Friday, November 15, 2019

Day 3613

I didn't feel like going out for breakfast this morning. I stayed home and had a piece of pie. Pie is comfort food. Sometimes you need pie for breakfast. It was actually a good idea that I stayed home this morning. It turned out to be a busy day.

I finally discovered why I wasn't hearing anything from McDonald Observatory. They wrote and told me they never received my application. This was very strange because I actually called back in October after I sent all the application material to make sure they had what they needed. There was no point in arguing about this though. I just sent everything they requested again. This time two different people, one in Austin and another at the observatory, acknowledged receiving the material, so I guess I'm OK. This is essentially starting over, but there's no hurry. If I'm accepted to stay on-site at the mountain, I won't be leaving until late Spring or early Summer anyway.

After the big snafu at the observatory, I decided to go ahead and apply for the second NASA event at the Michoud Assembly Facility. Maybe one of these applications will get lost as well. I might as well just apply for everything that looks halfway interesting. Maybe something will stick. The only complicating factor with the two December NASA events is that they are both scheduled back-to-back with Dalmatian Rescue Santa Photo events. If I get accepted I will need to fly out of town right after completing a busy day of pet photography. I guess this won't kill me. Back in the day, I used to frequently leave on business trips after a busy day at work.

All this being said, I don't enjoy being busy anymore. Doing one thing a day is plenty. Some days just going to the post office is enough. I don't know how people with families and lots of obligations handle the holidays. It would drive me insane. Maybe it's just an age thing. I used to be much busier when I was younger. When I look back, I have no idea how I accomplished all the things that used to seem routine.

Just adding a few extra things to my normal routine today wore me out. It took quite a while to get my application straightened out with the observatory. Then there were November bills to pay. After I went to the post office, there were prescriptions to pick up and I needed to get some things at the grocery store. Finally, Janet and I went to my storage warehouse to look for stuff we needed for tomorrow's adoption event. It was dark before I finished my five mile walk.

We haven't done an off-site adoption event for Dalmatian Rescue in ages. Hopefully, this will go well.  We've got everything we need for our booth now and will go up to the kennel to pick up a dog first thing in the morning. Like so many other things, it's hard to believe that we used to do this all the time.

Honey is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Thursday, November 14, 2019

Day 3612

Ginny has completed her heartworm treatment. We picked her up at the vet this morning and took her back to the boarding kennel. She rides well in the car now, immediately hopping in the back seat and waiting for me to join her. Ginny is much less fearful now. Maybe she knows that she will have a home soon. I think she will be the next to be adopted.

The kennel was too busy for us to play with the dogs today, but we made sure to say hello to each of them and give them a treat. This is a great group of Dalmatians. It's not surprising that they are finding homes quickly. We spent some time with each of them in their kennel runs before we left. The dogs were so friendly. It was like they were inviting us into their homes for tea.

Not much else happened today. We stopped at CostCo on the way home and then I took my walk. Winter has made a temporary retreat. Today was just what you'd expect a Fall day to be. The sky was clear. The leaves are turning beautiful shades of red and gold. There are already more leaves on the ground than on the trees. On a nice day they crunch under your feet as you walk through them.

I made another attempt at contacting McDonald Observatory today but couldn't reach the person I was looking for. I ended up just leaving a message. I'll quit bothering these people for a while. They're busy. I'm not. I still can't decide whether to try and attend Artemis Day at the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. Opportunities to tour this facility are rare and it would be quite interesting. On the other hand, I've heard rumors that NASA is starting to frown on people who try to attend all of their events. They don't want the same people attending over and over again. Would it hurt my chances of going to the Starliner launch if I try to go to Artemis Day too? Who knows. It's all out of my hands anyway.

I did find the modeling light bulbs I need for my Norman strobe lights and ordered two of them. Twenty dollars a bulb seems a bit steep for a simple halogen bulb, but what are you going to do. At least I don't need a new flash tube. Those cost several hundred dollars. Here's hoping that nothing breaks during this year's Santa photo season. I hate replacing this stuff.

I'm a little disappointed that I'm not getting any stronger even though I've been walking five miles a day for quite a while now. The walks are still tiring and I always feel like taking a nap when I return home. I have to remember that all the people passing me on the trails are in their twenties. I haven't seen a lot of walkers in their seventies.

This week went quickly. Not a lot was accomplished, but nothing went wrong. The trash has been taken to the curb and I'm trying to decide what to do about breakfast tomorrow. I guess I'll need to go out to eat. No smoothie tomorrow. All the fresh fruit is gone.

Puppies are today's Dalmatians of the Day
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Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Day 3611

It was a little warmer today, but apparently not warm enough to get me motivated. I certainly didn't accomplish much. While I was waiting for the temperature to rise, I wrote a letter to my sister and paid a few bills. I'm in no hurry to take an early walk anymore. I debated whether to call McDonald Observatory again or apply for a second NASA event in December and eventually decided to do neither. Maybe I felt that appearing over eager could jinx things.

When I did get around to taking my walk I was surprised when someone stopped me to ask about Dot and Dash. How could anyone even recognize me when I was bundled up like this? Although it was warmer than yesterday, it was still cold enough to warrant wearing my down coat and heavy boots. I looked like the Michelin Man again. I realized later that I was wearing the same winter outfit I've worn outside for many years. These were my dog walking clothes. I was probably instantly recognizable as soon as someone saw the puffy blue coat and wool hat.

There is a big patch of purple asters I pass every day on my walk. These Fall perennials always seem to be the last wildflowers to bloom. I doubt that they'll last much longer in this cold. The butterflies that congregate around these flowers are already gone. They're probably in Mexico by now. Pretty soon the trees will be bare and I won't see any more wildflowers until Spring. I was never very concerned about what to look at in the park in prior years. I was way too busy walking the dogs.

We've got ants in the kitchen again. I think this happens every winter. These are tiny little sweet ants and they seem to be everywhere. We spray and it doesn't do much good, but eventually the ants disappear. One of the many downsides to winter is that the bugs like to come indoors.

I've been a little concerned that my resting heart rate has been higher lately. Why should this change since I do the same things everyday? I did a Google search and learned that your resting heart rate increases when you are warmer and if you are dehydrated. Maybe this explains it. I'm sleeping under a blanket now and wearing much warmer clothes, which I never used to do during the summer. I'm also not drinking as much water. I drank a ton of water when I took hot summer walks. I also learned that my normal resting heart rate in the low 50's is considered very low unless you are an athlete and that my 'elevated' rate in the low 60's is considered normal. Maybe the only thing I really learned today is that I am still a hypochondriac who hates to see anything change.

I need to remember to buy some spare quartz modeling lights and an extra strobe tube for my strobe lights. The SantaPaws season is rapidly approaching and every year I worry that my aging Norman strobes are going to break. I definitely don't want to buy any more studio lights at this point in my life. Good studio strobes have gotten very expensive. I'm hoping that since I basically just use this equipment to shoot Santa photos once a year now, that it will last as long as I do.

The refrigerator was looking empty so I bought some more Cadence Kitchen dinners. I had the Mexican Style Pulled Pork with pineapple and achiote sauce tonight over rice. So good, but they use too much salt. As always, the best tasting things seem to inevitably be bad for you.

Puppies are today's Dalmatians of the Day
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Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Day 3610

It was so cold today. I felt like staying under a warm blanket all day, but knew that I had to face facts and admit that it was winter. I took my time eating breakfast in hopes that it would get warmer. Maybe the temperature rose a few degrees, but it wasn't enough to notice.

I wasn't surprised that the park was empty today. It was just me and an insane jogger who wasn't even wearing a jacket or a hat. I was warm enough. I looked like the Michelin Man, wearing a puffy outer down coat over a lighter inner down jacket. Add a pair of compression pants under my jeans. a wool hat, and some heavy insulated boots and it was a miracle I could even move.

I finished the entire five miles. There were a few spots where the wind was pretty nasty, but for the most part it was a beautiful winter day. I'm glad I dressed warmly. Anything lighter and I would have froze. When I passed the area where the Pelicans spend the winter, they were all huddled together in a big clump. Maybe this was their way of staying warm. What do I know though. If I was a cold Pelican, the first thing I would do was get out of the water.

There seem to be an abundance of opportunities to attend NASA events in December. After I got rejected to attend the Space X ISS resupply launch, I applied to attend the first Boeing Starliner launch a few weeks later. Now there's an opportunity to tour the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. I'm not a huge fan of New Orleans but it would be cool to see the Artemis moon rocket being assembled. Should I apply for this event too? I'm not even sure if I could afford to do both.

I did try to contact the volunteer director at McDonald Observatory today. I haven't heard anything about my application yet. The director wasn't in, so I sent him an e-mail. It would be nice to know if these thoughts I've been having about spending time on Mount Locke this Spring are real or just a fantasy. Sometimes I think all my travel plans are just a fantasy. It's not like I actually need to do any of this.

We'll see what happens. I might be very busy toward the end of the year, or I could just be sitting here wondering if the roof was going to leak. I wish that getting selected to attend rocket launches wasn't so competitive, but that's just the way it is. When something is desirable, there are usually lot of people who want to take advantage of the opportunity. I suspect that being an on-site volunteer at the observatory is the same way. I know for a fact that there are a ton of amateur astronomers who are way more dedicated than me. A lot of them would probably love to spend time at McDonald Observatory. Hey, I rarely even look through a telescope. The only thing that works in my favor is that I'm a pretty decent writer. Sometimes a story needs to be told.

We have a rare adoption event to attend this weekend. Janet and I still can't decide which dog to take. Some aren't quite ready to be around a crowd yet and others might end up being adopted before the event. With the weather we've been having, it might even be too cold for the dogs to be outside. No sense in fretting yet. If I've learned anything it's that a lot can change in a week.

Jada is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Monday, November 11, 2019

Day 3609 - Veteran's Day

I knew it was going to get cold today, but I had now idea how dramatic the cold front's arrival would be. It was 70 degrees when I started on my morning walk. The weather report said the wind was going to pick up and the temperature would start dropping around lunchtime. The cold front had other ideas. After I had walked about a mile, the wind abruptly picked up and the temperature started dropping immediately. So many Fall leaves were being blown off the trees that it looked like rain. Within a few minutes I was freezing. This was not a time to be a slave to Fitbit. I immediately turned around and headed for home. By the time I returned, the temperature had already dropped twenty five degrees.

The temperature had dropped even further by the time Janet and I arrived at the Dalmatian Rescue kennels. It was way too cold for the boarding dogs to be outside today, so the indoor play areas were pretty full. The kennel staff found us a long unused hallway with some empty kennel runs where we could play with the Dalmatians. They loved this new experience, and eagerly explored every inch of this new territory. Some of the shy dogs seemed to warm up and relax in this smaller, more intimate environment. Sock even started following us around and seemed very curious about what we were doing. This was a big deal for Sock. Janet and I got at opposite ends of the long hallway and started calling Charlie, who would run back and forth between us. You'd never know that Jasmine was once a shy dog. She was playful, curious, and absolutely normal today. All the dogs did well this afternoon. It is not surprising that they are finding homes so quickly.

I was glad that the kennel was nice and warm, because it is going to be very cold tonight. They say the temperature will drop to the low twenties before morning. Add some significant windchill to that number and you've got a very cold day. At least there wasn't much rain today. I don't think I'll have to worry about ice on the roof. I did have a momentary scare when the power went out for a few moments. Luckily, it came right back on again. It was probably just a momentary power surge as everybody turned on their furnace at the same time when they returned from work.

I definitely hope we don't have a power outage tonight. Being without power in freezing weather is not fun. It happened to us once a few years ago and we had to take the dogs and stay in a hotel for several days. So far, the furnace is working great and keeping us nice and warm. Let's hope things stay this way.

I think we're going to have to put some extra blankets on the bed tonight. I'll probably still take my walk in the morning, as long as it isn't raining or snowing. I've got lots of warm coats and some insulated boots. I didn't dress warm enough today, but I definitely learned my lesson. I'm not a big fan of winter, but I do know how to dress for it.

I'm surprised that I haven't heard from the observatory yet. I thought I'd be making plans for a Spring trip to the Davis Mountains by now. I may have to give them a call later this week.

Dolly is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Sunday, November 10, 2019

Day 3608

It's back to normal. I got my 20,000 steps. All the weekend errands are done. No more large restaurant meals for a while. Even the pain in my arms from the shots the doctor gave me is starting to fade. I kind of regret not making another trip up on the roof to look for more bad spots, but since it's supposed to start raining again tomorrow, I don't think there's time enough for repairs to dry properly. I don't have that much silicon left. I want to use it wisely.

The park was really crowded today. I think everybody must know that today might be the last day of Fall. According to the latest weather reports, our next cold front will bring temperatures in the twenties. To a Texan, that's winter.

The gym was much emptier than the park, but the roads were horrible. It was almost like a workday. What are all these people doing? Could they be Christmas shopping already? City congestion makes me realize how much I prefer solitude. I fantasize about the Davis Mountains a lot these days. I wouldn't miss the restaurants and shopping malls a bit. I would be a little nervous about not having good medical care nearby. I'm less than fifteen minutes away from some of the best doctors in the world. Dallas has some pretty impressive veterinary capabilities as well, which was equally important when we had dogs. I guess shifting priorities are normal as you get older. I'm a pragmatic person. I'd hate to have a heart attack or even a bad fall in the middle of nowhere.

I hope we don't get any freezing rain tomorrow night. Snow is rare in Dallas, but freezing rain is common. Icy roads create a traffic nightmare. Ice on power lines causes power outages. More trees fall during ice storms than during wind storms. Ice creates a mess on my roof as well. I think the skies are going to clear before the really cold weather arrives. I hope so. I'll have to be quick removing the water from the roof though. I don't want ice accumulating on the remaining trees or on the roof.

All the activity in the park on a nice day makes me wonder about people. Why would someone want to spend hours outside sitting in a hammock looking at their phone? Why has slacklining become popular? What are all these weird motorized wheels people are riding? I looked up a few brands on the Internet and they are quite expensive. There is a sport for everyone I guess. I'll just stick to walking. It's harder to hurt yourself walking.

I'm looking forward to seeing the Dalmatians tomorrow. I really miss having a dog, but I don't miss all the responsibilities that come with having a pet. I kept thinking that yesterday's trip to Palestine would have been next to impossible with a sick dog. Attending rocket launches or spending several weeks at an observatory wouldn't be easy either. We always put our dogs first. That's the way it should be. It's kind of a novelty to be able to put ourselves first for a change.

I still think I'm not getting enough sleep. Maybe I should just quit looking at Fitbit. I usually think I'm sleeping just fine until I look at the Fitbit log and see how restless I've been. The little tracker even logged some aerobic activity in my sleep last night.

Puppies are today's Dalmatians of the Day
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Saturday, November 9, 2019

Day 3607

Road Trip. We went to Palestine, Texas today to see Union Pacific's Big Boy 4014 arrive on it's journey through the Southwest. It was definitely worth the four hour trip to see this historic train traveling under its own power. The Big Boy was the largest steam locomotive ever built and the 4014 is the last one running. Union Pacific spent over four years restoring this train. It was pretty impressive. I was amazed at how close we could get to the tracks. As I was taking pictures I realized that if I had tripped I might have fallen into the train. Closer to the depot the police had the tracks pretty well blocked off, but we went to the outskirts of town to get better pictures. We had a good clear view and I could put my camera anywhere I wanted.

There were several other photographers with the same idea. One of them had been following the train for several days, carefully picking different locations to get the best shots. A few of the older photographers were walking encyclopedias about old steam trains. I was definitely an amateur in this group. The train was moving faster than I would have thought. It was all over in a matter of minutes. I managed to get a few decent pictures though. I don't think looking through a viewfinder is as enjoyable as watching the same event without a camera. You always concentrate on getting the shot and in the process you miss a lot of the whole experience.

There were so many railfans watching the train arrive in Palestine that I kept wondering why Union Pacific didn't sell tickets and carry passengers on this historic run. The big steam engine was pulling a long line of restored passenger cars and they were all empty. Union Pacific definitely missed a marketing opportunity here. Anyone dedicated enough to follow this trains journey in a car would almost certainly prefer going along for the ride. The passenger cars were the very best from the railroad's glory days too. It would have been quite an adventure.

It's weird that I'm so apprehensive about traveling. Once I'm underway I always have a good time. Janet is a good traveling companion too. She's always up for going somewhere. Last night I was thinking that it wouldn't be worth making this trip. It was just an old train and my arm still hurt from yesterday's pneumonia shot. Luckily, I woke up in a better mood. It was a beautiful Fall day. Too bad the weather wasn't this nice when we went to McDonald Observatory.

The car did well on the trip. It probably would have made it to Fort Davis or even Kennedy Space Center. My gas mileage certainly leaves something to be desired. It's terrible actually. You just can't expect good mileage from a 500 horse power supercharged V-8. My bad shoulder leaves even more to be desired. It can be very tiring driving long distances with a bad shoulder. These were minor issues though. All in all it was a very enjoyable trip.

We thought about stopping in Corsicana on the way home and picking up a fruitcake from The Collin Street Bakery. Neither of us like fruitcake though, so we kept driving. We arrived back in Dallas around dinnertime and stopped at Knife for burgers. The place was crowded since it was a football weekend at SMU. We had to sit at the bar where you can watch the chefs cook. It was much more interesting than I thought, although sitting here for very long would drive a vegan insane. We watched lots of beef being cooked tonight. I was amazed at how thick the uncooked steaks were. They shrink to about half their size as the fat in the heavily marbled meat melts. Our burgers were delicious, but I don't think I'll be eating much tomorrow. I might have to spend some extra time at the gym as well.

I really need to overcome my fear of traveling. I've enjoyed every journey I've taken this year and there's definitely nothing compelling keeping us in Dallas.

Dot is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Friday, November 8, 2019

Day 3606

My schedule was a little different today. I skipped breakfast because I had an early morning doctor's appointment. They always want you to fast when blood work is required so I just took a quick shower and headed for my appointment. My health appears to be good, but there are always a few surprises when you take a physical. My doctor wants me to see a dermatologist about a rough patch of skin on my face that I've ignored for years. I've always thought that the small scaly patch was harmless Keratosis, but he wants to make sure it isn't a Basal Cell Carcinoma instead. He also wants me to see an orthopedic specialist about my shoulder. I've done this before, but the doctor said it's time to revisit things. "You might not think your shoulder is getting worse," he told me, "but it is."

He did say I was more than healthy enough to spend time in a remote area like McDonald Observatory. I was more than a little envious when he told me that he'd been to the observatory several times and had even taken his grandchildren on a Special Observing Night. They had perfectly clear skies on the day he went.

I wish I hadn't let the doctor convince me to get a flu shot and my second of two required pneumonia shots. I got one shot in each arm and now I am very sore. Maybe the flu shot wasn't a bad idea. I seldom get them, but always worry about getting sick when we are taking Christmas pictures and I am around a lot of people. The reason I seldom get sick is that I'm seldom around people at all.

When I returned home, I noticed that there was still fresh fruit in the refrigerator, so I made myself a lunch smoothie. This was exactly the same as a breakfast smoothie except that I drank it at noon. I had a choice of taking a long walk today or clearing the water off the roof. I'm a pragmatic person, so I opted for clearing away all the standing water before it rains again. It's amazing how much water remains on the roof after the pumps have done their thing. The good news is that the patches I've made directly over the office appear to be holding. There have been no leaks so far. The bad news is that I'm still finding other areas that need to be repaired.

I took the money I made selling my guitar to the bank and picked up the banner at the printer. This time the printer said they would save the file in case I needed it again. This is what happens when you sit on things too long. The printer lost the file and I lost the banner. All is well now. I can't remember clearly, but I think it cost me less to print this banner now than it did ten years ago.

There was no time for a long walk today, but I did take a short walk through the neighborhood before Janet and I went out for dinner. A lot of houses have been updated. I have a feeling that mine might be one of the only ones that hasn't been touched. I still can't decide whether to drive to Palestine tomorrow to seeing Boy 4014 arrive. It's an amazing looking old steam train, but it's just a train and I don't like to drive. Janet's up for the trip. I'll sleep on the idea and see how I feel in the morning.

I applied for launch credentials at Kennedy Space Center again. I'm not quite ready to give up on this idea of becoming a space journalist yet. Since some of you enjoyed seeing Spot, I've featured him again. What an amazing dog he was.

Spot is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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