Friday, October 31, 2014

Day 1781 - Halloween

I was right. The plastic forks didn't even last a week. When I went to breakfast this morning, the regular metal silverware was back. It's good to see that common sense prevailed. The parking places are still too small, but I can live with that. I didn't seem to have as much trouble parking today.

Ordinarily, I'd share a picture of a pumpkin with you on Halloween, but I didn't see any pumpkins today. Maybe I didn't look very hard. There certainly weren't any pumpkins left in the stores. All the stores have moved on to Christmas by now. Halloween is pretty much a non-event at our house anyway. Halloween is a holiday for children and cosplayers and we don't have either in our neighborhood. We haven't had trick or treaters in years. With all the Ebola worries in this town, probably a lot of people aren't opening their doors to strangers anyway.

Commercial spaceflight certainly hasn't had a good week. First the Orbital Sciences Antares Rocket explodes and then today Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo explodes during a test flight. If I was Elon Musk, I'd be a little nervous right now. I was watching TV when the news broke and was astounded at the damage to the spacecraft. Nothing was left. It was amazing that one of the pilots was able to eject, since it all happened so fast. Even if I had the ridiculous amount of money it takes to secure a ticket on one of these Virgin Galactic flights, I don't think you could talk me into going. I'm a huge fan of spaceflight as long as I still have both feet on the ground. I throw up on roller coasters. I wanted to get a pilot's license once, but flunked out of the flight training class for the same reason. I still remember one of my flight instructors telling another instructor, "You take him up this time, I cleaned out the plane last time." Somehow, I don't think the five minutes of weightlessness everyone is looking forward to would sit very well with my stomach.

I wrote a letter to Lunatik asking if they'd replace my broken iPhone case. I bet they won't, but it's worth a shot. The ads for this thing showed the case being run over by a motorcycle and surviving all sorts of punishment. It certainly shouldn't break just sitting in your pocket.

The concrete trucks were back in the park today, pouring another segment of the new bicycle superhighway. Most of the neighbors seem to like this new development, but I still think it is a colossal waste of money. If I knew that this is how the money would be spent, I probably wouldn't have voted for the bond issue that funded this and other efforts to gentrify the park and turn it into a recreation destination. All I want is a quiet place to walk the dogs.

Roxy is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Day 1780

I had to go down to the UPS depot to pick up a package this morning and was amazed at how quiet and efficient the place seemed. The last time I was here, it was total chaos. "Wow, this is a lot different than Christmas," I told the clerk behind the counter. "Oh, we got rid of our bad boss," he responded. "Everything is fine now." Sounds about right to me. It doesn't matter what you do for a living. Having a bad boss can make a shambles of everything.

Evidently the manager wanted to get a performance bonus for keeping costs under control and refused to hire extra help during the busy holiday season. The resulting poor service caused such a customer backlash that the company fired the manager instead of giving her a bonus. I remember that I was one of the customers who complained about poor service last Winter. It's nice to know that every once in a while, companies actually listen to their customers.

Dot had a great day at her physical therapy session. I still can't figure out why she is strong and energetic on some days and weak and tired at other times. Our days are remarkable consistent. She eats the same food, sleeps the same amount of time, and walks the same trails day after day. You'd think the therapy sessions would be the same as well. Maybe she's just in a better mood on certain days. That's definitely the case with me. When I'm in a good mood, I can get twice as much done.

I was surprised when we got rained on during our afternoon walk. October has been so dry that I've almost forgotten about rain. It was cloudy when we left on our walk, but I didn't even bother to check the weather radar. It just didn't seem like a rainy day. Although we all got soaked, there was no thunder and lightening, so the dogs didn't panic. I dried everybody off with large bath towels when we got home and then everything was back to normal.

Dot's vets and nurses were just as surprised as me that tomorrow is Halloween. Where has this year gone? I can't remember a year where the time has zipped by so fast. If I remember anything at all about this year, it will be all the doctor's appointments and medical emergencies. I started my Hepatitis C treatment in January, Dash was diagnosed with cancer in February, and then Dot got sick and was diagnosed with cancer in July. Now that the year is winding to a close, I am very thankful that each of these stories had a happy ending.

I've already taken the trash out to the curb for Friday morning pick-up and am looking forward to having a delicious breakfast at my favorite restaurant. Friday's are almost always good days.

Puppies are today's Dalmatians of the Day
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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Day 1779

There are some built-in cabinets in the house that are located right near the ceiling. The modern looking storage areas fit right in with the mid-century design, but they are virtually useless. In order to access these cabinets, I have to get the big folding stepladder out of the greenhouse. I'm fairly tall and I can't even reach the cabinet doors without the ladder. The space inside is large enough for heavy, bulky things, but since you have to climb up the precarious ladder with your load, it usually isn't worth the trouble. These awkward storage areas are such a pain in the neck to use that they are mostly just filled with pillows and empty boxes.

One cabinet is still filled with heavy boxes though. I decided to store a bunch of stuff there when we first bought the house and haven't looked at the stuff since. I don't know how I managed to get some of these heavy boxes up and into the storage space in the first place, but I guess I was younger then. At any rate, I decided to empty the cabinet out today. It was a lot of work to get the heavy boxes back to ground level. I threw some stuff away and took the rest to the storage warehouse. Among the many things I retrieved was a chess set with playing pieces depicting characters from the Simpsons. There was a box filled with hundreds and hundreds of watch crowns in tiny glass vials. Another box was filled with water stained diplomas and awards. There was a sample case filled with greeting card designs that I planned on marketing decades ago. Everything was mildly interesting, but nothing was useful.

There were a lot of elaborate costumes at the dog training class Halloween party this evening. Our instructor came in a hazmat suit with his dog dressed up as a virus. One large dog was dressed as a table holding a pumpkin filled with dog treats. That costume never would have worked with our dogs. They would have immediately tipped the pumpkin over and eaten all the dog treats. There were the usual assortment of dragons, skeletons, and bats. There was even a dog dressed as Elvis who happened to be named Elvis as well. We didn't win anything this year, but we didn't put a lot of thought into our costumes either. The dogs probably wonder why we dress them up for this silly event year after year. They don't complain though, because there are lots and lots of dog treats.

I'm glad the dogs didn't see the cute little green gecko that was on the stepladder this afternoon. I'm sure one of them would have ate him. I almost brought the little lizard into the house with me because I didn't see him either, but luckily he jumped off the ladder at the last minute. I managed to snap one picture before the gecko ran away.

The supposedly "indestructible" case for my iPhone broke today. I didn't drop the phone or anything. The case just cracked. I can't decide whether to complain to customer service or just get a new case. It would probably make more sense to get a new phone.

Dakota is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Day 1778

I got the long awaited message from the liver center today, telling me that they considered me officially "cured" of Hepatitis C. My final viral load test showed that after six months, there was still no trace of the virus in my body. There will be no more tests. I'm done.

I'm relieved and happy to put all this behind me. It's ironic in a way that it took a deadly disease to get me healthy. Before Sovaldi came along, there really wasn't an effective cure for the disease. The previous interferon and ribavirin treatment only had a 50% success rate and many people experienced terrible side effects. I decided to wait until Sovaldi was approved and changed my entire diet and lifestyle to decrease the load on my liver. I quit drinking. I lost weight. And I exchanged my steady diet of cheeseburgers and beer for broccoli, kale salads, and other healthy fare. Healthy living kept my liver going while I was waiting and I ended up being one of the first people in the country to receive the new drug. It has been a long journey, but it definitely ended well.

I thought I'd watch a few YouTube videos and see if it were possible for me to install a new battery in my MacBook Pro laptop without going to the Apple Store. The process seemed simple enough. You just unscrew the bottom of the computer, unscrew a few more things inside, and them remove and replace the battery. Piece of cake. By doing this myself, I could cut the cost of a battery replacement in half. I gave the matter some serious thought and then decided I ought to make an appointment at the Genius Bar instead. I've had experience dealing with tiny little screws that have been tightened by machines before. It's incredibly easy to strip the threads, making it impossible to put everything back together again. I've ruined enough watches with tiny little screws that I proceed very cautiously when I see these things now. Just because you've got a small Philips screwdriver doesn't necessarily mean you can get the screws out. The Apple Store technicians are just as likely to destroy the computer as I am, but if they break it, they'll give me a new one. That's what happened when I had to get a new battery for my iPhone. The Apple folks ended up destroying the phone, but they were real nice about giving me a brand new one.

I watched a rocket explode carrying supplies to the space station when I was eating dinner tonight. I bet the astronauts on board the station are a little nervous right now. The 5,000 pounds of supplies included most of their food for the next six months. It's not exactly easy to get up to the space station anymore, with all our space shuttles sitting in museums. I did a little channel surfing to see if I could learn more about the story and was surprised to see how selective news coverage has become. All MSNBC was talking about were the upcoming mid-term elections, and Fox was still talking about Ebola. Apparently the only folks that initially thought this story was news was CNN.

Dot and Dash have their costumes ready for the Halloween party tomorrow. Once or twice we've won the costume contest, but typically the class don't even know what our costumes are. We'll see how it goes tomorrow.

Abi is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Monday, October 27, 2014

Day 1777

I voted today. It was easy to find a polling place. You just look for a nearby church or school with hundreds of yard signs out front. I always wonder why so many judges run unopposed. There were pages and pages of judges on the ballot with no opponent. I didn't know who any of them were. I think the only people who are interested in these local judge races are lawyers. All the lawyers in our neighborhood have a big sign for some type of judge in their yard. I think most of the propositions on the ballot are purposefully written to confuse voters. You have to read them really carefully or you can easily end up voting exactly the opposite of what you had planned. We have voter ID here in Texas, but it didn't seem to be causing the problems that some pundits claimed. Since everyone drove to the polling place, they all had driver's licenses.

I don't understand the fierce opposition to voter ID anyway. Disabled and elderly people have been able to vote by mail in Texas for decades, so not being able to drive really isn't an issue. Everyone else needs an ID just to be a functioning member of modern society. I probably get asked to show my drivers license a dozen times a week. You can't fly without showing an ID. Many stores ask to see a photo ID before you use your credit card. Very few doctors will treat you without seeing an ID first. Banks want to see your ID. You really can't do much of anything without having an identity. Why should voting be different?

Personally, I think we should be making it a little harder to vote. I don't care who you vote for, but I think you owe it to the other voters to at least be familiar with the issues and the candidates. If you haven't got a clue, just stay home.

I ordered a wireless microphone system for an upcoming video project today. The radio mics cost more than what I'll make from doing the video. Do I care? Obviously not. Writing still pays the bills for me. For the most part, video and photography jobs are just an excuse to buy cool gear. The wireless mics probably aren't even essential for this particular job. I just want to see how they work.

One of my neighbors asked me if I'd made a hand print in the new concrete bike path that's slowly taking shape behind my house. Nope. Somehow, the thought of sticking my hand in wet concrete never crossed my mind. This guy was real excited though. He said his hand print would last for a thousand years. Maybe he meant to say ten years. Nothing lasts very long in Dallas.

Dash is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Sunday, October 26, 2014

Day 1776

When I arrived at the gym this afternoon, there was a big sign at the reception desk that said "Pool Closed Until Further Notice." My paranoid mind immediately made the assumption that this must have something to do with Ebola. In all likelihood, the pool had just developed a leak. It doesn't matter anyway, since I never use the pool. Swimming might actually be better for my shoulder than what I'm doing now, but it's too much trouble to get a locker and change. The place was pretty empty this afternoon, but that didn't mean anything at all. The gym is always empty on Sunday afternoons.

On my way home I listened to a Ted Talk on the radio where a geneticist talked about human evolution. It was fascinating. I was surprised to learn that although Homo sapiens have been around for several hundred thousand years, modern day humans are only about 60,000 years old. That's pretty young, considering how long crocodiles have been around. According to this geneticist, the human race almost went extinct when the ice age coincided with the eruption of a huge supervolcano in Indonesia about 70,000 years ago. The explosion dimmed the sun for six years, disrupted seasonal rains and almost killed off the human race. With fewer than 2000 people left on the planet, evolution kicked into high gear, forcing humans to either adapt or die. The remaining humans left their home in Africa, searching for a more hospitable climate. They invented language as we know it today. They developed agriculture and other ways to improve their survival odds, and spread across the world in less than 10,000 years. All this information was just the prelude to the main event, however. The guys main point was that he thinks that evolution has kicked into high gear again and in less than 500 years we will change into a completely different species. We are being asked to process more information in a single day now than we used to process in a year. Our current brains can't handle the load and they are trying to adapt, just like the first humans were forced to adapt to a cataclysmic change in climate. Some of the science in this Ted Talk went over my head, but it caught my attention when the explosion of autism in children and many other modern day disorders were explained as explorations on a DNA level as the evolutionary process tries to arrive at whatever comes next. Of course none of this may be true, but it is still fascinating. Your great, great grandchildren might not even be human. I've always thought that people who worry about the glaciers melting are thinking way too small. The earth is 4 billion years old. If we're really only 60,000 years old, I'm sure the earth has a way to deal with us. Maybe we won't destroy the planet after all. Maybe the planet will change us.

I think I'll go vote tomorrow. I'm not sure where the early voting place is, but it should be easy to find. I've become a fan of early voting in recent years. It's so much more convenient that waiting in line on election day. The early voting locations all seem to have the latest touch screen voting machines too. When I vote at my local precinct on election day, I get a paper ballot where I have to mark a lot of little circles with a #2 pencil. The type on the ballot is very small and when I forget my reading glasses, I don't know what is going on.

We've finally come up with costumes for the Halloween party at our dog training class this Wednesday. Janet is sewing them together now. No, the costumes aren't for us. They are for the dogs.

Pearl is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Day 1775

It takes me about an hour every day to write this and edit the accompanying photos. This means I've literally spent thousands of hours telling you about nothing at all. You'd think I'd find something more useful to do with my time. I probably won't. In an odd way I think this is important.

Let's just call it an experiment. The other day I showed you a picture of Purple Asters. I flipped back a year and was surprised to discover that these Asters came into bloom on exactly the same day last year. I took a picture that day too. Nature is more predictable than I thought. Flowers reappear in exactly the same spot year after year. I see cloud formations that I've seen before. In a way it is comforting to know that the passage of time is so orderly. All I'm doing is keeping a record of things.

I've learned that not everything stays the same. I've already showed you pictures of things that don't even exist anymore. Trees have been struck by lightning, or destroyed by wind. Roads have been widened. Houses have been torn down. The tiny slice of the world I share with you has changed dramatically. If I continue this narrative, you will probably see me change as well. Maybe I already have.

I'm continually surprised at what changes and what stays the same. It's not always as I expected. Who would have thought that Facebook would be the place where I learn that someone I know has died. Maybe you still hear about engagements and weddings. I don't even hear about divorces anymore. I'm way beyond that. My newsfeed has become a parade of strokes and heart attacks. No wonder my doctor is so concerned about heart attacks. They seem to happen with alarming regularity among my classmates and co-workers. When you add dogs into the mix, Facebook becomes a parade of death. Almost every day I learn of another beloved pet who has gone to the Rainbow Bridge. Dogs just don't live long enough. Maybe this is why I like the pictures of puppies so much. You probably have your own symbols for rebirth. For me, it's puppies.

The day was too nice to dwell on thoughts like these for very long. I did a little gardening while I watched the dogs sun themselves in the yard. I finished the grocery shopping and ran my weekend errands. It was kind of a lazy day, so I even got caught up on couple of episodes of Dr. Who. I wonder who writes that show now? I always thought Russel T Davies was a genius, but even I could write better scripts than the current batch of writers. I only continue watching this show because Farside, Lexx, and Firefly aren't around any more.

I think I'll go back to the gym tomorrow. It's silly to keep avoiding the gym just because it is part of the Presbyterian Hospital System. Like most people in Dallas, my fears of Ebola are beginning to fade. I'm back to eating fresh vegetables again too. I don't think I have the attention span to stay worried about anything too long.

Patch is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Friday, October 24, 2014

Day 1774

When I went to breakfast this morning I couldn't figure out why I was having so much trouble parking my car. Jeez, I come to this place every week. I should be able to park here blindfolded. When I got out of the car, I noticed that the restaurant had re-striped the parking lot and every single parking space was exactly one foot narrower than it was the week before. Sad. Maybe they can squeeze an extra Prius or two into the parking lot now, but what is the point if nobody else can even fit between the white lines? A couple of F-250 Super Duty pickups in the lot didn't even come close. They were so far over the line that only a motorcycle could park in the next slot. When I got my meal with a plastic fork, instead of the customary metal one, I knew the dreaded restaurant consultants had struck again. I don't know why people are so compelled to squeeze every last dime out of their business. It's often the little things, like a decent sized parking place, that customers like the most. When you take these things away people notice. I predict that metal silverware will be back next week. Nobody likes a plastic fork.

I had to drive down to Baylor Hospital for another periodic blood test at the liver center today. When I arrived, I noticed three huge fire department Hazmat trucks and four police cars parked in front of the main building with their lights flashing. There were also about a dozen uniformed officers and a camera crew in the general vicinity. When I checked in at the liver center, I was asked to sign a document saying that I hadn't visited Africa in the past 30 days. I told the receptionist I had never visited Africa in my life and in light of recent developments it was unlikely that I would ever visit the place. I also asked about all the Hazmat trucks parked out front and she just shrugged and said it could be anything. I guess this is the new normal now. When I got home there was absolutely nothing about this dramatic little incident on the local news. It was probably just another false alarm.

I've been trying to terminate my account with one of those companies that monitors security alarms for over two years now. They were overpriced and just didn't do a good job. I send them an official letter requesting that my account be terminated and was assured that I had done everything correctly. Thee only problem was that my account kept being auto-renewed year after year and I kept getting invoices. Whenever I called to complain, the company would apologize profusely and tell me they were aware of the problem and that it would be taken care of. After being assured six months ago by the head of the accounts receivable department that my account was indeed terminated and that I had a $0 balance, I get another call today, saying I owe them $300. I called the same lady who told me that everything was fine last time and explained the situation. She told me that everything was fine again and told me to ignore the phone call. Somehow I don't think this is over. This entire company is brain dead.

Sometimes I think the entire country is brain dead. There is mounting evidence that our government is brain dead. I heard recently that Asians were the fastest growing segment of our population. Large corporations are importing them in record numbers because they just can't find enough people who already live here to fill the highly technical positions these companies need. I have said for a long time that the Chinese will be the first to land on Mars. We're over here fighting about raising the minimum wage at McDonald's when thousands and thousands of really high paying jobs are going unfilled because people graduate from our schools with no real skills. We could learn something from the Chinese, but nobody's listening. I'm glad I was a war baby who had a trouble free childhood in the 1950's and an exciting time coming of age in the 1960's. Things have certainly gone downhill since then.

Ellis is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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