Saturday, August 29, 2015

Day 2083

We woke up to rain for the second time in as many weeks. Maybe the seasons are finally starting to change. The dogs always notice the rain first. I think they smell it. There was no thunder or wind this morning, but Dash went into his rain panic mode anyway. Dot taught him well, because now he's even more storm phobic than she is. Since Dot is half deaf now, she sleeps through a lot of things until Dash wakes her up with his barking and whining. She must have known what he was talking about this morning, because it didn't take long for her to go into storm panic mode too. It was a gentle rain and I knew she was going to poop soon, so I took her outside in the rain and walked her down the alley. We got wet, but it didn't take long. After barking at the weather a couple of times, she did her business.

I was hoping that we could go back to bed for a while, but Dash was wide awake when we returned to the house and he wanted his breakfast. So much for sleeping in on Saturday morning. By the time we fed the dogs and had a little something ourselves, the rain has stopped. I wish I had gotten all the pecan shells off the roof yesterday, like I had planned. Pecan shells must contain some sort of natural dye, because whenever it rains in the Fall, the broken shells on the roof immediately turn the water a dark tobacco brown that stains everything. If you're wondering why the pecans are all broken, it's because the squirrels feast on them. We gave up on eating the pecans or making pies with them years ago, because the squirrels always get them first.

When I went up on the roof later in the morning to check things out, there must have been ten pounds of broken pecan shells mixed in with the water. It was an ugly mess. It took me over an hour to get things cleaned up, and just like they always do, the broken pecan shells had stained the white roof even further. The roof looks terrible now, but at least it doesn't leak. In my ongoing battle with nature, it's the squirrels, spiders, and armadillo who always win. To add insult to injury,  I saw two well fed squirrels pulling up my St. Augustine grass by the roots and eating it while I was putting the Sump Pump away.

I thought one of my clients was a telemarketer this morning and refused to pick up the phone three times in a row. Janet, who is more curious about repeat phone calls than I am finally picked up the line and apologized for my behavior. Hey, it seemed like a telemarketer to me. There was no name on the caller ID and telemarketers often call several times in a row. They know you'll eventually pick up the line.

We went to the Eisemann Center tonight to see the Rich Tones. Janet has friends who sing in this group and we go every year to this annual concert. I didn't think I'd like a 100 member women's barbershop chorus when we first started going to these concerts, but the music grows on you. The group often takes pop hits like Lady Gaga's Born This Way or Michael Jackson's Beat It and re-arranges them as massive acapella numbers for their 100 voice choir.  The show was good tonight, but I worried that we were leaving the dogs alone too long. Of course, they were just fine when we got home.

The big photo shoot is tomorrow. I"m supposed to take a group portrait of several dogs and cats, a large lizard, two snakes, a rabbit, and a guinea pig. Maybe there's a parrot too. I hope the snake doesn't eat the guinea pig.

Duke is today's Dalmatian of the Day
Watch of the Day

Friday, August 28, 2015

Day 2082

Not my circus. Not my monkeys. This has become my universal response to just about everything I see these days. The world has become such a strange and chaotic place that I am having difficulty relating to things that are apparently normal now. Almost every time I turn on the TV I am reminded of this old Polish idiom. I feel the same way on those rare occasions when I visit a client's office or go to a public event. "What planet am I on," I sometimes think. Coincidentally, I drove by an actual circus when I was running errands this afternoon. I didn't see my monkeys there either. Even this little parking lot circus seemed strangely out of place to me.

Reading books used to seem normal to me, so I bought a book today. I've been meaning to read Andy Weir's The Martian for quite a while, but somehow never got around to it. I've known about the book for ages since it is a favorite of the space geeks I follow on social media. I've actually read big chunks of the book online, but have never read the whole thing. Maybe now would be a good time. I always like to read a book before they make a movie out of it. 9 times out of 10, the book is better than the movie.

I went to the storage warehouse today and picked up the equipment I'll need for this weekend's photo shoot. The equipment seems to get heavier every time I load it in the car. It would be nice if there was a place in the house to store this stuff, but that option disappeared years ago. Now that Dot has trouble moving around, the house has become more crowded than ever. There are dog beds everywhere, so she'll have a comfortable place to rest wherever she is. Dot has limited mobility, but she is much happier when she still has free reign of the house. She has a comfortable bed in every room now and I don't have to confine her in a small pen to keep her safe. When we go to sleep, I move several of these beds together to create a large area that she won't slide off of when she tries to re-position herself during the night. One of the beds goes in the car whenever we go to her physical therapy sessions. I feel like I'm always moving dog beds around.

I tried to rig up an alternate pet cam this afternoon. The baby monitor that I use to monitor the dogs when I'm away has been crashing a lot lately. It makes me nervous when I open the app on my phone to see what's going on and all I get is an "unable to connect" message. I usually fix the baby monitor the same way I fix every other electronic device in the house. I turn the thing off and then turn it back on again. It's amazing how simply rebooting something just about always solves the problem. At any rate it would be good to have an independent back up camera in case the baby monitor goes wonky again.

It doesn't take a lot to make me happy. I saw Mars on the Eastern horizon as we walked the dogs this morning. I got one of the three good parking places when I went out for breakfast. Dot didn't poop in the house at all today. And I'm all caught up on the week's work. Quite a few things make me unhappy as well, but maybe it I don't turn on the TV, don't pick up the phone, and avoid rush hour traffic I won't notice them so much.

Mandy is today's Dalmatian of the Day
Watch of the Day

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Day 2081

Today is Dot's birthday. No, it's not the day she was actually born, it's the day we adopted her. Dot was a stray and we'll never know for sure what her history was before she found us. She was definitely a young dog, perhaps two or three years old. That would make her fourteen or fifteen years old today. I'd like to think she's fifteen, because I want her to have lived a long and happy life. When we were younger, we used to make elaborate birthday cakes for our dogs. I even took a cake decorating class once. The little dog cakes were gorgeous, but neither of us have the energy to make them anymore. We take the easy route now. I went to Sprinkles and got exactly the same thing I got for Janet's birthday: chocolate marshmallow cupcakes for the people and dog cupcakes for the dogs.

There's been a huge film crew in the park for the past several days and I've been curious to find out what's going on. I thought someone must be filming a big budget feature, since there was a forty person crew and a huge eighteen wheeler full of equipment. Today when I was taking Dash on his evening walk, I asked one of the crew members what they were doing. It turns out they were filming a brand new show on the Food Network channel called BBQ Blitz. There's currently a show called Food Network Stars and the winner gets their own show as the grand prize. This year's winner was an ex NFL football payer named Eddie Jackson who loves barbecue. They were filming the first episode of his new show, which will air sometime in October. I guess it's kind of like Top Chef, except that everyone makes barbecued food. Lord knows why they picked our park to film the first episode, but it will be interesting to see the show.

Dot did really well during her physical therapy session today. I do think she's getting stronger since we stopped her chemotherapy. Everybody, including Dot's vet, seems to agree that quality of life is more important to an old dog than the actual amount of time they live.  Nevertheless, it will be a really hard decision to make if we discover that the cancer has grown when she has her next Ultrasound scan in September. I'm hoping that the tumor has not grown at all or is growing very, very slowly. I'd hate to start the chemotherapy again, now that I know it was making her uncomfortable.

This is the weirdest political season I can ever remember. The only authentic candidates in the race are Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. Everyone else has already been bought and paid for by special interests and huge corporations. Sanders and Trump couldn't be more different if they tried, but they both resonate with people because they just say what they think instead of having a focus group or talking to their pollsters every time they open their mouth. It's kind of refreshing to see the political insiders in both parties get their feathers ruffled by these two. I don't know about you, but I'm sick of professional politicians.

I noticed that another neighborhood restaurant has started serving breakfast and I was going to try it tomorrow until I read the Yelp reviews. Most of the reviews were from people in the area and said things like "I was so hoping to like this place, but the food just isn't that good." Without Yelp, I probably would have tried the place and might have even liked it. No wonder most of my local retail clients hate Yelp. It really changes things. I guess I'll just go back to my regular restaurant. Since I only go out once a week, it would be a shame to be disappointed.

Dot is today's Dalmatian of the Day
Watch of the Day

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Day 2080

I was expecting to see lots of cute dogs on the Internet today. Hey, it is National Dog Day. Instead I see a disturbing and very graphic POV video of the senseless murder of two journalists on live TV taken by the shooter himself and posted immediately to Twitter. Is this what our world has come to? It's very sad. There will be the usual outrage about guns and gun violence in the weeks to come, but the problem goes far beyond guns. There are simply way too many crazy people and it has become socially unacceptable to lock them up in insane asylums. When I was a kid, every state had a huge network of mental hospitals and it was a fairly easy process to have a loony relative committed. I once knew a man who was the director of one of these state hospitals. He took me on a tour back when I was in college. It scared me. A lot of the people who were locked up seemed no different than I was.

Later, when my own mother was diagnosed as manic depressive, I became somewhat of a mental health advocate. I never dreamed that mental health advocacy would lead to this. We have gone too far. Giving people Prozac and tossing them out on the street again isn't going to stop school shootings and senseless violence perpetrated by crazy people. We have to develop a way to stop these people before they hurt someone. I'm sure that a lot of you saw the film Minority Report. That's exactly where we are headed if we don't get a grip on this situation. We have almost reached a tipping point. You can see it in the rhetoric of politicians. And you can see it in your friends Facebook postings. I don't care what you think about mental health issues. Society needs stability to survive and it will get that stability one way or another. When crazy people threaten the rest of the world's sanity, the lunacy simply has to stop.

The stock market had a good day, but today's gains did little to assuage my uneasiness. This roller coaster ride has already chopped over 8% off the value of my investment portfolio in just a matter of weeks. I used to take these meltdowns in stride. I knew, and still believe, that the market will always bounce back. The problem is that you can never be sure when it will bounce back. It might be months and it might be years. The older you get, the more you start to think that you might not live long enough to see the next boom in this perpetual boom and bust cycle. My Dad lived quite comfortably off his old fashioned university pension. I don't think many of us who depend on an increasingly volatile market and a 401K plan for security will do nearly as well.

I had a long conversation today with a guy who seems destined to become the new brand manager for a company I work with. I don't know if this is good or bad for me. New brand managers often want to get rid of old suppliers. I was asked for my opinions and I gave them. We'll see what happens. I've had a long run with this particular company, but nothing lasts forever. Hey, there's always room for a September surprise. Maybe the guy actually listened to what I had to say.

It seems like I just took Dot to physical therapy yesterday, but it's already time to take her again. This year is going by very quickly. I'm not sure whether to rest Dot tomorrow morning, or take her on her normal walk. She does seem a little bit stronger. Maybe we can do both. I'm not having much luck strengthening Dot's weak rear leg, but I am getting better at anticipating when she is going to poop. For two day in a row I have recognized the telltale signs and gotten her outside in the nick of time. It's too bad I can't do this while I'm sleeping. That's when most of the pooping occurs.

I hope tomorrow is a calm and peaceful day for everyone. With any luck, Dot will be able to go her full 18 minutes in the underwater treadmill. Maybe I'll remember to take out the trash too. That's enough to make Thursday a success for me. I don't set the bar very high these days.

Cammy is today's Dalmatian of the Day
Watch of the Day

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Day 2079

We heard thunder off in the distance when we woke up this morning, but we went on our morning walk anyway since the weather radar showed the storm would pass to the East of us. Distant thunder doesn't bother Dot as much anymore since she is so hard of hearing. She's still scared of lightning though, but I had that covered. I upgraded my weather app recently to show real time lightning strikes and there was no lightning in the vicinity. Personal weather radar has made it so much easier to walk the dogs. I could live without a lot of things, but I'd have a hard time giving up my weather radar.

I hope my broker didn't decide that today would be a good day to pick up some bargains. The market was up over 300 points while I was eating breakfast and then went up and down like a yo-yo for the rest of the day. At the close it added another 200 point loss to an unrelenting week of big declines. I don't even look at my stocks these days. It's just too depressing. Even stop loss strategies can't really protect you in times like these. In a volatile market like this you can get stopped out of a good stock in a matter of seconds when an unpredictable wild move triggers a sale that you didn't really want. You can't chase trends either, because they change too quickly. You pretty much have to stick with your convictions and weather the storm. I agree with Dot and Dash on this one. Weathering a storm is not much fun.

Today was pretty slow. Slow is good though. I wish things were even slower. I stayed busy by finishing a writing assignment and making arrangements for an upcoming photo shoot. There were several vet appointments I had to schedule for Dot in September and Dash was low on phenobarbital, so I made a trip to the vet to get another month's supply. That was about it. I kind of wish I had one new writing assignment each day and one new website to design each week. This would give me an almost ideal workflow with minimal boredom or stress. It seldom works this way though. Writing assignments tend to come in clumps and most of my website work is just maintenance and updates now. Designing a brand new website is much more fun. I don't even solicit photography jobs anymore because I hate carrying the heavy equipment. I'm kind of dreading my photoshoot this weekend and hope my shoulder doesn't go out again.

Don't get me wrong. I still like taking photographs, I just don't like hauling a ton of strobes, power packs, soft boxes and backdrops to a location shoot. I was actually kind of pleased this afternoon to capture two ducks gazing into each others eyes. It sure looked like duck love to me. Photos of duck bills don't pay my bills though. Luckily, I'm still pretty good at lighting, even though the equipment seems to have grown a lot heavier in recent years. Maybe I've just gotten grumpier.

I'm really starting to fade. When I played in a band, I used to lug our entire PA system, my guitars, and a huge bass amp to every gig. I couldn't even lift those large speakers anymore. Some of the equipment has gotten lost over the years, but some of it is still sitting in the storage warehouse. It will probably stay there forever, because it has become too heavy to move.

Getting old sucks. Just ask Dot. I'm sure she'll agree with everything I say. At least I can still walk normally. I thought switching back to Benicar would stop my cough, but it hasn't helped much. The cough must be something else. Do I go back to the doctor and have him add yet another drug to the laundry list of prescriptions I take every month, or do I just forget about it and live with the cough? It probably doesn't even matter. I'm inclined to do nothing and just switch back to the old blood pressure medication. It was certainly a lot cheaper.

Listening to the current crop of political candidates is certainly more entertaining than watching the stock market crumble, but it is equally depressing. I'd like to say "Not my circus, not my monkeys," but they actually are my circus and monkeys. I've got to vote for one of these clowns. So far, I don't like any of them.

Pinky is today's Dalmatian of the Day
Watch of the Day

Monday, August 24, 2015

Day 2078

There's nothing like starting your day washing your hair and discovering that there is a giant cockroach in the shower with you. That ugly little incident kind of set the tone for the day. Later, while I was eating breakfast, I watched the stock market drop over 1000 points within a few minutes of the opening bell. The market did recover a bit, but still ended the day with a loss of 588 points. This is not very auspicious, especially after last week's huge losses. Just as I thought life was returning to normal, Dot wandered into my office while I was working on a writing assignment, quietly dropping a long trail of poop behind her. I thought Dot was fast asleep, but apparently not.

It's easy to clean up dog poop. It's not so simple to clean up the mess that China has made of my investment portfolio. I haven't gone into panic mode yet, but I am frustrated. When China sneezes, we all catch a cold. How did we let ourselves  become so dependent on a Country that isn't even our friend? China buys our debt and we buy their cheaply made products. We have become completely co-dependent. Life was so much better when every American town had a factory and we made all our own stuff. Don't people realize that these factories were what provided the well paying jobs that everyone is clamoring for these days? Not everyone is destined to become a rocket scientist and factory jobs were what created the middle class in America. I've never been a fan of globalization. All it has done is create immensely rich multi-national corporations. I'd gladly return to a world where products were made by my neighbors in my own home town. Sure, everything would cost a little more, but is cheap Chinese made stuff at Walmart really worth all we've lost?

I'm pretty certain that nothing I say about China, or anything else for that matter, will make much of a difference. I don't exert much influence over my clients anymore. I seldom change Janet's mind either. Even Dot and Dash don't listen to me. I do have opinions, but I'm tired of tilting at windmills. It's much easier to just drink my morning coffee, take care of the dog's needs, and mind my own business.

I helped a Luddite friend add a bank account to her Paypal account this morning. This wasn't nearly as easy as it should have been. Every time I did something on my computer, Paypal would call my friend to confirm that it was really her. Of course it wasn't my friend doing the typing, it was me. She'd get a phone call asking for a confirmation number that was actually appearing miles away on my screen. I think we eventually got the account set up, but it would have been a lot easier if she'd just learn how to use her computer. I have a sister who is the same way. She won't use a computer at all and I have to send her letters through the mail. I may occasionally want to travel back in time to the 1950's, but I'm a realist. I do know how to use a computer.

Janet got home late from work, but we decided to walk Dot around the block anyway. It was starting to get dark, but we were hoping that Dot would poop again and we might be able to get a good night's sleep. Dot found something to bark at along the way and that short moment of excitement actually did cause her to poop. I couldn't have asked for more. A day that started with killing a wet cockroach actually ended pretty well.

Hero is today's Dalmatian of the Day
Watch of the Day

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Day 2077

I thought I'd fix an old aluminum colander today. This colander was so old that it must have belonged to my Mom. Or maybe it belonged to Janet's Mom. One of the legs had fallen off and Janet was going to throw the thing away. "I can fix that," I said. This was about a month ago actually. Men aren't generally that quick about fixing things. I thought it would be easy to rivet the leg back on the bowl of the colander using my rivet gun. I hadn't used the rivet gun in years, so the first problem was finding it. After searching in all the logical places, I finally found the tool in an illogical place. It made sense that I would store the rivets with the tool, but of course I didn't. It took me another thirty minutes to find a supply of aluminum rivets. I got ready to attach the leg and realized that the broken old rivets were still attached. I would have to drill them out. The batteries on my electric drill were dead, but I managed to find an old AC powered drill of my Dad's. The drill didn't have a chuck though, so I couldn't attach a drill bit. I finally managed to pull the old rivet out of the hole with a pair of pliers. The first time I tried to rivet the leg to the bowl, I forgot to place a washer on the back side of the rivet and it fell out of the hole. Finally, I got things right. Two hours after I started, I had a successful repair. I wonder why I thought that fixing the colander would only take me ten minutes?

Fixing things around the house always takes me a long time. The whole process is kind of like household archaeology. I have to sift through layers and layers of stuff to find the tools I need. We ran out of space so long ago that stuff is just piled on top of other stuff. If a tool is buried under too many layers, it is often easier to just drive to Home Depot and buy another one. The rivet gun was buried under layers of painting supplies, which were in turn covered up by three folding tables that Janet and I used to use at Dalmatian Rescue events. Long before I found the rivet gun, a bunch of wasps found me. They has been building a nest a few feet over my head. I didn't get stung, but the wasps did make me work faster. I often wonder why I embark on projects like this. I could have gone to Bed Bath and Beyond and picked up a brand new colander for just a few bucks. The old aluminum utensil didn't even have much sentimental value. I guess I feel compelled to fix things.

I hope going to the gym on Sunday is beneficial because I could certainly think of better things to do with my time. I've been pretty faithful about my weekend workouts, but I still don't see the fascination with exercise that many people have. Every morning when we walk the dogs, we pass dozens of cyclists and joggers who are up just as early as we are. I'm up because I know that Dot and Dash really need these walks. I wonder why these other guys are up so early?  If I had a choice, I would just sleep in an extra hour. I did go to the gym today though. And then I ate cake when I got home.

The TV went out again this evening, and since I couldn't get things to work on my own, I called U-Verse tech support for help. After answering the usual laundry last of questions, the technician suggested that I disconnect the HDMI cable from the TV and plug it back in back to front. "Why would this make a difference," I thought? I dutifully took the TV end of the cable and plugged it into the U-Verse receiver and took the receiver end and plugged it into the TV. It worked! Since nothing was wrong with the cable in the first place, I wondered why flipping it back to front brought the picture back. The technician didn't know. "Sometimes this just gets the signal flowing again," he said.

The calendar looks pretty empty next week. Dot does have a birthday on Thursday though. We'll have to do something special.

Mickey is today's Dalmatian of the Day
Watch of the Day

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Day 2076

Janet and I went to a barbecue and going away party for one of Dot's nurses today. She's leaving Dallas to begin vet school in London. What an adventure. I always admire people who have the nerve to take a big, bold step forward. Going to vet school at the Royal Veterinary College in London is a big deal. It is consistently ranked among the top three vet schools in the entire world. Of course, Texas A&M, where a lot of my veterinarian friends went to school, is ranked number six in the world. There are a lot of really good veterinarians in Texas. Dot will miss her friend at our water therapy sessions, but she's going to be a very good veterinarian someday.

I've got to start getting more sleep. I got to bed late last night, and even though we slept in a little longer because it was Saturday, my activity tracker still said I'd only gotten 4 hours and 10 minutes of sleep. That's really not enough. Whenever I wake up a little late, my first thought is how to get Dot dressed in her harness and outside before she poops all over the place. Sometime I succeed and sometimes I don't. It's kind of like watching a ticking time bomb. You know it's going to explode sometime. Today, we did manage to get Dot to the back door in time, but neither of us had our shoes on and Dot pooped in the doorway. I should have had my shoes on before we headed for the doorway, but it's hard to be coordinated when you're still half asleep.

The poop soiled area rug is finally dry again and it's actually cleaner than all the other rugs in the house. Maybe I need to take the all the other rugs outside and hose them down with the pressure hose. It couldn't hurt. There are some things even the Dyson can't handle. I've just about concluded that it's physically impossible to keep a tidy house with old, sick dogs. It's just not going to happen. It doesn't help matters that the house itself is older than the dogs, and Janet and I are older than the house. Everything in our little universe is slowly falling apart. I used to wonder why my parent's house looked like it had been hit by a tornado as they got older. It was always as neat as a pin when I was a kid. Now I know the answer. Priorities change, and a messy house can end up being the least of your worries.

One of my worries today was gaining access to my coffee pods. The door to the kitchen cabinet where I store all the Keurig pods was jammed shut. Somehow the latch had broken in the closed position and it was impossible to open the door. I tried everything I could think of the get the latch to release, but nothing worked. I finally had to pry the door open with a large screwdriver and ended up ripping the two screws holding the latch to the door right out of the wood. I was really lucky that I didn't end up cracking the door. Now I've got to find a new latch. Nobody makes them anymore. I bought a dozen of the peculiar looking latches at an old hardware store when I first bought the house. One of my rent properties used the same type of latches and I knew I'd use them. I think they're all gone now though. A lot of door latches can break over a twenty year period. I'll think of something. It's already one of my projects for next week.

Dot seemed pretty perky today. From time to time she would get up from her dog bed and wander around the house with no assistance from me whatsoever. Baby steps. I'm still hoping we can manage to get her a little stronger.

Lance is today's Dalmatian of the Day
Watch of the Day