Monday, October 20, 2014

Day 1770

Dot got a great report from her oncologist today. The ultrasound scan showed no thickening of the intestinal walls, and no evidence whatsoever of recurring tumors. Everyone was impressed at how well Dot's recovery is going. Dot's muscle tone is improving, her incontinence is diminishing, and as far as anyone can tell, she is cancer free. We don't have to go back to the cancer center until next year. Well, actually the next re-check is three months from now, but nevertheless, that's definitely next year.

In addition to being a taxi driver for Dot today, I had quite a few website revisions to make. The work was dull and monotonous even by my own low standards, but at least it kept me busy enough that I didn't need to resort to fixing the leaking shower stall.

I was looking on the Internet today to see if there were any pictures yet of the comet that flew by Mars yesterday. There actually was a picture of comet Siding Spring taken by the Mars Opportunity Rover, but much more impressive was a picture of a completely different comet taken by the Rosetta spacecraft. This incredible photo was taken at a distance of less than 5 miles away from the nucleus of comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The photograph was absolutely amazing. So was the fact that we are able to put a spacecraft in orbit around a tiny little comet three hundred million miles away. The picture should be on the front page of every newspaper, but the last time I looked there were just more pictures of men in hazmat suits, serial killers, and wars in the middle east.

I really should have bought a nice telescope before the last telescope store in Texas went out of business. I've been fascinated by astronomy for most of my life. I just don't feel as comfortable being outside on a dark night as I used to be. I never gave safety a second thought when I lugged my telescope outside to look at the stars when I was a kid. Of course my parents never even bothered to lock their doors back then and all the kids in the neighborhood could go trick or treating on Halloween with no parental supervision. It was a different world and the older I grow, the more I miss it.

I've got another writing assignment with very little input tomorrow. That should keep me busy for a while. I'm two episodes behind on Dr. Who and I haven't even looked at the new iPhone 6 yet. So much to do and none of it even matters.

Emily is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Day 1769

I finally got the new generator running. It was easy to start, runs fairly quietly, and seems to produce electricity. I tested it using the only electrical appliance that I could find that was easy to unplug and take outside. Janet should be pleased. Her hairdryer runs just fine using the generator. The only problem I had was getting the gas out of the gas container and into the generator. I hate the complicated locking safety spouts they put on gas containers these days. I can never get them to work. They incorporate a spring that won't allow gas to flow unless you unlock it and press down on the end of the spout. When you finally press hard enough to get the gas flowing, it usually leaks all over the place. I finally gave up and got an old tin funnel out of the tool shed and poured the gas directly out of the can into the funnel.

With the generator running and ready for the next power outage, I moved on to more difficult tasks. I unclogged the large format printer for the fifth time this month and then began to disassemble the workstation where I used to keep the old ESQ-1 synthesizer that I'd banished to the storage warehouse a few weeks ago. One reason that I've been so slow in decluttering the office is that it is quite difficult. There are cables everywhere and when I initially put the studio together, I meticulously fastened each of them into neat bundles with cable ties. It's kind of sad to deconstruct things after all the work I put into putting everything together, but the time has come. The studio was state of the art in the 1980's, but it is a museum piece today. It took quite a while to remove all the wiring and take the big desk apart, but eventually I succeeded without breaking anything. The disassembled synthesizer desk, along with some surprisingly nice luggage from my world traveling days, went to the storage warehouse to join all the other relics from my youth.

Dot has her big cancer recheck tomorrow. Since she had a different type of cancer than Dash, she will get a different type of exam. Instead of a chest x-ray, she will get an ultrasound scan of her abdominal area. Dot has done so well during her recovery that I really hope her exam goes perfectly. It would be really nice to have nothing to worry about for a change.

On my way home from the storage warehouse I stopped at Home Depot and got some tile grout and silicon sealer. The shower is leaking because the grout where the walls meet the floor has all come loose and water is seeping under the tile and finding a way outside. Every time I take a shower I have to put a towel outside the shower stall to sop up the leaking water. When the leak was just a very small puddle it was easy to ignore. Even though I am very good at ignoring things, the growing leak has become a problem that I've just got to deal with. All that being said, the box of tile grout will probably still sit on a shelf for several weeks before I am forced to actually repair things.

The original batch of people being quarantined for Ebola exposure will be released at midnight tonight. Their 21 days are up and they will be free to go about their business. A lot of people in town will be relieved when this happens. Others will become even more alarmed, convinced that 21 days isn't long enough. That's just the way it is these days. I don't think as a country, we will ever come together and fully agree on anything again.

Diva is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Day 1768

It was a remarkably normal day. Both dogs got a bath at Dirty Dawgz. We didn't even have to wait long for a tub this time. I mowed the grass for what I hope is the last time this season. I changed the bed sheets and washed the dog blankets. I filled the car with gas and picked up some bulk items at Sam's Club. It was just an ordinary Saturday.

Oh, I forgot to tell you. There was this one little snag. A train station less than two miles from our house was completely shut down and the train was taken out of service when a woman with a fever got off the train at our neighborhood station and vomited on the platform. Janet actually saw all the police and hazmat crews as she was driving home from running errands. Rumors swirled for most of the afternoon. The woman was on the quarantine list. She used to be on a quarantine list. She never was on anyone's list at all. Nobody knew for sure. I kept hearing that she lived at the Ivy Apartments where Thomas Duncan became ill. I'm not even sure if this is true. Evidently, there was a lot of confusion because the woman in question kept changing her story. The woman now says that she threw up because of a spider bite. Of course she could have just been drunk. When asked for a comment, a DART Rail official said the woman was the sixth person today to have thrown up on one of their trains. This is why I prefer not to use public transportation.

Once again, I failed to watch tonight's new Dr. Who episode. This used to be a Saturday night ritual for me, but I just don't find the new season all that interesting. Maybe things will get better as the season progresses, but so far, these new shows don't even come close to the classic ones like Vincent and the Doctor, where the doctor and Amy meet Vincent Van Gogh, or Blink where the doctor has to utilize "easter eggs" hidden on seventeen different DVD's to convince Sally Sparrow and her friend Larry to send the Tardis, which was stuck in 1969, back to him. Maybe the new shows will seem better after I've seen them a few times. I tend to like re-runs better than new programming anyway. Oddly, I read an article recently that said watching re-runs makes people happier than watching new shows. Works for me. I've started re-reading books I've already read too.

Since the dogs are clean and the yard is tidy, I have no idea what I'll do tomorrow. I'm even all caught up with work at the moment. Maybe I'll play the guitar a bit. Maybe I'll replace a bunch of dead watch batteries. Or maybe I'll forget what I did today and do everything all over again.

Little Petey is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Friday, October 17, 2014

Day 1767

So, I'm going to get groceries this morning and there's an ambulance with all its lights flashing parked right in front of the store. This is actually not an uncommon occurrence. I've seen ambulances and firetrucks parked in front of grocery stores dozens and dozens of times. Hey, EMT's get hungry too. What made this truck different was I immediately noticed that many people entering the parking lot took one look at the truck and just kept on driving. They weren't going to take any chances and assumedly went somewhere else to buy their groceries. Most of the people who did enter the store took a quick picture of the truck with their cell phone.

I'll have to admit I was a bit relieved to see that there were no men in biohazard spacesuits inside. There were just four EMT's in their regular uniforms sitting around a table at the little cafe inside the grocery store. Why were they all huddled around a laptop though? That didn't seem normal. They weren't drinking coffee or eating breakfast either.

With a heightened sense of awareness, I wandered around the store looking for something for dinner. I saw four old people coughing profusely while pushing their carts and a guy at the checkout counter wearing a big gauze bandage with blood stains on it. I'm sure that the busy store has always been filled with people like this. I just never noticed them before Dallas became ground zero for Ebola. Now that one nurse on the quarantine list decided to fly to Cleveland and another went on a cruise, you just don't know what to expect. I keep waiting to hear that one of the quarantined people is dating the chef at a popular restaurant, or has a brother who works in the produce department of my regular grocery store. Out of an abundance of caution and just a touch of hypochondria, I picked up a frozen pizza and two frozen Chinese dinners and headed home.

I hope they re-think this "self-monitoring" policy very quickly. It's obviously not working. Why would anyone on a quarantine list who has already been exposed to a deadly virus even think of talking a cruise? Jeez, cruise ships are notorious germ factories already. This is the last place you'd want one of those Presbyterian nurses to be.

When I was up on the roof today, I heard Dot barking and immediately climbed down and went inside to let her out in the back yard. The incontinence episodes have taught me that whenever Dot barks, she needs to pee. Sure enough, she peed within seconds after letting her outside.  There haven't been any accidents in quite a while, but it still takes a lot of coordination.

I discovered that there's a feature on our land-line phone that lets you either block 25 callers, or white-list 25 callers and block the rest. Janet and I added up all our friends, relatives, and clients and came up with a number less than 25. This might be a way to get rid of the annoying telemarketers forever. At any rate, we're going to enter our meager list of friends into the phone and give it a try.

I hope this is a quiet weekend with no surprises at all. I'm tired of waiting for the other shoe to drop. Of course, I could just turn off the television and pretend everything was fine. I wonder how long that would last?

Lucky is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Day 1766

My Facebook feed seems to have divided into two camps: those who think we're all going to die and those who are already sick of hearing about Ebola and want to go back to nonstop LOL cats. I don't feel comfortable at either of these extremes, but I am still a bit incredulous at how this drama is unfolding. So far, it still seems a lot like a bad Michael Bay movie.

I hear that the CDC is seriously considering putting the 70 healthcare workers who came in contact with Thomas Duncan on the TSA no fly list with all the terrorists, while they still refuse to even consider a ban on air traffic to and from West Africa. This is insanity. Hey, I've got an idea! If our government is so determined to let these infected people leave the hot zone, let's forget about all the thermometers and just hook people up to a lie detector instead. If you're lying about exposure to the disease, you don't get in. Pretty simple. If the screeners happen to snag a few people who are lying about things totally unrelated to Ebola, don't let them in either. We've got enough lying bastards in this country already.

I guess I just fundamentally don't understand the rainbows and unicorns crowd who wants to go back to LOL cats on their Facebook page and think we are all overreacting. Maybe I've watched too many apocalyptic science fiction movies. Maybe I continue to think the glass is half empty when it is really half full. I may not know the full story, but I still think we've dropped the ball on something that is very serious. This is a forest fire. You know how they fight forest fires? They create wide firelines that the flames cannot cross and let the fire burn itself out. Nobody would ever take a burning tree and move it to a new forest.

Dot seemed visibly stiff at her physical therapy session today. She still may be a bit sore from her fall yesterday, but our vet thinks she may be suffering from degenerative myelopathy. This slow-onset condition is very common in older dogs and often results in leg weakness and poor muscle tone. Since the spinal nerves gradually deteriorate with this disease, it is important to keep Dot moving to minimize the effects of muscle atrophy. I really think the acupuncture and water therapy with the underwater treadmill are helping. Dot still faces a lot of obstacles, but she is doing better than any senior citizen Dalmatian I've ever seen.  The old girl is pretty remarkable. As long as she has the will to keep going, we're going to do everything possible to ensure that she can.

I ate canned food for dinner tonight instead of going to the grocery store for fresh veggies like I usually do. This was probably pure hypochondria on my part, but I'll make up for my overreaction by going to my favorite restaurant for breakfast tomorrow, just like I always do.

Camp is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Day 1765

You really can't make this stuff up. Not only do we have a third confirmed case of Ebola in Dallas, we have someone who apparently thought that planning her wedding in Cleveland was a lot more important than the safety of the entire country. The first nurse was deservedly called heroic. I don't think many people will be using that term to describe the second nurse. It is simply unbelievable that someone who had regular contact with Thomas Duncan and already was under strict quarantine would conclude that it was a good idea to hop on a plane to Cleveland so she could help her mother plan her wedding. To make matters worse, she already had a fever when she boarded the plane. So much for the idea of "self-quarantine."

Dallas is understandably worried. So far, the CDC and Presbyterian hospital have refused to reveal the names of the other 70 hospital workers who have had direct contact with Duncan. They could live next door to you for all most people know. The quarantine rules have been so lax to this point that absolutely nobody knows where these people buy their groceries, go out to eat, or relax with a beer after work. All I know is that you definitely don't want to wake up to the sound of helicopters hovering over your house.

Dot had a bit of a setback today. She stumbled a bit on her morning walk, but I wasn't really worried since her legs have been weak for quite some time. It was the afternoon that got me worried. When she tried to get up from an afternoon nap, she fell over completely and landed in a heap on the brick floor. I initially thought she might have had another seizure, but she showed none of the signs of her earlier vestibular seizures. I helped her up and after some initial unsteadiness, she walked normally to the back door and wanted to go outside. She seemed normal for the rest of the day and we even took a brief walk. We skipped training class this evening though, just to be on the safe side.

I'll be glad when I can feel on the safe side again. The world seems to grow more chaotic with each passing day. Our make-believe war with ISIS doesn't seem to be having any effect at all. Saudi Arabia is artificially depressing the price of gasoline in hopes that they can make it economically unfeasible for the United States to continue producing shale gas. So much for energy independence. In the past two weeks, the stock market has lost 100% of the gains it has made so far during 2014. We're back to square one. Oh, did I mention that the health care system is a complete mess, with or without Ebola?

I need to make a list of questions to ask the vet when we go for our physical therapy session tomorrow. Dot really had me worried today. Even though everything seems fine right now, I fret that the cancer may have returned or that there may be something else wrong that we haven't even diagnosed yet. I think we're doing all we can, but we can't make her any younger. Dot is my constant companion, so I'm hoping that the vet can reassure me tomorrow.

Nobody can reassure me about the CDC. I think it's time for Tom Frieden to go. He is still thinking globally, worrying about wrecking the fragile economies of three West African countries, instead of doing what over 90% of the American people want him to do: recommend an immediate travel ban to and from these countries. If all a travel ban did was alleviate fear, it would still be a good thing. I just don't understand why we haven't done this already.

Lucky is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Day 1764

I drove past the Ebola hospital on my way to pick up Dash from his follow-up exam at the cancer center and was a bit surprised to see that everything seemed absolutely normal. By the non-stop coverage this event is getting on TV, I was expecting to see dozens of satellite trucks and reporters camped out all over the place. I didn't see anything. If I didn't know better, I never would have guessed that this was ground zero.

The hospital may have seemed normal, but a few blocks further down the road I saw something that didn't seem normal at all. There was a car ahead of me that appeared to have stalled out at a busy intersection. I got in another lane so I could get around the car and then I saw a woman next to me get out of her car, run over to the motionless car in front of me, and bang loudly on the window. All of the sudden I see a guy sit up in the driver's seat, shake his head from side to side for a few seconds, and then drive away. The guy had fallen asleep in his car, right in the middle of busy traffic.

Dash got a great report from his oncologist today. His chest x-ray looked clear, his physical exam went well, and all his blood values were normal. The doctor still wanted dash to continue his chemotherapy though. He said that he would understand if we wanted to quit, but that if it were his dog, he would continue the treatment for a full year. He said that even though it appeared that Dash was cancer free, thyroid cancer was very aggressive and that he though it would be better to be safe than sorry. I reluctantly agreed. We've come this far. We might as well go all the way. Dash tolerates the Palladia pills very well and so far the only negative side effects appear to be financial. The pills are quite expensive.

I had some extensive website updates to make today, but there was still a little time to fiddle around with the new generator. I got the cover off, filled the unit with the proper amount of engine oil and mixed the special ethanol destroying enzyme in the gasoline. That's as far as I got before I ran out of time. After spending more than an hour getting things ready, I didn't even start the generator.

I got another writing assignment toward the end of the day, so it looks like I'll be writing again tomorrow. There's a growing pile of bills to pay as well. Maybe I'll finally start the new generator, but it's not very high on my priorities list.

Abby is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Monday, October 13, 2014

Day 1763

The rainy season must have started. We had another overnight downpour that ended around daybreak. With the rain came much cooler temperatures. I don't think it got much above sixty degrees all day. I thought the dogs would like the cooler weather, but they didn't like the wind that came with it. The wind blew relentlessly from the West all day. The lights flickered a bit during strong gusts and the Internet connection went dead for a short amount of time, but we never lost power.

Seeing the trees swaying in the back yard provided the incentive I needed to finally read the instruction manual that came with the generator. There were so many things I needed to do before I could actually fire the generator up that I decided to postpone the inaugural run until the weather got warmer. I knew I had to add oil, but I didn't realize that I needed to unscrew and remove the entire left side of the unit to get access to the oil filler tube. I knew I needed to add a special enzyme to the gas to remove the ethanol, but I didn't realize that it was also important for the generator to be grounded before using it. Now I'll have to go back to Home Depot and buy a copper rod and some electrical wire so I can properly ground the unit. In many ways this all seems like more trouble than it's worth, since the small generator will only power a few things at a time anyway. In many ways I'd just as soon get inside a warm sleeping bag with the dogs and just wait till the power came back on.

Since it kept getting colder and colder throughout the day, I finally broke down and turned the furnace on. Amazingly, it started on the first try and the house was warm again in less than an hour. I'm always a little apprehensive the first time I start the furnace for the Winter. Half the time it refuses to start and I have to make a call to the HVAC guys to come out an make a service call. Hopefully, the success I had today is a good omen for the Winter. I'm tired of fixing things and it would be nice to have a warm and trouble free house this year.

Today would have been a good day to get caught up on work, but since I was already caught up, I watched one of the Dr. Who episodes I had recorded on the DVR instead. Kill the Moon was a strange show, based on the idea that the moon was actually a giant egg that was about to hatch. This premise wasn't even remotely believable and I continue to be disappointed in the new season. The production values are fantastic, but the scripts are terrible and Clara and the doctor don't seem like very good companions. Maybe I should give up on this show and start watching The Walking Dead like everyone else.

Dash goes back to the cancer center tomorrow for a chest x-ray and follow-up exam. He has one of these follow-up exams about every three months now and I keep hoping that at some point, his oncologist will declare him officially cured. I bet they'll want to continue the chemotherapy a while longer though. That's just the way doctors are.

Firedogs are our Dalmatians of the Day
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