The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Quick Parker update

A week after his surgery, Parker seems a lot better. He's resumed his previous walking pace, and seems generally less sullen, despite the fact that I'm out of the house a lot more this week than the last few. We also switched up his antibiotics which should help his body get rid of the last bits of gunk around his knee.

His stitches come out next Wednesday, and with that, his cone comes off.

Further updates as the situation warrants.

Parker's home

He has a weird haircut and he's back in the cone for two weeks, but Parker is otherwise happy and healthy.

My wallet, however... Jeez, these older models cost a lot in repairs.

Parker recovering fine

Parker's surgeon just called. She had no difficulty removing the plate from his leg and she got the fatty cyst out of his neck without complications. She also identified the screw that had hidden the infection from his immune system and has sent it in for culture, but she suspects it's a run-of-the-mill bacterium that, absent the screw, his body would barely have noticed.

He'll be a little wobbly for a day or so and he'll have to wear his cone for two weeks, but the surgery wasn't nearly as invasive as the original repair. So, he's expected to make a full and speedy recovery before the end of the month. I'll pick him up tomorrow morning and post photos of his new haircut shortly after.

Parker update

Oh, dog.

As I mentioned earlier, Parker has developed an infection around the implants in his leg. In itself this isn't life-threatening, but it is pretty uncomfortable, especially when stuff oozes out of his leg.

So, tomorrow he's having the implants out. And while he's under anesthetic, the surgeon will also remove a fatty cyst from his neck—also not dangerous, just uncomfortable.

The surgeon, his regular vet, and I all agree that this is Parker's last surgery. No matter how healthy he seems right now, at 12½ he hasn't got a lot of years left. But removing the steel from his leg and cleaning out the infection (which could well be a biofilm) will make his last few years a lot more comfortable.

I'll post an update when Parker comes home Thursday morning.

Detecting Alzheimer's in a novel

Researchers used the Iris Murdoch's last novel to quantify how Alzheimer's first signs show up in language:

As [neurologist Peter] Garrard explains, a patient’s vocabulary becomes restricted, and they use fewer words that are specific labels and more words that are general labels. For example, it’s not incorrect to call a golden retriever an “animal,” though it is less accurate than calling it a retriever or even a dog. Alzheimer’s patients would be far more likely to call a retriever a “dog” or an “animal” than “retriever” or “Fred.” In addition, Garrard adds, the words Alzheimer’s patients lose tend to appear less frequently in everyday English than words they keep — an abstract noun like “metamorphosis” might be replaced by “change” or “go.”

Researchers also found the use of specific words decreases and the noun-to-verb ratio changes as more “low image” verbs (be, come, do, get, give, go, have) and indefinite nouns (thing, something, anything, nothing) are used in place of their more unusual brethren. The use of the passive voice falls off markedly as well. People also use more pauses, Garrard says, as “they fish around for words.”

For his analysis of Murdoch, Garrard used a program called Concordance to count word tokens and types in samples of text from three of her novels: her first published effort, Under the Net; a mid-career highlight, The Sea, The Sea, which won the Booker prize in 1978; and her final effort, Jackson’s Dilemma. He found that Murdoch’s vocabulary was significantly reduced in her last book — “it had become very generic,” he says — as compared to the samples from her two earlier books.

Apparently there's a movie about Iris Murdoch too.

Quick Parker update

Before everything descends into 18 hours of post-election punditry and chaos, a quick update on the dog.

Last week he developed an infection around the site of his April surgery, complete with oozing drainage channel just below his knee. After a couple days of antibiotics, he's stopped oozing. We met with his surgeon today, and she said that the infection is in retreat, so he probably won't need additional surgery to pull the plates out. We'll continue antibiotics for three more weeks and I'll keep an eye on his knee through the end of the year.

The surgeon also hypothesized that the proximate cause of the infection was, ironically, his teeth-cleaning last month. She said she has observed cases where mouth bacteria can get into the bloodstream during cleaning, and interfaces between surgical steel and bone make good hiding places for them.

Fortunately, at 12½ years old, Parker will probably never have his teeth cleaned again—at least not by a vet while under anaesthesia.

So, Parker is fine, with no further ill effects except for another few days with the cone.

Sick on flying?

The Economist's Gulliver blog this morning asked exactly the same question I did when I woke up: how likely is it to get ill from flying on an airplane? Not very:

Planes are widely regarded as flying disease-incubators. If one passenger is sick with a contagious disease and coughing those germs into the air, it makes sense for fellow-flyers to feel that the germs will simply be inhaled by everyone else on the flight, since there is nowhere else for the things to go.

In reality, though, the situation is not that bad. Allen Parmet, a former US Air Force flight surgeon who serves as an aerospace medicine consultant, explained recently to The Verge, a technology and science news site, that infections actually don’t spread well on planes. The reason is the very dry air in the cabin. Many bacteria die in the low humidity. As for viruses, they travel on water droplets when a person coughs or sneezes. But these water droplets also evaporate in the low humidity, and the plane’s fast airflow from ceiling to floor prevents them from travelling far.

[M]ost viruses take days to show symptoms, and there were indications that the illness was contracted by people before they boarded the plane. This tale will probably end the usual way. A few passengers, by the laws of probability, will get sick in the coming week, and they will assume it had something to do with all the germs floating around the plane. It may not be true, but it is for them a satisfying enough explanation.

Well, sure, but I swear the dozen or so babies and toddlers running around (literally) my cabin earlier this week may have contributed to how I felt today.

Warm nights getting much warmer

A predicted consequence of anthropogenic climate change is that the air won't cool as quickly overnight, leading to ever-increasing temperatures overall. It's happening, and it's dangerous:

Nationwide, summer nights have warmed at nearly twice the rate of days, with overnight low temperatures increasing 0.8°C per century since 1895, when national temperature records began, compared to a daytime high increase of 0.4°C per century. (Nights have warmed faster than days during other seasons, too.)

While warm summer nights may seem less concerning than scorching afternoons, “the combination of high daytime and high nighttime temperatures can be really lethal because the body doesn’t have a chance to cool down during the nighttime hours,” said Lara Cushing, professor of environmental epidemiology at San Francisco State University.

Those risks are higher in places where temperatures have historically been cooler, like coastal California. There people are less physiologically acclimated (the body can get used to higher temperatures up to a point) and less behaviorally adapted to hot weather.

“A hundred and five degrees in San Francisco is going to have a bigger impact probably than 105 degrees in Houston, Tex., where everybody has air conditioning and people are accustomed to dealing with high temperatures,” Dr. Cushing said.

Older people, the sick, and young children are especially at risk. So are agricultural, construction and other outdoor workers, who can no longer avoid the heat by shifting their hours to work earlier or later in the day. Similarly, homeless people who bear the full brunt of the elements get little relief.

Never mind the rest of the local environment. Slower overnight cooling puts stress on plants as well.

OK, enough PRs for now

In the 7 days through yesterday, I walked 169,083 steps, a new personal record (PR). That averages out to 24,154 per day.

On the one hand, I can set a new PR of 25,000 per day, or 175,000 for 7 days, by walking 22,149 steps today.

On the other hand, or if the shoe is on the other foot so to speak, my feet do not like this idea. Nor do my calves, quads, hams, or glutes.

On the third hand, if I don't hit that PR today, I won't have another shot at it without either walking 25k consistently for a week, or doing another pair of stupidly long walks within a 7-day period. Now, it's entirely possible I'll hit 50k in one day sometime this summer. But after all the walking I've done this week, I'm not that excited by the prospect.

So: any steps I get above 16,289 for today will set a 7-day PR, which is great. But I'm not going to take that in stride.

Also, yesterday bumped up into my top-5 days. Pretty soon they're all going to be over 35,000 steps:

My top-5 single-day step records are now:

2018 Jul 7 47,452
2016 Jun 16 40,748
2018 Jul 12 38,246
2016 Oct 23 36,105
2017 May 27 33,241

Parker update

We just got back from the vet. The x-rays show that Parker's leg is almost completely healed, so he's finally cleared to go back to his play group. He has no idea about this right now but tomorrow morning he'll be very, very happy.

Now I'm about to run to my office, so I'm queuing up these articles to read later:

OK. Chugging some tea, and hitting the CTA. More later.