Sunday, March 31, 2013

Day 1202 - Easter Sunday

Two days of rain shut down the dog park this weekend, but the wet weather did have a few benefits. The soil was finally wet enough for me to go pull up all the little oak and elm trees that were growing in the Asian jasmine beds. Every year, acorns and seed pods fall by the thousands from the large trees in our backyard and sprout into small trees during the Spring. These tiny trees have surprisingly deep roots and you can only pull them up when the soil is really wet. If you don't take this opportunity to rid your gardens of these diminutive trees, the root systems will continue to grow and they will be impossible to uproot the next season. In just a few seasons, your entire yard will become an ugly thicket of brush and weeds. Today seemed like the perfect opportunity to do some weeding, so I did.

Even though all the dog parks in Dallas were closed today, the human parks were having their busiest day of the year. As soon as the sun came up, I saw families putting up tents and staking out their territory for huge family picnics in the park behind our house. By the time I walked the dogs in the afternoon, the entire area was like a three ring circus. The air was thick with smoke from hundreds of barbecue grills, and every hundred yards or so, there was an impromptu soccer game going on. At least four times, our walk was interrupted by crowds of little kids running toward the dogs while shouting "Do they bite" in Spanish.

Dot and Dash were very good, allowing all the children to pet them. I could tell Dot was getting tired though. This Easter outing was way too noisy and stressful for her. As soon as we got home again, both dogs went straight to their dog beds and fell asleep.

I was really hungry today. In addition to weeding the garden and walking the dogs, there was also a lot of water from last night's rain to get off the roof. Lucky for me, Janet fixed a fabulous Easter dinner with ham, whipped sweet potatoes, and braised cabbage. I ate lots of vegetables and left just enough room for a pear tart for dessert. It's been a good day. I think I'll be joining the dogs for a snooze on the bed very soon.

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

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Day 1201

I feel like I'm on the verge of something. I have over 30,000 Twitter followers, but no idea what to do with them. I find it increasingly easy to write endlessly, but still have nothing to say. I'm smart enough to realize that most of my successful writer friends have chosen to write about something useful to other people. They write cookbooks and books about parenting which are frequently wildly popular. Those that chose to write deeply personal novels instead, usually sold next to nothing. If they were lucky, they eventually wound up teaching English literature somewhere, totally mired in university bureaucracy and faculty politics. And those that chose to just write about themselves? Well, enough said about that sticky subject.

I only mention this because I've been watching Seinfeld's new Internet series "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee." I watched all ten episodes last night, and found the show fascinating. All the other comedians Jerry had coffee with seemed to share one thing in common. They all hated the idea of working for a living and couldn't imagine having a boss that told them what to do every day. I've always felt the same way. During my ad agency days, I used to tell friends that I was a prostitute. "People just rent my mind instead of my body. That's the only difference," I'd say. I've always thought that I was a clever guy, but if I ever accomplished anything useful to anyone other than myself, it was purely accidental. I'm still on the verge of something though. I can feel it.

Today, I finally learned how to use the DVR, mostly so I could record the new episode of Dr. Who that comes on later this evening. I hate to watch TV during dinner, but I definitely don't want to miss the new show. I am also determined to find a decent new roof that doesn't cost as much as a new car. A roof should never cost as much as a car. Cars are more fun. Google seems to be helping me with my quest. Every time I complain about my leaking roof on the blog, a new roofing company ad seems to magically appear in my Google Adwords queue. I clicked on one of these ads today and discovered an industrial company that refurbishes commercial roofs with a high-tech coating that is supposedly guaranteed against leaks for ten years. Sounds good to me. Sounds economical too. I think I'll investigate this further.

I've been amazed at how healthy and happy Dot has seemed this week. Maybe the acupuncture treatments and her new vitamins are really helping. I wonder if they have acupuncture treatments for carpal tunnel syndrome? Hey, it's worth a try. For most of my life, I've been very skeptical about alternative medicine. Maybe I was wrong though. I've achieved far better results from going to a good nutritionist and radically changing my diet than with all the prescription medications various doctors have prescribed. Come to think of it, physical therapy proved to be a much better solution to my neck and back pain than all the prescription pain pills too. Maybe some day I can get rid of all the pills entirely.

Sparky is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Friday, March 29, 2013

Day 1200

Since it was a nice day, I thought I'd try to refurbish the gravel pathways in the back yard. What the hell. Since the grass and vegetation look so nice now, it seems a shame not to go the whole nine yards and get everything looking nice. I needed some small white rocks, so I strapped a big black bucket to the back of the Defender and headed for the rock store. It's a bit intimidating going to the rock store, since there aren't many people like me there. The place is a huge field with giant piles of every kind of rock imaginable. There aren't many small cars there. Most of the people getting rocks have huge 18-wheelers that are constantly loading and unloading tons of rocks at a time. I'm always nervous that one of these vehicles will dump a big load of rocks on top of my car and bury me.

To buy rocks, you first weigh your car on a giant scale, fill it with rocks, and then weigh it again. By subtracting the second weight from the first, they determine how many rocks you've bought. I bought 500 pounds of small white pebbles that looked like a good match for the pebbles that I'd already used to make the existing paths in the back yard. My 500 pounds of rocks was probably the rock store's smallest sale of the day.

When I got back to the house, I discovered that my white rocks didn't cover nearly as many bare spots along the path as I had hoped. In fact, my 500 pounds of rocks didn't go very far at all. Judging from the length of pathway my rocks covered, I must have bought 3000 pounds of rocks the first time I tried this. I was younger then of course, and I think rocks must have been lighter too.

I think the waiters at my breakfast restaurant have discovered marketing. I noticed this morning that whenever someone, including myself, ordered anything vaguely healthy, a waiter would say "Would you like to substitute freshly cut fruit for the potatoes?" Most of the people, including myself, said yes. What you didn't realize until they brought the check at the end of your meal is that the freshly cut fruit added three dollars to your bill. Pretty sneaky. Of course, car dealers do the same thing. "Would you like to substitute a Sat-Nav package for that radio," they say. "Wouldn't you like to substitute some nice 21 inch rims for those 19 inch stock wheels?" Happens all the time. It was just a bit unnerving to see a waiter get you to upgrade your breakfast with such ease.

I ended up talking to one of the roofers today. I asked him why roofing prices had gone up so dramatically. He told me that in the late 90's, refiners discovered how to extract more gasoline from crude oil, resulting in fewer petroleum by-products like asphalt. This supposedly cause the prices of roofing materials to double in a single year. Of course, the guy didn't explain why my own roof bid was so high, especially when the company wasn't planning on using any asphalt materials in my new roof at all.

Elliott is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Day 1199

I went exploring today. Since I'm basically lazy, I did most of my exploring using a keyboard instead of the car. At this point in time, I don't see much point in exploring in the car anyway, especially if the outcome might be waiting for another tow truck to haul me back to the Land Rover dealer for an expensive repair.

So, what did I discover? I was amazed to find that there was much, much more than Netflix and Hulu on the WiFi TV. There were all sorts of free WiFi movie channels. I even discovered a brand new Seinfeld show where Jerry goes and has coffee with friends. That's all that happens! I watched a few episodes and loved this show. Basically, it is the same "show about nothing" premise as the original Seinfeld show. Combine this with the fact that each episode was like a shorter, less intellectual version of My Dinner with Andre and you have a winner, at least as far as I'm concerned.

At some point during the day, I got hungry and noticed that a lot of local restaurants now have online take out menus. Some even have iPhone apps that let you order your take out from wherever you happen to be. After you place your order, you just pick up your food at the nearest location. I would use something like this. Increasingly, I'd just as soon pick up a sack of food and eat my meal at home with the dogs instead of dining out at a restaurant anyway. I downloaded a few of the apps, but didn't use them today. I'm still trying to finish this weeks vegetables before they go bad.

I got some more roof bids in today. Each bid I've received so far recommends a completely different type of roofing material. You'd think since the materials and application procedures were so different that the prices would be different as well. Nope! The price for three very different types of replacement roofs were virtually the same. I'm convinced that putting on a roof is so expensive now because everyone except for me seems to get their homeowner's insurance to pay for the roof. I've never been able to get insurance to pay for a new roof. The adjusters come out to the house and always tell me that the roof has not been damaged by the weather. "It's just normal wear and tear," they say. I wonder how all my neighbors manage to get their insurance to buy them a new roof?  Oh, wait. I know the answer. None of their roofs are flat.

I used the new juicer to make some carrot juice today. Good lord you have to grind up a lot of carrots to get any juice. I have a feeling that it would be cheaper, and certainly a lot easier, to simply buy fresh carrot juice at Central Market.

Doc is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Day 1198

I don't know why I'm so tired today. I certainly didn't do much. To mitigate the effects of a rather uneventful day, I explored Hulu Plus a bit and discovered a wealth of new ways to waste time. I also practiced the guitar for a while until the carpal tunnel pain in my wrist forced me to quit. I can usually play for about forty-five minutes now. Back in my rock 'n roll days, that would have only been one set in a four or five set evening. It's still fun to play though. I usually play through a pre-amp using headphones so I won't bother the dogs. I'm lost in my little world, while they're sleeping on the bed, lost in their own dog-dreams.

I got an e-mail from Angie's List saying that they'd send me a $20 gift card if I'd write two reviews for health care providers. What's that all about? I thought all Angie's List reviews were supposed to be spontaneous and unsolicited. I went ahead and wrote the reviews anyway, but I doubt that I'll ever get the gift card. The whole thing reminded me of the time some meeting planing web site told me that they'd send me an iPod if I filled out their survey. I filled out the survey four times, but never did get the iPod. All I got for my efforts were annoying calls from the meeting planning company, asking me if I'd like to sign up for their expensive service.

I did do some web site work today, but it was all pretty inconsequential. Today's revisions rose to about the same level of importance as the time I spent pumping up the Defender's tires to 32 PSI with an air compressor. I don't know why the tires have a consistent, very slow leak. I also don't know why some clients continue to make consistent, and often needless website changes. It's good to have something to do, however. Without these activities, I would have been forced to watch even more old episodes of Lexx on Hulu.

Although the day started cold, it warmed up quite a bit by the time dog training class arrived. It was actually quite nice outside this evening, so Dash and I had no excuse for avoiding class. Two dogs got in a fight, which scared Dash, but otherwise the training class was as uneventful as the rest of the day. Maybe something interesting will happen tomorrow.

Chloe is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Day 1197

I've had the U-verse service for over a year now, so all the promotions that came with my bundle have expired. This, of course, results in a much higher monthly bill. Why are phone companies like this. It's always some sort of bait and switch proposition. Two can play this game though. I remember when we had Time Warner cable, there was always some guy you could call and get your promotions reinstated if you mentioned that you were thinking of dropping the service. I figured that AT&T must have the same sort of guy tucked away somewhere, so I started calling. After a few false starts, I found the guy in St. Louis. He agreed to knock $40 off my monthly bill and throw in some extra HD channels if I would sign a contract for another year. Done! Mission accomplished. I still don't know why this had to be so hard though. Couldn't they just charge a fair price in the first place.

Maybe the whole concept of a fair price doesn't even exist anymore. I received my first bid on the roof today and was amazed that the price was four times more than the last roof I had installed in 1996. When I called the company and asked how prices could have possible gone up so much, the estimator just said that things had gotten "out of control" in recent years. He didn't offer to lower the price though. Not by one nickel. I sure hope the other bids are more reasonable than this initial one.

The Land Rover dealer hasn't even bothered to return my call about the engine running rough. I think they're getting tired of me. I'm sure they'd much rather just sell me a new car than continue to repair one that is eighteen years old. I like the Defender though. I can't help it if Land Rover continues to postpone re-introducing the Defender to North America again. They ought to be glad to have me as a customer. I could have easily bought a new Kia for what I've paid them in repair bills over the years.

It looks like Spring outside. It just doesn't feel that way. Temperatures were in the mid-thirties when I walked the dogs this morning. It didn't really warm up that much as the day progressed either. I don't think it got much above fifty all day. In between all the wrangling with the phone company and the roofing company about prices, I managed to get a couple of websites updated and paid a few bills. My car is still running a bit rough, but it isn't stalling out at stoplights anymore. I guess that's progress.

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

Monday, March 25, 2013

Day 1196

There is a different rhythm to Mondays now. I need to remember to water the new grass and shrubs. Dot has a standing acupuncture appointment at the vet on Monday afternoons now. There are no eggs to cook anymore. I eat oatmeal mixed with fresh fruit these days. The sun hasn't quite caught up with Daylight Savings Time yet, so it's dark again in the morning when I wake up. The dogs don't like to get up in the dark, so we sleep in a bit later. Even the pills I take in the mornings are different now. Slowly, all these new activities are becoming habits. I am definitely a creature of habit, so it is only a matter of time before these new routines become the old routines again and I start thinking I've been doing them forever.

I found some additional tax documents when I was cleaning the office yesterday, so I drove them over to my accountant and told him to add them to my tax file. As I was driving, I noticed that the Defender still ran rough between 1000 and 2000 RPM. After two expensive repairs where I specifically mentioned that the engine was running rough, you would think that Land Rover would have the solved the problem by now. If someone would have spent ten minutes giving the car a test drive, they'd know exactly what the problem was. Nobody does that anymore though. They just hook the car up to a computer, and if they get a good readout, they're done. If I have to take the car back to the shop again, I think the repairs should be free this time. I've paid enough already.

I called another roofer today. Since I'm not having much luck getting a final bid from the first two roofers, I thought it wouldn't hurt to add a third to the mix. This guy was the one who specialized in sprayed on foam roofs that I told you about earlier. Since his company is located in Wichita Falls, lord knows when he'll actually show up to give me an estimate.

Dot did pretty well with her acupuncture treatment this afternoon. She's still nervous about going to the vet, but once she's looking like a pincushion, with a row of small needles on either side of her spine, she is actually quite relaxed. I'll probably never know if it is the acupuncture treatments, or just Dot's stubborn tenacity that is responsible for her walking again. She does seems better though. That's all that counts.

I'll be glad when Spring decides to return. I know we don't have snow like some parts of the country, but it's still unseasonably cold this week. I had to bundle up again this morning when I took the dogs on their walk. It's hard to believe that temperatures were over seventy degrees less than a week ago.

Petey is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Sunday, March 24, 2013

Day 1195

Janet's favorite household appliance is the paper shredder. She shreds everything. I, on the other hand, tend to save paper forever. Today, as part of my continuing efforts to declutter my life, I threw away some of the paper that has been accumulating in my office. I shredded brokerage statements from companies that disappeared during the financial crash of 2008. I shredded credit cards that had expired before I even got around to opening the envelope. I shredded disputed medical bills from 1995. How did I acquire all this paper and why did I save it so long? I could probably spend the rest of my life just cleaning out this one little room. Maybe after I get the humongous stacks of paper in order, I'll start throwing away all the keys that don't seem to unlock anything. The big job will be figuring out what the five shoe boxes full of wall wart power adaptors adapters actually power. I seem to have hundreds of these little adapters and no idea of what they were initially used for. Why can't electronics manufacturers standardize their power supplies so one type of wall wart would work for everything? Better yet, why can't they just make things that plug directly in to the wall outlets. It just makes too much sense for this to ever happen.

It was so cold this morning that I had to dig out my Winter goose down ski jacket again. What happened to the beautiful 75 degree days that ushered in Spring just a few days ago? It seemed exceptionally cold when I was sweeping the accumulated water from last night's rain off the roof. I'm tired of sweeping water off the roof. When I was digging through piles of paper this afternoon, I found the original bill and warranty from the last roof I put on the house. The roof was guaranteed for three years and even the materials the roof was made of were only guaranteed for ten years. It's been a lot longer than ten years since I put that roof on.  It's definitely time for a new roof.

I believe in Karma. I'm sure that the Karma gods are still try to extract retribution for awful things I've done in the past, but I think it's about time we call things even and start over with a clean slate. I miss the carefree days when I had no responsibilities whatsoever. Of course, those days were probably when I built up most of my Karma debt in the first place.

When I was cleaning this afternoon, I found a picture of me sitting on a sofa with a Dalmatian I didn't recognize. I asked Janet what the dog's name was and she started laughing. "That's not you," she said. Oh, well. I never was very good with faces. I still don't know who the dog was, or the guy I thought was me, for that matter. The day wasn't a total waste though. I've decided to start wearing boxers instead of briefs. I don't know whether this is a sign of early dementia, or if I've finally acquired some common sense. Boxers are a lot more comfortable.

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

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Day 1194

I picked up the Defender at the Land Rover dealer this morning and paid another large repair bill. It's discouraging to own a car this old. You begin to realize that a motor vehicle consists of hundreds and hundreds of separate components, each with a very finite lifespan. Nothing on the car will last forever, and unless I've replaced a part already, there a good chance that it will break in the near future. I always want the repair folks to tell me that I'm good to go for another 10,000 miles, but they never will. They know as well as I do that no matter what they just fixed, something else could break before I even get the car home again. You can avoid all these problems of course, by trading your car in the minute the extended warranty runs out. I didn't do that and I'm beginning to regret it.

It was another gray, rainy day. I managed to get the dogs walked during a few brief dry spells, but for the most part, it was just wet and drizzly. After a mandatory trip up to the roof to sweep the water off, I drove up to the the Dalmatian Rescue kennels to photograph one of our new dogs for the website. This guy's name was Rascal and he was exceptionally affectionate and friendly. I couldn't imagine why someone would have dumped this happy boy. He seemed like the perfect family pet.

After I got the pictures I needed, I completed my grocery shopping and errands. The entire time I was on the road, I kept expecting the Defender to die again. I just don't have faith in the car anymore. The engine still seems to run a little rough, but maybe it's just my imagination. I talked to my mechanic while I was at the dealership and he said everything checked out perfectly. Oh, well. We'll see how long it stays on the road this time.

I wonder what happened to my roofing bids. I contacted two different roofing companies before I contacted the landscaper. Now, the landscaping is completely finished and the roofing companies still haven't even given me a bid. Typical! Things like this always seems to happen to me with roofers. These two guys came highly recommended too. I think roofers prefer to deal with insurance jobs where they can overcharge and get away with it. Probably nobody really wants to do a flat roof, because even the roofers know that flat roofs are worthless.

The odds of going to the dog park tomorrow are looking pretty slim. It rained a lot in our part of town, but our rain was nothing compared to the downpours that drenched Far North Dallas today. I wouldn't be surprised if the entire dog park was under water.

Ariel is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Friday, March 22, 2013

Day 1193

In a lot of ways, days without much to do are harder than the busy ones. I was scratching my head to come up with ways to stay busy today. I did laundry. I watered the new grass. I unclogged the large format printer. I recharged all the portable devices. I even finished my monthly essay for my writers group a week early.

When I was walking the dogs this morning, I noticed that bulldozers were tearing down another house in the neighborhood. One by one, all the little frame houses are coming down and being replaced by mansions. Our part of town has become trendy and desirable in recent years, but apparently the new buyers are too snooty to live in the little frame houses that have surrounded the lake for as long as I can remember. Property values are going up, but only because someone wants to tear down your house.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover something new on the breakfast menu this morning. Since I was eating at the restaurant with the good bacon, I guess I never noticed the healthy section of the menu before. What I ordered were Eggs Benedict with Cuban black bean cakes and grilled tomato slices, all covered with a spicy Chipotle Hollandaise sauce. Although the meal was definitely not a diet item, it was probably much healthier than the plates piled high with sausages, bacon and waffles swimming in maple syrup that I used to order at this place.

My water bill is going to be huge next month. I'm supposed to water the new grass and vegetation for about an hour a day for the next thirty days. The trouble with watering our yard is that the roots from all the large oak and elm trees suck up all the water. The trees stay healthy, but the yard dries out quickly, no matter what you do. I'm determined to keep things wet this time though. Too much effort has gone into this yard just to see it dry up and die again.

Got a call from the Land Rover dealer around supper time saying that my Defender was ready to pick up. Damn. I was hoping to drive the trouble-free new LR2 loaner car for another week or so. Even with the new engine seals and a brand new fuel pump, I still don't trust the Defender. It has reached that awkward age when, as soon as you fix one thing, another thing breaks.

I'm hoping for a totally uneventful weekend. It's going to be cold outside, so staying inside and watching old movies on Hulu Plus and maybe playing the guitar a bit sounds pretty good to me.

Brooke is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Day 1192

The landscapers finished their work this afternoon and the yard now looks nicer than I've seen it in years. The design looks good and the plants look healthy. My only gripe is that the price ended up being a bit more than the estimate. I shouldn't have been surprised. Everyone's price, with the lone exception of my own, always ends up being more than expected.

At least the landscapers didn't gouge me as much as the Land Rover dealer. They called today to tell me that they'd discovered my problem. It was exactly as I expected. I need a new fuel pump. As you might expect, Land Rover is rather fond of their fuel pumps. The pump for my Defender 90 is about four times as expensive as a similar pump for a Ford F-150 pickup.

The second day of Spring wasn't nearly as nice as the first one. It's gotten cold again. There's supposed to be rain either tomorrow or Saturday and for once, I'm looking forward to it. It would be nice to give the new vegetation a good soaking before I have to start watering every day. It will take about a month for the new sod to start establishing a root system, so I'm going to have to keep everything wet for quite a while. Talk to me again about how much I like the new yard after the dogs start coming inside with muddy paws every evening.

The insurance agent didn't end up coming over to the house today after all. He called and told me that he had to wait for some new forms before he could sign me up. "Does this mean that rates are going up," I asked. Of course the answer was yes. Rates are going up.

I finished two articles and modified two websites today. That's pretty good for me. Hopefully, tomorrow won't be so busy. I'd like to look for a new breakfast restaurant. The holy grail now is a tasty, and a bit spicy, breakfast meal that contains no eggs or dairy products, no meat, and no wheat. I'm not sure what this would be at this point, but I'm convinced that this illusive dish has got to be out there somewhere.

Big Boy is today's Dalmatian of the Day
Watch of the Day

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Day 1191 - Vernal Equinox

It was a good day. It's hard to go wrong when the first day of Spring actually feels like Spring. The landscaping crew made good progress today. I'm feeling much more confident now that the yard is going to look nice when it is finished. All the metal edging is in place. A dump truck came with lots of top soil today. Even some of the new turf has been installed. By this time tomorrow, the yard ought to be finished. I'm tempted to hire these guys to maintain the yard as well. Neither Janet or I are known for having a green thumb. It would be a shame to go to all this trouble to have a nice looking yard and then have everything die again in August.

Sometimes I'm surprised at how little it takes to put me in a good mood. I'm enjoying seeing the yard come together. It's nice to get on a scale and realize that I've lost eight pounds in less than a month. Dot's shaky rear legs seem to be getting stronger as well. Unless something terrible happens next week, I'm going to give March a thumbs up.

I tried out the new juicer today. It takes a lot of fruit and vegetables to make juice. I fed a whole pineapple into the juicer and only got about two pints of juice in return. The juice was quite tasty, but I thought there would be more. I decided to keep the pulp as well. I guess you're supposed to throw the pulp away, but it tasted a bit like pineapple pudding and it seemed a shame to waste the stuff.

So far, Hulu seems like a good deal. Many of my favorite shows are well represented. There were even quite a few British comedies, which surprised me. Since I generally prefer the old shows to today's endless lineup of reality TV, Hulu might be all I need. I ought to give one of those over-the-air HD antennas a try and see if I can pick up anything in our neighborhood. There are so many trees in our part of town that I doubt that an antenna would work well, but even if it just pulled in a few basic channels for the news, I might be able to dump cable and U-verse entirely.

Tomorrow ought to be interesting. I need to renew a few insurance policies and the agent said he'd be happy to come out to the house, so I wouldn't have to drive to his office in Far North Dallas. I told him that I have two loud barking dogs, but he said that wouldn't be a problem. Actually it will be a problem. Maybe we can meet on the front porch.

Baxter is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Day 1190

The landscapers came during breakfast and spent the next five hours raking leaves, hauling away bad soil, and pruning trees. At two-thirty they abruptly left and didn't return. I'm sure they'll be back because they left all their tools in the yard. It looked like they left in a hurry, since one guy left his coat hanging on the bird-feeder. I would have thought the crew would have spent the rest of the day finishing up the preparation work, but clearly they had other plans. I certainly wouldn't leave my own tools lying around the job site on a multi-day assignment, but then my tools are cameras, not shovels and wheelbarrows. Who knows? I'm not going to be judgmental. All's well that ends well, as far as I'm concerned. I still have high hopes that these guys will transform my dog of a yard into something beautiful.

Dot was amazingly good today, considering all the activity she had to deal with. She barked for about fifteen minutes and then got tired of barking and went to sleep by my desk, just like she usually does. It probably helped that the crew worked fairly quietly. No boisterous singing or loud radios this time. Or maybe that acupuncture treatment yesterday has really made Dot a calmer dog.

Dot was so calm this morning that I felt safe leaving her alone while I took Dash to the vet for his bi-weekly antigen shot. Dash is anything but calm at the vet. He thinks the only reason we go to the clinic is so people can pet him and feed him treats. After Dash got his injection and a few doggie treats, we returned to the house for an afternoon of work.

I typically get quite a bit done when I have to keep the dogs confined to the office. Since staying in the office with them is the only way to keep Dot and Dash quiet, it's usually a good time to tackle long and tedious web projects. With five hours confined to the computer, I managed to finish several projects that I've been postponing for a long time. I could have finished a lot more if the landscapers had stayed until 5 or 6 PM like I expected. Oh, well. There's always tomorrow.

I'm having trouble eating my fresh vegetables in the right order. After years of eating things with a ten year shelf life, I'm still getting used to how quickly some fresh things go bad. If I had more time, I would go to the store more often and buy smaller quantities. I've never had more time though. I probably never will. With my time already stretched between being a dog nanny, a webmaster, a photographer, and an increasingly busy writer, I'm amazed that I have any time for groceries at all.

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

Monday, March 18, 2013

Day 1189

Dot had her first acupuncture appointment today. I wasn't expecting much, since Dot is generally terrified of going to the vet anyway, and I've already tried acupuncture treatments on another dog with largely inconclusive results. It never hurts to try though. Dot was extremely tense at first, just like I expected. She gradually began to relax though as the needles were applied to pressure points. By the time the session was over, Dot was calmer than I'd ever seen her inside a veterinarian's office. She was strong and confident on her evening walk too, so maybe there actually is something to the treatments. We're going to continue with weekly acupuncture treatments for at least a month and see if there is a noticeable difference. I'm not sure that I believe the traditional explanations of why acupuncture works. Although some studies show that the needles are effective tools for alleviating anxiety and some forms of pain, I'm not sure it has anything to do with the flow of qi through meridians. Maybe the needles just relax the muscles.

Although the acupuncture appointment was the big event of the day, there were a ton of other errands to take care of as well. I got my tax files finished and took them over to my accountant. I got some prescriptions filled and went to the bank twice. I also returned a Leica camera to a friend. I've had the camera a long time. I should have returned it over twenty-five years ago when we broke up, but I didn't. Better late than never I guess.

Every day this month I'm starting to see another variety of Spring flower start to bloom. The surprising thing is that most of these flowers return in exactly the same places where I saw them last year. I've taken so many photographs in the park over the years that I can now go back and see if things are blooming earlier or later than previous years. Who knows, maybe in another ten or fifteen years I'll become the Henry David Thoreau of the neighborhood. I'll probably just get bored and quit taking pictures of flowers though.

I hope the calming effects of the acupuncture needles last at least through tomorrow. Dot has never been calm when there are strangers at the house. Tomorrow will be a three ring circus. There will be a landscaping crew removing all the bad soil and dead St. Augustine sod from the back yard. At the same time, one of the roofing companies is returning to tramp all over the roof and complete their bid for a new roof. After all this commotion, maybe I'll be the one needing acupuncture.

Nick is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Sunday, March 17, 2013

Day 1188 - St. Patrick's Day

St. Patrick's Day isn't much of a holiday for someone who no longer drinks. All it meant to me today is that the park was much more crowded than usual and we had to keep our eyes open for people who didn't have their dogs on a leash. We saw one off-leash German Shepard loosely attached to a Frisbee throwing couple who wasn't paying much attention to him. Luckily, the dog was paying more attention to the Frisbee than to Dot and Dash. There were inattentive people with questionable dogs in the dog park as well. A pit bull who liked to play rough almost knocked Dot over. The dog wasn't mean, but its owner should have been paying attention. Usually dogs who come to the dog park are very well behaved, but holidays and nice weather bring out a totally different crowd. I prefer the quiet, uneventful days.

I'm getting tired of AT&T raising their U-verse prices while they continue to eliminate some of our favorite channels. I thought I'd try Hulu Plus as an alternative and see if we could get by without U-verse. Not as easy as you might think. First of all, the Internet gateway is provided by the U-verse modem, so it would be hard to get rid of U-verse entirely. Secondly, I discovered that I couldn't even connect to Hulu on our TV because the AT&T service technician had disabled the TV's WiFi capability the last time they were out to the house to fix the router. I knew that the TV used to connect to the Internet, because I've watched YouTube videos on it before. I put on my reading glasses, got out the manuals, and got to work. About 45 minutes later, I had the WiFi fixed and the TV hooked up to the Internet again. I clicked on the Hulu button and discovered immediately that it wasn't free. I guess that shouldn't have surprised me. Nothing is free any more. Hulu Plus does have thousands and thousands of TV shows in its database though, so it still might be a much better deal than U-verse.

I'm going to try to get as many out-of the-office errands done as I can next week, while I've still got the Land Rover loaner car. I don't know if I'll ever be able to trust the Defender again. Janet says it's time to give up on the car and buy something new. Maybe she's right. There's nothing out there that I like right now though. I keep waiting for Land Rover to introduce the next generation Defenders, but they keep pushing back the launch date. I thought they were going to introduce the new Defenders in 2014, but my mechanic tells me that it probably won't be until 2017 now. I doubt if my current car will last that long.

Next week ought to be interesting. The landscapers are coming to refurbish the back yard and I'm sure that both dogs will be obsessed with all the activity going on in their territory. I'm already trying to prepare myself for a whole lot of barking. Hopefully, I'll be able to confine Dot to my office for most of the day, so she can't actually see what what's going on outside. If I'm lucky, this will keep things a bit quieter around the house, but as you know, I'm not usually lucky.

Allie is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Saturday, March 16, 2013

Day 1187

I bought a juicer today. When I got home, Janet reminded me that we already had a juicer. Oops! Now, I remember. The old juicer never seemed to extract much juice out of anything. It was also impossible to clean. The juicer quickly got demoted from the kitchen counter to the top of the refrigerator, and subsequently to somewhere else where I completely forgot about it. Hopefully, this new juicer will work better than the old one. If this new juicer is not easy to use and easy to clean, I suspect it will suffer the same fate as the other one. I thought it would be neat to make a fresh version of V8 juice, but when I looked up the recipe on the Internet, I discovered we had none of the ingredients. Maybe I'll start with fresh orange juice. We do have some oranges.

I did my best to avoid the annual St. Patrick's Day parade today. After being stuck in the aftermath of this parade several times, I've learned to stay as far away as possible. In certain parts of town, traffic grinds to a halt for hours as huge throngs of drunken revelers parade from bar to bar. What started as a humble neighborhood event with a few kids waving at people from the backs of pickup trucks has evolved into a huge spectacle with hundreds of floats and well over a hundred thousand spectators. My favorite grocery store is located right at ground zero on the parade route. I wisely decided to do my shopping somewhere else today.

I don't think I'll be having any more furnace problems this year. Now, it's time for air conditioner problems. I bought some new filters at Home Depot and officially turned on the AC today. The temperature got up to 85 degrees and the dogs loved it. Dot spent some quality time outside this afternoon sunning herself on a big pile of leaves. Dash spent his time looking for stuff to eat under the leaves.

Neither of the two roofing companies that stopped by to bid on replacing my roof has given me an estimate yet. I can't believe my roof is all that complicated. It would seem like two weeks was plenty of time to pull some numbers together. Maybe they just don't want to do the job. That wouldn't surprise me at all.

Tomorrow looks like it's going to be a great day to go to the dog park. Clear skies. 85 degrees. What's not to like? It's hard to stay in a bad mood for long when Spring has arrived.

Ruthie is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Friday, March 15, 2013

Day 1186

My expensive car repair certainly didn't amount to much. The Defender is already back in the shop. This time it didn't even make it back to the dealership under its own power. The car died on me right in the middle of one of the busiest streets in Dallas during rush hour. People honked at me as I waited for the tow truck to arrive. I was almost certain that I'd be rear ended by someone who was texting while driving, but miraculously, I managed to get the car back to the dealership without further damage. I sure wish that the mechanics had solved this problem when the car was in the shop last week. I certainly described the problem clearly enough. When I left the Defender at the dealership the last time, I told them that it stalled out at inopportune times and leaked oil. They fixed the leaking oil part, but obviously did nothing about the stalling part.

I'm really getting tired of everything falling apart on me. Repairing everything all at once will take copious amounts of money, which I don't happen to have at the moment. Unfortunately, repairing things one at a time, as I'm doing now, requires copious amounts of patience, which I'm a bit short on as well. Maybe I should have elevated car problems a little higher on the list. Right now, Dot's health problems seem the most important, followed by my own health problems. Next would probably be my leaking roof. There are carpets that need to be replaced, walls that need to be painted, and quite a bit of obsolete business equipment. Ironically, landscaping the yard, which is the one thing that actually is getting done in the near future, was always near the bottom of my to-do list. The only reason that this project got tapped for completion was that it was easy to do without disrupting everything inside. I can still get my work done. The dogs may bark a bit, but it isn't going to be nearly as bad as it would be if there were people actually working on things inside the house. Fixing the car always gets put off, because there's always something I need to do in the car. Also, I still naively think that when I do take the car to the shop, that everything broken will be fixed. Never happens!

I'm trying to find a new breakfast restaurant that has a delicious menu that isn't based around eggs, sausages, bread, and gravy. A few places have a really good veggie omelet, but for the most part, these omelets are just eggs with a few onions and bell pepper slices thrown in. Today's restaurant choice was a fail. Don't get me wrong. The food was delicious. It was just traditional heavy, gut-buster fare. Honestly, I don't even know what I'm looking for. I don't want yoghurt. I'm tired of oatmeal, because that's what I eat during the week. I'm supposed to avoid sugar, wheat products, dairy products, and cured meats. This pretty well sums up everything I  have ever enjoyed for breakfast.

At least Spring has arrived. The weather has been spectacular for the past several days. Trees are starting to turn green, the redbuds and dogwood trees are in full bloom, and I'm starting to see a whole new crop of Texas wildflowers. Spring doesn't officially arrive until next Wednesday, but someone forgot to tell the flowering plants.

Carmine is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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