The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Tropical heat in Chicago

I exaggerate.

But officially, at 8:51am this morning O'Hare reported a temperature above -7°C, finally ending our 12 days of frigid temperatures.

Parker got a real walk this morning, and he's about to get another one. And no boots! Most of the salt has been brushed away from the sidewalks.

Of course, it's supposed to snow later today. But it's also forecast to hit -1°C today and (gasp!) 8°C on Wednesday.

Anyway, I'm happy, and Parker appears to be, that walking outside does not immediately result in bits of our faces freezing off.

Holidays, weather, and Fitbit numbers

Yesterday I spent almost the whole day cooking and eating, while outside the temperature barely got above -10°C. So despite averaging better than 15,000 steps for the entire week preceding, I only managed 7,292 steps yesterday, my 3rd poorest showing of 2017.

The problem is, when I'm working from home, I get most of my steps by taking Parker on long walks. Below about -10°C, even his two thick fur coats aren't enough to keep him warm for more than 10-15 minutes, tops. And below -18°C, forget it; even with boots, his paws get dangerously cold in just a couple of minutes.

The forecast for the rest of the week, unfortunately, calls for brutally cold temperatures every day. Parker and I just got back from his (5-minute) morning walk with -19°C showing on the thermometer. My goal today is just to get above 5,000 steps, which may involve a lot of pacing in my apartment.

That said, thanks to the long weekend and no other responsibilities, I'm actually getting enough sleep. So I have lots more focus and energy. I just can't walk it off very easily.

My bête noir seems less beastly today

Parker hasn't felt like himself for a couple of days now. Last night after our Messiah performance I had the delightful experience of cleaning up after him for the third time in one day.

This morning he seems a lot better. We had a normal walk with normal, ah, results, and he snarfed down his entire breakfast the way he usually does.

I still have one more Messiah performance today, so he'll have to be by himself for a few hours. I hope he's fine. Because I'm running out of Nature's Miracle, and don't even get me started on how the house smells.

P-U

The good news: After being off his food for two days, Parker seems to be feeling better. He ate a small breakfast and a small lunch, and we've just gotten back from a 25-minute walk that he seemed to enjoy.

The bad news: His food is shooting through him with a velocity I have not often seen, so I've gone through two rolls of paper towels just today.

I'm about to leave my house for several hours to perform Händel's Messiah (for, I believe, the 8th time), so Sir Poopsalot will be confined to a small area of the house that has tile floors.

Meanwhile, I'll have a fan running in my living room. In December. I just hope the temperature stays above freezing until I get back, or my gas bill will be insane.

Lots going on

Yesterday started with a performance on local television and ended with a three-hour rehearsal and midnight showing of Star Wars. I'd already planned to go into work late today, but Parker didn't eat dinner last night and he refused breakfast this morning, so I'm waiting to see if I can get him to the vet.

With that and other things up for grabs today, plus two more performances this weekend, posting might suffer a bit.

My bête noir strikes again

The only real benefits of ending daylight saving time are getting an extra hour of sleep the first Sunday in November and having the sun already up when you awaken for the first time in weeks.

This morning, Parker, not knowing anything about clocks or sleeping in, nudged me awake at 6:45. Sure, my Fitbit says I got almost 8 full hours of sleep, but dammit, dog.

Plus, it's a gray, damp, cool morning in November. Sleeping just a little longer would have been nice.

Back

Wow, do I have stories to tell. Two days in San Antonio and I've got a lot to digest.

Right now, dog and man both want dinner.

The perils of travel

It's not really that perilous to travel from the US to the UK, unless you're in a step challenge.

This past week, I was traveling for almost 40 hours—including 14 yesterday thanks to ordinary aviation delays. When you're on a plane, it's pretty hard to get steps. Fortunately the time change from the UK back to the US is in my favor, so I got 6 extra hours in which to walk, and I also got Parker back. Still, I barely squeaked in with 10,689 for the day and an unusually low 81,638 for the week (helped immensely by Wednesday's 18,319).

The nadir, of course, was last Sunday, when I flew to London. The lost 6 hours occurred right in the middle of the day, so not only did I get the fewest steps (7,407) since June 11th (7,044), but also this happened:

Sheesh.

So naturally, I walked to work today. I'm already at 9,770 and heading towards 20k (assuming I walk home, too).

New hints about dog domestication

Via Deeply Trivial, a new study published last week provides new evidence that only a few genetic changes made wary wolves into friendly dogs:

Not much is known about the underlying genetics of how dogs became domesticated. In 2010, evolutionary geneticist Bridgett vonHoldt of Princeton University and colleagues published a study comparing dogs’ and wolves’ DNA. The biggest genetic differences gave clues to why dogs and wolves don’t look the same. But major differences were also found in WBSCR17, a gene linked to Williams-Beuren syndrome in humans.

Williams-Beuren syndrome leads to delayed development, impaired thinking ability and hypersociability. VonHoldt and colleagues wondered if changes to the same gene in dogs would make the animals more social than wolves, and whether that might have influenced dogs’ domestication.

The team notes, for instance, that in addition to contributing to sociability, the variations in WBSCR17 may represent an adaptation in dogs to living with humans. A previous study revealed that variations in WBSCR17 were tied to the ability to digest carbohydrates — a source of energy wolves would have rarely consumed. Yet, the variations in domestic dogs suggest those changes would help them thrive on the starch-rich diets of humans.

I hope they're not barking up the wrong tree here.