National Geographic examines the evidence that pets help you stay healthy:
Among the established benefits is that pet/owner interactions can enhance one’s quality of life. Research shows that playing with a dog can improve one's mood, that reading to a pet can help children with learning development issues, that pets can lessen levels of the stress-related hormone cortisol in their owners, and that having a pet can increase one's physical activity levels, according to the American Heart Association.
There's also broad consensus on the mental health benefits that come from frequently connecting with another living thing.
"Having a non-judgmental confidant can serve to buffer the effects of stress on both physical and psychological health outcomes," explains Nancy Gee, a professor of psychiatry and director of the Center for Human-Animal Interaction at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Despite such established benefits, there are cases in which pet ownership may get more credit than it deserves.
For example, Hal Herzog, an emeritus professor of psychology at Western Carolina University, says that people with pets have not been shown to necessarily fare better than non-pet owners during the pandemic as some believed, and that no research has demonstrated that "as a group, pet owners are happier than non-owners."
Possibly the most frequently overstated benefit of pet ownership is its impact on people who deal with clinical depression. In reviewing 30 peer-reviewed studies measuring an association between pet ownership and depression, Herzog says he found that 18 of them showed "no difference" in depression rates between pet owners and non-owners. "Pet ownership is not a particularly reliable predictor of depressive symptoms," echoes Mueller.
Here is my own non-judgmental confidant on Sunday, quietly judging me because I forgot the treat bag at home:
We're having quite a string of really nice days. Yesterday's rain moved on in the early afternoon allowing Cassie and me to get a good half-hour walk in while the adobo bubbled in the slow cooker. (It was great! Needed a little more vinegar and less water in the pot though.)
We headed home from Spiteful just before sunset:
And then someone passed out on the couch next to me:
I wish I could sleep anywhere like that.
Inner Drive Technology WHQ cooled down to 14°C overnight and has started to climb up into the low-20s this morning, with a low dewpoint and mostly-clear skies. Perfect sleeping weather, and almost-perfect walking weather! In a few minutes I'm going to take Cassie out for a good, long walk, but first I want to queue up some stuff to read when it's pissing with rain tomorrow:
- A Wall Street Journal poll (which the XPOTUS funded in part) appears to have bad news for the Biden re-election campaign, not least because 52% of voters surveyed believe the laziest person to hold that office since Harding and the dumbest since...well, Harding..."has a strong record of accomplishments."
- The Wisconsin Republican Party has given up any pretense of respect for the voters by threatening to impeach the newly-elected Democratic state supreme court justice Janet Protasiewicz before she has even heard a single case. Says Jamie Bouille, "In the absence of national regulation — and against the backdrop of a federal Supreme Court that is, at best, apathetic on issues of voting rights — states are as liable to become laboratories of autocracy as they are to serve as laboratories of democracy."
- Molly White may not shed any tears for Sam Bankman-Fried's difficulties getting comfortable in prison, but our prison system really does create dangerous conditions for people who don't have armies of lawyers fighting for them.
- Elizabeth Spiers has had enough of men who double down on reprehensible behavior, and the other men who let them.
- The Chicago Tribune looks at Underground Railroad sites around the city.
- Charlie Warzel laments that "streaming has reached its sad, predictable fate." Vulture reached that conclusion back in June, when it reported on studio executives having reached that conclusion in March. And then the strike happened...
- The Economist's Bartleby column provides a how-to guide on "networking for introverts."
- James Fallows reviews former Naval Intelligence officer Michael McLaughlin's book on the cyber-war that you and I are already fighting.
- The UK set a new record this afternoon with its 7th consecutive day of 30°C temperatures, an unprecedented (at least since the 1880s) occurrence. "Before that, according to Met Office data, the UK has only had three consecutive days of 30°C weather in September on four previous occasions: 1898, 1906, 1911 and 2016," the Guardian reports. "Saturday was named the hottest day of 2023 in the UK with 32.7C recorded at Heathrow." (This is not normal.)
Finally, my indoor Netatmo base station has picked up a funny mid-September thing: cicadas. The annual dog-day cicadas have only a few more days to get the next generation planted in the ground, so the remaining singletons have come out this morning instead of waiting for dusk. As you can see, the ones in the tree right outside the window closest to the Netatmo have been going at it since dawn:
The predominant species in my yard right now are neotibicen pruinosus, or "scissor-grinder" cicadas. But we also have our share of other species in Northern Illinois. And, of course, next May: Brood XIII comes out. That'll be fun (especially for Cassie)!
The temperature has crept up towards 34°C all day after staying at a comfortable 28°C yesterday and 25°C Friday. It's officially 33°C at O'Hare but just a scoshe above 31°C at IDTWHQ. Also, I still feel...uncomfortable in certain places closely associated with walking. All of which explains why I'm jotting down a bunch of news stories to read instead of walking Cassie.
- First, if you have tomorrow off for Labor Day, you can thank Chicago workers. (Of course, if you have May 1st off for Labor Day, you can also thank us on the actual day that they intended.)
- A new study suggests 84% of the general population want to experience an orchestral concert, though it didn't get into how much they want to pay for such a thing. (You can hear Händel's complete Messiah on December 9th at Holy Name Cathedral or December 10th at Millar Chapel for just $50!)
- An FBI whistleblower claims Russian intelligence co-opted Rudy Giuliani in the run-up to the 2020 election—not as a Russian agent, mind you, just as a "useful idiot."
- Rapper Eminem has told Republican presidential (*cough*) candidate Vivek Ramaswamy—who Michelle Goldberg calls "very annoying"—to stop using his music in his political campaign.
- The government of Chile has promised to investigate the 3000 or so disappearances that happened under dictator Agosto Pinochet, though they acknowledge that it might be hard to find the ones thrown out of helicopters into the sea, or dropped down mine shafts. And with most of the murderers already dead of old age, it's about time.
- Julia Ioffe wonders when the next putsch attempt will get close to Moscow, now that Prigozhin seems to be dead.
- About 70,000 people continue to squelch through ankle-deep mud at Black Rock City after torrential rains at Burning Man this weekend. (I can't wait to see the moop map...)
- University of Michigan Law Professor Nicholas Bagley had a cogent explanation of why pharmaceutical companies don't want to negotiate drug prices with Medicare. (Hint: record profits.)
- Switching Chicago's pre-World War II bungalows from gas to electric heating could cut the city's GHG emissions by 14%.
- Molly White's weekly newsletter starts off with some truly clueless and entitled behavior from Sam Bankman-Fried and gets weirder.
- Zoning laws, plus the inability of the Portland, Ore., government to allow variances in any useful fashion, has condemned an entire high school to send its kids an hour away by bus while the building gets repaired, rather than just across the street to the community college many of them attend in the evenings. (Guess what skin color the kids have. Go on, guess.)
- A group of hackers compromised a Portuguese-language "stalkerware" company and deleted all the data the company's spyware had downloaded, as well as the keys to the compromised phones it came from, then posted the company's customer data online. "Because fuck stalkerware," they said.
- Traffic engineers, please don't confuse people by turning their small-town streets into stroads. It causes accidents. Which you, not they, have caused.
- Illinois had a mild and dry summer, ending just before our ferociously hot Labor Day weekend.
- James Fallows talks about college rankings, "which are marginally more encouraging than the current chaos of College Football."
Finally, I'll just leave this Tweet from former labor secretary Robert Reich as its own little monument to the New Gilded Age we now inhabit:
Meteorological autumn begins at midnight local time, even though today's autumn-like temperatures will give way to summer heat for a few days starting Saturday. Tomorrow I will once again attempt the 42-kilometer walk from Cassie's daycare to Lake Bluff. Will I go 3-for-4 or .500? Tune in Saturday morning to find out.
- Quinta Jurecic foresees some problems with the overlapping XPOTUS criminal trials next year, not least of which is looking for a judicial solution to a political problem.
- Even though I prefer them to rabbits, even I can see that Chicago has a rat problem.
- Pilot Patrick Smith laments the endless noise in most airport terminals, but praises Schiphol for its quiet. (Yet another reason to emigrate?)
Finally, it seems like anyone with a valid credit card number (their own or someone else's) can track the owner of that credit card on the New York City subway. I wonder how the MTA will plug that particular hole?
This surprised me. One or more mountain lions in Washington state has decided that wolves taste good:
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) staff have documented cougars killing six collared wolves since 2013—almost 30 percent of the 21 documented natural wolf mortalities in the state. "That's huge if that trend holds and is representative of the entire population [in the state]," says Trent Roussin, a WDFW biologist. The kills involve multiple wolf packs in different areas of Washington.
Such kills are rare elsewhere in the U.S. West, where more wolves are on the landscape since their reintroduction to Yellowstone National Park, which is mostly in Wyoming, and central Idaho in 1995. Today Montana and Idaho have over five times more wolves than Washington.
While a wolf pack tends to have an advantage over a single cougar—sometimes running it up into a tree or kicking it off a carcass to scavenge for themselves—a cougar excels in a one-on-one ambush. All but one of Washington's wolf kills involved lone wolves.
"Everyone always assumes wolves have the upper hand," says ecologist Mark Elbroch, the leader of Panthera's Puma Program. "But that's not always the case."
I don't expect my own wolf would do well in a fight against a cougar—or a Dachshund, for that matter—but I had no idea cougars hunted actual wolves. You know I'll always root for the dogs over the cats, though.
Spot the cold front:
I took Cassie for her final walk at 10pm, during the steepest part of that second cliff. The temperature dropped 0.5°C during the 7 minutes it took us to walk around the block. The dewpoint eased off as well, making it actually tolerable for the first time in two days.
In a post this morning, the National Weather Service explained how bad we had it for those two days:
- 8/23 saw the first 80°F dew point observed in Chicago since 7/30/1999 and only the 7th calendar day on record where an 80+°F dew point was recorded in Chicago.
- 8/24 saw the first 100°F temperature recorded in Chicago since 7/6/2012 and became tied as the 5th latest calendar day to see a 100°F temperature recorded in Chicago.
- The heat index of 120°F on 8/24 is the highest ever observed at Chicago's official climate observation site.
- Chicago logged two days in a row with peak heat indices greater than 115°F, which was the first time that this occurred since the deadly heat wave of July 1995.
Not all that moisture got pushed south by the cold front last night, so we have a low overcast to go with our otherwise pleasant temperatures (22°C but with a 19.4°C dewpoint). Today's forecast has us warming up only slightly today while dew points continue to drop. Tomorrow should be absolutely lovely, so Cassie should have some long walks in the cool air.
The National Weather Service reported earlier today that we did, in fact, have some historic weather:
Here at IDTWHQ, things have cooled off in the last hour...but not by much:
Fortunately the AQI is only 59, though ozone levels are going up with the heat. Unfortunately, the dewpoint to go with that 34.5°C (now down to 34.0°C!) is 26°C, giving us a heat index of 43.9°C (110.9°F to the philistines out there). Cassie got a 47-minute, 4.4-kilometer walk this morning and 12 minutes at lunch, but I doubt she'll get another 10 for the rest of the day. I'm not confident she'll get even that much time outside tomorrow.
Officially at O'Hare it hit 36.7°C (98.1°F) around 4pm with a heat index of 44.0°C (111.3°F), breaking the record for August 23rd and, in fact, for any day this late in the season. Lewis University in Romeo, Ill. (about 42 km from IDTWHQ and the headquarters of the National Weather Service in Chicago) reported a heat index of 51.1°C (123.9°F) a few minutes ago, which I can scarcely fathom.
But it's -35°C at McMurdo Sound, Antarctica, so clearly global warming is a myth.
Cassie got almost 4¼ hours of walkies yesterday, going to the Horner Park DFA, Ribfest, and elsewhere around the neighborhood. Then, just when she thought she could relax at home, I dragged her fuzzy butt into the bathtub. I did warn her, when she rolled in whatever that was at the dog park, that her day would end in a bath, but she didn't believe me.
The highlight for me, of course, was Ribfest. And I can now present my After Rib Report for 2023.
This year I got to try 9—count 'em, 9—samplers (total: 28 bones) from 8 rib vendors, a tremendous improvement on last year. Plus, the ribs were better all around. In the order that I tried them:
- Aussom Aussie: tug-off-the-bone, smoky, meaty ribs, with a good sauce. Winner of 2nd Place in both the Critics Choice and Audience cagegories. 3 stars.
- Mrs Murphy's Irish Bistro: This year's People's Choice winner for the 9th year running, which makes me think the fix is in. My ribs were over-boiled and kind of disintegrated, but they didn't have a lot of flavor. I like their sauce, though. 2½ stars.
- Ogre Eats: The 3-bone sampler I got Friday might have been the most perfect ribs I had at any Ribfest. They came right off the grill onto my plate, with great caramelization and just the right smoke and tug. (Cassie did not like standing next to the smoker while we waited in line, though.) But then on Sunday they gave me 2 bones for the same price, which were really good but not nearly as epic as Friday's. I wish I could give them the 4 stars they earned on Friday but I can only give them 3 stars overall.
- Big Joe's: The Critics Choice winner this year, beating Aussom Aussie by one point. They had super-meaty ribs with an amazing sauce. I want more! 4 stars.
- Chicago BBQ: Good as always. Meaty, smoky ribs, a nice char, and two tasty sauces to choose. 3½ stars.
- Armadillo's: Huge meaty bones with great flavor. Not greasy at all; nice sauce. And they gave me an extra bone! 3½ stars.
- Blazin' Bronco: Excellent, smoky, meaty bones. 4 stars.
- Robinson's: Another lagniappe! And huge, huge bones with unfortunately too much sauce. 3 stars.
A couple of things to note. First, every one of the vendors, except for Robinson's, is itinerant or a catering company. Once again, Ribfest failed to attract Chicago Q, Smoque, The Smoke Daddy, or any of the other ribberies here in Chicago that have amazing BBQ. It's a shame, because I would love to get a full slab from Blazin' Bronco or Big Joe's sometime.
Second, they all charged different prices for samplers, which I didn't factor into my ratings but probably should have. The $8 sampler from Mrs Murphy's was probably worth it, but the $14 sampler from one of the vendors I didn't try probably wasn't.
I'm glad Ribfest found its footing again, though. And the weather cooperated: temperatures kept in the mid-20s with not a drop of precipitation, though dewpoints hovered around 20°C making everything a bit sticky. Can't wait for next year!
We may stop at Ribfest one more time today, after we hike over to Horner Park to meet some friends. (This may also include a quick stop to cool off at Burning Bush.)
Yesterday, Cassie got a chance to nap during the day while I spent some time a few kilometers off shore in Lake Michigan:
Not a bad view, despite the Canadian wildfire smoke:
After I got home, Cassie and I went back over to Ribfest for three more samplers before ending the evening at Beygle again. But the poor girl really needed another nap, not least because we've gotten over 5 hours of walkies since Friday morning. If you've ever seen a 5-year-old two hours past bedtime, you have an idea. I had to take her to the far end of the patio after she decided she really wanted another dog's bully stick, even though she doesn't really like bully sticks.
And yet, just look at this punim:
We're heading out to the dog park in about 90 minutes. I'll let her nap until then.