The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

RTO costs more for everyone

I mentioned that my office recently went back to a Tuesday through Thursday schedule downtown. Since our final return to office (RTO), I'd gone in twice a week, usually Wednesday and Thursday. I actually prefer a Friday and Monday schedule, but since the rest of my team comes in mid-week, I have to go in then.

The additional day actually costs additional money. The Sun-Times reported yesterday that RTO costs employees about $51 per day on average. Perhaps; but it costs me about $80 per day, broken down as follows: Cassie's day care, $51; train fare, $8.30; coffee, $4; breakfast, $5; lunch, $10. At least the train fare is pre-tax money. But really, that means, if you add income tax, RTO costs me $100 per day.

But now that she goes to school three days a week instead of just two, at least someone gets a huge benefit from the extra expense:

Fridays, for Cassie, are nap days. For me, they're definitely not. And that $51 per day for day care really stings.

Cassie and Hazel

My friend's pittie mix Hazel does not always like other dogs. So my friend had some trepidation about letting Hazel stay over for a night. It looks like no one need have worried:

She and her driving partner are already passing through Rapid City, S.D. Hazel doesn't like being in the car that long, but she's doing fine with some Doggie's Little Helper from the vet.

Not the day I expected

An old friend stopped by today on her way from the East Coast to the Pacific Northwest, and insisted we take our dogs to the dog beach. It's 14°C and sunny. What do you think I did?

Yeah:

Fortunately it's the middle of the sprint, and I have a metric shit ton (a shite tonne) of PTO hours, so this was my afternoon.

If you're my boss and reading this...I swear, this is not what I planned for the day.

The Republican Clown Car isn't the only thing in the news

Other things actually happened recently:

  • Slate's Sarah Lipton-Lubet explains how the US 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and the US Supreme Court keep allowing straw plaintiffs to raise bullshit cases so they can overturn laws they don't like.
  • Julia Ioffe, who has a new podcast explaining how Russian dictator Vladimir Putin's upbringing as a street thug informs his foreign policy today, doesn't think the West or Ukraine really need to worry about Robert Fico's election win in Slovakia.
  • Chicago Transit Authority president Dorval Carter Jr. has a $376,000 salary and apparently no accountability, which may explain why we have some transit, uh, challenges in the city.
  • The Bluewalker 3 satellite is the now 10th brightest thing in the sky, frustrating astronomers every time it passes overhead.
  • An Arkansas couple plan to open an "indoor dog park with a bar" that has a daily or monthly fee and requires the dogs to be leashed, which makes very little sense to me. The location they've chosen is 900 meters from a dog park and about that distance from a dog-friendly brewery.
  • Conde Nast Traveler has declared Chicago the Best Big City in the US.

Finally, as I write this, the temperature outside is 28°C, making today the fourth day in a row of July-like temperatures in October. Some parts of the area hit 32°C yesterday, though a cold front marching through the western part of the state promises to get us to more autumnal weather tomorrow. And this is before El Niño gets into full swing. Should be a weird winter...

Too nice to do computer things

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.

With 33 hours to go in the 3rd Quarter...

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.

The evidence for pets

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:

Plotzed pup & Ribfest ARR

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!