Sunday, May 19, 2019

Day 3433

Another 20,000 step day. It's not really that much of an accomplishment, but it will have to do for now. All I know is that keeping moving seems better than standing still. My routine at the gym hasn't changed, but I go earlier now. There is still plenty of time for several long walks and a few unavoidable household chores.

I had to go back to the grocery store today because I forgot to put several things on my list yesterday. You'd think I would have remembered these things while I was at the store, but I just blindly follow my list. I also spent a little time looking for boots at REI, but didn't see anything I liked. I'm beginning to think my problem isn't my shoes, it's my feet. It's probably time for a trip to the podiatrist and some expensive custom orthotics. I did this once a long time ago and it made a huge difference.

I couldn't figure out why one of the one of the backup batteries I used during the power outage yesterday wasn't recharging. I had just about convinced myself that the Lithium Ion battery had gone bad when I realized that I'd plugged the thing into a power strip that wasn't connected to anything. Sadly, this is what growing old is like. Nothing dramatic happens. You just go to the grocery store over and over again and start plugging things into dead outlets.

It was hard to believe that yesterday was filled with thunderstorms because today was beautiful. The sky was blue and the temperature was in the eighties. It was warm enough to remind me that hundred degree days and high water bills weren't that far away. I wonder how I'll feel about walking in July? Knowing my tenacity, I'll probably continue but it won't be fun.

The shower head has developed a weird drip that's driving me crazy. Some days I can turn the shower off and other days it continues to drip for hours. I don't think the faucets are bad because at least half the time they shut off perfectly. I took the shower head apart today and cleaned it, but that didn't seem to make any difference. Minor plumbing problems are maddening. One of the toilets is making a irritating whistling noise again. The whistling stopped on it's own for about three months and now it has started again. The toilet works perfectly but I don't like hearing the noise. I hate calling a plumber for things like these because frequently they don't know what's going on either. Plumbers are used to dealing with big problems. Little problems don't seem to interest them.

I wish this weather would make up its mind. The forecast says that another band of thunderstorms will be arriving around sunrise tomorrow. Will the power go out again? Will the roof leak? Will the roof blow off the greenhouse? I don't like all the uncertainty. Sometimes I wonder if a perfect place even exists. If it rains too much it floods. If it rains too little there are wildfires. I guess I should be happy that Dallas is usually somewhere in between these extremes.

I still haven't heard anything from NASA. Maybe I'll find out something this week. I have no idea whether I'll be accepted to attend the Falcon Heavy launch, but it would be nice to have a plan for June. Until then, I've got a fresh supply of berries for my morning smoothies and some reasonably comfortable boots. Sooner of later the rainy season will be over. You've just got to have patience.

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

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Day 3432

It doesn't seem to take much to knock out our power. Lately, every time a big storm passes through, the electricity goes out. We definitely got a lot of rain today. At least the tornadoes we were warned about never materialized. I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to get both the fiber optic network and the pumps on the roof running again using various backup power supplies. A small gasoline generator powered the pumps and a solar powered generator took care of the WiFi and computers. When the power eventually returned, nothing important was disrupted at all.

Even though we had quite a storm today, I was still able to take both my walks and do the Saturday grocery shopping without getting wet. Accuweather's Minute-by-Minute  weather forecasting service is pretty amazing. Type in your street and zip code and you know exactly when the rain is going to start and stop within a two hour window. I knew how long it takes to walk three miles and the forecast said I was OK, so off I went. The sky looked a little menacing and I heard thunder off in the distance but the rain didn't start until five minutes after I returned. I love when technology works.

The storm had already passed when it was time for my evening walk. There must have been some high winds. Several large trees were down in the park and smaller limbs were scattered everywhere. One of the creeks feeding the lake was a rushing torrent. Even though the rain had subsided, the water level was still rising. Several piers along the shoreline were under water and the dock for a local rowing club seemed to have floated away. None of this deterred the fishermen. After a big rain fishermen are always attracted to the lake. I saw ten this evening. Are fish more likely to bite after a rain? There must be a reason for this.

There seems to be a reason for everything. I've been noticing that the wildflowers always bloom in a very specific order. The grape hyacinths seem to bloom first followed by lots of showy and evening primrose flowers. Next I'll start to see the bluebonnets. Next a variety of different daisies arrive. I see lots of cowpen daisies, shasta daisies, engelmann daisies, and blackfoot daisies on my walks. The firewheels are blooming now and I'm starting to see milkweed, coneflowers and mexican hat. There are always lots of tiny flowers like crow poison and blue eyed grass. I like to learn to identify the plants and animals I see. Jimson weed is blooming now. I learned to identify this poisonous plant a long time ago because I didn't want the dogs eating it. I learned to identify poison ivy, oak, and sumac a long time ago too.

It's still raining, but it's just a gentle shower and both pumps are working. All is well. Janet fixed chili tonight which is the perfect antidote to a dismal day. I'm recharging all my backup batteries and looking at dog pictures on my Facebook feed. I think I am ready for tomorrow.

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

Friday, May 17, 2019

Day 3431

Every one in a while I will revisit a restaurant I've abandoned just to see if the menu has changed or if there is a new chef. Today I went back to a neighborhood place that used to be a favorite of mine and much to my surprise the restaurant was gone. The building was completely empty and there was a big For Lease sign on the window. I wonder what happened? I guess I don't understand the restaurant business. The last time I was here the food was decent and there were lots of customers.

Since I couldn't eat in an empty building, I went to another restaurant I hadn't visited for a while. This one was still open, but it seemed pretty empty. This was another place that used to have a good breakfast crowd. My Eggs Benedict came on a pretty square plate, but the chef clearly didn't know how to poach an egg. I felt like going back to the kitchen and showing him how to make this dish.

I don't know where I'm going to go next Friday. Clearly I didn't have a lot of luck today. Breakfast is a simple meal. It's easy to tell if the restaurant is using fresh, real ingredients or just something they got off the Sysco food service truck. You can always tell if the hash browns are fresh or frozen. I suspect that my entire meal was frozen food service fare this morning.

I took my regular long walk when I returned home, but I must have been a glutton for punishment today because I decided that it was a good day to clean all the windows and remove the spiderwebs from the house. This is a messy but necessary job. I try to do it just once a year.

I thought the pressure washer would make the job easier, but it actually made the situation worse. The spray was strong enough to remove paint but apparently wasn't strong enough to remove spiderwebs. I should have just used a garden hose. It took forever just to get the pressure washer started. The ground lift safety feature that was supposed to keep me from being shocked wasn't working properly and the power kept cutting out. To make matters worse, Mud Dauber wasps had tried to make a nest in the nozzles and sealed the tubes with mud. I guess I don't use the pressure washer very frequently.

The windows look pretty good now although it still feels like I've got a few spiderwebs in my hair. Sadly, I just finished the back half of the house. I've got to do this all over again to remove the spiderwebs from the front. These spiders are relentless. They build webs that are stronger than Superglue and then they poop all over the window trim. Nature is nice, but there are times when when I'd rather live on the seventeenth floor of a nice new high rise.

Mr. Fitbit should be happy today. I certainly took quite a few steps. Staying active doesn't seem to be a problem. I take two long walks every day now and usually try to do something useful around the house. Finding something I actually enjoy doing is going to be more problematic.

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

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Day 3430

I'm starting to see Dragonflies again. This is always a good sign that Spring is ending and Summer is beginning. There will be many more Dragonflies as the weather grows warmer but they will never become easier to photograph. These little critters refuse to stay still. I also saw my first baby ducks of the season today. A Mallard Hen was swimming along the shoreline with ten small ducklings in tow. I'm always amazed that baby birds of any species survive. There are many predators in the park.

We got a nice card from the doctors and nurses at the cancer center in today's mail. As Dash's condition began to deteriorate these specialty vets got to know him very well. I think every nurse in the facility wrote a message on the card. I'm glad that Dash is remembered by so many. I'll certainly never forget what he meant to me.

This is the time of year when we usually call the landscaper to clean up the yard and plant new grass. For some reason we haven't made the call this year. On cool mornings I think that I can clean up the yard myself. Of course on hot days I just say never mind. I need to do something. There are still lots of leaves on the ground that will never get raked and the grass in the back yard is looking pretty shabby. Amazingly, some of the sod we planted last Spring is still alive, which hasn't happened in recent memory. It's harder to justify spending the money on landscaping without Dot and Dash. The dogs loved a nice yard to play in. It's not as much of a priority to us.

I'm having trouble making anything a priority. There is nothing to prove anymore. I pick up a guitar now and then, but I never write songs like I used to. I have no interest in making movies even though I still have all the tools. The documentaries I shot back in the early 1970's seem so distant that it's easy to imagine that someone else made them. I definitely don't want to go back to having clients again. The only thing I miss about working is having a steady income stream. Working did impose a structure on my life that was beneficial to a person like me, but I can't say that I really enjoyed the deadlines. You can become very good at jumping through hoops, but it's still just jumping through hoops.

I realized tonight that when I cook I always make the same thing. I make a meat sauce using sausage, green peppers, onions, and maybe a little corn and black beans. If it's breakfast, I throw in a couple of eggs and it's an omelet. If it's dinner I pour the sauce over noodles and it's pasta. Either way, it's pretty tasty. I don't need a recipe either.

When I took the trash out to the curb tonight I noticed that a raccoon had gotten into our can. What a mess. Pretty clever raccoon, since there is always a lid on the can. I don't know why this bothered me since it's just garbage. I always neatly bag and seal all the trash in black plastic bags. Of course there is method to this madness. There always is. If the trash truck fails to show up, it's easy for me to put the bags in the car and take them to a dumpster. When I think that a raccoon can easily destroy my orderly world, it all seems kind of hopeless. It's going to take a good breakfast tomorrow morning to make things right again.

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

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Day 3429

I always think I am slow when I walk because from time to time other people pass me on the trails going much faster than I am. This morning I realized that this is probably just an illusion. I'm sure there are people walking slower than I am as well but I never see these people because they gradually fall further and further behind. Maybe I'm really faster than I think. Life is like this. When we only look straight ahead we only see a small slice of what is going on.

I'm surprised at how many people take long walks during the day. I've started to recognize some of the people and many of them appear to walk longer distances than I do. I wonder what motivates these walkers? Maybe they're walking for their health. Maybe it's more complicated. I couldn't give you a simple reason why I do this. It's similar to walking dogs, but it's definitely not the same. The dogs really needed their walks. I'm just killing time.

I read that there's a security flaw in Intel processors and that all Apple users should apply the patch that fixes this problem immediately. I dutifully upgraded my computers without really understanding what the problem was. This happens so frequently now. Apple seldom warns you about these things but there's almost always a security update waiting for you when you go to the App Store. I used to go for years without even thinking about malware or computer viruses. It just wasn't a problem. When I first opened my business it was rare for a computer to even have a password.

We didn't have problems with telemarketers back in the day either. At least the FCC is finally starting to look at the problem. I've heard that they are now going to allow telephone carriers to block telemarketing calls by default so they won't even reach your phone. It would be nice if this were true. Telemarketers have become a major irritation. I suspect that phone companies secretly like telemarketers. If all the telemarketers suddenly disappeared the phone companies wouldn't have nearly as many customers.

I spend a lot of time walking these days, but apparently not enough. There are still huge swaths of time with nothing to do. I vacuumed the house today because I couldn't think of anything else to occupy my time. There's no point in taking naps now because I'm finally getting plenty of sleep. I still turn on the computer every morning out of habit, but there are no deadlines anymore. I don't really need a computer. I do need a purpose though. One of these days I'll find one.

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

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Day 3428

For better or worse, I've settled into a routine. I make the bed, I eat breakfast, I take a long morning walk, I take care of the day's unavoidable necessities, I eat dinner, I take an evening walk, I write the blog, and I go to bed. It fills up the day pretty well. I've been doing this over and over again for several weeks. I'd like to think that I'll expand my horizons after a while, but who knows.

Today's unavoidable necessities were mowing the grass and removing the remaining water from the roof. Every time I mow the grass I think I ought to just hire a yard guy like all the other neighbors, but then I realize that mowing is really just walking and it doesn't seem so bad. Keeping the roof dry is a little easier now that it's warmer outside. A lot of last week's rain had already evaporated, so I was able to clear the remaining water in less than twenty minutes. Running the two pumps religiously whenever it rains helps as well. I must be doing something right since we've had a lot of rain this Spring and the roof hasn't leaked for quite a while.

I also took some things to the storage warehouse that Janet was about to throw away and paid my mid-month bills. All in all it was a pretty busy day. I managed to rack up over 18,000 steps without even going to the gym.

The guys who fixed my fiber optic cable told me that they'd take care of canceling the Wednesday appointment I'd made earlier. Today I got a phone message from AT&T saying that a repair crew would be out tomorrow. I didn't even bother calling back since I would probably just complicate matters further. This is probably why my U-Verse bill is so high. Every time I've had a repair, there seems to be confusion like this. I wouldn't be surprised if a crew comes out tomorrow and installs the same line all over again.

If I had more faith in my car, the weather, and the other drivers on the road I might start taking some road trips. When I was in college I had an International Harvester Metro Mite Van. I drove all over America and from one end of Canada to the other. The truck wasn't very reliable, but it wasn't a problem. There were International Harvester dealers with excellent mechanics in every little town. These guys mostly worked on tractors, but my little truck never presented a problem for them. Somehow I don't think I'd have the same success driving a Land Rover through rural America. It's kind of ironic. Land Rovers are supposed to go anywhere but you never see them outside of big cities.

I'll probably end up going nowhere, but at least I'm thinking about traveling. Thinking about something is always a good starting point. I hope I make the cut and get selected to go to the Falcon Heavy launch this summer. Going to Kennedy Space Center could be the catalyst I need to do many other things. With any luck I should find out by the end of the month.

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

Monday, May 13, 2019

Day 3427

Some workmen digging in the alley behind our house cut our fiber optic cable today. This was inconvenient because all of the sudden our phones, television, and internet were gone. AT&T told us that they buried the cables these days so they would be maintenance free. Good luck with that. I called the customer service number and waited forever to talk with a real person. An automated mechanical voice kept telling me to stay on the line while they ran some tests. I would wait and then a while later the mechanical voice would say that they were experiencing technical difficulties and to call back later. If I could have talked with a real person I could have told them immediately that the tests would never work because the line wasn't connected to anything. The workmen had cut it in half. Eventually I was able to schedule a service call by calling a different number. I certainly wasn't expecting anyone to cut through my buried fiber line, but this is why I still keep the little T-Mobile WiFi hotspot that I used to use on business trips. It's slow, but it usually works.

It's been a month to the day since Dash passed away. Since we no longer have a Dalmatian of our own, Janet and I have been visiting the rescue kennel when we have time. We went up this afternoon to play with the dogs. I was hoping to see the quiet little girl who crawled in my lap the last time we visited, but she already has a foster to adopt. I didn't think this girl would stay at the kennel long. She was adorable. We played ball with the remaining dogs who were anything but quiet. They were full of energy and loved the attention. The kennel staff told us that we were welcome to visit and play with the dogs any time we wanted. They said that they were usually too busy to spend this much individual time with the dogs and that it was good for them to get the extra attention. Over time we will learn more about each dog's personality and it might help them find a good home.

On our way back to town we stopped at Costco so I could get my membership card. Evidently I can get a card because Janet is a member. Janet likes this enormous store but I usually stick to places closer to home. It doesn't hurt to have the card though. Who knows. There might be a bargain some day that I just can't pass up.

When we got back to the house there was an AT&T technician waiting for us on the front porch. "But our service appointment isn't until Wednesday," I told the guy. "I wouldn't know about that," the technician said. Then he added "If you can give me access to your back yard, I can fix your cable today." This was a baffling, but welcome surprise. It looks like I can watch Perry Mason tonight after all.

I'm still taking long walks every day. I wonder if I can keep this up during the Summer. It was warmer today and I could definitely feel the heat. I don't think these walks will be nearly as enjoyable when the temperature is over 100 degrees. I need to make the most of this limited window of opportunity. Spring is beautiful in Texas, but it doesn't last long.

I need to quit checking the stock market on days like today. The market was a disaster. I have no control over the market whatsoever. I need to stick to photographing butterflies and petting Dalmatians and hopefully everything will be fine.

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

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Day 3426 - Mother's Day

20,000 steps today. I'm doing a pretty good job of staying active although I'm not sure what it all means. I'm going to the gym earlier now, so I have plenty of time to walk. I need to take advantage of days like these because they won't last long. The air seemed free of pollen and the temperature was perfect. The wildflowers are at their peak right now as well. It was a good day to be outside. These long walks give me plenty of time to think, but my mind is usually blank. It's relaxing to turn your mind off and just observe. I count birds. I try to remember the names of flowers. When I hear footsteps behind me, I try to guess whether the person is male or female by the sound of their steps. I'm right about 80% of the time. The landscape changes rapidly in the Spring. Almost every day I see a new variety of flower. Some of the early bloomers are already gone.

There were lots of family gatherings in the park today. I'm sure this was because it was Mother's Day. It's hard to believe that it's been almost thirty years since my Mom passed away. She was younger than I am now. My family memories are really starting to fade. Truthfully, they were never that good to begin with. I remember we had a Boxer named Pepper. We used to take trips to visit national parks in the Summer. I read a lot of books and wanted to be a physicist until I realized there was math involved. I always thought that I had a completely normal childhood until I learned later in life that Mom was manic depressive and had been going though some really rough times while we were growing up. Either my Mom was exceptionally good at hiding things or I was completely oblivious to what was going on around me. I suspect it's the latter. It's probably a good thing that I didn't have a clue back then. If you think you're normal when you are small, you probably wind up normal as an adult.

I experimented with shoes today. I wore one pair of shoes to the gym. Another pair on my first walk. And a third pair on my evening walk. The third pair was surprisingly comfortable. I'd never worn them before. I bought these boots two or three years ago and was planning to use them as dog walking shoes. Then I completely forgot about them. They've just been sitting in a box all this time. The shoes were a little snug, but I think I wore thinner socks back then. All I need to do is buy some thinner hiking socks and I'll be back in business.

I should have mowed the grass and cleared the remaining water off the roof this afternoon. I just didn't feel like it. I spend way too much time fighting a losing battle with this house. Sometimes it's more satisfying to just let your mind wander and count ducks. I'll still have to go up on the roof and mow the grass eventually. Like it or not, my Mom did teach me to be responsible.

This weekend has gone quickly. Janet and I may go visit the rescue dogs again tomorrow. We seem to be welcome at the kennel and the dogs definitely enjoy the attention. In lieu of long range plans, I guess we'll just stick with short range plans for the moment.

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

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Day 3425

Nothing to see here. Today was about what you'd expect for a rainy day. The thunder was loud enough last night to wake me up several times. I moved the chairs out of the way that get wet when the roof leaks and went back to bed. When I woke up this morning I discovered that one of the pumps had quit working. As soon as it was light enough, I climbed up on the roof in the rain to unclog the pump. You'd think all the catkins would be gone by now, but they're still falling from the Oak trees. When the pumps suck water from the roof, they also suck these catkins floating on the water into the filter and the pump clogs and quits working. It's irritating, but relatively easy to fix.

When the pumps were working again, we ate breakfast and made our grocery lists. Janet and I both get groceries but we each get different things. There was no avoiding driving in the rain today. We had things to do. Errands don't take as long these days because there is nothing to pick up for Dash. As he grew older, Dash has a grocery list that was just as long as ours. I've noticed that Peaches are back in the stores, but I'm not seeing the really good Georgia peaches yet. Clingstone peaches should be available soon and then Freestone peaches will start to be harvested later this Summer. I'm not a huge fan of grocery shopping, but it's a lot more enjoyable when I can find the things I like.

Around 2 PM the rain stopped and the weather radar looked clear for the rest of the day. I put on my boots and got started on my walk. For some reason I was slower than usual today. I'd like to think that my body runs like a well oiled machine, but like most people I have good days and bad days. I suspect that my energy level has a lot to do with what I eat. We had fried chicken last night. The tastier the meal, the more sluggish I become.

I saw lots of Barn Swallows today. These small birds fly low and fast over the water, catching insects in the air. I sometimes get Swallows and Swifts confused. but I think these were Swallows. They were smaller than Chimney Swifts and had a rust colored underbelly. I didn't feel like looking for Owls or Egrets. I felt tired today.

If it's clear tomorrow I guess I'll have to go clear the remaining water off the roof. I don't enjoy this task at all, but since I've become more diligent, the roof hasn't leaked again. Actually we haven't had a leak in a long time. I'm beginning to think that the one leak we had after the repairs were made was water that was already inside the house. There's no way of knowing what is going on between the exterior of the roof and the sheetrock on the ceiling. This one foot space is filled with insulation and is probably a haven for bugs and ants. I wouldn't be surprised if there are places where water is trapped.

Maybe something interesting will happen tomorrow. I'm not counting on it. I'll go to the gym and if I remember I'll stop at the store and pick up some more beer on the way home. I like a brew called Local Buzz. Pizza and burgers go better with beer. Since both of these things give me heartburn, a six pack of beer often lasts a month. Most of the time I just drink water.

Like I said, nothing to see here, except maybe a few water drops on the daisies in the park.

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

Friday, May 10, 2019

Day 3424

People I've never met still stop me in the park to ask about Dash. I guess it must seem strange to see me walking alone. Dot and Dash have been fixtures in the neighborhood for so long that I forget how many people used to see them every day. Rain or shine, we were almost always out there. Today a lady with two Greyhounds enquired about Dash. I've noticed her dogs for a long time too because they have matching coats for every type of weather. Today they were both wearing their raincoats. It wasn't raining but I almost wore my raincoat as well. It was one of those days where it looked like the rain could begin at any minute.

Since it was Friday, I went out to breakfast before my walk. I had Shrimp and Grits again at the cool restaurant. I've got to stop calling this place "the cool restaurant" because it just seems like your average breakfast place when you go at 8 AM. The restaurant was only half full and I was seated immediately. I had trouble finishing my meal this morning. I just can't eat as much as I used to. I probably should have just stayed home and had a bowl of cereal.

I continued exploring the idea of going to McDonald Observatory today. There is only one place to rent a car in Alpine, Texas but they seemed very friendly. The guy I talked to said they would meet you at the train station with a car if you arrived by train. Janet likes the idea of taking a train trip too. Now I've just got to wait and see whether I get accepted by NASA to attend the next Falcon Heavy Launch. As luck would have it, the first available Special Viewing Night at the Otto Struve Telescope happens to coincide with the launch date for the Falcon Heavy. We'll see what happens. Maybe one of these two events will work out for me.

I've been thinking about looking for owls ever since I met that guy in the park who showed me where they live. This afternoon, I took a detour from my regular evening walk and visited the owl habitat. A huge bird flew away as I arrived. It looked like a Great Horned Owl but I wasn't really sure. It was gone before I could get my camera focused. I kept looking and about five minutes later I saw a Barred Owl looking down at me from a nearby tree. I noticed the bird because a nearby Mockingbird was harassing it. A lot of birds in the park don't seem to like the large Hawks and Owls. Perhaps they know that they might become these birds next meal.

I hope all the walking I've been doing is good for my health. I don't feel any different yet, but the walks do feel easier now. I'd rather walk outdoors than in a gym. I gradually learn the names of the plants and animals I see. You learn to appreciate the Seasons when you spend a lot of time outdoors. I miss not having a dog at my side, but for now I'm going to do some things that were almost impossible when I was walking Dot and Dash. I carry a better camera with me now.

I got the heals on my hiking boots repaired this week. I probably should have just bought some new boots, but I hate the idea of breaking them in. Old boots are more comfortable. New or old, I see a lot of walking in my immediate future. I might not be doing much tomorrow though. The thunderstorms are returning. I can already see them approaching on the weather radar.

Dalmatian of the Day
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Thursday, May 9, 2019

Day 3423

I've been trying to think of an interesting way to occupy my time. Maybe astronomy vacations are a thing. Well yes, actually they are. I was surprised at how many options are available. In December of 2020 you can take a three week cruise around the tip of South America to view a total eclipse of the sun off the coast of Patagonia. This one's a little pricy, but you do get to go to Antartica. More reasonable are a wide variety of dark sky photo workshops. These workshops seem to take place in spectacular remote locations like Joshua Tree National Park or Badlands National park. It doesn't seem to be easy to fly into places like these, but I guess that's what cars are for. Prices vary considerably but the workshops are quite small and all seem to led by well known astrophotographers.

One of the most interesting options are the Special Viewing Nights at McDonald Observatory. Several times a year a select group of people get a chance to look at the heavens through one of the three large research telescopes at the observatory. How cool would it be to spend an evening looking through the 82" Otto Struve Telescope. Professional astronomers often wait months for an opportunity to use this famous telescope because skies at the observatory are still among the darkest in the world. You can take Amtrack to Alpine, Texas too. I'm sure there are other interesting things out there. I've just started looking.

The bad thing about astronomy vacations is that you really have to plan ahead to take advantage of these very limited opportunities. Only a few people at a time are able to get observatory access or attend a dark sky workshop. So what happens if you arrive for an event you planned months earlier and it's cloudy or raining? You lose. There is just no way to guarantee a clear day months in advance.

Weather is really unpredictable. I can't even guarantee a clear day tomorrow. It rained a little bit today, but I was able to take my walk. You see some strange things in the park. For the past week I've noticed a guy with a huge pair of calipers measuring tree trunks. He seems to be measuring every tree in the park. He writes down the diameter of the tree in a little book and then moves on the the next tree. Why? I guess I could ask him some day. I've started noticing the same runners and cyclists day after day. Often our paths cross at almost exactly the same spot. I guess I'm not the only one who keeps a rigid schedule.

I saw a film crew setting up to shoot a commercial in the park as I started my walk this morning. They were still setting up when I returned. I wouldn't be surprised if the crew spent all day to film something that lasted fifteen seconds. I used to do this. For once I felt glad that I was retired.

Spot is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Day 3422

An all day rain really tests my patience. I kept looking at the weather radar over and over again this morning, hoping that the storm would move faster. No such luck. Since I couldn't walk and didn't feel like driving in the rain, I was left with tending to the pumps on the roof and trying to stay out of Janet's way while she cleaned. I think the weather radar is more interesting than TV these days. At least there's something different every time I look. I forget what day it is when I look at the TV news. It is always the same.

Eventually the storm line moved to the East and the rain finally stopped. I immediately put on my boots and took a walk. Much to my chagrin, I discovered that my waterproof boots were no longer waterproof. They do pretty well walking through wet grass, but I had to navigate some deep puddles today. Maybe this will be the incentive I need to go out and find some high quality boots that really fit. Chances are that the ground will dry out soon enough and I'll just continue wearing the old boots. Given a chance to be decisive, I'll almost always procrastinate.

The park is interesting after a rain. You tend to see birds and animals that remain hidden otherwise. The ducks were everywhere. They were in the sky, on the water, and wandering around in the meadows looking for a place to nest. I saw a Great Egret catching a fish and I even found the White Pelican again. It was a long way away, but it was definitely the same bird. As long as I'm not actually getting wet, I love cold damp days. I'm usually the only one in the park and the soft light on cloudy days is great for photography.

I don't think our mail carrier delivered the mail today. That old adage "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night..." must not mean much anymore. Mail delivery used to be as regular as clockwork back in the days when the entire neighborhood knew their mail carrier by name. Times have changed. Every time I see our mail carrier now, it's a different person. It's probably just as well that our carrier doesn't bother to deliver the mail on rainy days. Whenever these guys do come out in the rain, the mail is a soggy mess.

I'm really becoming a Luddite. Not only am I nostalgic about reliable mail service, I've become very interested in the Transcontinental Railroad's 150th anniversary celebration. Union Pacific has restored one of the last remaining Big Boy locomotives to service and it's back on the rails right now headed toward Ogden, Utah where the golden spike was driven. The last time one of these trains ran was back in 1962. A Dallas rail museum has a non-working example of the Big Boy on display, but I had no idea that one was being restored to service. The Big Boy weighs more than a fully loaded 747 and is considered one of the most complex purely mechanical machines ever built. Kuddos to the folks who got it running again. I'd love to see this thing if it ever comes through Texas on its year long commemorative tour. I've ridden on several steam trains before, but nothing like this.

I should have no trouble walking tomorrow. I think we're going to get some sunshine. It won't last long though. Another storm system is supposed to arrive on Friday. I'm really getting tired of this extended rainy season. I keep forgetting that this happens every year. I think we get our entire year's quota of rain in May.

Daisy is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Day 3421

We enjoyed visiting with the rescue dogs this afternoon. We'd do this more often if it wasn't such a long drive. Some of the dogs were new and some we'd seen before. They were definitely all Dalmatians though. Although each had their own personality, they were all charming, full of energy, and eager to play.

I photographed the new dogs for the website and we played with the others. Several of the active dogs were obsessed with chasing a ball. A small, quiet one just wanted to crawl in your lap. It was good to be around Dalmatians again. The kennel staff was nice and let us stay as long as we wanted. I think we all knew that being around people was beneficial for the dogs.

Visiting the Dalmatians was the big event of the day. Everything else was pretty routine. I made my fruit smoothie and slowly drank it with a cup of coffee while watching the morning news. After I did the dishes and checked the mail, I took my morning walk. My allergies were worse today. It was a windy day and pollen was definitely blowing in from somewhere. The White Pelican is gone. My three mile route provides a good view of the lake and I couldn't find the bird anywhere. I did see a lot of turtles though.

The band on my Fitbit broke this morning. Luckily, you can buy replacement bands for these things. When the strap on my old Jawbone UP band broke, the whole thing was toast. I wish fitness trackers were more durable, but nothing is durable these days. My boots need to go to the shoe repair guy as well. I was pleased that the shoes don't hurt anymore, but the heels are already getting worn. Things just don't last very long when you're active.

It was weird that the stock market did pretty well yesterday and terrible today on exactly the same news. I wish people would hurry up and get all the China trade jitters out of their system. Maybe a few things get a little more expensive in the short term, but nothing is going to fundamentally change.  Tariffs don't worry me a lot. I get more concerned about headlines that say thousands of animal species will become extinct within 50 years. It's also a little troubling that NASA thinks the chances are good that an astroid could hit  Earth during our lifetime. I'm glad that I've lived most of my life in simpler times. Pick any scenario you want. The future just doesn't look that promising.

I almost got caught in a bad storm on my evening walk. It was sunny when I left the house, but the wind picked up quickly and I could tell that something was about to change. Pretty soon I saw very dark clouds to the West of me and it was easy to see that heavy rain was falling downtown. The park was full of joggers and dog walkers so I definitely wasn't the only one caught by surprise. I tried to pick up the pace a bit and managed to make it home again before the rain arrived.

Tonight's rain didn't really amount to much. It looks like we are going to get a lot more tomorrow though. What else is new. We've had a very wet Spring. Despite my watering eyes and runny nose, today was a good day. I hope all the dogs we saw today find great homes. They certainly deserve it.

Spot is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Monday, May 6, 2019

Day 3420

There is a brand new opportunity for me to attend a launch at Kennedy Space Center as a guest of NASA. You never know if your application to attend these events will be accepted but what do I have to lose. When I learned I would be applying to view and blog about the next Space X Falcon Heavy launch I didn't waste any time. I've already sent in my application. I've been accepted to attend NASA events in the past. I've also been rejected. We'll see what happens. All I know is that it would be really cool to go behind the scenes on a Falcon Heavy launch. I'm a huge fan of Space X.

I need to start listening to the pollen count on the local morning weather. My allergies were terrible today. It's weird how quickly this changes. Yesterday the air was clear. Today, my eyes were burning and I was blowing my nose continuously during my morning walk. Allergies aren't going to stop me though. I have already added a short evening walk to my daily routine. Now, I am walking close to five miles a day. I see other people walking faster and longer, but this isn't a contest. It's just important for me to stay occupied right now.

I wrote another letter to my sister this afternoon. I do this about once a month. Sometimes I think she's taking this Luddite thing a bit too far. It sure would be easier to stay in touch if she had an e-mail account. I guess it won't kill me to continue putting my thoughts on paper. After all, I'm the guy who likes old TV Westerns and I rarely miss an episode of Perry Mason. I'm basically lazy though. I'm not fond of texting people, but I do like e-mail. Using e-mail has saved me an enormous amount of time over the years.

Janet has arranged for us to go visit and play with the Dalmatians at the rescue kennel. We can't walk the dogs because of the kennel's location, but we can play with them in a large room. The dogs already get a lot of attention at the kennel, but maybe these visits will help with socialization. At any rate, I'm looking forward to seeing some Dalmatians again. I see lots of dogs on my morning walks, but no Dalmatians. Dot and Dash were the only Dalmatians in the neighborhood. I need to remember to bring my camera and photograph any new dogs. After taking pictures for almost twenty years, I've probably got one of the biggest collections of Dalmatian photos in the world by now.

Peaches are finally starting to become available again. My morning smoothies always taste better when I add a peach to the other fruit. Life is pretty simple when the addition of a peach can make your day better. In theory, tomorrow should be a good day. I've got a fresh peach to add to my smoothie and I'll get to pet a few dogs. I hope my allergies behave a little better tomorrow. I've just about run out of Kleenex.

Patches is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Sunday, May 5, 2019

Day 3419

The goal these days is to keep moving. I went to the gym much earlier than usual. The place was surprisingly busy. Who knew that so many people liked to exercise early on a Sunday morning. I did my usual workout fully intending to take a nap when I got home. It wasn't meant to be. It was such a nice day that I decided to go ahead and take my usual three mile walk anyway. I really need to find something I enjoy doing or I'll be walking all day by the end of the Summer.

I keep waiting for something to find me. Today it was an auto show. I'd completely forgotten about this annual British and European Car Show. It is often held during the Spring in the park when the weather is nice. I used to go frequently when I had a cool car myself, but I haven't been in years. There is was today, right in front of me on my regular path. I enjoy looking at cars, so this was an unexpected treat.

I ended up talking with the owner of a Noble M400. I'd never seen one of these cars in person before. Only about 200 of them were ever imported into the United States. I remember a review once that said "Don't buy this car to impress girls. Only guys are impressed." The car certainly impressed me. The spectacular mid-engined supercar was lighter than a Mazda Miata and faster than a Ferrari Enzo. The owner was only 22 years old. Somebody asked the guy how much it cost to insure a car like this. "Nobody will insure this thing," the owner said. "I had to get my Dad to put it on his homeowners insurance." Then he smiled and added, "Technically, I'm not allowed to drive it."

There were no French cars at this years event. I used to enjoy looking at well preserved Citroëns. I've owned several, including a beautiful silver 1972 Citroën Maserati. I had to sell the car when I ran out of mechanics who could work on it. Body parts were in extremely short supply as well. As the car got older and older I began to realize that keeping a rare old car on the road was a rich man's pursuit. Buying vintage cars is one thing. Restoring them and keeping them running is another thing altogether.

My Fitbit was impressed with me today. I can't say the same for my feet. I shouldn't have changed shoes when I went walking in the park. My feet had swollen and the boots didn't fit like they usually do. By the time I returned home, I could barely walk. I have some excellent shoes I wear when I'm at the gym. I don't like to get them muddy though, so I changed into a pair of boots before I went on my walk. Bad move. I guess I'll know better the next time I do something foolish like this.

I probably should have gone outside and looked for meteors last night. I woke up to go to the bathroom right about the time when the Eta Aquariid meteor shower was supposed to be at its peak. I thought briefly about going outside and then went back to bed. I've seen meteors before. A short little trail of light across the sky wasn't enough of a temptation to lose any sleep over.

Bunny is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Saturday, May 4, 2019

Day 3418

I'm no expert, but the Kentucky Derby results seemed all wrong. Maximum Security was clearly the best horse on the track. When a puddle on the muddy track forced him out of his lane momentarily, he didn't interfere with the performance of Country House at all. The only horse that was conceivably interfered with was War of Will who wasn't a contender anyway. This just seemed like another case of political correctness run amok. I'm sure that the stewards knew that Maximum Security was the best horse. They just didn't want to get mired in controversy by not following the letter of the law. Oh, well. That's life. I didn't like how the Super Bowl turned out either.

I've started watching old Westerns on TV while we eat breakfast on Saturday morning. My favorites are usually Maverick and Have Gun Will Travel. All these old shows seem like Mister Rogers' Neighborhood compared to the shows that are popular now. Even shows like The Twilight Zone, which was scary when I was a kid, were just simple morality plays about good and evil. Good usually won in these shows. Now, evil seems to win most of the time. The scripts for these old shows were surprisingly good. I'm sure the fact that everybody still read books back then had something to do with it. It's too bad that just about the only way you can re-visit the past is by watching an oldies channel on TV. I wish you could still visit grocery stores and car dealers from the 1950's and 60's. I miss model train stores too. Every city had them. Dallas had three stores devoted to model trains as recently as the 1970's. They are all gone now.

I walked 4.5 miles today. I wasn't tired after my three mile morning walk, so I took another shorter walk later in the day. I could have walked further, but it was late in the day and I wanted to get home before dark. If I learn to schedule things better, it wouldn't be that hard to walk six miles every day. Three miles in the morning and another three miles in the evening sounds like a plan. It won't happen tomorrow though. When I get home from the gym, I don't feel like walking at all.

I didn't stay up last night to watch the rescheduled Space X launch, but I did watch the replay on my computer this morning. I never tire of watching the Falcon 9 booster make a precision landing on the drone ship. Space X seems to have perfected so many aspects of space flight that they must be terribly disappointed that their Crew Dragon capsule exploded during a test recently. I wonder how long that's going to set them back?

It looks like we're going to have nice weather tomorrow. We got a little rain last night but it was all over before I woke up. Still no leaks in the roof. Knock on wood. There's a meteor shower in the early morning hours tomorrow. Shall I get up and watch it? I had no problem getting up at 3 AM when Dash was around. Now it's a little harder. We'll see. A good night's sleep is probably more important than seeing a few meteors.

Crosby is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Friday, May 3, 2019

Day 3417

Today was mostly about food. I went back to the hotel for breakfast this morning. This is the place I always go when I'm in the mood for French Toast. At the table next to me were two guys wearing expensive suits. They seemed to be bankers or hedge fund managers. They were mad because they couldn't do business in Iran. They were also mad because of the high taxes in New York. It was hard to tell whether they were Democrats or Republicans. Their conversation pretty much confirmed my opinion that business doesn't really care who is in power. They just want to know what the rules are so they can learn how to exploit them.

I took my walk after I returned from breakfast. So far the weather forecast has been wrong all week. I was worried about rain when I woke up, but the skies were actually starting to clear by the time I started walking. I'm seeing lots of nesting ducks now. They must have gotten a late start this year. I'm also seeing a lot of turtles. Every submerged log in the lake seems to have a turtle sitting on it. I frequently see Red Eared Sliders, Yellow Mud Turtles, and Missouri River Cooters. Occasionally I see large snapping turtles, but I keep my distance from these guys. Water turtles are surprisingly difficult to photography. As you approach, they almost always slide off their log and go back in the water.

Three miles doesn't seem quite so far anymore. When the dogs were healthy I used to take longer walks. Maybe I will again. I'm not really trying to walk fast, but I've already managed to take five minutes off my elapsed time. I can see a time where I increase the distance to five miles. I can also see a time where I get bored with all this and quit walking entirely. Right now it just seems like a good way to spend my time.

Janet and I went out for dinner this evening. We used to do this frequently, but it's been a while. Once cooking special meals for the dogs and getting them to eat became a complicated ritual, we quit going out entirely. Our dinner tonight was delicious but neither of us eat this much anymore. I'm stuffed. We're going to have to start ordering one meal and splitting it. One dinner would have been plenty tonight. Especially since both of us like seared scallops.

I'm glad I didn't stay up late to watch the Space X launch last night. It got canceled again. The CRS-17 Mission was one of those events I could have applied to watch in person as a guest of NASA. I'm glad I didn't. This launch has been postponed again and again. It was originally scheduled for October of 2018. The people who got accepted to blog about this event have probably had to reschedule their flights and hotel accommodations quite a few times by now. If NASA continues their outreach program for bloggers and social media influencers, I'm definitely going to send in my application when opportunities arise in the future. Why not? I certainly don't have anything better to do.

This week has gone quickly. I've spent an inordinate amount of time looking at the weather radar lately, but the rainy season should be over soon. By June I won't be complaining about the rain anymore, I'll be complaining about the heat.

Milo is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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