was working at the new house site. He has been licking his wrist and his dewclaw since then.

This nail is not supposed to be this color

This nail is not supposed to be this color

The last item is another turtle report. We found this one crossing Huffaker Road as we returned from our weekly huevos rancheros fix at our favorite Mexican restaurant. (We do it often enough that our regular waitress came to the table with one sweet tea, one unsweetened tear, a bowl of lemon slices, one bowl of ranchera sauce and two bowls of regular salsa in addition to a bowl of chips, even before we ordered.)

We went back to help him across the road. I know it was a “he” because of Wayne’s previous help with that identification.

Turtle, giving me the evil eye

Turtle, giving me the evil eye

He was just small enough for me to pick him up with one hand. He ducked into his shell at first, but came back out to look around as I moved him to the side of the road. He was not exactly feisty, but he was also not shy. I put him in the grass on the side of the road he had been heading towards. I hope he won’t remember any business he left undone on the other side.

An unfortunate start to the hummingbird season

I wish I could start the hummingbird season with a happier story.

On Saturday we had left the screen door to the deck open for the cats and dogs. Unfortunately, a hummingbird came in and trapped itself against the sliding glass door. I drew the curtains across the window, hoping to help it find its way back out the open part of the door. I looked from the outside, but all I saw was Lucy between the door and the curtain. I hoped that the bird had found its way back out, but a few minutes later when I looked in Lucy’s kennel, I saw this sad, little body.
dead hummingbird

Sorry to subject you to that.

I guess the hummingbird dropped to floor level after I closed the curtain and Lucy went for it.

I was not happy. (Leah says I went ballistic on her.)  I know, Lucy is a dog, and dogs are predators, so they will kill animals under the right (or wrong) circumstances. Sylvester, one of our cats, has also killed a hummingbird. Sylvester routinely kills anything he can, from lizards to birds. I expect it, but I still don’t like it. We have already had to take down a bird-seed feeder because Sylvester was using it as a hunting ground. I don’t want to have to stop feeding the hummingbirds.

I don’t like it when one of our cats or dogs kills anything around here, but I especially don’t like it when they kill hummingbirds. Hummingbirds are one of my two favorite birds. Even aside from their beauty and amazing flying ability, they seem to be interested in us, at least a little. Sometimes when I’m out in the yard, one will fly up to me and hover at eye level, staring at me. It seems to be sizing me up for something. It finds it, or not, and then flies away. A few days ago one flew up to the same door that proved so deadly a trap on Saturday and stared inside. That door is where we hang the hummingbird feeder. It seemed to be letting us know they’re back. I’m anthropomorphizing, but still, the most interaction we get with other birds is when they fly away when they see us.

My other favorite bird is the pileated woodpecker, and I think it’s for exactly the opposite reason. The pileated woodpecker seems supremely uninterested in humans and their petty activities. They’re busy and just can’t be bothered.

I get the sense that they think they’re better than us. Maybe they are

Friday Felines

I had fed all the cats on this particular morning and so I thought Rusty had gone back to bed in her box in the garage, and everyone else was outside. When I went back outside some kitty was in the box. I assumed it was Rusty, but when I went out in the driveway to get Chloe, Rusty was on the wheel of the truck.

Out of the rain

Out of the rain

So it was Dusty.


I guess he had been out all night and was ready to get some Z’s. He’s a precious little boy.

I broke the bike

When I was still working I used to ride my bicycle in warm weather, when the days were long enough that I could wait for the afternoon rush hour to end. There was a good loop in Cummings Research Park, where I worked, so I waited until around 6 pm and then rode 20 miles. On weekends at home I rode down the mountain one way or the other. Sometimes I rode the loop that the Fouche Gap Road Race used last Saturday. Other days I rode in towards town on Huffaker onto Technology Parkway (a grand name without much to back it up). But when the days got shorter and the weather got colder, I stopped riding outside.

We had bought a NordicTrack stationary bike a few years ago, but I didn’t use it much. Then, when I was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy almost two summers ago, I decided to get more serious about it. I figured if my heart was going to get lazy, I was going to push it a little and see what happened. So I started riding about 50 minutes almost every day. Sometimes on Wednesdays I skipped the ride so we could go to our favorite Mexican restaurant for huevos rancheros for lunch, but most of the time I rode.

I wore out the belt that runs from the pedal crank to the resistance mechanism. That was no big deal; I was able to get a replacement for that.

And then a few weeks ago there was a crunch from the innards of the bike, and then no more resistance. I thought I might be able to repair it again, so I tore the bike apart and eventually discovered this.


This is an iron alloy pulley that attaches to the resistance mechanism shaft and is turned by the belt I replaced that runs to the pedal crank. Like a typical bicycle rear wheel hub, the stationary bike has a one-way clutch that engages the resistance mechanism when the pedal is turned, but freewheels when the pedal is not being cranked. If you look closely at the picture, you can see that the pulley has a crack completely through. What you may not be able to see is that the clutch mechanism has disintegrated. It’s on the inside, between two sets of roller bearings. The clutch mechanism was made from plastic. I might be wrong, but it looks like it had little plastic teeth that gripped one way but slipped the other. I assume that the plastic clutch mechanism broke because the pulley cracked and released the pressure that supported the clutch.

OK, I thought, maybe I can get a new pulley. So I went online and found a parts diagram with prices for almost every part in the bike. There was an identification number for the pulley, but no price for it. I emailed the service department to ask whether the pulley was available as a separate replacement part. The answer was that I would have to buy the entire resistance mechanism. Sorry.

That wouldn’t be a big deal, except that the resistance mechanism costs about twice what the entire stationary bike costs. It’s more than $800.

I was pretty disappointed with NordicTrack. Iron is a pretty strong material. Steel pulley wheels on automobile engines almost always last for the lifetime of the engine. I probably used the bike more than a typical buyer, but still, I doubt that I actually wore it out. I thought a failure of this type would almost certainly be a manufacturing defect, so I emailed the photo to my brother, who was a materials scientist in a previous lifetime (now he’s a Presbyterian minister). He said it seemed pretty clear that the crack started on the outside of the pulley and propagated inwards. He also thinks the cause was a defect either in machining or possibly in casting.

In the meantime, I started using a rowing machine I bought about 25 years ago and almost never used. I row for about an hour pretty much every day. Leah is also rowing; she’s at about 30 minutes and climbing. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’m getting as much benefit from the rowing machine as I did from the bike. The bike had a calorie display, which could, at least in principle, be pretty accurate, so I had a good idea of how much work I was doing. The rowing machine does not, but based on how I feel using it, I think it’s considerably less energy intensive.

Riding the bike and rowing are both pretty boring. I watch television as I exercise, but with the rower, I can’t flip channels without stopping. Even with satellite, it’s hard to find anything interesting to watch, especially in the daytime.

My brother wants me to keep the part so he can look at it the next time he comes down from Chattanooga. It is an interesting failure, if you want to look at it academically. I don’t much.

I will probably end up buying another stationary bike. I don’t know what type to buy. NordicTrack seems to have a reasonably good reputation, or at least name recognition, but I would hate to buy one and then have the damned thing break again.