Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Day 1842 - New Year's Eve

Ordinarily I'm in bed by midnight, but I guess I'll stay up late tonight to welcome the new year. The bloom is definitely off the rose when it comes to New Year's Eve celebrations. I think I lost interest over twenty years ago when the band I played in was always booked for big New Year's Eve parties. When you're up on stage looking down at a sea of drunk faces, the appeal of getting wasted is less than zero. I hated these New Year's Eve parties. The weather was usually terrible. It seemed like we had to play longer than normal. And it was a bitch to pack up all the equipment at 2 AM. Somehow, it's a lot nicer to watch the ball drop on TV, enjoy a glass of champagne in the kitchen, and go to bed a few minutes after midnight.

I thought I'd come up with a clever plan to lower my prescription cost. I got my doctor to renew everything for another year and I was going to get all the prescriptions filled today before the cost of my drug plan went up again. Every year the cost continues to go up. My plan didn't work very well, because the pharmacist said most of the prescriptions couldn't be filled until I ran out of my current supply. He filled two out of the eight scripts and said I could pick up the rest when needed. "When I pick up these other prescriptions in January, will I have to pay next year's higher rates," I asked. Of course I will.

It was only a few degrees above freezing when we took our morning walk. The dogs still didn't want to wear sweaters under their harnesses, but they did decide they'd had enough when we'd covered about half our normal route. I wish I could convince Dot and Dash that the sweaters are a good thing, but it's hardly worth the effort to get them to wear them anymore. They both run away whenever I get the sweaters out. It's hard to get Dot's sweater on too, since her legs have gotten so shaky. I guess we'll just have to take shorter walks until the weather gets a bit warmer.

The weather forecast is predicting sleet or freezing rain later tonight. I hope this forecast isn't accurate, since freezing rain is always a big mess in Dallas. This is when the highways turn into a roller derby and large trees fall over under the weight of the ice. Many of the power outages we've experienced over the years have occurred during ice storms.

I hope that 2015 is pleasant and uneventful. We overcame many adversities this year, but it would be nice if we could avoid them altogether in the year ahead. I hope the dogs stay healthy. I'd like just enough work to keep me busy, but not enough to make me crazy. I'm still debating whether to have any champagne tonight. It's a nice tradition and my liver is back to normal again. My doctors have told me that the occasional drink will cause no problems at all. On the other hand, I'm kind of proud of my sobriety. Maybe I'll just have some eggnog.

Dot is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Day 1841

I wish I'd discovered compression pants earlier. These things are great for cold weather. I don't know why it took me so long to discover that compression pants were a better alternative to old fashioned cotton long johns, but I'm wearing mine all the time now while I walk the dogs. Unlike the cyclists and joggers I see, I continue to wear these leggings under a pair of jeans. The Batman and Robin look isn't really my style.

Dot continues to seem invigorated by the cold. For the past several days she's been leading the walk like she used to in the old days. I don't know whether to attribute her new found energy to the Rimadyl she started taking last week, or to the cold weather which she clearly enjoys. Either way, it's good to see her start enjoying these walks again.

It looks like I'm going to continue to stay busy through the end of the year.  I had more writing assignments today and am starting to plan for an upcoming video shoot early in January. I have mixed feelings about January. The month could be great or terrible. The glass looks half empty when I contemplate the dental surgery I'm about to have. On the other hand, the glass is definitely half full when I remember I'll be traveling to Vandenberg Air Force Base to attend the launch of the SMAP satellite. I even have mixed feelings about the upcoming video shoot. I've been complaining for months that I didn't have enough video clients. Now that this seems to be changing, I'm remembering how much work video production is. To tell you the truth, writing is a lot easier.

I finished my writing jobs just in time to get Dot to her physical therapy appointment. She was really impressive today. We went back to doing interval training, since she was strong enough to speed up the treadmill a bit. The combination of the underwater treadmill, acupuncture, and cold laser therapy really seems to be showing some positive results. I asked my vet if the laser might help my shoulder too, and she said it probably would. It's funny that my physical therapist never mentioned cold laser therapy. As always, my dogs continue to receive far more advanced treatment than I do.

I'm not having much luck getting Jawbone to replace my broken UP band. Maybe they've finally gotten sick of me. I've already had three defective UP bands replaced, but I still think these things should last at least a year. At the price these fitness trackers cost, they're not really a disposable item.

Tomorrow is New Year's Eve. I wish you all a Happy New Year and hope you continue to follow my somewhat subdued adventures in the year ahead.

Penny is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Monday, December 29, 2014

Day 1840

I never realized that there were so many devilishly inventive ways to make my arm hurt. Every time I go for physical therapy, I get introduced to several new stretching exercises designed to increase the range of motion in my right shoulder. I'm definitely making progress, but it's going to take a long time at this rate. I wonder what I did to make this shoulder so unstable? There was never any definitive injury that caused the shoulder instability. It just gradually got worse and worse. I still think the dogs caused most of the problems. They both like to walk on my right side and whenever they try to chase after rabbits or lunge at a pile of fresh horse poop, my right arm always had to absorb the shock. Since I'm left handed, this abuse to my right arm never really bothered me. "At least the important left arm is safe," I thought. I wish I'd been a little more protective of both arms over the years, but it's a little late now.

Usually this last week of the year is completely dead, but I've been getting a surprising number of new assignments. I was kept busy today with an assortment of writing and website jobs. There are a couple of stretching exercises I can do while I'm sitting at my desk. While this is convenient, it is also irritating. Much of what I do isn't much fun anyway. Working with a very sore shoulder just makes the task at hand worse. I would like to be able to lift both hands over my head again, so I guess I'll continue.

I noticed an oddly shaped piece of white plastic in the greenhouse yesterday and was just about to throw it away when I realized that it might be a good way to foil the pooping bird. The plastic sheet was about the length of my car's front door window and had a convenient angle along one side, allowing it to rest just below the window while providing a very unstable platform for the bird. I positioned the plastic sheet against the window after I got back from physical therapy and it seemed to work. The bird didn't want to land on the unstable plastic and there was no more bird poop for the rest of the day. It would be weird if this Rube Goldberg device worked while my very realistic rubber snake did absolutely nothing.

Usually at this time of year, I'm buying equipment for the studio so I can expense it on my taxes. I doubt that I'll buy anything at all this year. There seems little point in buying more video equipment when it seems doubtful that I'll ever get another large scale production job. Everyone has a GoPro now and thinks they're Stanley Kubrick. It's kind of ironic that I'll probably end my career exactly the same way I started it: as a writer. Writing never seems to become obsolete. All you need is a pencil and a few ideas. In a world where nobody reads and writing is becoming a lost art, I can still fill a page. It makes me wonder why I got sidetracked by video production and web design in the first place.

Dot has her last session with the underwater treadmill for the year tomorrow. It's been quite a year! Dot's determination and resilience has been an inspiration. I hope we both can continue to get healthier in the year ahead.

Allie is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Sunday, December 28, 2014

Day 1839

When I was cleaning the bird droppings off the car this morning, I inadvertently rammed my head into the edge of an open car door. I was on my way to the gym, but I had to wait about twenty minutes until the bleeding quit. The last thing I wanted to do was answer a bunch of questions from total strangers about why there was a big bandage on my forehead. Luckily, my blood clots quickly. I fed the dogs a couple of extra dog treats while I was waiting and then I was on my way.

The TED talk on the car radio today was about memory. Evidently most of us are very selective about our memories and forget the vast majority of what happens to us each day. I probably forget more than most of you. The guy on the TED stage was explaining how we can train our memories to remember much more, but I'm not sure I'd want to do that. I'm convinced that my lack of memory has been responsible for much of my success in life. I reinvent the wheel continually, since I have very few formulas stored away. I am able to do routine things over and over again without getting bored, because it all seems new to me. I'm convinced that thinking of new and original solutions to everyday problems keeps the brain a lot more agile than simply pulling a tried and true solution out of your memory bank. Advertising would have driven me insane decades ago if I remembered every ad I ever did.

The Nike running shoes I wear to the gym are wearing out, so I thought I'd pick up a new pair while I was out and about today. Good lord! How do you rationally select a pair of running shoes these days? There are literally thousands of styles, colors and prices to choose from. Each model seems purpose built for something or other, but without trying on dozens and dozens of shoes, I didn't have a clue which I would like best. I didn't like the new featherweight styles that looked like they'd fall apart in three weeks. I didn't like all the neon colors or high-top basketball styles either. I finally found something that looked more or less like my old shoes and bought a pair. I probably need to start looking for some new dog walking boots too. My sturdy waterproof Redwing boots aren't waterproof anymore. They just don't make shoes like they used to.

It's hard to believe that it will be 2015 in just a few days. It seems like yesterday when Janet and I opened a bottle of champagne to welcome a new millennium on December 31, 1999. Everyone was worried about the Y2K bug and the year 2000 sounded very futuristic. Oddly, not much has changed in fifteen years.

I've got an early morning physical therapy session scheduled for tomorrow. It seems all wrong to have physical therapy before breakfast, but it can't be helped. This is just a weird holiday scheduling anomaly. Pretty soon it will be 2015 and everything will be back to normal.

Lou is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Saturday, December 27, 2014

Day 1838

It was cold when we walked the dogs this morning, but as it turned out, this was as warm as it was going to get. As the day progressed it continued to get colder and colder. Now, it looks like it might freeze tonight. Of course tomorrow, the temperature will be back up in the fifties again. I'll never be able to get used to Texas weather.

When I was out shopping this afternoon, I saw several neighborhood Christmas tree lots packing up their tents and disposing of their unsold trees. A Christmas tree lot the day after Christmas is a sad sight. I wonder what these guys do the rest of the year?

The stores had huge sales on wrapping paper and Christmas ornaments today. I know people that always buy their wrapping paper this way. I don't think that far ahead. I just look for what's lying around the house on Christmas Eve. When I was getting groceries, I saw a crowd flocking to one particular aisle. I pushed my buggy toward the melee to see what all the commotion was about and discovered that all the Christmas candy and sweets were half price. I don't eat many sweets myself but got caught up in the moment and ended up buying a box of half price Godiva chocolates.

I seem to have reached some sort of plateau with the stretching exercises that are supposed to help my shoulder. I was making real progress for the first few days, but now I seem to have hit a brick wall. Maybe, this is as far as my bad shoulder is going to move. It's not that the joint is increasing painful to move, it just won't move at all beyond a certain point. I can lie on a flat surface and extend my left shoulder all the way behind my head with a full 180 degrees of motion. The right shoulder will only extend about twenty degrees past a vertical position. Today, I kept thinking that this is as good as it's going to get, but I'm sure that my physical therapist will think otherwise. We'll see how far she can pull and stretch my sore arm on Monday.

I was worried that the dogs would be too cold today and started to bundle them up in their Winter sweaters. Now that the dogs are both wearing their red Ruffwear harnesses on walks, it's kind of a challenge to add sweaters and coats. These Web Master harnesses are kind of like a coat themselves. Do you put the sweater under or over the harness? I eventually gave up, which is probably what the dogs wanted anyway. They like the cold a lot more than I do. I continue to be amazed at how briskly Dot walks along on these cold mornings.

The rubber snake didn't work. I think all I did was make the bird mad. It not only pooped on the car, it even pooped on the rubber snake. I'll try a different color rubber snake tomorrow, but I definitely think this irritating bird is winning the battle at this point.

I don't really feel like going to the gym tomorrow, but I probably should anyway. I told my physical therapist that I try to go to the gym at least twice a week. Jeez, I'm still having trouble making it even once a week. I think these guys can tell when you're not doing your homework.

Taylor is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Friday, December 26, 2014

Day 1837

I got Janet one of those Jawbone activity trackers as a stocking stuffer gift, but unfortunately I forgot that she has a small instead of a medium size wrist. I took the little UP band back this morning to exchange it for a smaller size and was lucky to find one in exactly the same color. When I went to the exchange desk, they gave me a credit, but told me that the band would cost $25 more than I paid a day and a half ago. WTF? "This is exactly the same thing as the medium size band," I said. At first they tried to tell me that the smaller sizes cost more, but I reminded them that the entire end aisle display with every size and color was the same price. "Well, that was a special Christmas price," the clerk said. "It's after Christmas now." "That would be fine if I bought this today, but I bought it Christmas Eve," I said. "All I want is the same thing in a smaller size." When it became apparent that I wasn't in the mood to pay $25 more for something I had already purchased, a manager intervened and told me that he would adjust the price so I could make a direct exchange. As I was leaving, the manager told me somewhat sternly that prices in this store could change on a dime and that I should never expect the price to stay the same overnight. What a strange experience. All over town stores were having after Christmas sales and this store chose to raise it's prices instead.

When I went out for breakfast this morning it seemed like Christmas never even happened. Most of the customers were staring at their phones and eating breakfast in a hurry, just like they usually do. As I ordered my meal, the thought occurred to me that if I was still doing gallery shows, I would probably make huge prints of the almost identical Instagram pictures I've been taking of these meals and people would wonder what the miniscule differences in each picture meant. Of course, the pictures mean absolutely nothing unless you see them as evidence of OCD behavior.

It's been a really slow week. I think all my clients are on vacation. It was so slow this afternoon that I joined the dogs on the bad and watched the Dr. Who Christmas Special that I had recorded on the DVR yesterday. Despite an almost impossibly convoluted plot, this ended up being one of the most entertaining of these annual Christmas Specials I've seen in years. The Steven Moffat script was an unabashed fairy tale about dreams buried within dreams. It was also the first completely modern interpretation of the Santa Claus story I think I've ever seen. All in all, it wasn't a bad way to spend a lazy afternoon.

Janet picked up a couple of rubber snakes for me at the Dollar Store. A couple of months ago a friend told me that birds were afraid of snakes and that I should try something like this and see whether it would convince the bird who continually poops on my car to move on to somebody else's car. I placed one of the rubber snakes on my driver's side mirror this evening. We'll see what the bird thinks tomorrow morning.

Freckles is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Thursday, December 25, 2014

Day 1836 - Christmas Day

I hope that all of you had a wonderful Christmas. We slept in late and probably would have slept even later if the dogs hadn't insisted on their morning walk. The skies were clear for a change and the park was virtually empty. Even the joggers and cyclists were home this morning. There were plenty of ducks and squirrels though, so Dot and Dash had a great time. Dot seemed stronger and more active today, so maybe the Rimadyl is working.

We had a nice leisurely breakfast when we got home and then we the took the dogs to the dog park. This used to be a Christmas tradition, but for a variety of reasons we haven't been able to go for several years. Last year, Janet was out of town visiting relatives and the year before we had terrible weather. Today was beautiful though and both dogs were eager for an outing. I wish the traffic was always as light as it is on Christmas Day in Dallas. It seems to be the one day each year where most of the stores close. Merchants seem to ignore Thanksgiving and Easter now, but Christmas still seems to be a day of rest. Driving through the virtually empty streets, I realized that I would enjoy living in a big city a lot more if there weren't any people.

The dog park was fairly empty too. Only die hard dogs enthusiasts make going to a dog park a priority on Christmas morning. Dot and Dash enjoyed mingling with the eight or ten other dogs in the park until a guy arrived with a pit bull who was a bit too aggressive for our taste. I've got nothing against pit bulls or any other breed, but I'm always a bit wary of powerful, poorly trained dogs who aren't well supervised by their owners. Things can escalate quickly when the owner isn't in control. This guy wasn't paying attention to his dog at all and kept telling people to slap it on the butt if it was bothering them. The dog was way too interested in Dot and was getting aggressive, so we left early and went home. I wish there was a way to keep people from bringing unruly and aggressive dogs to public dogs parks, but for the most part, these place operate on the honor system. You take your chances and just hope that all the other people in the park with you are nice.

When we got home again, the house was quickly filled with delicious smells as Janet began to prepare Christmas dinner. The dogs both took a nap near the kitchen, so they would be nearby in case scraps of food fell on the floor. Since it was a nice day, I went up on the roof and removed several weeks of rain water and leaves. It's been windy lately, so most of the leaves are gone from the trees by now. From now through Spring the troublesome roof should be a bit easier to manage.

Dinner was a delicious feast. The dogs got a boiled chicken breast as a Christmas treat, while Janet and I enjoyed a crown roast of pork with traditional holiday side dishes of sweet potatoes, dressing, and noodle kugel. There was even a fresh pumpkin pie for dessert. Opening our gifts was almost an afterthought. We have everything we need these days, so the day is mostly about relaxing and enjoying some time with the dogs.

Tomorrow, it's back to work for both of us. Even though it was Christmas Day, I still remembered to take the trash out to the curb this evening. You never want to forget about trash day.

Dot is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Day 1835

Today was pleasant. Janet walked the dogs this morning while I went up to the Land Rover dealer to get my tire fixed. I always enjoy going to the dealership. I've been going there for almost twenty years, so everyone knows me. They have good french roast coffee and if you get there early, there is always a nice selection of pastries from Corner Bakery. Everyone was in a good mood this morning because they all got off at noon for Christmas Eve. Even though I only went to get a nail removed from my tire, they washed my car and vacuumed the interior. If only all businesses were this nice.

On the way home I picked up some dog treats for Dot and Dash and got them each a fresh chicken breast so they could have something special for Christmas dinner as well. Janet and I are having a crown roast, so we'll all be eating well tomorrow. In keeping with my tradition of saving everything until the last minute, I spent the rest of the morning wrapping a few packages to put under the tree.

I sent a confirmation letter to NASA today, telling them that I accepted their invitation. It appears that the closest airport to Vandenberg Air Force Base is in Santa Barbara. There are no direct flights from Dallas, but this still seems better than flying to Los Angeles and then making a long drive up the coastline on Highway 1. I haven't driven a car in Los Angeles since my ad agency days and I remember the traffic being terrible even back in the 1980's. Now that traffic in Dallas is just as bad as LA traffic was in the 80's, I can't even imagine how bad California freeways are today.

We have started giving Dot a low dose of Rimadyl to reduce inflammation and hopefully alleviate some of the discomfort she is currently feeling. I've always been nervous about Rimadyl since it can cause problems with the kidneys and liver. Petey, one of our previous Dalmatians, had severe hip dysplasia and took Rimadyl for many years. It did help him keep walking, but I still keep thinking that it might have contributed to his eventual death from kidney failure. After a long talk with Dot's vet yesterday, I agreed to give Rimadyl a try. She said that side effects were minimal to non-existent at this low of a dose and that at Dot's age, pain management was more important than the possibility of long-term side effects. I like to think that Dot will live forever, but if she is still with us five years from now, she will be the world's oldest Dalmatian. The goal now is just to keep her happy and comfortable for as long as we can.

I saw on the news that Sony Pictures has decided to release The Interview on Christmas Day. I guess this strikes a blow for free speech and all, but it still seems like an odd choice for a Christmas movie. Who would want to go see this on Christmas Day? Call me old fashioned, but when I think of Christmas movies, I still think of things like Miracle on 34th Street and It's a Wonderful Life.

Dalmatian of the Day
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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Day 1834

I received a letter from NASA today saying that I'd been accepted to cover the launch of the SMAP satellite at Vandenberg Air Force Base early next year. Now, I need to figure out where Lompoc, California is and how to get there. I was really kind of surprised that my application for NASA press credentials was accepted. NASA only invites a small number of social media correspondents to these launch events and I wasn't really sure whether a blog about a guy and his two Dalmatians was what they were looking for. Apparently this is as good a place as any to talk about space travel, so I'm glad that NASA likes the blog.

I'm a bit apprehensive about this upcoming adventure, but I really think I need to do this. I've always thought that if you don't keep trying to expand your horizons, you slowly whither and die. I haven't done anything really new in quite a while, so maybe it's time. This really isn't as implausible as it sounds. I'm a good writer and I've been a huge fan of the space program for most of my adult life. This could be the start of something. Just having the opportunity to interview NASA and Jet Propulsion Laboratory scientists and engineers and take photos at Vandenberg Air Force Base is quite an honor. I just hope the launch doesn't get delayed by bad weather or something, since I have to pay for travel and lodging myself. A delay in the launch could get expensive. The SMAP satellite is actually pretty significant, since it will map soil moisture over the entire planet, helping to predict droughts, provide an early warning for floods and landslides, improve weather forecasting, and help farmers improve crop yields. I'm looking forward to this as only a slightly reclusive science nerd can.

It rained this morning, so I wasn't able to get my Christmas shopping completed before the crowds descended on the shopping malls. The dogs come first, so I patiently waited for a break in the rain to get them outside to poop and take their morning walk before I went shopping. Despite the late start, I was still able to find a parking place at Northpark, so everything ended well. Hopefully I won't need to go shopping again for a long time.

I've been worried about Dot's increasingly shaky rear legs, so our vet gave her a thorough examination today when we went for our physical therapy appointment. Dot's mobility has decreased since her last exam, and she appears to be experiencing some sort of neurological damage. The vet said that we could get an MRI of her spine to see if we could isolate what was causing the problem, but that an MRI or CAT scan wouldn't really give us more options. Dot is too old and frail for spinal surgery and this type of surgery is risky even for a young dog. Probably some sort of pain management program is the best we can expect at this point. The good thing is that the acupuncture and water therapy that we are already doing has been very beneficial and has significantly slowed down her inevitable decline. We've just got to come up with a way to keep her active without causing her any more pain.

The only thing I wasn't able to do today was get the nail removed from my tire. Luckily, the tire is still holding air and shows no sign of leaking. I was able to make an appointment to get the tire fixed at the dealership early tomorrow morning before the place closes early for Christmas Eve. You'd think I could just go to a nearby gas station to get the tire fixed, but my tires are filled with nitrogen instead of air. I always have a way of making even simple things difficult.

Ziggy is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Monday, December 22, 2014

Day 1833

I drove down to the UPS Customer Service Center this morning to pick up a package. It's odd that I find this the most convenient way to pick up a shipment, since Fedex and UPS will both deliver right to my door. It's just another case where a modern convenience has turned into a modern nuisance. More and more merchants are requiring a direct signature on deliveries, since there has been an increase in people stealing packages off of front porches. If you have to sign for the delivery, you have to be home. I could be home twenty-tree hours a day and it's almost inevitable that the one hour I was gone would be when the UPS guy shows up. It's just easier to drive to Mesquite.

I think I got another nail in my tire when I was out today. I heard a clicking sound when I was driving and when I stopped to investigate, I saw what appeared to be a small nail or screw protruding from one of the rear tires. When I got home, I looked again, but couldn't find the object anymore. I'm sure it's still there though. I probably just broke the head off the screw while I was driving. The tire still holds air and doesn't appear to be leaking, but I better get it fixed tomorrow. The last time this happened, my warranty got me a free tire. I don't think I'll be so lucky this time.

It was time for another visit with my physical therapist today. This session was for me. Dot's physical therapy is tomorrow. It appears that I have made some progress. I was able to extend my arm further behind my head than I was last week and the manipulations of my arm by the therapist weren't so painful. I got some new exercises to practice at home this week including one called Spider Crawls. For Spider Crawls, you stand near a vertical wall and use your fingers to move or elevate your bad arm as far up the wall as you can. I've been doing this for months to reach the soap in a high shelf in the bathroom. I just didn't know there was a name for this odd activity. My bad arm is still about fifty percent weaker than my good arm, so I've got a long way to go.

Dot seemed stronger today. There doesn't appear to be any rhyme or reason to how she feels. She just has good days and bad days. I guess I could say the same for myself. Some days I feel great and other days I can barely move. Today feels like one of the barely move days, but that is probably just because of all the tugging and pulling the physical therapist did on my arm.

Tomorrow is going to be busy. I plan on making one final, and possible futile, attempt to get my Christmas shopping finished before Christmas Eve. Dot has her appointment with the underwater treadmill tomorrow afternoon instead of her regular Thursday appointment because of the holiday schedule. There's that pesky tire to deal with as well.

Daisy is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Sunday, December 21, 2014

Day 1832

This is weird. I was raking leaves in the front yard this morning and I see a letter blowing across the yard in the wind. I pick up the letter and it is addressed to me. What are the odds of that happening? Probably the mailman dropped the letter, or maybe I even dropped it myself when I picked up the mail yesterday. There was no mail delivery today though, so why was the letter still here? If it got lost yesterday, it should have blown ten miles down the road by now.

You certainly couldn't accuse me of being idle today. The dogs got their morning and afternoon walks. I removed all the standing water from the roof. I even made it to the gym. I should have dealt with the roof a lot earlier. It was a mess. Not only was there three inches of standing water, there were all the leaves from two large oak trees, an elm tree, and the neighbor's pecan tree. I was surprised that there wasn't a flock of ducks to greet me, because the wind and the leaves had combined to create little duck ponds all over the roof where the water would probably stagnate forever. Several readers have wondered why I don't just use pumps to automatically remove the water from the flat roof. Been there, done that. It doesn't work. The abundant leaves and tree dirt quickly clog even the most robust pump and it doesn't take long for the motor to burn out. The roof isn't really level either, so if you use a pump, you have to continually keep moving it around to get all the puddles. Believe it or not, it is actually easier to take a big push broom and just push all the water and debris off the edge of the roof. It's good exercise too, although I suspect that this activity isn't helping my shoulder much.

I wish the weather would clear up. The dampness and cold is aggravating Dot's arthritis. Her rear legs seemed a bit shaky today and we didn't end up going very far on our evening walk. I don't want to push her too hard, but it's not good to let her just sleep on a soft dog bed all day either. Both my vet and my own human doctors have emphasized the importance of staying active. I think the dogs and I both have the same attitude towards exercise. It's hard to get started, but once we get the old joints moving, we feel better. It's hard to get Dot and Dash out the door on a cold day, but they're both wagging their tails and enjoying all the smells once we're underway.

I was hoping that my physical therapist could just direct me to the machines I could use to build up my shoulder while I was  doing my regular workout. It turns out it doesn't work that way. The stretching exercise I need to do to free my tight shoulder capsule are completely different that the things you normally do at a gym to build strength and endurance. It looks like I'm going to have to do both.

I've still got a small amount of Christmas shopping to finish and I'm trying to figure out how to get everything done without fighting the mobs at the shopping malls. The only thing I've come up so far is to arrive at the mall right at 9 AM when it first opens. It might still be crowded, but at least I'll be able to find a parking place. If I wait until later in the day, I think it will be hopeless. The malls used to be almost empty on Christmas Eve, but I think there has been a sharp increase in procrastinators like me. I tried Christmas Eve shopping last year and it was just as crowded as any other day. I won't be doing that again.

Willow is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Day 1831

I must be getting more confident in the roof. I haven't been up there all week, even though it's been raining almost every day. I know there's a ton of standing water up there, but I still can't bring myself to tackle the laborious job of removing it all. Maybe tomorrow. Of course, I could go to the gym instead and expend the same amount of energy in a warm, dry place. Eventually, I'll have to go remove the water, because it's certainly not going to evaporate in this kind of weather.

The weather's been damp now for long enough now that the dogs are getting exceptionally muddy on their walks. My boots are caked with mud when we return, and even my pants are muddy. Cleaning the dogs paws and my boots before we go inside again seems to add another ten minutes to each walk. I wish we had a mud room like some Northern houses have. Everyone with Dalmatians needs a mud room.

Today was full of busy little chores. The dog blankets got washed, the sheets got changed, and I made a trip to Sam's Club to buy toilet paper, shop towels, detergent, and other sundries in bulk. I don't know when we started buying a three month supply of stuff like this. It wasn't always this way. Buying commodity items in bulk does save money, but it also uses up all your closet space. It took me quite a while to figure out where to stash away all the toilet paper.

When I was going to sleep last night I watched the last Craig Ferguson Show. I didn't know that the final show was going to be last night and just switched it on accidentally. I've always liked Craig Ferguson better than Jimmy Fallon or Seth Meyers. There is an irreverence to Ferguson's comedy that appeals to me. The show is gone though, so I guess I'll just have to go to sleep a little earlier. It's weird how many of these "final" shows I've seen over the years. I remember seeing Jack Paar's final broadcast when I was a kid. I saw Johnny Carson's final show and Jay Leno's as well. I think I even remember seeing the last Ed Sullivan show. David Letterman will have his last show pretty soon as well. It's hard to believe now, but I saw the Late Show With David Letterman live once during a trip to New York. I used to see a lot of shows. Aerosmith, Simon & Garfunkel, Phantom of the Opera, The Rolling Stones, Jersey Boys, The Who, Cirque du Soleil, and countless others. Somewhere along the line, a fear of crowds replaced a love of live performances and I quit going to shows. No regrets though. Peaceful scenes like this morning's foggy lake shore are much more appealing than watching a loud band in a crowded arena.

I'm kind of surprised that my stretching exercises actually seem to to be increasing the mobility in my bad shoulder. I've only been doing the exercises for three days now and I"m already seeing an improvement. Who would have thought...

Lexi is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Friday, December 19, 2014

Day 1830

I finally put up the Christmas tree today. Every year there seems to be a few less ornaments. Some have broken. Others have gotten lost. Even though the tree is starting to look a little threadbare, I still like it. All the ornaments are Dalmatians we've collected over the years. You don't see these Dalmatian Christmas ornaments in stores anymore, but I suppose they're still pretty easy to find online. The dogs used to be interested in the tree, but not anymore. They won't be interested until little wrapped packages filled with tasty dog treats go under it.

I went to a different restaurant for breakfast today. I didn't feel like going to the same place two days in a row. It's interesting that all these little neighborhood restaurants have their own audience. My favorite place is an eclectic mix of hipster beards, Apple laptops, and yoga pants. The place I went to today seems to be where all the school teachers go for breakfast. There's another restaurant where everybody seems to be over 80, and a fourth where everyone is always in a hurry. This food is pretty good at this place, but I seldom go there because I can't stand to be around people in a hurry.

I started my physical therapy exercises today. Oddly, they seemed easier here at home than they seemed at the gym last Wednesday. The only problem I had was whenever I tried to do the exercises where I needed to lie on my back on the floor, the dogs thought I wanted to play with them and they started jumping on me. Some of the exercises required the use of a cane last Wednesday. I'm not ready for a cane though, so I used a collapsible carbon fiber microphone boom pole instead. I wonder how long I'll continue doing these stretching exercises? They're both painful and boring. I don't think this is a good combination.

Dot seemed reluctant to go outside today. I can't really blame her. It was cold and rainy for the third day in a row. I almost took a good camera with me today, but I was afraid that the mist would unexpectedly turn to rain and get the camera wet. The light is soft and pretty on days like this. It's somewhat counter-intuitive, but grey days often produce the best pictures. Maybe I'll take a camera tomorrow.

It doesn't feel like Christmas is just around the corner. Very few people send Christmas cards anymore and I haven't been to an office Christmas party in years. Hey, I've got a tree up now though. Maybe that will get me in the spirit.

Ranger is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Day 1829

After another damp and foggy morning walk, I went out for breakfast a day early. I guess I could have made myself oatmeal or an omelet but I just didn't feel like fixing anything. It's probably not a good sign that these lackluster moods are becoming commonplace, but you gotta do what you gotta do. A good breakfast still helps kickstart my day whether I make it or not.

I actually had quite a bit of work to complete before Dot's afternoon physical therapy appointment. My retail accounts are already starting to develop ads for Valentine's Day and there are always new dogs and cats to showcase on the rescue websites. I got everything finished just in time to feed Dot and Dash their rice cakes for lunch and get the car ready to take Dot for her weekly appointment with the underwater treadmill.

I wish Dot could talk so she could explain to the vet what happened to her leg a few days ago. I explained the strange episode with the lame leg, but after a thorough examination the vet could find nothing wrong. Dot was strong during her treadmill workout as well, so the leg remains a mystery. I'm sure there is a connection between the lame leg and the tremors and general weakness in both rear legs. It's hard to pin down anything specific though. She's just getting old and doing the best she can.

I was delighted to see that the Dow closed up over 400 points today. There were big gains yesterday as well. These two positive days still haven't erased the huge slide that just about destroyed the entire year's gains, but at least it was a small ray of sunshine. I hope Janet Yellen continues to say things the market likes, because without a 401K or pension, I'm depending on my investments to keep a roof over my head during retirement. It's weird when you realize that Wall Street is a total crap shoot, and yet your entire future depends on it. I guess it really doesn't matter. When you look at ISIS, ebola, North Korean hackers, climate change, and the occasional stray asteroid, Wall Street worries are just small potatoes.

I just realized that although I have taken care of Dot's physical therapy for the day, I still haven't done my own physical therapy exercises. When am I going to find time for this? There are four specific stretching exercises I am supposed to do for at least twenty minutes twice a day. I need to lie on my back on the floor for the most important of these exercises, so I can't do them at my desk either. I wouldn't mind exercises I could do sitting at my desk since there are long periods where I just stare at the screen, waiting for the next idea to hit.

So, do I go back to my favorite restaurant for another breakfast tomorrow? Decisions, decisions. If I'm not too busy, I might put up the Christmas tree. If I don't get it up soon, I'll be putting it up after Christmas.

Alvin is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Day 1828

It was another wet, cold day. As soon as the dogs finished their breakfast, they hopped right back in bed again. They didn't want anything to do with this day. Since they wouldn't budge, I just crawled back in bed myself. Eventually we pulled ourselves together and took our morning walk. I always have trouble getting the dogs outside on damp days, but once we're on our way they show no desire to return home again. I think the smells must be more intense in damp weather, because they both love to smell things.

I think my shoulder must be worse than I thought. Today was my first physical therapy session and some of the initial stretching exercises brought tears to my eyes. You'd think it would be easy to lie on a table and bring my hands behind my head, but it just wasn't happening. I could see my therapist wince every time she heard popping sounds coming from my shoulder as she manipulated the joint. We did a series of simple exercises to loosen the muscles around the joint and after about fifteen minutes I was able to rotate my arm about 15 degrees further behind my head. This is going to be a long, slow process. For the past several years, I've been compensating for the loose shoulder by tensing the muscles on the right side of my back in an attempt to keep the joint in place while I walk the dogs.  Now these muscles are very tight and are restricting a full range of motion. I think things are worse than they used to be, because I remember I could do some of the stretching exercises we tried today as recently as three years ago when I had physical therapy before. At any rate, I promised to do my exercises the best I could and I will see the therapist again next week. I still don't want to consider surgery at this point.

I wanted to check on a package on the UPS website today and discovered I couldn't log in because I'd forgotten my password again. I hate sites that keeping asking you for a ridiculous combination of upper case letters, lower case letters, numbers, and special symbols before they'll approve your password. I can never remember these complex passwords. What's even worse is that many sites don't allow you to re-use a password that you have used before. It doesn't take long to completely run out of easy to remember password ideas. I'll be glad when you can just use a fingerprint or retinal scan to identify yourself. Apple is getting there with its new fingerprint recognition technology, but so far you can only use your fingerprint to unlock the phone. You should be able to use it for everything.

I wish I could teach Dash to read the weather radar. I thought I'd found a nice little window between rain showers to take the dogs out to do their business this afternoon. Dot, as always, peed and pooped quickly and efficiently. Dash was oblivious to the approaching rain and dawdled around until the rain caught up with us. He eventually pooped, but we were all drenched by then. By the time I finally got the dogs back in the house, cleaned their paws, and dried them off with a bath towel, the only sensible thing to do was take another nap. We ended up right where we started, in a big dog-pile on the bed.

Duke is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Day 1827 - Blogiversary

I'm finally getting over my cold. For the first time in over a week, I woke up feeling reasonably normal. It was nice to get through the day without consuming an entire bag of cough drops or box of Kleenex. Usually, when I catch a cold, it only lasts for a few days. This was a nasty one. I've still got a bit of chest congestion and cough occasionally, but it looks like the worst is over.

I continue to be amazed at how few things it takes to completely fill up my day.  Either I'm getting a lot slower, or simple things are becoming more difficult. I had only one fairly routine website assignment today, and I still struggled to get everything finished. Household chores and paying bills seemed to eat up most of my time today. I'm thinking of switching a number of monthly bills to EFT payments, because writing checks and addressing envelopes is so time consuming. Was it always this way? Carpal Tunnel or not, it is becoming increasingly painful to write anything manually anymore. I find typing much easier. Cooking meals seems to take longer than it used to and walking the dogs takes forever. I really enjoy walking the dogs though, no matter how long it takes. Dot takes baby steps now, but I can tell this is still the high point in her day. Dash doesn't seem to mind going slower either. I think he's learned that he has more opportunities to snag something nasty to eat along the trail, now that I concentrate more on keeping Dot from falling.

After I finished today's website assignment and paid a big stack of December bills, I took a little gift card from my favorite clothing store and went shopping. These holiday gift cards the store mails out to regular customers every year are a brilliant marketing ploy. Somehow, I always think I'm going to save $50 and end up spending $200 instead. It never fails. I keep forgetting that this store isn't Kohls.

I also finally got around to taking care of my meager Christmas list on the Amazon website. I was pleased to see that regular shipping will still get there by Christmas. I wasn't quite as pleased when I noticed that several items in my shopping cart had a small notice that said "usually ships in two to four weeks." Hmm. "That's not going to work," I thought and abandoned the checkout procedure to start over again with gifts that shipped immediately.

Here's how forgetful I'm getting. Yesterday was my Blogiversary and I completely forgot about it. Oh, well. I guess we'll celebrate today. In case you haven't noticed, I've been blogging six years now without missing a single day. I wonder if anybody's been reading for six years? Writing this ongoing journal is a weird little accomplishment, but an accomplishment nonetheless. I don't think I've done anything this consistently before in my entire life. Tomorrow I start physical therapy for my shoulder injury. We'll see how consistent I can be with that.

Hannah is today's Dalmatian of the Day

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Monday, December 15, 2014

Day 1826

I got impressions made of my upper teeth at the dentist today. I'd never had this done before and it was certainly an interesting experience. First they fill all the little gaps between your teeth with a special putty, so the liquid silicon impression material they use to make an exact mould of your teeth doesn't get stuck in your mouth when the material cures and hardens. Since I still have a cold, I was afraid I would start coughing during the procedure and screw everything up. Staying still while the first base impression cured was fairly easy. When the dentist started to make the second fine detail impression using a different type of material, he told me that I would need to breathe through my nose for four minutes while the impression material cured. "This ought to be interesting," I thought. I'm still very congested and breathing through your nose isn't something you often do with a bad cold. I tried to breathe very slowly through my clogged nasal passages and hoped the four minutes would be over quickly.

Dot gave me a scare today. When I got out of the shower this morning, she was standing near the bathroom door and refusing to put any weight on her left rear leg. The limp was pronounced and fairly alarming. I gently manipulated the leg to see if she might have had a cruciate tear. Older Dalmatians often tear their anterior cruciate ligament and I'm always afraid that this might happen with Dot. Her rear legs are so weak anyway that a tear could happen any time. I've seen many cruciate tears and Dot didn't seem to exhibit any of the obvious symptoms. I have a feeling that her leg fell asleep. She also could have slipped off her dog bed while she was having a dog dream and had difficulty getting up again. At any rate, she wasn't in any pain and could support her weight on the lame leg when I tested her. I rested with her for a while and then we walked slowly around the house when she was ready to get up again. Within thirty minutes, she was completely back to normal with no limp at all. I'll probably never know what actually happened.

I worked on getting all the Santa Paws equipment we used this weekend put back in its proper place today. Some of the stuff goes under the bed, some goes in the storage warehouse, and some I use all the time. Since we won't be doing this again for quite some time, there's no sense to clutter up the entry hallway any longer than necessary.  The house looks much better now that this stuff is hidden away again.

My Jawbone UP band broke today. Janet and I have each broken three of these things. I still think the little UP band is the most inconspicuous and unobtrusive fitness tracker out there. You quickly forget that you're even wearing it. I love the technology, but the quality is terrible. I've never had one of these things that's even lasted a single year. Sometimes Jawbone will sent you a replacement band for free. Other times they won't. It just depends on what kind of mood they're in. I doubt that they'll send me another replacement this time. I'm probably on a Jawbone blacklist by now. I'm hooked on these little activity trackers, but I don't think I'll get another one. Maybe I'll just wait until the Apple watch comes out next Spring.

I still need to do my Christmas shopping. We need to put up a tree too. For some reason, it's hard to get in the mood this year.

Jasper is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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