Friday, February 5, 2016

Day 2243

I daydream a lot eating breakfast. The music and the overheard conversations cause my mind to wander. If I overlook the hipsters at the next tables, it's easy to imagine that I'm sitting in a small roadside diner somewhere in Wyoming. This is an appealing thought. I used to love slow, pointless road trips along the back roads of Western America. There's nothing better than a great breakfast at an obscure roadside diner. I wonder if it would be the same today? I used to feel comfortable pulling over to the side of the road and sleeping in my car. Now, I'd be looking for the nearest Embassy Suites. I used to feel confident that if my car broke down, there would always be a friendly garage and a competent mechanic nearby. Now, I'd be calling AAA from my cell phone and hoping I could find a tow truck to take me back to the nearest big city. A lot of these little towns don't even have a gas station anymore. Who am I kidding? A lot of these little towns don't even exist. The interstates killed them off long ago. For the most part, the picturesque two lane highways I remember have been replaced by impersonal eight lane freeways filled with a frightening parade of eighteen wheelers.

If my fantasy still existed, it would be fun to wander from one obscure diner to another, sharing brief conversations with fellow travelers, eating tons of home made pie and pancakes, and stopping along the way to photograph amazing things I stumbled across. I'd never be in a hurry and I'd never really have a destination in mind. Since this is just a fantasy, I'd pay for my travels with a credit card that didn't need to be repaid and there would always be a comfortable, clean bed nearby when I felt tired. I would take tons of cool pictures and upload them to Google, so they wouldn't disappear, but I wouldn't try to sell them. There are never clients or money in my daydreams.

Since my mental road trips are about as real as a ride down Route 66, I am content to spend an hour a week daydreaming in a little restaurant near my house. I eat, I daydream, I always get a final cup of coffee to go, and I pick up groceries for Friday dinner on the way home. I'm usually back before the dogs have finished their morning nap.

There were more websites to update this morning, but no writing jobs. Writing jobs have been scarce this year. With extra time on my hands, I've been trying to stay busy. Today, I cleaned the utility room. This small room has become the repository for everything that won't fit in the rest of the house. The top of the washer and dryer are filled with empty Tupperware containers, half filled bottles of bleach, seldom used cookware, oven cleaner and Windex, and old dog toys. There is a heavy orbital floor polisher in a corner that we used to use years ago to wax the brick floors. I don't think the bricks have been waxed in ten years. The utility room is hard to clean and when you finish, it looks just as bad as it did before. I know that there's a lot of stuff in this room that could be thrown away, but I'll leave that to Janet. I'm terrible about throwing things away.

It's Superbowl weekend. I'll watch the game, but I can't say I'm excited about either team. I do like the Heinz commercial with the stampede of weiner dogs. What could be better than dogs in costumes running through an open, grassy field into the arms of a family of giant Heinz condiment bottles? I'll probably go to the Superbowl sale at my favorite clothing store. Everything is 75% off for a few hours just before the game. 75% off is the only time I can afford these clothes anymore. I can't believe it's Superbowl 50. I was already a college freshman when they played the first Superbowl. I think I listened to the game on the radio. Jeez, I'm getting old.

Zorro is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Thursday, February 4, 2016

Day 2242

We actually got to Dot's physical therapy appointment on time today. I wasn't really any more organized. The vet just called while I was eating breakfast and asked if I could come earlier this morning. "Sure," I said. "We're on our way." Dot didn't have time for her morning nap. I didn't have time to take a shower and answer e-mail. I didn't even turn on the computer before we left. It all worked out pretty well and ended up being the first time in several months that I wasn't late.

I think I've figured out how to keep Dot calm in the car. She isn't really anxious of fearful, she just needs to be in a comfortable position before we start our journey. Since I wasn't in a rush today, I waited a while before we left the driveway. When Dot started squirming, I re-positioned her before we got underway. As soon as she was calm for a few minutes, I started the car and she didn't move again until we arrived at the vet. This plan may not work next time, but I thought it was pretty clever. It was certainly better than drugging her with Xanax.

Today was surprisingly busy. When we got home, I fed the dogs their lunch and spent the rest of the day updating several websites. It wasn't a bad day at all. Dot did exceptionally well on the treadmill this morning. She walked for a full twenty minutes and didn't appear overly tired. Like I've said many times, Dot has good days and bad days. This was a good one. It was good having some work to do as well. I like that sweet spot that's somewhere between being bored out of my mind and totally stressed out by impossible deadlines. Finding this balance is hard though. In my business, you work when the client wants you to work.

I'm having increasing problems accessing my various Google accounts. Sometimes Google Drive quits working. Other times I have trouble logging into Blogger. Today I couldn't even access my Google+ account. Usually the outages are temporary, but I'm afraid that someday I'll sit down to write the blog and won't be able to go to my Blogger account at all. I just got a notice that Google Chrome won't be supporting anything earlier than OS 9.0 on the Mac starting in April. Maybe this is where my problems start. I like older browsers and operating systems. Companies like Microsoft, Apple, and Google almost insist that you use their latest offering. I heard that Windows is going to start automatically updating itself to Windows 10 in the near future. One more reason I'm glad I'm still on a Mac. I wish people would just slow down and leave things alone for a while.

When I was debating whether to give Dot Xanax yesterday, it occurred to me that most anxiety is caused by two things. Running out of time makes you anxious and running out of money makes you anxious. If you have control over just these two things, a whole lot of problems simply disappear. It's hard to have both things simultaneously though. Whenever I've had plenty of money, I've had no time. Conversely, when I have plenty of time, I seldom have any money. Hmm. I wonder how you get both?

Duke is today's Dalmatian of the Day

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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Day 2241

I've gotten so intrigued with watching Mercury, Venus, Saturn, Mars and Jupiter in the pre-dawn sky that I'm tempted to bring the telescope home from the storage warehouse and take a look at all five planets while they are still visible. I need to remember why the telescope is in storage in the first place, however. Telescopes are bulky and take a while to set up. Dallas skies are filled with the light pollution you find in any large city, so it is difficult to see anything fainter than a bright planet anyway. The only place in the yard with a good view of the sky is near a busy street filled with people going to work in the dark with their headlights on. I'd have to get up even earlier than I already do as well. It's hopeless. Occasionally, when I travel, I wind up in a place with clear dark skies and I'm amazed at how many stars there are. You never see these stars in Dallas. I'll add clear dark skies where you can see the Milky Way to the list of attributes I'm looking for in that mythical retirement destination Janet and I will probably never find.

I got up early enough to see the planets this morning, but it was so cold I immediately wished I was back in bed. We didn't see many other people walking their dogs this morning. Neighbors looking out their kitchen windows as they drink their morning coffee must think we're nuts. We're always out there bundled up in every coat we own, walking a crippled dog who can barely move. Even though she is slow and sometimes forgets where she is, Dot absolutely loves these walks. She gets to smell things, bark at neighborhood cats, and survey the park she has known all her life. We watch her carefully to make sure that she is not overexerting herself, but at least for now, our early morning walks are the best part of her day.

Maybe the walks are the best part of my day as well. Until recently, my days were filled with a seemingly endless series of deadlines to meet. I was in demand and almost always busy. All that has changed in the past couple of years. It's quiet now. Most of the clients are gone. Some abandoned me for larger, full service alternatives, but most simply retired or faded away. Throughout my career, my best clients have always been five or ten years older than me. That makes them pretty old now. Quite a few people I've worked with over the years have died already.

I need to figure out what to do with my time. I take care of Dot, write the blog, and keep the house from falling apart, but that's not enough to keep me from getting a severe case of cabin fever. I really don't have any hobbies. I write, take photographs, have made films, and can design websites, but these were never hobbies. They have always been tools I could use to make money without having a boss to report to. Photography and writing are freedom, but they are not necessarily fun. I'm not sure I even know what fun is.

Dot's vet wants me to give her a Xanax before we go to physical therapy tomorrow. I don't think this is a good idea. Dot is a little anxious riding in the car, but she doesn't have enough energy to mess around with any type of sedatives. I've never taken Xanax myself, but if it makes dogs lazy, relaxed and sleepy like it does with people, she could never finish her workout in the underwater treadmill. I think I'll just get started a little earlier tomorrow, so I'll have plenty of time to stop the car and re-position Dot if she gets stuck. If we drive slow, everything should be fine. So, how am I going to be early for our appointment when I'm perpetually late? I think I'll just wait to take a shower until after Dot's therapy is finished. That should give me plenty of time. If everybody had plenty of time and didn't go through life in a hurry, they probably wouldn't need Xanax anyway.

Casey is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Day 2240

I felt something bite me on the neck while I was sitting at the computer this morning. When I looked in the mirror, I discovered it was a tick. Damn. This is the second time this year I've found a tick crawling on me. Ironically, the dogs are completely free of ticks. Now that we've finally found an effective flea and tick preventative for the dogs, I think the ticks have started looking for greener pastures. Apparently, I look pretty appetizing.

The adapter I ordered arrived today, but unfortunately it didn't fit very well. It was supposed to snap into place on top of a battery plate to allow a different type of battery to be used. The connection was just too snug for a reassuring snap. I could press the thing halfway into place, but that was it. I called the manufacturer and the service representative told me to press harder and that if the adapter broke, he'd send me a new one. This wasn't very reassuring. I suspect that if I look very closely, I will find the words Made in China stamped on the poorly fabricated piece of junk.

This must have been my day to talk with customer service representatives because when I finished talking to the guy from the lighting company, I got a call from the company that makes my fitness band. "Are you still having problems," she asked. Of course I was still having problems, so we spent the next twenty minutes talking about possible solutions. I'd already tried most of the things she'd suggested, so the conversation basically went nowhere. After we'd talked for a while, she told me that my fitness tracker was out of warranty and she couldn't replace it anyway.

Dot was panting more than usual today. We almost didn't give her a walk this morning, but she quit panting and seemed perfectly normal once we were outside. Later in the day, she started panting again, just walking around the house. I was going to take her temperature, but I couldn't find the dog thermometer. Eventually, I found two digital thermometers, but I wasn't sure which one was for people and which was for the dogs. I got this wrong once before and all the sudden we had two dog thermometers. You kind of hate to put a thermometer in your mouth after it's been in a dog's butt. 

I was confused about an upcoming photo shoot, so I called the client to get some clarification. She didn't really know what was going on either and told me to just show up on the specified day and go with the flow. OK. I can do that. That's basically what I do every day. It would be nice to know what I was supposed to do, but in all honesty it won't make a big difference. Sometimes work is actually easier when you don't know what you're doing.

Dot pooped in her bed twice today. She didn't even wake up when she had the accidents, which is definitely a new development. In the past, Dot was always aware of what was going on and made an effort to get up and move away from the mess. If this happens in her sleep now, it probably means that something is getting worse. There are all sorts of subtle signs that Dot is slowly going downhill, but since she still has her good days, it's easy to convince yourself that everything is fine. Every week, I make a list of new developments for the vet, but there not much more I can do to slow down the aging process. We just do our best to keep her comfortable and happy.

Maybe I'll have something exciting to tell you tomorrow. Nah. Just kidding. Nothing ever happens on Wednesday.

Jasper is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Monday, February 1, 2016

Day 2239

It doesn't look like I'll be going to the NASA event in Houston next week. I forgot that my car insurance is due this month, so there isn't any extra travel money anyway. More importantly, Dot is growing weaker. Maybe the setback is temporary, but I'm having to support her rear legs even in the house now. She needs a lot of attention and I just don't feel comfortable leaving her alone for any length of time. I'd feel terrible if Dot took a turn for the worse while I was away on a pleasure trip. There will be plenty of opportunities to travel in the future, but for now I think I've got my priorities straight.

There are plenty of good reasons why I'd like to get out of town for a while. Work has become oppressively slow. I remain disciplined and try to maintain the enthusiasm I had during my salad days, but I think this ship has sailed. When you start to see more obituaries on Facebook than new business opportunities, someone is trying to send you a message. I can't really complain about my situation because I've made no effort whatsoever to make new friends or set new priorities. I don't want something new. I was happy with the way things were ten years ago. I was even happier with the way things were twenty years ago. Maybe I just want to slow down time. Watching life go by in dog year's really puts things in perspective. Those days when you thought you had all the time in the world were just an illusion.

The dogs got their heartworm pills this morning and I went to the post office and paid the first of the February bills. FedEx found my package and we're back on some sort of schedule for delivery again. Dot didn't poop in the house today, but I don't think this means much. I need to get one of those Shit Happens bumper stickers. Those two words pretty much say it all these days. There is no way to predict when Dot is going to have an accident and I'm beginning to think that the humidity level in the house is equally unpredictable. The new dehumidifier does make a difference, but the elephant in the room is always the weather. When the humidity is oppressively high outside, it rises on the inside as well. So, what have we learned here? You can't slow down time and you can't fight mother nature.

I'm no political junkie, but I was curious enough this evening to turn on the TV and see the results of the Iowa Caucus. I was surprised. I guess the pollsters aren't always right. The polls predicted that Trump and Hillary would win. Maybe Hillary still wins, but if she does it will only be by six or seven votes. Bernie was very strong and so was Rubio, who almost overtook Trump for the number two spot. I think I would have preferred that Bernie and Trump both had decisive wins, just to send the middle finger to the political establishment. I have a feeling that a year from now it's going to be Hillary against Rubio.

Tomorrow is another day. Unfortunately it is only Tuesday. I'm still watching the slow dance of the five visible planets when the sky is clear before sunrise. I'm still making breakfast smoothies using my secret recipe of eggs, half-and-half, strawberries, bananas, blueberries, oatmeal, and ice cream. Occasionally, there are things to write and websites to update. I keep the dogs happy and try not to make myself sad. I found a fat squirrel to photograph today. We'll see what turns up in my lens tomorrow.

Myles is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Sunday, January 31, 2016

Day 2238

My fitness tracker has decided that I'm sleep deprived and has started sending me all sorts of friendly tips on how to get more sleep. Leave me alone fitness band. You should be happy that I'm still getting in a lot of steps. I don't need to know when to eat my dinner or how to relax. I'd sleep like a baby if I didn't have to clean up dog poop in the middle of the night. I've gotten so good at predicting when Dot is going to have an accident that last night I got up to check on her and was pleased to see that it was just a false alarm. I went to the bathroom, and on my way back to bed, I smelled a familiar smell. Yep. She pooped while I was in the bathroom. Dot was still asleep in exactly the same position as she was thirty seconds earlier, but there was a little dark pile about six inches away from her on the rug. How did she even do this. I cleaned up the mess and went back to bed.

My favorite machines were broken when I went to the gym today. I substituted twenty minutes on the rowing machine for the hand bicycle and discovered further evidence that my shoulder injury is getting worse. I used to be able to stay on the rowing machine forever without much discomfort. Not anymore. Ouch! I did another obligatory twenty minutes on the treadmill with the elevation set as high as I could. That was it. My heart wasn't really in it today. I didn't use any of the other machines at all and spent the rest of my time shooting baskets. I always wonder about consistency when I'm shooting free throws. My hands and body know what to do by now, but still it's is very hard to get more than five baskets in a row. Hey, even NBA players miss a free throw now and then. It would seem like it wouldn't be that hard to lift your arms and constantly push a ball the thirteen feet it needs to travel to reach the eighteen inch hole above the basket. Apparently, getting hand-eye coordination and muscle memory all working together is much harder than it seems. I am getting better though. Consistency is a worthy goal.

I didn't even bother to vacuum the house when I got home from the gym. The dogs were sleeping peacefully and Janet was already cooking dinner. Vacuuming would have disrupted things. I have the entire upcoming week to vacuum the house. I'm sure I'll be able to find a time when the noise won't bother anybody.

When I checked on my missing package on the FedEx website, I noticed that the delivery date had changed from yesterday to "pending." There wasn't a delivery date listed at all. I guess this either means that the package is lost or that the Fedex employees have lost interest in continually scanning the bar codes of everything they touch. It must get old to have millions of things to deliver and all the recipients want to know exactly where these package is at any given moment in time. Maybe it was better in the old days when the postman just left packages randomly next to your front door whether you were expecting them or not. I need to find a twelve step program for people who track things too much. I track everything from the positions of the planets in the sky to the number of calories I burn each day. I know it doesn't matter, but I'm curious about these things.

I'm not very curious about politics. I'll be very glad when the Iowa Caucuses are over tomorrow night. I can't even turn on the TV anymore without hearing endless commentary and speculation about the Iowa Caucuses. Do these things even matter? I don't think the Iowa Caucuses have actually predicted a winner for a long, long time. Maybe all the candidates from both parties should just put their name in a hat and let a blindfolded Kim Kardashian pick the winner. I guess the real question is in a field that includes an avowed socialist, a guy who is best know for telling people "you're fired," two Cubans, a heart surgeon with no political experience, and a woman who could be indited at any minute for playing fast and loose with national secrets, what the word winning really means. If any of these folks win, we all lose.

Cooper is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Saturday, January 30, 2016

Day 2237

A year ago at this time I was a guest of NASA at Vandenberg Air Force Base. I had been invited to witness the launch of the SMAP satellite and still remember the experience fondly. I haven't been anywhere since. Shortly after I returned, Dot injured her spine and life changed radically. I had an opportunity to go to Kennedy Space Center and view another launch later in the year, but it wasn't very practical. Taking care of Dot requires all hands on deck. Now, I have an opportunity to take a much shorter trip to Houston to get a progress report on the Orion program and a tour of mission control. I think I could make the trip in a single day, but it's hard to decide whether this NASA event is feasible either. Even if Janet came home for lunch that day to check on the dogs, they would still be alone for a long time. Dot can get in trouble so easily now that I hesitate to leave her at all. I need to think about this. I can't stay home forever, but I can't leave Dot and feel comfortable either.

We slept in too long this morning. Dot is used to our weekday schedule where everybody is up at the crack of dawn. I think she tried her best not to make a mess, but we weren't there when she needed us. I heard her wake up around six AM, but before I could grab her harness and get her suited up, she had already headed toward the back door, leaving a trail of poop along the way. Ironically, I couldn't sleep well last night, and had gotten up briefly around 4:30 AM to go outside and look at the stars. Everyone was sleeping so peacefully that I was very quiet and did my best not to disturb Janet and the sleeping dogs. I should have taken Dot outside then. Luckily, the two soiled rugs were small enough to stuff in the washing machine and clean.

It's weird how bothered I get when a UPS or FedEx shipment is late. I was supposed to get a piece of camera equipment I ordered this morning, but found out later in the day that the shipment had been delayed. It won't arrive until sometime next week. This was just a small little adapter. Not a big deal at all. Nevertheless, I was looking forward to see whether this gizmo was going to solve my connection problem as I anticipated. I'm not very flexible anymore. I don't like surprises and expect everything to stay on schedule. Of course this never happens, so I am always frustrated.

I renewed my computer's anti-virus software today. I don't even know if this application actually works, but it's kind of like car insurance. You'd hate to be without it if you actually needed it. Increasingly, you don't buy software anymore. You just subscribe to it for a year at a time. I don't like software subscriptions any more than I like late FedEx shipments, but what can you do? Uber cabs, Air B&B, and software subscriptions are the future, whether I like it or not.

I should have gotten a head start on my weekend chores today, but it was hard to stay focused. I dawdled over breakfast, spend too long just staring aimlessly at things in the grocery store, and took a nap with the dogs instead of vacuuming the house. Luckily, there's always tomorrow for that sort of thing.

Malcolm is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Friday, January 29, 2016

Day 2236

When I was having breakfast this morning, I noticed at least five different men having breakfast with their kids. This got me thinking that I almost always see more men having breakfast with their kids than women having breakfast with their kids at this restaurant. I don't think social roles have changed that much. It's more likely that the men are just unemployed. The women tend to come in earlier. They are dressed nicer, often in a hurry, and typically just order coffee and a muffin to go. The men linger. I could be wrong. Maybe these men aren't unemployed. They could all just be web designers like me.

It appears that something has changed on my auto insurance policy and that I'm not covered anymore when I drive someone else's car. When I called my agent to find out what is going on, he said not to worry, explaining that just the language in the policy had changed. When I read him the paragraph in question, he paused for a minute and told me that maybe I didn't have coverage after all. He said he'd research the situation and get back to me. This is the modern world. Nobody has a clue what is going on. Someone makes a decision somewhere, but by the time it filters down to the people who are supposed to implement it on a local level, it gets lost in translation. Corporate bureaucracies. Government bureaucracies. They are all the same. Confusing car insurance policies are just the tip of the iceberg. Health care is where it really starts to get messy.

Everyone, including me, is perplexed by the road repairs currently going on in the neighborhood. The old road was full of potholes and needed to be replaced, but instead of just putting in a new road, the construction crews are cutting out damaged sections of the old road with jackhammers and concrete saws and pouring small little sections of concrete all over the place. The road looks like a patchwork quilt. This must be the preferred method of road repair these days because I've seen this technique used all over the city. It is very labor intensive, disrupts traffic for weeks at a time, and looks like shit when the work is finally finished. I keep thinking that it would be easier, and perhaps even less expensive, to start over and just put in an entirely new road.

The road repairs didn't deter the garbage truck this morning and my trash got picked up again. This was great, but it makes the odd Wednesday trash pickup even more of a mystery. I didn't actually see a garbage truck on Wednesday. Maybe someone just stole my trash. Nah. That would be too weird. If somebody actually did steal Wednesday's trash, all they got was a bunch of dog poop.

The very last Land Rover Defender rolled off the assembly line in Solihull, England today. After 67 years, there will be no more. In an unrelated note, Paul Kantner, one of the founding members of Jefferson Airplane died today, continuing the demise of rock icons that defined my youth. We are approaching the end of an era. Most of the original Mercury and Apollo astronauts have already died. All my college professors have died. It's frightening now many rock legends have died this month alone. I find it interesting that the first Land Rover Defender was assembled at the Solihull factory in 1948, the same year I was born. Nothing lasts forever I guess. I'm going to look on the bright side though. As long as Keith Richards is still around, I think I'm fine. When the Stones go, I'm going to start to worry.

Spirit is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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