The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Can't put the book down

...even though it's heavy. I'm reading Paul Johnson's History of the American People right now, and enjoying every page. For starters, he writes well. It's a story, after all, and he tells it like one. He also has a British perspective, which I think lets him see through and explain myths that natives might not.

People seem to think history is boring, which is sad. This book could cure that, as long as the reader starts with a basic curiosity about what makes us Americans. Even Parker enjoys it, but that's probably because I've spent many hours in the past week sitting outside with him at various pubs in Chicago, occasionally tossing him popcorn and crisps.

I'm an MBA!

Yes, that's right, I've earned the Master of Beer Appreciation from Goose Island Beer Co., here in Chicago. It took nearly four years—I started on 12 September 2004—but I persevered, drinking 35 different brews, and now I get Imperial pints (as opposed to regular ones) whenever I visit their twin pubs.

All right, it's not up there with my J.D., but it's still an accomplishment, if for no other reason than I no longer need to carry the very old booklet in my wallet any more.

Jet stream moves north; will kidney stones follow?

Interesting juxtaposition of stories in the Chicago Tribune this morning. First, scientists have linked warm weather to kidney stones, implying that climate change will increase the number of reported cases in Chicago:

Linking climate change to kidney stones seems odd, but it's based on the solid medical finding that people in warm regions develop the condition at increased rates. Sweating in warm weather removes fluid from the body and increases the salt concentration in urine, which can spur the growth of kidney stones.

By the year 2050, the new report estimates that a large chunk of Illinois will fall within America's "kidney-stone belt," which currently includes only Southern states. The Chicago area alone would see up to 100,000 extra cases each year, according to the report published Monday in a widely respected journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Then there's today's weather forecast, calling for actual summer weather:

Strings of 90-degree days—like those predicted here for the remainder of the workweek—have occurred in 98 percent of the city's summers since 1928. But, the first of them typically occurs on or about June 7. That makes the hot-weather period predicted to dominate the area almost five weeks late. As many as four consecutive 90-degree highs are likely to occur here by the end of the week, something that has occurred on 53 of the past 80 warm seasons—or nearly two-thirds of the time.

In other words, usually it's this hot earlier in the year, so be glad. Sort of.

Mr. Observant

I've lived here five months already, and I just discovered my kitchen has not one, but two lights over the main countertop.

Each new-hatched, unfledged comrade

A couple nights ago this guy landed on my porch and stayed the night. He tolerated me and my camera but seemed overwhelmed Parker's hospitality, which involved barking and trying to sniff. Possibly he (the robin) simply forgot how to fly until 25 kilos of wagging dog encouraged him to remember. He flew just fine after that.

Rumble rumble rumble. Mutiny mutiny mutiny.

I stopped to check email just now and found two odd things. I have the USGS earthquake feed on RSS. The USGS has deleted a number of 4.0+ magnitude earthquake reports tonight; it looks like fireworks are setting off the seismographs. But while I was laughing at that, I noticed a very real 7.6-magnitude earthquake near Kamchatka which, fortunately, does not appear to have caused a tsunami.

A 7.6 is a big deal. The earthquake that levelled San Francisco in 1906 was about an 7.8. No one appears to have been hurt today, which is fortunate.

Is that a dromedary or are you happy to see me?

Via Bruce Schneier:

Giraffe helps camels, zebras escape from circus

Amsterdam police say 15 camels, two zebras and an undetermined number of llamas and potbellied swine briefly escaped from a traveling Dutch circus after a giraffe kicked a hole in their cage.

Police spokesman Arnout Aben says the animals wandered in a group through a nearby neighborhood for several hours after their 5:30 a.m. breakout.

The animals were back at the circus later Monday after being rounded up by police and circus workers with the assistance of dogs. Aben says neighbors fed some of the animals — which he said was a bad idea — but they were tame and nobody was hurt.

Says Aben: "You have to imagine somebody rubbing his eyes first thing in the morning and saying, 'Am I seeing things or is that 15 camels walking past?'"

This was an afterthought in his main post, which was about random stupidity in terrorism.

First flight

I finally found the box containing my mother's journals and appointment calendars from 1971 to 1976, 1980 to 1982, and 1990 to 2004. I already had 2005 and 2006, so this fills in a lot. (She stopped writing in late 2006 because she could no longer hold a pen.) Somewhere there's one more box, I hope, but this is by no means certain.

The contents are mostly mundane. One interesting nugget: I finally found the date I first took an airplane flight. On 19 April 1974, at age 3½, I flew from Chicago to Los Angeles with my dad. I'll have to do the math later, but it looks like I've spent about 11 months of my life in L.A. altogether, which is about what I figured.

More later. It's hot, and I'm running late for dinner.