The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Road trip, by the numbers

There were some unexpected numbers over the Thanksgiving weekend:

  • Trip down: 562 km, 4 hours 57 minutes; trip back: 561 km, 5 hours 53 minutes. We call that effect "Chicago Sunday-evening traffic."
  • Gasoline price: $2.16/gal for 93 octane (which my car requires)—the lowest price I've paid for gas since buying the car, less than half what I paid last Thanksgiving, and in real terms, the lowest price I've ever paid for gas. (In 1989 I once paid $1.11 per gallon, which is $2.17 adjusted for inflation—but that was regular 87-octane fuel.)
  • Steps, Thursday through Sunday: 19,901, giving me my worst Fitbit week ever. (My daily average is around 12,000.)
  • Rainfall: 62 mm, Friday through Sunday, which explains the step deficit.

I also consumed an unusual quantity of potatoes and turkey.

Scratch Beer

I mentioned yesterday that we stopped at Scratch Beer in Ava, Ill., on the recommendation of a local.

It's pretty remote, but worth the trip. They make one barrel of each beer, and when that barrel is empty, it's gone forever. So, yes, we'll have to go back, even though the 561-kilometer trip home took almost 6 hours. At least Scratch is dog-friendly (outside). So maybe the next road trip down there will be when it's warmer.

If it were clear, and dark, and there were no streetlights

...this app might be fun. CityLab explains:

Floating in space among the stars and planets are more than 2,250 satellites and “space junk” traveling at up to 18,000 miles an hour. Some are large enough to be seen with the naked eye—though you’d have to first figure out which ones are within your line of sight.

Luckily, there’s a map for that now, by Patricio Gonzalez Vivo, a graphics engineer at Mapzen who has a knack for turning pure data into mesmerizing visuals (like this one of New York City). His latest project, Line of Sight, traces the orbital path of more than a thousand of those satellites and predicts their current location using open-source data from tracking sites like CelesTrak andSatNogs. Plug in your address (or choose one of the pre-selected cities) to see if there are any satellites—shown as yellow dots—nearby. Or zoom out to watch all the satellites orbit the Earth at once in a dazzling visualization.

His city visualizer is also really cool.


Parker and I are home, unpacked, and well-rested. Part of the well-rested bit resulted from three days of rain. When you go to a cabin in the woods and plan on lots of hiking, and no hiking happens, there is disappointment.

There is also a serendipitous find: Scratch Beer in Ana, Illinois. They make beers from locally-found ingredients: Pignut Ale, from local pignut hickory nuts. Pumpkin seed ale, which "DOES NOT TASTE LIKE PUMPKIN SPICE OR PUMPKIN PIE." I'll have photos tomorrow.

Right now: unpacking, laundry, deleting hundreds of emails, and sampling Grand River Spirits whiskey.

Slow posting

I'm traveling this weekend for the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday, so posting will be sparse. We don't have WiFi but we do have topography:

Late autumn in Chicago

Sunday morning, after Saturday's snowstorm:

Last night, making mini turkey pot pies for tomorrow:

That's all from scratch. Inside a rosemary-sage crust, from the bottom we've got turkey, pinot noir-reduction gravy, stuffing with organic Italian sausage, and cranberry sauce made with cranberries, orange, honey, and a secret ingredient that makes them amazing.

I think I'm going to gain three kilos this weekend.

Things to read

A couple of articles floated through my awareness today:

Happy reading.


Craft Brewery Central

By one measure, Chicago is the Craft Beer Capital of the U.S.:

Craft brewers in the Chicago area occupy an estimated 1.6 million square feet of commercial real estate, more than any other metro area in the country, according to a report from Seattle-based brokerage Colliers International. The area also has the second-most craft breweries with 144, behind only Portland, Ore.'s 196.

And craft beer—defined as being made by small, independent brewers—is still growing here. Just four U.S. markets have more breweries in the planning stages than the 39 in Chicago. (This was Colliers' first report on the subject, making comparisons to past years difficult.)

Never has Chicago had so many breweries. The last peak was around the start of the 20th century, when the city had about 60 small breweries that combined to produce about 100 million gallons of beer a year (compared with 12.4 million in 2014). Prohibition wiped out most of them. The few that survived into the middle of the century were either purchased by rivals or shut down, victims of national beer brands that gobbled up much of the market by selling less-expensive beer in cans.

I have expressed concern about the big guys buying up the craft guys, but this new statistic warms my heart. We might still have craft beer in Chicago come 2050...

Missing my Fitbit numbers

For the last couple of days, I've missed my 10,000-step goal by 100 to 500 steps. This is why:

Yesterday Chicago got its biggest November snowfall in 120 years; today it's well below freezing. Walking is treacherous at best for bipeds and uncomfortable for quadrupeds. So today might also be a miss.

I haven't missed three days in a row since March 5th-7th—when, not coincidentally, we had a miserable, snowy week. Winter is hard on fitness.