Friday, October 31, 2014

Day 1781 - Halloween

I was right. The plastic forks didn't even last a week. When I went to breakfast this morning, the regular metal silverware was back. It's good to see that common sense prevailed. The parking places are still too small, but I can live with that. I didn't seem to have as much trouble parking today.

Ordinarily, I'd share a picture of a pumpkin with you on Halloween, but I didn't see any pumpkins today. Maybe I didn't look very hard. There certainly weren't any pumpkins left in the stores. All the stores have moved on to Christmas by now. Halloween is pretty much a non-event at our house anyway. Halloween is a holiday for children and cosplayers and we don't have either in our neighborhood. We haven't had trick or treaters in years. With all the Ebola worries in this town, probably a lot of people aren't opening their doors to strangers anyway.

Commercial spaceflight certainly hasn't had a good week. First the Orbital Sciences Antares Rocket explodes and then today Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo explodes during a test flight. If I was Elon Musk, I'd be a little nervous right now. I was watching TV when the news broke and was astounded at the damage to the spacecraft. Nothing was left. It was amazing that one of the pilots was able to eject, since it all happened so fast. Even if I had the ridiculous amount of money it takes to secure a ticket on one of these Virgin Galactic flights, I don't think you could talk me into going. I'm a huge fan of spaceflight as long as I still have both feet on the ground. I throw up on roller coasters. I wanted to get a pilot's license once, but flunked out of the flight training class for the same reason. I still remember one of my flight instructors telling another instructor, "You take him up this time, I cleaned out the plane last time." Somehow, I don't think the five minutes of weightlessness everyone is looking forward to would sit very well with my stomach.

I wrote a letter to Lunatik asking if they'd replace my broken iPhone case. I bet they won't, but it's worth a shot. The ads for this thing showed the case being run over by a motorcycle and surviving all sorts of punishment. It certainly shouldn't break just sitting in your pocket.

The concrete trucks were back in the park today, pouring another segment of the new bicycle superhighway. Most of the neighbors seem to like this new development, but I still think it is a colossal waste of money. If I knew that this is how the money would be spent, I probably wouldn't have voted for the bond issue that funded this and other efforts to gentrify the park and turn it into a recreation destination. All I want is a quiet place to walk the dogs.

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

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Day 1780

I had to go down to the UPS depot to pick up a package this morning and was amazed at how quiet and efficient the place seemed. The last time I was here, it was total chaos. "Wow, this is a lot different than Christmas," I told the clerk behind the counter. "Oh, we got rid of our bad boss," he responded. "Everything is fine now." Sounds about right to me. It doesn't matter what you do for a living. Having a bad boss can make a shambles of everything.

Evidently the manager wanted to get a performance bonus for keeping costs under control and refused to hire extra help during the busy holiday season. The resulting poor service caused such a customer backlash that the company fired the manager instead of giving her a bonus. I remember that I was one of the customers who complained about poor service last Winter. It's nice to know that every once in a while, companies actually listen to their customers.

Dot had a great day at her physical therapy session. I still can't figure out why she is strong and energetic on some days and weak and tired at other times. Our days are remarkable consistent. She eats the same food, sleeps the same amount of time, and walks the same trails day after day. You'd think the therapy sessions would be the same as well. Maybe she's just in a better mood on certain days. That's definitely the case with me. When I'm in a good mood, I can get twice as much done.

I was surprised when we got rained on during our afternoon walk. October has been so dry that I've almost forgotten about rain. It was cloudy when we left on our walk, but I didn't even bother to check the weather radar. It just didn't seem like a rainy day. Although we all got soaked, there was no thunder and lightening, so the dogs didn't panic. I dried everybody off with large bath towels when we got home and then everything was back to normal.

Dot's vets and nurses were just as surprised as me that tomorrow is Halloween. Where has this year gone? I can't remember a year where the time has zipped by so fast. If I remember anything at all about this year, it will be all the doctor's appointments and medical emergencies. I started my Hepatitis C treatment in January, Dash was diagnosed with cancer in February, and then Dot got sick and was diagnosed with cancer in July. Now that the year is winding to a close, I am very thankful that each of these stories had a happy ending.

I've already taken the trash out to the curb for Friday morning pick-up and am looking forward to having a delicious breakfast at my favorite restaurant. Friday's are almost always good days.

Puppies are today's Dalmatians of the Day
Watch of the Day

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Day 1779

There are some built-in cabinets in the house that are located right near the ceiling. The modern looking storage areas fit right in with the mid-century design, but they are virtually useless. In order to access these cabinets, I have to get the big folding stepladder out of the greenhouse. I'm fairly tall and I can't even reach the cabinet doors without the ladder. The space inside is large enough for heavy, bulky things, but since you have to climb up the precarious ladder with your load, it usually isn't worth the trouble. These awkward storage areas are such a pain in the neck to use that they are mostly just filled with pillows and empty boxes.

One cabinet is still filled with heavy boxes though. I decided to store a bunch of stuff there when we first bought the house and haven't looked at the stuff since. I don't know how I managed to get some of these heavy boxes up and into the storage space in the first place, but I guess I was younger then. At any rate, I decided to empty the cabinet out today. It was a lot of work to get the heavy boxes back to ground level. I threw some stuff away and took the rest to the storage warehouse. Among the many things I retrieved was a chess set with playing pieces depicting characters from the Simpsons. There was a box filled with hundreds and hundreds of watch crowns in tiny glass vials. Another box was filled with water stained diplomas and awards. There was a sample case filled with greeting card designs that I planned on marketing decades ago. Everything was mildly interesting, but nothing was useful.

There were a lot of elaborate costumes at the dog training class Halloween party this evening. Our instructor came in a hazmat suit with his dog dressed up as a virus. One large dog was dressed as a table holding a pumpkin filled with dog treats. That costume never would have worked with our dogs. They would have immediately tipped the pumpkin over and eaten all the dog treats. There were the usual assortment of dragons, skeletons, and bats. There was even a dog dressed as Elvis who happened to be named Elvis as well. We didn't win anything this year, but we didn't put a lot of thought into our costumes either. The dogs probably wonder why we dress them up for this silly event year after year. They don't complain though, because there are lots and lots of dog treats.

I'm glad the dogs didn't see the cute little green gecko that was on the stepladder this afternoon. I'm sure one of them would have ate him. I almost brought the little lizard into the house with me because I didn't see him either, but luckily he jumped off the ladder at the last minute. I managed to snap one picture before the gecko ran away.

The supposedly "indestructible" case for my iPhone broke today. I didn't drop the phone or anything. The case just cracked. I can't decide whether to complain to customer service or just get a new case. It would probably make more sense to get a new phone.

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

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Day 1778

I got the long awaited message from the liver center today, telling me that they considered me officially "cured" of Hepatitis C. My final viral load test showed that after six months, there was still no trace of the virus in my body. There will be no more tests. I'm done.

I'm relieved and happy to put all this behind me. It's ironic in a way that it took a deadly disease to get me healthy. Before Sovaldi came along, there really wasn't an effective cure for the disease. The previous interferon and ribavirin treatment only had a 50% success rate and many people experienced terrible side effects. I decided to wait until Sovaldi was approved and changed my entire diet and lifestyle to decrease the load on my liver. I quit drinking. I lost weight. And I exchanged my steady diet of cheeseburgers and beer for broccoli, kale salads, and other healthy fare. Healthy living kept my liver going while I was waiting and I ended up being one of the first people in the country to receive the new drug. It has been a long journey, but it definitely ended well.

I thought I'd watch a few YouTube videos and see if it were possible for me to install a new battery in my MacBook Pro laptop without going to the Apple Store. The process seemed simple enough. You just unscrew the bottom of the computer, unscrew a few more things inside, and them remove and replace the battery. Piece of cake. By doing this myself, I could cut the cost of a battery replacement in half. I gave the matter some serious thought and then decided I ought to make an appointment at the Genius Bar instead. I've had experience dealing with tiny little screws that have been tightened by machines before. It's incredibly easy to strip the threads, making it impossible to put everything back together again. I've ruined enough watches with tiny little screws that I proceed very cautiously when I see these things now. Just because you've got a small Philips screwdriver doesn't necessarily mean you can get the screws out. The Apple Store technicians are just as likely to destroy the computer as I am, but if they break it, they'll give me a new one. That's what happened when I had to get a new battery for my iPhone. The Apple folks ended up destroying the phone, but they were real nice about giving me a brand new one.

I watched a rocket explode carrying supplies to the space station when I was eating dinner tonight. I bet the astronauts on board the station are a little nervous right now. The 5,000 pounds of supplies included most of their food for the next six months. It's not exactly easy to get up to the space station anymore, with all our space shuttles sitting in museums. I did a little channel surfing to see if I could learn more about the story and was surprised to see how selective news coverage has become. All MSNBC was talking about were the upcoming mid-term elections, and Fox was still talking about Ebola. Apparently the only folks that initially thought this story was news was CNN.

Dot and Dash have their costumes ready for the Halloween party tomorrow. Once or twice we've won the costume contest, but typically the class don't even know what our costumes are. We'll see how it goes tomorrow.

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

Monday, October 27, 2014

Day 1777

I voted today. It was easy to find a polling place. You just look for a nearby church or school with hundreds of yard signs out front. I always wonder why so many judges run unopposed. There were pages and pages of judges on the ballot with no opponent. I didn't know who any of them were. I think the only people who are interested in these local judge races are lawyers. All the lawyers in our neighborhood have a big sign for some type of judge in their yard. I think most of the propositions on the ballot are purposefully written to confuse voters. You have to read them really carefully or you can easily end up voting exactly the opposite of what you had planned. We have voter ID here in Texas, but it didn't seem to be causing the problems that some pundits claimed. Since everyone drove to the polling place, they all had driver's licenses.

I don't understand the fierce opposition to voter ID anyway. Disabled and elderly people have been able to vote by mail in Texas for decades, so not being able to drive really isn't an issue. Everyone else needs an ID just to be a functioning member of modern society. I probably get asked to show my drivers license a dozen times a week. You can't fly without showing an ID. Many stores ask to see a photo ID before you use your credit card. Very few doctors will treat you without seeing an ID first. Banks want to see your ID. You really can't do much of anything without having an identity. Why should voting be different?

Personally, I think we should be making it a little harder to vote. I don't care who you vote for, but I think you owe it to the other voters to at least be familiar with the issues and the candidates. If you haven't got a clue, just stay home.

I ordered a wireless microphone system for an upcoming video project today. The radio mics cost more than what I'll make from doing the video. Do I care? Obviously not. Writing still pays the bills for me. For the most part, video and photography jobs are just an excuse to buy cool gear. The wireless mics probably aren't even essential for this particular job. I just want to see how they work.

One of my neighbors asked me if I'd made a hand print in the new concrete bike path that's slowly taking shape behind my house. Nope. Somehow, the thought of sticking my hand in wet concrete never crossed my mind. This guy was real excited though. He said his hand print would last for a thousand years. Maybe he meant to say ten years. Nothing lasts very long in Dallas.

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

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Day 1776

When I arrived at the gym this afternoon, there was a big sign at the reception desk that said "Pool Closed Until Further Notice." My paranoid mind immediately made the assumption that this must have something to do with Ebola. In all likelihood, the pool had just developed a leak. It doesn't matter anyway, since I never use the pool. Swimming might actually be better for my shoulder than what I'm doing now, but it's too much trouble to get a locker and change. The place was pretty empty this afternoon, but that didn't mean anything at all. The gym is always empty on Sunday afternoons.

On my way home I listened to a Ted Talk on the radio where a geneticist talked about human evolution. It was fascinating. I was surprised to learn that although Homo sapiens have been around for several hundred thousand years, modern day humans are only about 60,000 years old. That's pretty young, considering how long crocodiles have been around. According to this geneticist, the human race almost went extinct when the ice age coincided with the eruption of a huge supervolcano in Indonesia about 70,000 years ago. The explosion dimmed the sun for six years, disrupted seasonal rains and almost killed off the human race. With fewer than 2000 people left on the planet, evolution kicked into high gear, forcing humans to either adapt or die. The remaining humans left their home in Africa, searching for a more hospitable climate. They invented language as we know it today. They developed agriculture and other ways to improve their survival odds, and spread across the world in less than 10,000 years. All this information was just the prelude to the main event, however. The guys main point was that he thinks that evolution has kicked into high gear again and in less than 500 years we will change into a completely different species. We are being asked to process more information in a single day now than we used to process in a year. Our current brains can't handle the load and they are trying to adapt, just like the first humans were forced to adapt to a cataclysmic change in climate. Some of the science in this Ted Talk went over my head, but it caught my attention when the explosion of autism in children and many other modern day disorders were explained as explorations on a DNA level as the evolutionary process tries to arrive at whatever comes next. Of course none of this may be true, but it is still fascinating. Your great, great grandchildren might not even be human. I've always thought that people who worry about the glaciers melting are thinking way too small. The earth is 4 billion years old. If we're really only 60,000 years old, I'm sure the earth has a way to deal with us. Maybe we won't destroy the planet after all. Maybe the planet will change us.

I think I'll go vote tomorrow. I'm not sure where the early voting place is, but it should be easy to find. I've become a fan of early voting in recent years. It's so much more convenient that waiting in line on election day. The early voting locations all seem to have the latest touch screen voting machines too. When I vote at my local precinct on election day, I get a paper ballot where I have to mark a lot of little circles with a #2 pencil. The type on the ballot is very small and when I forget my reading glasses, I don't know what is going on.

We've finally come up with costumes for the Halloween party at our dog training class this Wednesday. Janet is sewing them together now. No, the costumes aren't for us. They are for the dogs.

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

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Day 1775

It takes me about an hour every day to write this and edit the accompanying photos. This means I've literally spent thousands of hours telling you about nothing at all. You'd think I'd find something more useful to do with my time. I probably won't. In an odd way I think this is important.

Let's just call it an experiment. The other day I showed you a picture of Purple Asters. I flipped back a year and was surprised to discover that these Asters came into bloom on exactly the same day last year. I took a picture that day too. Nature is more predictable than I thought. Flowers reappear in exactly the same spot year after year. I see cloud formations that I've seen before. In a way it is comforting to know that the passage of time is so orderly. All I'm doing is keeping a record of things.

I've learned that not everything stays the same. I've already showed you pictures of things that don't even exist anymore. Trees have been struck by lightning, or destroyed by wind. Roads have been widened. Houses have been torn down. The tiny slice of the world I share with you has changed dramatically. If I continue this narrative, you will probably see me change as well. Maybe I already have.

I'm continually surprised at what changes and what stays the same. It's not always as I expected. Who would have thought that Facebook would be the place where I learn that someone I know has died. Maybe you still hear about engagements and weddings. I don't even hear about divorces anymore. I'm way beyond that. My newsfeed has become a parade of strokes and heart attacks. No wonder my doctor is so concerned about heart attacks. They seem to happen with alarming regularity among my classmates and co-workers. When you add dogs into the mix, Facebook becomes a parade of death. Almost every day I learn of another beloved pet who has gone to the Rainbow Bridge. Dogs just don't live long enough. Maybe this is why I like the pictures of puppies so much. You probably have your own symbols for rebirth. For me, it's puppies.

The day was too nice to dwell on thoughts like these for very long. I did a little gardening while I watched the dogs sun themselves in the yard. I finished the grocery shopping and ran my weekend errands. It was kind of a lazy day, so I even got caught up on couple of episodes of Dr. Who. I wonder who writes that show now? I always thought Russel T Davies was a genius, but even I could write better scripts than the current batch of writers. I only continue watching this show because Farside, Lexx, and Firefly aren't around any more.

I think I'll go back to the gym tomorrow. It's silly to keep avoiding the gym just because it is part of the Presbyterian Hospital System. Like most people in Dallas, my fears of Ebola are beginning to fade. I'm back to eating fresh vegetables again too. I don't think I have the attention span to stay worried about anything too long.

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

Friday, October 24, 2014

Day 1774

When I went to breakfast this morning I couldn't figure out why I was having so much trouble parking my car. Jeez, I come to this place every week. I should be able to park here blindfolded. When I got out of the car, I noticed that the restaurant had re-striped the parking lot and every single parking space was exactly one foot narrower than it was the week before. Sad. Maybe they can squeeze an extra Prius or two into the parking lot now, but what is the point if nobody else can even fit between the white lines? A couple of F-250 Super Duty pickups in the lot didn't even come close. They were so far over the line that only a motorcycle could park in the next slot. When I got my meal with a plastic fork, instead of the customary metal one, I knew the dreaded restaurant consultants had struck again. I don't know why people are so compelled to squeeze every last dime out of their business. It's often the little things, like a decent sized parking place, that customers like the most. When you take these things away people notice. I predict that metal silverware will be back next week. Nobody likes a plastic fork.

I had to drive down to Baylor Hospital for another periodic blood test at the liver center today. When I arrived, I noticed three huge fire department Hazmat trucks and four police cars parked in front of the main building with their lights flashing. There were also about a dozen uniformed officers and a camera crew in the general vicinity. When I checked in at the liver center, I was asked to sign a document saying that I hadn't visited Africa in the past 30 days. I told the receptionist I had never visited Africa in my life and in light of recent developments it was unlikely that I would ever visit the place. I also asked about all the Hazmat trucks parked out front and she just shrugged and said it could be anything. I guess this is the new normal now. When I got home there was absolutely nothing about this dramatic little incident on the local news. It was probably just another false alarm.

I've been trying to terminate my account with one of those companies that monitors security alarms for over two years now. They were overpriced and just didn't do a good job. I send them an official letter requesting that my account be terminated and was assured that I had done everything correctly. Thee only problem was that my account kept being auto-renewed year after year and I kept getting invoices. Whenever I called to complain, the company would apologize profusely and tell me they were aware of the problem and that it would be taken care of. After being assured six months ago by the head of the accounts receivable department that my account was indeed terminated and that I had a $0 balance, I get another call today, saying I owe them $300. I called the same lady who told me that everything was fine last time and explained the situation. She told me that everything was fine again and told me to ignore the phone call. Somehow I don't think this is over. This entire company is brain dead.

Sometimes I think the entire country is brain dead. There is mounting evidence that our government is brain dead. I heard recently that Asians were the fastest growing segment of our population. Large corporations are importing them in record numbers because they just can't find enough people who already live here to fill the highly technical positions these companies need. I have said for a long time that the Chinese will be the first to land on Mars. We're over here fighting about raising the minimum wage at McDonald's when thousands and thousands of really high paying jobs are going unfilled because people graduate from our schools with no real skills. We could learn something from the Chinese, but nobody's listening. I'm glad I was a war baby who had a trouble free childhood in the 1950's and an exciting time coming of age in the 1960's. Things have certainly gone downhill since then.

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

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Day 1773

We had a nice view of the solar eclipse this evening. As luck would have it, the best viewing time in Dallas was right around sunset, so we actually got a chance to see the eclipse with the naked eye as the ground haze near the horizon filtered the sun's light. After I walked the dogs, I grabbed a camera and headed toward what I though would be the best viewing location. My instincts were right, because when I arrived at my destination, there were several guys with large telescopes already there. One of the guys had a fancy H-Alpha filter on his telescope and let me take a look. There were several very large sunspots and I noticed that there was a bit of a rough edge to the bite the moon had taken out of the sun. I suspect that I was seeing the silhouette of mountains and valleys around the moon's circumference.

I've only seen one total eclipse of the sun in my life, but I've seen many partial ones. I wonder if I'll ever see another total eclipse? These things are pretty rare and almost never pass directly overhead. I saw my first one while I was going to high school in Alaska and I've never seen another one since. It was pretty cool to witness this eclipse though. I've never seen a sunset eclipse before and might never see one again.

Dot had a good day at her physical therapy session today. She seemed confident and sure of herself, with none of the shakiness in her rear legs that we saw last week. I'm always happy when Dot has a good day because it makes me think that all the effort we've put into physical therapy is actually producing some results. Dot seemed to enjoy here acupuncture therapy too, so it was a very good day.

I finished my writing assignment right on schedule and I'm up to speed on all the websites I manage, so maybe I'll have a free day tomorrow. That would be nice. I need to start planning for an upcoming video project and there's always those new Dr. Who episodes I haven't seen yet. I'll do just about anything to avoid re-grouting the shower.

Yikes! I just heard that there is another confirmed case of Ebola in New York City. With so many healthcare workers becoming infected, you'd think that they'd self-quarantine for 21 days outside the country before returning to the United States. One can only hope that common sense will eventually prevail and we'll impose a travel ban, close the borders, and stop issuing Visas to and from these West African countries. This is getting out of hand.

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

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Day 1772

I'm beginning to think that time is relative. Even though a loud wall clock in the kitchen ticks off the seconds at a constant pace, some days seem fueled by adrenalin, while others seem excruciatingly slow. Today was one of those slow days. The dogs dawdled along on their walks, stopping to smell each and every tree along the way. Breakfast took longer to make, even though it was only my regular oatmeal and fruit. My writing assignments took almost twice as long to complete, even though they were almost identical to the ones I finished yesterday in record time. Such a slow day! Even dog training class seemed to crawl along in first gear, since Dash wasn't in the mood to do anything right.

I saw a recent survey that said 58% of people are convinced that the world is going to hell in a hand-basket. I'm surprised the percentage isn't even higher. Every time I turn on the TV there's breaking news about some new plague or atrocity. I wonder when folks are finally going to realize that all wars from now on out are really wars of the future against the past. If the human race is going to continue, it's imperative that the future wins. I'm continually baffled why the United States, Russia, and perhaps even China, can't put their differences aside and realize that they all have enormous common interests. China and the U.S. are great trading partners already. Russia and the U.S have worked together on the International Space Station with great success for over a decade. The world's industrialized nations need to quit their petty bickering and use their vast resources to totally eradicate the medieval belief systems and third world diseases that are dragging us down. Science and good hygiene can eradicate Ebola. Terrorism might be a bit tougher, but I bet the thought of the US, Russia, and China all acting as one to get rid of these cockroaches might get someone's attention. When you've got all the nukes, people listen.

Dash has diarrhea again. He's got such a sensitive stomach that the least little thing can upset the balance. I don't know what caused things to head South this time. I don't think he ate anything bad in the park, but we did put him on a probiotic recently. Maybe instead of curing his problem, it actually made things worse. I'm not sure what is wrong this time. All I know is that if he wakes me up tonight and appears restless, I'm going to get him outside as quick as I can.

I hope that Thursday will be more interesting than today. It would be nice if I could zip through all my chores and assignments in record time. Maybe if I got caught up on things, I could even watch a few of those Dr. Who shows I've been recording on the DVR. Now that I think of it, tomorrow probably will go quickly. My writing assignment will take me through the morning. Then Dot's physical therapy session and acupuncture will take me through the afternoon. All I've got to do after that is remember to take out the trash.

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

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Day 1771

When we were taking our morning walk, we encountered a work crew laying concrete for the new bicycle superhighway that is replacing our favorite path. The sun had just risen and there was just enough ground fog reflecting the sunlight to make it look like the crew was working with molten lava instead of concrete. I found the image strangely beautiful, but I'm not really looking forward to the completed bicycle path. Most of the cyclists the dogs and I encounter are very rude. They like to ride as fast as they can on the narrow trails and seldom slow down or even try to get out of the way of people walking their dogs. We've almost been run over by cyclists several times. These Type-A maniacs will love the new concrete bike path. The dogs and I will have to find an alternate route.

I'm sleeping better these days, but my dreams are becoming so mundane that they're starting to include people and situations from everyday life. This had got to stop. Life is boring enough as it is, without dreamland becoming a six hour extension of my daily routine. Where are those flying dreams I used to have? We need some of those.

I spent most of the day writing and will probably do the same tomorrow. My assignments are quite familiar by now, but my mind still goes blank occasionally. When I can't think of anything, I'll hop in the car and take a bill to the post office or a check to the bank. When that doesn't do the trick, I'll go pick up a prescription at the pharmacy or go grocery shopping. I never go very far, because the dogs don't like being left alone and I don't like negotiating Dallas traffic. I think I've come as close to being a hermit in a big city as you can get.

I got a notice from Shutterstock today asking me to send them a W-9 form so they could report my earnings. What? I think I've made a total of $14 from Shutterstock since I've joined. Since you have to meet a $100 threshold level before most of these stock photo sites will actually pay you anything, maybe I'll be sending in that W-9 form about five years from now.

The weather is beautiful right now. It's usually about 65 degrees when we wake up in the morning and then warms up to around 80 degrees by mid-afternoon. The dogs love to spend time in the back yard during the Fall. It is tempting to just leave the back door open so they can come and go as they please. Unfortunately, there are far too many critters in the yard. If I left the back door open even five minutes, the living room would be filled with wasps and there would probably be a squirrel in the kitchen. As soon as I shut the door to keep the wasps out, the dogs want to come in again. As soon as they're both inside, they want to go out again. Back and forth we go, but at least the weather is nice.

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

Monday, October 20, 2014

Day 1770

Dot got a great report from her oncologist today. The ultrasound scan showed no thickening of the intestinal walls, and no evidence whatsoever of recurring tumors. Everyone was impressed at how well Dot's recovery is going. Dot's muscle tone is improving, her incontinence is diminishing, and as far as anyone can tell, she is cancer free. We don't have to go back to the cancer center until next year. Well, actually the next re-check is three months from now, but nevertheless, that's definitely next year.

In addition to being a taxi driver for Dot today, I had quite a few website revisions to make. The work was dull and monotonous even by my own low standards, but at least it kept me busy enough that I didn't need to resort to fixing the leaking shower stall.

I was looking on the Internet today to see if there were any pictures yet of the comet that flew by Mars yesterday. There actually was a picture of comet Siding Spring taken by the Mars Opportunity Rover, but much more impressive was a picture of a completely different comet taken by the Rosetta spacecraft. This incredible photo was taken at a distance of less than 5 miles away from the nucleus of comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The photograph was absolutely amazing. So was the fact that we are able to put a spacecraft in orbit around a tiny little comet three hundred million miles away. The picture should be on the front page of every newspaper, but the last time I looked there were just more pictures of men in hazmat suits, serial killers, and wars in the middle east.

I really should have bought a nice telescope before the last telescope store in Texas went out of business. I've been fascinated by astronomy for most of my life. I just don't feel as comfortable being outside on a dark night as I used to be. I never gave safety a second thought when I lugged my telescope outside to look at the stars when I was a kid. Of course my parents never even bothered to lock their doors back then and all the kids in the neighborhood could go trick or treating on Halloween with no parental supervision. It was a different world and the older I grow, the more I miss it.

I've got another writing assignment with very little input tomorrow. That should keep me busy for a while. I'm two episodes behind on Dr. Who and I haven't even looked at the new iPhone 6 yet. So much to do and none of it even matters.

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

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Day 1769

I finally got the new generator running. It was easy to start, runs fairly quietly, and seems to produce electricity. I tested it using the only electrical appliance that I could find that was easy to unplug and take outside. Janet should be pleased. Her hairdryer runs just fine using the generator. The only problem I had was getting the gas out of the gas container and into the generator. I hate the complicated locking safety spouts they put on gas containers these days. I can never get them to work. They incorporate a spring that won't allow gas to flow unless you unlock it and press down on the end of the spout. When you finally press hard enough to get the gas flowing, it usually leaks all over the place. I finally gave up and got an old tin funnel out of the tool shed and poured the gas directly out of the can into the funnel.

With the generator running and ready for the next power outage, I moved on to more difficult tasks. I unclogged the large format printer for the fifth time this month and then began to disassemble the workstation where I used to keep the old ESQ-1 synthesizer that I'd banished to the storage warehouse a few weeks ago. One reason that I've been so slow in decluttering the office is that it is quite difficult. There are cables everywhere and when I initially put the studio together, I meticulously fastened each of them into neat bundles with cable ties. It's kind of sad to deconstruct things after all the work I put into putting everything together, but the time has come. The studio was state of the art in the 1980's, but it is a museum piece today. It took quite a while to remove all the wiring and take the big desk apart, but eventually I succeeded without breaking anything. The disassembled synthesizer desk, along with some surprisingly nice luggage from my world traveling days, went to the storage warehouse to join all the other relics from my youth.

Dot has her big cancer recheck tomorrow. Since she had a different type of cancer than Dash, she will get a different type of exam. Instead of a chest x-ray, she will get an ultrasound scan of her abdominal area. Dot has done so well during her recovery that I really hope her exam goes perfectly. It would be really nice to have nothing to worry about for a change.

On my way home from the storage warehouse I stopped at Home Depot and got some tile grout and silicon sealer. The shower is leaking because the grout where the walls meet the floor has all come loose and water is seeping under the tile and finding a way outside. Every time I take a shower I have to put a towel outside the shower stall to sop up the leaking water. When the leak was just a very small puddle it was easy to ignore. Even though I am very good at ignoring things, the growing leak has become a problem that I've just got to deal with. All that being said, the box of tile grout will probably still sit on a shelf for several weeks before I am forced to actually repair things.

The original batch of people being quarantined for Ebola exposure will be released at midnight tonight. Their 21 days are up and they will be free to go about their business. A lot of people in town will be relieved when this happens. Others will become even more alarmed, convinced that 21 days isn't long enough. That's just the way it is these days. I don't think as a country, we will ever come together and fully agree on anything again.

Diva is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Day 1768

It was a remarkably normal day. Both dogs got a bath at Dirty Dawgz. We didn't even have to wait long for a tub this time. I mowed the grass for what I hope is the last time this season. I changed the bed sheets and washed the dog blankets. I filled the car with gas and picked up some bulk items at Sam's Club. It was just an ordinary Saturday.

Oh, I forgot to tell you. There was this one little snag. A train station less than two miles from our house was completely shut down and the train was taken out of service when a woman with a fever got off the train at our neighborhood station and vomited on the platform. Janet actually saw all the police and hazmat crews as she was driving home from running errands. Rumors swirled for most of the afternoon. The woman was on the quarantine list. She used to be on a quarantine list. She never was on anyone's list at all. Nobody knew for sure. I kept hearing that she lived at the Ivy Apartments where Thomas Duncan became ill. I'm not even sure if this is true. Evidently, there was a lot of confusion because the woman in question kept changing her story. The woman now says that she threw up because of a spider bite. Of course she could have just been drunk. When asked for a comment, a DART Rail official said the woman was the sixth person today to have thrown up on one of their trains. This is why I prefer not to use public transportation.

Once again, I failed to watch tonight's new Dr. Who episode. This used to be a Saturday night ritual for me, but I just don't find the new season all that interesting. Maybe things will get better as the season progresses, but so far, these new shows don't even come close to the classic ones like Vincent and the Doctor, where the doctor and Amy meet Vincent Van Gogh, or Blink where the doctor has to utilize "easter eggs" hidden on seventeen different DVD's to convince Sally Sparrow and her friend Larry to send the Tardis, which was stuck in 1969, back to him. Maybe the new shows will seem better after I've seen them a few times. I tend to like re-runs better than new programming anyway. Oddly, I read an article recently that said watching re-runs makes people happier than watching new shows. Works for me. I've started re-reading books I've already read too.

Since the dogs are clean and the yard is tidy, I have no idea what I'll do tomorrow. I'm even all caught up with work at the moment. Maybe I'll play the guitar a bit. Maybe I'll replace a bunch of dead watch batteries. Or maybe I'll forget what I did today and do everything all over again.

Little Petey is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Friday, October 17, 2014

Day 1767

So, I'm going to get groceries this morning and there's an ambulance with all its lights flashing parked right in front of the store. This is actually not an uncommon occurrence. I've seen ambulances and firetrucks parked in front of grocery stores dozens and dozens of times. Hey, EMT's get hungry too. What made this truck different was I immediately noticed that many people entering the parking lot took one look at the truck and just kept on driving. They weren't going to take any chances and assumedly went somewhere else to buy their groceries. Most of the people who did enter the store took a quick picture of the truck with their cell phone.

I'll have to admit I was a bit relieved to see that there were no men in biohazard spacesuits inside. There were just four EMT's in their regular uniforms sitting around a table at the little cafe inside the grocery store. Why were they all huddled around a laptop though? That didn't seem normal. They weren't drinking coffee or eating breakfast either.

With a heightened sense of awareness, I wandered around the store looking for something for dinner. I saw four old people coughing profusely while pushing their carts and a guy at the checkout counter wearing a big gauze bandage with blood stains on it. I'm sure that the busy store has always been filled with people like this. I just never noticed them before Dallas became ground zero for Ebola. Now that one nurse on the quarantine list decided to fly to Cleveland and another went on a cruise, you just don't know what to expect. I keep waiting to hear that one of the quarantined people is dating the chef at a popular restaurant, or has a brother who works in the produce department of my regular grocery store. Out of an abundance of caution and just a touch of hypochondria, I picked up a frozen pizza and two frozen Chinese dinners and headed home.

I hope they re-think this "self-monitoring" policy very quickly. It's obviously not working. Why would anyone on a quarantine list who has already been exposed to a deadly virus even think of talking a cruise? Jeez, cruise ships are notorious germ factories already. This is the last place you'd want one of those Presbyterian nurses to be.

When I was up on the roof today, I heard Dot barking and immediately climbed down and went inside to let her out in the back yard. The incontinence episodes have taught me that whenever Dot barks, she needs to pee. Sure enough, she peed within seconds after letting her outside.  There haven't been any accidents in quite a while, but it still takes a lot of coordination.

I discovered that there's a feature on our land-line phone that lets you either block 25 callers, or white-list 25 callers and block the rest. Janet and I added up all our friends, relatives, and clients and came up with a number less than 25. This might be a way to get rid of the annoying telemarketers forever. At any rate, we're going to enter our meager list of friends into the phone and give it a try.

I hope this is a quiet weekend with no surprises at all. I'm tired of waiting for the other shoe to drop. Of course, I could just turn off the television and pretend everything was fine. I wonder how long that would last?

Lucky is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Day 1766

My Facebook feed seems to have divided into two camps: those who think we're all going to die and those who are already sick of hearing about Ebola and want to go back to nonstop LOL cats. I don't feel comfortable at either of these extremes, but I am still a bit incredulous at how this drama is unfolding. So far, it still seems a lot like a bad Michael Bay movie.

I hear that the CDC is seriously considering putting the 70 healthcare workers who came in contact with Thomas Duncan on the TSA no fly list with all the terrorists, while they still refuse to even consider a ban on air traffic to and from West Africa. This is insanity. Hey, I've got an idea! If our government is so determined to let these infected people leave the hot zone, let's forget about all the thermometers and just hook people up to a lie detector instead. If you're lying about exposure to the disease, you don't get in. Pretty simple. If the screeners happen to snag a few people who are lying about things totally unrelated to Ebola, don't let them in either. We've got enough lying bastards in this country already.

I guess I just fundamentally don't understand the rainbows and unicorns crowd who wants to go back to LOL cats on their Facebook page and think we are all overreacting. Maybe I've watched too many apocalyptic science fiction movies. Maybe I continue to think the glass is half empty when it is really half full. I may not know the full story, but I still think we've dropped the ball on something that is very serious. This is a forest fire. You know how they fight forest fires? They create wide firelines that the flames cannot cross and let the fire burn itself out. Nobody would ever take a burning tree and move it to a new forest.

Dot seemed visibly stiff at her physical therapy session today. She still may be a bit sore from her fall yesterday, but our vet thinks she may be suffering from degenerative myelopathy. This slow-onset condition is very common in older dogs and often results in leg weakness and poor muscle tone. Since the spinal nerves gradually deteriorate with this disease, it is important to keep Dot moving to minimize the effects of muscle atrophy. I really think the acupuncture and water therapy with the underwater treadmill are helping. Dot still faces a lot of obstacles, but she is doing better than any senior citizen Dalmatian I've ever seen.  The old girl is pretty remarkable. As long as she has the will to keep going, we're going to do everything possible to ensure that she can.

I ate canned food for dinner tonight instead of going to the grocery store for fresh veggies like I usually do. This was probably pure hypochondria on my part, but I'll make up for my overreaction by going to my favorite restaurant for breakfast tomorrow, just like I always do.

Camp is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Day 1765

You really can't make this stuff up. Not only do we have a third confirmed case of Ebola in Dallas, we have someone who apparently thought that planning her wedding in Cleveland was a lot more important than the safety of the entire country. The first nurse was deservedly called heroic. I don't think many people will be using that term to describe the second nurse. It is simply unbelievable that someone who had regular contact with Thomas Duncan and already was under strict quarantine would conclude that it was a good idea to hop on a plane to Cleveland so she could help her mother plan her wedding. To make matters worse, she already had a fever when she boarded the plane. So much for the idea of "self-quarantine."

Dallas is understandably worried. So far, the CDC and Presbyterian hospital have refused to reveal the names of the other 70 hospital workers who have had direct contact with Duncan. They could live next door to you for all most people know. The quarantine rules have been so lax to this point that absolutely nobody knows where these people buy their groceries, go out to eat, or relax with a beer after work. All I know is that you definitely don't want to wake up to the sound of helicopters hovering over your house.

Dot had a bit of a setback today. She stumbled a bit on her morning walk, but I wasn't really worried since her legs have been weak for quite some time. It was the afternoon that got me worried. When she tried to get up from an afternoon nap, she fell over completely and landed in a heap on the brick floor. I initially thought she might have had another seizure, but she showed none of the signs of her earlier vestibular seizures. I helped her up and after some initial unsteadiness, she walked normally to the back door and wanted to go outside. She seemed normal for the rest of the day and we even took a brief walk. We skipped training class this evening though, just to be on the safe side.

I'll be glad when I can feel on the safe side again. The world seems to grow more chaotic with each passing day. Our make-believe war with ISIS doesn't seem to be having any effect at all. Saudi Arabia is artificially depressing the price of gasoline in hopes that they can make it economically unfeasible for the United States to continue producing shale gas. So much for energy independence. In the past two weeks, the stock market has lost 100% of the gains it has made so far during 2014. We're back to square one. Oh, did I mention that the health care system is a complete mess, with or without Ebola?

I need to make a list of questions to ask the vet when we go for our physical therapy session tomorrow. Dot really had me worried today. Even though everything seems fine right now, I fret that the cancer may have returned or that there may be something else wrong that we haven't even diagnosed yet. I think we're doing all we can, but we can't make her any younger. Dot is my constant companion, so I'm hoping that the vet can reassure me tomorrow.

Nobody can reassure me about the CDC. I think it's time for Tom Frieden to go. He is still thinking globally, worrying about wrecking the fragile economies of three West African countries, instead of doing what over 90% of the American people want him to do: recommend an immediate travel ban to and from these countries. If all a travel ban did was alleviate fear, it would still be a good thing. I just don't understand why we haven't done this already.

Lucky is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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