Sunday, July 24, 2016

Day 2414

Sometimes I think I'm mildly autistic. I fixate on minuscule details that others don't even think about. When I shoot baskets at the gym, there are eight basketballs to choose from. Only one of them is properly inflated. It bewilders me that after three years, nobody has bothered to pump up the other seven basketballs. The one good ball looks scuffed and worn, because I'm probably not the only one who has noticed that the other balls are worthless. Why has nobody fixed this?

When I'm using the treadmill I don't try to achieve a targeted heart-rate. I don't necessarily try to walk a certain distance either. I just try to create a perfect triangle on the LED display by increasing the inclination and speed every time the blinking light moves to a new row. I don't even know what this means, but the display looks very pretty by the time I'm finished.

I don't really have a horse in the race, but I find myself being drawn to the ongoing political debate like a mosquito to a bug light. Maybe I'm just watching the conventions because I like a circus. So far, I haven't been disappointed. Ted Cruz gives a lengthy speech were he fails to endorse the nominee and is booed off the stage. Melania decides she likes some of Michelle's words better than her own and the resulting plagiarism controversy just causes everyone to comment on how beautiful she is and compare her to Jackie Kennedy. Debbie Wasserman Schultz is forced to resign in disgrace after leaked e-mails reveal that Bernie was right all along. The system was rigged. Instead of apologizing immediately for trying to use the fact that Bernie is a Jew to undermine his support in the South, party leaders immediately try to blame the Russians for the leaked e-mails, claiming that Putin is trying to get Trump elected. You really can't make this stuff up. Then, Obama's own brother joins the fray, saying that he is going to vote for Trump because he's mad that Obama killed his friend Muammar Gaddafi. And of course you can't forget that Nordstrom sold out of the dress Ivanka was wearing in just a matter of hours when the Instagram girls all decided they had to have it. In a country where people obsess over the Kardashians and Kanye West and can't even name all fifty states, I guess this is all pretty normal.

I am cursed to have an almost equal number of friends on both sides of the political fence. All of these people are freaking out about the Supreme Court. I find this troubling. I'm convinced that politicians and their followers are obsessed with the Supreme Court because they basically don't trust the voters. If you can pack the Supreme Court with people who agree with you, you don't have to worry about the fickle voters anymore. I really think that all these politicians should pay a lot more attention to voters. They should learn from history. There are consequences when you go around saying "Let them eat cake."

I've got a doctor's appointment tomorrow. It is one of those routine annual exams where they make you wait in the lobby for an hour and spend five minutes with you when you finally get in to see them. I'm not going to the doctor as much as I used to. Maybe I'm actually healthier, or maybe I've just grown tired of doctors. It's hard to tell. Dash got a bath today, but I didn't bother vacuuming. At least something is a little cleaner.

Molly is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Saturday, July 23, 2016

Day 2413

When Dash and I were out on our walk this morning, we passed a message written in chalk on the sidewalk. It got me wondering what hope actually meant to me. I hope that Dot will be with us for another year. I hope that Janet stays healthy and happy. I hope I won't run out of money before I die. My hopes are pretty basic and almost exclusively centered around the small world I live in. I never hope for world peace or a winning lottery ticket. That's rainbows and unicorns stuff. I'm a realist. If you've ever been a part of a dysfunctional family, or a member of a homeowner's association you understand how difficult it is to get along on even the most basic level. Neighbors become mired in petty arguments about barking dogs and trees on the property line. 50% of all marriages end in divorce. If our cities and states and individual countries are so divided, how can we ever expect the entire world to come together. It has never happened in human history.

My sister is a historian and one of the smartest people I know. I remember her telling me once that one of the most productive periods in history was when the great Italian city states flourished in Europe. These small city states were extremely competitive and were constantly at war with each other. Since the city states were so small, they couldn't do much damage on a global scale. The competition between the states was good. It created great wealth and played a major role in the Renaissance. Art, science, and philosophy all flourished during this period of time. It was only when countries got larger and decided to expand their influence by conquering other countries that the world started to get screwed up. The rise of the British Empire probably caused a lot of the problems we see today.

Humans are not a friendly species. Great White Sharks and Cobras are puppy dogs compared to us. This is why I've never been a fan of globalization. To survive, we need small redundant systems, so that if one element of society fails, it doesn't take down everyone else with them. The Internet is a redundant system. If a server goes down, information will bypass the trouble and find another route to its destination. There is no master hub that controls the entire Internet. Politicians don't seem to understand the beauty of this model though. They keep trying to make things bigger. The United Nations, The European Union, NATO, and it appears even The United States of America, all appear to be completely unable to bring people together on any lasting basis. I have very little hope that we are ever going to get it right.

None of this really bothers me though, since I seldom venture more than five miles from my house. My philosophy has always been "I'll leave you alone if you leave me alone." As long as the Zombie Apocalypse doesn't begin until five years after I'm dead, I'm fine.

I got an early start on my chores today because it was so hot outside. When I was using the automated checkout aisle at the grocery store, I couldn't get the bar code reader to work. It would beep when I pointed it at items in my cart, but nothing would show up on the register. This must be a common problem, because it didn't take long before an employee noticed me trying to read the UPC code on my strawberries over and over again and came over and rebooted the machine. Turn it off and then turn it on again seems to be the universal solution for everything these days. It's really too bad we can't just reboot the entire world.

Jewel is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Friday, July 22, 2016

Day 2412

Another day, another terrorist attack. Throughout the afternoon I kept hearing conflicting reports on social media. One would say the shooter was a neo-nazi who shouted that he hated foreigners. Another would say that he was an Islamic radical who shouted Allāhu Akbar. Clearly one of these reports was a fabrication. Maybe neither of them was true. News is an uncharted wilderness these days. It's all spin. Whenever almost anything happens, someone will quickly try to twist the narrative to suit their needs. Objectivity increasingly seems like a quaint, outdated concept that few people have any use for. Most people, including myself, have no idea what the truth is and just pick the narrative that fits their preconceived notions.

When I flipped back and forth between Fox and MSNBC last night I could have sworn that I was watching two different conventions. One network thought that the event had channeled the inner pulse of middle class America while the other dismissed the whole thing as an unmitigated disaster. I used to think I could discover the truth by listening to both sides of the story, but I'm not so sure anymore. Spinning a story has become an art form and it's almost impossible to tell the difference between fact and fiction. Where is Walter Cronkite when you need him?

Today was slow but it started out nicely. I had Eggs Benedict at my new favorite restaurant and then returned home to finish my remaining website updates. The roofers didn't show up, but at least I got an explanation. It was apparently too hot for the roofers to work. If that's the case, I'm probably not going to get my roof fixed until September.

My pet cam has quit working again. It's so irritating that AT&T keeps tweaking its firewall settings and the apps on my phone keep automatically updating themselves overnight while I sleep. I'll get everything set just the way I want it and then a new version of an app will come out that upsets the apple cart. I have lots of old applications on my office computer for a reason. The apps are stable, don't crash, and do exactly what they are supposed to do. It's hard to keep out outdated apps on your phone, because they update themselves automatically. By the time I get the pet cam working, there will be a brand new version of the app that sets me back to square one again. I often feel like Sisyphus, continually pushing the same rock up the hill over and over again.

I felt like having Pizza tonight, so I went and ordered a nice looking large pie at one of our favorite Italian restaurants. When did ordering pizza become expensive? When I was in college, pizza was one of the cheapest things you could have for dinner. Now, I can order Chinese, Cheeseburgers, or a wide variety of other take-out meals for much less. Pizza still costs less than good barbecue though. We save barbecue for special occasions.

Once again, I screwed up and took my evening meds in the morning. There's a reason they tell you to take Niacin at night. The flushing sensation it can cause can be severe and make you feel like you are burning up. The sensation seldom lasts more than an hour, but it does make me check my meds a little more carefully the next day.

I'm not sure what I'm going to do this weekend.  Anything that involves sleep sounds good to me.

Pongo is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Thursday, July 21, 2016

Day 2411

Live streaming has revolutionized the way I watch television. I rarely watch the TV in the kitchen or the bedroom anymore. And I rarely watch the same things I used to. Now, whenever a space geek friend gives me a heads up about an upcoming launch, I watch it live on my computer. I'm somewhat of a news junky, so I'll often keep a window open in the right side of my screen, just in case something interesting happens. I usually keep the sound muted, because I can't multi-task. Every once in a while I'll turn the sound up for a few minutes and then get back to work.

I'm not really a political person, but I do find political conventions interesting. One of the first things that caught my eye this week was G.E. Smith. I've watched this guy play guitar for decades in the David Letterman Band. When did he start a house band for the Republican Party? Maybe they decided to have their own house band because they grew tired of musicians saying that they weren't authorized to use their music. I find this amusing. Don't these musicians understand how their own music licensing agreements work. If you want to play Queen's music for example, you don't need to ask Queen personally. Anyone, including both political parties, can secure the necessary rights through one of the three major performing rights organizations. If you run a concert venue, a restaurant, a bar, or an ad agency you can pay a flat fee to these to a licensing agency like BMI which allows you to play any music you want. Queen’s "We Are the Champions" is part of the BMI catalog. A performer doesn't have the option of restricting their music to certain radio stations or political parties. That's just how it works. Back in my agency days I've licensed well known songs for ridiculous advertising campaigns. The musicians might have been embarrassed, but I guarantee that they kept the money.

So did anything catch my eye this evening. Well, Peter Thiel certainly did. Peter is right up there with Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, and Tim Cook. I wonder what my Silicon Valley friends think about that endorsement. The sound is muted now on my computer, but I wouldn't be surprised if something catches my attention later.

I picked up a prescription today, but that was the only time I left the house. I spent the rest of the day wondering when Dot was going to poop. She has an uncanny ability to have her accidents when I'm in the shower or on the phone. The bed where she sleeps most of the day is in plain sight when I'm working at the computer, but she still manages to surprise me.

This week has gone quickly. I haven't heard anything from the roofers yet, so I have my doubts that they'll show up tomorrow as promised. Dot has done well this week. Her legs are still weak, but she isn't limping now. If she continues to improve, we might go back to physical therapy next Wednesday. The trash has been taken out to the curb and it's almost time for bed. I'm looking forward to having a delicious breakfast tomorrow morning. Eggs Benedict sounds good.

Katie is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Day 2410

Go outside and take a look at the moon. 47 years ago today Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin touched down on the lunar surface with less than a minutes worth of fuel left. They navigated their way from the earth to the moon using a computer that was less powerful than the one you currently have in your phone. More than half a billion people watched live as Neil Armstrong stepped out of the lunar module and said, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” For one short moment in time, the world was united and the world was proud.

I was one of those proud people.  I was still in architecture school and had my entire life ahead of me. I never would have dreamed that almost half a century later we would leave the moon behind and never return. What happened? I think we were at our best when we were explorers and adventurers. We are at our worst right now. Nothing unites us the way Apollo 11 did. No politician is bold enough to commit the nation to accomplish the impossible in less than ten years. John Kennedy was my favorite president. Sadly, I don't think his own party would elect him today. He wasn't politically correct. He was an unabashed nationalist. I think John Kennedy would be appalled that we never returned to the moon.

The dogs got a little excitement today. The electric company arrived at the house around mid-afternoon and informed me that my electric meter had gone bad. I asked the guy at the front door how they knew the meter had gone bad and they told me that the meter sent them a fault warning. There aren't any meter readers anymore. The meter sits quietly behind my house, electronically informing the power company whenever I turn on the television, or cool down the house. The meter knows too much, so I hope nobody ever gets elected who decides I'm an energy waster and rations my power. It's already happening with water. I thanked the electric company guy for installing the new meter and apologized for the barking dogs. Somehow I think that this new meter isn't going to lower my electric bill at all.

I had some website updates to complete today, but I have a feeling that the slowdown in my business is permanent. As I watch Dot's slow decline, I am simultaneously witnessing my own decline. I hope I'm not witnessing the decline of my country as well. All I know is that July 20, 1969 was a much better time than July 20, 2016. I know you can't turn back time, but maybe you can change direction.

I canceled Dot's physical therapy session again today. We did increase the length of her walk a little though. So far, she's doing well. This is the kind of progress I understand. Tomorrow, we'll repeat the process and start all over again. In 1969 I was convinced that we'd have colonies on Mars by now. What I didn't know is that 47 years later, my life would be focused around Dalmatians and that the moon would just be a soft light shining through my window.

Lady Jane is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Day 2409

As a writer, I find all the talk about Melania's speech interesting. I don't doubt that there was plagiarism involved. Plagiarism is endemic is today's society. If you're a musician, you might call your plagiarism sampling, or perhaps a remix. If you're an artist, you might say you're paying homage to someone. Like it or not, there is very little original thought in this world.

I've been accused of plagiarism myself. Ironically, I wasn't plagiarizing others, I was plagiarizing myself. If you're an advertising writer, you write the same shit over and over again for different people. How many ways can you tell someone that a bank offers friendly service or a hamburger is juicy? Sometimes I like the way I've described something and I'll use it again. I'm not even aware of doing this, but apparently clients aren't very happy if you use the same words more than once. "Oh, jeez, I'm sorry," I'll say and quickly substitute some other adjectives that say exactly the same thing. I guess I'm not surprised that several people might say that if you work hard you can achieve anything you want in exactly the same way. How else would you express this thought? That being said, someone should have run the speech through one of those plagiarism checker websites that teachers routinely use with students papers. As a lazy person myself, I can tell you that there is no real excuse for being lazy. There's no excuse for trying to destroy someone for a few lines of identical text either.

I don't think I was lazy today, but I certainly didn't accomplish anything significant. I did get out of the house at least. I  found a $20 REI coupon in my wallet, so I went to the store and bought another pair of cargo shorts with huge pockets that could hold my cameras when I walked the dogs. T-shirts and cargo shorts has become my new Summer uniform. I'll probably continue wearing a longer version of these things next Winter. Lots of pockets are great.

Dot is still pretty weak, so I canceled her therapy appointment for the second week in a row. We're still just going around the block in the morning. It's not very far, but it seems to be the right balance between getting no exercise at all and becoming exhausted. I wish I knew what I know now when my first Dalmatian was getting old. It takes a long time to learn what dogs are trying to tell you. I think I'm getting pretty good at interpreting Dot's moods and desires, but I've still got a lot to learn. I hope she manages to teach me the wisdom of dogs before Dash gets old. Dash is going to be hard to handle.

I spent quite a while trying to remove some sticky road tar from my car this afternoon. Tar is much more difficult to deal with than dog poop. I don't think I need to worry about anyone plagiarizing me. I've pretty much cornered the market on writing about dog poop. Why would anyone else even want to copy this.

Jade is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Monday, July 18, 2016

Day 2408

I've been walking more lately. We get up early and take Dot on a walk around the block. Leading Dot on this short, slow journey isn't enough for Dash, so after we return, we feed both dogs their breakfast and then I take Dash on a second much longer walk. We call this our boy's walk. By the time I return from my walk with Dash, Janet has already left for work and Dot is sleeping in her bed.

This is how I start my day. It may not be all that exciting, but it has it's moments. I'm encouraged to see that Dot isn't wobbling as much on our short walks. Maybe, when the weather gets cooler and Dot gets stronger, we can do something a little more ambitious. Until then, I'll continue to daydream as I walk Dash, occasionally noting a strange new bird or a pretty flower. I'll dawdle over my own breakfast when we return, feeding Dot and Dash slices of banana as I drink my morning smoothy. There's no reason to hurry. Life has slowed down for me as well.

I made sure the roof was clear of water this morning because the roofers promised me that they'd come out later this week and patch the bad spots. Will they actually show up? Who knows. They've been making promises for a long time now. Eventually, everything will get fixed. Dealing with roofers teaches you patience. So does dealing with old dogs. I think that I've got a lot of patience, but probably not enough. It's probably only a matter of time before I start saying "get off my lawn" to neighbors.

I watched bits and pieces of the Republican Convention today. What else was there to do? I don't know about you, but I thought Melania was fabulous. She was calm, poised, and reminded me of Jackie Kennedy. The guy who followed her on stage reminded me more of Dr. Strangelove, but I guess everybody can't be a supermodel. Like the Oscars and the Grammys, political conventions are way too long. By the end of the evening, most of the older folks in the audience were falling asleep.

I'm probably putting you to sleep myself, because as you can tell, not a lot happened today. Dealing with what comes after a life of work and meetings is still a mystery to me. Taking care of Dot is tough at times, but it has provided me with a purpose. Tomorrow, I'll keep working on keeping her legs moving, clean up her poop, and probably watch more political speeches while she's asleep. I think they ought to hold both political conventions at the same time so you could just channel surf back and forth between them. As patient as I am, I think watching eight solid days of this stuff would drive anybody crazy.

Beemer is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Sunday, July 17, 2016

Day 2407

The most interesting thing I read on the Internet today was something called The Neurotic Eater's Grocery List. I urge you to read it. The provocative little article confirmed something that I have thought for a long time. Practically everything we put in our mouth these days is bad for us. I haven't eaten Tilapia since I learned how the fish are farmed, but apparently Tilapia are actually safer than many other fish. I'm increasingly wary of shrimp. We have become accustomed to eating oranges and strawberries all year long, even though we know that these are seasonal crops. Most of our food is imported now and we don't generally know where it came from or how many pesticides it contains. Humans are so ravenously hungry that we are literally depleting the ocean of fish. We convert prairies into farmland. We suck vast amounts of water out of the ground to irrigate these farms. We use pesticides to increase crop yields. We cut down forests for firewood. This is simply not sustainable. Even the most ardent environmentalists seem reluctant to deal with the real problem. There are simply too many people on this planet.

I have read that some leading scientists think that humans will be extinct in 30,000 years. They are probably right. We are the one species on the planet at the very top of the food chain. Every other animal has to worry about someone else eating them for dinner. This food chain kept everything in balance for millions of years until we came along and claimed everything for ourselves. Without any natural predictors except for other humans, we multiplied too fast, became too greedy, thought too highly of ourselves, and now look where we are. Everything from social unrest to global warming can be traced straight back to too many people trying to share a finite number of resources.

I hate to be gloomy, but I don't see anyone trying to get a grip on the situation. The world is spiraling out of control and the only solution seems to involve searching for Pokémon or looking at cute cat pictures. Whenever there is a police shooting or a terrorist attack, there is a moment of silence and some heartfelt prayers. Nothing changes though. Why is it so easy to say there are too many guns and so hard to say there are too many people?  Why do people who are convinced that every dog or cat on the planet should be spayed or neutered still think it is OK to have ten kids? I just don't get it.

Although the world is certifiably insane, it still has it's pleasures. I enjoyed my walk with Dash this morning. It amused me to see pumpkins growing in the park. I've seen watermelons growing in the park too. The flowers on pumpkin vines are actually quite beautiful. I'll have to watch this patch and see if any pumpkins start growing. I doubt that these are native pumpkins and watermelons I'm seeing. The watermelons are the result of someone's picnic long ago and the pumpkins are the result of my neighbors throwing their rotting pumpkins into the weeds after Halloween to feed the squirrels and rabbits.

I went to the gym and vacuumed the house after I returned, but you knew that already. Dot is still doing well. We walked her around the block again this morning and she didn't stumble at all. As long as I kept the television turned off and refrained from reading my Facebook friends political opinions, this was actually a pretty nice weekend.

Dalmatian of the Day
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