The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Tomorrow: how far can I walk?

FOr a variety of reasons, I've set aside tomorrow to take a hike in Chicago, from home north along one of our Metra lines as far as I can go before saying "to hell with this." My guess is I'll get pretty far. Unfortunately, the weather forecast along the route looks iffy, so I might postpone it until Thursday.

My goal is to go on one walk that exceeds my personal record for distance/steps in one day, 27.08 km in 32,315 steps. I figure that will get me from my house to one of my childhood favorite restaurants, Walker Bros. Original Pancake House. In fact, it will take me past the one I grew up with (in Wilmette) on my way to one of the newer ones (in Highland Park).

Of course, it could rain. Or I could get tired. Or any number of things could happen. Which is why I'm going to walk along the Metra line that passes closest to my house, so I can bail.

We'll see. I think I'll make it all the way up there. But I'll be watching the weather carefully, and may go Thursday instead.

New personal record on Fitbit

After yesterday's epic walk (from which Parker recovered in just a couple of hours) I realized it wouldn't be that difficult to get another 10,000 steps. So I did:

That's a new PR. It was also 27.08 km—another PR.

So the top 5 (as I mentioned back in March) are now:

2016 Jun 8 32,315
2015 Apr 26 30,496
2016 Mar 8 29,775
2015 Jun 15 28,455
2015 May 2 26,054

I'm not moving as quickly today as I did yesterday, but I'm pretty happy about blowing past my previous PR.

Now I have plans for some day in the next week or so literally to walk as far as I can along the U.P. North line and then take the train home. Highland Park is about 28 km from my house, and it has a childhood favorite place to eat: Walker Bros. Pancake House (which, if you think about it, is a great place to end a 28-kilometer walk). And if I don't make it all the way there, I can simply take a train home.

Parker will not accompany me on that walk.

Bit of a hike

The weather today is the kind that we only get about 15 or 20 days of the year in Chicago. It's 19°C and totally sunny with a light breeze from the east. And I'm actually able to take advantage of it today.

That's why Parker and I just got back from a 2½ hour, 14.5 km walk.

Yes. We walked that far. He's now out cold, and I'm having a spot of lunch. And shortly a shower.

The total damage was 14.51 km in 2:24:57 (not including two stops at Starbucks along the way), for a pace of 9' 59" per kilometer—just a shade faster than 16 minutes per mile.

My Fitbit tells me I kept my heart rate between 115 and 125 the whole way, burned 1,289 calories, and took 17,429 steps. The last two kilometers were actually faster than the first two, because Parker always needs to get things out of his system in the first few minutes of a walk, and that takes time.

I don't think I'll make him walk any farther today, except to the front lawn.

We also got our first walk on The 606, Chicago's answer to the New York Highline:

It's the little things

There was a bit of Karmic balancing today, if you believe in those things. Even though I got some really good news after lunch, I also experienced something that broke a little piece off my heart before lunch.

I've been freelancing from my home office for a while, so Parker has had a lot of walks. And this morning, after my coffee, he got a good 40-minute, 4½ km walk around the neighborhood. No worries there; he loves his walks.

Except, just after lunch, I wanted to go outside again, and he didn't. This is unprecedented. I asked him if he wanted to GO OUTSIDE?! He sighed, got up, ambled over to me, sighed again, lay down, and—I'm not anthropromorphising here—shrugged as much as a dog can shrug.

Obviously we went for the walk. But it was slower than usual, and shorter. He really just wanted to have his nap. He did some perfunctory business early on and then pulled back for home before relenting and letting me take him another couple of blocks.

As much as he's able to communicate, he told me he just really wanted to nap, OK? And I communicated, as best I can to him, that he'd feel better after a walk. And he did; but less than a minute after getting home, he bumped me with his head and sidled off to the (incredibly inconvenient) spot in the hallway he likes to occupy where he took a two-hour nap.

Parker will be 10 next week. He's a good-sized dog, half German shepherd and half who-knows-what. Bigger dogs don't live as long as smaller dogs, though no one really knows why. So he's getting up there.

Don't get me wrong; he's in great health, and his vet says he presents as a 6- or 7-year old. But today, he didn't want to go for a walk, for the first time in our entire experience together. And it made me think about Matthew Inman's "Dog Paradox" cartoon.

I see patterns in small data sets, which is one of the reasons I'm really good at my job. Today Parker showed me a pretty big data point. So as excited as I am about the really great news I can't share publicly yet, it's balanced by a major indication that Parker's getting older.

He's going to refuse more walks. He's going to have trouble keeping up with me on hikes. He's going to hesitate and sigh more often before climbing stairs. He's not going to see much of Hillary's second term, if any of it.

This is the deal I made with him in September 2006: I'm his human. He knows it, too. But today I got a really painful reminder that I'm only his human for a short time.

Then and now

Chicago historian John R. Schmidt frequently has "Then and Now" features where he shows a part of the city as it appeared when he was a kid against how it appears now. I just found a trove of historical photos produced by the Illinois Dept. of Transportation, including a few dozen from my neighborhood, so I can play the same game.

Here's the intersection of Sheridan, Broadway, and Montrose, looking west down Montrose, from March 1936, more than 80 years ago:

Here's this past Tuesday:

Though some of the details have changed, both buildings flanking the north side of Broadway still exist. But the Wilson Yard development, from 2006, has taken over most of the area between Broadway and the El tracks. And past the El, the mature trees have changed the character of Montrose.

Another thing I notice about photos of Chicago and other U.S. cities before about 1990: the haze. Starting in the 1970s in California and the 1980s elsewhere, governments cracked down on air pollution. Chicago in 1936 would have been intolerably polluted to Millennials. The top photo gives a hint of why.

Lots and lots of steps

Yesterday I did, in fact, get a butt-load of steps—and so did Parker. He and I walked over 16 km together, bringing my totals to 26,144 steps and 21.6 km overall. That's only my 5th 25k day (out of the 584 since I got a Fitbit), the last one being on March 8th.

 

Chicago weather sometimes works

We had perfect weather this weekend, including for last night's performance of Mahler's 2nd, and it's still pretty epic, which is why I haven't posted a lot. Except for a brief interval to do a stupid task in my office, and after catching up on Game of Thrones, it's time to take a walk. Not sure when I'll be back.

I haven't hit 25,000 steps since March 8th, and I've only hit 30,000 steps once. I don't think I'll hit either today, but if I do, I'll blog about it.

Mahler's 2nd this weekend

Tonight and Sunday evening I'll be performing Mahler's 2nd Symphony with the Apollo Chorus and the Northwestern University Symphony Orchestra, University Chorale, and Bienen Contemporary/Early Vocal Ensemble.

If you've never heard this piece, you have to come to one of the performances. Tonight's 7:30 p.m. performance, at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall on the Northwestern University campus, will have the best sound. But Sunday's 6:30 pm performance, at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park in downtown Chicago will be free. Also, the weather forecast for Sunday night looks great.

Based on Wednesday's orchestra rehearsal at Pick-Staiger, I think this will be one of the most exciting performances of my career. Here's a performance with Claudio Abbado; skip to 1:09:18 to hear the choral portion:

Busy weekend

With two performances and two rehearsals over the weekend, I didn't have any time to post. I also didn't have as much time as I wanted to walk, though I did manage 20,249 steps for the weekend. (That was a little disappointing, especially because yesterday's weather was perfect for being outside.)

Meanwhile, the chorus have finally put up videos of our April fundraiser. So, yeah, we did this:

I'll leave finding videos of me holding a puppet as an exercise for the reader.