Sunday, March 29, 2020

Day 3748

I spent a long time trying to salvage files today and reassemble them on an external hard drive so I can continue staring at a computer as I always do. I'm amazed at how prolific I've been over the years. There were hundreds of client folders filled with tens of thousands of work related files. There were even more pictures. Pictures and videos are what fills up a 4 terabyte hard drive. I was amazed to discover that I've taken over 50,000 Dalmatian pictures. Admittedly, some of the pictures are of other breeds. Dalmatian Rescue has been doing Santa Paw Christmas pictures for many years and I add thousands of Santa Photos to the folder every year. That still leaves a lot of Dalmatians though. Sometimes dogs aren't very cooperative. Occasionally I've had to take a 100 pictures to find one good enough to put on the website. There were thousands of pictures of Dot and Dash. It was kind of sad to see them fly by year after year on my screen as I was copying them to the new hard drive. I lead a solitary life, but you can't say I haven't been busy. I guess you can add over ten years of blog posts to everything else.

I guess the effort was worth it today. I've now got a working, bootable external drive that closely resembles what I had on the desktop computer. To get everything to fit on a much small drive, I threw away mountains of huge WeTransfer, Dropbox, and Zip files that clients sent me over the years. I almost always got way more input than I needed for writing jobs. I don't know why I saved all of my completed projects. Maybe it was just for nostalgia's sake. I actually liked working.

I'm starting to see tons of people posting on the Internet about how to cope with the coronavirus. It's tempting to add my own opinions, but few people would listen. As someone who chose social distancing as a lifestyle many years ago, I don't really have much to say about building a virtual community. I never even heard of Zoom until all this started. I'm not craving a hug either. Couldn't you all just learn to love isolation? It's actually very peaceful. Especially if you turn off the television and put away your phone.

I tend to take the long view on everything. That's why I like geology and astronomy so much. These fields study processes that take millions and even billions of years to complete. I keep hearing so much about global warming and destroying the planet. Do humans really think they can destroy the planet? The planet has been doing fine for billions of years. Humans are just a tiny blip in the grand scheme of things. Dinosaurs were around much longer than we've been here. What if plagues, ice ages, and the occasional astroid strike are just nature's way of hitting the reset button. The coronavirus has only been around for a couple of months and already skies are starting to clear in many parts of the world. Life is slowing down. People are discovering that they don't have to spend hours each day on crowded freeways driving to work. Maybe we don't need all the things we compulsively buy. Maybe globalism wasn't such a great idea after. What if this was nature's plan all along? If we didn't have the wisdom and willpower to slow down on our own, she'd do it for us.

I hope the city doesn't shut down the parks. For the most part, all the walkers and cyclists have been acting vary responsibly and keeping their distance. If the city does close the parks, it won't be because of these people who love the outdoors. It will be because of the other people who are staying inside and complaining to the city on their phones about walkers and cyclists. Hey, don't try to shame me about social distancing. I'm the king of social distancing. I'm not going to get anywhere near you inside people. You're all batshit crazy.

Elliott is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Saturday, March 28, 2020

Day 3747

Finally, something has taken my attention away from the coronavirus. My main computer crashed late last night. What a giant pain. I'm having an almost impossible time salvaging 4 terabytes worth of data. Often you can restore a corrupted hard drive with special utility software, but this time I'm out of luck. The large hard drive is mechanically damaged and none of my disc utility software can save it. The computer won't boot up at all. It gets about halfway through the process and shuts off. To make matters even worse, all the Apple Stores in the country are closed right now. Who knows when stores will open again. Even smaller computer repair shops in Dallas are closed indefinitely.

I was finally able to copy some of the files on my damaged hard drive using an an emergency external start up disc. It's hard to copy 4 terabytes  of files though when you don't have another 4 terabyte drive. I think I managed to salvage my financial records and most of my photos and business files. A lot is lost forever though. I've still got my laptop, but it is only meant for travel and has a very small hard drive. I've lost most of my e-mail messages and a lot of my contacts. I shouldn't have any problems writing the blog, since I can post from both my laptop and my iPad. I imagine I could post from my phone as well, if the tiny virtual keyboard didn't drive me insane.

I was able to find fresh fruit at the grocery store. Actually, I was able to find just about everything on my list. The stores have done a pretty good job of restocking things, although there is still no toilet paper. There weren't a lot of people in the store when I went shopping this morning. I guess everyone has finally filled their homes with enough food and paper products to last until the next ice age. Not touching things is next to impossible. I wore some disposable latex gloves to get gas this morning because I've been reading that gas pumps are virus hotspots. I had to take the gloves off in the store though. The iPhone app I use to avoid the checkout line wouldn't work with the gloves on. When I finished shopping I completely forgot about the gloves and pushed my buggy out to the car with my bare hands. Lord knows how many times I've touched my face today.

I've seen a lot of couples where one person is wearing a mask and the other isn't. I see this in the park as well. Usually it is the wife that is wearing the mask. Nobody is sneezing though. I haven't heard anyone sneeze all week. This is a terrible time to have seasonal allergies. I'm always afraid I'm going to have to sneeze and I'll be thrown out of the store. So far, so good though. I haven't sneezed in public yet.

I finally know someone personally who has the virus. That didn't take long. This was a guy I met at a NASA event last year. He thinks he became infected at a business meeting a few weeks ago when he inadvertently shook the hand of a potential client who had flown in from out of town. The guy's wife has the virus too. Both are young and fairly healthy.

The park was full of people today. Everyone was keeping their distance, but it was clear that people were getting cabin fever. You can only stay inside for so long. It was a nice day and what else can you do when all the stores are closed? I hope things never get bad enough to require restricting outdoor movement. Some countries won't even let you walk your dog now. The people I see outdoors are doing the right thing. They are keeping their distance, while getting some much needed exercise.

Tomorrow, I'll return to salvaging as many files as I can before the damaged hard drive becomes completely inaccessible. I found a replacement drive on Amazon, but I don't know if I can install it myself. Fixing things on older Apple towers was easy. The new iMac models are much more difficult. Everything on my computer is crammed in a small space behind the 27" screen and is almost impossible to access or remove. Some parts are even glued together so you can't remove them. The last time I replaced a hard drive I had the folks at Experimac do the work. They've gone out of business though. All stores I like eventually go out of business.

So far, Janet and I are feeling fine. Hope that all of you are as well.

Doc is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Friday, March 27, 2020

Day 3746

I finally heard from Sky and Telescope today. As I suspected, my manuscript wound up in the editor's spam folder again. I don't know why this happens so frequently, but it does make it difficult to communicate. At least the manuscript is in the right hands now and will be reviewed shortly. I really hope the editors like my article. I'll feel a lot more like an astronomy writer after I get a few things published.

Life still consists mostly of meals and long walks. It's easy for me to forget that it's been that way for a very long time. All I have to do is turn on the television and I'm easily convinced that I'm under a very restrictive quarantine. Maybe I'd go out to eat a little more often or wander around local shops when I'm bored, but basically I'll be living exactly the same way when the world returns to normal.

The pandemic has made me wonder about a few things. Why aren't they fixing the roads now? Traffic may never be this light again. I can't imaging that the construction workers would be in much danger. Most of them would be working alone inside their own excavators and bulldozers. This seems like a perfect opportunity to get some much needed work done without disrupting anything.

I also wonder whether we've gotten everything wrong about the virus. What if it was actually spreading around the globe much earlier than we currently believe. Maybe it spreads incredibly easily, but takes much longer than we think to register positive on current tests. Maybe all of us already have the virus but just don't know it. We really need to develop a reliable test to measure whether some of us already have antibodies to the virus. Right now we don't have a clue who actually is infected until they show up at the hospital. It's all about statistics. If a lot more people actually have the virus than we think, the mortality figures start to look less alarming.

I felt more comfortable walking Dawn in a harness today. She's actually learning to heal and walks very well on a leash, but she has a smaller head than our previous Dalmatians. In retrospect, it was pretty easy for her to slip out of her collar. Maybe we should investigate those wide collars that Greyhound owners often use.

Most of the people I see in the park are doing an excellent job of social distancing. The one exception seems to be young people who are still hanging out with their friends. I still see them walking in fairly large groups that are clearly not family members. It's still hard for me to understand people who don't enjoy being alone. It's peaceful being alone. I'm not going to judge, but I don't need a hug.

I will concede that petting a dog might be good for you. I'm enjoying having Dawn around. She is a difficult dog to get a urine sample from though. We've been following her around with a ladle every morning and haven't succeeded yet. Dawn squats very quickly and we haven't been quick enough to capture a sample. It's much easier to get a sample from a male dog. We do need another urinalysis though to figure out whether she has crystals.

I'm not looking forward to going to the grocery store tomorrow, but it's time to look for more fresh fruit. All I really need are strawberries and blueberries. I'll try to be quick.

Chloe is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Thursday, March 26, 2020

Day 3745

Dawn gave me a scare today. She got spooked by something in the park and pulled out of her collar. It all happened very fast. Luckily, she stayed put when I told her to stay and I was quickly able to put her collar back on. She will be wearing a harness from now on. Dogs are full of surprises. You really can't ever take anything for granted.

I'm still having a hard time wrapping my head around the idea of exponential growth. I'm starting to believe the people who say that eventually we will all get the virus. The number of people who are testing positive in Dallas is certainly increasing at an alarming rate. Interestingly, the wealthiest parts of town are getting sick the fastest. I guess this makes sense because these would be the people who travel the most.

I'm certainly not going anywhere these days. If we use our food wisely, we won't have to go to the grocery store for a long time. I have no desire to go to a grocery store. This is the one place where people still gather in crowds. I still feel good about going on long walks. People are keeping their distance in the park. There were fewer people today as well. There aren't many families walking with kids anymore. I think a lot of folks quickly discovered that it was a lot easier to park the kids in front of the TV or a Playstation.

I watched the Atlas 5 AEHF-6 launch on YouTube this afternoon. Some of my Florida friends were placing remote cameras near the launch pad. I wish I was there. I might not be going back to Florida anytime soon though. Many states including Florida are now starting to restrict incoming travel from other states. Southwest Airlines has already canceled 1500 flights. I saw a picture yesterday of a plane going to Houston with only one passenger. These are definitely strange times.

The Bluebonnets are here. Usually this is a photo opportunity with vast fields of the flowers within an easy drive. I'll have to remain content with the flowers I see in the park this year. The park is filled with wildflowers in the Spring, but Bluebonnets aren't as common as you might think. Spring has definitely arrived. The trees are green now and I'm seeing new varieties of flowers every week. What I'm not seeing anymore is the baby owl. The young owl has definitely flown the nest.

The weather was quite warm today. The air conditioner is coming on more often now. One benefit of warmer weather is that it's easier to remove rain water from the roof. When I went up on the roof this morning to clear away standing water I was surprised at how little water remained from our recent rain. The water evaporates quickly on a hot day. A dry roof is a small thing, but you've got to start somewhere.

Bubba is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Day 3744

Hey, I'm doing my part. My car hasn't left the driveway all week. With the exception of a short trip to the vet yesterday, Janet's car hasn't moved much either. I can't say that my behavior has changed. I've been living this way for years. Janet is the only person I talk to regularly and I frequently drive less than ten miles a week. Isolation isn't all that bad. For many, many years I made a good income writing and designing websites from a computer in our spare bedroom.

It seems strange and somewhat disorienting to see people turning to things I've been doing for decades. Videoconferencing, working from home, ordering supplies online, maintaining a home network, and learning to tolerate long periods of silence and isolation are all skills I mastered years ago. I wonder how many people are going to decide that this is actually a better way to live when the pandemic is over?

I think people are already discovering the benefits of being outdoors. I see more people in the park than I've seen in years. I see them doing yoga, practicing kickboxing, and lifting weights, as well as the usually walking and cycling. Parents are taking their kids on long walks. I suspect that most of them are trying to wear the kids out so they will take a long nap and let the parents get some work done when they get home. Seems like a good plan to me. We all keep our distance in the park and hope nobody tries to force us indoors. There aren't a lot of things you can do proactively to stay healthy. I'm convinced that exercise and getting some good outdoor air into your lungs is a good place to start.

Local grocery stores are starting to limit the number of people inside the stores. In theory this is a good idea, but all it really does is cause people to bunch together at the store entrance waiting to get in. I wonder when the panic buying will stop? Eventually everyone is bound to have enough rice, bread, beans, and toilet paper.

I'm already starting to see used gloves and masks littering parking lots. This is insanity, but I'm really not surprised. For years I've seen people in the park pick up their dog poop in poop bags and then just throw the bags in the woods. What does this prove? There are plenty of trash cans in the park. Leaving a sealed poop bag in the hot sun is worse than doing nothing at all. Dog poop is biodegradable. Poop sealed in a bag and not disposed of properly probably becomes radioactive or something.

I wonder where all these people throwing away used masks and gloves in grocery store parking lots are getting them? You certainly can't find these items in stores yet. We still have lots of purple surgical gloves left over from Dash's chemo treatments. No masks though. When I administered Dash's meds every day, I couldn't touch the Palladia pills. They were very toxic and I had a complicated cleanup procedure to follow. Even Dash's poop was toxic and had to be disposed of properly. Washing my hands frequently seems simple by comparison.

One of the most enjoyable things about Spring is that there are new wildflowers to enjoy every single week. The Prairie Verbena arrived this week. These little purple flowers have always been one of my favorites.

Petey is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Day 3743

We took Dawn to the vet today. It wasn't the first time she's been to the vet. All the Dalmatian Rescue dogs get an extensive vet check when they enter the rescue program. She also spent several days at the emergency vet after she was attacked by the two pit bulls. This was the first time she'd seen our own vet though. It was good to see some familiar faces again, although neither Janet or I had expected to be back in an exam room so soon.

It was reassuring to confirm that Dawn was reasonable healthy. Since she had worms when the rescue group picked her up, we wanted to make sure that the first treatment was effective. Hookworms can be difficult to eradicate. Dawn's heart seemed strong and there was no telltale murmur that might indicate an enlarged heart. We did an ultrasound and it is possible that she might be a stone forming Dalmatian. Urate bladder stones are common in Dalmatians. We'll have to see the results of her urinalysis to confirm this. The vet thought that her front teeth were worn not from age, but by being caged for long periods of time. She was used as a breeding dog in her former life and never got a chance to live the life she deserved. Apparently she really is six year old. We thought she was much older. Considering that she has had a hard life, she is still very healthy.

We hadn't seen our regular vet since Dash died and it was nice to catch up on things. The clinic was quieter than usual for obvious reasons. I was glad they were still seeing patients. The place was sparkling clean and the entire staff had done an excellent job of adapting to the coronavirus threat. If only the grocery stores could do this well.

Our visit to the vet reminded me how expensive owning a dog can be. I told Dawn that she's going to be just fine until we go bankrupt. The stock market had a massive rebound today, but I don't think it means anything. It is too early for things to return to normal. It took me so long to get back to even after the 2008 crash that I knew I never wanted to do this again. Surprise. I'm going to have to pick up the pieces and rebuild all over again. I'm too old for this. Even if I do some smart strategic buying when the market finally bottoms, this is going to take a long time.

I know the virus is a serious health threat, but I wish the media would quit trying to instill fear in everyone. The media always loves a catastrophe. Jeez. This is not the zombie apocalypse. It's easy to forget how many people die every single day from other causes. If the media covered deaths from cancer, suicides, gunshot wounds, and car accidents with the same relentlessly zeal they're using to cover this virus, we'd be living in fear for the rest of our lives.

I guess most of the new safety guidelines seem reasonable to me. I've been staying at least six feet away from other people for most of my life. It doesn't bother me to shun crowds. I hate crowds. I've always gone shopping when other people are working just to avoid them. I think the real danger we are facing isn't the virus. It is a lack of common sense. If people used common sense and always acted rationally, I'm convinced that the dire problems we're facing now wouldn't be nearly as bad.

Hang in there guys. I'm glad some of you are still making funny memes. We still need to smile.

Chelsey is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Monday, March 23, 2020

Day 3742

If we all die it will be because of a basic lack of common sense instead of the coronavirus. I really wonder about people. We are not running out of food. If we all just started shopping normally again, there wouldn't be shortages of anything. You don't have to stay indoors either. Just stay away from other people. I could be wrong, but I still think outdoor air and lots of exercise is good for you. And couldn't the people we elected just quit fighting for a while? Is it really that hard to pass a bill that would give hospitals and first responders what they need without trying to pack it with a long wish list of pet projects? Democrats and Republicans are equally guilty of this. I don't understand why quarantined senators and representatives aren't allowed to vote. Do you really have to physically be on the floor of the senate to vote? This is silly. It is just political gamesmanship with one side trying to gain an advantage over the other. There ought to be a way to test for antibodies, so people who have developed an immunity to the virus can get back to work. A complete shutdown just isn't sustainable for very long. The deaths ought to be put in context too. I suspect that a lot more people are still dying from auto accidents and gunshot wounds than from the virus here in the United States.

I went to the audio repair shop to pick up my Sequential Circuits synthesizers this morning. The employees were all wondering how long they could stay in business without musicians. Live music venues throughout Texas are all closed. There are no concerts either. Working musicians aren't thinking about repairing their equipment these days. They are more likely to be thinking about pawning something.

The head electrician who owns the company came over to look at my switch today. He said a lot of his younger employees didn't want to go into people's homes anymore because they had young children at home. I guess that's understandable. I have no desire to go into other people's homes these days either. The electrician did figure out what was wrong with my switch and said he could order a part to fix it. You can always depend on the old guys to actually fix things.

The baby owl has been gone from its nest for several days now. I'm thinking now that I may have seen the owl on the day it finally decided to fly. It was tentatively flexing its wings when I was photographing it. I suspect that both baby owls are still in the area. I hope they stick around. Since owls have taken up residence in our neighborhood, there has been a noticeable decrease in the number of mice and rats we see in the yard.

I finished my article about McDonald Observatory and sent it to the editor at Sky and Telescope. Now I wait. Unfortunately, I'll probably have to wait a long time. This magazine is not terrible responsive. I often wait weeks, wondering whether my e-mail has wound up in someone's spam folder. Since this has happened before, it is a concern. I think my article turned out pretty well. I hope the editors agree.

Dawn got another long walk today. Luckily, walking your dog is still acceptable under the new citywide lockdown. I see more people in the park lately, but social distancing isn't a problem. Most of the people we saw today were several hundred yards away.

Ariel is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Sunday, March 22, 2020

Day 3741

It was almost inevitable. Dallas, like many other large cities, is now under a lockdown. The new "Shelter in Place" rules go into effect tomorrow. I'm not sure if there will be many changes for Janet and I. We can still go to the grocery store and we can still take walks in the park as long as we stay at least six feet away from other people. It's a big park and other people are usually at least 300 yards away. I don't think this is going to be a problem. Maybe the new rules will make a difference. I hope so. There are already a lot of people testing positive in Dallas County and we aren't even testing many people yet.

So far, life seems normal until I turn on the television. Apparently, the world is ending but I just keep on having my morning smoothie, taking long walks in the park, and minding my own business. I never realized it before, but I've been sheltering in place for years. When this is all over, maybe introverts will finally get the respect they deserve.

I saw a meme this morning that said that people with seasonal allergies have become the new Salem Witches. It certainly feels that way. Every Spring my eyes start watering and I find myself sneezing a lot. I'm glad that most of this sneezing takes place when I'm alone in my office at home. It wouldn't go over very well in an office cube environment. You feel very self conscious when sneezing becomes unacceptable behavior. When I felt a sneeze coming on at mealtime at the Astronomers Lodge last week, I would excuse myself and go back to my room to sneeze. Sneezing and coughing was starting to be unacceptable even then. I'm sure things have gotten much worse.

The park was pretty empty today because it was a rainy day.  There were still plenty of people walking their dogs though. I've noticed that people do keep their distance when they pass on the trails. Generally the people I see in the park are much more polite than the people I encounter at the grocery store. If this virus really gets out of hand, it will be because of all the people hoarding toilet paper.

Dawn has her first appointment with our regular vet on Tuesday. I'm not sure how the new lockdown rules affect veterinarians. I'll have to call and see if we need to reschedule. If the vet still feels comfortable seeing us, we'll probably still go. I'm also supposed to get my second shingles shot tomorrow. I'm pretty sure that this will be classified as an unnecessary visit and will need to be postponed. No a problem really. There is a pretty wide window to get this second shot. Any time within the next three or four months is OK.

I told the audio repair shop that I would pick up my Sequential Circuits synthesizers tomorrow. It is becoming clear that they aren't going to sell and they want them out of the shop. Since all local businesses are supposed to remain closed during the lockdown, the synthesizers might need to stay a while longer though. One more thing to check tomorrow.

I still don't know anyone personally who has become sick. Friends of friends have become sick though. The disease is getting closer. A friend who lives in rural Kentucky and likes to hunt and fish has invited us to come and stay if all hell breaks loose. "We're all hillbillies up here, but we've already got a six month supply of food," he told me. I'm still hoping for the best, but the offer might sound pretty good a few months from now.

Brooke is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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