Monday, November 30, 2015

Day 2176

I got a surprise this morning. My dehumidifier arrived a day early. This is almost unheard of at our house. Usually FedEx and UPS shipments are late, get lost, or arrive broken. I was glad to see the little dehumidifier and immediately started reading the instructions. The machine was sturdy, simple to use, and not excessively loud. I like it.

It's weird how much moisture is naturally in the air. The humidity in the house is pretty normal right now, but after running the dehumidifier for several hours, I was still able to extract almost a gallon of water from the air. The humidity dropped from 55% to 41% and the air felt better throughout the house. I was impressed. Maybe all my research paid off. We'll see how I feel after a month of steady use, but if initial impressions are worth anything, we've got a winner.

While I was celebrating the single gallon of water I removed inside the house, I remembered that there were still hundreds of gallons of water sitting on top of the house. Since the rain appears to be over for a while, I started the pump, went up on the roof, and started drying things off again. I think that clearing the water from the roof is my own private version of the Sisyphus myth. Like Sisyphus and the rock he eternally pushed up the mountain, my task is never really done. Whatever I do, it will always rain again.

I've had to get creative to keep Dot from pooping inside. Simply taking her outside every five hours doesn't work anymore. Dot has a schedule that she keeps to herself. Sometimes she can go most of the day without an accident. Other times, she might need to go several times in a single morning. You don't get much warning, so you have to learn to anticipate her needs. I have discovered that by gently holding her tail up while walking behind her, I can sometimes get her to poop outside when she forgets why we're walking around in circles. You have to be patient. And you can never get mad when she poops inside right after a nice long walk. Getting old isn't pretty. I just hope that there's someone understanding nearby when it's my turn to walk in Dot's shoes.

I've got a photo shoot on location tomorrow. This is a rarity these days. I'm not really looking forward to the assignment, but I'm not dreading it either.  This will be a good chance to brush up on location lighting techniques and make sure that all my equipment still works before the first of the Santa Paws fundraisers we've got scheduled for December. It's not easy taking great photos of animals in costumes sitting on Santa's lap. I still think I've got the easy job though. I just have to worry about my knees or back going out. Santa has to worry about being peed on or bitten. Hey, it's all for a good cause.

I've heard that there's a 60% chance of the Orbital ATK launch taking place as scheduled. That means there is a 40% chance it will get postponed due to weather or mechanical problems. This is the problem with traveling to view a launch. Let's say you've managed to clear two days in your schedule and scrape together the money for airfare and hotels. There's still no guarantee that you'll actually see anything. The slightest problem can cause weeks of delays. If I were in Florida now, I'd be fretting about these odds. 60/40 is definitely not a sure thing. I'm still here in Dallas though, so I'll just watch the launch on NASA TV whenever it happens.

Belle is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Sunday, November 29, 2015

Day 2175

I was walking by a puddle today and I saw an image of Dash's face in a pile of submerged leaves. It wasn't exactly like seeing an image of Elvis on a piece of burned toast or the face of Jesus in a rusty screen door, but it did look a bit like Dash. I could see his nose, a few spots on his muzzle, a bit of an ear, and a sparkle in his eye, all on a yellowing Oak leaf. Can you see the dog in the center of the picture? Maybe it's a sign. I suspect it's just a sign that we've had a lot of rain this weekend.

It continued to rain today, so much of the day was spent keeping dry. We all got wet on our morning walk. The dog's harnesses and most of our clothes went in the dryer as soon as we got home. We didn't see anyone else walking their dogs in the rain, but ours just won't do their business without a proper walk. Rain or shine, they still need their walks. Even though Dash hates to get wet, he'd still rather walk in the rain than poop in the yard.

The rugs get even dirtier than usual during wet weather. I try to wipe the dogs paws before they come in the house, but it doesn't seem to do much good. There are outdoor shoes and indoor shoes because we don't have a mud room. All homes should have a mud room. I vacuumed the rugs and washed dog blankets. I changed the sheets. And I did my best to keep condensation off the windows. At the end of the day it was still a wet, rainy mess.

Our Christmas Photo shoots begin next weekend, so Janet and I have started gathering together the things we'll need. There are boxes of Christmas hats and scarves for the dogs to wear. There are several large 20x10 painted muslin backdrops. There are large tripods and poles to hang the backdrops and umbrellas and soft boxes for the strobe lights. I'm going to wait for a dry day to get some of the stuff from the storage warehouse, but it's better to start early than to forget something important when there's a long line of people and dogs waiting for their portrait with Santa.

I can't wait for the new dehumidifier to arrive. The moisture level in the house is still much better than it was before the remediation company sucked all the moisture out with their big machines. I can tell the house is slowly returning to its natural state though. It's inevitable. With porous solid brick walls, the moisture from the wet exterior side of the bricks eventually is absorbed and then radiates into the air on the interior side of the bricks. The walls are sturdy and solid, but it's kind of like living in an above ground basement.

If I was still going to that Orbital ATK Cygnus spacecraft launch at Cape Canaveral, I would probably be leaving tomorrow. It's a good thing I canceled the trip because there is no way I could even consider being out of town most of next week. I would have loved being NASA's guest again, but it just wasn't in the cards. Maybe I'll have another opportunity when life isn't so chaotic. I feel like I've been treading water recently. The days are extremely busy, but nothing of any significance is ever accomplished. At least treading water is better than sinking. Dot may never get any better, but her condition is stable and she doesn't appear to be getting any worse. Most importantly, she still seems very happy. When you consider the alternatives, maybe treading water isn't so bad.

Petey is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Saturday, November 28, 2015

Day 2174

I think Dot is back to normal. Of course, normal is a very old dog who can barely walk and poops all over the place, but we can live with that. I'm grateful that we dodged a bullet one more time. We are all learning to live with age and infirmity, but adding something new to the mix might have been too much. I don't know how Dot got so sick or recovered so quickly, but I'd like to find out. I don't want this to happen again.

I need to be more careful with the little ceramic heater I use to keep warm on cold days. Yesterday I almost melted the vinyl slats on some mini-blinds covering the window next to my desk. I put the heater too close to the window hoping to evaporate the condensation that was starting to return. Ceramic heaters are generally pretty safe. There is no flame and the case doesn't even get hot to the touch. What I forgot was that the air itself coming out of the heater is very hot. I have seven partially melted slats in the blinds to remind me of that.

I seemed to remember that I had some more mini-blinds in the storage warehouse so I thought I'd replace the one I'd singed. I took the old mini-blinds down, found the new ones and then realized they weren't the same size. They almost fit, but not quite. It was a wasted effort. While I was looking at the aluminum window frames, I realized that there was mold in the track where the window slid open. I got some Clorox wipes from the kitchen and cleaned all the frames in the office. They were filthy. Now I have a burnt shade covering much cleaner windows. I guess that's progress.

I'm learning more about humidity. When it's really cold outside and the furnace runs all the time, the humidity goes down. When the indoor and outdoor temperatures are closer together and the furnace or air conditioner only runs sporadically, the humidity goes up. I think this must mean that the house isn't insulated very well. Hot air does dry things out, but moisture creeps back in quickly when the furnace is off. The air conditioner does a good job of lowering the humidity too, but it's Winter now. We won't be using the air conditioner again for a while. We certainly won't be using it this weekend. The temperature might go down to freezing tonight.

Since several forecasts were predicting freezing weather, I didn't want to deal with ice on the roof. Ice on the roof is even worse than water on the roof. Even though it was nasty outside, I braved the elements and got all the water off the roof while I still had a chance. We've had thick ice on the roof before and I still think this is what caused some of the Sheetrock in the living room ceiling to crack.

I think some people will be confused by this week's Heaven Sent episode of Dr. Who. Was the whole thing a weird dream sequence, or did the Doctor really spend millions of years trying to break out of this strange Rubik's Cube castle? The entire episode was just a very convoluted set up for next week's season finale. I think I liked the series better when each show was a self-contained little adventure. This new series is a single very long show that is meant to be binge watched from beginning to end.

The rain is supposed to continue through Monday. The challenge for me will be to do something useful around the house without breaking anything. The brown melted spot on the mini blinds and the continuing leak in the shower stall are graphic reminders that I'm not exactly off to a good start. Maybe I should just go to the gym tomorrow and wait until Summer to deal with the house.

Dalmatian of the Day
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Friday, November 27, 2015

Day 2173

It's official. 2015 is now the rainiest year in Dallas history. When I look out my window, it's easy to see why. Some parts of town have had over six inches of rain during the last 24 hours. It rained more than usual this Spring. It rained more than usual this Summer. And it is definitely raining more than usual now. The traffic was horrible today. I saw five accidents on my way to the grocery store this afternoon. Last night was a lot worse, when three people died after they were swept away by high water. I try to stay inside on days like this.

The weather may be getting worse, but Dot's condition is definitely getting better. She didn't throw up at all today and is still holding down her food. We are continuing to feed her the Hills I/D and are gradually increasing the amount she is allowed to eat. Getting back to her regular diet couldn't come quick enough for Dot. She is very focused on food. I still don't know what caused all the vomiting. With dogs it could be almost anything.

The cold, damp weather gave me an extra incentive to make a decision about a dehumidifier. After talking to a patient, very nice customer service representative at an air quality specialty company for about twenty minutes, I finally decided on the best model for our house and ordered it online. It was hard to find a dehumidifier that had everything I needed. Some units were too big and noisy. Others didn't have an internal water reservoir, so they constantly had to be hooked up to a drain hose. Many of the smaller, high capacity units were designed to be installed in a crawl space under the floor. These don't work very well if you don't have a crawlspace. The dehumidifier I initially wanted turned out to be too small for our house. I wondered who would buy this rather expensive, built like a tank unit if it wouldn't dehumidify our rather small house. The customer service representative told me that police departments loved the compact machines and used them to dehumidify their gun safes. In the end, I never could find a commercial dehumidifier that would work well in our house and ended up buying a much less expensive consumer model instead. Hopefully it will last at least a couple of years.

I kept thinking it was Saturday all day. I didn't go out for breakfast this morning because Janet was off work today. We slept in a little later as well. My initial reaction was to get Dot up as early as possible, since there had been no accidents by the time I woke up. She was sleeping so peacefully though, that I decided to let her sleep as long as possible. We all got an extra hour of shut-eye until Dash eventually started barking for his breakfast. We got lucky and found a forty-five minute break in the rain right after we ate, so the dogs got their morning walk as well.

Since the rain is supposed to continue all the way through Monday, I don't know what I'll do this weekend. I certainly have no intention to participate in the pre-holiday shopping frenzy. Why would you go to a store and stand in long lines to buy something you could get for the same price online anyway? There were tons of Black Friday deals in my inbox this morning. One looked way too good to pass up. There was a picture of a new model Mac Pro laptop with a price of $15. I immediately put this deal in my shopping cart and went to get Janet so I could show her this amazing price. By the time I returned, the price had gone up quite a bit. The Black Friday price was really $1500. The store sure fixed that typo in a hurry. I bet they had a flood of orders the minute the deal went online. I wonder if they'll have to honor the deal for the few people who were fast enough to check out before the error was corrected. I bet somebody's in trouble. Unfortunately, I wasn't fast enough to get a $15 Mac. I'm rarely fast enough for anything anymore.

Spots is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Thursday, November 26, 2015

Day 2172 - Thanksgiving

Today did not go as planned. Dot threw up during the night. She pooped in her bed too, but it was the vomiting that was alarming. She threw up a lot of liquid and it was completely unexpected. She didn't appear sick when we went to bed and she isn't the type of dog that eats garbage or gets into things. I was surprised. I did my best to clean up the mess and we went back to bed. Just before breakfast, she threw up again. Dot didn't have a fever and her gums were nice and pink, so we let her rest instead of making a trip to the emergency vet. Within an hour, she was acting completely normal.

We took our morning walk and fed her a small amount of food when we got home. Again, everything seemed normal. Then, about an hour later, when we were finishing our own breakfast, she threw up again. Dogs can vomit for hundreds of different reasons and most of them are fairly benign. Dash is known to eat crap in the yard when we're not looking and this is usually the reason he throws up. There were a lot of harmless reasons why Dot could be throwing up too, but I was worried that this may be a sign that her cancer has returned.

We canceled our Thanksgiving brunch reservations and stayed home with Dot instead. Since she still appeared hungry, I went to the only open vet I could find and got a few cans of bland Hills I/D wet food to feed her. When I described Dot's symptoms to the nurse on duty, she said she thought it was safe to just keep an eye on Dot and take her to our regular vet tomorrow. She didn't have a fever, her gums were pink, she wasn't dehydrated, she still had an appetite, and she didn't appear to be under any undue stress. These were all good signs. It's always a bit alarming when your pet has an emergency on a holiday. You are pretty much on your own. We could have taken Dot to an emergency clinic, but this didn't appear to be an emergency. I did feel better after talking to the emergency nurse though.

Since we had been planning to go out for dinner, there was almost nothing in the refrigerator. We were both hungry and started looking for a restaurant in the neighborhood so we could go pick up some take-out. Not surprisingly, almost nothing was open. We finally found a little sports bar that has pretty good burgers, so I picked up our Thanksgiving dinner there. Apparently the only people who eat out on Thanksgiving evening are lonely men. There were five men in the restaurant when I arrived and they were all sitting alone, watching the Cowboys lose on a big screen TV behind the bar.

We fed Dot a small amount of the Hills I/D food and so far she has held it down for about three hours. This is a good sign. I think I set a new record for doing laundry today. So many parts of the house are protected now, but Dot managed to target an unprotected area every single time she threw up. There is still an eighteen inch wet circle on the carpet right near my desk in the office. Dot could have picked a better place to vomit. After scrubbing the carpet and applying liberal amounts of the Nature's Miracle enzyme, I can still smell vomit. There are days when I feel I have lost the battle with the house. It has really taken quite a beating recently.

I didn't expect to have a take-out burger and a small pear salad for Thanksgiving dinner, but we did the right thing. It turned out to be a nice family meal and we have a lot to be thankful for. Dot is calm now and seems to be holding down her food. I'll try to make an appointment at her regular vet tomorrow and see if we can find out what is going on. Although it rained a lot today, there were no thunderstorms to further stress the dogs. The washing machine is still working and I'm running the air conditioner to keep the humidity down. If Dot can make it through the night without any further incidents, I think we're going to be OK.

Pepper is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Day 2171

I don't know why it's so hard to get Dot out of the house in the morning. I've been trying to get her ready for physical therapy earlier and earlier, but we still arrive at the vet late. Afternoons used to work a lot better, but we don't have that option now. It's like herding cats to get Dash in the bedroom where he needs to be, while simultaneously positioning Dot near the front door. I have to bribe the dogs with treats and that doesn't always work. When I lure Dash into the bedroom with a treat, Dot usually follows. Then when I try to get Dot back out by the front door, Dash thinks he can get another treat if he gets to the front door faster. I end up with Dash at the front door and Dot in the bedroom, which is exactly the opposite of what I need. Frequently, Dot heads for the back door instead, so I take her outside just in case she needs to pee. She'll usually just aimlessly wander around for a while and by the time I back the car out of the driveway, we're already late. It's frustrating to say the least.

When we finally do arrive at the vet, Dot usually does pretty well. Today she did excellent in the underwater treadmill. She was able to complete her full eighteen minute routine while doing several short intervals where we cranked the treadmill up to a higher speed. Maybe barking at the office cat got Dot energized today. I asked the vet why Dot wasn't building muscle mass in her rear legs with all the exercise she's been getting. Evidently, the older you get, the harder it is to build muscle tissue. Tell me about it! The same thing is happening to me. After all the time I've spent at the gym and walking the dogs, my arms and legs are still getting thinner.

Therapy days always get Dot off schedule. We had another accident today while I was taking Dash on his evening walk. I have a feeling that running the washing machine continually is one reason why I'm having trouble keeping the humidity low. I was just about ready to place an order for a dehumidifier today. Janet liked the machine and I'd read several good reviews. Then I accidentally stumbled on a fairly articulate bad review. Evidently this machine uses much more electricity than the manufacturer states. Running it continually can get expensive. At least it doesn't seem to break. One guy said he'd run his continually for five years without a problem. I have yet to find a dehumidifier that everybody likes. Maybe that's just not going to happen.

I saw an ad for a Panasonic camera today that lets you focus after you take the picture. That's what I need. When I take a camera along when I'm walking the dogs I almost always leave the lens on autofocus because I have my hands full already. Inevitably, when I'm focusing on some animal in the woods, the camera will think that what I was really looking at was a nondescript tree branch about a foot behind the critter I was trying to capture. A shallow depth of field looks great if you're focused on the right thing. Most photographers will tell you that good bokeh is highly desirable, unless the only thing in focus is an ugly stick or clump of grass. This new camera calculates the closest and most distant objects in the frame and then quickly takes a series of up to twenty pictures at every distance in between. You can select the focus point after you take the shot. I'll have to look into this.

Hopefully, Thanksgiving will be quiet and relaxing. It would be nice to sleep in late for a change and it would be even nicer to be able to go out for dinner without worrying about whether the dogs will freak out during a thunderstorm.  Could we just put a hold on the rain until Friday?

Dot is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Day 2170

It is tempting to join the political debate on Facebook. With a presidential election looming and WWIII on the horizon, my timeline is filled with wildly contradictory opinions every single day. How did I get so many friends who can't seem to agree on anything? My desire to clarify things by telling my Facebook friends the "truth" is tempered by the realization that my own opinions are probably just as misguided as theirs. Why join the fray? It's pointless. If Facebook is a proxy for how the world actually works, we are truly fucked.

Without getting into details, I tend to take the long view on things. When Black Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter, All Lives Matter were popular memes, only one image spoke to me. It was an icy cold photo of the Andromeda Galaxy with the caption No Lives Matter. Whenever people talk about climate change, I keep thinking that it is pretty arrogant to assume that humans can actually destroy the planet. The planet has been here for billions of years. We've only been here a few thousand. We can certainly destroy ourselves. We're getting closer and closer to doing this every day. The planet will survive however. Earth will clean up the toxic gasses and the radiation on its own time schedule and maybe a wiser, less argumentative species will evolve the next time around. People don't like taking the long view however. They're more concerned about what is going to happen tomorrow. That's why I tend to keep my mouth shut.

Today was a good day for saying nothing. It's a short week and most of my clients are on holiday time already. Even the ubiquitous telemarketers seem to have disappeared this week. I went about my business, making sure the dogs had a nice morning walk and taking an inordinate amount of time to make the perfect fruit smoothie. I've almost sealed the leak in the shower stall, although a small amount of water still seems to end up on the bathroom floor. I've narrowed down the search for the ideal portable dehumidifier to two models, but can't decide which one is best. Neither of these machines is available in Dallas and all I've got to go on are people's comments on the Internet. I'd say my chances of believing the wrong person are about 50/50.

Since today was even slower than yesterday, I took the opportunity to catch up on Dr. Who. This time I watched the show while the dogs were napping and managed to see the entire episode without interruptions. I don't know what to think about Face the Raven. Personally I think Clara deserved a better send off. She might not have been the best companion ever, but she was a good and loyal one. She should have been sent to a parallel universe like Rose or just had her memory wiped like Donna Noble. Although I'm not a fan of the direction that Steven Moffat is taking the show, I'll have to admit that Peter Capaldi is a good actor. There is an intensity about him that Matt Smith never had.

I'm so habitual that's it's going to be harder than you might think to remember that Dot's physical therapy day is tomorrow instead of Thursday. Her appointment is early in the morning too. I'll have to start getting her ready right after breakfast. It's supposed to rain on Thanksgiving but I hope the forecast is wrong. I'd like to enjoy a nice relaxing dinner at our third choice restaurant without worrying about whether the dogs were having a panic attack during a thunderstorm.

Maggie is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Monday, November 23, 2015

Day 2169

It may be a short week, but it certainly was a long day. The days always seem longer when there is nothing to focus on. Without a crisis to deal with or a deadline to meet, I kind of floundered around today. I renewed a few domain names that expire next month, checked to see how much I'd earned this month from stock photo sales, and converted my personal Amazon account to a business account to get the free shipping. I'm getting closer to purchasing a dehumidifier, but kept finding myself wandering away from the industrial water removal web sites and looking at cameras instead. I actually need a dehumidifier and don't need another camera at all, but dehumidifiers are really boring.

When Janet was cleaning this weekend, she filled a cardboard box with small items she'd cleared off the coffee table in the living room and put the box in my office. I was tired of tripping over the box every time I got up to go to the bathroom at night, so I knew that I'd eventually have to deal with it. I actually liked all the little knick·knacks that had been designated as clutter, so I placed most of them on shelves in my already cluttered office and refilled the box with old Christmas presents that I didn't like. I took this box to the storage warehouse and considered my solution a win, since the same volume of unneeded stuff had been removed from the house.

I need to figure out a way to watch TV or read a book while I'm outside holding up Dot's rear legs. She is so slow now that it takes a lot of patience to be her outdoor companion. Sometimes I think she just needs to pee and I won't put on a jacket or warm clothes. This is inevitably when she wants to sniff the air for thirty minutes. I can't just run inside to get a jacket because she'll fall over. I think Dot enjoys being outside on crisp, cool days like today, so I never try to hurry her. In Dot's defense, she did manage to poop outside when I least expected it. This just proves that there can be happy endings to almost any scenario.

Since it was such a slow day, I thought I'd watch the Sleep No More episode of Dr. Who that I'd missed a few weeks ago. Monsters created out of the mucus that forms in the corner of your eyes while you sleep? Surely Steven Moffat could have come up with a more plausible plot twist than this. I continue to maintain that the Russell T Davies era had consistently better scripts than this new series. I don't think the dogs liked this episode either. Even though I watched the show during one of their regular nap periods, they were constantly interrupting me. When they started to bark, I would put the DVR on pause and go see what they wanted. I think all they wanted was constant attention.

One of my clients called and wants new employee pictures for their website. Wow. That was a blast from the past. I used to be shooting new employee pictures constantly, but this was the first request I'd gotten this year. I think most people finally figured out that putting employees on their website just showed the rest of the world how bad their staff turnover problems were. Maybe these guys are being optimistic. At any rate, it will give me something to do next week. I'll be able to find out if I have any looming equipment problems before the grueling Santa photo season begins too.

Maybe something more exciting than watching the humidity level will happen tomorrow. I hope the dogs let me sleep tonight. Doing nothing really wears you out.

Petey is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Sunday, November 22, 2015

Day 2168

It's November 22 and I haven't heard a single thing about John F. Kennedy on TV today. That's odd for Dallas, because there's almost always a local feature about Dealey Plaza.

It was just an ordinary chore day for us. We are determined to regain control of the house. I finally got out the leaf blower and cleared all the leaves off the front and back porch. Maybe for a day or two we won't track in enormous amounts of dead leaves every time we take the dogs outside. Like all tasks, this one took longer than expected because I couldn't find a long, heavy duty extension cord to run the blower. I used to clear away leaves every week during the Fall when we first moved here. Now, once a year seems fine.

Janet cleared out the liquor cabinet to make room for several laptop computers that had been sitting on a living room chair for six months. We got rid of an unopened bottle of Baileys that said "best used before 2002.' There were several bottles of Scotch with duty free stickers. Neither of us could even remember the last time we traveled out of the country. We tasted several things to see if they were still any good. Scotch and Bourbon hold their own pretty well. Any flavored liqueur completely loses its infused fruity taste after ten or fifteen years. I think vodka just evaporates. So, why was there so much old booze in the liquor cabinet? Probably because I quit drinking entirely after I discovered that I had Hepatitis C and Janet prefers wine now. We kept some of the stuff though. You never know when a well prepared cocktail might brighten your day.

I continue to be amazed at how much dirt and dust the Dyson picks up. I would think that after the first good house cleaning, each subsequent vacuuming effort would yield less and less dirt. That hasn't been the case. Every single week there is an enormous amount of dirt and dog hair in the clear Dyson canister. It seems almost impossible that we could be tracking in this much dirt. I always feel better after I vacuum the house. The feeling doesn't last long though. Usually it rains the next day and the rugs and carpets get dirty all over again.

Dot pooped in her bed again last night. She soiled two blankets and I accidentally soiled another two trying to clean up the mess. I wonder how long the washing machine is going to last. We've been using the washer and dryer like a laundromat for the past several months. Dot's incontinence is so predictable that you'd think I would have come up with a solution by now. I don't think there is one. Doggie diapers don't work. They fall off and if you secure them tight enough so that they won't fall off, then Dot can't sleep comfortably. Creating a penned-in safe area doesn't work either. Dot likes to sleep right next to me and if we put her in the X-Pen at night, she just barks until one of us lets her out again. For a lot of reasons, it's easier to just spread blankets around the area where she likes to sleep, clean up the mess the best we can using doggie poop bags, spray any remaining stain with Nature's Miracle enzyme and throw the blankets in the wash. This system works pretty well unless I inadvertently step in the poop while I'm trying to turn the light on so I can assess the situation.

The weather was beautiful today. It was cold in the morning, but warmed up to "brisk" later in the day. I didn't even have to wear a jacket when I raked and cleared away leaves this afternoon. The dogs love the cooler weather and we were able to give them two good walks today instead of the single walk they typically get on weekdays. I'll be glad when the days start getting longer again. Now, it is completely dark before Janet gets home from work, so we've had to curtail Dot's evening walk.

I noticed that Google+ has changed its format again. Why do Facebook and Google keep changing their format and features all the time? It's irritating. One thing I like about Twitter is that it never changes. The new Google format features little square boxes right at the top of your profile page that showcase the Collections you've made and the Communities you've joined. I don't like this because I haven't made any Collections or joined any Communities. Because part of my job is helping my clients with their Social Media efforts, I can't ignore these things. I grudgingly made a couple of Collections this afternoon and added them to my profile. Google says Collections are the next big thing, but I think they're just a big nuisance. I've got two more Collections to make to fill up the empty boxes on my profile and then I'm done with Collections forever. The ironic thing is that I actually like to collect things in real life. It just seems silly to put something on my Google page that is a blatant copy of Pinterest.

It's going to be a short week, since most people get Thursday and Friday off. I don't know if this is good or bad at this point. I've already had to change Dot's physical therapy appointment. I'm sure there will be other changes to come.

Dalmatian of the Day
Watch of the Day

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Day 2167

I never should have let my doctor convince me that I needed flu and pneumonia shots this year. I typically never get these shots, but they really push them as you get older. I reluctantly agreed to get the shots yesterday and asked the nurse to put the mildest one in my left arm because I'm left handed. This turned out to be a terrible plan, because I woke up this morning with a very sore left arm. The right arm is a bit sore as well. I think the nurse got things backwards. I should have had my pneumonia shot in the right arm.

Lots of laundry today. Dot woke up during the night and proceeded to poop in the bedroom before I could get out of bed and guide her toward the back door. I stepped in the poop because it was dark, making it even more difficult that usual to clean things up. By the time we had finished taking the dogs outside and cleaned up the mess, I was fully awake. I would have just gotten up and started breakfast if it wasn't still the middle of the night.

It wasn't until daylight finally arrived that I noticed how cold it was. Winter has arrived. I think it is supposed to dip below freezing tomorrow. It is encouraging that there is still no condensation on the windows, even though the temperature has been fluctuating wildly. It is becoming apparent that the big dehumidifiers removed a lot of moisture when we were drying the house last week during the pipe leak. I'm still looking for a portable dehumidifier, but I'm not having much luck. Today I thought I'd see what Fry's Electronics had. There was a nice looking brand I'd never heard of, so I looked it up on Google when I finished running my errands. It turned out that this particular brand had been involved in a big product recall after it had a tendency to catch on fire. Over 200 house fires resulting in over $2 million dollars of damage havell been caused by this machine. Nope. We won't be buying this one.

I hooked up a wet/dry vacuum with a special attachment to see if I could extract any water from a crack in the floor of the shower stall. After running the vacuum for about an hour I removed over a gallon of water. That's a lot of water under something I had previously thought was dry. I'll fill the crack with caulk now and see if this takes care of the problem. It probably won't. We need to re-tile the entire bathroom.

I haven't even bothered to watch Dr. Who for two weeks in a row. I don't seem to have time for the show anymore. I'm not all that wild about the direction the Steven Moffat had been taking the series anyway. I stayed with Peter Capaldi as long as I could, but the show seems like a waste of a valuable hour now. I need all the time I can get. The days continue to get shorter and by the time I've walked both dogs and eaten dinner, there's barely enough time to write the blog. Dot is taking longer an longer to do her business in the evening now. She seems to forget where she is. It's important to be patient and give her plenty of time to poop though. That's the only way to avoid unfortunate accidents like we had last night.

I'm not sure what I'm going to do tomorrow. There are still plenty of chores that need attention around the house. I should start going back to the gym as well. I guess it will all depend on how my arms feel tomorrow. Today, I couldn't have gone two minutes on the arm bicycle. I don't know why I let them talk me into those shots. I'm never around children these days, so I seldom get colds or flu. I'm not even sure how you get pneumonia.

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

Friday, November 20, 2015

Day 2166

My doctor asked me today if I was under any unusual stress and if I was getting enough sleep. Apparently, my Cortisol levels were high and this is often an indicator of a sleepless, stress filled life. So, what else is new? I was talking about this just the other day with Dot's vet and a few of her vet techs. All of us led stressful lives and weren't getting enough sleep. We all seemed to average between four and five hours of sleep each night. This is just modern life. I doubt that I needed a blood test to tell me that I wasn't getting enough sleep. All you have to do is look at my face.

Despite the high cortisol levels, the rest of my blood work looked pretty good. Considering that my doctor had actually cut back on a few of my meds last month, I considered the test results a win. My cholesterol is under control, I don't have diabetes yet, and I don't have to take any additional pills. Who could ask for more?

Considering that my income is declining, my expenses are increasing, and I'm cleaning up dog poop every few hours, I think I'm handling stress pretty well. Maybe now that we have running water again, life will settle down a bit. It's always stressful taking care of an aging, sick dog, but I don't regret any of the time I spend with Dot. Both dogs have done far more for me than I'll ever be able to do for them. Making them my top priority now is the least I can do. I don't think the stress is going away though. All I've got to say is don't let your babies grow up to be web designers. Let them be plumbers instead.

I felt like having burgers this evening and was pleased that I returned from the grocery store with all the ingredients. I had the ground beef. I had the tomatoes. I had the lettuce. I had the cheese and all the condiments. It was only much later that I realized that I had forgotten to buy the buns. This always happens to me when I shop. It doesn't even matter if I make a list, because I'll always forget to add something essential to the list. This is one reason I go to the store a lot.

We didn't make our Thanksgiving reservations soon enough this year and ended up going to our third restaurant choice instead of our favorite. This is still better than cooking at home though. We'll probably never cook a big holiday meal again. Evidently, Janet and I aren't the only people who feel this way. When we started eating out on Thanksgiving years ago, you didn't even need a reservation. Now going to a Thanksgiving brunch has become so popular that you have to make reservations a month in advance.

Dot had a good day today. She was strong and energetic on her morning walk, and I was surprised to see her wandering around the house on her own throughout the day. Some days she can barely move. Other days she can still get up without assistance. As far as I'm concerned, every good day is a bonus.

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

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Day 2165

I didn't have time to take a shower this morning because I was waiting for the HVAC guy to come over and give me an estimate for installing a whole house dehumidifier. The HVAC guy was running late, so he didn't make it over at all. Damn, I could have taken a shower after all. I tried real hard to be on time for Dot's physical therapy session, but I was late too. I just can't seem to get Dot out of the house in the mornings. If I point her toward the front door, she inevitably wants to go out the back door. I always oblige, because I think she might need to pee. I'd rather be late than have Dot pee in the car. For the second week in a row, I had to stop the car midway to the vet's office to re-position Dot after she had gotten stuck in an awkward position. Oddly, nobody seemed upset when we arrived fifteen minutes late. I suspect they were running late as well. It was just that kind of day.

There was extra laundry this morning because Dot pooped in her bed again. It's just as well that I didn't take a shower, because I discovered that there is still a leak in the shower pan. My caulking job appears to have failed. When people ask if life has returned to normal after the pipe leak, I just smile and say yes. It's easier to keep my mouth shut, because I know that nobody wants to hear what I really feel. At this point I don't think life will ever return to normal. I've kind of forgotten what normal is.

Even work was problematic today. For some reason only one of the four web cameras seemed to work after I created four new pages where customers could view the cameras online. Since the embed code for all the cameras was more or less the same, I couldn't figure out what was wrong. After talking with the client, we unplugged each of the cameras and then plugged it in again. This is what you do with electronic devices when you can't think of anything else. The reboot seemed to work. The client can see all the cameras now, although they still don't work in Firefox for me. Instead of scratching our heads for the rest of the day, we decided to tell people just to not use Firefox to view the website. Works for me. Very few people actually view the cameras anyway.

Janet had an office Christmas party tonight, so I had to improvise a way to take Dot on her evening walk without Dash at her side. I ended up walking backwards down the alley with a treat in my hand so Dot would follow me. Eventually her sense of smell kicked in and she started walking on her own, but it seemed to take us forever to go a single block. You have to be patient with Dot. If you try to hurry and don't give her plenty of time to poop on her own schedule, she'll inevitably go in the house five minutes after you return home.

I finally found a portable dehumidifier in a store that I could actually see and touch. The machine looked flimsy and was made entirely out of plastic. Yup. It was made in China. I remember the online reviews for this model said that the water reservoir was very hard to empty without spilling water on the floor. I tried to remove the reservoir on the showroom model and concluded that the reviewers were right. I'd be spilling water big time if I tried to empty this awkward plastic bucket when it got full. I still don't know what to buy, but I definitely know what I'm not going to buy.

As if to prove that this was not an auspicious day, a PVC pipe connected to an outdoor sprinkler system in the park broke right as Dash and I were walking over it on our evening walk. We were immediately soaked. Don't even ask why the city is putting a sprinkler system out in the woods in a public park. Just another example of your tax dollars at work.

I'm looking forward to going out for breakfast tomorrow. I don't really expect Friday to be any different than today, but it would be nice to start things off with an hour of relative peace and quiet.

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

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Day 2164

So, what did I learn today? For starters, I learned that a lot of water leaked out of our broken pipe last month. I received our first water bill since our plumbing problems began, and it was humongous. I called the city to see how to go about getting an adjustment on the bill and since I was dealing with a government bureaucracy, the procedure was about ten times more complicated than it needed to be. I'm supposed to go ahead and keep paying my bills like normal, and then fill out some paperwork and send it to a completely different department to apply for an adjustment to my bill. Supposedly, about three months from now the city will apply some sort of formula based on my historic water use averages and credit back some of this month's huge bill. I wonder if the people making the adjustment and the people currently taking my money even talk to each other. At least the problem is fixed now and I only have one wonky bill to deal with.

I was going to go look at dehumidifiers in several of the big box stores today, but discovered that nobody kept them in stock. Keeping an inventory is a thing of the past. Unless you're dealing with a popular day-to-day item, most stores force you to buy online these days. Some stores ship the item to a retail store where you pick it up. Other deliver it to your home. If you actually want to look at the item before you buy, you're out of luck. It's frustrating. The reason I wanted to buy a dehumidifier locally is that my UPS guy has a habit of breaking heavy objects by just dropping the package at my door. I've had to return a number of things delivered by UPS and FedEx because they were broken when they arrived. Fragile or Handle with Care stickers mean nothing to these guys.

Faced with the prospect of buying online, I started reading the online reviews more carefully. It appears that most people feel that dehumidifiers are too noisy, only last a year before they break, and are so poorly designed that you always spill water on the floor when emptying the water reservoir.  I remember one review in particular. "Your machine sucks water out of the air just fine," the review said. "It's too bad it immediately overflowed and spilled all the water it extracted on my new carpets and ruined them." Once again, you get what you pay for. With portable dehumidifiers you've got two choices. You can pay $1400 and up for a commercial machine designed to run 24 hours a day, or pay $200 for a consumer machine that will break in a year.

When I was running errands today, the Service Required light came on in my car. I hate this ambiguous message because sometimes it means that something is seriously wrong with your car and other times it is just a reminder that it's time for your next service visit at the dealership. I didn't want to take any chances since I have to transport Dot in the car tomorrow, so I drove over to the dealership and showed them the problem. There was nothing wrong at all. It was just reminding me about the service appointment that I had already taken care of last month.

I got a call from an IT guy today telling me that he had just replaced all the web cams in one of my client's buildings. This meant that the pages for viewing these cameras no longer worked. I told him I'd fix the situation if he'd sent me send me the information I needed to create new web cam pages. Ordinarily, this would be something I could do while I was talking to the guy on the phone. Not anymore. Since I've already converted this particular site to a responsive, mobile friendly format, it is much more complex to modify. There goes tomorrow. Between taking Dot to physical therapy and adding these four live cameras back to the website, that's my entire day.

It was clear this morning and I was surprised to see how far Jupiter and Venus have moved apart in the morning sky. The last time I looked, these two planets were almost touching. It appears that even the planets are moving faster than I am these days.

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

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Day 2163

The day sure ended differently than it began. We were hoping things would dry off after an all night rain, but the weather wouldn't cooperate. Reluctantly, we took the dogs out in the rain and by the time they both did their business, everybody was soaked. I'm much more aware of humidity now. A simple walk in the rain raised the relative humidity in the house by 10%. Wet clothes, wet dogs, and a lot of open doors were all it took to upset the balance. Taking showers raised the humidity as well. Just about everything raised the humidity. When the skies cleared after lunch, the humidity went down again. I'm at the mercy of the weather.

My HVAC contractor said he'd come out and see if there was a way to install a whole house dehumidifier that worked in conjunction with the furnace and air conditioner. He told me that a dehumidifier was just a band-aid though and that something was fundamentally wrong with my house. I suspect he's right. "Everyone else says their house is too dry in the Winter," he told me. "You're the first person who wants it even drier." I think when you've got an entire house constructed of porous brick, it's kind of like having a moisture sponge. The bricks absorb moisture and then radiate it back into the house. Having tons of single pane glass probably doesn't help either. When I went to Home Depot to look for portable dehumidifiers, they didn't even stock any. "We mostly sell those up North," said a guy in an orange apron. "People put them in their basements." Yup. That explains it. The house has always felt like we were living in a basement.

I must be sleeping better now, because I didn't even hear all the wind and rain last night. There must have been high winds, because there was a big branch in the back yard when I woke up. Maybe if these dead branches keep falling off our Oak trees in windstorms, I won't have to hire the tree trimmers this year. I hauled the big limb out to the curb and added it to my pile of stuff that is still waiting for bulky trash pickup. Later in the day, I saw on Facebook that a tornado had passed through the area last night. You could have fooled me.

Now that my plumbing problems have been largely resolved, I'm starting to get caught up on work.  Today I updated a few websites and did some routine bookkeeping. It seemed like I spent a lot of time cleaning mud off the dogs paws, but that's just what we do in the Winter. Other than my strange new obsession with the humidity, it was a completely normal day.

I wish I didn't have to waste so much time dealing with water problems. I spent about fifteen minutes clearing a slow shower drain before I took my shower this morning. This afternoon, I spent another forty-five minutes getting the water from last night's rain off the roof. These things have become so normal that I don't even think about them anymore.

I'll probably continue my search for a good portable dehumidifier tomorrow. If the weather remains clear, Dash will finally get the long walk he's been waiting for. I need to confirm our reservations for Thanksgiving dinner too. Thanksgiving will be here before you know it.

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

Monday, November 16, 2015

Day 2162

NASA approved my application to attend the Orbital ATK OA-4 resupply flight to the International Space Station in early December. I've been looking forward to attending another launch ever since I was invited to Vandenberg Air Force Base last January. Unfortunately, quite a bit has changed since January. Even though it was quite an honor to get press credentials to view a second NASA launch, I had to decline their invitation. Life has simply become too chaotic for me to fly to Florida for three or four days.

Taking care of Dot has become a full time job. It really takes two people to ensure that she gets her therapy and daily walks. We can't forget about Dash either. Even on a good day, coordinating everything can get complex. Our recent plumbing disaster hasn't made things any easier. When NASA gives you press credentials, they don't actually pay for anything. Airfare, hotels, rental cars, and meals are all at your own expense. Even if Dot were well, I don't think I could afford the trip after paying the huge plumbing and restoration bills caused by our broken pipe. That's life. Maybe I'll get invited to cover another launch after my life has returned to normal.

Life certainly wasn't very normal today. The environmental remediation company came to clean the HVAC ducts and remove their one remaining dehumidifier. Dot wasn't happy with the visit. The duct cleaning machine was noisy and it didn't take Dot long to start barking. Since there are heating vents in every room, I had to keep moving Dot to different rooms as the work progressed. It didn't take all that long for her to start pooping in the house again. I'm going to miss the big blue dehumidifier that's been humming away in our living room for the past week. Within an hour after the cleaning crew packed up their equipment and left, I was already starting to see the the humidity rise. I'd hate to go back to dealing with condensation on all the windows again, so we'd better go out and get our own dehumidifier soon.

One of the reasons the humidity was higher inside today was that it was 100% outside. Yes, it was a very rainy day.  I wish I'd told the tunneling crew to take all the extra dirt they couldn't fit back in the hole with them. Now, instead of wood mulch around the perimeter of the yard, there is a strip of sticky mud. Since this used to be one of Dash's favorite areas to pee, he's getting even muddier than usual.

It was amazing that I got any work at all done today. In addition to the disruptions caused by the duct cleaning crew, there was also quite a bit of thunder and lightning. Dash is even worse about storms than Dot now. Every time there was a thunder clap, I'd find him shivering under my desk. Eventually, the only solution was to take a nap with the dogs until they both calmed down. Naps are good, but they are only a temporary solution. There's a whole new day to look forward to tomorrow.

Alvin is today's Dalmatian of the Day

Watch of the Day

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Day 2161

The other day, I was listening to an old radio interview with Allen Toussaint on NPR. It occurred to me that Allen's song Working in The Coal Mine, was the perfect sound track for my weekends. The tune was certainly appropriate today. I outdid myself with backbreaking activity. Yesterday, I noticed that my neighbors were piling up trash in front of their houses, so I was determined not to let another big trash day pass me by. I hauled a huge pile of nondescript rusty stuff that had been accumulating in the green house out to the curb and made my own pile as well.

Once I started my pile, it became obvious that this would be a good time to cut down the three dead Photinia Bushes near the back fence. I didn't have an extension cord that would reach that far, so I finally found a good use for my generator. The generator provided plenty of power for my trusty reciprocating saw and the unsightly trees I'd been meaning to cut down for at least two years were finally gone.

It was time to put the screen porch back together too. If I waited to find time to locate new extra wide screen wire and purchase new hardwood trim, there would have been a big gap in the screen until sometime next Spring. I carefully reused the old materials and although I can't say the porch is as good as new, at least it's as good as it was before. When the environmental cleanup people come to clean the vents and retrieve their big dehumidifier tomorrow, the house will finally be back to pre-leak condition.

When I was hauling trash to the curb, I noticed that there was a lot of nice fresh white gravel back by the garbage cans. I shoveled up a big pile of this gravel and traded it for the muddy gravel on the gravel walkway the tunneling crew had messed up. It was probably this activity that reminded me of  Working in The Coal Mine. I was tired at the end of the day, but felt like I'd accomplished quite a bit.

On my way to the pharmacy to pick up some prescriptions, I stopped by my storage warehouse to look for backdrops for our upcoming Santa Paws photo shoots. I found quite a few muslin backdrops, but couldn't tell which was which without unfolding them all. I dropped off the plastic fencing that had been keeping Dash out of the atrium while the tunneling crew was working and returned home for dinner. I'll save getting ready for the December photo shoots for another day.

The dogs were lucky to get both their walks today. It looked like it was on the verge of raining for the entire day, but the rain didn't actually start until after dinner. There is still lots to do. I need to find how water is still getting out of the shower stall after all the expert grouting work I did last week. I need to finish a website that should have been complete three days ago. All in good time. What I need to do most is post this and go to sleep.

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

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Day 2160

We went to a rescue event today. Dash was an ambassador for Dalmatian Rescue at Pet Fair. We told him he need to be on his best behavior. This meant no excessive loud barking, no knocking over other vendors booths, and no pooping in front of a crowd of little children. Generally, Dash was pretty good. He was a little too eager to sample the treats at the Hills Science Diet booth, but he let everyone pet him and was very friendly with all the other dogs.

Dot used to go to rescue events like this all the time. Sadly, she had to stay home today. These type of public events are simply too tiring for her. I drove home midway through the event to check on her and she was sleeping peacefully. I took her out to pee and she immediately thought it was dinner time. It was actually only 2:30 in the afternoon, but how was Dot to know? When she wakes up from a nap, she usually eats.

It was good to give Dash an opportunity to do something social today. It has become so difficult and time consuming to care for Dot, that we don't get out much anymore. He was still a little timid, but he seemed to have fun, making friends with other dogs and begging for treats from anyone who would feed him. When the days start to get longer again, we should probably start taking him back to our Wednesday training class. He was never that wild about the training exercises themselves, but he loved seeing the other dogs.

Now that I've had a chance to look around, I realize that we've got quite a mess to clean up in the back yard. Although the tunneling crew did a good job of backfilling their tunnel, there is still leftover dirt and mud all over the yard. I naively thought that the cleanup would be so good that there wouldn't be a trace that anything had happened. They did lay a bunch of 4x8 plywood sheets on the ground to protect the grass, but a lot of the excavated dirt seemed to land elsewhere. I'm probably going to spend the rest of the Winter cleaning mud off my shoes. When I take Dot outside to pee at night, I inevitably step in mud now. I guess stepping in mud is better than stepping in poop.

If I have time tomorrow, I'm going to reassemble the screened in porch that I had taken apart to give the tunneling crew access to the leak. I had thought about replacing the aluminum screen panels and buying some new wood for the finishing trim. In theory this would have been a simple task, but nothing is simple with this house. The extra wide screen material is not generally available in hardware stores anymore and standard dimensions for lumber have changed over the years. To exactly match the existing trim, I would have to buy lumber and have it milled to the proper size. It's not an ideal solution, but I think I'll just reuse the old aluminum screen wire and try my best to replace the old wood trim without cracking or splintering the wood.

I looked at the dehumidifiers they had on display in the store at Lowes and most of them were crap. You could never use one of these smaller machines to dehumidify an entire house and since they were all made of plastic, they probably wouldn't last a year anyway. Commercial dehumidifiers cost well over $1000 and are generally made in the USA. The machines at Lowes cost around $200 and were all made in China. Like everything in life, you get what you pay for.

I doubt that I'll make it to the gym tomorrow. I've still got lots of website work to catch up on and the house is filthy. My shower stall repairs didn't really work either. I'd prefer to take a long nap, but it looks like wall-to-wall chores tomorrow.

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