The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Yesterday and today

Yesterday, during the eclipse, which I guess some people in the US and Mexico got to enjoy:

Gotta love Chicago during astronomical phenomena. Next April, I will make sure that I'm somewhere along the eclipse path where I can actually see the eclipse.

Today, though, we have much better weather, as Cassie will attest:

I've got chicken soup in my slow cooker, but I have two hours until I need to pull the chicken, so I'm going to go do nothing of value for a bit. With the dog.

Someone call lunch

I haven't had the most productive morning ever, but I should get back into coding after I take Cassie on her lunchtime walk. Meanwhile:

Finally, just look at this wonderful creature who got a bath yesterday. She actually climbed into the tub on her own, and seems to have figured out that getting a vigorous whole-body massage with warm water, followed by an equally-vigorous toweling off, actually feels pretty good.

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.

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:

Fall weekend

We're having quite a string of really nice days. Yesterday's rain moved on in the early afternoon allowing Cassie and me to get a good half-hour walk in while the adobo bubbled in the slow cooker. (It was great! Needed a little more vinegar and less water in the pot though.)

We headed home from Spiteful just before sunset:

And then someone passed out on the couch next to me:

I wish I could sleep anywhere like that.

Perfect early-autumn weather

Inner Drive Technology WHQ cooled down to 14°C overnight and has started to climb up into the low-20s this morning, with a low dewpoint and mostly-clear skies. Perfect sleeping weather, and almost-perfect walking weather! In a few minutes I'm going to take Cassie out for a good, long walk, but first I want to queue up some stuff to read when it's pissing with rain tomorrow:

Finally, my indoor Netatmo base station has picked up a funny mid-September thing: cicadas. The annual dog-day cicadas have only a few more days to get the next generation planted in the ground, so the remaining singletons have come out this morning instead of waiting for dusk. As you can see, the ones in the tree right outside the window closest to the Netatmo have been going at it since dawn:

The predominant species in my yard right now are neotibicen pruinosus, or "scissor-grinder" cicadas. But we also have our share of other species in Northern Illinois. And, of course, next May: Brood XIII comes out. That'll be fun (especially for Cassie)!

Last hot weekend of 2023, I hope

The temperature has crept up towards 34°C all day after staying at a comfortable 28°C yesterday and 25°C Friday. It's officially 33°C at O'Hare but just a scoshe above 31°C at IDTWHQ. Also, I still feel...uncomfortable in certain places closely associated with walking. All of which explains why I'm jotting down a bunch of news stories to read instead of walking Cassie.

  • First, if you have tomorrow off for Labor Day, you can thank Chicago workers. (Of course, if you have May 1st off for Labor Day, you can also thank us on the actual day that they intended.)
  • A new study suggests 84% of the general population want to experience an orchestral concert, though it didn't get into how much they want to pay for such a thing. (You can hear Händel's complete Messiah on December 9th at Holy Name Cathedral or December 10th at Millar Chapel for just $50!)
  • An FBI whistleblower claims Russian intelligence co-opted Rudy Giuliani in the run-up to the 2020 election—not as a Russian agent, mind you, just as a "useful idiot."
  • Rapper Eminem has told Republican presidential (*cough*) candidate Vivek Ramaswamy—who Michelle Goldberg calls "very annoying"—to stop using his music in his political campaign.
  • The government of Chile has promised to investigate the 3000 or so disappearances that happened under dictator Agosto Pinochet, though they acknowledge that it might be hard to find the ones thrown out of helicopters into the sea, or dropped down mine shafts. And with most of the murderers already dead of old age, it's about time.
  • Julia Ioffe wonders when the next putsch attempt will get close to Moscow, now that Prigozhin seems to be dead.
  • About 70,000 people continue to squelch through ankle-deep mud at Black Rock City after torrential rains at Burning Man this weekend. (I can't wait to see the moop map...)
  • University of Michigan Law Professor Nicholas Bagley had a cogent explanation of why pharmaceutical companies don't want to negotiate drug prices with Medicare. (Hint: record profits.)
  • Switching Chicago's pre-World War II bungalows from gas to electric heating could cut the city's GHG emissions by 14%.
  • Molly White's weekly newsletter starts off with some truly clueless and entitled behavior from Sam Bankman-Fried and gets weirder.
  • Zoning laws, plus the inability of the Portland, Ore., government to allow variances in any useful fashion, has condemned an entire high school to send its kids an hour away by bus while the building gets repaired, rather than just across the street to the community college many of them attend in the evenings. (Guess what skin color the kids have. Go on, guess.)
  • A group of hackers compromised a Portuguese-language "stalkerware" company and deleted all the data the company's spyware had downloaded, as well as the keys to the compromised phones it came from, then posted the company's customer data online. "Because fuck stalkerware," they said.
  • Traffic engineers, please don't confuse people by turning their small-town streets into stroads. It causes accidents. Which you, not they, have caused.
  • Illinois had a mild and dry summer, ending just before our ferociously hot Labor Day weekend.
  • James Fallows talks about college rankings, "which are marginally more encouraging than the current chaos of College Football."

Finally, I'll just leave this Tweet from former labor secretary Robert Reich as its own little monument to the New Gilded Age we now inhabit:

Last day of summer

Meteorological autumn begins at midnight local time, even though today's autumn-like temperatures will give way to summer heat for a few days starting Saturday. Tomorrow I will once again attempt the 42-kilometer walk from Cassie's daycare to Lake Bluff. Will I go 3-for-4 or .500? Tune in Saturday morning to find out.

Meanwhile:

  1. Quinta Jurecic foresees some problems with the overlapping XPOTUS criminal trials next year, not least of which is looking for a judicial solution to a political problem.
  2. Even though I prefer them to rabbits, even I can see that Chicago has a rat problem.
  3. Pilot Patrick Smith laments the endless noise in most airport terminals, but praises Schiphol for its quiet. (Yet another reason to emigrate?)

Finally, it seems like anyone with a valid credit card number (their own or someone else's) can track the owner of that credit card on the New York City subway. I wonder how the MTA will plug that particular hole?

Big cats vs big dogs

This surprised me. One or more mountain lions in Washington state has decided that wolves taste good:

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) staff have documented cougars killing six collared wolves since 2013—almost 30 percent of the 21 documented natural wolf mortalities in the state. "That's huge if that trend holds and is representative of the entire population [in the state]," says Trent Roussin, a WDFW biologist. The kills involve multiple wolf packs in different areas of Washington.

Such kills are rare elsewhere in the U.S. West, where more wolves are on the landscape since their reintroduction to Yellowstone National Park, which is mostly in Wyoming, and central Idaho in 1995. Today Montana and Idaho have over five times more wolves than Washington.

While a wolf pack tends to have an advantage over a single cougar—sometimes running it up into a tree or kicking it off a carcass to scavenge for themselves—a cougar excels in a one-on-one ambush. All but one of Washington's wolf kills involved lone wolves.

"Everyone always assumes wolves have the upper hand," says ecologist Mark Elbroch, the leader of Panthera's Puma Program. "But that's not always the case."

I don't expect my own wolf would do well in a fight against a cougar—or a Dachshund, for that matter—but I had no idea cougars hunted actual wolves. You know I'll always root for the dogs over the cats, though.