The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Kaboom

Last night some friends and I drove out to the middle of nowhere and popped off fireworks. It's a longer story than that, but it was tons of fun. I'll have photos when I get around to it.

Note: Parker did not join us.

Also, tomorrow I'll have some news. Check back.

Parker is 10

As promised, here is Parker on his 10th birthday, yesterday:

Parker is 10

I don't think he's aware that it's his birthday, nor does he really have the concept of any number larger than two, but to me it's a big deal.

Tomorrow, tomorrow, I'll walk there tomorrow

Yes, I'm a little obsessed with finding out how far I can walk in one day, but you won't have to read about it much longer. Tomorrow's forecast looks perfect: sunny skies, 24°C, and some good breezes to keep the air clear and me cool.

And even as I'm contemplating walking 30 km or so, I have to stop and just be awed by British marathoner Sara Hall's Fitbit data from her 2 hour 30 minute running of this year's London Marathon. Her average pace (3'35" per kilometer) is roughly three times faster than I'll go tomorrow. And given that she only took 28,914 steps to cover a marathon, her stride was a full 144 cm—just a few shorter than I am tall.

Also, don't worry about Parker. He's not coming on a five-hour walk with me. He'll be at doggy day camp.

Ribfest 2016: Day One

Last year, as in five of the six years before, I only went to Ribfest once, owing to the 11 km round trip distance. This year I only live 1.8 km away, so dammit, I'm going all three days.

Here's the report from this evening. I went with a friend so we could split samplers, and try more of them.

  • Mrs. Murphy's Irish Bistro. Like last year, excellent sauce. Unlike last year, they kind of gooped it on mediocre bones. So they only get 3 stars for 2016.
  • Mr. B's BBQ. You'd think that, because they're right on Lincoln Avenue where Ribfest is happening, they'd have a better product. Nope. The sauce was meh, the ribs were gristly, and we were totally unimpressed. 2 stars.
  • The Piggery. These were my favorite today: nice charred molasses sauce on tug-off-the-bone meat. 4 stars.
  • Rub's Backcountry Smokehouse. They only use wood, which gives the meat a nice, smoky flavor. But their sauces were only good, not great. We tried both the default sweet sauce and the hot Texas sauce, which was better. 3 stars.
  • Q BBQ. Good, solid entry this year. Tasty meat, tasty sauce. 3 stars.
  • The Smoke Daddy. The meat was good but the sauce we just didn't understand: a bean-based (?) savory sauce, probably their Mustard Q, that we weren't really into. So 3 stars.

So that's 6 of the 15. There are a couple of vendors I have no real interest in trying again, and I will definitely go back to Q's offering. And it's only an 18-minute walk away. So I'm hoping for good weather tomorrow and Sunday, and very light lunches.

(Note: this entry has been corrected.)

New personal record on Fitbit

After yesterday's epic walk (from which Parker recovered in just a couple of hours) I realized it wouldn't be that difficult to get another 10,000 steps. So I did:

That's a new PR. It was also 27.08 km—another PR.

So the top 5 (as I mentioned back in March) are now:

2016 Jun 8 32,315
2015 Apr 26 30,496
2016 Mar 8 29,775
2015 Jun 15 28,455
2015 May 2 26,054

I'm not moving as quickly today as I did yesterday, but I'm pretty happy about blowing past my previous PR.

Now I have plans for some day in the next week or so literally to walk as far as I can along the U.P. North line and then take the train home. Highland Park is about 28 km from my house, and it has a childhood favorite place to eat: Walker Bros. Pancake House (which, if you think about it, is a great place to end a 28-kilometer walk). And if I don't make it all the way there, I can simply take a train home.

Parker will not accompany me on that walk.

Bit of a hike

The weather today is the kind that we only get about 15 or 20 days of the year in Chicago. It's 19°C and totally sunny with a light breeze from the east. And I'm actually able to take advantage of it today.

That's why Parker and I just got back from a 2½ hour, 14.5 km walk.

Yes. We walked that far. He's now out cold, and I'm having a spot of lunch. And shortly a shower.

The total damage was 14.51 km in 2:24:57 (not including two stops at Starbucks along the way), for a pace of 9' 59" per kilometer—just a shade faster than 16 minutes per mile.

My Fitbit tells me I kept my heart rate between 115 and 125 the whole way, burned 1,289 calories, and took 17,429 steps. The last two kilometers were actually faster than the first two, because Parker always needs to get things out of his system in the first few minutes of a walk, and that takes time.

I don't think I'll make him walk any farther today, except to the front lawn.

We also got our first walk on The 606, Chicago's answer to the New York Highline:

It's the little things

There was a bit of Karmic balancing today, if you believe in those things. Even though I got some really good news after lunch, I also experienced something that broke a little piece off my heart before lunch.

I've been freelancing from my home office for a while, so Parker has had a lot of walks. And this morning, after my coffee, he got a good 40-minute, 4½ km walk around the neighborhood. No worries there; he loves his walks.

Except, just after lunch, I wanted to go outside again, and he didn't. This is unprecedented. I asked him if he wanted to GO OUTSIDE?! He sighed, got up, ambled over to me, sighed again, lay down, and—I'm not anthropromorphising here—shrugged as much as a dog can shrug.

Obviously we went for the walk. But it was slower than usual, and shorter. He really just wanted to have his nap. He did some perfunctory business early on and then pulled back for home before relenting and letting me take him another couple of blocks.

As much as he's able to communicate, he told me he just really wanted to nap, OK? And I communicated, as best I can to him, that he'd feel better after a walk. And he did; but less than a minute after getting home, he bumped me with his head and sidled off to the (incredibly inconvenient) spot in the hallway he likes to occupy where he took a two-hour nap.

Parker will be 10 next week. He's a good-sized dog, half German shepherd and half who-knows-what. Bigger dogs don't live as long as smaller dogs, though no one really knows why. So he's getting up there.

Don't get me wrong; he's in great health, and his vet says he presents as a 6- or 7-year old. But today, he didn't want to go for a walk, for the first time in our entire experience together. And it made me think about Matthew Inman's "Dog Paradox" cartoon.

I see patterns in small data sets, which is one of the reasons I'm really good at my job. Today Parker showed me a pretty big data point. So as excited as I am about the really great news I can't share publicly yet, it's balanced by a major indication that Parker's getting older.

He's going to refuse more walks. He's going to have trouble keeping up with me on hikes. He's going to hesitate and sigh more often before climbing stairs. He's not going to see much of Hillary's second term, if any of it.

This is the deal I made with him in September 2006: I'm his human. He knows it, too. But today I got a really painful reminder that I'm only his human for a short time.

Clean dog

Parker had some time at the groomer's today. This is becoming almost an annual event, but fortunately for him, not quite.

June to March in 12 hours

The Tribune has a graphic up demonstrating how Chicago temperatures dropped 20°C in one day. We went from a high temperature of 28°C at 4pm Monday down to a morning low of 7°C by 7pm Tuesday.

I should mention that I had several windows open Monday night, and closed them around 4am. That helped a little, but it would have helped more had I turned the heat on.

Despite the colder weather, through yesterday I've had six consecutive days of 15,000+ steps, including two of better than 20,000. Today looks promising as well. Fitbit also has a new feature that awards a pip for each clock hour in which you get 250 or more steps, the idea being to get you off your ass. I've got my app set to count from 8am to 9pm. Since Friday, I've had 13 of 13 hours four of five possible days—and today looks pretty likely as well. (The trick is to take Parker for a walk at 5 minutes before the hour, which gets me two pips in 10 minutes.