Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Day 3659

Another decade is drawing to a close. This is my seventh decade on this planet and I'm still having trouble with these arbitrary measurements. We use these ten year blocks of time to neatly classify pop music and identify trends, but if we didn't use the decimal system, the whole concept of a decade would be meaningless. There isn't even a compelling reason to start the year on January 1st. Wouldn't it make more sense to start the year on the shortest or longest day of the year? Nope. We start the year on January 1st because in 46 B.C. Julius Caesar decided it was time to reform the Roman lunar calendar and go back to the way the Egyptians measured time. He chose to start his new Julian solar calendar on January 1st. to honor Janus, the god of new beginnings. The day stuck, despite the fact that the Chinese still start the year between January 21 and February 21 and the Hebrew calendar begins in the Fall. March 1, March 25 and Dec. 25 were all considered New Year’s Day at various points in history. Go figure.

I got waitlisted again for an upcoming launch at Kennedy Space Center. This is the second time I've been waitlisted in recent months. There is kind of a community of folks who obsess about these NASA invitations. It doesn't take long to learn who got accepted and who didn't make the cut. There doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to the selection process. Sometimes you can get selected several times in a row. And then there are long dry spells where your application seems to be ignored. It is easy to be disappointed when your applications isn't selected. After you've been to one launch, you want to go to all of them.

There's still a chance that I may get press credentials to attend the Solar Orbiter launch, but that remains to be seen. I'm still a little unsure how the press accreditation process works and my contacts at the magazine that would be sponsoring me are out of the office on Christmas vacation. This will all be resolved in due time, but it's hard to be patient when nothing else is going on.

I added all the new dogs to the Dalmatian Rescue website today. Considering that none of the dogs would stay still, I think the pictures came out pretty good. This is the only website I maintain anymore. I don't even update my own site these days. I used to maintain dozens of different websites and was busy making additions and changes every single day. Those days are long gone. Most of my old clients retired even before I did.

Janet and I found a forgotten bottle of champagne in the back of a kitchen cabinet, so we will toast in the New Year if we can manage to stay awake for a few more hours. Other than a very sad day last April, 2019 wasn't a bad year. You can always hope the new year will be better though. Hope keeps you moving forward. Here's hoping that all of you find yourselves happy and fulfilled in the year ahead.

Dot is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Monday, December 30, 2019

Day 3658

We introduced ourselves to the new Dalmatians today. They are a good looking, friendly group of dogs with ages ranging from nine months to six years. Two of the newcomers are already in the process of being adopted. I'm glad that most of the new dogs are finding homes quickly. They all deserve a chance for a normal life. We spent quite a while playing with the dogs this afternoon, but it was time well spent. Ginny went to her forever home over the Christmas holidays. Hopefully, when we return next week, a few more will have found homes as well.

Before going to the kennel, I went up on the roof. It must have gotten really cold last night because there was ice on the roof this morning. Removing standing water in the Winter is depressing because it never evaporates. If I ignore the water after a rain, it just sits there forever. Eventually, it will find a way inside. So far, all the patches I've made are holding up well, but I keep finding new areas that need attention. My five gallon bucket of silicon is almost empty now. Hopefully, my recent repairs will take me through the rest of the Winter. The silicon material seems to do better when you apply it in the Summer.

I got off to a slow start this morning. I felt tired, but Fitbit said that I got a good night's sleep. Sometimes I wonder what Fitbit and the Apple Watch actually measure. The readings don't always correspond to the way I actually feel. I dream a lot. I have a feeling that my dreams are more stressful than my day-to-day life. I'm always lost in my dreams. I seldom feel this way when I'm awake.

We got home from the kennel fairly late and I ended up taking my walk in the dark again. It was such a clear day that I thought I might be able to do a little stargazing while I was in the park. No such luck. It certainly got dark enough, but the light pollution in Dallas is so bad that it's hard to see much of anything. An hour after sunset, all I could see was Venus, the Moon and two stars.

I wonder whether Janet and I will be able to stay awake until midnight tomorrow. For the past several years it's been difficult. Midnight is well past our bedtime these days. I can't imagine going out for New Year's Eve anymore. It seems like an eternity ago when my old band used to routinely play New Year's Eve parties. I usually wouldn't get home until 2 or 3 AM. How did I do this? Staying up late is the one misgiving I have about getting more involved with astronomy again. Unfortunately you can't see stars in the daytime.

Tomorrow I'll add the new dogs to the Dalmatian Rescue website. Maybe I'll use this picture of Larry.  He looks pretty handsome here.

Penny is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Sunday, December 29, 2019

Day 3657

A loud thunderclap woke me up this morning. I looked outside and it wasn't raining. Weird. Something had changed though. It had gotten very cold again. These rapid weather changes are driving me crazy. You never know what to wear. Maybe we always had a succession of cold fronts sweeping away the warm weather every winter. I don't remember it this way though. Something seems different this year.

Janet returned home today. We'll resume our regular schedule and go visit the Dalmatians tomorrow. I'm not sure whether the five new dogs are at the kennel yet. They always spend at least a week at the vet after we pick them up to make sure that they don't have any hidden health issues. I think this group is relatively healthy. None of them have heartworms. Some do have intestinal worms though. Luckily, these are easy to treat.

It wasn't easy to get my 20,000 steps today. I was already tired when I returned from the gym. The gym was as piece of cake compared to my long walk though. The wind was brutal. The wind chill made the temperature seem much colder than it actually was. Whenever the wind stopped blowing, I felt overdressed. When it started up again, I was cold. I couldn't believe that I saw a few runners this afternoon wearing shorts and t-shirts. What planet do these people live on? I was wearing two coats and I was still cold.

I received a reply from a magazine I sent a query to last month. The e-mail was dated 2:37AM, which seemed a bit strange in itself. Basically, it was just a form letter saying the magazine always welcomes new submissions but that it was difficult to get published. OK. They said the article I submitted was not appropriate for the magazine. Of course it wasn't. I never submitted anything. I just attached a writing sample to my query as the magazine requested. This magazine goes to the bottom of my list. I have a feeling that it is going to be next to impossible to connect with these people.

If it warms up a bit, I'll definitely have to go up on the roof tomorrow. It rained a lot yesterday and there is bound to be a lot of residual water on the roof. When the pumps quit pumping, it doesn't mean that the roof is dry. There are far too many low spots for the two pumps to remove everything. No wonder I spend so much time daydreaming about traveling to space launches. Keeping this house from crumbling around me is a never ending chore.

I'm looking forward to seeing the Dalmatians again. I didn't visit the kennel while Janet was away because it was filled to capacity with Christmas boarders. When the kennel is full, we're just in the way. Most of the holiday boarders should be gone when we go up tomorrow. Hopefully, the dogs will be as glad to see us as we will be to see them.

The year is rapidly drawing to a close. I wonder if 2020 will be any different? It was really sad losing Dash this year, but there were some good things as well. Every year is this way. You've got to learn to take the bad with the good.

Petey & Greta are today's Dalmatians of the Day
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Saturday, December 28, 2019

Day 3656

It rained a lot today. I tried to avoid getting wet, but there weren't a lot of breaks in the weather. I tried something different for breakfast this morning. Since I was out of fresh fruit, I made the dish I submitted to the SXSW Cookbook many years ago. I was actually an SXSW presenter back in the day. When they asked me if I wanted to be included in a cookbook featuring recipes from various other SXSW presenters and participants I jumped at the chance. Most of the recipes were from famous people like Sheryl Sandberg. And then there was me. Not surprisingly my recipe was something to eat for breakfast.

I managed to go to the grocery store after breakfast and get some more strawberries and blueberries before the heavy rain started. Luckily, the pumps on the roof were working today. Even though the roof hasn't leaked in quite a while, I'm always nervous when it rains.

I had to postpone my walk because of the weather. There wasn't a lot to do around the house. I did a little searching on the Internet and discovered a retired astrophysicist who offered private viewing opportunities on his rather large backyard telescope. As luck would have it, the guy only lives about an hour from Dallas, so I sent him an e-mail and asked if he'd be interested in giving another retired guy a refresher course in deep sky objects. It looks like I'll go visit this guy on a clear moonless night sometime early next year.

Eventually, the rain stopped a little before sunset. I took an abbreviated walk just to make sure I made my quota of 10,000 steps today. I knew the park paths would be muddy, so I just walked through the neighborhood streets. Wow. There are a lot of new houses since I used to walk these streets with Spot and Petey years ago. Everything is bigger and more expensive than it used to be. I probably couldn't afford to buy a house in this neighborhood anymore.

For a dismal, grey day we ended up having a spectacular sunset. I almost missed it, since I was walking back towards the East. I was quite surprised when I returned home and looked westward before going inside. The sunset was pretty, but I knew it would be gone before I could go grab my good camera. I took a quick picture with my phone and then began fixing dinner.

Hopefully, the weather will be better tomorrow. I had a bad case of cabin fever today. For some reason I'm not very interested in watching movies even though we have Netflix and Amazon Prime. I've been reading some interesting histories of the Davis Mountains and the McDonald Observatory recently. I have to read things two or three times before I start to remember everything.

I'm not sure I'll make it to the gym tomorrow. I'm not even sure I'll remember it is Sunday.

Petey & Dot are today's Dalmatians of the Day
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Friday, December 27, 2019

Day 3655

I don't know why I never thought of this before. I started looking for observatories near Dallas and found more than I expected. Most of these telescopes were fairly small and were maintained by local colleges and universities. Some had public access and others didn't. One even offered private viewing opportunities. All of these small observatories were located in rural areas with very dark skies but were still close enough to a town that I could stay in a motel if I didn't feel like driving back to Dallas in the middle of the night. This is worth exploring further. Before I become a star guide at McDonald Observatory, I probably need a refresher course in what I'm actually looking at.

I didn't have the proper ingredients for my smoothie this morning, so I just threw everything I had in the Vitamix and drank it anyway. Surprising, adding a carrot to the remaining fruit wasn't half bad. After breakfast I went to the grocery store and got enough food to last me through the weekend. It looks like it is going to rain tomorrow and I wanted to have the option of staying dry at home.

My household chore for the day was defrosting the small refrigerator. This was supposed to just be an  emergency refrigerator to use when our big refrigerator in the kitchen was broken. The refrigerator was fixed long ago and we still use the little one. Defrosting this thing reminds me of the days when the TV didn't have a remote, ovens weren't self-cleaning, and light bulbs burned out every few months. It's amazing how we just take our automated lives for granted these days.

The park has been full of people all week. This period between Christmas and New Year's is confusing, since every day seems like Sunday. Lots of folks were trying out new bicycles and scooters today. For the past several years I've been seeing people learning to fly their new drones right after Christmas. I've been led to believe that these things practically fly themselves, but there must be some skill involved. A lot of new drone pilots are terrible. I saw a guy this afternoon repeatedly crash his Christmas toy while his girlfriend laughed at him.

It looks like all the leaves are off the trees now. I can't decide whether to rake and bag the leaves myself or hire the landscape guy to do it. Janet and I used to rake leaves every Fall and then one year it just seemed like a lot of trouble. Some years we got someone to remove the leaves for us and other years we just left them on the ground. By Spring, most of them had blown away anyway. I don't know why I'm even thinking of raking leaves this year. I must not have enough to do.

I've been getting a lot of notices about big after Christmas sales in my e-mail lately, but I still don't feel like buying anything. This is unexpected. Back in the day, I always felt like I needed a new camera or microphone. Gadgets just don't interest me as much anymore. I'm not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing. Where do you go when gadgets fail to excite you?

Hard to believe we are approaching the end of another decade. New Year's Eve 1999 still seems like it was yesterday. That's a little unsettling. Even in the best of worlds, it's doubtful that I have another twenty years left.

Taylor os today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Thursday, December 26, 2019

Day 3654

I've given up on predicting the weather. I thought it was supposed to be warm and sunny, just like yesterday. Nope. I woke up to fog and noticeably cooler temperatures. It didn't warm up much as the day progressed and it may even rain tomorrow. Hmmm. This wasn't good news for my roof repair plans. I decided to go ahead anyway. The areas I was planning to patch were small, so even if the material didn't dry correctly, I wasn't going to waste a lot of silicon.

I went ahead and took my walk before going up on the roof, in hopes that it might get a little warmer. That didn't work either. It was kind of a dismal day, but at least it didn't rain. The reason I have so many repairs is that two years ago I applied a lot of silicon coating way too thin. I was trying to make the stuff go further, but I basically just wasted it. I learned later that this coating must be a very exact thickness to be effective. Applied too thick or too thin, it just doesn't work well. I know better now, but over time I'll probably have to re-coat everything I did two years ago.

I had no desire to leave the house today. I took my walk for the exercise, but the car never left the driveway. I balanced my checkbook, which is something I should do more often. It's hard to keep track of things after several months. I also made a halfhearted effort to straighten things around the house and then took a nap.

I always think I'm sleep deprived, but I'm probably getting plenty of sleep if you count naps. For some reason Fitbit only tracks sleep at night. I'm sure there's a good reason for this. The time I spend staring at my computer probably looks a lot like sleep to these tracking devices. I'm very still and don't move around much. How would Fitbit know the difference? It's weird. I'm fascinated with tracking my sleep, but have no interest at all in tracking my ancestors. A lot of friends have bought those ancestry.com or 23andMe DNA kits and don't even wear a Fitbit. To each his own I guess.

The refrigerator is starting to look pretty bare, but I still don't feel like going out for breakfast in the morning. I either need to get real creative with what's still here or go to the grocery store in the morning and restock the larder. They say that intermittent fasting is good for you, but I haven't been able to do that yet. Long, slow meals are the best way I know to kill time.

I wish I'd hear something about living arrangements at the observatory or press credentials from SpaceFlight Magazine. I know nothing is going to happen until the first of the year, but it's hard to be patient when everything's up in the air. Clearly I have too much time on my hands. I doubt that I'd even be thinking about these things if I was as busy as I used to be.

Dash is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Day 3653 - Christmas

No white Christmas here. It actually felt more like the first day of Spring. With temperatures in the mid-70's, I was able to wear shorts and a t-shirt again. The unusually warm weather was fine with me. I had things to do.

Janet called to wish me a Merry Christmas after breakfast and then I got to work. I finished cleaning the windows and brushed away all the spider webs under the eaves. The window trim is looking pretty shabby in places. Actually the entire house could use a coat of paint, but we'll deal with that later. I also cleaned the atrium, which hasn't been touched in months. With the sliding glass door broken, it's hard to even get into the atrium these days. The house is starting to look better, but there's a long way to go.

I still need to finish patching the roof. It looks like the weather is going to remain warm for a few more days so I guess there is no rush. I doubt that my problems will be over when I finish using this bucket of silicon, but I must be doing something right. There hasn't been a leak in quite a while now.

I thought about going to a movie this afternoon, but there isn't really anything I want to see. I just took my regular walk instead. Even though it was a beautiful day, there weren't as many families out as there were on Christmas Eve. I guess that makes sense. After a morning of opening presents, probably the last thing you feel like doing is gathering everybody together for a long walk. Most of the people I saw today had a dog with them. Dogs are always ready for a walk.

This is our first Christmas without a dog in a long time. Dot and Dash used to love getting gifts and would eagerly tear off the wrapping paper to get at the treat or toy inside. They were just like children and always seemed to know when something was for them. I miss their exuberance.

On days where I'm physically active, I start to question my desire to spend time on a remote mountain in West Texas. I just don't have the energy I used to. I'm still pretty healthy but the aches and pains are real. Life on Mount Locke is pretty basic. I guess I won't know if I have what it takes until I try. I'll give the observatory a call after the first of the year and work out living arrangements. I'm still planning to go out there this Spring.

I used to always buy something for the company after Christmas so I could expense it on my taxes. Retirement changes all that. When you are actively trying to downsize, the last thing you need is more stuff. Janet and I don't even exchange Christmas gifts anymore. We have everything we need.

I guess the only thing I'd like now are a few more experiences. I'd still like to become a space journalist. Everything I've seen so far courtesy of NASA has been fascinating. I'm usually the oldest guy at the launch pad, so I have a unique point of view. I may be deluding myself, but I think I'll be able to publish more. Two articles in less than a year is a good start. I'd also like to see distant galaxies with my own eyes. Spending time at a major observatory is a good way to do this. These are worthy goals but are not exactly burning desires. I just need to be careful not to talk myself out of doing all this. It would be so easy to do nothing at all.

Dot is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Day 3652

It was a very quiet day. I was going to watch one episode of The Expanse per day during this holiday week, but I've already completely finished Season 4. That didn't take long. After breakfast I started washing the windows on the house. This will take a while. The windows certainly needed a good cleaning. It's a messy job because you have to clear away all the spider webs first. The living room windows do look better now, but my shoulder feels worse. I finished the back of the house, but the rest will have to wait. Maybe I'll do some more tomorrow, or maybe not. It depends on the weather.

It was such a nice day today that I thought I'd try to patch a few more areas on the roof. To my surprise, there was still some standing water. Where did that come from? I don't even think it has rained recently. I found a few dry areas to patch, but I'll have to go back later when the roof is completely dry. There's not a lot more I can do anyway. Most of the bad spots have already been patched and I'm almost out of silicon.

The only clue I had that it was Christmas Eve was the number of families walking together in the park. It must be a Christmas tradition for some to take a family walk. I never see large family groups walking together unless it's a holiday. I'll have to admit that it was a good day for a walk. The skies were clear and the temperature was almost seventy degrees.

I was expecting a lot of swelling and discomfort after getting my shingles shot, but so far I've felt nothing at all. My theory is that I took a long walk right after getting the shot and maybe this caused the vaccine to disburse throughout my body more rapidly. On the other hand, maybe I just don't react to this particular vaccine. The pneumonia shot I got earlier this year did make my arm sore, but I guess all medicines are different. I'm fine with no reaction. It will make taking the second shot easier.

The stock market is doing a lot better than it was last year at this time. The roof is just the same however. I actually think I was up on the roof patching things with the silicon material last Christmas Eve. The big difference is that Dash isn't here. I really miss that dog. He was headed downhill last Christmas, but he could still walk and was eating fairly well. We never dreamed that he would only make it until April.

I doubt that I'll do anything special tomorrow. I don't really feel like it. I'll make my smoothie and take my long walk. That's enough. It's too bad I already squandered the TV show I was waiting to watch. Binge watching is kind of like eating too much for dinner. You regret it afterwards.

Dash is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Monday, December 23, 2019

Day 3651

I got my shingles shot today. Well, I got the first of two shots anyway. I really wasn't planning to do this now, but my pharmacy had the vaccine available and I knew I'd feel foolish if I went back next month and they were out of the stuff again. It's a mystery to me why the vaccine has been in short supply for over a year. It's somewhat of a mystery why I even need these shots. When I got the older Zostavax shingles vaccine a few years ago, that was supposed to be effective too. I'm pretty good about following doctor's orders though. I think it's one reason why I'm still reasonably healthy today.

On the way home from the pharmacy I picked up some more LED bulbs to replace the ones that are burning out. I think the reason these bulbs are failing is that I was a very early adopter of this technology. Today's bulbs are less expensive and last longer than the first generation bulbs I bought. Most of them even have a ten year guarantee now. This is the curse of the early adopter. I'm ofter the first to buy a new type of computer or camera. It's been irritating to realize that if I just had the patience to wait a few years, I could have gotten something that was much better, often for a lot less. I'm glad I wasn't the first to buy a flat screen TV. The early models used to cost over $5000. Now you can get something much better for a few hundred bucks.

I finally got my tree guy to commit to removing one of the remaining Oak trees in the back yard. I like the trees, but they are all getting very old and part of this tree has already fallen. I definitely don't want to have the rest of this large tree falling on my house or the neighbor's cars. I'm also thinking of relocating my driveway to the back yard. The traffic on the street in front of our house keeps getting worse and worse. During rush hour it is almost impossible to get out of the driveway. As luck would have it, the big Oak tree is right where a potential driveway might go. This is kind of an ambitious project, so it may never happen. A lot of my ambitious projects don't.

I'm continuing to watch Series Four of The Expanse. I still don't think the new series is as good as the shows first three years, but it's good enough to get me hooked. It's a good thing to watch during this holiday week. There isn't much else to do anyway.

I've noticed that some of the White Pelicans wintering at our lake are wearing little leg bands. You can see a band on the leg of the bird in today's picture. Who put these on and why? A little research revealed that ornithologists have been banding pelicans and other migratory birds for a long time to study their migration patterns. A lot of White Pelicans were initially banded at Marsh Lake, Minnesota between 1972 and 1998. Evidently Dallas is right on the migration route between Minnesota and Mexico. One question remains. How do you catch a pelican? These are large, powerful birds. They don't even want you to get close to them.

I started washing the windows on the house this afternoon. I'd like to show Janet that I made at least a minimal effort to straighten things up while she was gone. It's hard to do more though. The house has a lot more problems than I have energy.

Ziggy is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Sunday, December 22, 2019

Day 3650

Today seemed longer than usual. Janet got up early to go to the airport and I couldn't get back to sleep, so I watched the early morning Starliner landing on NASA TV. I was surprised at how cold it was out at White Sands, New Mexico. The temperature was in the twenties and the recovery crew were all dressed in winter parkas. It was a little chilly here as well, but I knew it would warm up quickly as soon as the sun came up.

By the time I finished my morning smoothie and went to the gym, it was already looking like a nice day. When I returned home, I thought about going back to look at the pelicans again, but decided against it. I was tired after my workout and didn't really feel like a lot of extra steps today. My basic Sunday 20,000 is more than enough. I definitely didn't feel like going up on the roof, although it would have been a good day to make some additional repairs. Maybe I'll do that later in the week. It's supposed to be even warmer on Tuesday.

Since I was feeling lazy, I watched a few more episodes of The Expanse on Amazon Prime. I don't think the writing is quite as good as it was last year when the show was on the Sci-Fy channel. The show is still interesting however, and I don't think it will take me long for finish viewing Series Four. The show seems designed for binge watching now. The entire season appeared at the same time and you can skip the intro and credits for individual episodes to easily view everything at once. Binge watching doesn't appeal to me. One show a day is fine. It will give me something to do during the week.

The first batch of LED bulbs I bought for the house is starting to burn out. Strange. I thought these things were supposed to last forever. I guess that four or five years is a long time for a light bulb. I just wish the bulbs weren't so expensive. I guess I'd better go to Home Depot and get some more tomorrow. They're all starting to fail at once.

I have a feeling that it's going to be a very quiet week. I can't think of anything that I need to do tomorrow. Even light bulbs don't feel like a priority. Right now, I just need to catch up on my sleep. I didn't get enough today. It's still early and I'm already having trouble staying awake. Maybe if I go to bed early I'll feel a little more motivated to do something useful tomorrow.

Two sisters are today's Dalmatians of the Day
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Saturday, December 21, 2019

Day 3649 - Winter Solstice

Today is the shortest day of the year. Even though the day was overcast and short, it was pleasant. We had an early Christmas dinner this evening, since Janet will be leaving to visit relatives soon. The meal was delicious and reminded me that the year is almost over. Where did the time go? It seems like time speeds up as you grow older.

When I did my grocery shopping today I noticed that the app I use to bypass the checkout line lets me buy alcohol now. I wonder why it took the technology gods this long to realize I was old enough to buy beer? I've assumed all along that they knew everything about me anyway. At any rate, this added convenience means that I'll never have to go through the checkout line again. I don't know why some people hate self-checkout. Self-checkout is great and no checkout at all is even better.

I applied for real NASA press credentials this morning. The editor of SpaceFlight Magazine said he would verify and approve my application. We'll see if that actually happens. Maybe the next time I go to Kennedy Space Center, I'll be a working journalist. I suspect that I have a very long road ahead, but I've made a start. Two published articles in less than six months is actually better than I expected.

I wanted to see the pelicans, so I walked all the way to the other side of the lake. This was a much longer walk than usual, but I was feeling good and didn't have much else to do. I wish the birds made their winter home on my side of the lake because I'm definitely not going to do this every day. The mystery of where all the birds went was finally answered. There weren't just pelicans at Pelican Bay. There were lots of ducks, geese, coots, and cormorants as well. I don't know what makes this particular place so attractive to waterfowl, but I'll know where to go for pictures now.

I've been writing this blog for so long that I forgot my Blogiversary this year. I just noticed on the calendar that it was last Sunday. Jeez. How many years does this make? I can't even remember off hand. Janet and I were trying to remember how many year we had been doing Santa Paws pictures. We couldn't remember that either. I'll have to go back and amend the header of last Sunday's post. It seemed like such a big deal when I had posted for 500 days. Now, after writing this thing for well over ten years, the blog just seems like it was always here. Like Winter Solstice and Christmas, I don't question it. Writing in the evening is just something I do.

I'll go to the gym tomorrow morning. That's just something I do as well. I find comfort in my structured routines. Hopefully, I'll add a few things to them in the year ahead. Will I make it as a space reporter? Will I enjoy my time at the observatory? Will we ever get a dog again. You'll just have to keep reading to find out.

Willow is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Friday, December 20, 2019

Day 3648

I'm trying to expand my horizons. I went to a different part of town and tried a German restaurant for breakfast. The place was crowded with affluent older people and the food was pretty good. This was not like the food I used to eat when I worked in Germany. I had a big plate filled with smoked pork chops, eggs and skillet potatoes. I remember Germans started the day with much lighter fare. In Erlangen I always ate a piece of toast and a single soft boiled egg in an egg cup like all the other locals.

When I returned home, I watched a video of the Starliner launch that I'd really wanted to attend in Florida. I has planned to watch today's launch live on NASA TV, but slept through it. Things didn't go so well. A spacecraft clock got confused and sent the capsule into the wrong orbit. It will be unable to dock with the space station and they'll probably have to do the important orbital test all over again. Oops. Boeing has certainly had its share of high profile problems. First the 737 mess and now this. The big Artemis rocket I visited in New Orleans is also a Boeing project. I bet the Starliner failure will slow Artemis down as well.

It was another cold day. I wasn't that eager to take my walk this morning, but I didn't want to sit around and do nothing. I put on two coats and a pair of gloves and off I went. I wonder if I even have a warm enough coat for winter nights at the observatory. It's much colder in Fort Davis than it is here.   There was light rain in the forecast today, but I managed to complete my walk without getting wet. Today I saw a very tiny woodpecker I need to identify and a tree with strange translucent orange berries. The woodpecker flew away but I did get a picture of the berries.

I learned today that Amazon videos won't play on Safari, Firefox, or my TV. Janet has no problems watching them on her iPad, but the only way I could get them to play was to download a new version of Chrome. I don't really like to use Chrome. After a little research, I discovered that all the problems I was having had something to do with digital rights management. Evidently my older computer doesn't play well with the new rules. Oh, well. As I said yesterday, I'm not all that interested in movies anyway.

Every year around this time I need to decide whether to renew my Avid subscriptions. Last year I decided to drop Media Composer and this year I'm dropping Pro Tools as well. These licenses are expensive and I just don't use this stuff anymore. I have to admit that it's finally getting easier to acknowledge I'm retired. Who was I kidding. I'm not going to shoot any more corporate videos. I don't even know any corporate people these days.

I still can't figure out why I don't sleep as well under blankets. It's counterintuitive. It seems like you'd sleep better when you are cozy and warm. Fitbit says otherwise though. Could it be that I'm sleeping just fine and my Fitbit just doesn't work under a blanket? As I learned from my Amazon Prime experience today, technology can be confusing.

Lexi is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Thursday, December 19, 2019

Day 3647

I got my first call for volunteers from McDonald Observatory. They need help during Spring Break. Hmmm. Do I really want to go out there during Spring Break? Maybe the kids who choose to go to an observatory during break are better behaved than the kids who go to Fort Lauderdale. I'm not sure about the weather in March either. I have visions of icy roads and jackknifed eighteen wheelers. The letter made me realize that I really am an on-site volunteer now and I need to figure out what to do about living arrangements. I'm still hoping that they'll let me stay at the astronomer's lodge during my initial volunteer trip. I'm not quite ready for the idea of living in an RV yet.

What a difference a year makes. Last year at this time, the roof was leaking badly and Dash had become incontinent. Every day I was cleaning up water and pee while watching Dash grow weaker. It's much quieter now, but sometimes it seems too quiet. I miss having a dog around the house. I don't miss watching a friend fade away. It seems like a long time since Dash died, but the memories are still vivid. Dealing with illness is hard. At this point in my life I just hope that Janet and I stay healthy.

I'm doing my part by walking every day. I could probably do more, but I could certainly do less. I actually think I'm walking more now than I was when Dot and Dash were healthy. Walking seemed easier back then, but I was a lot younger. I wish aging wasn't such an uphill battle. I've come to the conclusion that I can't turn back the clock, but maybe I can manage to slow it down a bit. Hey, walking and exercise have got to be better than just sitting around.

I saw a TV ad today about Season 4 of The Expanse. I'd almost forgotten about that show. I guess it's on Amazon Prime now. I'd prefer watching the show on TV, but Janet has Prime, so I guess I can still see the show if I want. It just doesn't seem as important now. There were all these shows like Babylon 5, Farscape, Lexx, Battlestar Galactica, and Firefly that I used to watch religiously. I rarely watch TV at all anymore. I wonder what has changed? Maybe I just don't sit around as much.

I washed the new photo backdrop and Janet helped me fold it up to put away for another year. I was amazed at how easy this 10 foot by twenty foot piece of cloth was to wash. It was light enough to fit in our home washing machine and the colors didn't fade or bleed at all. Having a washable backdrop for taking Santa Paws photos is a game changer. I never could wash the old hand painted backdrops and over time the smell of dog pee became overwhelming.

What are these purple berries I'm seeing everywhere in the park? A quick Google search told me that I was looking at a White Fringe Tree. That couldn't be right. I'm thinking that these are just Common Privet Bushes. Privet is an invasive species and that would explain why these little trees are everywhere in the park.

This week has gone quickly.  I've taken this week's trash to the curb and am deciding what to do for breakfast tomorrow. Breakfast has become like those science fiction series I used to wait for. I've got a whole city full of restaurants to try and I'm not even hungry.

Ranger is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Day 3646

I went and signed up at my pharmacy for a shingles shot today. My doctor has been urging me to get this vaccine for a long time, but it has been in short supply. Usually, I get all shots and vaccinations at the doctor's office, but for some reason most people are getting the Shingrix vaccine at their local pharmacy. I think it has something to do with insurance payments. I've already had the older Zostavax shingles shot, but this new two part vaccine is supposed to be much better. I thought I'd get the shot today, but of course the process was much more complicated. It always is. I was given a long form to fill out. The pharmacy said they needed to get me approved by insurance first. When I'm approved, they'll order a dose of the vaccine and contact me to come in for the shot. After the first shot, I'll need to go get a second shot three months later. Ordinarily, I wouldn't bother with all this, but my doctor has told me three times that all older people should get this vaccination. OK. You win. I haven't filled out the form yet, but I will.

I also paid my property tax today. My tax rate is supposed to be capped because I'm over 65, but it seems to go up every year anyway. I think only the portion of the tax that goes to schools is capped. There are still a lot of other government agencies that want this money as well. We don't have a state income tax in Texas, but the government always finds a way to get the money it needs. I have a little house and am still surprised at how much I have to pay. People with large houses must really hate property taxes.

I think there's something wrong with the washing machine again. I'm hearing a new clunking sound during the final spin cycle. I guess I'd better call the appliance repairman. The tub on this front loader spins really fast and I'd hate for it to self destruct in the utility room.  The furnace and the water heater are in this same room. An exploding washing machine is definitely something you'd want to avoid.

Other than a brief trip to the pharmacy and post office, today was uneventful. At least the weather was nice. There was so little to do that I ended up vacuuming the house before I took my walk. I think I identified a new tree today. Was it a White Fringe tree or Swamp Privet? You know I'm bored when I try to identify ugly scrub trees in the park.

Janet has been getting pictures of Hank and Jelly Bean in their new homes. They both look really happy. It's amazing how quickly dogs adjust to having a real home. Now we just need to find homes for the rest of them.

Alvin is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Day 3645

Yay. Another article has been accepted for publication by SpaceFlight Magazine. The editor liked the story I submitted about visiting Michoud Assembly Facility and it will appear in a February 2020 issue that features the Artemis Program. Like my previous article, the magazine will use my photography as well. Inch by inch, I'm slowly crawling my way toward legitimacy. The magazine now says that if there is a launch I want to attend, just to let them know and they will get me press credentials. I'm already planning to return to Kennedy Space Center for the upcoming ESA Solar Orbiter launch.

It's too bad I'm not making the same kind of progress with astronomy magazines. I've contacted several publications, but so far only Sky and Telescope has responded. There's really not a lot to write about in Dallas. The light pollution is so bad that you can't see much other than the moon and a few bright planets. I've become apprehensive about going out at night as well. Every time I turn on the local news, it's very apparent that Dallas has become a dangerous place at night. I felt much safer in tiny Fort Davis.

Luckily, I'm still OK with going out during the day. I encounter the occasional coyote and snake in the park, but it is still a relaxing place where I can daydream on my walks as I continue to learn about the local plants and birds. It was still pretty cold on my walk today, but the sky was clear and my winter coat kept me warm. One of these days, I need to drive over to the other side of the lake where I can get a better view of the White Pelicans while they are wintering here. These large birds are interesting to photograph, but I need to be closer.

I received my annual notice from Social Security. I'll be getting $28 more next year. These yearly cost of living increases are so tiny that I wonder why they even bother. Maybe the cost of living hasn't really increased. It feels like things are more expensive, but what do I know. Interest rates have been very low for quite a while. I'm glad I managed to save a little while I was working. Depending totally on Social Security would be pretty bleak.

It's too bad there is no money in being a space journalist. I like writing about rockets. I talked to a real journalist while I was at Stennis Space Center and he told me the main benefit of publishing was that he got to write off all his trips. "I publish things regularly, but most magazines pay very little." he said. "I'll be lucky if I make $50 for this article," he concluded. Hmm. Maybe it's a good thing that I spent most of my career in advertising.

I don't have any real plans for tomorrow. I got caught up on things a lot quicker than I expected.

Duke is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Monday, December 16, 2019

Day 3644

We had a nice visit with the Dalmatians today. It was so cold that we spent most of our time inside. This was fine with the dogs. As soon as they peed, they wanted to go back inside as well. A volunteer donated a bunch of plush toys recently and we discovered that some of the dogs really liked them. Sock became so playful with the soft squeaky toys that he completely forgot that he was afraid of everything. Even shy Lord became playful, chasing after Sock and his new toy. We can't leave the dogs unsupervised with these new toys, but it was fun to see that even the shy ones had a playful side.

A few of the dogs didn't get to play with the soft plush toys. Charlie would destroy these things in a heartbeat. He loves to play, but we need indestructible red Kongs for him. I don't think Hank is ready for this type of toy either. He tries to eat everything. Some dogs love soft toys and others try to destroy them. We'll experiment with the toys again the next time we visit. The dogs don't get to keep them in their kennel runs at night though. That's just asking for trouble.

Hank and Ginny should be at their forever homes before Christmas, but they were both at the kennel today. I was glad I had a chance to see them again. Ginny has finally completed her heartworm treatment and can play with the other dogs again. You could tell she was glad that her confinement was over, but she is still a very quiet girl. Unlike Charlie and Hank, Ginny prefers to just sit quietly and enjoy a treat with us.

Before leaving for the kennel this morning, I was able to get started on my new article for SpaceFlight Magazine. I finished about half the article and should be able to complete it tomorrow. I'm sure there are plenty of mistakes in this initial draft, but I'm in no hurry. I don't really have to finish it until the end of the month. I hope the magazine likes this new article as much as they did the initial one I wrote. I'd like to be a regular contributor to this magazine.

It was way too cold to walk today, but I was determined to get my steps. When we returned from the Dalmatian kennel, I put on an extra coat, some warm insulated boots and went walking anyway. After the first mile, I realized that this was probably a mistake. It was very windy today and the wind chill made the temperature seem even colder. I didn't walk my full five miles but I went far enough that I can live with myself. I basically had the park to myself. Everybody else realized that it was nasty outside

It's too bad I couldn't be at McDonald Observatory tonight. The weather is clear and there is a Special Observing Night at the 82" Otto Struve telescope. The only downside to this spectacular evening is that the temperatures are expected to be in the low 20's. Brrr. I briefly thought about making the trip to Fort Davis but didn't have the nerve to play weather roulette. I'm terrified of getting stranded in a snowstorm on I-20. I think I'll wait until Spring to make a return trip to the mountain.

I might make a return to Kennedy Space Center this Winter. Hey, how cold can it get in Florida? There's another opportunity in early February when the European Space Agency's Solar Orbiter launches. I missed the Parker Solar Probe launch, so this should be interesting. Do I try to get an invitation from NASA or a press pass from SpaceFlight Magazine? Its something to think about during these cold winter nights.

Hannah is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Sunday, December 15, 2019

Day 3643 - Blogiversary

I wonder why strawberry prices have doubled? They look exactly the same and they're still grown somewhere in Mexico. I usually don't even look at the price but a woman near me looked at the berries, told me they were way too expensive and put them back. I looked too. Yup, they actually were too expensive. It used to be that only gasoline changed price regularly. Now everything seems to fluctuate. I went ahead and bought the strawberries because they are an essential ingredient in my morning smoothies. I hope they don't become like peaches and disappear entirely during the winter.

I got most of the photography gear moved back to the storage warehouse this morning. I thought this might make the house look tidy again, but it really didn't change much. At least the house looks better than the storage warehouse. I know I need to do something about all this clutter, but I don't even know where to start. There is a reason why this stuff is being saved, but not a good reason. I still use the photo equipment from time to time, but I never use all the old computers and typewriters I've accumulated. Why is there a windsurfing board in the warehouse? Jeez. I'll never use this. With a bad shoulder, it would be insane to go windsurfing. I doubt that I'll ever use my old band's PA system again either. So much clutter. I just don't have the energy to deal with it.

I barely had the energy to take my walk today. Truthfully, going to the gym was plenty of exercise for one day, but I'm addicted to those steps. I wanted my 20,000 Fitbit steps and the only way to get them was to keep walking. At least it was a nice day. It was warm enough that I could wear shorts again. This won't last long unfortunately. Another cold front is on the way. They say temperatures could get down to freezing by tomorrow night.

McDonald Observatory just announced a new batch of Special Viewing Nights for the winter months. They say the chances of clear skies are higher in the winter, but I don't think I have the nerve to drive to West Texas when the weather could change for the worse overnight. I've seen too many videos of nasty snow storms that sweep across the plains and bring traffic to a crawl. I definitely don't want to find myself on an icy freeway surrounded by eighteen wheelers sliding off the road.

I heard that Hank got adopted this weekend. I'm glad I got a chance to see him again at one of the Santa Paws events. Janet and I will be visiting the dogs tomorrow, but I think Hank has already gone to his forever home. I'm hoping a few more dogs might find a home before Christmas as well. You never know. There are five new dogs in the program now, but they will be spending the holidays at the vet. It's quieter there. A boarding kennel can be pretty hectic during the holiday rush, so we'll get to know the new guys a little better after the first of the year.

I'm going to try to get started on my new article about the Artemis program tomorrow. It all depends on how much time we spend tish the dogs.

Jasper is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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