Friday, January 31, 2020

Day 3690

I've changed my reservations so many times that it will make your head spin. The two day event at Kennedy Space Center is now a three day event. I guessed wrong on this new turn of events and will have to change my reservations again. Hopefully, I can add a day to my hotel stay. Currently, I have a choice of attending events for the press or events for social media influencers. I'd like to attend both, but they overlap. I've got to choose one or the other. I'm not complaining though. I'm definitely invited to this launch.

I had to run some errands this morning and was wondering why the traffic was so heavy on a weekend. Then I realized that it was Friday. It's getting harder and harder to tell the difference between Friday and Saturday. I'll probably make the same mistake tomorrow since I forgot to get everything I needed at the store and will need to run the same errands all over again.

I have an opportunity to place a remote camera near the launch site for close up pictures as the rocket lifts off while I'm at Kennedy Space Center. You attach a special sound trigger to the camera and the noise of the launch starts the picture sequence. I don't know if I have the nerve to do this though. Sometimes these remote cameras have been ruined by heat or moisture. I guess alligators might be a problem too. Losing a camera might not be a big deal to a commercial magazine photographer with a production budget, but it would be a big deal to me. I don't have many cameras.

Today was beautiful. It was still a little chilly, but I would prefer to describe the weather as brisk. There was plenty of blue sky and the wind wasn't bad. I only needed my lighter coat. Basically, it was a great day for a walk. I wasn't surprised that I saw a lot of people in the park today. You've got to take advantage of days like these.  It might be completely different tomorrow.

The clear skies reminded me of my plan to visit the little observatory north of town. I wrote the owner and made tentative plans for a visit around the middle of February. The plans will have to remain tentative until a few days ahead of time because you just can't depend on Texas weather. If I booked a day now, there could be ice, snow, or even tornados when the day arrives. Hopefully, we'll have clear skies though.

I wrote a letter to my sister today. I wish she'd just read the blog. I always end up repeating myself in these letters. I still believe it is a good idea to write letters though. It is quickly becoming a lost art. Everyone needs a few Luddite friends just to keep them in practice.

I made myself a delicious omelet instead of going to a restaurant this morning. I'm actually a pretty decent cook, but I've become hooked on drinking smoothies. I'm a bit apprehensive about going without my smoothies for an entire week while I'm out at McDonald Observatory. It really isn't practical to take the Vitamix and a week's worth of fresh fruit and bananas to the mountain though. They'll probably think I'm weird enough as it is.

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

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Day 3689

Sometimes it's the little things. I got the toilet to stop running today. I took everything apart again and soaked all the parts in vinegar for an hour to remove the built up scale. Then I bought a new ballcock membrane at a plumbing supply store. This tiny little piece of rubber was seventeen dollars, but apparently it is vital. After I carefully put everything back together again, the toilet worked normally. As I have mentioned many times, I will never buy a French toilet again.

It looks like the launch date for the Solar Orbiter has changed again. A new launch hazard warning has been issued, but so far I have received no confirmation from NASA about the new date. This makes changing reservations difficult. I was able to book another hotel for the revised date, but will have to cancel one of my reservations by tomorrow night to avoid a penalty. I can change my flight right up until the day of departure, but hotels are more difficult. When things are busy at the Space Center a last minute change in the launch schedule can leave you without a room. Hopefully, this will all be resolved tomorrow. I hate uncertainty.

The weather was even colder today than it was yesterday. It didn't seem to bother the birds though. The Egrets and Herons seemed at ease wading in the icy water. I was warm enough on my walk, but I needed two coats today. I'm beginning to think that dressing in layers like this will be better out at the observatory than my bulky Alaska coat. There was a stiff wind when I walked along the shoreline and I was still reasonably warm. A lot of people might think that a down jacket on top of another down jacket is overkill, but it seems to work great. Hey, I get cold easily. The inner down jacket is very light and the outer jacket is a larger size so it fits perfectly. Now I need to find some comfortable shoes that keep my feet warm.

My plan to get some astronomy lessons at the little observatory north of town hasn't worked out very well. There haven't been many clear days in January. I guess January has always been like this, but it sure seems gray and dismal this year. Maybe February will be better. I've still got some time. I'd really like to be more knowledgable when I arrive at the observatory.

I have no idea what I'll be doing tomorrow. I'm sure I'll check my e-mail a lot to see if there is any news from the Space Center. I need to answer the latest letter my sister sent. Maybe there'll be bills to pay as well. It's still not warm enough to make roof repairs, but that's probably useless anyway. I guess I should just concentrate on breakfast. Should I go out for French Toast or make an omelet at home? Oddly, little decisions like these seem just as difficult to make as the larger ones.

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

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Day 3688

Facebook is supposed to know everything about us, but it still routinely reminds me to say Happy Birthday to people who are already dead. The older I get, the more frequently this happens. If they can figure out what I'm going to buy when I go to the grocery store, you'd think they could figure out when a friend has died. I hate to admit that I don't even know if you're dead or alive half the time, but that's the way it is. I guess I should pay more attention.

Without dogs to take care of and client deadlines to meet, I'm often at a loss for things to do. These two activities filled my days for years at a time. I guess my renewed interest in astronomy and my new fascination with space travel is some sort of search for a replacement activity. I've always stayed busy. Until recently I never realized how much time I used to spend collecting things. When I collected art, I used to go to museums and gallery openings a lot. When I collected watches I wanted to know everything about them. I even tried to teach myself how to repair watches and bought an assortment of watch repair tools. Being a collector is kind of a world unto itself. It's hard to say exactly when I lost interest in collecting, but one morning I woke up and realized that I just wasn't interested anymore. Jeez. How many watches do you really need? I will say that acquiring stuff is more interesting than getting rid of stuff.

I'm trying to convince myself that acquiring experiences is the next journey for me to take but it's an uphill battle. I'm not a terribly adventurous person and new experiences often fill me with dread. Familiar things are still my comfort zone. I'm hoping that following space launches will eventually become familiar enough that hopping on a plane to Kennedy Space Center won't be a big deal. Spending weeks on a remote mountaintop to look at the stars is more of a stretch. When I took the trash out tonight and realized that it was even colder in the Davis Mountains, I thought I must be crazy to even consider something like this. We'll see how it goes though. I may end up loving the long, dark nights.

Until these new adventures take place, roof leaks and plumbing problems will continue to be the things that fill me with dread. Luckily, it was dry today but it wasn't warm enough to pour some of the remaining silicon material over the spot where the leak occurred. It probably isn't worth bleaching the sheetrock ceiling again either. The rust colored stains are back and I definitely haven't found the leak yet.

I hope it is warmer tomorrow. I had a hard time even getting out of bed this morning. Cold gray days just aren't very inspiring. Luckily, I don't need to be inspired to take a walk. I'll walk tomorrow, just like I did today. I'll make a blog post too. I can always write a few paragraphs even if nothing happens.

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

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Day 3687

It rained again last night. It looked like the roof was going to leak again, so I set some buckets out in the kitchen and went outside to turn the pumps on. Water is not my friend this year. One of the toilets keeps running. It's hard to shut off the kitchen sink. Water is getting underneath the tiles in the shower. The water heater is starting to show its age as well.

There's not an easy fix for any of these things. When I first became a homeowner it seemed much easier to find repair people who could fix anything. I can't find these people anymore. The ones I really liked have all either died or retired. I can fix a lot of things myself, but it's hard to even find the proper parts these days. Basically, your typical mid-century modern house is 70 years old. Nothing lasts that long.

I waited for the roof to start leaking while I was eating breakfast, but it never did. I could tell the sheetrock was getting damp though, so there is definitely still a problem. I decided not to tempt fate and went up on the roof to sweep the water away. How is this water getting in? The silicon coating looks solid and I don't see any obvious problems. When I got all the water removed, it started raining again. It's too bad that the rainy season isn't even close to being over. I won't be able to examine things more closely until we get a few weeks of really dry weather. Even though it was a nasty day, I still found some time to take my walk. There was a light drizzle while I was walking, but I managed to stay reasonably dry by dressing in layers. When I returned home, I threw my damp clothes in the dryer and got some rags and a ladder to try to dry out the damp spot in the kitchen ceiling. I guess things could be worse. There was no need for buckets today. I can stop the toilet from running by taking the lid off the tank and jiggling things a bit. The kitchen faucet will probably last a few more years if we are gentle with it. I still with I could find really talented repair people who were interested in fixing things instead of just replacing them. I keep thinking that repair people should all be like those guys you see on that "This Old House" TV show. Unfortunately, real life is a little different.

Since water seemed to be the theme for the day, I looked at the long range weather for my trip to Florida. Jeez. There is a high probability of rain on launch day. I bet this launch is going to get postponed again. The forecast looks a lot more promising for the trip to McDonald Observatory later this Spring. It's going to be cold though. It looks like nighttime temperatures will still be below freezing the entire time I'm there. Maybe I ought to get my old Alaska coat out of the storage warehouse after all.

Hopefully, I'll see a little blue sky tomorrow. I'm definitely not at my best on a rainy day. We'll see how it goes. I have a feeling that I'll be battling water for a long, long time.

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

Monday, January 27, 2020

Day 3686

It's easy to spend the entire afternoon with the Dalmatians. They enjoy the attention and we enjoy having the opportunity to get to know them better. Everyone has their own personality. Some like to race around and chase after red rubber Kongs. Others like to play with soft plush toys. Sock and Lord like to stay together, while Charlie and Hank seem to do better on their own. Dawn always gives us one of those big Dalmatian smiles when we arrive. She isn't very playful but is probably the most relaxed of the bunch. She was content to just sit quietly with us today.

Something bit me last night. I woke up with a big welt on my back and have no idea how it got there. It's not the season for mosquitos and chiggers, so maybe it was a spider. There are tons of spiders in our yard, but luckily most of them are outside. There definitely shouldn't be spiders in the bed, but you never know. I'd probably hate to know how many critters come out of the woodwork after the lights go out.

Tax documents are starting to arrive in the mail. Jeez. Is it already that time of the year again? Time passes so quickly now. I feel like I just finished with last year's taxes. It doesn't seem fair that Social Security is taxed. This doesn't really feel like income. It doesn't seem like those mandatory IRA distributions should be taxed as income either. Oh, well. Those are the rules. I just collect all the documents and give them to my accountant.

Since we're spending more time with the dogs now. I'm getting a really late start on my Monday walk. I started well before sunset, but arrived home in the dark again. As the sky grew darker I looked for familiar stars. All I really saw was Venus next to a thin crescent moon. I should have been able to see Mercury on the Western horizon about thirty minutes after sunset, but there were too many clouds. It's too bad I'm a little nervous about being in the park after dark. You get a lot better view of the sky away from all the city lights.

The toilet in the bathroom is running again so I spent some time cleaning the complex mechanical parts. Plumbers won't even fix this weird French toilet anymore. They just tell me to get a Toto. I was convinced that the toilet would work perfectly after I put everything back together. Cleaning the little hydraulic parts inside the tank usually works. This time it didn't. The toilet still runs. All of today's efforts were for nothing.

One of these days I'm going to have to try to clean the large format printer again. This probably won't work either. I have waited too long. I just got tired of spending hundreds of dollars on ink cartridges when I didn't really have anything to print. Epson is really just an ink company. The printer is just there to make you buy ink. I have no desire to make large Giclée prints anymore. A rational person would just throw this printer away. I never claimed to be a rational person though.

I hope this coronavirus scare doesn't get worse. I'm going to get nervous about airports soon if they don't stop flights to and from China. Right now there are still daily flights to and from major Chinese cities. I guess I could drive to Florida for the Solar Orbiter launch, but it would take a full scale plague to make me drive that far. Lets hope it doesn't come to that.

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

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Day 3685

I changed all my reservations this morning. The Solar Orbiter launch has been postponed. I was kind of expecting that this might happen, but I hope it doesn't happen again. Just because you managed to make reservations for one date doesn't guarantee you can make them for another. Luckily, I was successful this time although hotels seem unusually full for this time of year. At any rate, I hope this new date sticks. Last minute changes are a lot of trouble.

It was an uphill battle to get my 20,000 steps today. I did my usual workout at the gym but it felt like someone had changed all the settings on the machines. I looked and nothing had changed. The only thing that had changed was me. I was terrible on the basketball court as well. Oh, well. We all have good days and bad days. At least I finished everything.

The sluggish feeling continued when I began my walk a few hours later. I blamed this on the wind. It was warmer today, but it was very windy. It looked like a good day for sailing. Not so good for picnics though. By the time I returned home I was finally starting to feel normal. It was odd that I felt sluggish today because I actually got a good night's sleep.

I thought about putting some more silicon on the roof, since it was so warm today. Then I remembered how windy it was and decided to wait until the weather was calmer. This stuff is messy on a windless day. I'd probably end up with liquid silicon all over myself on a day like today. I'm not even sure there is a point to continuing these repairs. I still don't know where the leak is.

I guess I missed my chance to go up to the little observatory north of town. There just weren't enough clear nights in January. Now the moon is back and nights will be getting brighter for the next several weeks. I read that tonight was a good night to see Mercury just below a very thin crescent moon right after sunset. There were clouds on the horizon though and I'd have to walk quite a ways to find an unobstructed view anyway.  It wasn't worth the trouble.

It's easy to talk me out of going outside at night, but it would be difficult to talk me out of visiting the Dalmatians. I'm already looking forward to our weekly trip to the kennel tomorrow. I hope everyone is doing well. We will continue our efforts to socialize the dogs and spoil them with treats. I haven't heard anything recently, but it would be nice to learn that a few more are on their way to their forever homes.

I listened to a little bit of the Grammy Awards this evening. Once again I didn't know who most of the artists were. I did know who Usher was, but was he really the right guy for a Prince tribute? Who am I to say? I'm still listening to Hotel California in the elevator.

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

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Day 3684

Whenever something bad happens these days it almost always reminds me of a movie I've already seen. Reality and fiction have become hopelessly blurred together in ways I never would have thought possible a decade ago. When I first started hearing about the coronavirus scare it seemed so much like the movie Contagion that it would be impossible for me to tell which story was real if I didn't already know that Contagion was a movie. In many ways the idea that there is a city in China that is larger than New York City where people routinely eat bat soup and snakes on a stick seems more like fantasy than any movie I've seen. I guess I'm not as well informed as I thought I was. Until a few weeks ago, I didn't even know that the city of Wuhan existed. Sure, I knew about Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong, but Wuhan? Never heard of it.

A pandemic like ebola, bird flu or the coronavirus has to make you wonder about globalism. When anything becomes too big to fail, what happens when it inevitably does fail? When engineers want a failsafe system, they build in a lot of redundancy. When a single system fails, the machine continues to run. We ought to think of the world this way. A lot of independent, self-sufficient economies is a lot safer than a single global economy. We were a lot more resilient as a country when every city had a factory and we were able to make everything we needed ourselves. I think a world where it is not so easy to travel from one country to another is better as well. What is so bad about applying for a visa and planning ahead? The reason we all know about Wuhan today is that it is super easy to just hop on a plane and be anywhere else in the world in a matter of hours.

A guess you can't have it both ways. I'd like to see flying cars and cities on Mars, but I'm still more comfortable in the simpleminded black and white worlds of Have Gun Will Travel and Perry Mason. Old TV westerns make more sense to me than today's news.

Our world may be falling apart, but I find that my own little world usually gets better as soon as I turn off the TV. There is something to be said for concentrating on your immediate surroundings. There is usually plenty there to keep you busy. I ran my usual Saturday errands in the morning and took my walk in the afternoon. Not a lot happened today, but that was fine. An uneventful afternoon is much better than a roof leak.

As my trip to the Davis Mountains draws closer, I'm starting to realize that my knowledge of astronomy is woefully inadequate for conducting star parties at the observatory. I'm reading a lot online these days and spending time looking at star charts. This is no substitute for actually going outside at night, but we haven't had many clear nights lately. The more I read about contemporary astronomy, the more I remember why I chose advertising as a profession. A clear, dark night fills me with wonder, but I don't think I'd have the patience to spend years studying the rotation of galaxies or exploring stellar mass and luminosity.

I hope tomorrow is uneventful as well. A good breakfast and a trip to the gym are all that is on the agenda. That's enough for me.

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

Friday, January 24, 2020

Day 3683

Everybody seems to hate paper these days. When I went to breakfast this morning, I didn't get a bill like I normally do. The waitress brought a little portable terminal to the table and asked me to insert my card. When the total came up on the screen, the tip was already included. I think I tip fairly, but I'd like to have a choice. I guess this must be the future. When I got a haircut recently, they had the same type of arrangement. Call me old school, but were those old paper bills really all that bad? I didn't even get a receipt because I declined to leave my e-mail address. Been there, done that. If you leave your e-mail address when you are buying something, you will get spam messages from the company until the end of time.

I picked up some things for dinner tonight on my way home from breakfast and was surprised at how expensive my small purchase turned out to be. It was the crab cakes. They were double what they usually cost. I asked Janet whether the price of crab cakes had gone up and she immediately told me that these weren't what we usually buy. "These crab cakes are huge," she told me. "Of course they're going to cost more." OK. I'll admit that I'm not very observant when I shop. I usually get the right category of thing, but nuances like this often escape me.

This was the first completely cloudless day we've had in a while. It would have been a good day to do yard work, but it was too cold. I got some bleach and a ladder and cleaned away the ugly stains in the sheetrock caused by the recent roof leak instead. The ceiling looks much better now. This would also be a good day to get the telescope out. There's a new moon tonight and the sky is as dark as it's going to get. Maybe I'll still do this, but usually I'm tired and ready for bed as soon as I finish the blog. Like I mentioned earlier, it's cold outside as well. Will I be a wimp or will I start getting in shape for my trip to Mount Locke? I'm not sure yet. The night is young.

The Atlas V rocket passed it's dress rehearsal test today for the upcoming Solar Orbiter launch. So far, it's looks like the launch is still on schedule. That's a good thing since I've already made all my reservations. I'm always afraid that something will change at the last minute and I'll have to rebook everything. I still need to decide what equipment to take. I always like to travel light, but since I will be taking pictures for a magazine, I might need to abandon this strategy.

It was a nice day for a walk. I dressed warmly and enjoyed my time outside. A clear, sunny day always seems to make a big difference. It looks like I'm going to need some new walking shoes soon. The Nike Air shoes I've been wearing are pretty comfortable, but they sure don't last long. I don't know what to wear anymore. The sturdy hiking boots I used to wear seem too heavy now and running shoes are too flimsy. There's a store in town that specialized in walking shoes. Maybe it's time to pay them a visit.

I need to remember that tomorrow is Saturday and I've got a lot of errands to run. For a few hours this morning I thought today was Saturday.

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

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Day 3682

I saw a little blue sky today. Things are looking up. I guess the big news is that I got my press pass. NASA sent me a notice today that my application has been approved. I'm a space journalist now. I'll be covering the Solar Orbiter launch for a little British magazine few people have even heard of, but it's still a big deal to me.

The good news about getting real press credentials inspired me to get my butt in gear and make my reservations for the trip. Since I've started traveling more, I've joined several airline, hotel, and rental car loyalty programs in hopes of getting a better deal. All I've gotten so far is a lot more spam e-mail. It's not so easy to get a great deal. What I've discovered is that when you tell an airline or hotel when you want to travel, there are seldom any deals. You get the bargains when you let them tell you when to travel. Discounts aren't really meant to help you. They exist to fill empty seats and rent rooms on slow days. Needless to say, I'm not getting any deals this trip, but I do have my reservations now.

I spent a lot of time up on the roof today. Truthfully, I still have no idea where the leak is coming from. After I removed all the standing water, I took a tape measure and found the spot on the roof directly above where the leak occurred. Everything looked good to me. I couldn't find any holes or tears in the silicon coating at all. The water is getting in somewhere though. I just don't know if I'll ever find the source. The problem is that once that water manages to get under the protective coating, it can travel almost anywhere. The leak might be nowhere near where it is actually entering the house. Luckily, this was a very small leak after a very heavy rain. Maybe if I'm more careful about using the pumps, it won't happen again.

Since the rain has moved on to the East, I was able to take my walk today. It was definitely easier walking on an indoor track, but time seems to pass much more quickly when you are outdoors. It's easy to let your mind wander and daydream when there are interesting things to look at. Walking the same distance on a small indoor track is mind numbing. I totally lost track of time yesterday and was just waiting for my Fitbit to tell me that I'd gone the distance. I'll admit it was warmer though. There's definitely something to be said for staying warm. It was nice to see blue sky this afternoon, but I was still cold.

This week has gone quickly. I even managed to get a few things done. Now it's time to take this week's trash out to the curb and start thinking about where I want to go for breakfast tomorrow. Shrimp grits sounds pretty good. If the weather stays nice, I might start thinking about visiting the little observatory north of town as well. I still need to do this before leaving for the Davis Mountains. Did I mention that the weird rattling noise in the washing machine has disappeared. The machine sounds normal again. All in all, it's been a pretty good day.

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

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Day 3681

All day rain. Ordinarily, that's all you'd need to say about a day like this. Today, I'll add two more words. Roof leak. Yes, the roof is leaking again. It's been so long since we've had a leak that I didn't initially recognize the ominous dripping sound I heard early this morning. The leak didn't last long, but it destroyed any notions I might have had that the roof had been fixed.

This leak was in a new location that I'd thought was pretty safe. I'll have to check when things are dry again, but I can't remember any questionable areas above the kitchen. I guess I should have turned on the pumps last night, but I was asleep. It's unfortunate that it rained so hard while we were sleeping. You can't turn the pumps on ahead of time because they get hot if they run dry and it's easy to burn out the motor. By the time I woke up, it was too late.

Things didn't really get better as the day progressed. I was going to make my reservations for the Florida trip and discovered that the hotel where I wanted to stay was completely full. I wasn't expecting this either. I still thought I had plenty of time. I looked for other hotels in the vicinity, but they were either twice as expensive or had terrible reviews. You really don't want to stay at a place where reviewers say "If you like threadbare towels and roaches in the shower, this is your place."

I'll have to find some place acceptable tomorrow and wrap this up. If I wait much longer to make my reservations, I'm afraid that the most convenient flights might be booked as well. I guess the days of traveling without a plan are long gone. When I was young, I remember driving until I felt like stopping and there were never any problems finding a room. I've gone to the airport without reservations too, but I'll admit that was a long time ago.

I kept waiting for the rain to stop so I could take my walk, but it never did. Finally, I gave up and went to the gym. As much as I hate driving in the rain, I hated having a day without 10,000 steps even more. At least it was warm and dry at the gym. I was going to enroll in my healthcare plan's new  free membership program, but I discovered that my current membership was automatically upgraded to the new plan at the first of the year. No more gym membership bills. At least there was some good news today.

I hope this rain moves out of the area by tomorrow. I need to go up on the roof and see if I can find where this new leak is coming from. I am not optimistic. I have a feeling of hopelessness about this whole situation. I have gotten bids from reputable companies and they all say that because of the way the house has settled over the years, there will still be standing water even after a new roof is installed. Give me a break. I don't want to spend a ton of money on a roof and still have to climb up and sweep the water away after every rain.

This day needs a do-over. I'll see if I can get a fresh start on things tomorrow. If I look up and see a little blue sky, I can almost guarantee that the day will end better.

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

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Day 3680

I'm glad I decided to trim trees and rake leaves this morning. Less than an hour after I bagged up the leaves and hauled the branches I'd cut out to the curb, the bulky trash trucks arrived and hauled everything away. I thought the trucks were coming tomorrow, but I guess I got lucky.

About three months ago I heard something about a new free gym membership plan that was going to be added to my health insurance coverage. I've been waiting for a letter explaining the program ever since. I never heard anything, so I finally went on the healthcare website to see if there was any informations there. The plan has already been in place for several months. Hmm. I wonder when they were going to tell me about it? Since my current gym supports the plan, all I have to do is sign up. This will be the third gym membership plan I've joined since turning 65. Hey, even the government wants me to keep moving. All these plans for seniors have been pretty good. I just wonder why they keep changing.

I got an e-mail today saying that my social media press accreditation for Kennedy Space Center has been officially approved for the Solar Orbiter launch. I can make my reservations now. A few hours later I got another e-mail saying that my traditional media press accreditation for Kennedy Space Center has been verified and submitted for approval. Hmm. I wonder if I will ultimately get both of these applications approved? I'm still hoping to get a real press pass. I suspect that both types of media accreditation provide pretty much the same access. Often when I go to these events, the social media folks are on the same bus with the magazine and television journalists. In my own mind, a real press pass is better because it makes me a working journalist. Instead of having an expensive hobby, I would be embarking on a second career. Here's hoping anyway. There's no real money to be made following space launches, but there's no money to be made sitting at home watching Netflix either.

Another cold front must have rolled through town last night. This is probably why I have a continually runny nose. We keep going back and forth between warm and cold weather on a 48 hour basis. There's no time to get used to anything. Now it looks like it's going to start raining again around midnight. I'm tired of this, but I guess it has always been this way. When I look back at old January posts, it is always a story of cold, wet weather. Last January it was much worse because I was still trying to keep Dash walking. His rear legs were weak and he dragged them while walking, so he needed three layers of protective socks and boots to keep his paws from bleeding. On cold days it took forever to get Dash dressed. He has a sweater under his Help 'Em Up harness, a leg brace, and the protective socks and booties. It was worth the effort though because Dash still loved to walk. It was his favorite time of the day.

I was surprised to see a patch of Pink Phlox blooming in the park today. Aren't these plants supposed to bloom in the Spring? They were definitely the only wildflowers to be seen. I was glad to have something to photograph. The park can look pretty bleak during these cold winter months. There are always birds to photograph, but I would need to bring a better camera. On a cold day, these walks are purely for exercise. I just want to get back to the house so I can get warm again.

Maybe tomorrow I can finish all the things I meant to do today. I did manage to get some leaves raked, but it's hard to get motivated on a cold winter day.

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

Monday, January 20, 2020

Day 3679

Every week there are fewer Dalmatians at the kennel. The new dogs are getting adopted quickly. Lake went to his new home over the weekend. Hopefully, the remaining dogs will be finding homes soon as well. Hank is looking great now. He's put on a few pounds and doesn't look so skinny now. He's happy and playful as well. We' ve discovered that Larry and Lord enjoy being together and the time they spend with each other seems to be helping both dogs with their shyness. They were both having a great time running around in the outdoor yard today. All Dawn wanted to do was sit in the sun and be petted. We were happy to oblige. It was a nice day and all the dogs except Sock loved being outdoors. Sock still prefers staying inside for some reason.

My memory is shot. I was getting ready to go on my walk this morning when Janet reminded me that it was our day to go up to the kennel. That wasn't the first time I forgot what day it was either. Right after I woke up I heard a big truck stopping and starting on the side street. It sounded like a garbage truck and I almost went out to retrieve the trash can. Jeez. It's not even close to Friday morning. Oh, well. At least I remembered to fix my smoothie for breakfast.

I still haven't received any information about the time and place I'm supposed to meet the NASA folks for the Solar Orbiter launch. Usually, all these details are finalized by now. I haven't heard whether I'll be receiving a press pass either. Hopefully, I'll hear more before the end of the week. If not, I'll have to go ahead and make all my reservations anyway. I've already heard that I've been accepted for this event, but it's always nice to have all your ducks in a row.

My plans to visit the little observatory north of Dallas are also up in the air. Now that the moon is rising much later, this would be a good time to go if the weather could ever make up it's mind. I was hoping for a week of good weather so I'd have time to coordinate with the owner of the observatory. So far, every day is different. Hot, cold, sunny, rain, you never know. It's kind of like weather roulette. It was nice today, but there is already more rain in the forecast. Maybe we'll get several nice nights before the moon returns again.

It's still a long time till Spring, but the days do seem to be getting longer. I got a late start on my walk this afternoon after we returned from the kennel, but the sun still hadn't set yet when I returned home. A month ago, I would have been walking in the dark. I'm walking a little faster than I was a year ago, but the changes haven't been dramatic. I guess I should be happy that I still have the energy to do this every day. Five miles is no marathon, but it's a lot better than sitting around the house.

Tomorrow is probably the last day to rake more leaves before this month's bulky trash pickup. I need to do this, but I'm already looking for ways to avoid the loathsome task. Will I find something better to do? Probably not.

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

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Day 3678

Another 20,000 step Sunday. Before starting a long day on the move, I sat still for a while and watched the Space X Crew Dragon launch abort test on my computer. Everything went well on the test and it looks like the next time the Crew Dragon capsule launches, there'll be astronauts onboard.

When I went to the gym a few hours later, things didn't go quite so well on the basketball court. I was terrible today. I can't figure out why I'm not completely consistent by now. I've been shooting free throws on this court for years. Some days I sink baskets routinely and other days I can't seem to hit anything. I'm not very consistent about sleep either. You'd think I'd be able to sleep eight hours every night. My days aren't very stressful and I have no reason to get up early. Sleep is very inconsistent though. Some days are good and other days aren't for reasons that are still unknown to me. Have I mentioned that I like consistency?

I definitely wish that cars were consistently reliable. It doesn't matter what kind of car you have. Things always break when you least expect it. I still can't decide whether to take my own car to the Davis Mountains this Spring. It would be more convenient and less expensive than renting a car as long as nothing breaks. If something does go wrong, it will be a nightmare. There is no Land Rover service for hundreds of miles. I thought that there might be some independent garages in the area who could work on my car. A Google search today didn't do much to fill me with confidence. Mostly what I found were horror stories from people who had car problems while on vacation in Big Bend. I guess there's a reason I saw very few imported cars while Janet and I were out at the observatory last Fall.

I think everyone in town was walking their dog today. There must have been hundreds of dogs in the park this afternoon. It was still chilly outside, but it was a perfect day for a walk. Most of the dogs were very well behaved. I think they appreciated the chance to be outside on a crisp, clear January afternoon. I can remember so many times when the weather was much worse than this in January. It's kind of nice to have a mild winter.

I did go to REI today but wasn't very impressed by the stuff on clearance. I guess there's a reason why things wind up on the clearance racks. Coats just aren't as well made as they used to be. I think my best bet is just to have my old Eddie Bauer Alaska coat dry cleaned and wear that on the mountain. I could wear that coat at the South Pole. I might not be able to move, but I definitely will be warm.

Tomorrow we visit the Dalmatians again. When I was working, I always used to hate Mondays. Now, this has turned out to be my favorite day of the week. These are all such great dogs. It's nice to have a chance to get to know each of them a little better.

Daisy is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Saturday, January 18, 2020

Day 3677

It was nice to see the sun again. Although it was still cold and windy, the sunlight made a big difference. I ran my Saturday errands before going up on the roof in hopes that it would warm up a bit. By the time I filled the car with gas, got groceries, and took a few bills to the post office, I was ready. I wish I could get all the water off the roof using the pumps, but that would take at least five pumps. I've only got two now. I put one on the carport and the other over the lowest spot on the roof, which happens to be over the living room. The pumps do a good job of lowering the overall water level, but there are still a lot of big puddles when they stop working. I wonder how much longer I can continue sweeping all this water away by hand? It's pretty tiring. I'm going to be too old for this one of these days. Maybe I'll finally have a new roof by then.

When I was walking in the park today, I saw a guy who appeared to be out cold on the pavement ahead. As I approached, some EMT guys arrived in an ambulance and began working on the man. I wonder if he had a heart attack? I didn't see any blood or sign of injury. A lot of people overdo it on exercise and heart attacks in the park are not uncommon. Drownings are common too. I see the fire department boat searching for people several times a year.

Accidents and injuries always make me nervous. I'm probably careful to a fault, but things can happen when you least expect it. I see accidents on the road almost every time I'm out and about. There seem to be an enormous amount of car accidents in Dallas. Is this common for any big city or are the people here just bad drivers? It's probably a little bit of both.

I got a notice from REI saying they were having a Winter clearance sale. Maybe I'll stop on my way to the gym tomorrow and look for winter coats again. I probably need an ultra wide angle lens more than a coat though, so I can take pictures of the Milky Way while I'm out at the observatory. You need a wide angle lens for those cool time exposure pictures of rocket trails too. Actually, I've already got an ultra wide angle lens. It's for the wrong camera though. I don't use heavy, bulky cameras anymore. I guess I've got a heavy winter coat too if I want to use my old Alaska parka. The older you get, the lighter you want everything to be. A few pounds can make a big difference when you're feeling tired.

Maybe it's a good thing that I'm interested in buying something again. I haven't had the urge for a long time. It's too bad I'm not still working. I'd feel less guilty about spending money if I was still making money. Of course if I was working, I wouldn't have time to go to rocket launches and distant observatories. That's the big irony of retirement.

If the weather stays nice, I might rake some more leaves tomorrow. We've already bagged a ton of leaves and taken them out to the curb for bulky trash day. There are still plenty on the ground though. If I need another reason to remove the damaged Oak tree in the back yard, this might be it.

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

Friday, January 17, 2020

Day 3676

Another dismal day. I think it rained more today than it did yesterday. I wasn't that hungry, but I went out for breakfast anyway because I thought it would make the day go faster. Rainy days have a tendency to be long days. I wanted something cold but I didn't feel like cereal, so lox and bagels sounded good. This used to be my go to breakfast when I traveled a lot, but it's been a while. Lox and bagels turned out to be a good choice. It brought back memories and made me forget about the rain for a while.

After picking up something for dinner at the grocery store, I came back home and got the pumps working. I'm not sure the pumps on the roof even help that much, but seeing water exit through the garden hoses attached to the pumps makes me feel better. If the rain ever stops, I'll need to go up on the roof and finish the job.

A few days ago Janet got some solar powered pathway lights at the dollar store and to my surprise they actually worked. A dollar for a solar powered light is a pretty good price. Nothing lasts long at the dollar store, so I went back today and got some more of these lights. Like the rubber snakes I once found here to keep birds from pooping on my car, I knew I would never see these things again. During a break in the rain, I placed the lights along the gravel path leading to the alley. I don't expect them to last very long, but for now they are working and actually look pretty good. So much for landscaping on a rainy day.

During the next break in the rain, I decided to take my walk. This worked for a while, but it was a long walk on a rainy day. Before I returned home I was pretty wet. I was really on my own today. Even the joggers and dog walkers opted to stay dry this time. I don't know why it has become such a big deal to keep moving. Probably just because there is little else to do and it is easier than going to the gym.

When I woke up last night I noticed that I was seeing ghost images of the little LED lights on the network router through my left eye. I only saw a single point of light from each bulb with my right eye. My eye doctor warmed me this would happen when cataracts started to develop. I sometimes saw ghost images when I looked up at the moon, but this was more pronounced. When daylight returned, my vision seemed more or less normal, but double images are still not good. For several years my eye doctor has told me that I was developing cataracts. At some point I will need to deal with it. The doctor says I've got five years at best. Cataract surgery is pretty safe and is usually successful, but I'm not looking forward to the day when I need to make this decision. I depend on my eyes and hate to mess with them. I'm also seeing signs of keratosis on the skin under this eye. I guess I need to deal with this too. Jeez. I hate growing old.

I think the weather is going to clear up tomorrow. I certainly hope so. The sooner I get the water off the roof, the less I have to worry about leaks.

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

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Day 3675

What a difference a day makes. It was 85 degrees yesterday and 45 with rain and wind today. A line of thunderstorms rolled through town and woke me up around 5 AM. The rain slowed to a drizzle at times, but it was basically a very cold, wet day.

So much for raking more leaves before bulky trash pickup day. The remaining leaves are all wet and soggy now. I did get the pumps running when I got up this morning, but one of them doesn't seem to be pumping well. It's probably clogged again. At least the leak hasn't returned. I think we're doing a lot better than we were this time last year.

I took my walk after breakfast when I saw a break between the moving line of showers on the weather radar. I got a little wet, but it was a lot better than sitting in the house doing nothing. Yesterday, the park was full of people. Today it was just me. Spontaneous people will go to the park on a nice day. People like me who depend on a regular routine go everyday. The only people I ever see in the park on nasty days like today are really disciplined joggers and people who know their dog will poop in the house if they don't take them on their daily walk. Dogs like a routine. I'm sure this is one of the reasons I like dogs so much. We think alike.

I don't know whether I have allergies or a low grade cold. I've had a runny nose for the past two days and am sneezing a lot. The constantly changing weather probably has something to do with this. I wish the runny nose would stop. I don't like to take antihistamines but I don't like to pack my pockets with paper towels before I go anywhere either. Being outside in the damp weather seems to make things worse. I ran through quite a few paper towels on my walk today. I hope this clears up quickly. I read an article recently that if you cough or sneeze on a plane, the whole plane instantly hates you.

I need to quit fretting about my upcoming trips. There are still a lot of little details to work out, but I've got plenty of time. I hate surprises and try to avoid them whenever I can. The problem is that any type of travel is full of unknowns and surprises. Some people find this exhilarating. Not me. I like to know the outcome ahead of time. Sadly, you can't avoid surprises even if you stay home and do nothing. The roof could start leaking five minutes from now.

I've taken this week's trash out to the curb, which is always the symbolic end of the week for me. Now I've got to decide whether to go out for breakfast tomorrow. I guess it depends on the weather. There isn't a lot of food in the refrigerator, but there is always a box of cold cereal for emergencies. Rain or shine, there's still stuff I need to do tomorrow. I need to reschedule with the tree guy. Who knows when it will be dry enough to cut down a tree though? I'm also waiting on my final paperwork from NASA. Hope they don't wait until the last minute again. It always makes me nervous.

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

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Day 3674

When I went to get a haircut today, I was intrigued by some oddly colorful plants I saw at the mall. Northpark is known for it's landscaping, but I'd never seen anything like this before. The plants looked like green sticks with brightly colored tips. Was this a weird exotic cactus? Was it a new type of succulent or bromeliad? The plants weren't labeled, so it took me forever to find the answer. The reason that the plants were hard to identify was that they don't exist in nature. A grower has learned how to take young sansevieria plants and dip the tips in felt. Since these plants grow from the base, the colorful tip stays the same as the plants grow. Who knew?

It was really warm today. I think we hit a new all time record for temperatures in January. It was 85 degrees this afternoon. When I went to get a haircut, it was colder inside than it was outside. It was also extremely humid. Everything looked wet and damp, but there was no rain. The thunderstorms that had me worried yesterday never materialized. So far, this has been a very strange winter.

Almost every store at the mall was having a big after Christmas clearance sale, but I wasn't even interested enough to take a look. I should have gone in the North Face store and looked for a winter coat, but how can you look for a winter coat when it is 85 degrees outside? I just went straight home after my haircut and did a Google search for the strange plants I'd seen earlier. I can usually find almost anything on Google in a matter of minutes. This took a while though. I didn't know the type of plant I was looking for. And I certainly didn't know that the colors I was seeing weren't natural.

I'm torn about making hotel reservations for my Florida trip. If I make the reservations right now and pay for them in advance, I can save some money. If the Solar Orbiter launch date changes though, I'm out of luck. I did save a little money by paying in advance when I went to New Orleans, but I knew the date for Artemis Day wasn't going to change. Launch dates always seem to change. Since today was the last day to take advantage of this holiday sale, I guess I lose. I don't have the nerve to get nonrefundable airline tickets or hotel rooms when I'm going to a launch.

The porta-potties have returned to the park. I guess the city didn't remove them after all. Probably the vendor's contract ran out and the city just decided to get a new supplier. I never even used to wonder where the restrooms were when I was younger. It's something to think about now though. There are days when I need these things on a long walk.

I don't think I escaped the rain entirely. It looks like it just got delayed until tomorrow. Oh, well. At least I managed to get a good walk today. Rain is totally normal at this time of year, but it always catches me by surprise. I still wake up every morning expecting a nice day.

Betty is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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