As an old dog just a week past his 14th birthday, Parker has his ups and downs. Today was a bit of a down.
A little before 3 am he pooped on the floor, which is annoying but not the worst thing he regularly does, but then he couldn't stand up. He woke me up when he belly-flopped into the pile. He seemed very sad about this, but he did get a walk more or less immediately plus some very gentle pats on the head after I cleaned up.
He's not in pain, and he's a dog so dignity in these matters isn't quite what it would be for a human. But he has been declining noticeably since last fall.
I hope he stays healthy through the summer so we can celebrate his Gotcha Day in September. Beyond that...I just don't know.
My bête noir turned 14 (fourteen!) today. I could not decide which photo of him to use so here are three:
For comparison, here's what he looked like on his Gotcha Day almost 14 years ago:
We had calm winds in my neighborhood this morning, so after walking Parker I grabbed my Mini and did an altitude test. I discovered that I had to replace 3 damaged propeller blades (more on that later), but after fixing the aircraft, I popped it up to 90 m and had a look around:
In the climb to that altitude I discovered that the tallest building in the area is only 70 m tall, and trees tend to be around 25 m tall. These are very useful data points when flying a tiny UAV that doesn't have obstacle-avoidance features.
Update: Here's the raw footage from the test:
I mentioned yesterday I got a new toy. Finally, after years of thinking about it (and also watching prices come down), I bought a small drone. The Mavic Mini weighs 249 grams (which has legal significance), flies for half an hour, and takes decent video.
For my first test flights, I put the propeller guards on and did some slow flying around my house. Parker could not have cared less. Encounter number one:
Encounter number two:
So I not only have the best dog on the planet, but I may also have the chillest dog on the planet.
...as I took the last squares of toilet paper from the roll this morning. I had to dig into the Strategic TP Reserve just to meet ends.
Before I round up the depression and sadness from around the world this morning, I would like to point out that yesterday's high temperature of 27°C at O'Hare was the warmest we've seen since the 30°C we had on October 1st, 189 days earlier. I opened all my windows, and Parker got his pace up just a little bit. Today's forecast calls for perfect spring warmth (21°C) and thunderstorms during what we used to call "rush hour." (I will probably have all my windows open when the rain starts and have to close them very quickly.)
So what else has the world thrown at us this morning? In addition to the usual drumbeat of deaths and Republican malfeasance, this:
Well, now that I'm thoroughly pumped from reading the papers, I'm going to document an API while watching Schitt's Creek.
Of all the things in the New York Times today, the fact that a census found 2,373 squirrels in Central Park made my day. Parker's too, no doubt, though he has trouble comprehending numbers larger than 2.
As I've done several years running, I'm taking a look at my statistics for the past year:
- I flew the fewest air miles since 1999 (14,462 against 1999's 11,326), and took only 9 trips out of town (up 1 from 2018). As in 2018, I took 11 flights, but because I took two road trips I wound up visiting 9 states (Wisconsin, Indiana, Missouri, Michigan, Ohio, New York, North Carolina, Texas, and Colorado) and 2 foreign countries (UK and Ontario, Canada) to 2018's 8 and 1, respectively.
- I posted 551 times on The Daily Parker, up 33 from last year and a new all-time annual record! (The previous record was 541 in 2009.)
- Parker got 187 hours of walks, up 54 hours and 40% from last year.
- I got 5,135,518 Fitbit steps and walked 4,630 km, down 2½% from last year. But I went 207 days in a row, from April 15th to November 7th, hitting my 10,000-a-day step goal, which I did 352 times overall. Also during the year I passed 25,000,000 lifetime steps and 20,000 lifetime kilometers.
- Reading jumped a lot. I started 36 books in 2019 and finished 33, up 50% from 2018, and my best showing since 2010 (when I spent several days on airplanes and read 51 books). With at least three trips to Europe planned for 2020, both my flying and my reading should improve.
Let's see what 2020 brings. I'm especially bummed that my Fitbit numbers declined, even though Parker got 40% more walk time. (But he walks 40% more slowly than last year, so...)
For the past seven months I've worked as a contract development lead in Milliman's Cyber Risk Solutions group. Today I officially convert to a new full-time role as Director of Product Development for Cyber Risk Solutions.
We have a lot to do in 2020, and I'll post about it what I can. So far we've started building "a new generation risk platform which uses an ensemble of cutting edge techniques to integrate what is known, knowable and imaginable about complex risks in order help risk managers identify, assess and monitor dynamic, high velocity, complex risk such as cyber," as the partner in charge of my practice says. It's cool shit, I say. And I'm happy to make Milliman my permanent home.
The role now shifts a little bit from building out the minimum-viable product to building out the team. I'll still have to write a lot of software, but I'll also expand our partnerships with teams in London, Sydney, and Lyon, and will probably have to visit at least two of those places more than once in 2020. In fact, at minimum I'll be in the London office four times, probably six. The only one sad about this is Parker.
And as an example of how great the management team is, they're starting me today so that my benefits kick in tomorrow. That was a very cool gesture.
Watch this blog for more updates.
Yesterday we broke a heat record; today the temperature feels more or less normal for late December; this weekend it will get warm again. Welcome to Chicago:
The record-breaking warmth comes on the heels of another historic ranking. With a high of 57 Wednesday, this year now ranks No. 2 on the list of warmest Christmas Days in Chicago since the mid-1800s, when records started being kept. The warmest Dec. 25 ever in Chicago was 17°C degrees in 1982.
But after the daytime high pushes the record for warmest Dec. 26 further out of reach, the city should brace for a rollercoaster of cold and warm days, [meteorologist Mark] Ratzer warned.
“Very late afternoon, it looks like probably just after dark, so between 5 and 7, a front will go through, and we’ll cool down markedly,” Ratzer said. “We’ll drop pretty quickly into the single-digits Celsius, which isn’t that bad, but overnight we’ll be back around freezing.”
After a brisk Friday, the temperature again will rebound into the low-teens Celsius in time for a mild and comfortable weekend, although it will be rainy, he said.
“Then we’ll cool off again by Monday,” Ratzer said.
Parker did not like the change at all, moping around on his two walks today like the ancient dog he has become. Maybe this weekend he'll feel more spring in his step again?
Two articles came out today about dogs. The first, in the New York Times, explores how dogs became so indiscriminately friendly:
In the early 2000s, when Dr. [Clive] Wynne began research on dogs, one of his experiments was a follow-up on the work of Dr. [Brian] Hare who had concluded that dogs were better than wolves or other animals at following human directions. In particular, dogs followed human pointing better than other animals. Dr. Wynne and Monique Udell, an animal behaviorist at Oregon State University, expected to confirm Dr. Hare’s findings.
The wolves they chose to work with were hand-raised and socialized at Wolf Park, in Lafayette, Ind. Dr. Wynne said he found the wolves were as good at following human pointing as the best pet dogs.
Dr. Hare and his colleagues responded by questioning whether the experiments were really comparable, maintaining that dogs have an innate ability to follow human pointing without the special attention the wolves were given. The debate continues.
The second part of Dr. Wynne’s argument has to do with how social dogs are. There is no question that they bond with people in a way that other canines do not. Dr. Wynne recounted an experiment showing that as long as puppies spend 90 minutes a day, for one week, with a human any time before they are 14 weeks old, they will become socialized and comfortable with humans.
The Washington Post reported on economics research that put the economic value of a dog at about $10,000:
For the study, the authors asked nearly 5,000 dog owners about their willingness to pay for a hypothetical vaccine that would reduce their dog’s risk of death from a particular canine virus from 12 percent to 2 percent in a given year.
Rather than simply ask, “How much would you be willing to pay” for such a vaccine, respondents were given specific price points, ranging from $5 to $3,000, and asked if they whether they would be willing to pay that amount.
The end result: a distribution of nearly 5,000 responses that allowed the researchers to identify an average acceptable price point of somewhere between $500 and $900. That’s the cost, in other words, of a 10 percentage point mortality reduction for a dog.
The study's authors intended the $10,000 figure as an approximation. I can tell you, however, that in the year from April 2018 to March 2019, my dog cost considerably more than $10,000. (I'll have the exact figure this weekend.)