We have near-record cool temperatures predicted today, possibly no warmer than 14°C today. It's also sunny, and neither I nor Parker has any responsibilities that can't shift to tomorrow.
In short, we're going to take a hike. Literally; in Wisconsin. And possibly bring back some beer.
Good morning. It's the 1st day of September, 2014, and meteorological summer is over. School is back, Labor Day is upon us (but only in the U.S., where it doesn't remind anyone of actual labor struggles), and I've had Parker for 8 full years. (The annual Parker Day photo will have to wait until he and I are both back home. I know, this is the second year running that I've missed the day itself. I hope he forgives me.)
On the whole, summer wasn't bad. Autumn should be fine as well: I'm attending a dear friend's wedding this month, going to London next month, and in between, aiming to walk Parker as much as our legs can carry us. Cleveland will be involved as well, though to what extent, I don't yet know.
Still, I'm not sure where summer actually went. May doesn't seem that long ago.
Downloading to my Kindle right now:
...and a few articles I found last week that just made it onto my Kindle tonight.
Oh, and I almost forgot: today is the 80th anniversary of John Dillinger's death just six blocks from where I now live.
It's a pity that he has to be boarded on his birthday, but as a dog, he probably doesn't think a whole lot about birthdays. At least he wasn't on the way to the car this morning:
For comparison, here's Parker at 13 weeks:
Rule 1: You probably shouldn't approach a stranger's dog. Well, ok, that's not exactly true. But you should never simply approach a stranger's dog without asking - from a distance - if it's ok. Some people don't want their dogs to interact with people they come across on the street. Some dogs look well-behaved but when they get around a human that is not their owner, they freak out. Even the most well-behaved dog is still an animal that acts on instinct and could flip out and attack if scared. Keep that in mind.
Rule 2: If you must approach a stranger's dog and the owner gives you permission, you shouldn't simply start petting it. Some dogs are picky about where they like to be touched.
Fortunately for people, Parker is a pushover and likes pats. Unfortunately for people, Parker does not like it when other dogs approach while he's on-leash. And yet stupid people let their dogs pull them towards us while yelling "Can he say hi?" No, he may not say hi, unless you want to pay both vet bills.
So pat Parker, but be careful of strange dogs you meet on the street.
I've had a few minutes to go through the Spectralia photos from earlier today. We attempted to get Parker in them, to play Crab, the dog, but he is the sourest-natured dog that lives. Observe:
Yet did not this cruel-hearted cur shed one tear.
Eventually we got a couple good shots with him. Eventually.
We've bred wolves for 40,000 years to have social intelligence, which makes them better than chimps and cats at understanding us:
[Duke Canine Center student Evan] MacLean stands near a wall with the dog on a slack leash, while a female graduate student sits on a chair in the center of the room. She sets two opaque red cups upside down on the floor, one on each side of her. Then, as [the dog] Napoleon watches intently, a third graduate student enters the room. She places the dog’s tennis ball under one of the cups and pretends to place it under the other, obscuring her motions with a small black board so the terrier isn’t sure which cup contains the ball. If this were a shell game, the dog would have a fifty-fifty shot of picking the right cup. But the seated graduate student gives him a hand, or, more precisely, a finger. She points to the cup on her right, and when MacLean lets go of the leash, Napoleon runs over to it and retrieves his ball. Over several trials, the dog always goes for the cup that is pointed out. Even when the seated student merely gazes at the correct cup, Napoleon gets the message.
This may seem like a simple test, and, indeed, even one-year-old children pass it. But our closest relatives, chimpanzees, fail miserably. They ignore the human helper, pick cups at random, and rarely score above chance. Brian Hare’s lab has become famous for spotting this difference. Napoleon has performed more than just a neat cognitive trick. He has displayed a more complex skill related to the development of theory of mind in children. He wasn’t just clued into the pointing student’s attention; he had shown behavior consistent with understanding her intention. He showed that he realized that the student wanted to show him something, that she had a desire.
It may not have taken 40,000 years for dogs to develop this skill, by the way. The Russian silver foxes are only a few dozen generations away from wild foxes, and they also have similar cognitive characteristics.
First-term Chicago City Clerk Susana Mendoza introduced an ordinance last month that would require pet stores to get dogs and cats from city pounds and shelters. The council will vote on it today:
“This ordinance cuts off the pipeline of animals coming into our city from the horrendous puppy mill industry and opens up a new opportunity for animals already in shelters who need a loving home to be adopted into,” Mendoza said.
It would, however, affect 16 businesses across the city, including Pocket Puppies in Lincoln Park, which sells small dogs at $850 to $4,000 a pup. Store owner Lane Boron said the ordinance would put him out of business or force him into the suburbs, but not curtail the operation of inhumane puppy mills.
“I opened my business, because I knew there were abuses in my business, eight years ago,” said Boron, who said he has sold puppies to celebrities and aldermen. “I wanted to make sure that my dogs were humanely sourced.”
In one of life's coincidences, I went to high school and college with Lane, and we served on the Student Judiciary Board together. I don't wish him ill, and I sympathize that the ordinance would affect his business negatively, to say the least.
That said, I fully support the ordinance. I generally oppose dog breeding, especially for designer dogs like Lane sells, when so many mutts need homes. The ordinance may not be the way to fix the problem of unwanted dogs and cats, either. But it might help.
Update: The ordinance passed 49-1.
I'm David Braverman, this is my blog, and Parker is my 7½-year-old mutt. I last updated this About... page in September 2011, more than 1,300 posts back, so it's time for a refresh.
The Daily Parker is about:
- Parker, my dog, whom I adopted on 1 September 2006.
- Politics. I'm a moderate-lefty by international standards, which makes me a radical left-winger in today's United States.
- The weather. I've operated a weather website for more than 13 years. That site deals with raw data and objective observations. Many weather posts also touch politics, given the political implications of addressing climate change, though happily we no longer have to do so under a president beholden to the oil industry.
- Chicago (the greatest city in North America), and sometimes London, San Francisco, and the rest of the world.
- Photography. I took tens of thousands of photos as a kid, then drifted away from making art until early 2011 when I finally got the first digital camera I've ever had whose photos were as good as film. That got me reading more, practicing more, and throwing more photos on the blog. In my initial burst of enthusiasm I posted a photo every day. I've pulled back from that a bit—it takes about 30 minutes to prep and post one of those puppies—but I'm still shooting and still learning.
I also write a lot of software, and will occasionally post about technology as well. I work for 10th Magnitude, a startup software consultancy in Chicago, I've got more than 20 years experience writing the stuff, and I continue to own a micro-sized software company. (I have an online resume, if you're curious.) I see a lot of code, and since I often get called in to projects in crisis, I see a lot of bad code, some of which may appear here.
I strive to write about these and other things with fluency and concision. "Fast, good, cheap: pick two" applies to writing as much as to any other creative process (cf: software). I hope to find an appropriate balance between the three, as streams of consciousness and literacy have always struggled against each other since the first blog twenty years ago.
If you like what you see here, you'll probably also like Andrew Sullivan, James Fallows, Josh Marshall, and Bruce Schneier. Even if you don't like my politics, you probably agree that everyone ought to read Strunk and White, and you probably have an opinion about the Oxford comma—punctuation de rigeur in my opinion.
Thanks for reading, and I hope you continue to enjoy The Daily Parker.