The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Parker update: home but on drugs

Cone of shame, shaved leg, drugged out of his mind: that's my boy. But at least he's home:

As I've been saying, the next few weeks will be rough. But he's going to get lots of attention, especially between now and Monday.

And then there's this:

He has physical pain, I have psychic pain. All because he ran up some stairs too fast.

Again: ouch.

Parker post-surgery update

Whew. Parker is just fine.

The surgeon said everything went very well. She reported he completely tore his meniscus and his right CCL (the doggy equivalent of a human's ACL), and it looked like the result of an acute injury, not age-related deterioration. This is good news because it means he has a much lower risk of doing this to his left leg than we worried about.

He's recuperating from the operation right now and will remain overnight for observation. He should be home after lunch tomorrow, with a healthy quantity of drugs and probably a really sharp appetite.

Recovery should take 6-8 weeks, though he should be able to go for actual walks within about 2 weeks. But wow, he's not going to like those two weeks.

Stay tuned. Photo tomorrow, I expect.

Parker update: surgery today

Parker did not have a good morning.

I woke him up early, then "forgot" to feed him, and wouldn't even let him lick the cream cheese off my knife when I had a bagel right in front of him. All he got was an unpleasant-tasting amino supplement and a pain pill.

He did get a ride in the car, though, which might have gotten his mind off his appetite.

But then he got unceremoniously carried up two flights of stairs (the elevator at the pet hospital was out of order) and handed off to someone who smelled like frightened cats.

Let's not even talk about the thunderstorms forecast for later today.

So, Parker is chilling at the hospital right now, with his surgery scheduled for this afternoon. Because he's in the late group, I won't get to visit him tonight, which is probably OK because that might just upset him. He should be ready to go home tomorrow late morning.

I'll post again when the surgeon calls after the operation.

Wednesday afternoon Parker update

We met with the surgeon this morning. She confirmed the initial diagnosis of a right cruciate ligament tear, and said it's likely completely detached from the bone. She also suspects additional damage to the opposing ligament and possibly to his meniscus.

Parker will have surgery next Tuesday, which unfortunately was the earliest he could get in. He'll have a right tibial leveling osteotomy, in which she will carve out a piece of bone and turn it so the damaged ligament no longer supports his weight.

After surgery, Parker will have a few really miserable weeks. For the first two weeks, he'll be confined to a bathroom, forced to wear a Cone of Shame, and only allowed short potty breaks. After his sutures come out, he'll still have restrictions on his activity for up to 6 more weeks. But by the end of May, he should be able to go on long walks again.

When the surgeon goes into his right leg to repair the damage, she'll also evaluate whether he injured the knee through an athletic over-reach or whether it resulted from deterioration of the ligament. In the latter case, there is a 50% chance of his left knee blowing out within a year. So I'm hoping that this was just the result of over-exuberant stair-climbing on his part, and not the result of age.

Updates as conditions warrant.

Parker update

I mentioned yesterday that Parker stopped putting weight on one of his legs after hurting himself running up the stairs Saturday night. Turns out, it's pretty bad.

His primary vet says my aging mutt tore his ACL and meniscus, which will require surgery. He's getting X-rays on Monday to confirm the injury but she has very high confidence in the diagnosis. Surgery is scheduled for Tuesday.

He doesn't seem to be in any pain when he's lying down (which, as an old dog, he does 20 hours a day). Walking up and down stairs is not possible, however. (Did I mention he weighs 30 kg?) And he has some discomfort in his usual sitting posture. I've got him on pain meds and a joint supplement, but he's not going to be a happy dog for the next couple of months. No day care, no long walks, and definitely no running, probably until the end of May.

Poor doggie.

Staycation: Day 1

Man, I've needed this for a while.

It's 11:15 on a Monday, after doing nothing of commercial or professional value for an entire weekend, and I'm finally at Inbox Zero for the first time in months.

My to-do list currently has 30 items (plus 6 already finished) ranging in complexity or duration from "set up coffee with so-and-so" to "45,000 steps." Inbox Zero was not on the main list, but my inbox is itself a to-do list, so that counts too. In a few minutes I'll have finished with the physical items on my desk that need sorting, and then...breathe in.

Meanwhile, Parker is still not putting weight on one of his legs. We'll be stopping by the vet this afternoon. His giardia has cleared up (I think; I haven't looked that closely), and despite whatever is wrong with his leg, he's happy to walk on the three that still work properly.

Also, just a little blog housekeeping: the A-to-Z Challenge starts Sunday, so over the next week I might have fewer general posts so I can get a head start on the longer posts for April.

Expert tips on going dry for January

I will not be doing this (though I am taking it easy this month):

After a week or so, I’m sleeping better and have noticeably more energy. However, because my job is literally to go to bars and clubs, I can’t board myself up in a room, “Trainspotting”-style, to avoid temptation. I still go to cocktail bars and check out DJs and bands — I just don’t drink while doing so. Thankfully, with the explosion of the District’s drinking scene, more bars are putting an emphasis on house-made sodas and fresh juices, which can usually be consumed on their own, without alcohol. The Columbia Room2 Birds 1 Stoneand Hank’s on the Hill are among the best at this, though I’ve noticed more bars and restaurants adding nonalcoholic sections to their menus.

While approaches may vary, there are some general tips:

  • Drinking a soda water with lime looks makes it look like you’re drinking a gin and tonic, which may help avoid questions.
  • Tip your bartenders for sodas and water the same way you would for a beer or cocktail.
  • Talk to people.
  • Remember: There are other places to have fun in January outside of bars, too.

Most of all, don’t worry if you slip up, or decide to change the length of your hiatus. I know I’ve ended a few days early because there was a beer tapping I really, really wanted to attend. “It doesn’t matter,” [Columbia Room owner Derek] Brown says. “It’s not a religion; it’s a practice.”

I'll drink to that. But just a little bit.

No more daily PE in Illinois

For my entire school life, from Kindergarten to 12th grade, I had daily gym class. In 1957, Illinois became the first state to require all kids to have daily PE. This was the case until this school year:

The law cuts daily PE to a minimum of three days per week and, starting in seventh grade, students involved in interscholastic or extracurricular athletic programs could skip PE. Those moves and more were touted as a way to save money, but some fear the changes will push PE to the back burner of the curriculum lineup, even as physical education has been supported by public officials, including former first lady Michelle Obama, as a way to combat childhood obesity.

In the Illinois Report Card data released each year, the Illinois State Board of Education notes that 60 minutes of physical activity per day can improve academics and prevent childhood obesity, diabetes and heart disease. “For students of all ages, physical education provides opportunities to learn motor skills, develop fitness, build team skills, strengthen problem solving abilities, and learn about healthy lifestyles,” ISBE said.

In fact, there has been confusion in various districts about aspects of the new law and whether districts are pursuing waivers correctly.

This fall, Champaign Community Unit School District 4 was moving to get a new five-year waiver to allow ninth- and 10th-graders to skip PE during the time they were involved in an interscholastic sport.

The waiver was withdrawn because it was no longer necessary based on a new provision in the PE law: Now, seventh- through 12th-graders may be excused from PE if they participate in interscholastic or extracurricular athletic programs. The law previously allowed only high school juniors and seniors to be excused under those circumstances.

Meanwhile, administrators in several high school districts told the Tribune they don’t plan to reduce their usual five days of PE, in part because of the complicated scheduling of high school classes as well as the potential difficulties of eliminating full-time PE teachers.

It seems like this change to the law wasn't well thought-out, wasn't well publicized, and wasn't particularly effective. Welcome to Illinois. I'm going to try to find out how my state rep and senator voted on this thing.

The most disgusting story you'll hear all day

A 140-tonne blob of fat and other horrible things is blocking a sewer in East London:

What has been named the Whitechapel fatberg is a rock-solid agglomeration of fat, disposable wipes, diapers, condoms and tampons. It was discovered to the east of the city’s financial district, occupying a sixth of a mile of sewer under Whitechapel Road, between one of London’s largest mosques and a pub called the Blind Beggar, where walking tours are taken to reminisce about a notorious gangland murder.

Thames Water, the capital’s utility, said the fatberg weighed as much as 11 of the city’s double-decker buses: more than 140 tons. That is 10 times the size of a similar mass that the company found beneath Kingston, in South London, in 2013, and declared the biggest example in British history.

To prevent the contents of the sewer from flooding streets and homes nearby, the utility is sending an eight-member team to break up the fatberg with highpowered jet hoses and hand tools. The task is expected to take them three weeks, working seven days a week.

I mean...yuck. Citylab explains how fatbergs form:

But while it’s easy to shudder at, there is no easy fix for the fatberg problem, especially in a city like London where rising population is matched with an antiquated sewer system. “London is a sort of perfect storm for the phenomenon,” says Dr. Tom Curran, a lecturer at University College Dublin’s School of Biosystems & Food Engineering department, who has studied the problem extensively. Curran says that another problem, in addition to the growing population and various utilities sharing responsibility for the sewer networks, is the burden that the commercial sector places on the aging pipes. “London has a very high concentration of restaurants, hotels, pubs and takeaways, so you have a readily available source of grease waste,” Curran says.

The materials with which cities are built exacerbate the problem, too. Urban waste water often develops a high calcium content after flowing through or over calcium-rich concrete. When that water mixes with cooking grease in the sewer, it transforms the fat into a dense lump via saponification—yes, believe it or not, fatbergs are created by the same chemical process as bars of soap.

And quit flushing "disposable" wipes.

Statistical sins: smoking v. e-cigratettes

Deeply Trivial finds evidence for why there is little evidence about the safety of e-cigarettes:

[T]he statistical sin here isn't really something the researchers have done (or didn't do). It's an impossibility created by confounds. How does one recruit people who have only smoked e-cigarettes or who at least have very little experience with regular cigarettes? What's happening here is really an issue of contamination - a threat to validity that occurs when the treatment of one group works its way into another group. Specifically, it's a threat to internal validity - the degree to which our study can show that our independent variable causes our dependent variable. In smoking research, internal validity is already lowered, because we can't randomly assign our independent variable. We can't assign certain people to smoke; that would be unethical. Years and years of correlational research into smoking has provided enough evidence that we now say "smoking causes cancer." But technically, we would need randomized controlled trials to say that definitively. 

That's not to say I don't believe there is a causal link between smoking and negative health outcomes like cancer. But that the low level of internal validity has provided fuel for people with an agenda to push (i.e., people who have ties to the tobacco industry or who otherwise financially benefit from smoking). Are we going to see the same debate play out regarding e-cigarettes? Will we have to wait just as long for enough evidence to accrue before we can say something definitive about e-cigarettes?

For my part, their safety or lack of to the smoker makes little difference to me. I just don't like people blowing their exhaust fumes into my environment.