The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Some good Covid-19 news

The UK announced this morning that the National Health can start distributing a vaccine developed by Pfizer/BioNTech next week:

Britain's medicines regulator, the MHRA, says the jab, which offers up to 95% protection against Covid-19 illness, is safe to be rolled out.

Elderly people in care homes and care home staff have been placed top of the priority list, followed by over-80s and health and care staff.

But because hospitals already have the facilities to store the vaccine at -70C, as required, the very first vaccinations are likely to take place there - for care home staff, NHS staff and patients - so none of the vaccine is wasted.

The Pfizer/BioNTech jab is the fastest vaccine to go from concept to reality, taking only 10 months to follow the same steps that normally span 10 years.

The UK has already ordered 40 million doses of the jab - enough to vaccinate 20 million people.

The doses will be rolled out as quickly as they can be made by Pfizer in Belgium, Mr Hancock said, with the first load next week and then "several millions" throughout December.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the first people in Scotland will be immunised on Tuesday.

Here in the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have shortened the quarantine period recommended for people exposed to the virus but asymptomatic:

The first alternative is to end quarantine after 10 days if no symptoms are reported, Dr. Henry Walke, the CDC’s Covid-19 incident manager, said on a call with reporters. The second option is to end quarantine after seven days if an individual tests negative and also reports no symptoms.

The decision is based on new research and modeling data, Walke said.

Still, Walke noted that a 14-day quarantine is still the best way to reduce the risk of spreading Covid-19.

The 14-day quarantine is based on the coronavirus's incubation period - the length of time it can take for a person to become infected after exposure to the virus.

We can see light at the end of this tunnel. Already, the Apollo Chorus have started discussing when we can resume in-person rehearsals and performances, in terms of city-wide infection rates, negative Covid tests, and vaccinations. We're going to get through this all right.

Welcome to Winter 2020

Winter began in the northern hemisphere this morning, which explains the gray cold enveloping Chicago. Nah, I kid: Chicago usually has a gray, cold envelope around it, just today it's official.

And while I ponder, weak and weary, why the weather is so dreary, I've got these to read:

Finally, if you haven't already heard our first virtual concert, go listen to it. We worked hard, and we gave an excellent performance.

The world keeps spinning

Even though Parker has consumed my thoughts since the election, there are a few other things going on in the world:

And as I sit in my home office trying to write software, it's 17°C and sunny outside. I may have to go for a walk.

Parker Braverman, 2006-2020

Parker never told me his exact birthdate. The shelter said the six Pomona Puppies—Parker, Polly, Pepper, Petey, Penny, and Poppy—were 11 weeks old when I met them on 1 September 2006, so I just counted back to June 16th. The shelter also said Parker’s dad was a 40-kilo German shepherd dog and his mom was a 7-kilo beagle/rat terrier mix. My vet said a DNA test “would likely say he’s a dog,” so I never got him one. When people asked what kind of dog he was, I would say "black."


Parker's Petfinder mugshot, taken at 8 weeks

At the adoption event, while all his siblings climbed over each other and barked like they had just invented lungs, Parker sat in the middle of the pen, ears alert, checking out the room. He looked at me, I looked at him, and I was his human from then on.

When Parker and I adopted each other, George W. Bush was in his 6th year in office; Facebook was still four weeks away from public access; Fergie’s “London Bridge” was the #1 song; and we still had no idea how Lost would end. Parker weighed just under 8 kilos. He then grew half a kilo a week for six months and ate more than any creature his size has a right to. 


Parker explores the back yard the day after I adopted him, 2 September 2006

He spent the first few months destroying my couch and chewing on just about everything else he could get his needle-sharp teeth around. He spent the first year getting into trouble that never seemed to stick, because just look at him. He traveled with me, he hiked with me, he came to work with me, and he gave me plenty of opportunities to spray Nature’s Miracle on some patch of floor he'd christened.


Parker takes a nap on his 3rd day with me, 3 September 2006

And the walks. Oh, the walks. He stuck with me for a 9-kilometer hike around Devil’s Lake, Wis., when he was just a year old. Nine years later he led the way for most of a 16-kilometer walk across Chicago. In between, he walked to the grocery with me almost every week (2½ km each way), waiting patiently outside like the good great dog he was. I regret never getting him a FitBark. He probably got more steps than I did most of the time.


Parker surveys Devil's Lake, Wis., 22 June 2007

He and I spent about 5,000 of his 5,192 days together. The longest we ever spent apart was in 2009 when I went to London for 3½ weeks. He also spent more time in North Carolina than I did, thanks to a new job that required a lot of travel, but I came back most weekends. The friend he stayed with loved having him around so much that she got a dog of her own shortly after Parker returned to Chicago.

But Parker got old, as the luckiest dogs do.

A couple of months before his 12th birthday, he tore his CCL, the ligament that holds a quadruped’s knee together. He recovered quickly, but not completely, so our walks got a bit shorter, a bit slower.


Parker after TPLO surgery, 4 April 2018

With apologies to Ernest Hemingway, dogs die two ways: gradually, then suddenly. I can look back on the summer of 2018 and notice, in retrospect, that he lost something after the injury. A walk around the block around his 11th birthday took 13 minutes; on his 12th, it took 14 minutes; by his 13th, 15 minutes. This morning it took 16, and it’s a smaller block than before we moved.

There are so many “lasts” I don’t remember. I think he last barked in July. I think he last napped on the dining room rug in the spring. I think he last rolled onto his back for a belly rub over a year ago. I think he last played with a toy a year before that.

But I know he last went to day camp on March 2nd. He last stayed there overnight on January 18th. He last had a bath on August 19th. He last went to the vet on October 29th. He last rode in a car on the 31st.

He took his last walk at 3:40pm. 

He fell asleep for the last time at 5:34pm.

Over the summer, he started telling me he was done. I didn’t hear him—couldn’t, perhaps—until a few weeks ago. Since then, I’ve stayed home every day, never gone for more than an hour or two. Parker slept almost the whole time, sometimes so soundly that he didn’t hear me coming over to him. He got extra walks when they didn’t hurt too much, extra treats when we returned to the house, and extra pats just because. And many of the humans he met over the years came by to see him, socially distant from me but all pats and kisses for him. I think he had a good final month.

For his whole life, Parker knew that whenever I went somewhere, I would always come back. And I always knew he would be there when I did.

Goodbye, old friend.


Parker's last walk, earlier today

Down-ballot races

As the counting continues in the states both presidential candidates need to win, and as Biden's lead continues to increase in Wisconsin and Michigan while he catches up in Pennsylvania, I should mention that voters weighed in on other races last night.

  • Every person bar one I voted for won in Illinois, including Joe Biden, US Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D), US Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL09), my state representative Gregory Harris (D-13), and my state senator Heather Steans (D-7). (Steans ran unopposed.)
  • Rep. Sean Casten (D-IL06) held his seat after his challenger Jeanne Ives came within a whisker of beating him. Meanwhile, extreme-right-wing dairy mogul Jim Oberweis' race to defeat incumbent US Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-IL14) remains too close to call; at this writing, Oberweis is up by 900 votes out of 375,000 counted.
  • The Fair Tax Amendment failed. It would have allowed a graduated income tax in Illinois and slowed the concentration of wealth here, and I supported it. Plutocrat Ken Griffin provided most of the money towards defeating it, mainly so he could continue to hoard the wealth he gained through skimming off the financial system.
  • A pair of billionaires succeeded in defeating Illinois Supreme Court Justice Tom Kilbride. Griffin contributed millions to this effort as well. (See a pattern?)
  • Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx won re-election, but not easily.
  • Mark Kelly won a resounding victory over US Senator Martha McSally (R-AZ). Because McSally was never elected to the office, Kelly can take his seat in the Senate as soon as the vote is certified.
  • US Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) appears to have won, 52%-45%, denying us a pickup we had hoped for.
  • In Maine, US Senator Susan Collins (R) is 66,000 votes ahead of challenger Sara Gideon, and looks likely to retain her seat.
  • In Georgia, US Senator David Purdue (R) and challenger Jon Ossoff may go to a runoff in January if neither wins 50% of the vote. With 94% counted, Perdue is up by 3 percentage points, at just over 50%. Georgia's special election for Senate will also go to a runoff with Democrat Raphael Warnock winning 32% of the vote against incumbent Sally Loeffler (R).

In sum: Biden will probably win, but we won't know if we have flipped the Senate until January. When the 117th Congress sits on January 3rd, we will most likely have 49 senators to the Republicans' 50, with Warnock being our only hope of getting any significant legislation onto Biden's desk before 2023.