Friday, January 31, 2014

Day 1508

No wonder athletes get hooked on steroids. That cortisone shot I got yesterday really took care of the pain in my shoulder. I'm feeling pretty good today, but as the orthopedic surgeon I saw yesterday told me several times, "Just because you feel better, doesn't mean you are better." I need to remember this, because the last time I injured my shoulder, I didn't let it heal properly. I'm not going to repeat that mistake.

I woke up with a dead phone this morning. I'm such a creature of habit that when I used the x-ray of my shoulder for yesterday's blog post, there was not a need to sync the phone with my computer to transfer the day's pictures. This is usually when the batteries get recharged. It never occured to me that I could just plug the phone into a wall socket like a normal person.

The phone is recharged now, and by all appearances, so am I. After a mercifully good night's sleep, I woke up ready to get caught up on things. I updated my client's websites, finished all my writing assignments and even had time to do a little shopping. My favorite menswear store always has this annual Superbowl sale where for a single afternoon they sell their normally hugely expensive merchandise for 75% off. I knew the guys were pricing things for the Sunday sale today so I went down and picked up a great looking pair of Robert Talbot jeans for $39. No more relaxed fit for me. I've lost enough weight that I can wear skinny jeans again.

I really miss not being able to walk the dogs. The long morning walks are typically the most relaxing part of my day. Janet was able to walk Dot and Dash again today and we'll probably select a dog walker over the weekend. I'm not a very trusting person, so it might be hard to find a dog walker that I have any faith in. "Don't ever let Dash's leash get out of your hand," I'll say. "He'll run away and you'll never see him again." "Dot is very frail. Don't let her trip on a rock or get tugged around by Dash." "Don't ever let Dash eat horse poop. He has a sensitive stomach and he'll throw up in the bed the next night and leave a horrible mess for me to clean up." I've spent so much time around the dogs that I'm convinced that I can read their minds and anticipate their actions. I'm not sure anyone else will have this ability.

Tomorrow I'll be shooting Valentine's Day pet pictures for a Dalmatian Rescue fundraiser. We always do a ton of Christmas events, but this is the first Valentine's Day photo shoot we've had since 2010. Janet and the volunteers will help me load and unload the heavy equipment, so I should be fine. If the camera pulls my shoulder out of joint again, I'm in worse trouble than I thought.

The stock market had another terrible day. They say as January goes, so goes the entire year. I hope that's not true. Things certainly aren't looking very auspicious at this point though. Maybe this isn't the year to fret about money. If I can finally rid myself of the Hepatitis-C virus I've been carrying around with me for 30 years, it will be a very good year no matter what happens with the market. The older you get, the more you realize that health actually is more important than wealth.

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

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Day 1507

The bad news is that I apparently did dislocate my right shoulder on Tuesday. The good news is that I probably won't need surgery. After spending the better part of the day reading old magazines in two different waiting rooms, I finally received some pain pills and a cortisone shot directly in my shoulder joint. I'm already starting to feel a little better, but I can't walk the dogs for two weeks. When I go to the gym, I need to forgo the upper body exercises for a while as well.

Last night was terrible. I didn't sleep a wink. I finally got so tired of the dogs bumping into my arm on the bed, that I pushed two of their dogs beds together in the living room and slept there. Well, I tried to sleep anyway. It was painful on my back, on my side, and on my stomach. There was just no escape from the painful shoulder. Janet walked the dogs and drove me to the doctor this morning, but it put her way behind at work. We're going to have to find a dog walker for a short time while I heal.

I got a call this afternoon saying that I had been approved to begin my Hepatitis-C treatment. It looks like I will begin taking the newly approved medicine next week. It is absolutely astounding how expensive these little miracle pills are. You could purchase a very nice new car for what it costs to take the new 12-week Solvadi and ribavirin regime. Luckily my insurance will pick up most of the tab. It's hard to believe that a few little pills could ever cost so much, but I guess the pharmaceutical company is trying to recover the enormous cost of developing these pills.

I didn't do well with my writing assignments today. It's hard to type with one hand. It's actually a lot easier to drive with one hand, although shifting can still be a little tricky. I drove to my second doctor's appointment myself and somehow made it home again in one piece. Hopefully, I will at least partially regain the use of my other hand by tomorrow. I have a big photo assignment on Saturday and I'm a little worried that I won't be able to pick up my five pound DLSR. A lot could change by Saturday though. I'm optimistic at this point.

You learn a lot about the healthcare system when you spend your day sitting in waiting rooms. Today, I learned that medicine is way too expensive, waiting rooms are way too crowded, and doctors are almost universally stressed and overworked. I asked my doctor this morning how Obamacare was working out for him.  He said it was total chaos at his clinic. He told me that nobody has a clue about what to charge patients, or even whether the patients are actually insured. The only person I know personally who is a fan of Obamacare happens to own an insurance company. If insurance executives actually like the plan, this tells me all I need to know. I'd love to have been a fly on the wall when all those big insurance executives got together with the president. You know they walked away from that meeting with some kind of sweet deal.

Dalmatian of the Day
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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Day 1506

It wasn't a particularly good day. I was waylaid at an early morning meeting and arrived home about an hour late to discover that Dash had pooped all over the office carpet. It was past time for his morning walk and he just couldn't hold it any longer. Since I was still dressed in my best Armani suit, I had to quickly change, quarantine the dogs in another room so they wouldn't make the smelly mess worse, and then clean everything up before we began a walk that had been delayed even further. The dogs weren't happy, and neither was I. Something told me that this might happen as I watched this morning's meeting drag on. My life has become so regimented with the dogs that I want to scream at people if they cause delays or get me off my schedule by even ten minutes. Hey, guys. Any additional business you might bring me just isn't worth the thought of spending hours cleaning dog poop off the carpet.

My arm hurts more today than it did yesterday. The right shoulder has become so painful that I can hardly move it. I even had trouble turning the steering wheel on the way home this morning. I'm not really sure what to do at this point. I've dislocated my shoulder before and x-rays usually show nothing. I suspect that I have a soft tissue injury or torn muscle and that the recipe for recovery is lots of rest. I don't think lots of rest is in the cards just yet.The dogs are going to need their walks no matter what is wrong with my arm.

Once Dot and Dash were settled in for the rest of the day, I brewed a pot of coffee and started my work assignments. On days like today where I lose thousands in a stock market sell-off, the paltry hundreds I earn back by writing seem insignificant. My writing clients want things too quickly, my website clients want more complicated things than they are willing to pay for, and I'm growing tired of the whole charade. Most of the people at the Wednesday networking group tell me they love their jobs, but I don't believe them. They've all described to me what they actually do and I don't see much to love. Work sucks these days. It's kind of like that State of the Union address last night. If Obama was really honest he would have said that the Union was in the crapper. No president does that though. They all say that the State of the Union is strong.

If my arm doesn't feel any better tomorrow, I'm going to go get an x-ray and a referral to see a good physical therapist. That's about the only thing I can think of. If Dash poops on the carpet again tomorrow, I don't know what I'm going to do. Doesn't he realize that most of the floors in our house are brick? If he has to go, why can't he poop on the bricks?

Oh, well. Tomorrow is a new day. Unfortunately it is only Thursday. I'm ready for seventy degree temperatures again, and I'm definitely ready for Friday.

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

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Day 1505

Although I spent my teenage years in Alaska, I don't think I could take Northern Winters anymore. This morning was brutal. The temperature was in the teens and there was a stiff wind that made the wind chill feel much worse. The dogs have both learned to do their business very quickly, so we can return to the warm house as soon as possible. I'm glad Dash has finally overcome his reluctance to pee in the yard, but I think this cold spell has made him a bit too casual. This evening when he went outside, he quickly peed on the patio furniture on the back porch and immediately came back inside.

I found myself daydreaming about retirement today. Although I am very busy, the relatively small amount of money I make for my efforts is hardly worth the trouble. I've depended on the stock market to make up the difference for quite some time. If I could still make a reliable 10% total return year-in and year-out, I'd probably have retired already. My financial adviser isn't too keen on the idea of retirement though. He's a realist. He is convinced that there will be other years like 2008, and that it's always a good idea to keep a few irons in the fire. I reluctantly agree. My business changes so quickly that if I abruptly quit, I wouldn't have a clue what was going on within three years. So here I am, competing with a bunch of millennials who just don't don't know how to price things. I'm holding my own, but it feels a lot like treading water.  I wonder how these young wordsmiths and design wizards are ever going to get rich if they keep undercutting everybody's prices.

Since our dog walks were cut short by the cold, I spent a little extra time in the gym today. My biceps are getting bigger, my core is stronger, and it is clear I'm making progress. My shoulder still hurts, unfortunately. I have a feeling that I should see a good physical therapist, or maybe even get an MRI scan of my shoulder. Something is really wrong. After today's workout, I couldn't lift my right arm above eye level. The shoulder always hurts and I'm seldom able to lift this arm above my head, with or without weights. The dogs continually pull this shoulder out of joint on our daily walks, so most of my rehabilitation efforts are futile. Hey, everything else is going well though. I'm a one armed wonder.

I don't think I can skip tomorrow's networking breakfast, like I did last week. I have to give a progress report on the website I'm designing for the group. Yes, there is a website and it's almost done. I wonder if these guys realize that I'm just coming to these meetings for the food. Now that I've become serious about staying healthy, enjoying the occasional tasty meal has become a big deal. I was just getting ready to to make my morning oatmeal today, when I discovered a leftover bacon and mushroom quiche in the refrigerator. That little quiche made my day.

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

Monday, January 27, 2014

Day 1504

What happened to yesterday's balmy seventy degree weather? Today it was closer to thirty degrees with a thirty mile per hour wind. Brr! I'm sure the global warming crowd has a convoluted explanation for these strange extremes, but I've never seen anything like it. When you go from Winter to Summer to Winter again, all in the span of two days, something is messed up.

I picked up some prescriptions today and noticed that the price had gone down again. Apparently the time I had to spend in the dreaded donut hole penalty box was mercifully short. I asked my pharmacist if he knew what was going on, and of course he didn't. The entire healthcare system has become a mysterious black hole that sucks in questions and never regurgitates answers. I have a feeling that Obabacare is just Medicare under another name. If that's the case, lord help all of us.

I had lots of writing work to do today, but still found time to drive downtown for my third blood test in less than a week. Usually, I don't even feel the needle during these tests, but this time I walked away with a sore arm. Maybe I've just been poked too many times in too few days, or maybe the nurse just wasn't paying attention today. Either way, I think I've had enough blood tests to last me for a while. My next test is scheduled for March.

I decided to run the malware checking software I got recently on my large five terabyte backup drive. That was probably a mistake. Almost two days later, the initial scan of the drive still isn't complete. There is a message in the progress bar that says 72 million files have been scanned. That can't possibly be right. Even with the thousands of small invisible Unix files that the Apple operating system installs, how could I have 72 million files on my computer? Even with the separate partition for Linux software that I haven't used in years, this number still seems way, way too high.  It wouldn't surprise me a bit if some of these mystery files were secretly installed by Google or the NSA.  Since a lot of files on any computer are normally invisible these days so you won't erase part of the operating system by mistake, it makes you wonder if anybody really knows what is on their machine.

Apple stock took a huge plunge in after hours trading after a bad earnings report. Every time Apple stock gets down around $500 a share, I wonder if I should buy some again? I used to own Apple and did quite well with it back when Steve Jobs was alive. Now, I'm beginning to wonder if the moment has passed. My latest iPhone is basically the same as my first iPhone. Just about everybody's laptops are basically the same. Lets face it, when your grandparents start to adopt a technology, it's probably time to move on. Maybe 3D printing is the next big thing. I've invested in a few 3D printing companies, but I really have no idea what's around the next bend. I'm afraid if I really could see the future, it would scare the hell out of me.

Sophie is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Sunday, January 26, 2014

Day 1503

On our walk today, the dogs and I passed two hikers wearing surgical masks, a little further down the trail we saw someone nailing a big cardboard sign to a tree with a magic marker message that simply said FOUND TOOTH. There was no explanation of who lost the tooth in the first place, or why finding it was important. On our way home we passed three Japanese girls creating an elaborate tableau in the woods out of red and white paper lanterns and crepe paper. Why? Your guess is as good as mine. Did I mention that it was a very nice day? On a nasty day none of this nonsense would be taking place. In inclement weather, the dogs and I pretty much have the park to ourselves.

We also saw a lot of people in hammocks this afternoon. When did spending the afternoon in a hammock become trendy?  I see people spending forever carefully stringing a hammock between two trees with rope, and then as soon as they are situated inside the hammock, they get out their phones and begin texting someone. Is this today's equivalent of communing with nature. I don't get it.

Admittedly, I don't get much these days. Somewhere in another room of house I hear the Grammy Awards playing on a TV. I used to really like the Grammys but I seldom watch the show anymore. I just don't understand the appeal of performers like Macklemore. Is this even music? About the only thing that will stop me from channel flipping when I hear music on TV lately is when I accidentally encounter one of those Kennedy Center extravaganzas where they are giving a lifetime achievement award to a group like Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin. Where is this generation's Stairway to Heaven or Welcome to the Machine? I haven't heard it yet.

Dot and Dash had a great time at the dog park today. The temperature got up to 73 degrees and it was warm enough to wear shorts. Shorts in January is almost always preferable to ice storms in January. I did a little yard work when we got home from the dog park, and then I went to the gym. After my regular workout, I shot free-throws for a while. I have no interested in basketball as a game, but I'm fascinated by throwing free-throws. To consistently dunk the ball time-after-time, you have to perfect your hand-eye coordination. The tiniest little deviation will send the ball to the left or the right. I still haven't been able to shoot five "nothing but net" free-throws in a row, but I'm getting closer.

Has anyone noticed that I've passed the 1500 day mark? 1500 posts in a row without missing a single day ever is somewhat of an achievement. It's an odd little achievement, but it would be hard for someone to duplicate. The blog is slowly but surely becoming popular. Most people just read it on Facebook or Google+, but at least they read it somewhere. Probably by the time I reach Day 5000, people will be placing bets in Vegas on what the final day number will be. It won't be tomorrow. That's for sure. Tomorrow is just another day filled with blood tests and boring assignments. Mondays always make Tuesdays look exciting.

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

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Day 1502

Janet and I started the day with a cholesterol screening at our neighborhood health food store. This was the second blood test I've had in two days. I'll have another one on Monday. It's kind of ridiculous to have this many blood tests, but each one was ordered by a different doctor and doctors seldom talk to each other these days. Actually, today's test wasn't ordered by anybody. I've just become hooked on blood tests. I'd have one every day if I could. It's interesting to see how your body's chemistry changes hour-to-hour and day-to-day. If you only get a blood test once a year during your annual physical, you have to realize that it doesn't really mean much. If you took the same test six hours later, you would get different results. Over time, the tests show distinct patterns though. It's kind of like watching the stock market charts. I like to do that too.

Since we had to fast for the test, we went out to breakfast afterwards. "Where do you want to go," I asked Janet. "You're the breakfast restaurant expert," she said. So I introduced her to a place within easy walking distance of the health food store. There are breakfast restaurants all over the place in our neighborhood.

My ISP called today and told me that my account had been compromised. We changed some passwords and tried to figure out whether the breach was on my end or the server end. I'm still not sure, but did what I always do in these situations: I bought some new virus/malware checking software. After I installed the software and ran the scan, I read on the Internet that if I upgraded my operating system to Mountain Lion with this software installed, my computer would crash. Damn. Another case of the cure being worse than the disease.

I don't know what's going on with Dash these days. For a reason known only to him, he has completely revised his pooping schedule. He no longer does his business on our evening walk like he's been doing for years, preferring to wake us up at three in the morning instead. There is nothing wrong. He doesn't have a stomach virus or diarrhea or anything. He just seems to have shifted his internal clock by about six hours. Dot is still as regular as clockwork, but she is just as irritated by this new development as the rest of us. When Dash decides he needs to go outside in the middle of the night, he wakes everybody up.

The temperature got into the mid-sixties today. Quite a change from yesterday's freezing weather. It's strange to be whipsawed back and forth like this. I can't tell whether we are having a cold Winter or a warm Winter. It appears like we're having both at the same time. I try to enjoy the nice weather whenever it decides to appear. Hopefully, this warm trend will continue thru tomorrow. Today would have been a great day to go to the dog park.

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

Friday, January 24, 2014

Day 1501

I'm having trouble telling whether things are even headed in the right direction anymore. Yesterday I thought I was almost finished with my ongoing battle with Hepatitis-C. Today a get a somewhat alarmed call from a nurse saying that my potassium levels were really high and I needed to get them under control before I could even begin my treatment. WTF? I've had hundreds of blood tests and my potassium levels were never in the danger zone before.

The nurse wanted to start me on some sort of medication immediately to remove the excess potassium. I wondered how the potassium got into my system in the first place and she asked me if I ate bananas, potatoes, or yoghurt, and drank a lot of orange juice. Well yes, actually. I do all those things frequently. The nurse told me to stop consuming potassium rich food and drive downtown to the hospital right away and pick up the medicine that would cause my body to get rid of the stuff. I still don't know why this was such a big deal, especially since other doctors have told me that potassium was a good thing. 

I've finally learned to follow my doctor's directions, so I picked up the medicine. I thought that I would be taking a pill, but it turned out I was supposed to drink a large bottle of horrible tasting stuff instead. The nurse said to chug the bottle in one sitting and then chase it with a soft drink to kill the taste. I don't drink soft drinks anymore and actually thought the Diet Coke I drank tasted worse than the medicine. I guess I won't be having a big bowl of bananas, blueberries, and yoghurt for breakfast tomorrow morning.

The tree is finally gone from my roof. The tree removal crew arrived while I was away having my Friday morning breakfast outing. When I checked on the dogs using the iPhone nanny cam, I noticed that Dash appeared very agitated and was pacing around the room. Dot was fast asleep on the bed, even though I clearly heard chain saws in the background on the phone. I know that old dogs sleep soundly, but this was pretty amazing. I think Dash was agitated because he knew that it was his turn to step up to the plate and protect the house from the offending noise, even though his older sister usually took care of this chore for him. The dogs were both fine when I got home, but since they are both prone to seizures, I stayed with them until the tree guys had finished their work. 

They sure finished a lot sooner than I thought they would. I had asked one of the tree guys if they could also clean up the dead branches the ice storm had knocked loose on one of the large oak trees in the back of the yard. Since the crew was already here, I didn't think it would be a big deal. The guy said sure, indicating that it wouldn't  be a problem to trim one more tree. A short time later the entire crew inexplicably drove off and left without an explanation. They didn't go anywhere near the oak tree. Why they left in such a hurry without bothering to trim the additional tree is as much of a mystery to me as my suddenly elevated potassium levels.

To complete the strange day, the stock market dropped over 300 points. I lost more in one day than I typically make in an entire month of writing.  I still believe that the market is my only real hope of permanently staying ahead of the game. Like I said earlier however, I'm having trouble telling whether things are even headed in the right direction anymore.  It's a very confusing world.

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

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Day 1500

My visit with the hepatologist today was very encouraging. The new treatment for Hepatitis-C is far superior to the old interferon and ribavirin treatment. The new treatment only takes 12 weeks. It is almost always successful. And there are no horrible side effects. The old treatment could take up to a year, involved injecting yourself with very expensive interferon every week, and it almost always made you feel like you had a bad case of the flu. You also had to worry that the medicine would destroy your white blood cells.

Sovaldi, the major component of the new treatment, appears to be an amazing new drug. I'm glad someone finally invented it. The only downside is that I have to get approved before the pharmaceutical company will start sending it to me. The first part of the approval process involved getting new baseline blood work done. That part was a piece of cake. The next part involves getting insurance approval.  Lets see. A brand new advanced drug and an antiquated approval system that doesn't even understand some of the regular medication I take. What could possibly go wrong?

The best part of this new treatment is that my reluctance to inject myself with interferon has actually worked in my favor. Apparently Sovaldi works best if you have never had the interferon and ribavirin combo before.  We'll see what happens. My medical team wants to see me again in March. They say that I should be halfway through my treatment by then.

It was so cold today that the dogs and I were both reluctant to go outside. Nature calls though, so we had to bundle up and make the best of it. I found some new dog coats that are much easier to get on and off and the dogs seem to tolerate them pretty well. Getting them to wear their old sweaters was often an exercise in futility. Luckily, we didn't have to stay outside as long as we used to. Dash has finally learned to poop in the yard on cold days. Thank god! I don't know why it took him five years to learn this simple trick, but I'm glad he's finally acting sensible.

The tree service is supposed to come out and remove the tree from my roof tomorrow. We'll see how that goes. I wouldn't be terribly surprised if the tree trimmers never show up. The tree has been sitting up there on the roof since well before Christmas, despite several promises of a speedy removal.  When the tree is finally gone, I'll move on to my next big project: doing my taxes.

Chloe is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Day 1499

I skipped the networking breakfast this morning. Maybe I'm growing tired of bacon, or maybe I just didn't have any interest in learning about how to retain good sales managers. That's the trouble with these networking breakfasts. The food is good, but the speakers very seldom deal with anything I'm remotely interested in. These aren't exactly Ted Talks here. Since I have to give one of these talks myself later this Spring, I shouldn't be too disparaging. I still don't know what I'm going to talk about, but I bet it will be a little different than what these folks are used to.

Since I wasn't stuffing myself with bacon and sausages, I walked the dogs and had my usual bowl of oatmeal and fruit. It was really cold on our walk this morning. All the vegetation was covered with frost. I'm sure glad the furnace is working again. This ongoing tug of war between heat and cold will continue through April. Then it will just be hot all the time. Basically, Texas weather is hopeless.

Since Dot had an acupuncture treatment on Monday when we took her to the vet for her spinal X-Ray, she didn't go for her usual Wednesday therapy today. This made the entire day sort of topsy-turvy. When I finished my work for the day, I used Dot's time slot to go to the gym. I frequently go to the gym on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but have never gone on a Wednesday before. Much to my surprise the place was crowded. What would make a Wednesday afternoon different than a Tuesday afternoon? Both are workdays. At any rate, I think I'll go back to working out on Tuesdays. You should know my style by now. When I go out in public, I like my destination to be empty.

I had a lot of work to do today, and none of it was very interesting. I won't bore you with the details. Tomorrow should be interesting though. I have an appointment with my hepatologist to discuss, and perhaps even begin, my new Hepatitis-C treatment. I still don't have any idea what this new treatment involves, but I've heard that it is much more effective than the old interferon and ribavirin combo. I'm looking forward to finally putting all this behind me. If the new medicine works, I should be completely virus free in six months. I still find it ironic that I am being treated at the very same hospital that gave me the transfusion of bad blood that started this whole mess over 30 years ago.

I watched a fascinating documentary about J.D. Salinger last night on PBS. I never realized that Salinger kept writing prolifically right up until his death in 2010. He supposedly wrote dozens of unpublished novels and kept the manuscripts in a safe at his New Hampshire home, stipulating in his will that they weren't to be published until 50 years after his death. I don't think J.D. Salinger would have liked the Internet.

Raider is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Day 1498

I'm perpetually tired these days. I follow the generally accepted practice of compensating for today's declining rates by increasing my work load. Economies of scale don't really work for me unfortunately, since I have nobody to delegate things to. There is only me. The more business I get, the faster I have to work, and the less fun everything becomes. If I didn't detest working with others so much, I would hire a bunch of young, low paid work slaves and delegate everything. This seems to work for some people. I prefer to live under the illusion that I'm an artist, working alone, and doing whatever I want. I'm not really an artist, of course. I just grind out a bunch of crap that other people don't want to bother with themselves.

I identify with what a lot of millennials are going through. They don't want to grow up and become chemical engineers and mathematicians. They'd rather do what I do instead. Hey guys, I don't think there's much future in being me. I've played around at being a documentary filmmaker, an architect, a fashion photographer, and a writer. I never wanted to have a real job, and still don't. I only manage to live pretty well because I got lucky in the 1980's. It remains to be seen whether luck will come my way again. My advice to millennials comes with a note of caution. The world just doesn't need many Peter Pans. If you don't want to compromise and collaborate, be prepared to live in your parent's basement forever.

If you are determined to pursue the creative life when the world is crying out for medical administrators and petroleum engineers, I wish you luck. I would encourage you to leave your parents immediately and learn to fend for yourself. That's what I did. I failed again and again, but learned that failure is no big deal. If one thing didn't work, I would just try something else. If something actually did work, I would run with it until I got bored. I learned that if you are supremely confident, you will survive no matter what you do. I guess I'm still surviving after a fashion, although I feel a bit like Alice after she'd gone down the rabbit hole. The world is a very strange place these days.

I'm glad I enjoy the company of dogs. Dogs keep me humble and dogs keep me honest. When I'm not writing, I'm a faithful butler, attending to the needs of Dot and Dash. Today, we walked, we ate, and we napped a bit. I took Dash to the vet for his antigen shot. I helped Dot up when she stumbled a bit on her morning walk. The dogs tolerate the long hours I spend writing and I tolerate some equally strange habits of theirs. I'm still tired though. There's no getting around that.

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

Monday, January 20, 2014

Day 1497

The furnace is working again. Marty, my favorite technician, came over to the house to work on the furnace. The problem actually did turn out to be a dirty flame sensor, just as I expected. Marty was initially puzzled why this was happening so frequently. After a lengthy call to the manufacturer, it was determined that the problem wasn't with the furnace itself, but with where it was located. Since the furnace is installed in a fairly small laundry room, instead of in the attic or basement where most furnaces are located, it is subjected to much more dust and lint than normal. Every time the pilot light ignites, a small fans turns on, sucking the dirty laundry room air into the combustion chamber. Over time, some of this dust is deposited on the flame sensor and fused to it by the flame. Although this is a clear and rational explanation of the problem, I don't know what the solution is. The furnace certainly won't fit in any other room of the house.

Dot had her spinal X-Rays today. We're still trying to determine the true cause of the ongoing weakness in her legs that is slowly causing her muscles to atrophy. The radiology report was very positive. There are no slipped or ruptured disks. That's good! I'm no expert, but her X-Rays looked fabulous to me. I've seen worse on much younger dogs. It could be that when all is said and done, we find out that Dot is just a very old dog in excellent health for her age. One difficulty with rescue dogs is that you never really know how old they are. A rescue dog's birthday is usually the day you adopted them. Dot could be a mildly arthritic 12 year old, or the world's healthiest 15 year old Dalmatian. I don't think we'll ever know for sure.

The posters I did yesterday were well received. If I created and printed more of these large posters, I probably wouldn't have any of my ongoing problems with clogged ink lines. Of course, the reason I don't have time to piddle around making fine art posters is that I'm way too busy earning a living. If the stock market was as predictable as it was when I initially started investing, I could probably make a decent living from my investments alone. Then I could  go back to making arty posters again. That's not likely to happen though. The world is insane. Market forces are just part of the equation now. Geopolitical issues, monetary policy, and those age old demons fear and greed all get in the way these days. Investing today is not much different that betting on football teams.

When I was a high flying young ad man, I thought I'd be lying on a beach with a drink in my hand by now. That's not likely to happen either.

April is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Sunday, January 19, 2014

Day 1496

We woke up this morning to a cold house. Yup, the furnace has gone out again. I know exactly what is wrong. The flame sensor has gotten dirty  and it no longer senses the gas flame. The pilot light ignites the burners, which shut down again two seconds later when the flame sensor doesn't detect anything. This used to happen seven or eight times a year with the old furnace. Surprisingly, it still happens at least once a season with our relatively new furnace. When the HVAC folks come out to fix things, they always tell me that the flame sensor shouldn't be getting dirty like this and blame the gas company for delivering bad gas. As you might expect, the gas company denies this and tells me that there is absolutely nothing wrong with their gas. The furnace always seems to go out on a weekend or holiday too. It never fails. Hopefully, I can get a repair crew out tomorrow.

I managed to get my two large poster projects printed. Unlike the furnace, the printer seemed to be working fine today. Most of the problems I had with these posters originated in the computer, not the printer itself. Back when I was doing a lot of print work for clients, I had a full suite of professional monitor and printer calibration tools. Unfortunately, none of this sophisticated hardware and software works with my current computer. Pre-press software is expense and I just don't do enough print work anymore to warrant upgrading to the latest versions of all this stuff. I wing it now, and it's harder to get a really good looking print. Today's prints aren't perfect, but the color looks pretty close to the original photo and I did finally figure out how to force the printer to make borderless prints again.

Dot and Dash loved their trip to the dog park today. We ran into a friend from our Wednesday training class, and Dash seemed delighted to see a familiar face. The dogs all played for a while while Janet and I walked around enjoying the sunny day. At least it was nice today. On a really cold day, it would have been a lot worse to have the furnace go out.

I finally made it back to the gym this afternoon. I was so busy last week that I only had time to go once during the week. The running track at the gym has a sign that says you are supposed to go one direction on even days and the opposite direction on odd days. Nobody knows why this rule is in place, but everybody follows directions. Today, one woman started walking around the track in the wrong direction and everyone else followed suit. I jogged in the even day direction too, even though it was clearly an odd numbered day. I think people were just embarrassed to tell the first woman to change directions, and admit they took the stupid rule seriously. By the time I left, there were dozens of people running in the wrong direction. Maybe this is how revolutions start.

You know all those list of things you see on your Facebook timeline? Yesterday I clicked on a list that said "17 things that a depressed person should never do."Yikes! I was doing all 17. Don't expect me to change my ways any time soon though. I've grown very comfortable with my grumpy behavior.

Daisy is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Saturday, January 18, 2014

Day 1495

Every year about this time, I get a letter from my accountant telling me that it's time to start gathering my tax records together. The letters go out early, because he knows that it takes people a long time to locate everything. I don't mind the idea of paying taxes. It makes perfect sense that we all pay for the roads we use and air traffic controllers and the research it takes to look for a cure for cancer. What irks me about paying taxes is that most of the money I hand over to the government every year is just wasted. The money that isn't wasted most likely goes to fund programs that I don't even believe in. I wonder what would happen if we all paid the same amount of income tax, but got to decide where it would go. I wouldn't mind funding programs I believe in. If we all got to do that, I have a feeling that the country would look a lot different.

Most of my opinions about the world are formed by what I see in my own little neighborhood. Lately, I've started seeing a whole lot of government waste. Somebody has decided that the park needs new signs. Most of the important areas in the park already have identifying signage, but apparently, they need brand new signs. I've started seeing a huge number of elaborate stonework and welded metal signs going up. Each of these small monuments to government waste often take a crew of six to ten stone masons and craftsmen up to three weeks to complete. The new signs are usually placed right next to the old simple wood signs that were there all along. I have an idea what happened here. At some point in the past, a bond issue was passed to improve the park. A small percentage of the total, maybe 2%, was designated for signage. Since the original bond issue was for tens of millions of dollars, the total amount designated for signage was probably quite large. Somebody was hired to administer the signage budget, and rather than admit they didn't actually need all that money, they decided to embark on the world's most elaborate park signage program and spend every cent. That's just the way government works. No bureaucrat will ever admit that someone gave them too much money to spent.

Our January weather certainly is weird this year. Another cold front blew through last night and we woke up to near freezing temperatures. Once the sun came out, the temperature rose rapidly and by the time I took the dogs on their evening walk, it was almost seventy degrees. That's quite a swing in a single day. I started the day wearing my goose-down winter coat and ended it wearing a t-shirt.

I've been asked to print a large poster for a February adoption event and am somewhat chagrined to realize that I've forgotten how to make these large posters. I used to do this all the time and was quite good at it. Jeez, this is exactly what I've been trying to keep the large printer unclogged for. I can't believe I've forgotten how to use the large printer. My memory is a sieve. You know what they say: use it or lose it. It won't take me long to get up to speed again, since everything I need to know is already on Wikipedia, but this is a bit embarrassing.

Dovey is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Friday, January 17, 2014

Day 1494

I returned to a restaurant I hadn't visited in about three months and was surprised to discover that the entire staff had changed. All the waiters were new. Even the chef was new. The new staff was almost painfully friendly, continually smiling and making sure that they told you their name. When my order arrived, my suspicions were confirmed. This place had hired a restaurant consultant. I ordered the same thing I always order at this place. The portions were slightly smaller, but everything was exceptionally pretty on the plate. The restaurant consultant had probably given the new staff a seminar about interacting with customers and plating food.

I found all the changes a bit sad, since there was nothing wrong with the restaurant in the first place. I actually preferred the slightly grumpy original waiters to the forced cheeriness of this new batch. I'm sure the restaurant was profitable, since it was almost always full, but I'll bet the owners weren't satisfied and wanted to make even more money. I don't know why people are always compelled to change things. My motto has always been "if it's not broke, don't fix it."

My haircut later in the day was equally interesting. It's easy to get the pulse of the nation if you listen to what people are talking about in a barber shop or hair salon. The woman getting her hair done next to me was telling her stylist that she wanted to take her vacation in Marfa or Area 51, so she could look for aliens. My own stylist was telling me how she likes to take her cats on car rides, so they can watch birds through the sun roof. Lately, I've noticed that hair salons try to shame you into leaving a tip. When you hand them your credit card, they look you in the eye and ask if you'd like some cash back for a tip. Like $75 for a simple haircut isn't enough? Jeez! Today, all the people in line ahead of me were leaving lavish tips, so I guess the shaming worked. I left a tip as well.

I've got to do something about my work load. One of my clients has already doubled the number of pictures they want to change out on their website every week, and another wants to double the amount of writing assignments they give me each month. So far, I'm keeping up but the house is sure getting dirty. I really don't have time for anything other than working and walking the dogs these days. Sadly, nobody seems to think that writing the blog every day is important but me.

Dalmatian of the Day
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Thursday, January 16, 2014

Day 1493

I had one of my periodic meetings with my financial adviser today. 2013 was a good year for investors, but we didn't spend much time patting ourselves on the back. Since everything that goes up must inevitably come down, we spent most of our time trying to formulate an exit strategy for the big correction that is sure to come. Investing is frustrating and requires a lot of patience. On a good day, you're on top of the world. Good days can be followed by bad days where your gains can be erased in an instant, unfortunately. Several of my positions had 100% gains this year, while others suffered huge losses. As someone who has always appreciated a sure thing, these ups and downs can be nerve wracking. What's the alternative though? I know I'm not going to write the next Harry Potter blockbuster, or come up with an alternative to the iPhone.

I'm certainly not going to get rich writing ads, or providing clients with content marketing canon fodder. That's what I did today. My financial adviser always asks me how my business is doing. It's a rhetorical question and I don't think he really wants to know the answer. He makes his money taking a few percent off the top of every portfolio under management. When printing budgets were high and elaborate annual report were in fashion, I did essentially the same thing. You can do quite well taking a small percentage of a large budget. The best thing is that nobody really cares what you make as long as your piece of the pie remains small. All that has changed, unfortunately. At least it has for me. Printing budgets are small and creative services are a la carte now. That's why I depend on equities. I think the chances of a writer hitting the big time are just about the same as a journeyman club musician winning American Idol. Sure, it happens, but not very often.

Some of the neighbors are trying to get streets closed in the neighborhood. They think it will cut down on traffic. I don't know what all the fuss is about, since I already live on the busiest street in the neighborhood. Compared to my own problems of getting out of my driveway during rush hour, these other people's streets are a cakewalk. I'm not really a fan of street closures anyway. The whole idea of streets is to make it easier to get from point to point. When you start closing some streets off, you create bottlenecks. I'd rather leave all the streets open, but just not let anybody use them.

I may go to a different restaurant tomorrow. If I keep eating my favorite Friday eggs over and over again for months at a time, they're not likely to remain a favorite for much longer. It's time for a change. It's time for a haircut too. Maybe I'll try something new for breakfast and then go get a haircut in the afternoon. That sounds like a plan.

Shelby is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Day 1492

When Dot was in the water treadmill this afternoon, she momentarily seemed to become disoriented and forgot where she was. Even though the water level was not very high, she seemed to panic and started swimming instead of walking normally on the treadmill. We stopped the treadmill and let her calm down as I told her that everything was OK. After a few minutes, we slowly started the treadmill again and everything was completely normal. Dot seemed to forget the whole episode. Although I'm not really sure what happened, I can certainly relate to losing your bearings. Sometimes I'll be driving along and realize that I have absolutely no idea where I'm going. Usually, these moments pass very quickly and by the time I arrive at the next stoplight, I'm back on track again. Maybe this is what happen to Dot today. I think for a brief moment, she forgot where she was and thought the rising water in the tank was going to drown her.

I inadvertently ended up being the Debbie Downer of the lightning round session at this morning's networking breakfast. Instead of brashly proclaiming that my business was going to double in 2014, as the others all appeared to be doing, I patiently explained why my entire industry is fucked and told the group that my goal for the year was just to get back to billing out what I was ten years ago. Although everything I said about the current state of the ad industry is true, I don't think it was what these folks wanted to hear. I should have known better than to share breakfast with a group of people who are always convinced that the glass is half full. Sorry guys, I seem to have lost my rose colored glasses. I think the glass is empty. I'll probably keep going to this group though, because I do love bacon.

I think I've lost the battle with the bird who poops on my car every morning. I've placed little paper hats and other wobbly things on my mirrors to deter the bird, but it seems to know how to remove them. For reasons that other birds will only know, this bird loves to sit on my rear view mirrors and drop a load. Even though Janet's car is only twelve feet away, the bird only shits on mine. It leaves her car untouched. I hope the bird doesn't start building a nest. Once a bird actually built a nest in my mailbox and I had to ask the mailman to leave my mail somewhere else for a while so magazines or packages dropped in the box wouldn't kill the baby birds. The mailman and I became quite interested in the birds progress. We watched them grow, until one day they just disappeared. I still don't know whether they learned to fly, or whether a cat got them all.

I hope my financial adviser has some good ideas for me at our meeting tomorrow. 3-D Printing turned out to be a great idea last year. Gold? Well, gold wasn't so good. That's the trouble with investing. It's hard to be right all the time.

Betty is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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