Sunday, September 11, 2022

Nine Eleven is 21 Today

My dad asked this morning if I was in Boston when 9/11 happened.  “Yes” is the short answer. 

Here’s the longer answer, some of which I sent him. It’s a little rage-ier, and my adrenaline is still up, so there might be typos. These are not complete thoughts, but bookmarks for footnotes of detail that periodically flood my brain. 

Yep. I was in Boston. The equipment engineer who sat next to me told us all to find online news video ASAP. So I saw the first crash in the earliest video reruns & wondered why we hadn’t scrambled the air force to track down every off-flight-plan passenger flight, and ~15 minutes after I had that thought, the 2nd plane hit in NYC. 1 plane hit the pentagon. Enough time to have implemented *something*.  One flight’s passengers got wind of what was up and thought “we might not be able to survive  this, but we can stop them meeting their goal”, said “Let’s roll”, and crashed without killing more than themselves in the crash. 

Taking passengers hostage wasn’t routine but it wasn’t so rare that there weren’t cultural scripts for it. People might not know that prior to Flight 93, standard policy was “let the hijackers do their thing, you’ll land in the wrong place, but we’ll deal with the detour once you’re down”.  Finding out the other planes were crashed into populated buildings changed the stakes away from cooperation. It was heroic, changing that norm.

Keep in mind it was also a Tuesday. (Aside: Like the Challenger explosion, which I saw constant repeats of for 4 days because I was home sick that Tuesday & only had network TV.) Tuesday flights run lean of passengers. The hijackers picked a day with low passenger volume but flights going long to get minimum resistance & maximum jet fuel.

Back to scrambling the USAF. We didn’t do it.

Not saying they should have shot down passenger airlines but not getting “eyes on” with capability we’ve maintained since at least the 60s was inexcusable. We didn’t have leadership, & more critically, *we didn’t have plans in place that could be authorized down the chain of command* while Shrub read children books for 7 critical  minutes. I learned later, from my mom’s friend whose husband was head of security for a major airline, that airlines at the time were on alert at the highest levels for some kind of threat. That’s too nebulous to act on, but the urgency was there, and there are only so many ways air travel can go wrong. There should have been standing orders for a half dozen scenarios prepped and ready to deploy. The US leadership at the time had no interest in governing, did not prepare, and refused to allow what I, a numpty civilian, knew were standard response options to be deployed. I woke up the next morning to fighter jets circling the city.  It was both too late and pathetic - all non-mil flights had been grounded for a day & remained so for a week. 

(Aside 2: One friend got stranded overseas for a couple weeks without their spouse. Another friend had recently married & picked a “cheap Tuesday” to leave for their honeymoon. Their bad luck they had a layover in the states on 9/11. Friend saw the writing on the wall early, got a rental car before they were all gone, and “shacked up in a bridal suite in WV with the best box of wine they could lay hands on”.)

Bush was fundamentally incapable as a president but the GOP installed him so Cheney & cronies could finish wrecking any progress gained by Clinton or Carter. Then they started their money grifting wars, which ironically, they used to decimate some of the US’s strongest military units. They farmed out CB/SeaBee work to contractors like KBF, which helped break lines of institutional knowledge while hiking Cheney’s investment portfolio, & used navy SEALs as show ponies which got huge numbers of them killed. Prior to that, being a SEAL was dangerous but not especially deadly because they were sent out covertly and were valued as assets that were hard to replace, not as disposable units for showing off. I will never understand why any of them have fondness for Republicans after that. 

I have mixed feelings about invading Afghanistan, mostly negative, but it at least had tenuous links to OBL and it was a proxy war because we wouldn’t go after Saudi Arabia. But Iraq? That was a clown show from the jump. Shrub invaded Iraq to show up his Daddy, and the grifters steering him into it did it for profiteering. OBL & SH hated each other. They didn’t collaborate. Cheney burned an active spy, and made everyone Plame knew a target. They lied about WMD  They lied and lied and lied and we killed a million Iraqis for Shrub’s bruised ego. How dare someone tell him “no”?

The GOP blacklisted several prominent Republicans for speaking out against the Iraq war.  The one name I remember was Max Cleland but there were 5 or 6. I kept waiting for his fellow congress members to stand up and say “stop the slander, what you’re doing is not ok!”, but none did. Not Dems, not Reps, not Independents. No one. I didn’t record their names at the time because I kept waiting for the NYT to publish a story linking Cleland’s treatment and that of the professor & the think tank person, & the few others, to a pattern of behavior of the GOP trashing them because they spoke out against invading  Iraq. That piece never showed up & in the years since, I’ve seen how the NYT carries water for fascists. 

Long story short, severely disabled war vet Cleland was a belived Georgia senator  By the time Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, & Rove got done blackballing him, he couldn’t get a job in his hometown for 10 years, & they replaced him with Saxby Chambliss. It took them less than a dozen examples - all successfully blackballed with no pushback - to get compliance.

Then they astroturfed the Teabaggers via Fox entertainment network calling itself News, but Fox is a whole genre of wrong to delve into some other time. (Then had to scramble to rebrand Teabaggers as the Tea Party, which the media helped them do. Check Urban Dictionary if you need to.) The GOP has voted in lockstep against Democrats ever since. One senator, a few other prominent people, and seeing that not one other legislator spoke up to say the blackballing was out of order was all it took for them to get their Lockstep. It wasn’t until Trump was so egregiously déclassé in his failson nepotism (includes daughter & SIL) that the lock step started to falter.

Yet even now our news media is letting the GOP target trans people, ban books, remove rights to bodily autonomy, and the Dems are barely able, and almost reluctant, to stem the arterial bleed leading us to fascism. The world is objectively worse because America reacted to 9/11 attacks wrongly in the moment & evilly & discriminatorily in the subsequent years. We managed to squeak in gay marriage & smartphones, and regain a toehold in solar energy, but every other aspect of the US dominant culture is fundamentally moving backwards and it was kickstarted by 9/11.  We did it to ourselves against my personal will.

We targeted Muslims & random brown people & equated those, and Islam, with “terrorists”.  Despite the largest threat to United States’s citizens safety being lack of health care for all, and armed, entitled cis white men who don’t like being told no, we focused all our efforts on killing & policing Black & brown people. We’ve enacted ridiculous security theater for air travel, like taking off shoes to walk thru everyone else’s foot fungus, as if cell phones, laptops, or any other ubiquitous electronics couldn’t be used to trigger an explosive remotely 🙄. We’ve stolen & thrown away rivers of shampoo and toothpaste.  We don’t let people bring on water! - despite dehydration leading to angry passengers who are more likely to get belligerent, and sick, than fully hydrated ones. These pesky rules make it easy to detain any traveler at will, but also means the screenings are less likely to catch a true threat. Meanwhile we lose millions of person-hours of labor every single day because every passenger must spend extra time packing to be in compliance, spend extra time at the airport to ensure they get thru the security line, which could take 5 or 55 minutes or more. And it’s less safe because we must stand in close proximity to hundreds of other people, multiple times, to go anywhere. (sarcasm alert) I’m particularly a fan of the Ft. Myers airport where the security line is a wide skyway, under which they drive the fuel trucks. People enough for 3 flights packed cheek to jowl, getting hangry, over a driveway for fuel trucks. What could possibly be unsafe about this security line?

Dad also texted that a neighbor who, after 9/11, was called to service for the National Guard & sent to Iraq, mentioned that the NYC “Ground Zero” Museum is closing (or might close?) for lack of funding. Miwed feeling there too. Assuming their point is to highlight the people killed & injured, the people who helped, and be a time capsule of the era, it should remain to counter the jingoism the day inspired.

I went to the 9/11 museum site in 2019 but did not pay to go in. I know what happened & I think the deaths were horrific but don’t justify the fallout. Plus, I cannot take in that kind of pain. It’s excruciating. I’ve learned whatever lessons I will.  I don’t personally know anyone who died in the towers but I have friends who do. Closest to me was one friend who checked in that day while walking home across the Brooklyn bridge, who has subsequently enrolled their kids in the Moderna clinical trials for young kids. I think that is more positive an act for society than most of the post 9/11 fallout.

But probably the museum is in trouble because of the Covid-19 pandemic, and 2 administrations failing to quell it that led to low museum visitation, along with it being about an event 21 years ago, about a tiny fraction of people killed violently compared to over a million Iraqis dead violently from our war, and a million Americans dead from covid, & seeing no commensurate level of response to 1M dead.

That we take off our shoes and protective gear and  assistive devices and allow ourselves to get mugged to get on planes but won’t wear masks on public transit or fund good HVAC in classrooms is a level of disproportion that shows we choose what and who we care about, and post 9/11, it’s increasingly billionaires’ quarterly profits, not the health of the nation, or the world. The US has long been a global bully, and nasty to Black folks here, but we at least pretended to be a model of better things on an improvement trajectory  That trajectory is more imperiled now than it was before 9/11. We have about 2 months to figure out if American will spend the next 21 years being a failed state that we have to claw back from fascism, or if we’re going to treat marginalized citizens as fully human and get on a progressive trajectory without a second civil war. 

I, uh, may have been holding that rant in for a while.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

COVID-19 is spread by Fascism

US readers: *Vote Biden/Harris & downballot Democrats or be prepared to require a civil war*  No, I am not kidding or being hyperbolic  Vote early to maximize success. Even if your state doesn’t have “early voting”, they might, like MO, offer “in person absentee voting”. Choose one of the reasons listed to tell the poll workers, and vote Dem.

My aunt in Florida asked me why covid seems to be hitting harder in the North. This blog is my response. I may get around to linking the articles where I got the info - the specific info is all from articles I retweeted if you want to brave Twitter search before I get to it. The more general news about fascism and ant-masking is more from distilled news, but read books (Hiding in Plain Sight) or listen to Gaslit Nation podcasts by Sarah Kendzior if you want citations sooner.


Ironically, wealth. Most of the early spread was due to rich people flying the world for ski vacations. So it spread where rich people flew. The other thing is Murdoch propaganda outlets like Fox News in the US, UK, Aus undermining truth in news for decades. All the countries with the most fascistic leaders, like here & Brazil who have chosen to make “not wearing masks” loyalty tests instead of “wearing masks” are doing badly. 

Covid-19 hotspots depend a lot on government response, local compliance, and spread. Where the virus has landed in Africa, shows us this. The places hit hard by Ebola a few years ago have very little spread. The places that don’t push germ theory & masking are hit harder. But Africa has a lot of places doing well because they have practice fighting off contagious disease, and had fewer rich travelers during ski season, and took the warning seriously. Unlike Peru where there are lots of tourists but many poor people without a proper pandemic response team. 

Indian slums are faring better than most US states because the government provided paid for testing & room & board for quarantine and once it got out that people came back from quarantine, they had good compliance.  South Korea ramped up testing and mask wearing fast and quashed community transmission. Island nations are taking quarantine seriously. 

The places where there’s most resurgence are where wealthier people who aren’t used to being told “no” decide they’re over the pandemic & go to places that can’t/won’t pay for or insist on PPE like masks or distancing. Or where teachers (ahem) are threatened with job loss for not teaching in person in places where community spread isn’t contained enough or tested enough for schools to be safe. 


So that’s it. People who want to pretend the pandemic is over are being allowed to engage in contagious behaviors by countries who don’t take the threat seriously. The US under Trump & a GOP senate is so far the worst. With a competent president AND a congress where the GOP doesn’t treat Democrats as illegitimate actors, and absent Fox News not being force fed to millions of viewers, the US would be leading the global response, not failing it most spectacularly. 

Friday, August 21, 2020

Listen to Your Body

My alarm goes off. My body says, “stay in bed; sleep more.” I will be fired if I listen.

I need to shower before work. My body is cold and says, “let’s stay dry”. I do not listen. 

I have to eat something now or wait for lunch. My body says “I’m not that hungry.” I do not listen.

My brain is foggy in the morning but I have to work. My brain says, “later would be more efficient.” I do not listen.

Lunch comes an hour before I get hungry. My body says, “don’t eat yet”. I dare not listen. 

I have a meeting. My body & brain say “we’d like a walk. Or a nap.” I don’t have time to listen. 

I’m thirsty. My body says, “something sweet would be best.” I brew my tea and do not listen. 

It’s time to leave work. My brain says, “but we’re just getting efficient at this! Stay.” Sometimes I listen.

Now is when I have time to exercise. My body says, “I’m depleted, let’s not.” I try very hard not to listen.

On good days the exercise can feel ok after I warm up. Most days, my body says, “this is uncomfortable; I am sore.” I do another set or lap before I listen. 

Now I am hungry, but I need to make or acquire dinner. My body says, “snack first!” I do not listen.

I measured my food. I have plenty. My body says, “That’s not enough, I’m still hungry!” I may have a glass of water but I do not listen.

I start on a hobby & get lost in pursuit. My brain never says, “I’m tired” at night, so I don’t even try to listen. 

My timer dims my lights. My body & brain are still alert but I need to sleep. I say, “calm down, let’s rest now.” They do not listen. 

Headlines advise, “listen to your body!”
When would I have learned to listen to my body?
I have never been allowed to listen.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Disease Model of Addiction Thoughts

This started as a response to Crabby Ex-Drunk & got out of hand. Instead of taking over his forum, here's a pot of my own.

You ask for it, you got it :)
I have long disliked calling addiction a disease. Diseases are caused by microbes. And alcoholism, say,  can't be a thing if you don't start drinking and keep drinking. It starts as behavior. Addiction is out of control behavior that self perpetuates. If we someday find that there are microbes that assist with this, fine, it's a disease. But it's not a disease you can treat like a microbe, so far as I know.

HOWEVER! People with addictions need help quitting & maintaining sobriety like hoarders need organizers, ADD execs need personal assistants, and well, there are many disfunctions that are best overcome with the help of a partner or a group. Addiction is clearly a dysfunction, and can be an extreme one. The trouble is our society has few words to accurately label mental health deviations and elicit compassion in the populace. Most mental health descriptors, if not now pejorative themselves (retarded used to mean slower, now it's just a taunt, for instance) elicit judgement, self righteous pushback, and all manner of nasty responses, none of which help the person fighting an addiction. Diseases get insurance coverage. Diseases at least have a hope of eliciting compassion. Right now, "disease" may be the best word we have to elicit the responses we need. I would rather support using the wrong word to get the right effect than to insist on perfect descriptors that allow folks to flounder.

And mental health issues might be more hormonal/vitamin/nutritional imbalances than microbe based but we call those problems diseases too. I prefer dysfunction -a bad tune up (dysfunction) isn't the same as sugar in the gas tank (microbe disease) but both can wreck your engine - they're both problems.  I guess I hadn't thought this through before now. I still yell "no it's not" at the addiction network ad. Probably I should stop now that I know what my position is.

Not having been an addict (except maybe for reading, and I don't say that to make light, just to share my least controlled behavior), I can't say if the disease model helps the treatment except as it allows people to step away from eternal blame. Because I do believe that some people have less control in certain situations thru nturzl disposition. Add to that years of response feedback conditioning in the brain which sets up repeated behavior seeking those rewards. It's not totally out of your control but not totally in your control either. Some things you control just fine, others not so much. I have ADD. My life is a minefield of distractions. I have to justify having an assistant CONSTANTLY to my mother. But having one means my life works & the opposite when I don't.

More like the addiction model: I have no "off switch" for potato/corn chips; one bag is one serving. I therefore buy tiny bags of chips and limit my visits to Mexican eateries with unlimited chips. If Chips had the addictive qualities of alcohol I would be 600 lbs. My brother and dad have no "off switch" for alcohol. Mom came from near teetotalers so keeps my dad from binging by limiting availability. Dad doesn't have many friends who drink at all. My brother dated teetotalers to dry out when he found himself doing risky things. Now he tries to savor good booze while remaining on guard. And his gf developed an allergy to brewers yeast(!) that helps him too. Also I knew I could be a chain smoker so I never started. But I was only able to do this because my family and most of my community was non-smoking. I had the info about smoking to make that choice. I try to remember that most smokers didn't start on 3rd base, as it were.

I hear there's a shot that stops the cravings for alcohol. Narcan, if dispensed like (formerly cheap) Epi-pens, would have saved at least one college friend. But our society both pushes addiction prone behaviors as worthy pursuits then punishes with almighty wrath any who dare be imperfect in their vices. We condemn, judge, WITHHOLD TREATMENT & HELP in the name of righteousness punishing wickedness as if we all weren't a tragedy or two from being there ourselves. The "it can't happen to me because I'm a good person" (similar to the "I can't be doing racist things because I'm a good person") delusion is a powerful distancing factor that drives a great deal of unhelpful behaviors. Like in Jenn Ashley Wright's book "Get Well Soon" the only way to limit the spread of disease is to treat those with the diseases with kindness & help them out. It makes sense to me that it's the only way to help afflicts regain control over their lives too - by providing help with compassion. So I guess I'm ok saying it's a disease. (Especially if we can conquer it with a medicine...)

Lastly: there are resorts in regions with monkeys. These monkeys will come steal alcoholic & other drinks while people stroll or swim. Folks studying the monkeys found the SAME RATE of teetotaler/casual drinkers/addicts in the monkey population as exists in the human population. If there are traits we share that closely with evolutionary cousins, addicts just might have been born with that proclivity into a society that does its best to keep their kryptonite front and center.

(This got out of hand. Another 3 hours and I could probably edit it back some. If there are typos let me know in the comments as I'm trying this on my phone which has some odd proclivities wrt autocorrect.)

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Pretty Perfect Pumpkin Pie Crust

TL;DR  Making pie dough into cinnamon rolls is awesome for pumpkin pies. Inspiration came from
Giggling Chef cinnamon roll pie crust
 Roll out crust dough, slather with butter and slices, roll into log, cut into slices, press slices into buttered* pie plate, and bake as needed for pie recipe.

My ADD brain is always searching for new stuff to learn or to do. I hit a sale at the HyVee on pumpkin pie supplies, and since the dog also likes canned pumpkin, I picked up a stash. Then remembered I'm living in a construction zone with a mini fridge so I'm not keeping eggs for the most part, and I'm cooking with a kettle and a toaster oven. (I could plug in a microwave but am saving that as s reward for getting the 2nd bedroom drywalled. And I have to blow construction dust off it.)

Anyhow, we spent Thanksgiving and then some at grandma's house so I took my pie fixings along. But the problem is, I don't like pie crust. My mom gets complimented on hers regularly, and her next door neighbor ran the Home Ec dept of a state university and she taught me to bake bread, so I've had ideal pie crusts. I've tried crusts made with butter, lard, Crisco, coconut oil, olive oil, and vodka.  I still don't like pie crust. (I do like pie crusts made with dates and crushed pecans, but it's too sweet for many pies, and was not an option here.). As I was waffling about whether to make the pie with or without crust (pumpkin quiche?), I remembered that Google might have a better idea.

Thankfully, I ran across the Cinnamon Roll Pie Crust. Because it looks spectacular, tastes great, and is relatively easy. Here's mine!

(Um, picture?)

I only have this picture because we were too busy eating it to take a photo after baking. Even with the aid of the glass pie plate, and making a second one,  it didn't happen.

Cranky Otter's Cinnamon Roll Pie Crust.
At Aldi's we could buy a 3 year supply of Crisco for $3.39 or a box of 2 pie crusts for $1.29. We bought 4 pie crusts. Turns out the Aldi's pie crusts are good. And cheap & easy - just the way we like 'em. (I have no problems eating raw pie dough. Go figure.)

- raw pie crust, rolled out
- 2T or so cinnamon
- add sprinkles of other "pumpkin pie spices" like clove, nutmeg, & ginger if you need the excuse to stock up at Penzey's.
- dash of paprika or cayenne pepper
- dash of salt
- 2-4 T butter*, melted.
     * Butter can be subbed out. Because it's melted, texture is not an issue. Use whichever fat you like. Coconut or olive oil for vegans.

- work surface
- flexible spreader
- glass pie plate (serve pie tilted on the side if your pie plate is metal)
- clean fingers
- cutting tool
- rolling pin (for homemade crusts)

- If you made pie dough, roll it out to a square or rectangle, then chill it while getting out your ingredients to fix it. Make enough for a pie about a cm larger in diameter than your pan, just in case.
- Toss as many Tbsps of butter as you are comfortable using in your glass pie plate. Microwave butter until melted.
- Lay out pie dough on work surface. Trim back about a half inch on 4 sides to square it up slightly.
- Swish or spread butter around pie plate. Pour excess onto pie crust and spread evenly.
- Liberally douse the raw, buttered crust with cinnamon. Rub it in with your fingers or spreader to get to the edges. Don't be shy, make a paste you can't see through.
        - If you want to get fancy, sprinkle lightly also with any or all of the "pumpkin pie spices" and include the hot pepper and a pinch of salt.
        - Please do NOT add sugar. It is too likely to burn when in contact with the pan. Unless you like that sort of thing. But it's not needed.

- roll up the spiced crust into a log. Cut slices about 3/8" (1cm) thick.
- place one in the bottom of the pie plate and squish it with your fingers (or a clean glass) to be about half as thick. It will spread out. If gaps open in the spice layer just scootch it over a bit to close. In the future, use more down force, less sideways force.
- Repeat with remaining slices, going up the edge also. If you have enough to cover, yay! You're done! If you're shy a bit, use the pieces cut off the round to make a lip around the top and fill in any scary gaps. Or frantically re-squish everything just a little more.
- Fill with pumpkin pie filling, or prebake, whatever your pie calls for. Bake per pie instructions.
- Eat & Enjoy!
Introverts: Put glass pie plate on small elevated stand to show off crust.
Extroverts: Walk it around to all the relatives/ diners and insist they admire your crust before and after baking, like I did.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Nature's 10 Most Perfect Foods

Today instead of 3 things that make me happy, I'm upping the ante and going for 10. 

Back in college, whenever someone mentioned Twinkies, my dorm mates would chime in with, "Nature's Most Perfect Food!"  I've given an inordinate amount of thought over the years to what would follow Twinkies on this list, and recently decided I have a stable top 6 or so, and rounded it out with other favorites. It's late; I'm awake.  So without further ado, I bring you:

Nature's Most Perfect Foods

1) Twinkies
Definitionally, these Hostess snack cakes top the list. 

2) Hot Pockets with the crisper sleeve.
Without the sleeve they slide to 6th place. Lean Pockets count - I like the artichoke chicken.  Every omnivorous culture has an iconic meat pie, but one that can be microwaved to crispy in 2 minutes makes this ours.  Great for breakfast, lunch, snack, or dinner.

3) Easy Mac
Loved Mac & Cheese growing up. As a single adult, I don't keep much milk on hand & a box makes too much, so I rarely ate any.  Finally tried Easy Mac at a house party overrun with kids, and it was like the heavens opened up. Don't need to keep perishables, and it makes only enough for 1 serving. It tastes and feels exactly like I need it to.  What's not to love?

4) Doritos
A case could be made for Cheetos here, but Taco Bell partnering to make a Doritos taco shell brought these into the top 5.  Again, childhood food memories, this time of taco salad at church potluck chock full of chips gets evoked by the Doritos Loco Taco. Doritos are delicious, every chip. 

5) Ramen Noodles
The classic college staple, dried packs of ramen have a nearly infinite shelf life, cost almost nothing, and can partner up with all manner of steamed veggies or eggs & meat or stand alone. I posit that a third of my generation (X) owes their continued existence to access to cheap ramen at some point in their lives. 

6) Chicken Nuggets
These started in my generation, but really took off as a primary foundational food in the kids I babysat. They're now nearly universal & almost universally tasty. What kicks them out of the top 5, aside from my age, is that the best ones come from a drive thru, but the rest of the list can be made at home - or dorm or work or convenience store or...  Probably half the millennials subsisted on chicken nuggets for a good portion of their childhood.  

7) Lucky Charms
They're magically delicious

8) Pillsbury Crescent Rolls
How can you not love exploding rolls of bread? I load them up with bacon or ham & shredded cheese (sharp cheddar, mozzarella, & Trader Joe's Parmesan if you must know), give 'em a little salt & pepper to gild the lily just a bit, then roll & bake. This treat is amazingly filling & sticks to my ribs so well that I usually make a batch for traveling. I eat one or two & can go for hours. 

9) Jell-O, along with shelf stable tapioca pudding. 
With jello, most desserts are possible. Ask me about my crowd pleasing jello mold of the United States. (Alaska & Hawaii did not make the cut but it's all good.) I, myself, being a fan of stirring things, make a mean tapioca pudding, but having it on demand in single servings makes me happy. 

10) Maraschino Cherries
I love these fool things. They're peppy and sweet and always accompany something happy and fun. (Note: this is how I slyly sneak alcohol into the food list, kind of. Mmm... amaretto.)

There you have it!  Nature's 10 most perfect foods, as scientifically decided by Cranky Otter. All of them are engineered to be tasty, most have a substantial shelf life which adds to how easy they are to make & consume.  Clearly part of the selection criteria is a high degree of manufacturing in the creation of these foods, because sarcasm is also delicious.   I stuck with foods rather than beverages or condiments - which I may do another day. I may redo the list with pictures; this list cries out for pictures, but if I put that on the critical path, it could take about 3 months to get it down & I'm awake now. 

Tell me how right I am in the comments, and let me know what you would add to the list - I'll cede spots 11-20 to y'all. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

LifeHack: Dog Pill Pockets

My dog has some persistent skin infections which require me to give him antibiotics. (I then have to add <a href=>Nzymes Probiotics</a> to his food to aid digestion and hair growth, but I digress.)

At first, Bruno was so eager to please that all things I tossed at him were *treats!* and I could just toss him pills to swallow. He started to realize there was something hinky about certain "treats", and implemented a new policy. He would not catch the first thing I tossed him, but would let it fall and investigate before committing. Raw Pills no longer made the cut. 

I tried stuffing them in cheese, specifically cut up string cheese, but larger pills would split the cheese and Bruno would spit out pills if he noticed them.  I tried hot dogs, but they had similar flaws to cheese, and both were pricey in volume. I tried stuffing them in hunks of Natural Balance sausage, but that doesn't mold or stick well. Ordinarily those are attributes, but are not consistent with disguising pills.  My dog weighs a hundred pounds. His pills can be large and/or numerous. I needed a cheaper, easier option. 

I'm not sure why I bought braunschweiger at the grocery store one day, but I did. I like it a little, but not usually enough to eat the whole package. I had the notion that I could buy it for me and give the rest to the pooch. I'm less fond of it than I remember being. I like the smell fine but the texture gets to me. But Bruno? He thinks Braunschweiger is The. Best. Treat. Ever. He likes it more than marrow, his previous favorite. 

And somehow I got the notion to hide his pills in the braunschweiger. Even knowing there is something hinky with this treat, he will still eat it without question. Success!

After some trial and error, I settled on a method to form these homemade pill pockets.

I scoop a lump of braunschweiger onto a dessert spoon (from Ikea, also used in Rainbow Cake post). I place the pills on it then squish them in, covering them and making a oval shaped lump to facilitate easy swallowing. This works a treat!

But I didn't want to be scooping strong smelling liver sausage twice a day so I started making them ahead and freezing them. This works best if I make a trough in some foil to hold them during assembly, then wrapping the foil into a tube when full. This gets frozen overnight, then twisted between each pill to make counting and retrieval easier. Like so:

Again, make them bullet shaped rather than round to reduce the risk of choking. (These look round due to reflection.) Not that my dog chokes on anything smaller than a charcoal briquette but still, caution seems prudent. If you don't agree that braunschweiger smells nice enough, other options are goat cheese or maybe hummus - if your dog likes either of those things - or anything of similar consistency. The Kroger brand of liver sausage is $2.49/ 8 oz, though, so it's hard to beat on cost and doggie desirability. 

After a while without meds, he's now on 2 antibiotics (poor boy's got methicillin resistant staph that flared up after a steroid treatment, and 4 other opportunistic bugs to add insult to injury). Each dose is given twice a day. Each dose is 3 pills. This would be fine if it was just the small pills. Three small pills fit easily into one sausage pellet. But the second pill is large and slippery. I can't fit 3 of those in one pellet without it being too large. I thought of various combinations to prep - 3A+1B & 2B was the front runner until I realized it would be hard to manage when they all looked the same. I finally settled on one of each pill per pellet / pocket. 

Doing the math, that's 42 pill pockets for a one week supply. He has to take these for a month, which makes 180. Making them all individually as above, with slippery pills, was going to be a pain in the tuchus and take forever. I decided I needed to mass produce them. I looked around for a half pipe shape of a diameter to be useful and enough and found nothing. I did have a notion of what I wanted, though: a tray that I could smear wholesale with braunschweiger. So I made one out of clay. I had to make the clay, too. This is also cheap and easy if you have standard pantry goods. 

Roughly 2 scoops flour to one scoop salt, water to mix, and a drop of food coloring to make it less repulsive looking. I also added some guar gum and xantham gum thickener because I have it and I could. I rolled the dough into a long log about 3/4" diameter or so. Then I placed it on parchment paper and sliced part way through, down the length of the log, and pressed the back of the spoon into the crevice as many times as I could fit. This gave me connected but individual shapes with a slightly crisp upper edge. I then used a rounded plastic clip to enhance the boundary between spoon presses. Realizing these boundaries would be hidden when filling, I made marks on the outside of the mold to indicate placement. (whew! Failure avoided.) I dried it in the oven in low heat (170F, chosen to be <200 & >150) for several hours while I did other stuff. Ta-da! 18 pill pocket molds!

To assemble, I lined the mold with plastic wrap, cut long and gathered slightly to allow some slack. I cut slabs of braunschweiger and pressed them I to the bottom. Between my marks, I placed one of each pill, then went back and smooshed the pills in a bit more.

 I wound up rolling out thin, flattened logs of the braunschweigher to place on top. At this point I closed the plastic wrap over the top and smoothed the top surface, trying to fully cover all pills. I then flipped over the mold to remove to log of sausage pills. To ensure proper distribution and ease of use, I pressed a dull edge into the separation marks, then re-rounded the sides. You can see the plastic wrapped log before enhancing the separation, and the mold showing pocket size relative to pills. 

In not too terribly long, I made 54 "treats", which will last a bit longer than a week. I then formed a few more by my usual method to get pictures and use up the remainder of the braunschweiger.   Now they're in the freezer, ready to start using tomorrow. 

I'll keep the mold until I can make all 180 pellets, then throw it out. But just so I wouldn't forget, I wrote this here helpful post. 

Please feel free to use any of these ideas, but know your dog's limits and use at your own risk. If choking is a concern, thaw the pellets before use. (Freezing only needed if more than a couple days supply is made ahead.) Choose a pellet making medium that is safe for your sick dog to eat.  Make sure, if you make the salty salty mold, to line it with plastic wrap. Otherwise, ick!  Don't let the parchment paper touch the heater elements in your oven, do not poke your eye out, or use my advice to perpetrate any other avoidable tragedy. Because this is the easiest way I know of to give pills to dogs and I want to share it in good faith. Good luck!