Happy fin de Septembre, the last day of the 3rd quarter and possibly the last really summer-like weekend of 2023. At the moment it's a perfectly sunny 21.4°C at Inner Drive WHQ with a perfect forecast of 24°C.
The plan today: walk 4 km to a friend's house because her kids want to see Cassie, then walk 3 km to the Horner Park DFA, then another 5 km to Spiteful Brewing's Oktoberfest, then walk the last kilometer home and plotz. I am confident both Cassie and I will succeed in all aspects of this plan.
Enjoy the last few hours of September 2023. See you in October, after the Republican Party once again shuts down the US Government, something the USSR could never accomplish.
Somehow, it's already the end of September. I realize this happens with some predictability right around this time of year, but it still seems odd to me.
Of course, most of the world seems odd these days:
Finally, just look at this happy dog and all his new human friends playing a fun game of keep-away...during a professional football game in Mexico. I've watched it about five times now. The goodest boi was having such a great time. I hope one of the players or refs adopted him.
National Geographic examines the evidence that pets help you stay healthy:
Among the established benefits is that pet/owner interactions can enhance one’s quality of life. Research shows that playing with a dog can improve one's mood, that reading to a pet can help children with learning development issues, that pets can lessen levels of the stress-related hormone cortisol in their owners, and that having a pet can increase one's physical activity levels, according to the American Heart Association.
There's also broad consensus on the mental health benefits that come from frequently connecting with another living thing.
"Having a non-judgmental confidant can serve to buffer the effects of stress on both physical and psychological health outcomes," explains Nancy Gee, a professor of psychiatry and director of the Center for Human-Animal Interaction at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Despite such established benefits, there are cases in which pet ownership may get more credit than it deserves.
For example, Hal Herzog, an emeritus professor of psychology at Western Carolina University, says that people with pets have not been shown to necessarily fare better than non-pet owners during the pandemic as some believed, and that no research has demonstrated that "as a group, pet owners are happier than non-owners."
Possibly the most frequently overstated benefit of pet ownership is its impact on people who deal with clinical depression. In reviewing 30 peer-reviewed studies measuring an association between pet ownership and depression, Herzog says he found that 18 of them showed "no difference" in depression rates between pet owners and non-owners. "Pet ownership is not a particularly reliable predictor of depressive symptoms," echoes Mueller.
Here is my own non-judgmental confidant on Sunday, quietly judging me because I forgot the treat bag at home:
Cassie got almost 4¼ hours of walkies yesterday, going to the Horner Park DFA, Ribfest, and elsewhere around the neighborhood. Then, just when she thought she could relax at home, I dragged her fuzzy butt into the bathtub. I did warn her, when she rolled in whatever that was at the dog park, that her day would end in a bath, but she didn't believe me.
The highlight for me, of course, was Ribfest. And I can now present my After Rib Report for 2023.
This year I got to try 9—count 'em, 9—samplers (total: 28 bones) from 8 rib vendors, a tremendous improvement on last year. Plus, the ribs were better all around. In the order that I tried them:
- Aussom Aussie: tug-off-the-bone, smoky, meaty ribs, with a good sauce. Winner of 2nd Place in both the Critics Choice and Audience cagegories. 3 stars.
- Mrs Murphy's Irish Bistro: This year's People's Choice winner for the 9th year running, which makes me think the fix is in. My ribs were over-boiled and kind of disintegrated, but they didn't have a lot of flavor. I like their sauce, though. 2½ stars.
- Ogre Eats: The 3-bone sampler I got Friday might have been the most perfect ribs I had at any Ribfest. They came right off the grill onto my plate, with great caramelization and just the right smoke and tug. (Cassie did not like standing next to the smoker while we waited in line, though.) But then on Sunday they gave me 2 bones for the same price, which were really good but not nearly as epic as Friday's. I wish I could give them the 4 stars they earned on Friday but I can only give them 3 stars overall.
- Big Joe's: The Critics Choice winner this year, beating Aussom Aussie by one point. They had super-meaty ribs with an amazing sauce. I want more! 4 stars.
- Chicago BBQ: Good as always. Meaty, smoky ribs, a nice char, and two tasty sauces to choose. 3½ stars.
- Armadillo's: Huge meaty bones with great flavor. Not greasy at all; nice sauce. And they gave me an extra bone! 3½ stars.
- Blazin' Bronco: Excellent, smoky, meaty bones. 4 stars.
- Robinson's: Another lagniappe! And huge, huge bones with unfortunately too much sauce. 3 stars.
A couple of things to note. First, every one of the vendors, except for Robinson's, is itinerant or a catering company. Once again, Ribfest failed to attract Chicago Q, Smoque, The Smoke Daddy, or any of the other ribberies here in Chicago that have amazing BBQ. It's a shame, because I would love to get a full slab from Blazin' Bronco or Big Joe's sometime.
Second, they all charged different prices for samplers, which I didn't factor into my ratings but probably should have. The $8 sampler from Mrs Murphy's was probably worth it, but the $14 sampler from one of the vendors I didn't try probably wasn't.
I'm glad Ribfest found its footing again, though. And the weather cooperated: temperatures kept in the mid-20s with not a drop of precipitation, though dewpoints hovered around 20°C making everything a bit sticky. Can't wait for next year!
I am happy to share that this year's Ribfest improved on last year's so far. Cassie and I walked over there a bit before the dinner rush and got three samplers. Then on the walk home we discovered that Begyle Brewing has partially rescinded the no-dog policy they instituted in the pandemic: they now allow dogs on the patio, though they're still verboten inside (except to order).
I'll have a full After Action Report on Sunday or Monday. Today I'm aiming for three more samplers for dinner, and possibly sailing with friends on Lake Michigan this afternoon.
I'm just over a week from performing with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Ravinia in Mozart's Die Zauberflöte, so as I try to finish a feature that turned out to be a lot bigger than I thought, I'm hearing opera choruses in my head. Between rehearsals and actual work, I might never get to read any of these items:
Finally, New York City (and other urban areas) are experiencing a post-pandemic dog-poop renaissance. Watch where you step!
And now, I will put on "Dank sei dir Osiris" one more time.
She's not quite middle-aged, but she does look like a confident, mature dog:
The friend who took care of Cassie while I visited Europe last month invited us to the Morton Arboretum yesterday. We walked about 5½ km in the heat with multiple stops to let the dogs catch up on their panting:
Later, on her favorite couch at my friend's house:
She's at day camp right now, so I expect she'll be completely exhausted by the time we get home tonight.
Between check-out and my departure for Vienna I have about 2 hours to kill. I've had my caffeine for the day already, so I'm not hanging out in Wenceslas Square occupying space at a cafe. Instead, I decamped to the park across the street from the train station:
This might actually be the best thing I've done all week. And whether because either Prague has lax leash laws or no one cares about them, several random dogs have said hi today.
I'll be back here soon.
Cassie got about 4 hours of walks yesterday, plus about 9 additional hours of outdoor time. I got sunburned. So I didn't have any time to post, but I did have time to get side-eye from this girl:
That's Butters, a beagle whose every look is side-eye. It's quite a talent.
"If you can spend a perfectly useless afternoon in a perfectly useless manner, you have learned how to live."—Lin Yutang