Saturday, April 19, 2014

Day 1586

I got lucky today. When I went to the Interstate battery store to get my lawn mower battery repaired, the technician noticed that the defective cells he was removing from the case were still under warranty. The one year warranty on the two battery cells was going to expire in four days. I had forgotten that the old battery even had a warranty. I've just gotten used to replacing these batteries every year. At any rate, the technician refurbished my battery for free. If I had waited until next week to take care of this chore, it would have cost me $90.

I finally made it back to the gym this afternoon. I really need to figure out how to do these workouts on a more regular basis. It was starting to seem easy when I went three times a week. Now that I can only make it to the gym sporadically, these workouts are killing me. It took me about three months to build up a good rhythm and now it appears I'll have to start all over again. No rest for the weary, I guess. I don't even like going to the gym, but I do like the results. I'd hate to start gaining weight again.

While I was at the gym, Janet called and said she'd lost her car keys at the grocery store. I drove home and found a spare pair of keys to take over to her. While I was home looking for the spare keys, the dogs were very indignant that I wasn't feeding them their dinner. Both of them started barking loudly when I left the house again about five minutes later. You'd think having their dinner thirty minutes late was the end of the world.

I got another letter from the city today saying that Dash's animal registration had expired. This happens every single year. I always get new city tags for the dogs when they have their annual physical exam. My vet sends the updated information to the city immediately, but somehow the city is permanently three weeks out of sync. If they would just wait a few weeks before they send out this noncompliance letter, they might realize that Dot and Dash always have current city tags.

The park is going to be a disaster area tomorrow. Every Easter, throngs of people descend on the park to have family Easter egg hunts. Nobody hides real eggs anymore though. They all just hide candy for the kids. For weeks after Easter, I have to be especially vigilant when walking the dogs. There are are tons of candy left in the grass that the kids failed to find, along with assorted chicken bones, beer cans, and dirty baby diapers. I liked this park a lot better before the city discovered it. It's still nice on weekdays after everybody has gone to work, but weekends and holidays are a madhouse.

I'm not sure what I'll do tomorrow. If the weather's nice, there are still a ton of chores with my name on them. Mowing the grass will probably be at the top of the list. If it rains tomorrow, I'll probably just take a long nap  with the dogs.
Marley is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Friday, April 18, 2014

Day 1585 - Good Friday

Good Friday seems to be an optional holiday. The stock market was closed today, but the post office was still delivering mail. The Interstate Battery store, where I was going to replace my lawn mower battery, was closed, but Dash's cancer center was still open. Janet's office was officially closed, but most people went in to work anyway because they were busy. All over town, some businesses were closed and others were open in a random sort of way. This is probably just what happens to religious holidays in an increasingly secular world.

I surprised the staff at my favorite breakfast restaurant this morning by ordering something different. I must have been really bored this morning, because I always order the same thing at this restaurant. Maybe I should take a chance more often, because my alternate choice was really pretty tasty.

I wonder if there is an effective way to get telemarketers and scammers to leave you alone? I've been feeling inundated with scams lately. Phishing scams are growing increasingly sophisticated. I get dozens of these each day. It's gotten so bad that I almost don't trust any e-mail  receive these days. Today I got a realistic looking confirmation of a hotel reservation I never made. Two hours later, I got an unsolicited credit card in the mail, with a letter urging me to activate it immediately to avoid fraud. Nope! Not going to do that. Many of these phishing scams try to alarm you enough to call a fake help line were telephone operators try to grab even more of your personal information. It's such a shame that our society has come to this. If spammers and scammers put as much energy into starting a legitimate business as they did trying to cheat people, our economy would probably be booming.

I got an e-mail today telling me that my company had been recognized as a 2013 Texas Excellence Award recipient by the US Trade & Commerce Institute. I looked on the web and there really is a US Trade & Commerce Institute. Sadly, I suspect this is a scam too. There are quite a few companies in the business of selling pretty looking, but entirely bogus professional awards to excessively vain people. The pretty crystal award, which recognizes my company for "Excellence in Marketing" would certainly look good on my desk, but I'm a bit suspicious. I don't pay any attention to marketing whatsoever. What a joke! Hey, the only award I want would be to get in the Guinness Book of Records for "Most Consecutive Blog Posts."

Today wasn't very productive, but I need to start looking at the glass as half full rather than half empty. I didn't resolve any of yesterday's vexing website issues, but I did discover something new and very tasty to eat for breakfast and Dash continues to do well at his radiation treatments. He only has two more weeks to go!

Mattie is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Day 1584

I feel like I'm locked in my own personal Ground Hog Day. I've been trying to resolve a website problem for almost two weeks now. I call technical support every morning and talk a cheerful person who seems to understand my problem. He, or she, always says the problem seems easy enough to resolve, but that it will need to be escalated to the next level of support, because they don't have access to the information I need. The next day I get an e-mail saying that my problem has been solved and my ticket has been closed. I then go to the website in question and discover that nothing has changed at all. The problem has definitely not been resolved. I then call tech support again and explain the situation to another friendly person. They apologize for the mix up, telling me that they have reopened my service ticket and that the problem will be resolved properly this time. The next day I get another e-mail saying that my problem has been solved and my ticket has been closed again. Once again, nothing has changed. This has been going on for weeks.

I'm trying to solve a different type of problem with another client and have contacted a developer who supposedly knows all the answers. Today, he sent me detailed instruction, telling me exactly what to do to make the changes my client requested. So far, so good. At the very bottom of the letter was a final paragraph telling me not to do anything to the website during business hours and to be sure to back everything up before I attempt to make any changes. The developer concludes by telling me that if I follow his instructions exactly, I still might crash the entire site. WTF? I was hoping that thy guy would give me an answer, not a roulette wheel.

I went to my hepatologist for another blood test this afternoon. From now on out, these periodic tests are somewhat of a formality. By all indications, the treatment has already worked. These guys are just playing it safe. I will continue to get bi-weekly blood tests until June, and then probably once a year thereafter. One thing I have learned during Dash's cancer treatment and my own Hepatitis-C treatment is that doctors tend to take the amount of medication necessary to resolve a serious problem and then double it, just to make sure. This is especially true with cancer, since there is no definitive way to prove that the cancer will never return.

Maybe I'll have time to get the lawn mower battery replaced tomorrow. I can't put this off too much longer, since the grass is still growing. Dash has another radiation treatment in the morning and I have an appointment with an egg at my favorite restaurant. I hope I can get some of these ongoing website problems resolved soon. It's way too late in the year for Ground Hog Day.

Bella is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Day 1583

I ran into a group of photographers when I was walking the dogs today. They had tripods and long telephoto lenses and were attempting to photograph barn owls in a nearby tree. Surprisingly, I knew exactly which owls they were talking about. I told the photographers when I usually saw the owls and they told me that one of them recently had three babies. I hope the photographers got the pictures they wanted, because they had traveled a long way. That's the difference between me and the other people in the park. I live here. I'm not much of a naturalist, but I'm here every day, year after year. I see patterns. I can tell you when the White Pelicans leave for the Summer and when the baby ducks take to the water for the first time. I can predict when and where flowers will bloom and can tell you where the sun will touch the horizon on any given day. Some people become experts because they are passionate about a subject. My own expertise is usually acquired simply by showing up.

I know every inch of the park because I have a high tolerance for repetition. I have walked a succession of Dalmatians in the park for well over twenty years. This ability to to the same thing over and over again is why I am writing to you for the 1583rd  consecutive day. Endless repetition either drives you crazy or gives you the ability to see nuanced differences. Hopefully, I am not crazy. When I have by favorite breakfast eggs, I can tell if the chef has cooked them 15 seconds too long. When someone takes a book off the bookshelf, I instantly know which book has been removed. Inside every web page is a lot of HTML code that is very similar to all other web pages. The same can be said of print advertising. The only important thing is the headline. The text is just words place together in familiar patterns.

Maybe this is why Texas weather bothers me so much. It seems completely random. I can predict a lot of things fairly accurately, but I can't predict the weather at all. If it rained every Wednesday, I could compensate for it. I never know when it is going to rain, or snow, or when we're in the path of a tornado. The stock market is basically unpredictable as well. There are a ton of people who will tell you that they have the market figured out. Since none of these experts can predict the future, most of them have been fooled again and again.

Today was certainly predictable. Dash had another radiation treatment at the cancer center. I got my exercise by sweeping standing water off the roof. I made an omelet for breakfast using a recipe that became stuck in my head long before I ever moved to Texas. I used to wonder how dogs could get so excited about eating the same bowl of kibble over and over again for breakfast. I do the same thing though. Maybe we just like the ritual of eating. Whatever it is, I think dogs have discovered the secret of life. Eat. Sleep. Play. Repeat. That just about covers it for me.

Becker is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Day 1582

Not a bad day. The weather was absolutely gorgeous. It was cool enough to keep the dogs happy, and warm enough to keep me happy. There aren't many days like this in Texas, so I try to take advance of them. As an added bonus, I was able to start the day off with a clear view of the total "blood moon" eclipse. As luck would have it, I actually did wake up to to to the bathroom about 2:30 AM and this was just about the middle of the eclipse in our time zone. I'm glad I went outside and took a look, since the dark red moon was quite spectacular. Red was definitely the theme of the night sky, since Mars made it's closest approach to Earth last night as well, glowing a rusty red slightly to the right of the blood red moon.

When the dogs were younger, it would have been impossible to go out in the back yard in the middle of the night without Dot racing out the back door and waking up the entire neighborhood with her barking. Neither dog woke up at all last night and slept soundly through the entire eclipse. I'm glad they didn't wake up. As soon as Dot and Dash wake up, they think it is breakfast time.

I generally don't like meetings, but I had a surprisingly good meeting with a client this afternoon. We tackled a tough problem and came up with a innovative solution that we both thought would work. Trust me. This doesn't happen very often at client meetings. I even got the go-ahead to develop a prototype and see if the idea works. If this happened every day, or even every week, I might actually enjoy working.

My mechanic called today and told me he might have a buyer for my old Maserati. The potential buyer is some guy in Holland why likes to buy cars in American and ship them back to Europe to restore. Unfortunately, the guy wants the car for a dirt cheap price. I could get a lot more for the car if it was running, but then I'd have to pay quite a bit to make the necessary repairs. Some of the parts the car needs are virtual impossible to find anymore. They just don't exist. My gut tells me that it would probably be better to sell the car "as is" in non-running condition. I could spend a small fortune fixing the thing with no guarantee of finding a buyer when all the repairs were finished. Selling an old car is a lot like selling real estate. Often the best time to sell is when you actually have a buyer.

I'm proud of myself. Janet got a free loaf of delicious looking artisan bread from Central Market last week when she was grocery shopping. So far, I haven't touched the bread, even though I would have loved to have turned half the loaf into a big stack of french toast this morning. As tempting as french toast drenched in maple syrup sounded, I had my regular bowl of oatmeal and fruit instead.

Sometimes it's hard to stay strong, but when I was watching Dot trotting along in the water treadmill this afternoon, I kept thinking "Hey, if she can do it, so can I."

Krissy is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Monday, April 14, 2014

Day 1581

I can see the writing on the wall. I think I need to get out of the website business. All my clients are unhappy. They're not upset with the design or the writing on their sites. They all think that whenever someone searches for their type of business on Google, they should be at the top of the list. I try to tell them it's not that easy when you've got ten million other companies who also want to be at the top of the list. It used to be relatively easy to get on page one of a Google search, but when everybody on the planet has a website, the game changes a bit.

I know a lot of the unhappy folks think it's my fault that they're not on page one of every Google search, but there's not all that much I can do. I tell them why time honored SEO tricks don't work anymore and why Google wants everyone to buy Adwords, but they don't want to listen. Adwords are expense. SEO companies are expensive too, and don't always produce results. Most of my clients don't want expensive. They want their website to be like Facebook. Facebook is free. Their friends notice their Facebook posts too, so they think everyone should notice their website. Sorry guys. It just doesn't work that way.

I had to turn the furnace back on this morning. The temperature dropped from yesterday's balmy 80 degree weather, to a damp, chilly 40 degrees this morning. Winter is not giving up without a fight this year. I didn't think I would have to wear my goose down ski jacket again, but that's what I had on this morning when I walked Dot. With the addition of a nasty thirty mile an hour wind, it actually seemed a lot colder than 40 degrees.

I never dreamed that Dash would be so eager to go in for cancer treatments. He know when he gets radiation now, and on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday he's the first one up. Often he is waiting at the front door for us to put his harness on while we are still getting dressed. I'm really glad that he likes the other dogs at the cancer center and seems to think we're taking him to doggie day care. It's definitely not what I expected though.

I'd love to see tonight's total lunar eclipse. I'll probably miss it though. In the Central Time zone, the eclipse doesn't even start until 1 AM and won't reach totality until 2:45 AM. My only chance of seeing the thing is if I wake up to go to the bathroom during the middle of the night and happen to look out the window. There was a time when I would have spent hours setting up telescopes and cameras to document an event like this, but not anymore. I've seen dozens of lunar eclipses and they're all pretty much the same. Anyway, there will be tons of pictures of the moon on Facebook tomorrow anyway.

I moved Dot's acupuncture appointment to tomorrow, since I have a doctor's appointment when she typically goes for acupuncture and water therapy. I need to remember to send in my Quarterly Estimated Taxes tomorrow as well. I got another jury summons in the mail today, so I guess they didn't forget about me after I postponed my jury duty last month. I don't know why they would want me on a jury anyway. I'm convinced that everyone is guilty before I even get to the courtroom.

Flash is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Day 1580

One of these days, I'm going to have to bite the bullet and go paperless. Every couple of months, I try to wade through the mountain of accumulated paper and throw away as much superfluous mail as I can. I have a tendency to save things that I think might be important, and then forget what was so important about the letter later. On days like today, I find myself throwing away a ton of coupons that expired three years ago, invitations to attend seminars that have already taken place, and the ubiquitous unopened proxy statements. I don't know why I get the proxy statements in the first place. Please vote for the following slate of directors, they say. Like my 100 shares are  actually going to make a difference? Annual reports, proxy statements, unsolicited credit cards, surveys, almost anything from AARP is a total waste of postage.  Today I found five letters that really did need to be dealt with and threw away over 100 that were just junk.

What does it mean when 90% of your e-mail winds up unopened in your spam folder, 95% of your phone calls are from telemarketers, and virtually everything the mailman delivers is junk mail?  I must be the kind of customer marketers are trying to reach, because I am deluged with junk. I don't add my name to "do not call" lists because I'm convinced that this will actually increase the number of telemarketing calls. I never open anything in my spam folder because I think this might trigger a hidden malware application. Proxy statements go directly into the paper shredder. It wasn't always this way. As recently as ten years ago, I looked forward to a visit from the postman and clients routinely called me on the phone instead of sending cryptic e-mails that wind up in my spam folder anyway.

After I reduced my mountain of unopened mail to a more manageable size, I got some bleach soaked rags and tried to clean up my bathroom. Somehow when dust, moisture, and soap interact, it leaves a thin layer of scum that is almost impossible to remove. The electric toothbrush, water pic, soap dishes, and toilet are all sparkling clean now. In about a month, they will all be covered with the same scum again. I'll have to deal with the tile grout another day. That's getting pretty disgusting too.

The only reason I even attempted to deal with these tiresome chores today was that it was pouring rain outside for most of the day. I won't need to water the new grass in the back yard for a few days, but I will need to go up on the roof again and remove all the standing water. I'll need to go to the battery store and get a new 24V lawn mower battery too. If I let the front lawn go too long, it will be a tangled mess of tall weeds within a matter of weeks. The lawn mower battery will be expensive, but it's still a lot easier than putting my gas mower in the car and taking it to one of the city's few remaining lawn mower repair shops. These little shops used to be everywhere, but not anymore. Today, people apparently just drag their non-functioning mowers out to the curb for the trash truck to take away and buy another cheap mower at Home Depot. Actually, they just get a yard guy to mow their grass. I'm one of the only people in my neighborhood who still mows his own grass.

As the day progressed, the skies gradually cleared and by late afternoon there were patches of blue sky punctuated with billowing cumulus clouds. The day started dismally, but it ended up being quite pretty. The dogs were as eager to get out of the house as I was, so we took advantage of the nice weather and went on a long afternoon walk. On the way, I thought I saw a squirrel staring at me from a knot hole in a nearby tree. "This would make a cool picture," I thought, and inched closer to the tree to take a picture. When I got about a yard from the tree, I noticed that it was a rubber squirrel that someone had placed in the knot hole. Sure fooled me. Who would bother to put rubber squirrels in random trees in a public park? You'd have to be crazy. Oh wait. That would describe half the people who visit this park. I guess random rubber squirrels are just another aspect of life in the city.

Valli is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Saturday, April 12, 2014

Day 1579

Didn't this happen last year? I get out the lawn mower to cut the grass for the first time and the battery won't hold a charge. Batteries are the Achilles heel of modern technology. I hate them. I did everything right this year. I kept the 24V battery inside, so it wouldn't freeze during the Winter. I kept it on a trickle charger the entire time. How did this ungrateful battery reward me? It powered the mower for about three minute and then it died.

So far this Spring, I've had battery problems with my UP fitness band, my iPhone, one of my laptops, and now the lawn mower. Refurbished batteries never work as well as new ones either. My replacement UP band only holds a charge for seven days instead of the promised ten. The lawn mower battery was refurbished with new cells last Spring. Maybe that is the problem. I guess I could go back to the gas powered mower, but I probably couldn't even start it anymore with my dislocated shoulder. Gas mowers are difficult to start in the Spring anyway. Usually I forget to prepare the mower properly for Winter and the gas lines and tank are all gummy when I try to resurrect the machine in the Spring. Gasoline is meant to be used immediately. It really doesn't sit well for months at a time.

I counted six loose dogs in the park this afternoon. There are signs all over the park saying that dogs must be on a leash at all times, but nobody seems to care anymore. I live in a city where a significant percentage of the population doesn't even bother to get a driver's license. If they don't think a driver's license is important, I'm sure they don't think a leash for their dog is important either. There is an increase in people bringing aggressive dogs to the dog park as well. Just last week one of Janet's friends had her dog attacked by an aggressive dog in one of our favorite parks. With each passing year, I have fewer and fewer good things to say about living in a city.

I sympathize with those ranchers battling the government in Nevada. I've always admired farmers and ranchers. They seem to be the last hard working, no bullshit people left in this country. If my family had been grazing cattle on open range land for decades and I was abruptly told by some government bureaucrat that the land was now a protected habitat for a turtle, I'd be pretty pissed too. At any rate, I hope the ranchers stand strong. Our government has gotten out of hand on so many levels.

Although today's attempt at mowing the grass was a dismal failure, all the other weekend errands got completed. The grocery shopping is done and the pantry is restocked for another week. The car has been filled with gas and the sheets are clean. There are thunderstorms in the forecast for tomorrow, but I hope we avoid them. There is still a lot of work to be done.

Nellie is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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