Saturday, May 28, 2016

Day 2357

I'm convinced that calling tech support is a modern form of torture. I called AT&T today to ask then how to return the new router they sent me. I don't think I need it now, because everything has been working great for the past three days. "You can't send the new router back because we have already reconfigured your account to use it," the tech guy said. "When did you do this," I asked? "About three days ago," said the technician. "I think you solved my problem, I said. "I don't need the new router." "But aren't you already using it," the guy said. "No, I haven't even taken it out of the box yet," I replied. There was a moment of silence. The technician seemed confused and said he needed to run some tests. I knew what was going on. When they had reconfigured my service, they had inadvertently cleared my routing path, which is all I wanted them to do in the first place.

The tech guy still seemed confused that the old router was still running fine with the new settings that were designed for the replacement equipment. "I want you to reboot the router and I'll see if it still shows up in my system with the same serial number." What? Why would I want to do that? I would have thought that the serial number was permanently linked to the equipment. "Oh, no," said the technician, "we can change that." "But if the serial number changes, nothing on my network will recognize it anymore and I'll have to reconnect everything," I said. "There's a 50/50 chance of that," said the technician. Then he added, "You'll have to reboot the router sooner or later anyway, so why not just do it now." I hate these guys.

The conversation continued for quite a while and it was eventually determined that I could keep the old router if I wanted, since it was still working for some unexplained reason. I could also keep the new router as a spare, if I paid AT&T a $150 penalty fee. I think they should have been paying me $150 since I had to spend my entire morning dealing with this ridiculous problem.

I think I've found a dog walker to help with Dot while Janet is away on vacation. This is a relief, since I had no idea how I was going to get Dot out of the house. Walking Dot is a team effort now. She will only walk if she is following Dash, but one person can't walk Dot and Dash together anymore, since he wants to walk so much faster than she does. Typically, I walk Dash, stopping every twenty or thirty feet so Dot can catch up. Janet follows behind with Dot, holding up her rear legs with the Help 'Em Up Harness. It's a slow process, but it works. The walks are an essential part of Dot's therapy. Without them, she would probably be bedridden by now.

It didn't rain today, even though the humidity hovered near 100%. There was a mist in the air when we walked the dogs before breakfast, but by afternoon the mist had turned to steam. It's still incredibly muggy. I've emptied the bucket in the dehumidifier two times already today. Dot can't handle the heat anymore, so we have to cut her walks even shorter on hot, humid days like today. I'm not looking forward to dealing with this situation in July. It may have seemed hot today, but this was nothing. Texas Summers can be brutal.

I'm not sure if I accomplished anything today or not. The Internet is up and running, but I'm not sure why. The refrigerator and pantry are full again, but the house is still dirty and there is lots of water on the roof. I'm glad I found somebody to help with Dot next month. Maybe everything will be OK.

Sam is today's Dalmatian of the Day
Watch of the Day

Friday, May 27, 2016

Day 2356

It was raining so hard this morning that I quickly abandoned my plans to go out for breakfast. It just wasn't worth it. The dogs are always restless when it rains and even more restless when they can't go on their morning walk. They will stand at the back door and just look at you like they expect you to stop the rain. It took about five tries before Dash would venture outside and pee. Dot ended up pooping inside the house while I was fixing my breakfast. Once I got the mess cleaned up, breakfast really wasn't bad.

I made some delicious French Toast with a leftover loaf of bread I found in the refrigerator and cooked a few fresh sausage patties to go along with it. Add some dark roast coffee and real maple syrup and this meal easily held its own with any of my recent restaurant outings. Since there were no bananas today, the dogs even let me eat in relative peace. They go nuts when there's a banana around.

I talked with Dot's oncologist after breakfast and rescheduled her appointment for next week. There actually was an ultrasound technician available today, but not the one the oncologist wanted. There is a specific technician that the oncologist wanted to use who is familiar with Dot's case. Evidently Dot's tumors are located in an area that is difficult to scan and the technician who was sick today was the only one who knows exactly where to look. I was happy to reschedule, because transporting Dot in the car on a wet stormy day is even more difficult than on a normal day.

I got an e-mail from AT&T this morning warning me that there would be a non-returned equipment charge if I didn't hurry up and install the new router they sent me and return the old one to them. Jeez. It's only been one day since the UPS guy delivered the package. Truthfully, I'm reluctant to install the new router, since everything has been working perfectly since the package arrived. This is the first time in a month that I've had no problems and so far I've made no changes at all. I still think the tech support guys fixed something after my irate calls and just didn't tell me. I'd like to just put the new router in the storage warehouse and keep it in case I need it in the future, but apparently AT&T frowns on this. If everything is still working properly in the morning, I think I'm going to call and ask if I can return the package they sent unopened. I'm very superstitious about setting up and configuring a completely new home and office network at this point. Maybe I should just leave things alone.

The city didn't pick up my garbage again. My can was the only one on the entire street this morning that wasn't emptied. This has happened too many times. I don't think the garbage men are purposely trying to harass me, but something is definitely wrong. I'm starting to think that the lid on my can doesn't open properly when the automated truck picks it up. Things worked much better when real people emptied the cans. The robot automated truck picks up the cans, but I don't think it can sense if it has actually emptied them.

I think I've finally found someone to help me walk Dot while Janet is on vacation next month. It's been a lot harder to find a reputable dog walker to come over every morning than I thought it would be, but things are looking up. The dog walker is going to come over and meet Dot next week and I think we'll be able to work something out. I've been walking Dot and Dash for over a decade and never dreamed that a simple walk would become so difficult. It's important to keep Dot moving though, so I'll do what I've got to do.

We've got a three day weekend ahead. We've also got lots more rain ahead as well. It remains to be seen whether we'll have a relaxing holiday.

Libby is today's Dalmatian of the Day
Watch of the Day

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Day 2355

Sometimes on a completely normal day I'll suddenly find myself feeling incredibly sad. I don't know why, but I suspect this is because a number of important things in my life are reaching their logical conclusion at the same time. Even on the best of days, I have to acknowledge that Dot is on a glide path, headed directly towards the Rainbow Bridge. It's amazing that she's made it this far. When I watch video tributes to dogs who have left this world, they make me cry. When I watch Dot take painfully slow steps from the bedroom to the kitchen, I remember days when she and Dash could run like the wind. I wish I could turn back time.

As Dot begins the final chapters of her journey, so does my business. It's hard to believe that twenty five years ago I started a company that would soon be making national Pepsi commercials and providing me with opportunities to work around the world. Like Dot's incredible life, I'm amazed that we've managed to make it this far. If only the clock turned a bit slower. When I pull my aching bones out of bed in the morning and survey my crumbling kingdom, it seems like everything happened way too fast.

There was a life before loving Dalmatians and running a small business, but I barely remember it. Did I really play bass in a rock band? Did I used to stay out late and laugh uproariously with friends? Was I really an architect? It all seems like dream memories now. Why did I ever move to Dallas? It's a mystery. All I know is that life is a jumble of memories and after a while you can't even put them in the proper order.

After a while I'll never remember that the plumber came today. He was very nice and tightened all the fittings to eliminate a leak that was so small that I probably should have just ignored it. I was hoping that Dot would ignore the plumber, but the part of her brain that guards the house is still working and she barked the entire time he was here. The plumber was gone in fifteen minutes, but Dot continued to pant and act agitated for the next two hours. She is so weak and tired now that it takes her a while to bounce back from anything.

Eventually Dot fell asleep and started breathing normally again. I started up the computer was was amazed to see that everything worked normally today. The UPS man delivered the new router sometime this afternoon, but I'm reluctant to install it. I think I'll just leave it in the box until things start acting up again. It crossed my mind that since tech support calls are usually monitored, maybe the supervisor of the idiot I talked to yesterday listened to my irate call and actually made the minor configuration changes I was requesting. If things aren't working tomorrow morning, I'll chalk today's smooth sailing up to pure coincidence.

Dot has her monthly recheck at the cancer center tomorrow, but since both ultrasound technicians are out sick, I wonder if there is any point in going. Dot won't mind if I have to reschedule, but I'd like to know what's going on. I worry too much already and knowing exactly why Dot has been so tired this week might help me keep things in perspective.

Chief is today's Dalmatian of the Day
Watch of the Day

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Day 2354

I wish Steve Jobs were still alive. I never used to have problems with operating system updates, but lately the new Apple OS and IOS updates are so buggy that they seem like Beta versions. I'm almost scared to update my phone anymore, because each new IOS update seems worse than the previous one. The combination of buggy system software, spotty U-verse service, and a brand new hosting company has created a perfect storm of bad news. Just about every morning when I boot up my computer, I'm greeted with a new problem. Was my phone causing the problem? Does the WiFi router need to be re-booted again? Have I configured my webserver wrong? It's hard to even know where to begin.

I was in tech support hell for hours this morning, trying to track down why my e-mail wasn't working and I couldn't even access my own website. I finally ended up talking to a very knowledgeable IP guy who told me to call my ISP and tell them to check the routing path and clear it if necessary. This sounded easy enough, so I called AT&T and made the request. "This is beyond the scope of my capabilities," said a voice that sounded like he was talking to me from Pakistan. "I can give you the number of our paid subscription support if you'd like." "You mean that after all I pay you guys every month for U-verse service, you want to charge me extra to unscramble my flaky internet connection?" "I'm sorry," said the hard to understand voice from Pakistan. "Would you like me to send you a brand new router at no charge?" This was crazy. "You mean you guys would rather send me a new router than reset my connection." I said. I hate dealing with tech support. I've still got the problem I started out with this morning. There a new router on it's way to me that I probably won't be able to install correctly. To add to my problems, I can't decide whether to upgrade my phone to IOS 9.3.2 because I read an article that said it could turn your phone into a brick.

Since it didn't appear that my connection problems were going to be resolved quickly, I went to the battery store and special ordered a new battery for my little WiFi hotspot. T-Mobile said these batteries weren't made anymore and tried to see me a new hotspot. They were just being lazy.  I knew this battery was available somewhere because I've been replacing weird batteries for years. The new battery will arrive next Wednesday. The little WiFi hotspot is slow, but it is very reliable. Without it, I would have missed quite a few blog posts over the years.

The weather has been horrible this week. It's so humid and muggy outside that it feels like you could cut the air with a knife. My dehumidifier is working overtime to keep the air comfortable inside. Dot doesn't like the heat and humidity. I've been having a hard time getting her outside anyway now that she's become weaker, and hot, humid weather just adds to the problem. She did poop outside today, which was a small blessing. I just got lucky. When I had her outside after lunch, a big truck drove down the alley behind our house and got her so excited that she immediately started to poop. I wish I could schedule someone to drive down the alley every time I had Dot outside.

The plumber is coming back tomorrow to fix the leaking sink. This should only take a few minutes since the problem is just a compression fitting that wasn't tightened enough. The plumber better not try to charge me for this additional service call. He should have checked his work the first time he was here. After unnecessary car repair charges and a ridiculous attempt to charge me for resetting my router this morning, I'm not in the mood for unwarranted extra charges.

Maybe tomorrow will go smoothly. I'm not counting on a trouble free day, but it would be nice.

Ranger is today's Dalmatian of the Day
Watch of the Day

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Day 2353

"I hate to be the bearer of bad news," Janet told me this morning, "but the sink is still leaking." I looked under the sink, and sure enough, she was right. The leak was small, but it shouldn't have been there at all. When two plumbers spend the entire day at your house, you'd think they'd check for leaks before they leave. I'm beginning to think it is totally impossible to get something done right the first time. I called the plumbing company and made another appointment. I tried to get some type of assurance that there would be no charge for this visit, since it was the brand new hardware the plumbers had installed just a few day ago that was leaking. "We can't promise anything," the dispatcher told me.

My service guy at the Land Rover dealership called this afternoon to tell me my car was ready. He seemed pleased that he and the service manager had been able to shave almost $800 off my bill. I thanked him for looking out for me and then asked what I still had to pay. "Oh, you'll only owe $2,100 now," he said. Jeez, give me a break. This car is still under warranty. I hate to think what's going to happen when the warranty runs out.

I'm still having problems with my Internet connection, so I called AT&T tech support again. I talked to somebody who was quite knowledgeable the other day, but I wasn't so lucky this time. Why do these big companies have to outsource their tech support to countries where English is a second language. I couldn't understand this guy at all. The conversation became so frustrating that I told the guy that I'd just call back and try again later with a different agent. He persisted in asking me a bunch of questions that had nothing to do with my problem, so eventually I just hung up on him. Two minutes later, the guy calls me back and continued to read from his script. I couldn't believe it. I had to hang up on the guy twice.

I canceled Dot's physical therapy appointment because I didn't think I was going to have a car tomorrow. Now that I have the car back, I debated whether to try to reschedule the appointment. I decide to leave things alone, because Dot has to go back to the cancer center for another ultrasound scan on Friday anyway. One car trip this week is probably enough. Dot seems to be enjoying her lighter schedule, but I don't want her to get any weaker than she already is. We'll go back to therapy next week and have her vet reevaluate her to see if she's still strong enough to continue the water therapy at all.

It wouldn't be a normal day if I didn't have battery problems. Since I've been having issues with my U-verse service, I've been using my little T-Mobile WiFi hotspot a lot. Last week the battery died and I have to use the unit plugged into an AC outlet. The hotspot is only about four years old, but the battery has already become almost impossible to find. I finally located a supplier who said they could special order me a replacement cell. I felt good that something had finally gone right today, but even this small success shouldn't have been so difficult.

Work has become so slow that I'm beginning to wonder whether my clients are reading the blog and have collectively decided that they want a happier person to work on their accounts. Truthfully, I'm too tired to care. All I want right now is a good night's sleep and a poop free day tomorrow. I'll probably get neither.

Ziggy is today's Dalmatian of the Day
Watch of the Day

Monday, May 23, 2016

Day 2352

There have been better days. The suspension problems on my car that I was almost certain would be a warranty repair are not a covered item. "I'm not believing this," I said. "You fixed the suspension problems on the right hand side of the car under warranty a few months ago, and now you not going to fix the left hand side when it's exactly the same problem?" "We only replaced the air bladder last time," my service guy said.  "Now, we've got to replace the air bladder and the strut." "So," I said. "The strut is a regular maintenance item like wiper blades and brake pads," the service guy said. "It's not covered." "You're telling me that a $1,200 part that is an integral part of the car is just a disposable item," I said incredulously. To make matters worse, the strut is only available as a kit with the accompanying air bladder, which I had gotten free last time. Apparently, you can get an air bladder without a strut, but you cannot get a strut without an air bladder. "Well, if this repair is going to be this expensive, don't do the regular maintenance check. I'll save that until next time," I said. "Oh, we did the maintenance check first," the service guy told me. "It's already done." Oh, did I mention that my homeowners insurance is due in a few weeks as well. June hasn't even arrived yet and I'm already broke for the month.

To add to my financial woes, my financial adviser called today in response to the letter I'd sent him last week. I think he is genuinely trying to resolve our problems, but we just aren't on the same page. When I told him that I would have been better off if I'd just put my money in a boring index fund and forgotten about it, he reminded me that it was me who wanted to buy individual stocks to try to get a better yield. There have been so many bad decisions over the years. Some of the decisions are mine. Some of them are the brokers. All I wanted to do was get back to even after the huge market meltdown in 2008. I've been trying to claw my way back at a time when the market has been more volatile than at any point in recent memory. I have friends who gave up on stocks after the crash of 2008 and put their money into gold, only to watch gold prices tumble. I know other people who put their faith in real estate, only to discover that real estate wasn't a sure thing either. We live in a world where there are no sure things anymore and I only think it's going to get worse.

Dot had quite a few accidents today. Most were easy to clean up, but the incontinence is really getting me down. There is no cause and effect anymore between when I take Dot outside and when she actually poops. Her digestive system still works as it should, but she has little control over it anymore. It doesn't matter where she is. When something reaches the end of the line, out it comes.

I'm still having Internet connection problems. I never would have dreamed that I would look back at my old slow Mac tower, my friend's simple web server, and a single DSL line as the best of times. Things were so reliable in the beginning. I could often go a year without any problems at all.  Now it seems like I re-boot the U-verse router and call tech support at Bluehost almost every day. Nothing is reliable these days and it's wearing me out.

Maybe things will be better tomorrow. Somehow, I doubt it. The rain is supposed to continue through the end of the week. I'm not sure when my car will be ready now. I'm not sure whether to resume Dot's physical therapy either. One day she seems better and then the next day she's weak and tired again. We'll stick to the simple things tomorrow. If I can manage to get out of bed in the morning, we'll take it from there.

Willie is today's Dalmatian of the Day
Watch of the Day

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Day 2351

If you ever want to take the pulse of today's millennials, just go to an REI sale. I stopped by the store's self named "biggest sale of the year" on my way to the gym this afternoon and was greeted by the biggest collection of 20 to 30 somethings I'd ever seen. They were all stuffing their Honda CRV's and Subaru Foresters full of bargain tents, hammocks, bicycles, yoga mats, and Fitbit trackers. All I wanted was a pair of shorts, but there was no express lane. It took me forever to check out.

When I arrived at the gym a few miles down the road, the contrast couldn't have been more striking. There were no hordes of young people at all.  All I saw were a half dozen balding old men who had traded their Subaru Foresters for a Porsche Panamera decades ago. Maybe this explains why there are so few young people at my gym. From the looks of things at the REI store, all the millennials are doing something outside.

I got an e-mail today saying that my recent transaction with Network Solutions had failed to go through. What transaction? I haven't purchased anything from Network Solutions in years. I did some checking and discovered they has reset the preferences on my profile so that all the domains I had registered with them would auto-renew by default. I know for a fact that I had set all these domains to not auto renew because I wasn't interested in keeping some of them anymore. How could they just reset the preference file to auto-renew everything without even asking me? Luckily, the credit card I had listed with them had expired quite a while ago, so the sale didn't go through. I think I'm going to move the domain registration somewhere else. I don't appreciate sneaky tricks like this.

I had big plans to catch up on household chores I've been avoiding, but the small things at the top of my list took so long that I never got around to the larger things near the bottom. I did manage to get a few things accomplished. I cleaned some boots that had gotten muddy a few days ago. I lubricated a sticking sliding glass door and got it so it would open again. I swept leaves off the front porch, and of course I cleaned up Dot's latest accidents. I know there's lots of water on the roof, but the new forecast says it is supposed to rain every day next week. It's not worth the trouble to mess with the roof until things dry out a bit.

I'm worried about Dot. She's sleeping longer. She doesn't have as much energy as she did a few months ago. And her incontinence is getting worse. I still can't decide whether to resume her physical therapy sessions this coming Wednesday. The decision may end up being made for me. My car is still in the shop and the loaner car I'm driving is too small for me to transport Dot comfortably. Dot is due for another exam at the cancer center later in the week. Maybe we'll be able to find out what's going on while we are there. I hope the tumor in her liver isn't growing larger. If the cancer is progressing rapidly, there isn't much we can do.

There is a big bowl of fresh peaches and bananas for my morning smoothies. I've washed and dried all the dog blankets. I'm temporarily caught up on all my website revisions. I guess I'm ready to start another week.

Rosco is today's Dalmatian of the Day
Watch of the Day

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Day 2350

The mosquitoes are terrible this year. I must have been bitten a dozen times while we were walking the dogs this morning. Mosquitoes always seems to carry something nasty. Last Summer everyone was worried about West Nile Virus. This year it's the Zika Virus. Of course, the dogs always have to worry about getting heartworms from a mosquito bite. That's why Dot and Dash continue to take a heartworm pill at the first of every month. I wish there was a place where mosquitoes weren't a problem, but I don't think this place exists. Even when I was growing up in Alaska, there was a terrible mosquito problem in the Summer. I don't know how you get rid of the insects without harsh chemicals. We've tried UV bug zapper lights that didn't work very well. One year we had a weird contraption in the back yard that generated a cloud of carbon dioxide gas that was supposed to cause the mosquitoes to move elsewhere. It didn't work at all. There is an organic spray that isn't toxic to the dogs that you can apply with a garden hose. We tried this last year and it worked well until the first big rain washed it all away. I'm not sure what remedy I'm going to try this year, but I'm sure I'll try something. I'm tired of getting bitten by the little beasts.

Today seemed more like a work day than a Saturday. I spent the morning completing a major website update involving adding 73 new pictures with captions. I probably could have waited until Monday to finish this update, but I knew that I'd enjoy Sunday a lot more without a deadline hanging over my head. It took a while to make all the changes, but the job is done. Now I can spend the rest of my weekend vacuuming, cleaning up dog poop, and other fun things.

Butter was on my grocery list today. I always get butter at Sam's Club because you save a lot of money buying in bulk. Unfortunately, I should have looked at the packaging a little more carefully before I made today's purchase. Instead of regular sticks of butter, I had gotten huge logs of butter that must have been meant for restaurants. Jeez, how was I to know. The packaging looked almost identical. I had to drive all the way back to the store and exchange the restaurant sized logs of butter for some regular sized sticks.

It took forever to balance my checkbook this afternoon. I used to do this routinely, but now I despise the task and only bother to straighten things out every two or three months. Inevitably, I discover that I've entered something erroneously in Quickbooks that causes a mysterious discrepancy, For a writer, I'm atrociously bad at typing. It typically takes me longer to proofread my articles than it does to write them. Finding math errors I've made takes even longer. If I had more money in the bank, I wouldn't even bother to balance my checkbook at all. Tracking down missing pennies is a waste of time.

I think I could write a book on the nuances of cleaning up dog poop. As Dot's incontinence has gotten worse, my cleanup technique has gotten better. Things that are hard to clean like carpets must always be protected. There are lots of small rugs now that can be thrown in the washing machine after being hosed off outdoors. There are lots of comfy acrylic dogs blankets that can be washed over and over again. Under the blankets are rubberized pads, in case she pees as well. When Dot goes to sleep, I lift up her butt a bit and slide a disposable puppy training pad underneath. If I'm lucky, I can slide the soiled pad out, roll it up and throw it away, without even waking her up when she poops in her sleep. I buy these disposable pads in 100 count boxes now. That's what life has become.

Casey is today's Dalmatian of the Day
Watch of the Day