Monday, June 30, 2014

Day 1658

I looked at my calendar for July and it was already filled with vet appointments and doctor visits. When you add trips to the pharmacy to pick up prescriptions, this is pretty much how I spend my time. In any given month, at least three of these appointments will need to be rescheduled because I'd forgotten that I already had another medical appointment at the same time. So far, the only non-medical things I see for July are a day of jury duty and a visit with my financial adviser to discover why I feel so poor.

It's frustrating to see so many of my investments doing poorly at a time when the market is near an all-time high. I have nobody to blame but myself, unfortunately. Nobody forced me to invest in these losers. One of the worst things I did was get excited about the natural gas industry after making a documentary about a pioneering shale gas producer. Natural gas seemed like a sure thing at the time. It wasn't. I discovered that investing in small energy companies can be a very risky business. Live and learn has always been my motto, but this was a very expensive lesson.

I discovered today that one of the first bloggers I ever started reading regularly passed away this weekend. If I hadn't seen some other bloggers talking about the woman's obituary on Facebook, I never would have known. This certainly wasn't the first time I got the news about someone's death on Facebook. I've learned about the passing of high school friends, former co-workers, distant relatives, and several other bloggers all in the course of reading my Facebook wall. I guess it's a sign of the times. I was trying to explain social media to a friend about my age a few weeks ago and when I got to Facebook I just said "Facebook is where you go to see who died this week."

I've got to come up with a better plan for defending myself from biting bugs. Every time I walk the dogs, I'm eaten alive by mosquitoes and chiggers. It's too hot to bundle up these days, so when you wear shorts or go shirtless, you become a target for the biting bugs. I hate to use insecticides around the dogs, and few of the home remedies actually work. Last year at this time, the city was already aggressively spraying to control mosquitoes. This year, the mosquitoes are even worse and the city is doing nothing. The aerial spraying was so controversial last Summer that I suspect the city just gave up and decided to let the citizens itch. I thought the spraying program made a lot more sense than Lyme Disease, but a lot of people disagreed. You just can't keep everybody happy these days.

Dot did really well in the underwater treadmill this afternoon. It's amazing how strong and confident she is, considering her age. I hope the car continues to do well as we go back and forth to these physical therapy sessions. It was over 100 degrees on our drive home today.

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

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Day 1657

Sunday is seldom a day of rest at our house. Lately, it has turned into the most physical day of the week. This morning, it was time to mow the grass again. I'm happy to mow, because that means the grass is still growing. With the unusual amount of rain we've had this June, everything is still nice and green. Last year, it was a different story. I am hoping that our cooler than usual Summer will continue, but if today was any indication, our pleasant, breezy days might just about be over.

After mowing the grass and doing a little gardening, I decided to go to the gym. Sunday is not only my favorite day to go to the gym, it is often the only day I have time to go. Since the gym is connected with a major hospital, I sometimes see people getting physical therapy there. Maybe I could get one of my doctors to refer me to one of the staff physical therapists. I'm certainly burning calories, but I don't know if what I'm doing is actually helping or hurting my shoulder. A good physical therapist could probably get me doing some exercises that would actually help my shoulder injury heal. After all these months, it's still more painful than it should be.

I'm starting to gain weight again. I'm certainly not getting fat, but a pound here and a pound there and that's how it all starts. The problem is twofold. First of all, unhealthy, fattening food tastes a lot better than kale and brussel sprouts. Secondly, I always eat more when I'm bored. If I'm in the middle of a big video editing project, or designing a challenging website, I seldom think about food at all. This year, most of my work has been of the general maintenance variety. I'm generally keeping something running, instead of creating something new. The more boring the task at hand, the more frequently I want to run to the kitchen and grab another handful of cashews. I'm still trying to keep my sugar and salt intake to a minimum, but unless you're buying fresh produce at a farmers market, almost everything is overloaded with salt and sugar.

I think I was at my best at maintaining my weight when I made a commitment to beating Hepatitis C. While I was in treatment, I had clearly defined goals. Doctors monitored what I ate. I got tested every two weeks, and the results provided a valuable incentive that helped keep me on the straight and narrow path. Now that my Hepatitis C has been cured, I'm not really sure where to go next. Part of me is genuinely proud that I dropped 30 pounds and can now wear the same sized clothes I wore in collage. The other part of me would love to go back to a steady diet of barbecue, beans, and beer. I'm not sure who will win this battle.

Actually, we are having barbecue next weekend. If you live in Texas, you've got to have barbecue on the Fourth of July. Dot's physical therapy day has been moved to Monday next week, so we'll be doing her acupuncture and water therapy sessions tomorrow. Life was easier when Dot's spa day was always on Wednesday, but things change. Things always change.

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

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Day 1656

The dogs both got a long overdue bath this morning. The combination of Dash's cancer treatment and Dot's advancing age has meant that the dogs have been a little dirtier lately. Since they both sleep on the bed with us at night, there comes a point when a bath is necessary though. It's hard to sleep when your dog stinks. What amazed me today was how good Dash has become about getting a bath. He hopped right into the tub at the Dirty Dawgz self-bathe place and didn't put up a fuss at all. This would have seemed impossible a year ago. I think going back and forth for radiation treatments all Spring has changed Dash. He trusts people more now and is much more accepting of things. After all he's been through, he probably realizes now that a bath isn't going to hurt him at all.  Our boy is growing up.

After we returned home with two clean, good smelling dogs, I went up on the roof to remove the standing water from the rain we had earlier in the week. I tried to make sure that the runoff went on the lawn, instead of into the street, since I didn't want the code compliance guy getting on my case again. The water did eventually drain into the street anyway, but it evaporated quickly, since it was a hot day.

I then went to the grocery store and bought another case of bottled water. We go through the stuff, well, like water. I don't remember when, or why, we stopped drinking water out of the tap, but it's been a long time. There is even one of those ice-water dispensing gizmos in the door of the refrigerator, but I don't use that either. I know our water is perfectly safe, because we fill the dogs water bowls with tap water all the time. Drinking bottled water is just one in a long list of totally irrational things I do every day.

We didn't get any mail today. That was strange. You can usually count on the post office to deliver a steady stream of flyers and junk from mattress stores, politicians, Bed Bath and Beyond, and AARP. Most of this stuff goes straight to the trash without even being opened, but still it's nice to know that the postman is making his appointed rounds.

"What are you going to write on your blog tonight, since nothing happened today?" Janet asked me during dinner. "So," I said. "That has never stopped me before."

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

Friday, June 27, 2014

Day 1655

When I was leaving the doctor's office today, I noticed a little piece of metal sticking out of my tire. This looked like something superficial that I could pull out with a pair of pliers myself, but since I was near the Land Rover dealer anyway I decided to drive over and let them get the piece of metal out of the tread. As soon as the technician began prying the little piece of metal out of the tire, I began to hear air escaping. I quickly learned that the tire was a total loss, due to the location of the puncture, and that I need a brand new tire. Yikes! This wasn't what I expected at all.

I sure was glad the dealer convinced me to purchase tire and wheel protection coverage when I purchased the car. I thought it was a big waste of money at the time, but in retrospect it turned out to be quite a bargain. It turns out that my fancy low profile nitrogen filled tires are quite a bit more expensive than the old truck tires I had on the Defender. I never dreamed a tire could be this expensive. I didn't have to pay for this one though, and I will always make sure I have tire and wheel protection coverage in the future.

My doctor visit was a bit disappointing. I thought I'd be able to convince the doc to discontinue a few medications, but instead he wanted to put me back on statin drugs to improve my cholesterol levels. My liver doctors had taken me off the statin drugs during my Hepatitis C treatment and I thought I was done with them forever. When I asked the doctor why he wanted to try statins and niacin again he told me that my new liver wouldn't help me that much if I had a heart attack. He also told me that my Cortisol levels were too high. "What causes that," I asked? "Stress." the doctor said. "You need to get rid of the stress in your life." "Well, how do you expect me to do that," I asked incredulously. "I don't know," the doctor said. "My Cortisol levels are even higher than yours." This made me smile. It almost made me laugh out loud.

I've always thought that I led a relatively stress-free life. Truthfully, it's just about impossible to avoid stress entirely in today's fast paced world. Prices of just about everything have increased a lot faster than wages. Everyone I know seems to expect more, while at the same time having less patience. Even the dogs seem to expect more. When I checked the baby monitor while I was at the car dealer, I discovered that they were both barking loudly. I laughed. Dot and Dash weren't alarmed about anything. It was their dinner time and they knew I was late.

It wasn't a very productive day, but I did make a little forward progress. I won't have to go back to the doctor again for a while, and I avoided a potentially dangerous flat tire on a Dallas freeway this weekend. I'm sure that's worth something. The dogs should actually be proud of me.

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

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Day 1654

I finished the initial design for the new website I'm working on today, but I haven't shown it to anybody yet. It's too disheartening to have the layout come back a few hours later marked up with different colors, new pictures, and all the buttons renamed. I think I'll wait till Monday to present the thing. By then I should be able to take the inevitable changes in stride.

Dash had to go to the vet today to get his anal glands cleaned again. I really need to learn to do this myself, since they get full so often. Sticking my fingers up a dog's butt couldn't be any worse than dealing with clients. I don't know why Dash's glands have to be expressed so often. Dot can go years without a problem, but I have to take Dash to the vet every two weeks for this smelly procedure.

I bit the bullet and renewed my storage space for another year this afternoon. There's something very unfair about renting a storage unit. The rent goes up every year, while the value of what I'm actually storing continues to decline. At some point, the whole idea of even having a storage warehouse become ridiculous. I wish there was an easy, painless way to sell stuff without haggling about the price, or dealing with buyers. I hate dealing with buyers. I wish everything was like selling real estate. Selling real estate is OK. You just find an agent you trust. Give them 6%. And they take care of dealing with the buyers. I don't think downsizing is going to be easy. I just don't have the temperment for it.

It didn't rain today, which meant that yesterday's rain turned into humid mugginess. It wasn't bad early this morning, but later in the day the dogs didn't even want to go outside. It was just too humid for them. If it doesn't rain tomorrow, I really need to go get all the water off the roof. All the wet weather we've been having this June is creating a real mosquito problem. The mosquitoes are everywhere this year. They're even getting into the house. If I don't get the water off the roof soon, it's going to become a breeding ground for even more mosquitoes. Other people might have fantasies about retiring to a country lake house. I just want to get away from all these bugs.

I've got an appointment tomorrow with the doctor who wanted all those new blood tests. I don't even care what the tests say anymore. I've had way too many blood tests. I kind of feel the way you do when you take your car in for a safety inspection. They hand you a piece of paper at the end of the inspection with all sorts of engine performance numbers on it, but all you're really interested in is whether you passed or failed the test. Medicine should be more like getting your car safety inspected. The doctor should just give you a sticker saying you're good for another year.

I'm already looking forward to breakfast tomorrow. Conversely, I'm already dreading jury duty, even though it's over three weeks away. I feel the same way about jury duty as Dot feels about thunderstorms.

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

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Day 1653

I moved a client's site from one server to another today. After I pointed the DNS to the correct address, uploaded all the files, and configured the server, everything worked perfectly. The client never even realized the site was offline. I was amazed. Usually, when I try this, there are all sorts of snags and it takes days before things start to work properly again. Even more amazing was that I only had to make a single call to tech support during the entire process and wasn't even put on hold for a long time. Complicated things like this give me hope. Maybe I'm not getting senile after all.

The rain continued today. It would rain for an hour and then stop for an hour, as wave after wave of showers passed through town. The intermittent showers gave me plenty of time to walk the dogs, and since there was no thunder, they eventually settled down and forgot it was raining. Since I had no place to go and the roof no longer leaks, I eventually forgot it was raining as well.

Moving the website took quite a bit of time, but it was tedious and somewhat boring, so I found myself entering contests again. I keep telling clients that they ought to consider online contests. They're about the only thing that gets me to visit a website these days. When I'm bored, I'll enter anything that promises a free guitar, camera, or a chance to get published. That's probably why I get so much spam. I like so called "creative" contests the best. There probably isn't a chance in hell of winning, but I enter anyway. Today I entered a contest that promised that the winner's photographs would be sold as framed limited editions in a major furniture store chain. After I picked a photo and entered, I discovered that to win, you had to convince other people to vote for your entry. That immediately turned the contest into a game and I hate games. I would have preferred that a panel of photo experts judged the entries or something. I'm not going to win this one.

Remember that Amtrak Writers in Residence program that I was telling you about earlier this Spring? This was the program where Amtrak paid selected writers to travel around on their passenger trains and describe their experiences. Well, I wasn't a winner here either. I got a short letter from Amtrak a few days ago thanking me for my entry and encouraging me to enter again next year. I don't know why I kept thinking I was going to get selected for this. Especially since over 8,000 other writers entered. Hey, I like trains and I have plenty of time. I guess the other writers were thinking the same thing.

I'll start on a other new website project tomorrow. I guess I should be glad that I've still got plenty to do, but it infuriates me that I've had to lower my rates to a pittance to compete with all these mass produced template sites. The weird thing is that if I had won that Amtrak Writers in Residence grant, I would have been paid even less for my time than I'm getting for this website. Writing on a train seems glamorous though. Sometimes a little glamor can make all the difference.

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

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Day 1652

Another rainy day. I don't think I would mind the rain so much if the dogs were better sports about it. They not only hate the rain, they are fearful of it. It's not a good combination. I tried to time their morning walk between showers and was mostly successful. Dot is very practical on these rainy day walks. She does her business quickly and is immediately ready to turn around and go home. Dash, on the other hand, is oblivious to an approaching storm until he actually gets wet. Then he freaks out and wants to run all the way home, which of course Dot can't do anymore. I'm always happy when I get the two of them back home in one piece without getting drenched.

I got another jury summons today. I wish they'd just leave me alone. It's a huge waste of time to spend the day sitting in the jury pool. I never get picked to sit on a jury panel anyway. I've been doing this for years and years and lawyers for both sides don't seem to think I would be beneficial to their case. Almost inevitably, I am dismissed about 3 PM to go home without serving on a jury at all. Maybe I can postpone this summons one more time, but I have a feeling that I may have used up my allotted excuses.

There were more animal rescue websites to update this morning. I still think these websites are important, but I'm beginning to wonder if anyone reads them. Increasingly, adoptions and rescue communications are being handled through Facebook. Facebook just works better, because that's where the people are. Facebook has proved more effective for fundraising, for showcasing adoptable animals, and for raising awareness about important issues. I'm pretty sure that the only time people visit the rescue websites is when there's a link to them on Facebook.

Sadly, I could say exactly the same thing about this blog. I think there are only three people left in the entire world who actually leave comments on the blog itself. The rest see my posts only when they are syndicated to Facebook. In retrospect, I think blogging was most popular before social media existed. I remember lively discussions on all sorts of blogs that are largely silent now. Back in the day, even my business website got lots of comments and feedback. That would be unheard of now. Most businesses can't even get their customers to leave a short review on Yelp. Clicking on the "Like" button is all you're going to get these days. I'm as bad as the rest of you. All I do is click on the "Like" button, although I do wish sometimes there was a "Dislike" button as well.

I just looked at the weather report and it is supposed to rain for the rest of the week. Maybe this would be a good time to get to know those "hundreds of channels" I supposedly now have access to on my Roku streaming stick.

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

Monday, June 23, 2014

Day 1651

We got off to a slow start this morning, due to a passing thunderstorm. As usual, the dogs expected me to make the rain stop, so they could stay on their regular schedule. There's an order to things that must not be violated. Janet feeds them breakfast, goes to work, and then it's time for me to take them on their morning walk. Only after they have returned and gone to sleep on the bed is it OK for me to do something else. I let them outside several times this morning to show them it was raining pretty hard. This apparently wasn't good enough. My plan was to eat my own breakfast first, in hopes that the rain would stop by the time I was finished. Dot and Dash seemed to think I was just doing this to irritate them and barked at me the entire time I was eating. Eventually the rain did stop around 10 AM and the dogs got their walk. After that, everything was normal again.

It's time to renew the storage warehouse for another year. This is another big expense I don't really need. I wish I was motivated enough to start selling the contents of the warehouse one-by-one on eBay. I don't like the whole process of selling things though. The worst part about selling something is that you have to connect with a buyer. I don't like pricing things, boxing things up, or dealing with returns. As a result, I tend to miss the magic moment when something is hot. A lot of things in the warehouse have been collectable at one point or another, but they don't always stay that way. Every time I visit that dusty room, I'm reminded of that well know line from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer; "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust." Ultimately, this stuff just doesn't matter, but I guess I'll still renew the warehouse for another year.

It was time to pay some more bills today. I'm getting tired of getting small checks in the mail and turning right around and writing big checks to pay bills. This can't last forever. I've tried cutting back, but it doesn't seem to work. Being frugal with food, gasoline and luxuries can save a little money, but the big ticket items are much harder to control. Homeowners insurance, property taxes, utility bills, and medical expenses always seem to go up whatever you do. At least I don't have a mortgage or car payments anymore. I don't buy many technology toys these days either. Gadgets just don't give me as much pleasure as they used to. Unfortunately, I don't think I've saved much by hanging on to my computers and cameras for a few more years. When one door shuts, another door inevitably opens. Now, I'm wasting a lot of money on food. When you like to eat, but don't like to cook, you end up spending a lot of time at the chef prepared counter at Central Market.

Dot has her acupuncture and water therapy appointment tomorrow. It was easier when we always did her physical therapy on Wednesday, but she does have more energy at training class, now that I'm moving her session to a different day. I guess we'll continue juggling the schedule for a while. Hopefully, the weather will be nicer tomorrow than it was today. 

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

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Day 1650

I don't know why I even bothered to water the lawn yesterday. It rained most of the day today. I don't think I'll ever learn how to predict the weather here in Texas. At any rate, the grass will be fine for a while. Since Dash still refuses to poop in the yard, he got wet on his morning walk. Dot was smarter and quickly did her business in the back yard, so she got to stay home where it was dry.

Hoping that the rain would be over soon, I turned on the computer and updated my animal rescue websites after breakfast. I usually do this during the week, but I certainly didn't have anything better to do this morning. It was still raining after I finished, so I reluctantly took the car out in the rain and did my Sunday errands anyway.

It was a good day to go to the gym. I had time to kill and calories to burn. I guess I was the only one who saw the gym as a refuge from the rain. There were only four other people in the entire cavernous building. I shot five baskets in a row from the free throw line today. This wouldn't be a big deal for many people, but I don't think I've done this before. Shooting baskets is interesting to me. It's all hand/eye coordination. You'd think that after a while it would become easy to replicate your actions and every shot from the free throw line would go in the basket. It doesn't seem to work that way though.

I still haven't watched anything using the Roku Streaming Stick I installed on the TV a few weeks ago. I don't watch very much using Hulu Plus either. I think I just get these things because I like to have options. I don't trust the cable companies, but my viewing needs are really pretty simple. I like to watch things I've already seen. I watch British comedies on PBS over and over again. I watch old Perry Mason and Twilight Zone episodes over and over again. And I watch all the science fiction shows like Torchwood and Dr. Who on the BBC.  I didn't watch anythng at all tonight. I just took a nap with the dogs.

We're already starting to get junk mail with ads for Fourth of July sales. Is is that time of year already?  I can't believe how fast this year has gone by. It doesn't seem like much has happened, but actually it's been a pretty eventful year. Dash has survived his arduous cancer treatments and appears to be a healthy dog again. I am finally free of the Hepatitis C virus. I have applied for social security. And Janet and I are finally starting to think about retirement. I still take things one day at a time, but the days are zooming by pretty darn fast.

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

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Day 1649 - Summer Solstice

It doesn't really seem like the longest day of the year. The sun should be setting right about now, but since it's cloudy outside, it seems like sunset occurred quite a while ago. Solstice is a big deal to some people I know, but it's just another Saturday to me. The only Summer Solstice that seemed very memorable to me was years ago when I was going to high school in Alaska. My family was living in Fairbanks at the time and on June 20, we got in the car and drove north as far as we could. We almost had 24-hour daylight in Fairbanks during the Summer, but not quite. On this particular Solstice I remember climbing up a hill just above the Arctic Circle near midnight with my Dad and watching the sun still shining, low on the northern horizon. Winter skies were pretty cool as well. There were lots and lots of auroras to be seen.

There was nothing that exciting today. I saw a rabbit and a couple of ducks in the park. That was about it. It's amazing how quickly we can go from too much rain to not enough. We're gone a couple weeks without significant rain and the ground is already getting parched and dry. I made sure to water both the front and back lawn today. I'm determined to keep the grass growing as long as I can this year. We don't have an automatic sprinkler system, but I did put mechanical timers on the little oscillating sprinklers attached to the garden hose. I like these timers. There are no batteries or electricity required. The entire thing is just a simple clockwork mechanism that you wind up and then it turns the water off thirty minutes to an hour later.

I called in some prescription renewals this morning and the pharmacist told me that some of them needed doctor approval again. My GP has been renewing these things one month at a time until I go in and have another physical exam. I already made an appointment for an exam next month, but I guess I've actually got to have the exam before my doctor will go back to renewing my meds for a year at a time. I really liked my team of liver doctors. They really believed that a good diet and lots of exercise were the keys to good health. I don't think my general practitioner has ever met a pill he didn't like. He's always trying to prescribe something new for me. I'd really like to find a reputable doctor who could find a way to ween me off of all my meds. I'm tired of taking pills. I guess I shouldn't be too disparaging about the pharmaceutical industry though. As much as I hate pills, I need to remember that it was a pill that cured my Hepatitis C.

I took some stuff over to the storage warehouse today and spent a few minutes looking around. There are a lot of things I should probably just get rid of. It's just not useful anymore. I don't imagine that people are going to start using tape machines again. I still have tape machines from the days when I did a lot of video editing. Everything is file based now though. The tape machines are museum pieces.  Old software is pretty useless too. I have tons of software still in the original boxes from the days when you installed it using floppy disks. Some of this software was pretty cool, but absolutely none of it runs on modern computers. Framed photographs that never sold at gallery shows are taking up a lot of space too. Lord only knows why I have so many electric trains.

I'm not sure what I'll do tomorrow. There's an animal rescue website to update. I need to do some cleaning around the house. Maybe I'll go to the gym. One of these days, I'm sure the dogs would like to go to the dog park again as well.

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

Friday, June 20, 2014

Day 1648

I found out a little more about yesterday's lost Weimaraner puppy. The dog had jumped out of a car window while the car was sitting at a stop light about a mile from my house. It quickly ran away and the owner couldn't find it again after hours of searching. This was one lucky pup. For starters, the puppy got it's leash tangled up in the hedge of a neighbor's who likes dogs. Not everybody would have taken the time to search for the dog's owner. Even worse, the dog could have easily been hit by a car on several busy roads.  If there's a lesson in this, it would be to never travel with dogs when your car windows are open. I see people doing this all the time. They'll be driving down the freeway at 70 miles an hour and their dog is hanging halfway out of the front window. It's just too easy for an accident to happen.

I make sure that the doors are locked and the windows are closed before I go anywhere with Dot and Dash. If they need a breeze, I just turn up the air conditioner really high. Dash always makes me nervous because he would be just like that lost puppy if he ever got the opportunity. Dash could dig a hole under a fence or jump out of a car window in a heartbeat. He wouldn't be trying to run away. In his mind, he's just being playful when he's bad. When I see pictures of dogs playfully running on the beach, I wish there was a place nearby where I could let Dot and Dash do this sort of thing. In a big city there aren't that many choices. Even the city's dog parks aren't completely safe, since there are way too many people who see nothing wrong with bringing their extremely dog aggressive dogs to the parks.

I've never taken Dot to her acupuncture session on a Friday before.  I don't think people work a full day on Friday anymore. At 2 PM this afternoon, the freeways were filled to capacity with rush hour traffic. It seemed like the entire city was taking the afternoon off. We were a little late to our appointment because of the heavy traffic, but our vet worked us in anyway. Dot did pretty well using the underwater treadmill this afternoon, but you can tell the Summer heat is slowing her down a bit. I understand. It's slowing me down too.

I had a nice breakfast at my favorite restaurant this morning and a nice dinner at home this evening. In between was a lot of nothing. Dot had a good physical therapy session today, but I don't think we'll be doing this on a Friday again. The traffic is just too bad. Wednesdays worked well until we started going back to training class again. Now, it's one or the other for Dot. She's too tired to do both. I think we'll try Tuesday for her therapy day next week. Maybe that will work.

The neighborhood Hibiscus tree is in bloom again. These flowers always seem tropical to me, but they're just out in the park behind the house. I wouldn't be surprised to see a snake under the tree.

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

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Day 1647 - My Birthday

I received hundreds of birthday greetings on social media today. At most, I'd met less than ten of these people in real life. I tried to think if I'd seen any of them during the past year and could only come up with a single name: a guy I accidentally bumped into a few months ago at a guitar show. That's the way it is these days. Facebook has become the new neighborhood. Real life is kind of a wasteland. I was delighted to hear from everybody, whether I'd met them of not. Among the strangers who wished me a happy birthday were dedicated people all over the world who do their best to rescue and care for abandoned Dalmatians. There were fellow bloggers, who just like me, continue to tell their stories to a world where fewer and fewer people read. There were people who like wristwatches and probably a few like you, who just like to read this blog. I'm glad I heard from all of you. You keep me connected.

I got an e-mail early this morning from a neighbor up the street, asking me if I knew anyone who had lost a Weimaraner puppy. I haven't seen anyone walking a Weimaraner in the park for a long time, but I sent the lady all the information I had about reuniting lost dogs with their owners. If you find a lost dog without any identification, I hope you check to see if it has been microchipped first. If the dog has been chipped, this is definitely the easiest way to find the owner. When I left to go to the gym later in the day, I happened to see a "Lost Puppy" sign stapled to a telephone pole. I stopped the car and went over to look at the sign. Sure enough, the lost dog was a Weimaraner puppy that matched the description in the e-mail exactly. I called the number on the sign and left a message saying that I thought I knew where the puppy was. When the dog's owner called back a few hours later, she said the puppy had already been found and returned. Evidently there were lots of "Lost Puppy" signs and one of them had been seen by a friend of the lady who'd sent me the e-mail. My neighbors might not agree about politics, or even about what goes on in the park, but they do agree about dogs. I'm lucky to live in a very dog friendly neighborhood.

I didn't stay at the gym very long today. The gym was crowded and Dot had already made me feel guilty for leaving by barking up a storm as I was preparing to leave. I was also worried about the lost dog and wanted to check and see if the dog and its owner had been reunited. There was nothing to worry about. Dot was sleeping soundly when I returned and the Weimaraner puppy was already home again.

When I was walking the dogs this evening, we almost stepped on a huge snake. I need to get better at identifying these neighborhood snakes. Some are harmless and others are poisonous. It would be good to know which was which. In the mean time, we're going to avoid the shoreline and native prairie areas where most of the snakes seem to live. There are also lots of large hawks and owls in these areas. Maybe they'll eat the snakes.

We had Sprinkles cupcakes when Janet got home from work. These tasty little cupcakes have become somewhat of a birthday tradition. At a certain point we discovered that a big birthday cake was too much for two people.  These large, heavily frosted cakes just took up space in the refrigerator and eventually got stale. Cupcakes are much better.  It was a subdued birthday, but a nice one. I look forward to celebrating a few more.

Inky is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Day 1646

When computers eventually control everything and nobody remembers how to control the computers, we're going to be in big trouble. I can already see this starting to happen. Just about all my clients and suppliers have invested in some sort of automation system. Maybe it's a phone system. Maybe it's a database in the cloud somewhere. Whatever it is, nobody really understands how it works. Everyone's happy with the money they're saving until the thing quits working properly and then they're just confused. Generally, they don't even know what went wrong.

Today, my insurance agent called and told me he thought I had a brick house, but that his records said that I now had a wood frame house. "Jeez, you've been over to my house," I told the guy. "You know it's made of brick." "Well, could I come over and take some pictures," he asked me. "I'm having trouble with the underwriters. They want to believe what's in the computer." How do these things happen? My agent had no idea how the bad information had gotten into the database.  He didn't even know when the mix-up had happened. Everything we do these days is in some sort of database. What's amazing to me is how often this information is wrong.

I looked around the house for stray gift cards before I went to pick up Dash at the cancer center this afternoon. Today was one of those days when he got a new supply of chemotherapy meds, so I knew there would be a big bill. I was hoping that we were nearing the end of chemotherapy, but after a consultation with Dash's oncologist, I learned that they want him to continue taking the Palladia medication until the end of August at a minimum. We've got two more months to go, with a possibility of an additional two months after that. The good news is that Dash is responding to the drugs well and there don't appear to be any adverse side effects. The bad news is that this is getting to be very expensive.

I was pleased to see that Dash's tail survived the day at the cancer center, but then it started bleeding again while we were at training class this evening. The healing process is definitely a "three steps forward, two steps back" proposition. The tail is getting better, but there are many small setbacks along the way. It's hard to fault Dash on the slow healing process, however. This is an injury caused by Dash's generally happy disposition. I want him to be happy. I just wish he wouldn't wag his tail so vigorously.

Tomorrow is my birthday. I'm going to do the best I can to look at the day as a glass half full.  There's no sense to being half empty on your birthday.

Rugby is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Day 1645

I've got to come up with a new game plan. Much of what I do these days doesn't even matter. I still like to think that I'm clever and essential, but I've become much more of a convenience than a necessity. If I didn't get out of bed tomorrow, few people would even notice. This bothers me. Shouldn't I be following my dream? I don't know. Following dreams has become a tricky business in a world where dreams and passions have become synonymous. I am a dispassionate person. I like to do useful things. Appealing to your emotions? Not so much. Unfortunately, advertising is all about appealing to your emotions. I probably should have been a physicist or a mathematician instead. Years ago, I used to be a good documentary filmmaker. I didn't have an agenda. I just took pictures of what I saw. Documentaries have changed like everything else though. Most current documentaries are all about emotion. The filmmaker wants to win you over to a certain point of view. Even street photography has an agenda now. I find the only thing that's safe to photograph these days are flowers. Ironically, people seem to like these photographs because they evoke some sort of emotion in them.

So here I am. By rejecting the world of emotional persuasion, I am left with some pretty boring tasks. I don't have to do these things, but I like to stay busy. When I'm busy, I don't have time to think about the nature of existence. I hate questions like "Why am I here" and "What was I meant to do." Maybe that's why Andy Warhol was one of the heroes of my youth. Andy wanted to be a machine. He approached things very mechanically, yet he managed to have a rich and interesting life in the process.

If you have read this far, you already know that I wasn't busy enough today. I didn't question my existence though. I went to the gym. I still can't figure out why the gym is so much busier on weekdays than on weekends. It is counterintuitive. The weights and machines I like were still open though, so I had a good workout. On the way home, I went to the grocery store instead of the guitar store as I had planned. That's where my head is at these days. I can't think much further than dinner.

Dash goes back to the cancer center for a monthly checkup tomorrow. He's just getting some routine blood tests and possibly a chest x-ray, but I'm worried about his tail. Dash got his bloody tail at the cancer center in the first place. He is so happy to see the other dogs that he wags his tail constantly in the doggie day care area where he stays until the staff is ready for him. Since the area is relatively small, he is always banging the tail against a wall or a door.  Now that I'm finally getting his "happy tail" injury to heal, I'd hate to start all over again. Hopefully, he'll be a bit calmer when we drop him off for his exam tomorow.

I could probably go to the gym every day this week if I wanted. That's how slow it has been.

Bali is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Monday, June 16, 2014

Day 1644

So, what did we learn today. For starters, if the dogs don't sleep well, the people don't sleep well either. Dash woke me up three times last night, wanting to go outside. I don't know what goes through this dog's mind when he has to poop, but I wish he was more straightforward about doing his business. The first time he scratched at the door, he just stuck his nose outside and smelled the air. The second time, about ten minutes later, he went outside and stared at the moon for a while. The third time was the charm. I know he means business when he races around the yard four or five times and finally finds the perfect spot. I have to sit outside with him during this entire process or he won't do anything.

Shortly after I'd finally gotten back to sleep again, I was awakened to the sound of my car alarm. A large possum had either fallen or jumped on the car and set the alarm off. Strangely, this has happened before. Our yard is full of critters. Once or twice, racoons or feral cats have fallen out of a tree and landed with a huge thud on our roof. That will wake you up as well. You can tell that the dogs are getting older. Things that go bump in the night used to freak Dot out and cause a frenzy of alarmed barking. Last night, both dogs slept through the entire thing.

Summer has definitely arrived. Every day gets a little warmer and every walk gets a little slower. I try to get up early and make sure that the dogs get at least one decent walk before the sun heats things up, but even these early morning outings are starting to get hot and muggy. Dot tires quickly in the heat, so I have to be careful not to go too far. She still enjoys walking though, so these morning walks are an essential part of our day.

Today definitely lacked focus. I answered some of my e-mail, updated two websites, and at one point, became so bored that I went outside and washed the car. I'd like to be a little busier, but not too much busier. What I'd really like is consistency. The trouble with being a freelancer is that you are totally forgotten about until someone else gets themselves in a bind. This usually creates a feast or famine atmosphere where you are either working long hours trying to get your client out of a jam, or doing nothing at all. Maybe I'm being too picky, but I don't think so. There are times when being in advertising just sucks.

If I was industrious, I'd go to my storage warehouse tomorrow and start throwing away things that are no longer useful. Nah. That isn't very likely. Things just go in the storage unit. They never come out. It would be fun to get started on a brand new website project tomorrow as well. That probably won't happen either. I'm sure I'll design a few more corporate sites before I shut the business down for good, but these jobs are getting harder and harder to find. I've already worked with just about everyone I've ever met in my life and I'm not meeting many new people these days. The way I see it, I can either get depressed about all this, or just go to a guitar store tomorrow instead.

Hershey is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Sunday, June 15, 2014

Day 1643 - Father's Day

Sometimes I think I must have been raised by wolves. I look at all the nostalgic pictures and family remembrances I see on days like this and am a little stunned that I have no vivid childhood memories of my own. I do remember my Dad's later years very well when our roles became reversed. I also have vivid memories of my college days and of my first ten years as a working professional. To me, these were my formative years. My actual childhood is a bit murky. I never saved many pictures either. I certainly didn't have a bad childhood. There were lots of Summer car trips to national parks. I remember Swanson's TV dinners, dressing up for church on Sunday, and a black and white television in the living room where we watched Gunsmoke and the Ed Sullivan Show. I'm sure there was more, but those early memories never mutated into nostalgia. They just evaporated.

Maybe my fuzzy memories are for the best. A lack of reverence for the past never seemed to hinder me in life. I'm often amused to hear others extoll the benefits of living in the moment. I think I've spent most of my life living in the moment. It's only recently that I've started thinking about the past at all. I don't even think this is nostalgia. It's just the realization that 2014 is not my favorite point in history. I think I enjoyed the years between 1960 and 1980 a lot better. Those years were great. I hope my Dad enjoyed those years as well, but I'll never know. I wasn't there.

Dogs didn't enter my life until 1987, but they've been the focal point ever since. I remember more about the time I've spent with Spot, Petey, Greta, Dot, and Dash than I do about myself. The Dalmatians aren't a substitute for family, or an escape from family, they are my family. I am thrilled that Dash is winning his battle with cancer. Dot's incredible determination in the face of old age is an inspiration. I worry about them a lot. In an odd way, I'm their Dad.

Yesterday's website design insights proved to be short lived. When I uploaded everything to the server, my solution didn't work the way I expected. I had made a very small mistake yesterday, but it took me a very long time today to discover what I'd done wrong. After wasting three long hours looking for the source of my stupidity, I finally got the site working again. Sure hope my client likes what I've done.

This unexpected website troubleshooting cut my trip to the gym a bit short this afternoon, but I guess a short workout is a lot better than no workout at all. The dogs got a nice walk today and Janet and I had a very enjoyable dinner. I've got no complaints at all. It's been a nice weekend. Maybe the website troubleshooting gave my brain a workout. It could certainly use one.

Shadow is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Saturday, June 14, 2014

Day 1642

The grass has been cut. The yard looks nice. The refrigerator has been restocked. There are clean sheets on the bed and all the laundry has been done. This is usually what I do on a Saturday. These small chores are just a way to kill time while avoiding larger more arduous chores. If I was more ambitious, I would rebuilt the rotting greenhouse, fix the leaking shower pan, or paint all the window trim. These multi-day projects are much more difficult that they initially seem. You start to paint and you realize that the wood underneath needs to be replaced first. You pick up a wrench and realize that you don't have the right sized socket. Most of my trips to Home Depot are the result of a poorly planned major project. Once I've started something, I never seems to have the right tools, or even the right skills to finish it properly. When I stick to smaller things like mowing the grass, vacuuming, and changing watch batteries, I can feel like I've accomplished something without getting myself in a lot of trouble.

I finally came up with a solution to the web design problem that has been bothering me all week. I don't know why I had my eureka moment on a Saturday, but I'll take what I can get. I quickly prototyped my idea to make sure it would work and made plans to show the final result to my client sometime next week. It was just a dumb coding problem, but figuring it out without help from anyone else was much more satisfying than mowing the grass.

I occasionally wonder where would be the best place to retire. I don't have the answer, but I know we don't want to stay in a big city like Dallas. Whenever I've done any research, I'm always surprised to discover that cold northern states like North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming have happier people and a better quality of life than southern favorites like Florida and California. Warm weather appears to attract problems. If I could learn to love the cold, Wyoming might be great. Few places are prettier and farmers and ranchers are the best people. Wyoming also has the lowest taxes in the country. On the downside, there's that giant volcano under Yellowstone park getting ready to explode. It that thing blows, you'd probably want to retire as far away as possible. Australia or New Zealand sounds about right.

I've got to get back to the gym tomorrow. I don't know what happened this week, but I never found time to workout at all. I guess mowing the grass counts as exercise, but sitting at the computer working on website problems and eating kolaches and bacon stuffed bagels for breakfast doesn't count for much. To end on a positive note, Dash's tail looks better today. Maybe he's finally learning to leave it alone.

Dai9sy is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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