The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

When is bad butt not bad butt?

Cassie got a bad result from the lab yesterday: a mild giardia infection. It's a good-news, bad-news thing: The bad news, obviously, is that she can't go to day camp (meaning I can't spend a full day in my downtown office) for at least a week. The good news is that she's mostly asymptomatic, unlike the last guy. So we just went to the vet again, got another $110 bill for dewormer.

But at least she wasn't crated for three hours with her own diarrhea. Poor Parker.

In other good news, bad news stories today:

Actually, they're all bad-news stories. Apologies.

Democracy may be up for debate

The XPOTUS has agreed to "debate" President Biden twice before the election:

President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump agreed Wednesday to participate in general election debates on June 27 and Sept. 10.

A press release from CNN said the first, on June 27, would start at 9 p.m. ET and will be held in the news organization's studios in Atlanta.

“I’ve also received and accepted an invitation to a debate hosted by ABC on Tuesday, September 10th," Biden said on X. "Trump says he’ll arrange his own transportation. I’ll bring my plane, too. I plan on keeping it for another four years.”

One of my friends doesn't think the President should have agreed to debate the XPOTUS, arguing that someone who attempted a coup "does not get a debate." He worries it "will be judged on who talks the loudest, who is the rudest, etc. It'll be closer to professional wrestling than a political debate."

I disagree. I think the XPOTUS will show people who don't seek him out (read: swing voters) exactly how demented he has become. James Fallows likens him to "[t]he kind of person you’d assume to be drunk if you didn’t know he teetotaled, or you’d think was in other ways disturbed." Commenting on the XPOTUS's Atlantic City rally over the weekend, Fallows says, "We’ve all heard things like this. In bars. In public parks. In institutional care. We move away from people talking this way."

Even before we get there, we have to wonder how a good hunk of the population seem to have forgotten how shambolic the guy's administration actually was, especially doing the one thing in his job description:

There was no breathing room — no calm in the eye of the storm. From beginning to end — from the “American carnage” inaugural on Jan. 20, 2017, to the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 — it felt as though the country was in constant flux, each week a decade. We lurched from dysfunction to chaos and back again, eventually crashing on the shores of the nation’s worst domestic crisis since the Great Depression.

Trump presided over a recession worsened by his total failure to manage the coronavirus. As Covid deaths mounted, Trump spread misinformation and left states scrambling for needed supplies. It was not until after the March stock market crash that the White House issued its plan to blunt the economic impact of the pandemic. And the most generous provisions found in the CARES Act, including a vast expansion of unemployment benefits, were negotiated into the bill by Democratic lawmakers.

No other president has gotten this kind of excused absence for mismanaging a crisis that happened on his watch. We don’t bracket the secession crisis from our assessment of James Buchanan or the Great Depression from our judgment of Herbert Hoover or the hostage crisis in Iran from our assessment of Jimmy Carter. And for good reason: The presidency was designed for crisis. It was structured with the power and autonomy needed for handling the acute challenges of national life.

With 174 days until the election, one feels like a Christian Scientist with appendicitis...

Demo Brewing

Welcome to stop #104 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Demo Brewing, 1763 W. Berteau Ave., Chicago
Train line: Union Pacific North, Ravenswood. (Also CTA Brown Line, Irving Park)
Time from Chicago: 16 minutes (zone 2)
Distance from station: 1.1 km (400 m from CTA)

The newest brewery on Malt Row opened March 29th just 2 km from Inner Drive Technology World Headquarters and less than 500 meters from the CTA. I had a lot going on in April so I didn't get to check it out until last weekend. Cassie came with and met a couple of friends while my friends and I tried some of their beers.

For a variety of reasons, including Cassie wanting to meet every other dog in the place and the humans wanting to, you know, talk to each other, I didn't take detailed tasting notes. I had a pint of the Brunch Goblin Brut IPA (7%, 32 IBU), which I found refreshing and light, despite its strength. Given its proximity to my house, and its open-door policy to dogs, Cassie and I will return probably over Memorial Day weekend when I'll try a few other beers.

It won't replace Spiteful as my third place, but Cassie and I will put it in rotation along the south end of Malt Row with Dovetail and Begyle.

Beer garden? No
Dogs OK? Yes
Televisions? No
Serves food? No, BYOF
Would hang out with a book? Yes
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Yes

MobCraft Brewing

Welcome to stop #103 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: MobCraft Brewing, 101 N. Johnson St., Woodstock
Train line: Union Pacific Northwest, Woodstock
Time from Chicago: 91 minutes (zone 4)
Distance from station: 200 m

Between the perfect weather, the really good beer, and the view of the Woodstock Town Square, my Brews buddy and I really enjoyed our visit to MobCraft last weekend. I mean, doesn't this just make you want to sing "The Pennsylvania Polka?":

But back to the beer. We tried two flights, again, this time with no overlaps:

  • Crush: Tropic Wave fruit beer (6%): Not my favorite at all, even after one sip. She: "This tastes like what you give to your high school girlfriend who's too classy for White Claw." (To clarify, in this scenario, you're both in high school, she wants to make clear.)
  • First Time in a Long Time copper lager (4.8%): Not a big impression. A decent basic lager, good malt, crisp enough for summer.
  • Juni-perfect Saison (6.5%): Beautiful scent, quite tart, she didn't expect to like it and did, I had the reverse experience and just wrote "NOPE!" in my notebook. (This is why we review these together.)
  • Out of Office light hopped ale (4.5%): Decent, drinkable, neutral palate, "nice on a hot summer day," would buy.
  • Squeezin' Juice IPA (6.7%): I liked the good Citra hoppiness, nice finish, and drinkability; she wasn't a big fan and said "tastes like Daisy Cutter." Nonetheless we bought some for the 90-minute train trip back to Clybourn.
  • Vanilla Wafer Porter (7%): Chocolate, coffee, vanilla, really smooth, not too sweet or strong. She: "That's good, I like that!"

The brewery has two taprooms, one upstairs with smaller rooms off the main bar and lighter beers, and one downstairs with jail cells and darker beers. (The building used to be the sherriff's annex to the historic town hall next door.) It looks like it would be cozy in the wintertime, especially if you're trapped for 10,000 days in Woodstock on February 2nd.

Beer garden? Yes
Dogs OK? Outside only
Televisions? Yes, avoidable
Serves food? Bar snacks, but allows BYOF
Would hang out with a book? Yes
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Yes

The Ohio Feeder must die

The Ohio Feeder runs about 2 kilometers from Chicago's River North nightlife area to the Kennedy Expressway (I-90/94). As former Milwaukee mayor John Norquist told Streetsblog on Friday, just like San Francisco's Embarcadero Freeway and Seoul's Cheonggyecheon, we need to remove the Ohio Feeder:

Swapping the expressway extension for a surface-level boulevard would be an obvious choice to make this part of town safer, more efficient, more environmentally friendly, more vibrant – and more profitable. "Instead of making it harder to get to River North from the Kennedy, it would expand River North closer to the Kennedy."

SF actually saw travel times shorten when the Embarcadero Freeway was removed after being damaged by an earthquake, Norquist noted. "At rush hour, a boulevard carries more traffic because drivers move at the optimal speed. More and more research is piling up about the harmful aspects of urban freeways, including sprawl, pollution, congestion, and increased travel times. And you can't build a coffee shop on a freeway."

Transforming the Ohio Feeder into surface road, similar to what was done with Milwaukee's Park East Freeway "really won't require a change on every part of it," Norquist he said. "The bridge over the Chicago River was built in 1962 and fixed up in 1992. It's going be due for a rehab soon anyway. And it's not like you have to teat the whole freeway down. Much of it is practically at-grade, so you could turn it into a boulevard pretty easily."

With the redevelopment of the former Chicago Tribune printing plant 200 meters to the north, and the potential for having unimpeded bike, pedestrian, and (yes) car traffic between Kinzie and Chicago, it would transform the neighborhood. We might be stuck with the Kennedy and the Dan Ryan, as abominable as those two highways are; but we can—and should—open up River North to development west of Orleans by removing the ugly scar connecting it to the Kennedy.

Healthy, happy dog once again

Cassie and I just got back from her vet, with a good 2 km walk in each direction and treats at both ends. The semi-annual wellness check was only $88, and pronounced Cassie in perfect health. Even her weight (25 kg) is exactly what it should be, so I can start adding a little kibble to her meals if we walk a lot.

Of course, the heartworm pills were $230 and the fecal test was $107, so not everything about the checkup was great. Le sigh.

Also, it's warm today: 27°C for both walks, which is more like June 14th than May 13th (normal high: 20.9°C). I even had the air on last night. But I can see a cold front approaching from the west, with an expected temperature crash around 6pm and temperatures barely above 10°C (March 24th!) tomorrow. I'm glad we got our walks in already—looks like the first thunderstorm could hit before 3pm.

And check back tomorrow and Wednesday for two more Brews & Choos reviews from this past weekend, including a brand-new brewery that just opened 2 km from my front door.

Holzlager Brewing

Welcome to stop #102 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Holzlager Brewing, 150F S. Eastwood Dr., Woodstock
Train line: Union Pacific Northwest, Woodstock
Time from Chicago: 91 minutes (zone 4)
Distance from station: 1 km

Woodstock isn't the farthest Metra station from downtown Chicago; that honor goes to Harvard, which is almost 20 minutes farther out. But getting to Woodstock by train on a weekend takes about 2 hours when you have to change trains at Clybourn. And no small irony, the train taking me the one stop from home to Clybourn was 30 minutes late, cutting our overall travel time by that amount.

My frequent Brews buddy and I went to the town, made famous in the 1993 film Groundhog Day, and spent a few hours wandering around and drinking beer. We stopped first at the farthest (walkable) brewery, Holzager, which turned out to be at the end of a strip mall off a stroad just outside the historic section of town.

At least they have an outdoor space, which we found pleasant despite the traffic noise. And they make pretty decent beer. We each got a flight of four 150 mL pours, and tried 7 beers total (we both had Clown Hammer):

  • Agrarian Pale Ale (5.4%, 36 IBU): lots of hops, nice finish, some malt.
  • Clown Hammer AIPA (7.6%, 63 IBU): big hops, big malt, big flavor, maybe some banana and apricot notes. The brewery's #1 seller.
  • Fruit Warmer: the fruit rounds out the hop bitterness; big pineapple and apricot notes.
  • Let Go My Belgo Pale (6%, 26 IBU): "I love the name. It tastes like it's designed like a Belgian but lacking the complexity."
  • Malina Raspberry Ale (5.7%, 14 IBU): Uncomplicated, and tastes like real raspberry.
  • Moostache Milk Stout (5.7%, 18 IBU): Burnt notes, with coffee and a little chocolate, but thinner texture than expected. My friend added, "it's like an Imperial stout, but where's the ABV?"
  • Wooly Haggis Scotch Ale (10.1%, 26 IBU): very malty at first but changed after the initial few moments, with a very long finish. Again, some banana notes, which we pretty consistently tasted in all their beers.

We both want to explore Woodstock a bit more, but probably not this summer. And probably not in the beginning of February, either. Cute town, passable first brewery.

Beer garden? Yes
Dogs OK? Yes
Televisions? Yes
Serves food? Bar snacks, but allows BYOF
Would hang out with a book? Maybe
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Maybe

New Brews & Choos reviews soon

My frequent Brews buddy and I trekked out to Woodstock, Ill., yesterday, and visited the two breweries in town, then took Cassie to the newest brewery in my own neighborhood. I'll be going through notes and photos later today, so expect the reviews up tomorrow through Wednesday.

Meanwhile, for some reason, Minnesota unfurled a new state flag yesterday:

Minnesota's new flag went into official use Saturday, which has many wondering why the state adopted a new flag. The controversial replacement of the old flag requires an explanation of that emblem's history.

The legislature established the State Emblems Redesign Commission during the 2023 session to redesign Minnesota's flag and seal.

The reason for the change, according to state officials, was twofold. Primarily, officials were concerned with the scene depicted on the old flag, which many found offensive. First adopted in 1957, the flag showed a White settler tilling land as an Indigenous man rides horseback. Indigenous members of the State Emblem Redesign Commission said it was harmful to their communities and promoted the "erasure" of their people from the land.

Here's the flag. Enjoy:

Solar storm tonight, aurorae possibly visible in Chicago

NOAA has predicted a severe geomagnetic storm watch for tonight:

NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) — a division of the National Weather Service — is monitoring the sun following a series of solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs) that began on May 8. Space weather forecasters have issued a Severe (G4) Geomagnetic Storm Watch for the evening of Friday, May 10. Additional solar eruptions could cause geomagnetic storm conditions to persist through the weekend.

A large sunspot cluster has produced several moderate to strong solar flares since Wednesday at 5:00 am ET. At least five flares were associated with CMEs that appear to be Earth-directed. SWPC forecasters will monitor NOAA and NASA’s space assets for the onset of a geomagnetic storm.

CMEs are explosions of plasma and magnetic fields from the sun’s corona. They cause geomagnetic storms when they are directed at Earth. Geomagnetic storms can impact infrastructure in near-Earth orbit and on Earth’s surface, potentially disrupting communications, the electric power grid, navigation, radio and satellite operations. SWPC has notified the operators of these systems so they can take protective action. Geomagnetic storms can also trigger spectacular displays of aurora on Earth. A severe geomagnetic storm includes the potential for aurora to be seen as far south as Alabama and Northern California. 

The local media picked it up as well, but noted that the sky will probably look like this over Chicago when the storm reaches maximum:

That's the sky this afternoon, anyway. It might even rain tonight. I'll at least be able to read about it tomorrow.

If you love dogs, get a mutt

Cognitive scientist Alexandra Horowitz, author of the excellent book on dog psychology Inside of a Dog, explains how breeding dogs for specific characteristics inflicts pain and suffering on the results due to generations of inbreeding:

Breeders are not typically mating siblings, though it is not prohibited by the American Kennel Club and is not unheard of. Any mating within a closed gene pool of candidates will do, as far as breeders are concerned. But according to research published by a team from the University of California, Davis, and Wisdom Health Genetics in Finland, purebred dogs have, on average, a “coefficient of inbreeding” of 0.25, the same number you get when two siblings have a child. This number indicates the probability that two individuals will share two alleles from a common ancestor, like a parent or grandparent. And this number — 0.25 — is a problem.

The results of pure-breeding, on display starting this Saturday at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York, are profound. The radical morphological diversity of dog breeds today — from four-pound Malteses, white-haired and small-faced, to 170-pound Great Danes, large of body and of presence — is due to selective breeding.

So, too, are the consequences: the occurrence of several hundred health disorders related to genetics or to adherence to the standards set by breed groups that have emerged since dog pure-breeding took off in the 19th century. These include changes to anatomy so drastic that they affect reproduction (the bulldog’s head is so big that the overwhelming majority cannot be birthed naturally), respiration (the pug’s small skull leads to a constellation of abnormalities that make breathing difficult) and recreation (the German shepherd and other large-breed dogs are prone to debilitating hip dysplasia).

Right now, the American Kennel Club has no constraints on inbreeding (even as it encourages breeders to remember that “crippling or fatal” hereditary diseases may result). But I am not counting on the American Kennel Club. Instead, we could make outcrosses — the introduction of different genetic material to breeds — the norm.

Or we could, you know, just stop breeding dogs, and let them make their own offspring however they will. With millions of healthy but unwanted puppies in the world, and millions of purebred dogs suffering with genetic diseases brought on by generations of inbreeding, just adopt a mutt. Everyone wins.