Friday, August 23, 2019

Day 3529

Every time I go to the bank I wonder what has happened to jobs in this country. There are lots of empty offices and very few employees. All I needed this morning was to go to my safe deposit box, but I had to wait forever because there was only a single banker helping everyone. Next to his office were six identical vacant offices. The tellers cages were equally empty. There was only a single teller on duty.

This is happening everywhere. There are fewer cashiers at the grocery store. There are fewer employees selling stamps at the post office. Even my new breakfast restaurant seems to be doing more with less. I noticed this morning that there is no full time cashier. When you are ready to pay your bill you walk over to the empty cash register stand and after a while a waiter will notice you and come over to take your money. Unemployment is supposed to be at an all time low. I wonder where everyone is working? I don't think they are working at ad agencies. There are significantly fewer agencies in Dallas than there were when I moved here in the 1970's.

I thought it was going to rain for a while this afternoon, but all we got were a few ominous looking clouds. No rain hit the ground. The clouds didn't even cool things down very much. It was still a hot and very humid day. When I start hoping for rain you know something is wrong. It has been dry way too long and the grass in the front yard is looking pitiful. I'll take my chances with the roof. We need some rain.

I lost another friend to cancer today. The list keeps growing. It's amazing to me how many former classmates and coworkers are gone. It's alarming how many of these people were actually younger than I am. I guess I should focus on the equally amazing number of people I know who have survived something serious. Life is never entirely fair, but I try to remember to enjoy the time I have left on this earth. It's not going to last forever.

I wonder why there's not more concern about all the fires in the Amazon rain forests? Jeez. This is where our oxygen comes from. You can't get more basic than that. The sad thing is that these fires weren't caused by drought or lightning strikes. They were set by humans who want more farmland and cattle ranches. With all the talk about climate change these days you still don't hear much serious discussion about the real cause of all our problems. The problem is overpopulation. There are simply too many people on this planet. It is not sustainable. We have become an invasive species who are rapidly destroying everything. We all need to quit having babies for a while.

I'm still concerned about the weather in West Texas. Two of the three long range forecasts I'm following predict clear skies. Unfortunately the third says there's a 50% chance of rain. Why can't you weather experts agree on these things? I want clear skies when I go to the observatory. I should be concerned about the wild gyrations in the stock market, but I've given up on stability in the market. The market overreacts to everything these days. I try not to overreact to anything, but it's getting harder.

Mickey is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Thursday, August 22, 2019

Day 3528

Sometimes simple things can take forever. I was trying to add some software to my laptop that was already on my desktop computer. I've had the software for a while so it was hard to find the disk image I'd downloaded years ago. When I eventually found this, I discovered I needed the authorization code that came with it as well. Where was that? I still prefer the old days when your software was on a CD. The codes you needed were usually printed right on the box. Downloaded software and more complex licenses are a pain. I finally had to call customer support and sit on hold for quite a while to get the information I needed. Everything works now, but something that should have taken ten minutes ended up taking two hours instead.

I was planning to take some pictures of the Milky Way while we are out in West Texas but it has been so long since I've attempted night sky photos that I'd forgotten the procedure. There's no point to doing this in Dallas. You can't see many stars at night anyway due to light pollution. I see these spectacular night sky pictures on the Internet and wonder how they're done. Basically you need a fast wide angle lens, a tripod, and a fifteen to thirty second exposure using a self timer. I imagine you need a certain amount of luck as well. I'll give it a try and see what happens.

The Sweet Autumn Clematis has started to bloom along the shoreline. I always thought these vines were a wetland weed, but apparently they originated in Japan and escaped into the wild a long time ago. They are more or less a native plant now. At this time of year I see them everywhere near the lake. Hey, something new to photograph. Even the hardy Texas Thistle flowers have gone to seed by now.

The only useful thing I did today was cut apart the big cardboard boxes for the toaster oven and dehumidifier that have been sitting on the back porch for over a week. After the boxes were broken down, I added them to the trash and took the can out to the curb for tomorrow's trash pickup. I don't save boxes anymore after finally realizing how much space they were taking up in the storage warehouse. I used to save boxes in case we moved. I doubt that this is going to happen anymore. Moving is way too much trouble and Texas is a good place to live anyway.

This heat is relentless. It's hard to believe that the observatory told us to bring some light jackets for our visit. I can't imagine wearing a jacket in August in Texas, but apparently the weather is much cooler in the Davis Mountains. The thought of temperatures in the 70's in the evening sounds very appealing right now.

A good night's sleep sounds appealing too. I still wish I was sleeping longer at night. Maybe I shouldn't take so many naps during the day.

Lance is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Day 3527

I got a letter from the Editor at Sky & Telescope today saying that the magazine was interested in my proposal for an article about the McDonald Observatory Special Viewing Night program. The Editor didn't promise to publish anything, but did encourage me to write an article about my trip to the observatory and submit it to the magazine on completion. This was encouraging. A personal letter from the Editor saying "your proposed article sounds interesting" is definitely a step above those little "thank you for your submission" postcards I used to get from magazines when my articles were rejected.

It was another slow, very hot Summer day. I only took one walk today, but that was enough. Instead of an afternoon walk, I went to Northpark and got a haircut. The mall was having their annual auto show and it was amazing how many cars on display were over $100K. I wasn't surprised that prices for the Rolls Royce Wraith and the McLaren 720S Spider were in the stratosphere, but a lot of ordinary cars were out of reach as well. When I bought my first car, you could get a nice Ford Mustang for under $2500 and a VW Beetle for $1800. Jeez, a new Porsche 911 only cost around $6000. This would be one of those out of reach 100K+ cars today. And they say inflation isn't a problem.

Of course haircuts, food, clothing, and just about everything else are more expensive as well. You notice these things when you're living on a fixed income. Hopefully the economy stays strong. I'm too old for another financial crisis like we had in 2008.

My stylist asked me about the new breakfast restaurant I've been going to lately. Several other people have asked me about this place as well. Probably as soon as I tell everyone how much I like this place, they'll get a new chef and everything will fall apart. Nothing seems to last very long in the restaurant business. Hopefully this restaurant will continue to do well. I like having good food in the neighborhood.

I always feel better after a good haircut. Anything that makes you think you've got your act together is a plus. I didn't feel like shopping after my haircut was finished. I just returned home and did nothing. Apparently I don't have my act together after all. Basically it's too hot to embark on any sort of a major project. Sometimes just getting through these hot days is a major project in itself.

I don't think there'll be any major projects tomorrow. I need to clean out the greenhouse before repairs can start, but I think I've already missed this month's big trash day. I guess this task can wait another month. I don't want to attempt to take the old dehumidifier apart unless I've got a lot of time. I'm bound to encounter some surprises and the job will probably take three times as long as I expected. I can always think about what type of article I'm going to write. That's something I can do indoors. I can even think about writing lying on the bed. I might fall asleep, but it's worth the risk.

Cookie is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Day 3526

Today was busy. I changed our destination in West Texas from Alpine to Fort Davis. Fort Davis is much closer to the observatory and I wasn't looking forward to a long drive back to the hotel in the middle of the night on very dark mountain roads. Since the Davis Mountains are a designated Dark Sky area, there are no lights along the roads. The entire area is extremely dark at night. Evidently you need to drive slowly and take care not to hit the Javelinas that are often seen on the roads at night. I don't think hitting a wild pig in the dark on a lonely mountain road is something I'd want to experience.

Janet wants to go to Fredericksburg, so we added this Hill Country town to our itinerary on the way home. Even before we extended our trip a bit, I had already lost faith in the Land Rover, so I have reserved a rent car for the journey. It's kind of ironic to have a car that can go anywhere that you hate to take very far from the dealership. If the rent car breaks down, it's not my problem. If my own car breaks down, I could be faced with a 400 mile towing bill. Truthfully, it's a lot easier to hop on a plane and take an Uber from the airport to your final destination. Road trips can take you places that aren't very accessible otherwise though. We'd like to see some of these places. Hopefully our little adventure will be a lot of fun. If this trip is a success we can basically go anywhere. There's a lot to see out West.

I resumed my long walks today. I don't think it matters what time of day I walk anymore. It's even too hot in the middle of the night these days. I hope the articles I read about the benefits of walking while sweating a lot are true. I should be in great shape after a long hot Summer of this punishment. I could always walk around the track at the gym, but that's so boring. For now I still prefer being outdoors where I can count Egrets and Herons.

I started cleaning the old dehumidifier this afternoon. This will take a while. Some components are readily accessible and others aren't. I still haven't figured out how to take the unit completely apart. Maybe this is why the instruction manual says "No user serviceable parts." I wish I didn't feel compelled to fix things. Just buying a brand new dehumidifier every five years is so much easier.

I made an appointment to get a haircut tomorrow. Didn't I just do this a little while ago? My hair is getting thinner, but it seems to be growing faster. I'm probably just getting a haircut because we're taking a trip. I always used to get a haircut before I took a business trip and old habits die hard.

Rolly starts his heartworm treatment tomorrow. I hope he does well and there are no complications. Heartworm treatment can be rough for some dogs.

Blackjack is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Monday, August 19, 2019

Day 3525

This was the first day I haven't walked in quite a while. There just wasn't time. I had quite a few things I needed to do before we headed up to the Dalmatian Rescue kennels, so I decided to skip my morning walk. By the time I ran a few errands and went to the post office it was time to go. I can't say that I missed walking today. It was way too hot to be outside for any length of time.

The dogs were all doing well. Since there aren't a lot of dogs in the program at the moment, we were able to spend quite a bit of time with each one. Dalmatians love attention. I think they were all glad to see us. It's fun to see their personalities develop as they become more relaxed. Rolly still needs to finish his heartworm treatment before he can go to his forever home, but other than that, these dogs are ready. I hope that they all find great homes.

As we were driving back from the kennel it became apparent that school was back in session. Traffic seemed to double overnight and there were school zones everywhere. When school is out, mid-afternoon is often the best time to avoid bad traffic. The lunch crowd is back at work and rush hour hasn't started yet. Those days are over. This afternoon it seemed like the entire city was starting to queue up to pick up their kids from school.

Janet likes watches and loves going to the gym, so I thought she might be able to use my old Apple Watch while she was working out. I figured out how to restore the watch to its factory settings and gave it to her. She reminded me that she had given me the watch in the first place, but I think she was still glad to have it. The Apple Watch workout app is much better than Fitbit. At least the watch will get used. I don't need to wear two of these things.

Janet and I both try to eat healthy, but we love a good burger. In recent years we've been exploring new burger places on our birthdays. This evening we went to a place that has gotten great reviews for several years but that neither of us had ever tried. It was surprisingly close to home, but we don't go out much anymore. Eating healthy is almost impossible if you spend too much time in restaurants. It's OK to indulge every once in a while though. We got lucky tonight. The reviews were accurate and the burgers were delicious. I'm very full. I don't think I'll be eating much tomorrow.

We're both 71 now. All things considered, we're doing pretty well. Two years ago at this time, Janet was getting ready for a second round of cancer surgery. Five years ago, I was being treated for Hepatitis C. We're both healthy now and reasonably happy. I hope this continues. The older you get, the more you realize that having your health is a blessing. All the things you worried about when you were young just don't seem that important.

Spot is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Sunday, August 18, 2019

Day 3524

I saw three fire trucks, an ambulance, and the fire department rescue boat converge on the lake as I was walking today. Someone must have drowned again. This never used to happen, but now it's almost a weekly occurrence. There are too many people out on the water who can't swim. The weird thing was that without all the emergency vehicles, you never would have known anything was wrong. The sailing club was having a regatta and no boats were attempting a rescue. All the people in kayaks and stand up paddle boards were acting normally. Nobody even seemed aware that something was wrong. I watched as the rescue boat sped off in the distance and disappeared. I still don't know what was going on. Whatever happened didn't make the evening news. Just another Sunday in the park.

I'm glad they fixed the air conditioning at the gym. It was nice and cool inside this week. Maybe this is why I was more accurate on the basketball court today. Probably it was just random luck. I couldn't think of a reason why my shots were connecting. Some days I'm good and other days I'm terrible. I'll have to accept the fact that there isn't always a logical explanation for everything. I'm a model of consistency, yet I never know how long I'm going to sleep. My appetite varies from day to day. Some days I wake up tired and other days I'm ready to go. There has to be a reason, but the only answer I can think of is that life is complicated.

On my way home from the gym I stopped at a neighborhood hardware store to get an extension cord and some plug adapters so we could use Janet's new toaster oven. I appeared to be the only person in the store who wasn't buying something for a chicken. I guess backyard chickens are still a thing in Dallas. I see them in people's yards occasionally while I walk and when Dash was alive I used to see people bring roosters to the vet. I like cage-free eggs from pasture raised chickens as much as the next guy, but it is so much easier to just buy them at the grocery store. I probably wouldn't make a very good farmer.

Now that peaches are in season, Janet has been making peach cobbler a lot. I love peach cobbler for dessert. This week she tried cutting the amount of sugar in the recipe in half. The cobbler tastes even better. Who knew. I suspect that almost all recipes contain way too much salt and sugar. Chefs seem to love salt and sugar. It should be easier to avoid sugar, but the stuff is everywhere. If you eat processed food at all, you're probably consuming a lot more sugar than you should.

I was going to try to disassemble the old dehumidifier today, but not surprisingly making sure that I got my requisite 20,000 steps seemed more important. I'll eventually tackle this project, but there's no need to hurry. The new dehumidifier is working great. It is extracting three time as much water from the air as the old machine. Performance on the old machine probably deteriorated so slowly that I never even noticed. The two machines are absolutely identical with the exception of six small horizontal slots on the back of the new dehumidifier. There must be a reason for those additional slots. They aren't mentioned in the instruction manual at all.

Tomorrow we visit the rescue Dalmatians again. It is also Janet's birthday. Birthday's are pretty low key these days. They only remind us of how old we've become.

Lucy is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Saturday, August 17, 2019

Day 3523

All the grocery stores seem to be replacing cashiers with self-checkout stations. When I was shopping this morning there were only two cashiers and a long row of brand new automated stations. I've read that people don't like these things, but why not? Self-checkout is faster and you don't have to interact with anyone. I've already gone one step beyond self-checkout. Whenever I can, I buy things using an app on my phone. I scan the items as I find them and when I'm finished I just walk out of the store and leave. Like it or not, this is the future. Cashiers, bank tellers, and even waiters at restaurants are going away. Probably a lot of manufacturing jobs I don't see are going away too. Many already have. The simple truth is that companies prefer robots. Robots don't complain. They don't need health insurance. And they never go on strike. The little kids who are growing up now playing games on their iPads instead of going to a playground with their friends will probably prefer robots as well. Why not. They grew up with them.

I'm glad I grew up before all this happened. I did well in an old fashioned analog world. I'm not sure how well I'd thrive in a world where the best jobs went to the people who design and program the robots. Maybe I could repair them though. There will always be a need for people who can fix machines.

I was going to try and fix the old dehumidifier today, but I never got around to it. By the time I finished my Saturday shopping and took my long walks the day was almost over. There are YouTube videos that show you how to fix almost anything, but I can't find one about my particular brand of dehumidifier. I won't let this deter me though. Eventually I'll figure out how to take the thing apart, clean it, and put it back together again. There's no hurry though. We've got a new dehumidifier now that seems to work perfectly.

We've also got a new toaster oven. Janet bought one while she was doing her shopping today. She said she was tired of using the big oven just to make cinnamon toast. Works for me. The little oven is probably great for cooking a pizza too. We ran out of space for new appliances long ago, so we just set the toaster oven on top of the little emergency refrigerator. It's not actually in the kitchen, but it's close.

When I was walking this afternoon, I saw a guy with a guitar and a microphone on a stand singing to no one at all. He had a little battery powered amplifier and his voice was quite nice. Nobody was listening though. Not even the ducks were listening. I wondered what this was all about. Was he trying to attract an audience, or did he prefer putting on a little concert for himself? It was very hot outside too. There are certainly better places to practice on an August afternoon. I'll probably never know what the guy was doing. I see a lot of strange things in the park.

I slept better last night. I have no idea why. All the variables are always the same. I go to bed at the same time. The temperature in the house is the same. There is very little stress in my life. My sleep should be very consistent, but it's not. One of life's mysteries I guess. I go to sleep quickly, but I wake up too soon. Maybe this means that I'm actually getting all the sleep I need. Old people always seem to wake up early.

Toby is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Friday, August 16, 2019

Day 3522

I see a lot of families at the new neighborhood restaurant. I'm amazed that even little babies seem to know how to use iPhones and tablets. It appears that they become familiar with these devices even before they can talk. When a kid starts to act up in public, Mom just pulls a phone out of her purse and the kid become mesmerized. It's going to be a different world when these children grow up. I forget the first thing I learned when I was small, but it certainly wasn't to swipe right.

I made a point to get an early start this morning because I wanted to mow the grass before the heat became unbearable. I was back from the restaurant before 9 AM, but there was no avoiding the heat today. This was going to be another triple digit day. By the time I finished the front yard, I was drenched in sweat. I had thought that the dead patch caused by the June brush pile was filling in nicely, but on closer examination, the new green areas were just weeds. Oh, well. The weeds are nicely trimmed now.

I'm impressed at how much more water the new dehumidifier is collecting. The bucket was almost full when I woke up this morning. I have to empty the bucket several time a day now. It makes me wonder what it is that makes performance gradually deteriorate on these things. Probably the condenser coils that aren't readily accessible get really dirty. It could be something else though. I doubt that it's worth the trouble to find out. You can buy a new dehumidifier for less than it would cost to repair one.

I rested for a while and changed my clothes after I finished mowing the grass and then I got started on my first walk of the day. The long walks are starting to become boring, but I still think the effort is worth it. The changes to my body have been gradual, but I can tell that I am in better shape than when I started these forced marches. I'm surprised that so many people run because walking provides most of the same benefits with a lot less wear and tear on the knees.

I'm still not sleeping as well as I was last month. There must be a reason. Is the temperature too warm? Has our mattress become too soft? Maybe I need the glow from the security light coming through the bedroom window? I wonder a lot about any inconsistency in life. Why is the stock market so volatile? Why aren't cars more reliable? Why does the Internet go down for no reason at all?

Actually the Internet was down when I woke up to drink some water last night. I only noticed because I saw a message on the thermostat on my way to the refrigerator. I reset the router and brought everything back online before I returned to bed. This is probably why I had trouble getting back to sleep. I knew that if I ignored the problem until morning I would just lie in bed thinking about it. It's better for me to take care of these things immediately.

Maybe I'll sleep well tonight. I've had lots of activity today. I can't say that I accomplished much, but I'm certainly tired.

Pogo is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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