Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Day 2388

They say if you don't like the weather in Texas, just wait five minutes. I can see where that saying came from today. We got an early start on our morning walk and it was really quite pleasant outside. There was a cool breeze and the ground was covered with dew. It was definitely worth the effort to get up early. Dot had more energy and so did I. The sun peeked over the horizon just as we arrived home and almost immediately, the humidity started to rise. By the time I finished breakfast, it was hot and muggy. I was listening to the Cicadas and getting ready to water the grass when I heard thunder off in the distance. Within an hour, the sky darkened and the wind started to rise. The sudden thunderstorm caused some wind damage a few miles away and left a lot of water on the ground. Then it was hot and sunny again. The abrupt changes kept the day interesting, because there certainly wasn't much else going on.

On days like this I tend to get lost in the Internet. One idle search leads to another and all the sudden I'm reading a strange forum where people are talking about the accuracy of home A1C meters. I guess it makes sense that I would be thinking about blood sugar levels and diabetes. I'm not a diabetic, but have been in a high risk group for many years. I like the idea of monitoring my own glucose and A1C levels, but hate the idea of continually pricking my finger to draw blood. Maybe I'll wait a while to start testing myself. The consensus on the forum I was reading was that that home A1C meters were notoriously inaccurate. They say that you can significantly improve your chances of avoiding diabetes with a low carb diet that emphasizes fresh vegetables and eliminates bread and wheat products. I tried this once and it works, but there was only one problem. I love bread.

I also watched some videos of today's final qualification test of the new Space Launch System booster in Promontory, Utah. NASA invited some people to view this test and I probably could have gone myself if I had the time and money. I've quit applying for NASA press credentials for the time being. Dot is too fragile to leave for any extended period of time and it's quite expensive to get to remote places like Promontory, Utah anyway. At some point in the future, I would like to return to being a NASA groupie. There are actually quite a few opportunities for people who are active on social media to observe and write about NASA's many space related activities. I still get e-mails about opportunities to cover upcoming launches and tests, but now is not the time. I only mention this for folks who worry that I'm becoming a house bound hermit. It's not true. When the time is right, I could easily see myself going to four or five of these events a year.

It was sad to hear about the attack at the Istanbul airport today. This seemed so similar to the attack in the Brussels airport earlier in the year. I'm glad I had an opportunity to visit Europe in more peaceful times. I've been to Turkey before, but I doubt that I'll ever find myself there again. The world has become far too volatile. I remember my travels in Greece and Turkey well. I never dreamed back then that it would come to this.

Patch is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Monday, June 27, 2016

Day 2387

When I picked up my tape recorder at the repair shop, it occurred to me that I hadn't picked the best time to restore and refurbish my old studio. This was an ambitious project and I should have waited until all the unexpected expenses and emergencies subsided. Of course, when are unexpected things ever going to quit happening. If I waited until life was calm again, I'd be waiting forever. At any rate, there are still many things to fix, but I now have two functioning old school multi-track tape recorders again.

As most of you know, I'm fascinated with gadgets. Ever since we began having power outages in our neighborhood, I've been looking for the perfect emergency power source. Backup batteries don't last long enough to be really useful. Gasoline generators get the job done, but they are noisy, heavy, and you've got to keep them outside because of the exhaust. Lately, I've discovered solar powered generators. Even the largest of these devices won't power your entire house, but they seem perfect if you just need some LED lights, a laptop, a few cell phones, and a small portable refrigerator to keep you going. The only drawback I can see is that they are ridiculously expensive. Oh, and you need a lot of sunlight too. I was looking at the Goal Zero generators today. Very cool. All I need are a couple of these, an Airstream trailer, a satellite phone, and some acreage up in the mountains and I'm all set. Hey, there's nothing wrong with dreaming is there. My fantasy has always been complete self sufficiency. When I hear someone say "It takes a village," or "We've all got to work together as a team," it just makes me want to vomit.

The weather was weird today. When we woke up, the air was still and the humidity was oppressive. This was not the best environment for Dot. She got tired on her morning walk and we had to walk even slower than usual to make it back home again. I was a little worried about her at first, but she's back to normal now after a nice long nap. As the day progressed, it got darker and darker and by mid-afternoon we were in the path of a raging thunderstorm. Not surprisingly, the dogs got frightened by the thunder and lightning and I had to spend the rest of the afternoon calming them down. The only good thing about all this was that the temperature dropped twenty degrees. I won't have to water the grass tomorrow either.

I need to think of some better passive income ideas. With interest rates near zero, the stock market has been a big disappointment. The stock photography market has been an even bigger disappointment. I'm a good photographer, but you literally have to have thousands and thousands of images in circulation to make any significant income. Ditto for running ads on my websites. All these things showed promise and were even occasionally lucrative for me twenty years ago. I blame it all on globalization. When you are competing with billions of people instead of a few thousand, prices come down dramatically. Some bloggers started writing books when blogging fell out of favor. I don't think my life is weird enough to use it as the basis for a novel. I'm certainly not going to write a motivational or self help book. I've got nothing in the motivational department. Don't expect me to lift you up. If you're enjoying this, you're probably happy already.

Rascal is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Sunday, June 26, 2016

Day 2386

I got an REI gift card for my birthday, so I stopped by the store on my way to the gym today and got a jacket. Did I need a jacket in June? Not really, but I will when things get cold again. It makes sense to me to buy clothing out of season. You get some great bargains, and when the need does arise, I'm way ahead of the game. In a way, I do everything in life this way. I try not to be out on the roads until everyone else is at work. I go to restaurants that aren't particularly popular. I rarely read books while they are on the best seller list. The more out of sync I am with the rest of the world, the more peaceful my own world becomes.

This desire to find the alternate realities that are hidden in plain sight is probably why I picked a gym that nobody goes to. It always amazes me that a gym this nice and well equipped is so empty. If my gym were an LA Fitness franchise, it would have gone out of business long ago. The gym is owned by a major hospital though, and can probably operate at a loss forever. Today, there were only four other people working out with me. I quietly went through my routines like I always do. The first ten minutes I feel like quitting and going home. Then my body loosens up and I get a second wind. By the time I eventually finish, I feel pretty good.

Working out at a gym is certainly more enjoyable than vacuuming. The Dyson Animal may be a marvel of engineering, but it is murder on your hands if you suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome. My wrists aren't very flexible anymore and I struggle sometimes to turn the unwieldy machine and maneuver it in tight spaces. Although the Dyson does an admirable job of picking up dirt and dog hair, it is not very easy to clean. I have to take the canister outside after I'm done and clean it using a leaf blower. That's something you never see in those slick looking Dyson commercials. It just doesn't seem right that you would have to clean a vacuum using a leaf blower. Vacuum bags were so much easier.

It's getting too hot to walk the dogs. The days are so long in June that it's hard to get up early enough to beat the heat. We were a little late today and it was already pretty warm. At least there was a little breeze. The instant the sun is above the horizon the temperature seems to jump ten degrees. These Summer days are hard on Dot, so we need to make an effort to get up earlier. Tomorrow will be better. Janet always gets up very early to get ready for work and we are usually on our way well before sunrise. By the time it is cold enough to wear my new jacket, we will be walking under starlight.

I guess I'll go pick up my tape recorder at the audio repair shop tomorrow. Maybe it will inspire me to put the studio back together again. Truthfully, about the only thing these old analog machines are good for is transferring my old songs to Pro Tools. I started to do this once and after some critical listening, quickly realized that most of the old songs weren't that good and that the arduous process wasn't worth the effort.

This is the challenge these days. What exactly is worth the effort?  I think that keeping Dot as healthy and happy as I can is a worthy cause, but I don't have much to prove in the advertising world anymore. So much of what used to seem so important to me just seems silly now.

Derrick is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Saturday, June 25, 2016

Day 2385

Janet asked me whether I'd ever heard of GoPro cameras the other day and of course I answered "Oh sure, I've had one for years." When I said this, I realized that I hadn't actually used the camera in years either. Today, I found the thing gathering dust in a drawer and fired it up to see if it still worked. Since I tend to be an early adopter, this was one of the first GoPro's ever made. There was no WiFi, it had a cryptic menu, and I'd lost the software for it a long time ago. Getting this ancient thing going again was a natural weekend project.

You may wonder why I bought the GoPro in the first place, since I don't snowboard, water ski, or ride bicycles down mountains. I think my original intent was to mount the camera on one of the dogs and film them while they were running around at the dog park. The dog camera never happened. There were a few ugly dog fights at the park we usually went to and we quit taking our dogs to public dog parks. Then both dogs got cancer and our lives changed dramatically. GoPro cameras are still a cool concept though. If they had been invented thirty years ago, I would have used them a lot.

Do you ever think about all the repetitive things you do everyday? Every time I brush my teeth, make the bed, clean out the lint trap in the dryer, tie my shoes, check to make sure I have my keys before I leave the house, and turn off the computer each night, some kind of muscle memory kicks in and I realize that I have done these things exactly the same way thousands and thousands of times. Weekend chores are repetitive by nature and I sometimes think that I go through entire days repeating actions I have done for so long that I don't even think about them. I don't decide to brush my teeth or make the bed each day. It just happens.

Cleaning up Dot's poop is rapidly becoming one more of those automatic muscle memory things I do everyday without even thinking. I've gotten so much better at dealing with the mess since her incontinence started. Now, there are poop bags, enzyme cleaners, and disposable pads pre-positoned everywhere. I've learned to recognized the breathing changes and telltale motion in her tail that indicates an accident is about to happen. I don't have to do nearly as much laundry as I did in the beginning, because I've learned what to expect. It's kind of amazing how adaptable people can be when it is necessary. This is why I continue to faithfully do the shoulder strengthening exercises my physical therapist recommended several years ago. I understand how easy it would be to get lazy and just adapt to using one arm instead.

I don't want to get lazy. That's why I'm going to the gym tomorrow, even though I'd probably rather just read a book. I don't want to get sick either. I saw something on TV today that said the third leading case of death in the United States is medical mistakes. I'm sure this is true. Questionable medical procedures killed my Mom. I had a close call myself when I was given two medications that should have never been taken together. How was I to know. You trust that your doctor knows what they are prescribing. We live in a world where we don't trust our politicians, have lost faith in our drinking water, and worry that our doctor is going to replace the wrong knee. I'm not sure there is a solution for this, but it does explain why some people smoke a lot of weed.

Shiner is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Friday, June 24, 2016

Day 2384

I was surprisingly upbeat today. While the pundits on the morning TV shows were talking doom and gloom as a result of yesterday's Brexit vote, I just felt like a little sanity had returned to the world. Dot seemed to agree. For the first time in weeks, she slept through the night and pooped outside in the morning like a normal dog. It was a nice Summer day with a light breeze and we all had a nice morning walk.

After Janet went to work, I returned to the slightly upscale restaurant that I'd initially made fun of. Maybe this place is my new favorite now. It's clean and quiet and there's a lot of variety on the menu. After only three visits, the guy that serves me already remembers my name and preferences. I think my guilt about abandoning my original favorite restaurant is starting to fade.

I kept thinking that the panic in the financial markets might be a buying opportunity, so I called my broker to see if he agreed. Instead of shorting stocks, which seemed too risky for me, I sold some Put Options on positions I was thinking about buying anyway. If prices rise, I keep the option fee and no harm is done. If prices fall to the strike price, I own the stock at a discount. Maybe this strategy is still a little risky if Armageddon is looming on the horizon, but I don't think the world is going to end because Britain left the European Union. I may be wrong, but today's panic just seemed like a buying opportunity.

Work is still slow, so I washed the car and mowed the grass in the back yard. I contacted the roofer to see if he'd forgotten me and he said that he'd be over to patch my roof soon. It's about time. The audio repair shop called and said that the second tape deck I'd taken in for repairs was ready. That repair has been taking a long time too. I forgot to call the shop back, but I didn't really feel like picking up the unwieldy machine today anyway. I'll deal with that on Monday.

This month has flown by. It's going to be July before you know it. Living with a sick dog has changed things so much that I've almost forgotten what I used to do in the Summer. I wonder how I used to get everything done when my company was still active and busy. Now, taking care of Dot eats up so much time that when I add one or two minor tasks, the day is gone. I still feel as busy as I ever was. It's just a very different kind of busy.

I'm looking forward to a calm and uneventful weekend. The uneventful part won't be much of a problem. The calm part will probably depend on the dogs.

Rio is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Thursday, June 23, 2016

Day 2383

I wrote a letter to my Luddite sister today. There's something oddly satisfying about writing a letter on paper, putting a stamp on the envelope, and taking it to the post office. I used to regularly correspond with dozens of people by mail, but this recalcitrant sister is the only one left. I miss the days when writing a good letter was still a skill that mattered. There is something tactile about putting a message on paper that just isn't there with e-mail. Sometimes I wrote letters in longhand and other times I used my faithful IBM Selectric typewriter. The fact that you often waited weeks for a reply added to the allure. The immediacy of e-mail, digital photography, and Google searches leaves me cold. I put more thought into things when I edited audio tape with a razor blade, developed film in a darkroom, and wrote letters without the help of spellcheck. Sadly, those days are gone forever.

I really think that the slower pace of an analog world was better for everyone. Now, we measure progress by how big and fast we can make something. The inevitable result of this type of thinking is globalization. In a global economy, successful companies get bigger and bigger, gobbling up all their smaller competitors. A few people become enormously rich, and very gradually there are fewer and fewer choices for the rest of us. Instead of hundreds of small airlines and auto manufacturers, there are just a handful of giant global companies, pumping out standardized products and services for the entire world. I would love to see a reversal of this trend. Even though the odds are against it, I would like to see the UK leave the European Union. I would like to see the Euro disappear and see the return of the Deutsche Mark and the French Franc. I wouldn't even mind seeing the United States split into several smaller countries. Small is good. Small problems are self limiting and can't spread to consume the entire world. The world was more interesting when small self-sufficient countries developed their own unique style and culture. Sure there were still lots of wars and conflicts when city states like Venice and Florence flourished at the end of the Middle Ages, but these states were too small to do much permanent damage to the earth. The whole idea of the Internet is based on the idea of thousands of independent nodes that make it impossible to take down the entire system. We like the redundancy that the Internet provides, but can't seem to grasp that the rest of the world should operate the same way. Globalization and instant gratification have made it too easy to destroy everything. I think these things whenever I write a letter. I might have similar thoughts if I were driving around in a Packard or a Studebaker, but I can't do that anymore.

I had my reasons to be disdainful of e-mail today. One of my clients kept saying that they never received anything from me even after I sent them what they requested three different times. The message wasn't even that important, but it ended up wasting a huge amount of time. I was pretty sure that the problem was on their end, but I ended up having to extensively test my own e-mail account just to make sure that I wasn't the source of the problem. Electronic problems are tricky this way. I should have just sent them a letter, but I know they never would have had the patience to wait for it. Patience has become just as much of a lost art as writing letters.

I've been watching the Brexit referendum returns on TV as I write this and it looks like I may get my wish. It's still too early to call, but there are a lot more votes to leave the EU than most people anticipated. The downside to all this is that my stocks will probably take a big tumble tomorrow morning. Oh, well. If it wasn't this, it would probably be something else. If the trend continues, people who shorted stocks will make money, but like me, most traders will wake up very surprised. I still think dissolving the EU and a return to sovereignty is a good thing in the long run, but I never would have predicted that it could actually happen.

Boo is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Day 2382

It doesn't really take that much to turn a bad day into a good day. Basically, I was faced with the same old grind, but Dot had more energy today and I was able to solve a perplexing website problem for one of my clients. I was really pleased with how well Dot did during her water therapy session. We were able to increase the speed a bit and she didn't stumble at all. The vet paid extra attention to her shoulders during her acupuncture therapy and tried to relieve some of the stress that was causing her muscles to cramp. Her rear legs are so weak now that she basically shifts most of her weight to her front two legs which causes a lot of stress. The combination of water therapy and acupuncture seemed to work, and Dot felt better for the rest of the day.

Much of my website work is so mechanical now that I often feel like a code monkey. Occasionally though, I have to really think things through and today was one of those days. I've never really liked interactive forms, especially when they don't work. I had to do a lot of troubleshooting today to figure out why something that should be working actually wasn't. It would have been easy to blame the hosting company or gremlins for the problem, but I was determined to find the answer myself. After a couple of hours of experimentation, I figured out what was going on and explained everything to the client. I think they understood, but there's always a chance that they weren't listening.

I've got to find something better to watch on TV while I eat breakfast. I used to watch Dr. Who re-runs on the BBC channel but they quit running them. Now there's nothing but endless political and financial news, which are both equally depressing. I'm totally tired of the non-stop political news. Do we really have to listen to this for six more months? I wish that Bernie and Trump would have a secret meeting and both agree to run as independents. Bernie could call Trump a narcissistic fascist and Trump could call Bernie an dangerous socialist and almost instantly the traditional political establishment would be irrelevant. In a four person race, either Bernie or Trump would win. Hillary and whatever tired old retread that the Republicans trotted out wouldn't have a chance. All this would be fine by me. I think just about anyone would be better than more of the same. It's time to re-shuffle the deck and start over. Of course there's always a chance that I'm just another nihilistic anarchist. I'm really hoping that the UK leaves the European Union tomorrow too.

It's amazing how quickly the soil dries out after a few days of Texas heat. Our yard was a mud pit just a few weeks ago and now it is almost bone dry. I'm going to have to start watering again or everything will die. Our water bill triples during the Summer months. I hate to think how much people with really big yards and fancy sprinkler systems pay for water each month. We have a very small yard and our water bill goes through the roof in July and August.

There was only a small Internet outage today and I didn't even bother to call technical support. Sometimes calling AT&T actually makes things worse. That's the way modern life is today. You have to decide whether random sporadic problems are worse than the problems you go out and create for yourself.

Kirby is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Day 2381

I knew it wouldn't last. My Internet service has become erratic again. It was so nice to have a reliable, fast network for about a month, but now things are just as bad as they ever were. Speed will slow to a crawl. The WiFi will go out entirely for no apparent reason. I'll call technical support and after I've waited on hold for ten minutes, everything mysteriously returns to normal as soon as I start speaking to a service representative. It's frustrating.

Flaky WiFi service wasn't the only frustrating thing today. One of my client's employees has decided she wants to design websites and asked me for the access codes to the sites I manage for her boss. This means one of two things. Either the client is going to take their website management in-house, or I'm going to be asked to re-create everything from scratch in a few months after the new designer has managed to screw the website up. There's a third possibility too. They might actually ask me to help them take their business away from me. This has actually happened before. Rudeness apparently knows no boundaries where third party contractors are concerned.

I paid the rest of the June bills today. There's still some money left, but I had to move some funds from the production account to the operating account to avoid becoming overdrawn. It's kind of sobering to realize that there just isn't a lot left over at the end of the month anymore. What do you do when everybody and their uncle thinks they're a photographer, filmmaker, or web designer? It's almost impossible to take a bad picture with today's automated digital cameras and apparently drag and drop website creation is the new hot thing with all my clients. I need to learn something really hard that nobody else wants to do. Right now it seems like everybody with a smart phone and a few graphics apps thinks they can do my job.

I walk so much that my latest pair of hiking boots is already starting to show some wear. I like these shoes, so I took them to a shoe repair shop in the neighborhood and had shoe taps put on the heals. I used to do this years ago when I wore cowboy boots a lot, but it never occurred to me to put heel taps on a Vibram sole work boot. These things will probably fall off in a week, or scratch up the floors in our house, but it's worth a try. Something about the way I walk just destroys the heels of my shoes. Maybe this will help.

I'm going to have to get Dot ready for her physical therapy appointment a little earlier tomorrow. The vet had to bump us into an earlier slot because of a conflict. Hopefully, this new schedule won't throw a wrench in the works. I'm beginning to wonder how long it is wise to continue the water therapy. Dot doesn't have as much energy now and the trip downtown takes a toll on her. I wish I could ask her what she wanted to do.

Barley is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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