The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Dogs rule

Via the Freakonomics blog, the New Scientist has examined the science behind the eternal question, dogs or cats?


Dogs can hunt, herd and guard. They can sniff out drugs and bombs and even whale faeces; they guide blind and deaf people, race for sport, pull sleds, find someone buried by an avalanche, help children learn and possibly even predict earthquakes. Cats are good if you have an infestation of rodents.

Perhaps that assessment is unfair, though. After all, we love our pets for other reasons. Cats are beautiful and soft, and stroking them has been shown to reduce stress. Then again, dogs are also good stress-busters: owning one can lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. What's more, Fido has other health benefits. Daily dog walks may be a chore, but they repay the effort, not just in terms of regular exercise, but also by providing immune-boosting opportunities for social contact with other dog walkers. That's why in a head-to-head contest of health benefits, it's dogs all the way

Having spent the last 9 days watching the two species interact, I have seen evidence of the magazine's conclusions. The cats Parker has suffered (and who have suffered him) haven't demonstrated stellar problem-solving skills, but they have learned that moving quickly across the living room causes lots of noise (the dog barks, the human corrects the dog), while slinking on their bellies slowly sometimes causes nothing more than a growl and a small correction. One of the cats (Nick, the orange pile pictured right) has the IQ of a philodendron, and still has not figured out that moving away from the dog cuts down on the noise. (Nick is just ornery, hissing at people even while getting brushed and purring. Yes, he hisses while purring. But that's a different post.)

Anyway, I vote for dogs. Cats are fine as accent pillows and occasionally if you have a granary you need protected from rodents. Dogs are actually happy to see you when you get home, even if you don't have any food in your hand.

Time to walk Parker.

Great moments in trivia contests

A bunch of people went over to Ruckus Pizza on Wednesday for their weekly trivia contest. I do much better at College Bowl-type quizzes, and this one was all pop culture, but that didn't diminish the company and the pizza. All good.

The second round featured advertising slogans. See if you can find one product for which all these slogans work beautifully:

  • "The quicker picker-upper"
  • Two for me, none for you
  • Get up to four hours longer
  • Makes mouth happy
  • Stress stinks, ____ works
  • Any time's a good time for ___

We thought "Viagra" was a pretty good answer...

December miscellany

Just a few quick things today:

  • The temperature hit 13°C today, not a record but definitely a pleasant day in December. In Chicago. Because, of course, there are parts of the world where that temperature on any day of the year would cause alarm.
  • Matthew Yglesias thinks mutual funds are stupid. I'm linking because of his two clear charts. His recommendations: index funds. ( any of this news?)
  • The local pizza place around the corner folded last week. This was Parker's favorite summer hangout. We'll miss it.
  • Comcast and AT&T are fighting public broadband in areas that don't have it. Common sense suggests that the government subsidy would ultimately go to them, but their first reaction is that of any monopolist. As Duke University economist Leslie Marx put it only yesterday, "remember that everywhere a firm looks, it is obligated to look for profits, and I would challenge anyone to show me an industry where the suppression of rivalry is not profitable."

More later. Possibly a Parker photo, too.


Why it's important to get your scanner settings correct:

Duh. Film setting, dude. Film setting.

New time-wasting blog to follow

Not Always Right, vigniettes that demonstrate how customer stupidity is an absolute limit on customer service:

Me: "Thank you for calling ***. How may I help you today?"

Caller: "I'm having problems with my computer and–"

(Suddenly, what sounds like an air raid siren sounds off in the background.)

Me: "Ma'am, I apologize. I was unable to hear what you said."

Caller: "Stupid tornado warnings! They always make it hard to talk on the phone."

Me: "Oh...should I let you go?"

Caller: "Nah. This happens all of the time."

(In addition to the siren, I hear a door slam and the sound of someone else entering the room. I hear a male voice who I guess is the caller's husband.)

Caller's husband: "D*** it woman, are you crazy?! Get to the basement!"

Caller: "Oh, I guess I should go..." *hangs up*

There are 275 more pages of them. Lovely.

Oh, sad day for NPR

Carl Kasell is retiring December 30th:

Kasell will, however, continue as official judge and scorekeeper of the Chicago Public Radio-produced quiz program, "Wait Wait … Don't Tell Me!," "the show that turned him from a newsman into a rock star," as noted in a memo to staff Monday from David Sweeney, NPR's managing editor for news, and Margaret Low Smith, its vice president of programming.


Tall buildings slightly redefined

While the Burj Dubai will likely remain the tallest building in the world for a long time, the rankings of the next few buildings on the "world's tallest" list got shuffled today when the organization that ranks them changed the definition a bit:

The old standard was that a skyscraper's height was determined by calculating the distance from the sidewalk outside the main entrance to the building's spire or structural top.

The new standard is that height is measured from "the lowest, significant, open-air, pedestrian entrance" to the top.

This means that Trump Tower, Chicago, moved up to 6th place, and some of the other "official" heights got jiggled a bit. The new rankings as of January (when Burj Dubai opens) are:

  1. Burj Dubai, U.A.E., 818 m
  2. Taipei 101, Taiwan, 508 m
  3. Shanghai World Financial Center, China, 492 m
  4. Petronas Towers 1, Kuala Lampur, Malaysia, 452 m
  5. Petronas Towers 2, Kuala Lampur, Malaysia, 452 m
  6. Sears Willis Tower, Chicago, 442 m
  7. Trump Tower, Chicago, 423 m
  8. Jin Mao Building, Shanghai, China, 421 m
  9. Two International Financial Center, Hong Kong, 415 m
  10. CITIC Plaza, Guangzhou, China, 390 m

Notice that all but two of the entrants in the list are in Asia, the exceptions being within five blocks of each other right here in Chicago. Still, it's sad to see the Hancock Center, Empire State Building, and a few others I could name, missing from the top-10 list.

Very strange coyote behavior

A pack of coyotes attacked a hiker in Nova Scotia yesterday, in a well-traveled area near enough other people that a police officer drove off the attacking dogs. Coyotes almost never attack people; what's going on here? The A.P. reports:

Wildlife biologist Bob Bancroft said coyote attacks are extremely rare because the animals are usually shy.

Bancroft, a retired biologist with Nova Scotia's Department of Natural Resources, said it's possible the coyotes thought [attack victim Taylor] Mitchell was a deer or other prey.

"It's very unusual and is not likely to repeated," Bancroft said. "We shouldn't assume that coyotes are suddenly going to become the big bad wolf."

An official with Parks Canada said they blocked the entrance to the trail where Mitchell was attacked and were trying to find the animals to determine what prompted such an unusual attack.

Possibly the encroachment of humans on their territory has made them less afraid of us? Still, coyotes don't usually behave like that.