Here's the Scoop: Jan. 28, 2009

How cold is it?
In many ways, I’m thankful that this winter has started out like those “back in the old days.”
Sure, the frequent snowfalls can cause problems, but there’s something comforting about snow covering the ground in January and February. It seems like in recent years, the lingering winter warm spells had homeowners wondering if they should be getting their lawn mowers tuned up and ready to roll by March.
Not surprisingly, the snow has been closely tied to cold weather. The two are often linked. Really.
I am not a fan of guessing the temperature. I prefer concrete information when it comes to such items. When I arrive at work, I need to confidently be able to put our temperature numbers into the office chatter.
The problem is, we no longer have a thermometer. For years, we enjoyed watching a thermometer with a digital readout. It gave highs and lows and kept a record of these happenings. And then the battery went dead. It was an odd-sized battery and we drove around with it in the glove compartment for what seemed like years. At some point, the thermometer was put away, its blank face simply had become a symbol of our failure to buy a battery.
When it became apparent that this winter was packing a cold weather wallop, my thoughts turned to the thermometer. Honestly, as everyone gathered around the water cooler to swap stories of who had the chilliest temperatures, I was feeling left out. Not being a very good liar, I would hear all the outrageous temperature claims by co-workers and feel pretty lame when I chimed in, “It was really, really cold at our house, too!”
Somehow, such claims rang hollow vs. lines such as: “Our digital readout at 4 a.m. was minus 26.4 degrees.”

Degree of difficulty
Inspired by these embarrassing situations, I made up my mind to do something about it.
“Let’s get that battery this year!” I shouted recently when I arrived home from work. This wasn’t exactly an earth-shattering proposal, but it felt great to me.
That’s when my wife informed me that old thermometer had been tossed around in the basement one too many times and had been sent in for recycling.
Being notoriously cheap, I wasn’t keen on the idea of purchasing a replacement. This point, plus the fact that I like to think of myself as an innovator — led to a light bulb moment: “The cat is a perfect temperature gauge!”
Naturally, I had not run this idea past the cat before I blurted it out.
Before PETAT (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animal Thermometers) gets all upset about this idea, let me say that it does not involve feeding the kitty large doses of seafood-flavored catfood and hoping for a rise in her mercury levels.
No, my idea involves timing the amount of time that the cat stands in front of the open door before deciding “Hey, I’ve got a nice fur coat, but I’m still not going out there!” and races back to curl up in front of the fireplace.
I know it’s not an exact science, but I’m working on a Feline Cold Scale. Less than one second at the door means 15-20 below. Three seconds is around zero. 15 seconds means spring is in the air. When the cat disappears for hours, I can stop cleaning the litter box for six months or so. That temperature is the cat’s meow, in my book.