The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Molly Ivins clarifies the debate

The United States Senate having a debate about the merits of torture should, in any but the most insane world, have the same result as the Vatican debating the merits of Satanism. Why are we even discussing this? No! No torture! Bad Alberto! Bad!

The Administration (851 days, 3 hours) apparently things the Gestapo had some good ideas, as Molly Ivins points out:

The White House has already specified "water boarding," making some guy think he's drowning for long periods, as a perfectly good interrogation technique. Maybe, but it was also a great favorite of the Gestapo and has been described and condemned in thousands of memoirs and novels in highly unpleasant terms. I don't think we can give it a good name again, and I personally kind of don't like being identified with the Gestapo.

We can at least change this Senate a bit in 45 days and 15 hours.

It's hard to support incompetence

I believe strongly that slowing climate change and providing broad-based economic opportunity must include substantial improvements in public transportation. I also belive that Chicago's public transit system ranks second in the country for its reach and convenience, after New York's but ahead of San Francisco, Boston, and Washington, which are also pretty good.

That said, the CTA still frustrates the ever-lovin' out of me. This week provides a crystal-clear example.

On Tuesday and again on Thursday, I had to travel from my office to a client's office in Lincoln Park. Their office is within 1 km (0.6 mi) of four El stops, two of which are served by three transit lines. In the rush periods, one of those lines—the Purple Line—goes directly from their closest El stop to mine. So during rush periods, the trip takes about 40 minutes door to door.

Outside of rush periods, however, I need to change trains twice. Or, in the alternative, I can change trains once and then catch a bus at Howard. In fact on Tuesday I did just that, because I was going home to let Parker out instead of returning to my office. As a consequence of the CTA's horrible mid-day schedules and a broken-down bus (not to mention the CTA's complete refusal or inability to provide any information about this), I spent more than three hours riding on or waiting for CTA vehicles.

Yesterday I drove to their office, which required spending a total of 50 minutes in my own car, choosing my own route, listening to my own radio station.

By the way, as a client-serving professional, I get paid by the hour. That means, had I driven on Tuesday, I could have billed two more hours for the day. Given that calculus, why on earth would I ever take the CTA during the middle of the day again?

Now, I own a car, so this was merely a bad choice and an inconvenience on my part. But for the hundreds of thousands in Chicago who don't own cars, or who live outside the CTA's service area, it's not a choice. How much economic opportunity is lost every day because people have to spend time waiting for buses and trains? How much is lost to people who live in the suburbs where buses run once an hour and trains only go downtown?

Later: Why insecure, incompetent, and authoritarian almost always go together. And yes, it's related to this post.

Where's the dimmer switch?

Anne just emailed me: "Parker is in the bedroom again." This means our little ball of fur and teeth has probably killed another shoe, or has, in some way, prevented her from working. So far the casualties include an ancient Ikea sofa we were planning to replace anyway, a Dell power cord (fortunately on the DC side of the brick), several throw pillows, and nearly an entire bottle of odor-eating spray-on enzymes.

He's the most adorable little thing about 80% of the time. The other 20% of the time he makes up for it.

Slogging South

Had I actually ridden the Century today, I would probably be done or close to it. But the return trip would have been worse than I thought earlier today: Winds are now out of the south at 8 m/s (17 mph). That's like riding up a 5% grade without respite. After having ridden 130 km (80 mi) already. Yeesh.

Office puppy

Still one little problem with our otherwise criminally adorable puppy: separation anxiety. He's familiar enough with my office that he feels comfortable re-arranging the rug, but if I step out, he starts crying immediately. So this afternoon we're going to work on that until my nerves fray.

This will have to be after I confirm the building is empty, of course, because our lobby is marble and terrazzo, giving his whining an unbelievable reverberating increase in volume.

I wonder how I'd be doing?

Today is the North Shore Century, a 100-mile bike ride I've trained all summer for. Sadly, I'm not riding today, because a little less than a week ago my gallbladder turned itself green, and my doctors didn't think a major athletic event five days after surgery would be a good idea. But I can't stop wondering, how would I be doing?

I expect I would have left Dawes Park around 8, three hours ago. That means I'd probably already be in Kenosha and would have started my return trip. Current weather in Kenosha right now is 24°C (75°F) with winds directly out of the South at 6 m/s (13 mph). That's great for the outbound but, shall I say, not entirely favorable for the return.

A direct tailwind that strong would have gotten up to Kenosha at around 36 km/h (22 mph), and probably under 2 hours 30 minutes. But the direct headwind on the way back would cost about the same as it helped, slowing me down to 27 km/h (17 mph). It's not just speed: not only am I slower in a headwind, but I use more power over time. Plus, after 80-90 km (50-56 mi), I'd already be tired. Winds in general are hard; but if I have to ride with strong winds, I'd much rather fight them on the way out.

So my guess is, my Century time would be about 5:15—5:30 today, not including probably an hour gorging at the rest stops.

Oh well. Next year.

Almost forgot: There was a silver lining this morning. I got my lowest body weight since college this morning, having lost 7 kg (15 lbs) since July 1st.

And Parker is being an adorable little office puppy today.

Hour 76...could have been worse

As you can imagine from this photo, the shower I had after returning from my adventures this week felt really nice.

Also, I believe this is the least flattering photo of me in existence, but I could be wrong.

It's also sad to note that, even though I lost 6.5 kg (14.5 lbs) from July 1st until my gallbladder blew up, being on a a saline IV non-stop caused me to gain 5.5 kg (12 lbs) in four days. I expect that will all go away by next weekend.

In retrospect, I never liked my gallbladder. I'm glad it's gone. I just wish it would have gone more quietly—and after the Century!

Wow, has this week sucked

When I ate lunch on Sunday, my gallbladder contracted to help digest some of the cheese in my salad. A tiny piece of calcium was already lodged in my biliary duct, however, preventing bile from getting out. My gallbladder persevered. It pushed. It shuddered mightily against the stone. It had me doubled over in agony and Anne rushing me to Evanston Hospital.

All of this on its own would have caused enough pain to last a decade if the gallbladder had simply given up and allowed the stone to wiggle its way back inside like most gallstones do. No, this stone, and six or seven of its smaller siblings, actually managed to get all the way through the biliary duct, lacerating it in the process. By Tuesday morning my gallbladder had turned "gangrenous," according to one of the surgeons who removed it Tuesday afternoon.

I'm finally home, with four painful holes in my belly and a bottle of Vicodin to munch on. I've missed Anne, Parker, my house, and yes, my blog. I'm going to miss the North Shore and Apple Cider centuries, too.

That hurts almost as much as the exploding gallbladder. Moreover, the surgeon pointed out that moderate weight loss combined with increasing carbohydrate consumption and physical activity—i.e., training for a century ride—can all trigger gallstones in the first place. So it's possible that not only did the gallstones render all my training this summer moot, but the training itself may have caused them. Sigh.

At least I can never have gallstones again. And I have a great defense the next time someone accuses me of having a lot of gall.

I'll probably get back to full strength by mid-October, just in time to plop a trainer in the living room. This will enable moderate training throughout the winter, which will keep me in decent shape. Without a major event to train for, and with a reduced ability to digest fatty foods, I expect to complete my weight-loss goal just in time to chow down on holiday foods.

So while my gallbladder's untimely demise seriously hurt my fitness goals for 2006, it should have no effect on my goals for 2007 and beyond, which include more centuries and, ultimately, RAGBRAI.

But still, this week has sucked.