Sunday, November 30, 2014

Day 1811

I had forgotten how much I hate to assemble Ikea furniture. This stuff is extremely well designed, using extremely shoddy materials. I think the cabinet I built for Janet today was made from compressed cardboard boxes. You learn quickly when assembling Ikea products to follow the instructions exactly. If you put even a single screw in the wrong hole, you can quickly ruin your entire project. Don't lose any of the tiny parts either. Ikea never gives you any extra screws, bolts, or fasteners.

I am always surprised when I open one of those big, flat Ikea boxes and discover that there are twice as many parts as I was expecting. I admire Ikea's desire to make a single instruction manual that the entire world can use, but sometimes a few words might be helpful. Today's thirty page instruction book made it seem like I was assembling a nuclear submarine. I took my time and counted all the parts before I started. By taking things slow and never trying to skip ahead in the instruction book, I was eventually able to assemble the entire multi-drawer cabinet without swearing or putting an important component together upside down. Personally, I would rather buy my furniture already assembled at Design Within Reach, but you certainly can't beat Ikea's prices.

When I finished building furniture, I went to the gym. The TED Talk on the car radio today was about pushing yourself to extremes. A young man described descending 8,000 feet under the earth to explore the world's deepest cave. Then a woman described how she decided to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean after she became bored with her desk job. My own body felt like it had been pushed to extremes just by sitting cross legged on the brick floor for three hours while building my little Ikea cabinet. I think I needed a proper workout just to get my creaky knee joints working again. I used to be fairly handy with tools, but carpal tunnel in my wrists, a dislocated shoulder, and worn out knees can certainly cramp your style.

It's almost time to put the Christmas tree up again. It's unbelievable how quickly time goes by these days. Wasn't it just Christmas a few months ago? Now it's time to do the Santa Paws pet photos again. I hope I'm up to the challenge. At least there aren't many Christmas presents to buy anymore. Even with a small Christmas list, I still manage to postpone my shopping till the last possible minute. There are so many things to do this month. I need to remember to get my photo equipment out of the storage warehouse tomorrow. I was going to do this today, but I spent too much time building the Ikea furniture.

Next week is my dreaded trip to the dentist. I'm hoping that something good happens next week as well.

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

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Day 1810

I'm having trouble remembering what day it is. Did we wash the dogs today or yesterday? Both days certainly started out the same. We've been blessed with wonderful weather this holiday weekend. We take a long early walk with the dogs, followed by a hearty breakfast of ham and eggs. It's usually almost noon by the time we finish the breakfast dishes, so it seems appropriate to spend the rest of the day doing something useful.

Today, I thought I'd fix the broken storage drawer on the pedestal under the washing machine in the utility room. The front-loader washing machine sits on this raised pedestal to make it easier to load and unload. There is a handy drawer in this pedestal where you can store your detergent, plastic trash bags, or in our case, tons of Tupperware containers that we never use anymore. For some reason, this drawer won't close anymore and I always have to find something heavy to prop in front of it when I do laundry.

You'd think the drawer would just slide out, so I could see if there was anything jammed underneath. Nope! I had to spend twenty minutes on Google, looking for instructions on how to disassemble the thing. I empty all the crap out of the big metal drawer, find the right tools, take the drawer apart, and try to find the problem. Other than a thick layer of dust on the brick floor under the washer, everything looked fine.

I cleaned the drawer and its contents. I scrubbed the dirty floor underneath. Then I put everything back together again. After all this work, the drawer still slid forward. I had accomplished nothing. The problem was that the pedestal wasn't level anymore. Over the years, the vibrations from too many heavy towel loads had caused the leveling screws to shift and tilt the entire pedestal slightly downhill. The technicians who installed the washer and dryer had leveled the pedestal very precisely before they placed the very heavy front-loader on top of it. In order to level things again, I would have to remove the washing machine, which was impossible. This is why you should be very careful before you attempt to make a simple repair. Simple things can turn difficult very quickly.

After wasting hours messing around with the washing machine, I barely had time to go to the grocery store and pharmacy before it was time to walk the dogs again. We did have a very nice walk as the sun set behind us and then returned home to enjoy a nice dinner. I suppose that I could have made better use of this beautiful day, but at least I won't wonder why that drawer isn't working anymore. Janet bought something at Ikea today, so I know what I'll be doing tomorrow.

Petey is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Friday, November 28, 2014

Day 1809

We decided to wash the dogs this morning, but it didn't exactly work out as planned. When we arrived at our regular dog washing place, we discovered that it was closed for the holidays. We eventually managed to find an alternate facility that was open, but they were so slow that seemed to take forever to walk away with two clean Dalmatians. At least this chore is over with for a while. Dot and Dash managed to stay clean for the rest of the day and all is well.

I forgot to take the garbage out to the street last night, but when I rushed out early this morning to try and beat the approaching trash truck, I noticed that everyone else on the street had forgotten it was trash day as well. My trash container was the only one on the street. This only goes to prove that eating too much affects everyone the same way. Your mind goes blank and all you want to do is watch television.

Forgetting the trash wasn't our only forgetful moment today. Janet left her jacket at the dog washing place, so I had to go back and retrieve it later in the day. While I was out, I got gas, since I forgot to fill the tank on Wednesday. We even forgot to go to the grocery store and ended up getting take-out dinners at Chili's instead. I think this is perfectly normal for the day after Thanksgiving. I'm sure I'll get back to remembering things tomorrow.

I thought about going to the gym today, but decided to finish my writing assignments instead. While I was writing, Janet decided to clean or wash everything the dogs slept on, which ended being just about everything we own. Now, in addition to clean dogs, we have clean throw pillows, clean sheets, a clean bedspread, and tons of clean dog blankets. This won't last long. As soon as it rains, everything will be dirty again.

Since it was Black Friday, I was expecting lots of traffic when we were running our errands today. Surprisingly, the roads seemed kind of empty. We didn't venture within five miles of a Walmart, Target, or Shopping Mall however. I would just as soon go to Chernobyl as a Walmart on a day like this. When you can't tell the difference between TV coverage of a Black Friday sale and unrest in the Middle East, it's probably better to just stay away.

It seems like Sunday night, but we've still got two more vacation days left. I probably should follow Janet's example and do some cleaning myself. I'm sure that house cleaning would burn up just as much energy as going to the gym, but at least going to the gym is over in an hour or so. House cleaning is like opening a Pandora's Box. Once you start, it seems impossible to finish.

Spots is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Day 1808 - Thanksgiving

It was such a nice day. We slept in late and then took the dogs on a leisurely walk along the lake. Entire families were walking their dogs this morning. Maybe this has become a Thanksgiving ritual for some. It was certainly a nice day for walking your dog. The sky was blue and the air was crisp and cool. Dot and Dash loved it. While the dogs took their afternoon nap, we went down to the Warwick Hotel for our Thanksgiving dinner. The service was great and the food was delicious. There was a table filled with fresh shrimp, crab legs, and sushi. Another table was filled with over a dozen delicious salads. We could have made a meal out of the appetizers, but we needed to save room for prime rib, candied yams, cornbread dressing, cranberry sauce and all the other stables of a Thanksgiving feast. As Thanksgiving buffets go, this was one of the better ones. Everyone has lots of meat on Thanksgiving, but the Warwick made a point of making sure that the vegetables and side dishes that went with your meal were exceptionally fresh and creative. They didn't rush you either. Our leisurely meal lasted until almost 3 PM.

When we got home, we took the dogs to their favorite dog park. Dot and Dash hadn't been to the dog park since they had cancer. That was almost a year ago. I think the last time we went to the dog park was last January, just before Dash's thyroid surgery. I had forgotten how much Dash loves to be off-leash and play with other dogs. You could tell he really missed the park and was delighted to be back. He raced around to show us how fast he was and quickly found another dog to play with. Dot was more sedate, but she had fun as well, quietly smelling things and following us around. There were many reasons we waited so long. While Dash was having radiation and chemo treatments, he was quite weak and we were afraid some of the other dogs would sense the weakness and attack him. Dot is just too frail to roughhouse with other dogs anymore, but we knew the park wouldn't be crowded since it was Thanksgiving and there was also a Cowboys game in the afternoon. All in all, it was a perfect day to return to the dog park. Dot and Dash were certainly happy, especially when they discovered we had saved them some turkey from our Thanksgiving meal.

Janet doesn't have to work tomorrow, so I suspect that we'll have another leisurely day with the dogs. From the number of e-mails I received this morning, I suspect that some of my workaholic clients were actually working today. At least they weren't pressuring me with deadlines. I do have work to do, but I'd like to savor the holiday a bit longer. There's plenty of time for work, but it isn't everyday that you get to enjoy seeing your once shy dog rediscover how much fun it is to play with other dogs.

Janet and I talked a bit about retirement during dinner. She'll be retiring soon and is looking forward to it. I can't decide whether I retired twenty years ago, or will keep working forever. My life is pretty amorphous. I quit actively looking for new business quite a while ago, but continue to work with clients who have become friends over the years. It's not a bad life. When Janet retires, I imagine that we'll spend more days like today; eating out a lot and playing with dogs. More days like today is OK.

Scooter is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Day 1807

It did seem a bit like Friday today. I took the dogs on a leisurely walk and then went out for breakfast. I was surprised that the restaurant was more crowded on a Wednesday than it is on Friday. This seemed a bit counter-intuitive. There were also different cashiers and servers than there are on Friday. I guess this makes sense. Everyone is on flextime now. I know very few people who work a traditional 40 hour week anymore. Breakfast was good though. I'm sure it was just a prelude to all the overeating I'll be doing for the next two days.

When I took Dot for her physical therapy session later in the day, everyone was in a holiday mood. Some of the nurses had family coming in for the holidays and others were planning to visit friends and family out of town. I wished them luck on their journey. The traffic was so heavy when I drove to the vet this afternoon that it appeared as if everyone in Dallas was already on the road.

I'm happy that the days of Thanksgiving road trips are behind me. To say my family was dysfunctional would be an understatement. This was always a stressful holiday back in the day. It is so much nicer now that Janet and I just go out to a nice restaurant and have a relaxing meal. If the weather is warm enough, we usually take the dogs to a dog park when we return. There is no cooking, no cleanup, and no arguments. There will be no Black Friday shopping either. Even though I like a bargain as much as the next guy, I don't understand that tradition at all.

I didn't think there would be much work today, but I did get a few assignments. The website revisions were minor and I finished them quickly. None of the writing assignments were even due until after Thanksgiving, so I didn't even bother to start them. Hey, if I get bored on Friday, there will be something to do.

When I was driving home from the vet this afternoon, I listened to an interview with Ray Davis of the Kinks on the radio. They were releasing a special five CD boxed set to mark the band's 50th anniversary. Jeez, it's been 50 years? You Really Got Me was the first song I ever remember playing in public. I played the song in high school. I played it in college. I think I've played it in every band I've even been in. It doesn't seem like 50 years though. It seems like yesterday. It also seems like all the eventful things in my life happened in 1964. Well, not really. We landed on the moon in 1969. That 50 year anniversary will be coming up pretty soon as well.

I'm looking forward to Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow. I love a huge buffet in a grand hotel. Janet and I started this tradition about fifteen years ago and never looked back. This is so much better than arguing about politics, religion, and the state of the world with family. I wish we could bring the dogs. Dot and Dash would love a huge buffet in a hotel.

Pepper is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Day 1806

I finally got around to paying my property taxes today. Hopefully, this is the last large bill I'll need to pay this year. I'm tired of all these bills. Property taxes are particularly irritating, since I feel I'm just funding more government waste. I wouldn't mind paying taxes if I got to choose what programs my tax dollars would support. I don't particularly think I should be expected to pay for schools, since I've never had children. I'm a big fan of space exploration though, and would love to be able to use my tax payments to help restore a few of NASA's canceled projects. You may have your own priorities, but I think everybody should get to choose what they think is important. If you think we need to increase defense spending, your money goes there. If you want to rebuild roads and bridges, direct your tax dollars to fund infrastructure projects. If you want to expand public assistance programs, well that's your choice.

I didn't get around to uploading any stock photos today, because I got busy with other things. The dog blankets were filthy, so I washed them all. A client I am seeing tomorrow had a website request, so I tried my best to get everything done ahead of our meeting. I think I made all the requested changes, but we'll see how I did tomorrow. It's amazing how quickly the day goes by just doing the same routine things over and over again. Walking the dogs takes a couple of hours. Fixing breakfast and dinner takes a couple of hours. The writing and website assignments usually take at least four hours. Pretty soon the day is gone. Writing the blog everyday takes quite a while too. This is probably why it takes me so long to work anything new into the schedule. Once you've established your priorities, spontaneity becomes somewhat of a luxury.

The possum has returned. I saw it this afternoon, hanging out with the neighbor's cat. I think it's sad that the cat is so lonely that it's trying to make friends with a possum. The cat has tried to befriend Dot and Dash several times but the dogs always want to chase it. All the other feral cats in the neighborhood chase the cat away too. I don't know why so many people think they need an outdoor cat. This cat would definitely prefer to be indoors. Hopefully it won't get eaten by the coyotes. This seems to be the fate of many cats that do their mouse hunting in the park.

Since it's Thanksgiving on Thursday, I rescheduled Dot's physical therapy and acupuncture sessions for tomorrow. Maybe I ought to go out for breakfast tomorrow as well. So many people seem to be taking the entire week off that I have a feeling that Wednesday is going to seem a lot like Friday.

Dot is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Monday, November 24, 2014

Day 1805

OK. I made an appointment to see a dentist today. This probably doesn't seem like a big deal to most of you, but it is somewhat of a breakthrough for me. The last time I sat in a dentist's chair was just before my previous dentist retired. That had to be at least five years ago. Needless to say, I'm not fond of going to the dentist. I'm not fond of having a toothache either, so I suppose my appointment is the lesser of two evils.

My tooth didn't hurt as much today as it did yesterday, but this temporary reprieve wasn't enough to make me chicken out. Beneath all my phobias is a fairly rational person. I knew it was time to deal with this. Hopefully, I won't need a root canal though. Just the thought of a root canal is enough to send shivers down my spine.

It was surprisingly busy for the start of a holiday week. I worked on some writing jobs in the morning and updated a few websites in the afternoon. There was a trip to the vet to pick up some prescriptions for Dash and some exploratory visits to dental insurance websites. Oops. I should have thought about dental insurance several months ago. It's a little late now, at least for this initial visit.

The weather is turning colder again, but I'm prepared now. I've got my winter socks, my winter gloves, a warm down jacket and my new high-tech leggings. I hesitate to say "bring it on" though, since I really prefer warmer weather. Since the dogs do seem to enjoy the brisk mornings, I'll just bundle up and try to get a few good sunrise pictures while Dot and Dash are smelling a nearby bush.

I'm not sure what I'll do tomorrow. If I finish my regular work early, I might try to get serious about uploading a bunch of new pictures to Shutterstock. There are certainly photographers out there who have figured out how to make a decent living from selling stock photography. I need to figure out how to crack this nut.

I find myself surprisingly tempted by the onslaught of Black Friday and Cyber Monday ads. Such amazing bargains on absolutely useless stuff. It's weird. At least statistically, I should be entering the de-cluttering phase of my life and I still have this desire to acquire things. I wonder why? I really have all I need. Maybe I'm just bored.

Maggie is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Day 1804

When I was driving to the gym today I listened to a TED Talk about a guy who had taken a vow of silence for seventeen years. He was explaining how he wanted to see if he could go an entire day without talking. The day then became a week, and the week became a year. Every year on his birthday he decided to keeping going one more year. The talk was mostly about how staying silent all those years had fundamentally changed his outlook on life. Yup. I imagine this would change a few things.

TED Talks are like this a lot. Somebody starts doing something simple and relatively innocuous and just keeps going until it turns into an amazing revelation. I wonder what I would talk about if I were ever asked to get up on the TED stage?  I've become an excellent observer over the years, but my observations haven't really gelled into anything significant. Maybe I just need to keep looking.

Another thing I need to do is go to the dentist. I know I've been saying this for months now, but things have reached a tipping point of sorts. I think an old crown has gone bad. The suspect tooth has become very sensitive to cold and I've noticed that I've started chewing on one side of my mouth to avoid the pain. I bet I need a root canal on that tooth. My whole mouth is a house of cards. I'm sure as soon as I get into a dentist's office they're going to want to pull all my wisdom teeth. I've been avoiding this for years, but the wisdom teeth slowly keep pushing my other teeth out of place. I really need to put aside my fear of dentists and make an appointment tomorrow.

After I made a special point of buying new winter gloves and some special cold weather leggings a few weeks ago, the temperature has gotten warm again. The frigid polar vortex temperatures only lasted a day or two and now its back in the 70's again. I wore shorts and a t-shirt when I walked the dogs this afternoon. This is actually pretty typical Texas weather. You never know what to expect. There's a fierce wind outside now that threatens to blow apart my repairs to the greenhouse. We'll see what further surprises tomorrow brings.

It's hard to show restraint at this time of year. The grocery stores are filled with an abundance of absolutely scrumptious looking food and all the other stores are overflowing with all manner of intriguing but largely unnecessary gadgets. I almost came home with a pecan pie, a big wedge of imported cheesed, and a red Pebble smart watch today. Luckily I am finally getting a bit better at showing restraint. All I actually bought were some vegetables and a box of Swiffer dust pads.

It's going to be a short week. I doubt that I'll be able to get a dental appointment, or even a haircut before Thanksgiving. We do have our Thanksgiving dinner reservations though. It's all a matter of priorities

Petey is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Saturday, November 22, 2014

Day 1803

It's hard to believe that it has already been 51 years since John Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. I was already in high school at the time, so this makes me feel really old. I didn't realize it then, but 1963 was an eventful year. The Beatles made their debut in 1963. Martin Luther King delivered his "I have a dream" speech. And the very first episode of Dr. Who was aired by the BBC.

I used to go down to Dealey Plaza on November 22, just to watch everyone with a conspiracy theory have their moment in the sun. Dealey Plaza used to be a zoo on November 22, but it's pretty quiet these days. Most of the eyewitnesses are very old now and some of the more vocal ones have died. I guess if we haven't discovered what really happened by now, we never will.

I don't know what caused me to look up on a shelf this afternoon, see a dusty Diskwarrior software box and decide to see it it still worked. It didn't. I used to defragment my hard drives frequently and run Diskwarrior to rebuild the directories. It was all part of owning a Mac. Nobody seems to do that stuff anymore. If your computer is running slow, you just buy a new computer. I really thought I could get Diskwarrior to work. I downloaded the latest update, burned a new start up CD and looked up the installation instructions on Google. I should have been suspicious when I noticed that the last update occurred in 2011. Apparently Diskwarrior just doesn't matter anymore. Probably 95% of the software titles sitting on shelves in my office don't matter anymore. Times have changed.

The last thing I'd ever do on the day after Thanksgiving is go to a Black Friday sale, but I'll have to admit that I was tempted when I saw a flyer in today's mail saying that the Black Friday price for a Dyson vacuum cleaner was $199. These things are usually well over $500. I'm not going to go to Walmart and fight a mob of crazy people for a vacuum cleaner though. No thank you. We'll just use our old Hoover for a few more years.

The dogs and I got wet on our evening walk. The skies had been grey and cloudy all day, but unfortunately the overcast day turned into a very rainy day while we were out in the park. I kept thinking if we walked a little further that Dash would finally poop. He never did. All I got for my efforts were two very wet dogs. Now Dash will probably wake up me in the middle of the night frantically wanting to go outside. This always happens when he doesn't poop on his walk.

I hope I come up with something more useful to do tomorrow than wasting hours trying to get obsolete software to work and spending even more time cleaning up wet, dirty dogs. I had a much smaller slice of cake for desert tonight in an effort to curtail my sugar intake. Hmm. Rain and no cake. That's the kind of day it was.

Ranger is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Friday, November 21, 2014

Day 1802

I had my annual physical today. As usual, the exam consisted of long waits in various rooms, followed by a much shorter visit with the doctor. I think doctors call their customers "patients" because you have to be very patient to deal with all the waiting. My doctor loves blood tests. Every year, he comes up with half a dozen new things to test me for. Years ago, the technicians only drew one vial of blood for lab work. Now they routinely draw seven or eight vials. It is pretty amazing how much information about your health can be gleaned from a sample of blood. Now, in addition to the usual tests for PSA, glucose, cholesterol, and liver enzyme levels, my lab work includes a variety of genetic RNA markers to determine if I am predisposed to develop certain diseases. Here's the weird thing. My copy of today's lab work was 12 pages long, but I still don't know my own blood type. Doctors never bother to order the simple blood type test anymore, because unless you are in the ER and need a transfusion, they don't need this information. I've meant to ask one of my doctors what my blood type is, but while I am actually in the exam room, I always forget.

For the past several years I've been telling my doctor that I don't want a flu shot and then end up getting one anyway. "Nobody ever died from getting a flu shot," my doctor told me today. OK. Go ahead and give me one. It's really futile trying to argue with doctors. Flu shots aren't a big deal anyway. At least my lab work was good. The only thing I need to keep an eye on is my blood sugar.  I'm not a diabetic, but I could easily become one if I'm not careful. My glucose and a1c levels were a little higher than last year. They were still in the normal range, but headed in the wrong direction. I think these levels were better last year because I had given up sugar and eating bread almost entirely. Eventually, my sweet tooth got the better of me and I went back to having dessert with my evening meals. It looks like I'm going to have to curtail desserts again.

When I was having breakfast this morning, the sky was very grey and the restaurant was playing sad country songs instead of the usual Austin hipster music. For some reason this moody ambiance brought back memories of ancient road trips. You'd never know it now, but before I had dogs or responsibilities, a long straight road and a hearty meal at a roadside diner that I would never see again was my idea of fun. The destination was never that important, but I would often drive 800 miles in a day. I've driven through virtually all the Western states, but never had much desire to point the car in an easterly direction. For just a moment this morning I imagined my favorite restaurant was a roadside diner in Wyoming. The moment didn't last long. By 10AM I was back at my desk writing ridiculous advertising messages.

Dot stumbled and fell on her walk today and Dash had an upset stomach and frantically wanted to eat grass for a while. Both dogs recovered quickly, but I still worry about them a lot. My job is to keep them both safe and healthy. Everything else I do is basically just to kill time. It's a good thing my doctor never takes my blood pressure when I'm having a dog crisis. Lord knows what he'd try to prescribe for me then.

Chelsey is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Day 1801

It's nice to feel caught up on things. I've finished this week's writing assignments. My websites are up to date. The vet bills at the cancer center have been paid. Even the trash has already been taken to the curb for tomorrow's pickup. I'm sure there are still a lot of loose ends, but everything seems reasonably tidy. I like a tidy life.

I continue to be pleased with Dot's progress at her physical therapy sessions. Our vet cautioned us not to expect miracles, but now that we've been doing this for over a year, I can really see a difference. Even after her battle with cancer, she is still stronger than she was a year ago. I would highly recommend physical therapy for anyone with a senior dog. I'm sure physical therapy is equally beneficial for people, so I ought to consider finding a good therapist myself. With the proper care and exercises, my shoulder might actually begin to heal.

The temperature has warmed up considerably, but I'm still dressing as if it were below freezing. Consequently, I felt hot for most of the day. I definitely overdressed for this morning's walk. I always have this problem, because I don't respond quickly to change. I'm inclined to wear my Winter clothes all Winter long, but you can't do that in Texas. You always have to be ready to put on a pair of shorts one day and a parka the next.

Once again, I had a choice between going to the grocery store and picking up some take-out at a nearby restaurant. I should have gone to the store, but I took the easy way out and brought home a burger for dinner instead. It was just one burger and an order of fries, but I feel so full. When did restaurant portions get to be so huge? I never eat like this at home. I have a feeling that diabetes, heart disease, and a half a dozen other ailments could be cut in half if we just quit going out to eat so often. A special breakfast once a week is fine, but I think this is where I should draw the line. If I ate out more frequently, I'd gain ten pounds before you could say do you want fries with that.

Much to my surprise, people are actually buying my pictures on Shutterstock. Unfortunately, I only uploaded ten images to my account before I lost interest. If I can make a little money with ten pictures, just think of what I could do with a hundred, or a thousand. I need to get serious about uploading more pictures. I've certainly got plenty. Who knows. Maybe even some of my blog pictures might get accepted.

There was another package from Klout in the mailbox today. This time it was a big box of dog biscuits for Dot and Dash. They could smell them before I even opened the box. My influence seems to be limited to dogs and thermostats, but I can't complain. Free stuff is fun. Hey, with a cheeseburger in my belly and an empty to-do list for tomorrow, I'll have to admit that life is pretty good.

Puppies are today's Dalmatians of the Day
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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Day 1800

I like big round numbers like 1800. They give me hope that I'll be able to continue doing this for 2000, or if I'm lucky, even 5000 days. As incremental days go, this really wasn't much of a milestone. It was still chilly outside, although the temperature was warmer than yesterday. The day went fast, because there were a ton of minor chores to do. After walking the dogs and fixing myself some oatmeal for breakfast, I went to the bank. Then I went to the pharmacy to pick up prescriptions, did a load of laundry, and balanced my checkbook. Each of these things took a lot longer than it should have, but like I said, the day went quickly.

I don't know why it takes me so long to balance my checkbook these day. This used to be a snap. Now, I'm always entering something twice, or not at all, and ending up with a perplexing discrepancy after all my efforts. Since I'm an obsessive type by nature, I keep checking and rechecking until I eventually find my error, but I doubt that all my calculations even matter. It would probably be a lot easier if I just accepted what the bank said I have each month and let it go at that.

My writing assignments took longer today as well. I wish I could do these things faster since they don't pay a lot, but there are days when my mind is a blank. Just like the checkbook, I eventually get all the words in the right place, but there is often a lot of staring off into space involved. By the time I got all the writing, bookkeeping, and other errands taken care of, it was time for dinner. It wasn't an exciting day, but it was a productive one.

We skipped dog training class for the second week in a row. It's just too cold for Dot. Her joints are old and stiff and the ground is damp and cold. On nights like these, she prefers to sit on a pile of blankets in a warm house. Dash doesn't seem to mind missing class either. He enjoys seeing the other dogs, but I think he lost interest in being obedient several years ago. When it warms up a bit, we'll be back. It's good for the dogs to stay active and mingle with other dogs.

It's time to start thinking about Christmas pet pictures again. I can't even remember how many years I've been shooting pictures of dogs sitting on Santa's lap, but it's been a long time. Janet and I got a new backdrop for this year's round of pictures. Since a lot of the same people come to these events year after year, it's nice to have something different to offer them. I think we have five events this year, so I hope all my equipment still works.

The refrigerator looks pretty empty, so I'll probably have to go to the store tomorrow. Dot has her physical therapy session as well. We'll see how the day goes. I'd like to go see Interstellar at an IMAX theater sometime soon, but tomorrow looks pretty busy. Maybe Friday might work.

Jasper is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Day 1799

Sometimes I have trouble telling the difference between a cold day and a slow day. On cold days like today there is often plenty of work to do, but it still feels like I'm doing nothing because I never leave the house. Even though I kept myself busy and finished several writing jobs, my mind still wandered. I wanted to hear more about the report I heard that the Rosetta lander had discovered organic molecules on the comet. This would be very big new for anyone with an interest in astronomy or planetary science. I was confused when I heard that the Keystone Pipeline bill failed to pass in congress after receiving 59 votes. I guess I've forgotten everything I learned in high school civics class. After looking the topic up on Google, I discovered that 60 votes were required to prevent a filibuster. And what exactly is a filibuster? I know it's a bunch of people talking endlessly to delay things, but why?

The temperature was in the low 20's when I woke up this morning. The only advantage to this frigid weather was that the dogs don't get muddy on our morning walk. The ground was frozen solid and my boots made a crunching sound when I walked over the frost covered grass. Frost covered plants are actually kind of pretty, but we didn't linger long to observe. It was cold and we all knew that the house was much warmer. The only reason we made it as far as we did this morning was that there was absolutely no wind. On a windy day we would have just stayed inside.

I thought making a fancy omelet this morning would make the day more interesting, but it really didn't. I've seen the early morning Dr. Who re-runs on the BBC channel so many times that I've practically memorized them. Out of boredom I've gone back to watching the news. I flip back and forth between the liberal and conservative channels and find them equally irritating. There just isn't that much to like about a completely polarized society. Occasionally CNN is OK, because they seem to focus more on plane crashes and volcanoes than politics. I hate politics. I wish there was a TV channel that just showed interesting Ted Talks, or maybe featured obscure news about black holes or CERN's Large Hadron Collider.

You may wonder why as a writer, I often talk about watching television and seldom mention anything about reading. I used to be an obsessive reader, but my eyes have gotten bad and reading just isn't that satisfying anymore. The last book that made any impact on me was A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. Geek Love by Katherine Dunn was pretty good too. I used to love everything that John Fowles wrote, even the non-fiction. I was such a fan that I even visited his home in Lyme Regis once. When Fowles died, so did a lot of my desire to read. I'm so far behind that The Shipping News still seems like a new novel to me. I bought a copy once, but have never gotten around to reading it.

There are more articles to write tomorrow and I'll probably go back to having oatmeal and fruit for breakfast. I hope the dogs aren't getting too cold on their walks. They both seem to like the brisk weather, which is more than I can say.

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

Monday, November 17, 2014

Day 1798

There was a light dusting of snow on the ground when I walked the dogs this morning. The snow had all but disappeared by the time I finished breakfast, but it served to reinforce what I already knew. Winter is here. I haven't gotten out the little ceramic heater yet that I often keep under my desk on cold days, but I have started wearing a fleece pullover while I work. I'd better get used to this. There will still be some warm days, since this is Texas, but basically things are going to be a bit cooler than I prefer from now till Spring.

Today was much busier than a typical Monday. I had major website revisions to make, a couple of new articles to write, and a big stack of bills to pay. It seems like there ought to be more to life than doing the same repetitive tasks over and over to pay the same bills that seem to keep accumulating over and over. That's what it comes down to sometimes though.

I don't know how two people and a couple of dogs can accumulate so much trash. Since the city only picks up our trash once a week now, I am forced to compact the big black trash bags as much as possible, so they will all fit in the garbage can. If we had a new, modern house, I think the appliance I would want the most is a trash compactor. Without one of these devices I am continually forced to stamp on these bags with my hiking boots and even sit on them when necessary to squeeze them down to 1/3 or their normal size. Life was so much easier when they picked up our trash three times a week.

Dash startles easily and this morning a weird noise caused him to freak out and get his leash tangled around my legs. Lassoed by the leash, his antics quickly knocked me over. When I fell, I knocked Dot over and we all ended up in a pile on the ground. Nobody was hurt, but when we got home there was a lot more mud to clean up than I had hoped. Muddy clothing, bills to pay, and lots of garbage. It was that kind of day.

I still have another article to finish, but hopefully sanity will return tomorrow. Maybe I'll make myself a spinach omelet for breakfast. That sounds like a good way to start a cold day. Maybe I'll go to the storage warehouse and retrieve the little ceramic space heater. I think I write better when my feet are warm.

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

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Day 1797

It's been cold recently, so I decided to get a pair of those compression pants I always see runners and cyclists wearing. You can put on as many sweaters and jackets as you like, but a pair of blue jeans just doesn't offer much protection from the cold. Twenty years ago I would have just bought some old fashioned cotton long underwear, but you don't see that stuff in regular stores anymore. I figured that the local Sports Authority store would have what I needed and sure enough they did. There was a whole section of high tech "cold wear," which basically looked just like women's yoga pants except that they were twice as expensive. "Don't you have anything with pockets in them," I asked the sales guy? Nope. No pockets anywhere. "I guess that's why men always seem to wear a ridiculous pair of baggy shorts on top of these things," I said. "Exactly," said the sales guy.

Even with their drawbacks, these tight fitting leggings did seem to provide an easy alternative to freezing on dog walks, so I bought a pair. Now I know why Under Armor has been such a hot stock for the past several years. These guys are the Apple Computer of underwear. There is no logical reason why a pair of spandex leggings should cost so much.

I was expecting to wake up to freezing rain this morning, but we had the non-freezing kind instead. There were reports of sleet a little north of us, but even though it was pretty damp, the temperature stayed above freezing all day. The dogs didn't seem to mind walking in the light mist. I think the cold weather invigorates them. I wish the cold invigorated me, since we've got a lot of cold days ahead. I've never liked the cold though and the best I can do is just try to stay warm.

I had to choose between cabin fever and getting the car dirty this afternoon, and surprisingly I choose to go to the gym anyway. On cold, wet days like this, my office is always the coldest room in the house. Somehow, a good workout at the gym seemed a much better way to stay warm than sitting at the computer and revising websites.

We had beef stew and cornbread for dinner tonight. The only thing missing was a roaring fire in the fireplace. Oops. We don't even have a fireplace. We do have two warm dogs though. That's almost as good. I think I'll go curl up with the dogs and hope for a warmer day tomorrow.

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

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Day 1796

Today was one small errand after another. I don't know why there were so many things to do, but it was definitely a busy day. The car needed gas, there were groceries to buy, the dogs needed a new stash of dog treats. I needed to pick up a bottle of astringent at CVS. As the day progressed, the sky got darker and darker. I'm glad I got everything done, because it looks like we might have sleet or freezing rain tomorrow.

While I was  out and about, I stopped by an AT&T store to take a look at the new iPhone 6. I don't think I like it very much. Even the smaller of the two new models is too large to fit comfortably in my pocket. Even worse, the phone is so light and thin that it appears flimsy. I think I'll just stick with my current phone, especially since Apple replaced mine with a brand new one just a few months ago.

I received a bunch of new assignments towards the end of the day yesterday and I felt compelled to work on some of them this afternoon. I could have easily waited until Monday, but I hate to have work looming over my head.  I did a little writing and updated a website before I remembered that I still needed to do the laundry and change the sheets on the bed. Weekends have their own set of priorities and writing assignments aren't usually high on the list.

While I was walking the dogs this evening, we encountered another search and rescue team, presumably searching the lake for a drowning victim. When I first moved to this part of town, years would go by without anyone drowning in the lake. Now, I see the fire department rescue crews out here several times a month. I guess that's just what happens in a growing city. There are an abundance of people with no common sense at all. I can't begin to tell you how many times I've seen kayakers or people using those popular new SUP boards without even bothering to wear a life jacket. It's easy to tip a kayak over or fall off a SUP board. The water is pretty cold at this time of year too. You'd have to be crazy to go out on the water on a day like this.

I continue to be impressed by the new thermostat. I programmed it to turn the temperature down while we slept and then raise it back to normal again when we woke up. Everything worked like a charm. We didn't even realize that it was 65 degrees inside during the night. By the time we got out of bed this morning, everything was toasty warm again. It's weird. A thermostat may seem dull to most of you, but Klout couldn't have send me a better product to evaluate if they tried. All I do these days  is fret about the temperature.

I hope the rain we're having now doesn't freeze on the roads tonight. Even a small amount of ice can bring this city to a standstill. If the weather's OK, I'll probably go to the gym tomorrow. If it's sleeting outside, I'll just curl up with the dogs and take a nap.

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

Friday, November 14, 2014

Day 1795

It was a busy day. I got up early so I could walk the dogs and go out for breakfast before the HVAC technician arrived. It's a good thing I got an early start today, because although most repair people arrive late, this guy actually arrived early. The instructions that came with the thermostat said that most people could install the thing themselves. I'd glad I had a professional to keep me from doing something stupid. For starters, the old thermostat had four wires going to the furnace. This new one had eight. Where were those extra four wires supposed to go? I didn't have a clue.

The first thing I noticed when the service technician got the thermostat installed was that an exterior temperature immediately showed up on the display. "Where did that come from," I asked. "There are no external thermometers hooked up to this thing." "Oh, your WiFi router knows exactly where you are," he told me. The thermostat is just retrieving the nearest available exterior temperature reading from the cloud. I love technology, so I was impressed to see that this gizmo can remind you when it's time to change the furnace filter, provide a long-range weather forecast, and even automatically update its own software. Since a built-in microphone lets you control the temperature by saying things like "make it warmer," or "make it cooler," I suppose the NSA could overhear everything we say if they wanted. I've got nothing to worry about though. All they'd hear at our house are barking dogs.

Speaking of barking dogs, Dot didn't bark once while the HVAC technician was at the house. This is unprecedented. The technician was as surprised as I was and asked me "Where are your dogs today." Dot is slowly going deaf and sleeps so soundly now that she didn't hear a thing. She slept thorough the entire installation process. It was kind of sad in a way, since I know how much Dot loves to bark. I'm sure the technician appreciated the unexpected quiet though. Usually Dot barks so loudly that we have trouble even talking to each other.

I had a couple of writing assignments to complete, but I also spent some time trying to locate a new source for Dash's elusive dog food. One store told me that they could have a bag for me by Monday afternoon. Another store told me that the product had been discontinued and wasn't available anywhere. A third store told me that the brand was still available, but that the company had changed the product's name. I don't know who to believe. It definitely shouldn't be this hard to buy dog food though.

I wonder how long this current cold front is going to last? It certainly doesn't appear to be getting much warmer. I'm still surprised that the dogs appear to like this chilly weather. Not me. I'm already looking forward to wearing t-shirts and shorts again. I'm afraid that's not going to happen this weekend. My new thermostat tells me that it's only a few degrees above freezing outside and that I should expect more of the same this weekend.

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