Saturday, February 29, 2020

Day 3719

Having an extra day in February always seems kind of weird. Of course, February is a weird month anyway since it is so short. I kind of wish every month has twenty eight days. Four complete weeks each month would make things easier to remember. Unfortunately, the Earth's orbit doesn't work out that way. I'm always impressed that our ancestors were able to divide up the year so accurately even back in Roman times. Caesar's calendar wasn't all that different than ours.

Breakfast was interrupted this morning by a visit from the roofer I met yesterday. He seemed very knowledgable and his company had good credentials. Not surprisingly, his bid was just as high as the other reputable roofers I've talked with. There are no bargains here. Basically a flat roof is always going to cost about three times more than a shingle roof.

While I was up on the roof this morning I was pleased to see the the silicon patches I applied yesterday had cured properly and looked ready for the next rain. I was a little worried about this batch of silicon because it didn't seem quite as thick as the previous batch. Probably I just didn't stir the stuff enough. Silicon is a lot harder to mix than paint because it is so thick. You can't shake the bucket either because it is too heavy. Probably I should have bought one of those paint mixers you attach to a power drill. I just stirred the stuff with an old drumstick I found in the storage warehouse. I guess mixing the silicon coating isn't rocket science, because the batch I applied yesterday dried just fine.

Janet walked Dawn by herself today to see whether her nervousness was because of me or if she just always want both of us to accompany her. Evidently, Dawn was still a little apprehensive, but they completed their walk successfully. Probably it is just a matter of getting used to new situations. We try to introduce Dawn to new experiences and it seems to be working. She seems more relaxed with each passing day.

Something is wrong with Facebook again. For the past several weeks I've been having problems uploading the preview picture that accompanies my daily blog post. When you post a link, the preview pictures are supposed to be uploaded automatically. It usually takes several tries now to get a preview picture to load with the link. I guess it wouldn't matter if I wasn't such a stickler for consistency. I had to try twelve times last night before I could get Facebook to find the preview picture. Hopefully, things will be easier tonight.

I wish the media would quit talking about the coronavirus. I've always been a bit of a hypochondriac and all it takes is a ten minute Google search to convince me that something is terrible wrong and I'm going to die. That's the trouble with having an imagination. It's easy for it to run wild. Now, every ten minutes I'm hearing that I should never touch my face and eyes with my hands. Jeez. I've got terrible seasonal allergies and I'm always rubbing my eyes. Visine doesn't really help that much and my eyes are always watering on walks. I probably don't wash my hands enough either. I hate that Purell stuff.

Should I apply more silicon to the roof tomorrow, or have I done enough? It's impossible to know. I wish I could get over my obsession with taking at least 20,000 steps on Sundays. It would be much more enjoyable to just stay home and take a long nap with Dawn.

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

Friday, February 28, 2020

Day 3718

Maybe we're going to have an early Spring. Punxsutawney Phil didn't see his shadow this year. Just saying. There are other signs as well. The Dogwood trees are already starting to bloom. I'm starting to see small flowers like Crow Poison and Blue Eyed Grass as well. These are all good omens. I'm tired of winter, even though it had been quite mild this year.

It was quite warm this morning, so I thought it would be a good day to apply more silicon to the roof. I called the roofing supply store and they had two buckets of the coating in stock. I told them to save one for me and got in the car to go pick it up. The stuff is expensive and it was a long drive to get it, but I'm convinced that this leak isn't going to stop on its own.

While the roofing supply folks were processing my order, I asked if they knew any good roofers. Truthfully, I don't believe they exist, buy I always ask. "Why don't you talk to Ellis over here," the lady at the front desk told me. This roofer was buying supplies as well and he certainly talked a good game. I asked him to come over and give me a bid.

I applied about a gallon of the stuff this afternoon and hoped for the best. The roofer I talked with this morning told me he never uses silicon because it doesn't breathe and allow moisture and humidity from inside the house to escape. Could this be true? I thought the whole point of a roof was to keep moisture from outside the house from getting in.

When I finished working on the roof, I tried to take Dawn on a walk. Janet had a doctor's appointment, so she couldn't go with us today. The walk started fine, but after about 500 yards, Dawn had a panic attack and refused to move forward. She just sat in the grass and looked at me with pitiful eyes. "Do you want to go back home," I said? She immediately turned around and started walking briskly toward the house. This was the first time she had been outside the yard without Janet. Dawn obviously trusts Janet more than me. Toward the end of the day, we both walked her together again and she did just fine.

I went back to the hotel for breakfast this morning. There were a lot of travelers dining this morning. You couldn't hear what they were talking about, but every now and then I heard the word coronavirus rise about the background noise. Clearly people are thinking about this. I wonder why the unknown scares us much more than the known? Cancer kills far more than this virus probably will. Probably many things do. I'm not immune from irrational fears though. Please don't cough if I'm nearby.

Connor is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Thursday, February 27, 2020

Day 3717

I had an interesting evening under the stars tonight. It was kind of a dress rehearsal for my stay at McDonald Observatory. It's been so long since I've looked through a decent telescope that I don't even have a frame of reference for what I'm supposed to be looking at. If you get used to looking at spectacular photographs taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, it's easy to forget that distant galaxies often just look like dim smudges through a backyard telescope.

The 16" inch telescope I visited tonight might be small by observatory standards, but it was huge for an individual to have in their back yard. My host was a retired engineer and amateur astronomer who built a fabulous personal observatory on his rural property. I took the list of Spring observing targets that McDonald Observatory sent me and asked which ones would be interesting to look at through his 16" telescope. The observatory owner was extremely nice and spent the next four hours giving me  a refresher course in what to look for in the Spring skies.

Star clusters were a lot prettier than I thought they'd be and most galaxies were a lot less dramatic than they looked in photographs. The spiral structures that look so dramatic in photos were often very hard to see. A lot of galaxies just looked like pale smudges. I saw the planet Uranus for the first time. I've looked for this planet over and over again, but it is too dim to easily spot through binoculars. Even though this powerful telescope, Uranus still just looked like a small green disc. The Orion Nebula looked amazing through a good telescope, but the Crab Nebula just looked like a pale smudge.

I feel more confident about my trip to the Davis Mountains now. The night sky seems more familiar and I know where to look for a few things I've only seen in books before. I definitely know how to find the objects I've been assigned to show people at Star Parties. My coat kept me warm, but I may have to rethink the shoes I take with me to the observatory. My feet were very cold tonight.

The astronomer's wife was originally from Wuhan, China and both of them had visited there as recently as a year ago. I thought it would take years for me to run into someone from that part of China, but it didn't take long at all. It's a small world we live in now. Real life is just like the Kevin Bacon game. Everything is connected.

Traffic wasn't as bad as I thought it would be and I arrived at the observatory earlier than I anticipated. To kill time, I had dinner at a barbecue place that advertised itself as one of the 25 best in the world. I had no reason to doubt the claim. The brisket and ribs were delicious. It was almost worth the trip just for the brisket sandwich.

My wide angle lens arrived today. I should have taken it with me tonight. The skies in Dallas will never be as dark as they are out in the country. I'll have plenty of time to practice with the lens on Mount Locke. I'm thinking that I should have bought a good pair of shoes instead though. I was surprised at how cold my feet got tonight.

Dawn is still doing very well. She's turned into a good little watchdog. I heard her barking before I even opened the door when I came home this evening. She didn't know I'd been looking at the stars, but she definitely knew I'd been around the astronomer's two Corgi's.

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

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Day 3716

It was really cold this morning. We thought Dawn might like to wear Dot's winter hat on her walk. Dawn wasn't so sure. She gave us one of her huge Dalmatian smiles, showing not only her teeth, but her tongue as well. This was kind of a nervous smile. "What are you doing to me," she was saying. "This hat doesn't even fit." Dawn didn't have to wear the hat. She tried to humor us though, wearing the hat around the house for a little while without trying to shake it off.

One of the reasons it felt so cold this morning was that there was a fierce wind. The temperature was in the high thirties, but the strong winds made it feel like it was well below freezing. The weather didn't seem to bother Dawn. She still loved her walk. The sky was clear and there were lots of things to smell. Dawn really enjoys smelling things, but so far doesn't chase squirrels.

It's a shame that people steal packages off porches these days. It takes away one of the main benefits of ordering online. I had to re-route a FedEx delivery to a FedEx facility today. Hopefully, I can pick it up tomorrow. I do this for UPS deliveries as well. Janet picks up her Amazon purchases at Whole Foods. It's less convenient, but this is just the world we live in. Who would have thought that you'd end up driving across town to pick up a FedEx delivery or never answer your phone because you didn't want to talk to a telemarketer. I never thought I'd have to take my shoes off at the airport either.

It looks like I'm going to be really busy at the observatory. I received a ton of additional background information today. There are viewing targets for each Star Party night as well as a list of alternate targets in case it is partly cloudy. If your target is covered by clouds, I guess you just point your telescope somewhere else. There is a lot to look at in the night sky. The few things I'm familiar with don't even begin to scratch the surface.

Reading all this background material inspired me to send another article proposal to Sky and Telescope. We'll see if I get a response. I'm learning to be patient about query letters. Some magazines respond quickly and others seem to take forever. Sky and Telescope is always slow to respond. I hope I don't end up being a nuisance to the editors I've gotten to know. I think I want to hear from them a lot more than they want to hear from me.

I think I'm going to take my McDonald Observatory target list to the observatory north of town when I visit. It would be really beneficial to know where to find some of these objects ahead of time. I talk a good game about liking astronomy, but I really don't spend a lot of time outdoors looking at the stars. I don't like the cold for starters. Tilting my head sharply to look straight overhead occasionally gives me neck pain as well. It might have been easier if I was interested in stamp collecting instead.

I still haven't picked up another bucket of the silicon coating to apply on the roof. I'm going to regret this the next time it rains. I keep postponing this chore because the silicon material is quite expensive and it's a long drive to the roofing supply store. It didn't take me long to buy that wide angle lens though. I guess we all have our priorities.

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

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Day 3715

I'm starting to get volunteer assignments for my time at McDonald Observatory. Among other things, I will be responsible for keeping a telescope pointed at Messier 35 during Star Parties, while explaining to visitors what they are looking at. Although this beautiful open star cluster in the constellation Gemini was discovered in 1745, I've never seen it yet. This isn't surprising, since you can't see much in Dallas. I do know where the constellation Gemini is though. Gemini is high in the sky on clear evenings and I often see it when I take out the trash.

Now that I have been assigned a telescope and tour guide duties, it seems even more important that I get a refresher course on the night sky. I talked to the astronomer who owns the little observatory north of town and made an appointment to visit in the next week or so. All we need is a clear night. Maybe he can show me how to set up and align a Losmandy German Equatorial Mount as well. I know how to do this in theory, but once again, I could use a refresher.

Not a lot happened today, but the day went quickly. My routine has changed a bit since we are walking Dawn now. Janet and I take a two mile walk with Dawn after she gets back from the gym in the morning and then later in the day I take another three mile walk by myself. Dawn loves going on her walks and I think they are good for her. We try to take a different route every day to give her a little variety. Basically, Dawn just eats, sleeps, and goes on walks. That's all Dot and Dash did most of the time too. A dog's life is simple, but it seems honest and enjoyable to me. I've always thought that dogs make good role models.

I'm beginning to see signs of Spring. A few of the trees in the park are already starting to bud. The start of the wildflower season is still over a month away, but I'm starting to see new flowers every day. Most of the flowers I saw today were quite small. It was still encouraging to see a little color in the park. Winter can be pretty dark and grey.

I ordered the wide angle lens I've been thinking about. I was disappointed to see that even B&H charges sales tax now. When did this happen? Will this lens make it easy to take great deep sky pictures. Probably not. I've been reading that the best pictures of the Milky Way often involve stacking dozens of identical images in Photoshop to eliminate background noise. It's kind of a technical process that doesn't really appeal to me, but maybe I'll learn how to do it. Modern, full frame sensors eliminate a lot of this noise, but of course I don't own one of these cameras. I'd love to have a Sony Alpha a7R IV, but I'd have to win the lottery to get one. A new camera like this means all new lenses and that's just not going to happen.

I wasn't pleased to see the stock market drop almost 2,000 points in two days. If the coronavirus ever starts to spread within the United States, things will get much worse. Hopefully, that won't happen. I'm enjoying life now. The last thing I need is an apocalyptic pandemic.

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

Monday, February 24, 2020

Day 3714

I received the press proofs of my Solar Orbiter article today. Wow. That was fast. The article I wrote about the Artemis program several months ago is still at least a month away from publication. The Solar Orbiter article was edited for length, but I was happy with the results. It looks good. So far, my last three NASA trips have resulted in three published articles. Who knows where this will lead, but I think I'm making progress.

I wish I was making progress with the roof. Since the weather was much better today, I went up on the roof right after breakfast and swept all the remaining water away. I was surprised at how much water was up there. I didn't think it rained that much. At least the roof didn't leak this time. I think the trick is getting the water off the roof quickly. Sustained heavy rains are always the problem. If it rains all day, there is no way I can remove the water quickly enough.

I think I'm safe for a little while. The forecast is predicting clear skies for the rest of the week. I'm going to try to schedule some time at the observatory north of town while the weather is good. This might be the best chance I have before leaving for West Texas. I'd still like to become more familiar with Winter galaxies before helping with star parties on Mount Locke.

Dawn is so good around the house now. She doesn't even seem like a rescue dog anymore. She gets daily walks now and we try to work in a little training time while we're out. Dawn loves being outdoors. We walked two miles today and she wasn't even tired when we returned home. Janet and I felt comfortable leaving her alone while we visited the remaining kennel dogs this afternoon. She was still sleeping on the bed when we returned.

I really need to get organized. It seems like there's a lot of unfinished business I haven't dealt with yet.  It's time to gather up all my tax information and get it to my accountant. I still need to get the damaged Oak tree in the back yard removed. The greenhouse hasn't been repaired yet either. I guess there is no point to start repairs until the tree is removed though. It would be just my luck that the tree guys would drop a limb on the greenhouse roof and ruin it all over again. There is still one roofer on my list who hasn't completed his bid yet. I have a feeling that he doesn't want to do the job. I've given him plenty of time. I need to go buy more silicon material as well, since few roofers seem inclined to help me.

I hope the coronavirus scare doesn't get a lot worse. There's enough to worry about in the world already. The last thing we need is a global plague. A global pandemic reinforces all my reservations about globalism. This wouldn't be spreading so rapidly if people weren't traveling everywhere. The genie is already out of the bottle though. We'll have to see what happens.

I'm happy enough to stay at home in my own neighborhood. Unless there's a rocket launch of course. Then, I've got to travel.

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

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Day 3713

I must have forgotten the letter B at the grocery store yesterday. I had to go back to the store this morning for blueberries and beer. I didn't make this mistake at the gym. My regular routine always includes some time on the basketball court and at least twenty minutes on the arm bicycle.

I try to keep moving on Sunday. A good workout is just the start. When I returned from the gym, Janet and I took Dawn on a walk. Today, I tried to teach her to sit whenever we come to a street or crosswalk. She actually did pretty well. She doesn't sit automatically yet, but it only took a small correction for her to get the idea. Teaching her to heal might be a little harder. She still likes to follow her nose wherever an appealing smell takes her. I'm glad Dawn enjoys walking. The exercise is just as important for her as it is for me.

Our early Spring has disappeared again. Every nice day seems to be followed by a dismal, rainy day. We didn't get a lot of rain today. Just enough to be irritating. It stayed dry while we walked Dawn, but a little later when I went out to walk again, I got wet. I thought the light sprinkle would stop, since there was nothing on the radar, but I was wrong. The light showers continued and by the time I returned home I was very wet. I got my steps though. It was a 24,000 step day.

Spring is getting closer. I'm starting to see lots of Daffodils in the park. These usually appear right after the Grape Hyacinths bloom. I think the Wild Iris blooms next. After that, all bets are off. There are over 5,000 different flowering plants in Texas. It looks like we're going to have a good wildflower season this year. It's amazing that these flowers continue to appear year after year. I used to think that all wildflowers were perennials, but many of the most popular Texas wildflowers are actually annuals. Both can come back year after year, but annual wildflowers are a brand new plant that grows from the seed of a plant that died. Perennials don't die. The roots stay alive over the Winter and begins growing again the next Spring.

I think I will buy that wide angle lens. I guess I really do want to take spectacular night sky pictures. It would be a shame to go to a place that has some of the darkest night skies in America and not take pictures. It's probably a little late to become a world class astrophotographer, but I can certainly learn to take better night sky pictures than I have in the past. Occasionally, I try this in Dallas, but the light pollution is so bad that the pictures are pitiful.

I started the pumps after dinner tonight, but no water came out. Hopefully, this means there isn't much water on the roof. It also might mean that the pumps aren't working correctly. I'll probably find out tomorrow morning. There is no roof leak now, but it would probably be smart to put a bucket under the suspicious spot before I go to bed.

It's supposed to be clear tomorrow. I hope the forecast is right. On a nice day I get a lot more done.

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

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Day 3712

Today has been uneventful. Dawn is learning our routines and acts like she's been here for years. I don't feel bad when I have to run errands now because I feel confident she'll be fine in the house. We still gate her in a safe area like we always did with Dot and Dash, but since this area includes the bedroom and the big bed that she loves so much, Dawn has no problem with being somewhat confined. She's always sitting on the bed when I return.

I got a letter from the observatory today confirming some travel arrangements. These people always seem so friendly and inviting. I'm really looking forward to joining them on the mountain. The trip isn't imminent, but it's on my mind. I still have a lot of decisions to make about what to take with me. Do I need a lot of clothes? I wonder whether I'll have laundry facilities on site? I'm sure the people who live on the mountain have washers and dryers in their homes, but I'm not so sure about the Astronomer's Lodge. I'm not so sure about WiFi either. WiFi access is important so I can continue blogging. I'm thinking about buying an ultra-wide angle lens so I can take good pictures of the Milky Way. It seems a bit extravagant for a picture I've already seen over and over again. Maybe I just want to take one of my own.

I can't even decide whether to rent a car or take my own. A rental car would add to the expense, but there is no Land Rover service even remotely nearby. I didn't see a single Land Rover when I was out in West Texas. I don't think snakes will be a problem in the Winter, but I always worry about snakes. I probably should worry more about shoes. I'll be on my feet a lot and will need some comfortable shoes. I don't think comfortable shoes even exist for my feet. Shoes are always a problem. A normal person would just get in the car and go. Not me. I'll fret about all this for weeks.

I need to remember how we taught Dot and Dash to heal. Dawn loves her daily walks but she's all over the place. One of these days I'm going to trip over her. It's understandable that Dawn is still nervous about other dogs. Dash was nervous about other dogs for the rest of his life after he was attacked. Hopefully, memories of the attack will fade and be replaced by memories of our big soft bed.

My walking schedule has changed a bit. Janet and I take Dawn on a walk together and then later I take another walk on my own. I walk about the same number of miles as I did before. It's just divided up differently. Today was certainly a good day for a walk. Dawn thought so too. It was a little chilly but the sun was out and the result was just a nice, brisk day. I could use a few more days like this.

Janet is at a Dalmatian Rescue fundraiser this evening. I don't think Dawn is much of a blogger. I can tell she'd rather have me sitting on the bed with her. Hey, I'll be there soon enough. It's been a long day.

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

Friday, February 21, 2020

Day 3711

Dawn got her stitches out this morning. The vet examined her and said that all her wounds were healing nicely. We were worried that she might have an ear infection, since she keeps trying to scratch at her ear. It was probably just the stitches though. The ear looks fine. Hopefully, she feels more comfortable now. She had a lot of stitches.

I kept thinking it was Saturday today. Friday and Saturday seem virtually the same. I wrote a letter to my Luddite sister, took it to the post office, and then went to the grocery store to pick up some things for dinner. I'll go back to a different grocery store and do the same thing tomorrow. Maybe that's why it felt like Saturday.

I wish I had more of the silicon material. This would have been a good day to re-coat the entire area above where the leak appeared. Unfortunately, there aren't many places that carry the special silicon coating. When I can't get the roofer to give me some, I usually have to special order the stuff. Janet wants me to hurry up and put on a new roof, but all the bids I've gotten so far leave a lot to be desired. Most roofers don't have a good plan for adding a slope to the roof and I don't want to pay a lot for a new roof that is still going to have standing water after every rain. Basically it's all a complicated mess.

The weather looks like it is getting better. Maybe I'll get a chance to schedule a night at the little observatory north of town after all. I'd really like a refresher course on Winter galaxies before I leave for McDonald Observatory. It might be nice to know how to correctly set up an equatorial mount telescope in a hurry as well. I want to be familiar with the night sky and learn how to find objects quickly before I start helping with star parties. Basically, I just don't want to look like an idiot.

Dawn is a smart dog. She's only had a few walks and she already knows the way home. It was fun watching her lead the way home. She knows exactly where our house is now and goes straight to the back gate. She seems to know where the vet is too. She was shaking and shivering in the car on the way to the vet this morning, but was very calm and went to sleep on the way home.

My seasonal allergies are terrible this year. I've had watering eyes and a runny nose for weeks now. It seems like the allergy season starts a little earlier with each passing year. I shouldn't be having Spring allergies until it is actually Spring. Today was nice, but it is definitely still Winter. I wish this would stop. I'm running through a lot of Kleenex.

I don't know what I'm going to do tomorrow. I've finished my Solar Orbiter article and received an acknowledgment that it will be published. I've sent my best pictures to the magazine. Dawn is getting better and doesn't need as much supervision. It's too early to pack for the observatory as well. Dawn is scared of loud noises, so I'm definitely not going to vacuum. Sounds like a day for a long walk.

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

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Day 3710

Things are looking up. When I woke up this morning the rain had stopped and I was seeing patches of blue sky. The first thing I did after breakfast was go up on the roof and clear the water away. This stopped the leak. Hopefully the weather will stay dry enough for me to figure out where the leak originates before the next storm arrives. The source of the leak certainly isn't obvious. I looked again today and couldn't find anything suspicious.

It looks like the magazine is going to publish my article about the Solar Orbiter. This was a pleasant surprise. When I was in Florida I thought the only thing they wanted were photos. I have no idea when the article will be published. My previous article about Artemis Day in New Orleans hasn't even been published yet. I'm three for three though. My last three NASA trips have all resulted in published articles.

Early voting has started in Texas so I stopped by a local library and voted on my way home from the post office. Dallas has changed all its voting machines. Now you are handed a blank paper ballot which you insert into a machine. You make your choices using a touch screen and then when you are finished the machine prints a paper ballot with your selections. You place this ballot into another machine on your way out of the building. It all seems pretty complicated to me, but I guess there's a paper trail now if the machines go haywire.

Janet and I took Dawn on another walk today. We walk her a little longer each day and she is doing very well. She doesn't know how to heal yet, but does pretty well on a leash. I have to keep my eye on her because she can't decide whether she wants to be on my right or my left and often has a tendency to walk directly in front of me. I have to stay alert because I don't want to trip over her. There's no daydreaming with this dog.

I've paid my credit card bills and now I don't have the Florida trip hanging over my head. I wish I could figure a way to lower the cost of these NASA trips. The fixed costs are always the airline, hotel and rental car. You really can't save any money on these things if you have to change your reservations frequently. I think I had to change my reservations four times on the Solar Orbiter trip.

Now that my trip to Kennedy Space Center has concluded, It's time to get ready for my next big adventure. I wrote the observatory today and asked if I could change my arrival time. I was going to arrive on a weekday, but it occurred to me that there would be much less traffic if I drove to West Texas on a Sunday. Since the Astronomer's Lodge isn't a regular hotel, I need to find out whether I need to bring things like towels and bedding. I wonder if they have laundry facilities? I'm going to be there a while.

Tomorrow morning we take Dawn to the vet to get her stitches out. She'll probably have a few scars for the rest of her life, but her wounds are healing nicely. She's almost finished will all her meds too. Hopefully, her memories of the attack will fade. I want her to have a happy, normal life.

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

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Day 3709

Another rainy day. I kept the pumps running and for most of the day I thought my repairs were working. Late in the day the leak returned unfortunately. I'm back to square one. This is not a good situation since we're right in the middle of the rainy season. The roofer who is experienced with the silicon material is still not responding and the other roofers just want to start over and put on a new roof. For now, all I can do is put a big bucket under the leak and wait for the rain to stop.

At least I stayed busy today. I edited the pictures I took at the Solar Orbiter launch and sent the best ones to the magazine. A few hours later the editor wrote me back and said he might be interested in my story after all. This was a surprise. They already had another correspondent writing about the launch, but it was nice that they wanted to take a look at my article. I kind of doubt that they will run two articles about the same launch, but who knows. They did like my pictures though.

Although it was a dismal, wet day, it didn't rain for the entire day. There was a dry enough period around mid-day that we were able to give Dawn another walk in the park. She seems to love walking, so we took her on a longer walk this time. It's been so long since I've walked a young, healthy Dalmatian that I've forgotten how fast and strong they are. Dawn walks well on a leash, but she definitely wanted me to pick up the pace.

Although it is definitely still Winter, I'm starting to see the first signs of Spring. There are Grape Hyacinths blooming in the meadow behind our house now. There are only a few now, but in a few weeks the meadow will be a sea of purple. Grape Hyacinths are usually the very first of the Spring wildflowers. Daffodils come next, followed in late March and early April by an avalanche of colorful blooms. Spring can't come soon enough. I'm tired of this dreary weather and I've got to do something about this roof leak.

It looks like this dismal weather is going to continue tomorrow. It's actually raining harder now. Dawn is curled up on the bed watching TV with Janet. I'm listening to the drip, drip, drip of water hitting the bucket in the kitchen. It's discouraging that my repairs didn't work. I have no idea where this leak is coming from. Eventually, this rain will stop. Maybe someday I'll even get this problem under control.

I'm not going to lose any sleep over this. It seems like I've been dealing with a leaking roof forever. Tomorrow morning I'll make my smoothie and try to think of something useful to do until the rain stops. Right now taking a long nap with Dawn sounds pretty good.

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

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Day 3708

I woke up in plenty of time, but failed to see the moon pass in front of Mars this morning. The sky was overcast and it was starting to rain. I kind of expected this but I had to give it a try. I turned on the roof pumps and went back to bed.

It rained pretty hard for several hours, but so far there have been no additional leaks. It's far too early to say whether my recent repairs were successful. If a leak is small, it can take several days for the water to find its way inside. I discovered that Dawn doesn't like rain any more than I do. It's hard to get her to go outside and pee in the morning when the yard is wet. This morning, some water fell on her from the trees when the wind blew and it sent her racing for the back door.

After breakfast Dawn and I took a long nap while Janet was at the gym. It seemed like the right thing to do. The house was warm and there was no point in getting wet. I've learned that when a dog feels like napping, it's often best to join them. There's always time to be productive later.

I actually was fairly productive today. I finished my article about the Solar Orbiter launch. It wasn't the best article I've ever written, but it was far from the worst. Maybe I can still find a publication that is interested in publishing it. I've sent query letters to a few magazines, but interest in these types of things fades quickly. We'll see. It's too bad that SpaceFlight Magazine only wanted pictures this time. They're still my best hope for stories about rockets.

Dawn loves a walk. When the rain eventually stopped, we got out her harness and leash. As soon as she saw these things, she immediately started smiling and wagging her tail. She was ready. Dawn is wearing Dot's old harness and it fits her perfectly. It's nice to know that a simple thing like a walk in the park can give a dog such pleasure. I have a feeling that Dawn never got taken on many walks before. Those days are over.

I've got to keep moving, so I put on an extra coat and headed out again after we returned home with Dawn. We didn't want to walk her too far, since her injuries are still healing. There's nothing wrong with me, so an extended walk still sounded better than staring at the ceiling and waiting for the roof to leak. I needed my steps as well. I do wish that we could just fast forward to Spring. I'm really tired of all this rain.

It looks like the weather is going to be even worse tomorrow. I hope the forecast is wrong because cabin fever is real. Even though I spend most of my time around the house anyway, I always feel trapped on a rainy day. Blue sky improves my mood enormously. At least I've got a dog to curl up with on a rainy day. Dawn has her priorities straight. According to Dawn, on a rainy day you just don't get out of bed.

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

Monday, February 17, 2020

Day 3707

Everyone got some attention today. I went and visited the Dalmatians at the kennel while Janet stayed home and gave Dawn another walk in the park. Since I've been traveling, it's been a while since I've been to the kennel and I was pleased to see that everyone was still doing well. Charlie was playful and full of energy as usual. Hank's behavior makes a lot more sense now that I know he is deaf. In the beginning I just thought he didn't listen. Larry and Lord have become best friends and enjoy playing together. I had fun with these two today. All these boys could learn a few manners from Dawn. It's amazing how gentle and polite our new houseguest is. It's been a real joy having her around the house.

I was busy today. In addition to visiting the rescue dogs at the kennel, I finally started making some headway on my Solar Orbiter article. I finished the first third of the article this morning and now that I have a plan, the rest should be easier. With any luck I might be able to finish the article tomorrow, but there is no hurry. I'm still not sure where I'm going to send this piece. A lot has been written about the Solar Orbiter already and not everyone is interested in my first person narratives.

I was planning to inspect my roof repairs today but I ran out of time. I'm going to hope for the best, since it looks like rain tomorrow. It's a shame that it probably won't be clear just before sunrise tomorrow morning. There is a rare occultation of the moon and Mars that I'd love to see. Mars will disappear behind the moon around 5:45 AM and then reappear again around 7:20 AM. Unfortunately the rain is supposed to start around 6 AM. Oh, well. I'll set an alarm anyway. If clouds cover the moon, I can always go back to bed and fret about the roof leaking.

I got a late start on my walk this afternoon. Since the days are getting longer, it's rare that I walk in the dark anymore. It was still quite warm and I didn't need a jacket, but it was very humid. It feels like rain is on the way. Jeez. What happened to yesterday's beautiful weather? Every day is a new day as far as the weather goes. I could use a little more consistency. You just never know what to expect.

I hope the roof doesn't leak tomorrow. I've run out of the silicon material and the roofer is still ignoring me. When the rainy season is over, I can consider making some more serious repairs, but for now it would be pointless. When it rains every few days, the roof just doesn't get dry enough. I'd like to feel confident about the roof before I leave for my trip to the observatory, but right now I'm not very confident about anything.

Rain or shine, I'll probably continue writing tomorrow. Once I've started something, it's hard to stop. I hope I can find someone who is interested in the Solar Orbiter article. This trip to Florida was very interesting and there is definitely a story worth telling. The main problem with the Solar Orbiter story is that it will be three to five years before it starts returning useful data. The anticipation of the launch is already over, but it's going to be a long time before we know if this thing works.

Will I see the moon and Mars tomorrow morning? Will I even wake up in time? It all remains to be seen

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

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Day 3706

Dawn got her first walk in the park today. She loved it. Before Dawn entered the rescue program, she had been used for breeding. We think she is about six years old and Lord knows how many litters of puppies she's had. She hasn't really had a chance to be a normal dog. You can tell she's trying to make up for lost time. It's been a joy to have this gentle girl around the house. Her wounds are healing nicely and every day she discovers something new.

Today was beautiful. The sky was clear and the temperature was around seventy five degrees. It was definitely not your typical Winter day. It wasn't surprising that the park was full of people today. Dawn encountered lots of other dogs on our walk and wasn't reactive to any of them. She just minded her own business and continued exploring new smells. This was really encouraging. Despite her recent attack, she appears willing to forget the past and move forward with her life. A person could learn a lot from this dog.

I stayed pretty active today. As far as I can remember, this was my first 25,000 step day. According to my watch, I set a personal best for exercise and activity. I might do this more often if every day was as nice as this. I had a good workout at the gym, came home and walked Dawn with Janet, then mowed the grass and took my regular five mile walk. You might wonder why I'd be mowing the grass in February. It wasn't really grass. Just a lot of Winter weeds. Weeds are a year round problem here in Texas.

I wish I had more silicon material because this would have been a great day to spread the stuff everywhere. It's still Winter and there are a lot more cold, wet days to come. I hope that I fixed the worst areas yesterday, but it's better to be safe than sorry. I probably should go to the roofing supply store and buy another bucket of this stuff in case we get a nice day like this again.

There were lots of small sailboats on the lake today. I think one of the sailing clubs was having a regatta. When we first moved here, I thought of getting a small sailboat. I'm glad I didn't. I doubt that I would have used it much. I rarely even use my kayak. It's nice living near the water, but I don't have a strong desire to be out on the water. I've seen too many large snakes swimming in the lake and I tend to believe the people who say the water is polluted. No thank you to water sports. I'll just stay on the shore and photograph pelicans.

Monday is our day to visit the kennel dogs but I'm not sure what we'll be doing tomorrow. Maybe Janet can go to the kennel while I stay home with Dawn. If Janet wants to stay home and have me go to the kennel, that would be fine too. We just don't want to leave Dawn for a long time before her stitches are removed. She could still make a mess of things if she started to scratch at the stitches and try to pull them out.

I've got a title for my Solar Orbiter article now. That's as far as I've gotten. No apologies. Did you really expect me to write on a day like this?

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

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Day 3705

Have you ever tried to change a password and gotten a dialog box that starts with "enter old password" before letting you enter a new one? Jeez. If I knew my old password, I wouldn't be needing a new one. We stopped using our petcam after it seemed to acquire a mind of it's own one evening. Now, we want to use it again with Dawn, but can't remember the password. The only alternative was to restore the camera's factory settings and install it all over again. This was a difficult process the first time and seemed even harder today. I guess I've lost a few more brain cells.

When I finally got the IP camera working again, I went up on the roof to see if it was dry enough to do some more repairs. Everything looked good. I took a tape measure and found the exact spot where the water was leaking in the kitchen. Now that everything is dry, I did see a small tear that could be causing the problem. I used the remaining silicon to cover this area and hoped for the best. The entire five gallon container is gone now. If this doesn't work, I'm going to have to buy another container of this expensive stuff and keep trying. The roofer has gone radio silent and doesn't answer the phone or e-mail. I have a feeling that I'm on my own now.

Dawn is doing so well now. She's become a member of the family. She's very comfortable around the house now and isn't bothered when we have to leave. Because she's a curious Dalmatian, I went to the storage warehouse and retrieved some more gates. We always gated our other dogs in a safe area when we had to leave. This gave them more space than keeping them in a crate and kept them from eating little things that would require a trip to the emergency vet. I'm never gone long, but it doesn't take a lot of time for a dog to get into trouble.

By the time I finished all my Saturday chores, I was surprised that I still had time for my walk. It was windy today, but the temperature was much warmer. I was tired by the time I returned home, but it was a nice day to be outside. All in all, I felt pretty productive today. I went grocery shopping, filled the car with gas, paid a few bills, reinstalled the petcam, and made some roof repairs.

I also watched the launch of the 13th Cygnus resupply mission on NASA TV this afternoon and wondered about traveling to Wallops Island. It's one of the few NASA launch sites I haven't visited yet. Wallops Island is pretty remote with few nearby hotels. There are no convenient airports either. Everyone I know who has gone to Wallops has loved the experience though. It's not high on my list, but one of these days I'll probably go there myself.

One thing I didn't do today was write. I still haven't started my Solar Orbiter article. I'm a procrastinator who is at his best staring at a deadline. With nobody demanding a finished article immediately, it's easy to keep saying "maybe tomorrow." The article will get written. I just don't know when.

One thing I'm sure I'll be doing tomorrow is going to the gym. Those 20,000 steps on Sundays don't walk themselves.

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

Friday, February 14, 2020

Day 3704 - Valentines Day

I wasn't going to go to Sprinkles this year, but then I remembered that Dawn had never had a Pupcake. I had to go. Pupcakes for the dogs has been part of our Valentines Day tradition for a very long time. It was nice that we have a dog around the house so we can continue this tradition for another year. I got some cupcakes for us as well, but this year the day was about Dawn. Janet and I are both really happy to have her as a houseguest.

It was a beautiful day, but the temperature was only in the twenties when I woke up this morning. No pipes froze and it was back above freezing by mid morning, but this was still very cold by Dallas standards.  I'm glad I removed all the water from the roof a few days ago. It would have all turned to ice by now.

I tried the new neighborhood restaurant this morning and it was terrible. I like a good breakfast taco as much as the next guy, but this wasn't the place for me. There was certainly plenty of food. I got my meal in one of those tin foil pie pans piled high with Chorizo, breakfast potatoes, and refried beans. There was a stack of flour tortillas so I could roll my own breakfast tacos, but the food got cold before I could finish it. I'm sure this gutbuster of a meal was exactly what most people wanted, but I should have gone back to the hotel and had French Toast. I wish I knew I was in the mood for a soothing meal before I had consumed a huge plate of Chorizo.

Janet had already left for the gym by the time I returned home. We've been leaving Dawn at home for short periods of time so she will gain some confidence about being alone. Dawn was fine, but I could tell she was glad that her people had returned. She gave me a big Dalmatian smile and started wagging her entire body. I waited until Janet returned to go on my walk. There was no sense in leaving Dawn alone again.

It didn't take me long to realize that this morning's breakfast was going to give me a major case of heartburn. When will I ever learn? I need to be eating cottage cheese and peaches for breakfast instead of  chorizo and refried beans. I thought that a long walk might settle my stomach, but all I got was sore feet. I should have listened to Dawn. I could tell she wanted me to take a nap with her.

I never did get started on my Solar Orbiter story today. I'm so slow that I ran out of time. I guess I was busy enough. I just didn't do what I intended. I paid some bills and took them to the post office. I went to Sprinkles and got cupcakes. I picked up some things for dinner at the grocery store. And I tried with limited success to bleach the stains from our recent roof leak out of the kitchen ceiling.

I'm sure my story would be easier to write if I had a deadline to meet. Deadlines motivate me. My recent trip was fascinating and there is definitely a story here. I just need to get it done before the Solar Orbiter becomes old news. Maybe tomorrow. The only thing that could stop me from writing tomorrow is roof repairs. The roof repairs do have a deadline. I need to find this leak before the next rains arrive.

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

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Day 3703

I felt foolish today when I got a letter from one of my editors, saying that he didn't always have time to respond to my mail because he gets 200 to 300 e-mail messages a day. Oops. I guess I've forgotten what it's like to be busy. I probably get 2 to 3 messages a day. I'm sure I still get tons of spam, but I don't even look at my spam folder anymore. Messages of any importance are few and far between. OK. Lesson learned. I guess I don't need to send long chatty letters to busy people.

I do need to get started on my article about the launch. I started editing pictures today and reviewing my notes. It usually takes me three or four days to finish an article. I don't think there is any hurry. I'm not even sure at this point if anyone wants the article. The magazine that sent me to Kennedy Space Center just wanted pictures this time. Writing is always good practice though. The more you write, the better you get.

Dawn still seems to be doing well. She seems a lot more comfortable now that the drainage tube has been removed from her neck. She's finished some of her meds as well and her pill schedule is less complicated. With every passing day Dawn gets a little closer to returning to her normal self. Dawn is a quiet, gentle girl. A lot of Dalmatians are constantly getting into trouble, but Dawn is a model of good behavior. This dog is the perfect companion for a solitary writer like myself. I like peace and quiet just as much as she does.

We're finally starting to see some blue sky again, but it still seems very cold. I think we're supposed to get a hard freeze tonight. I don't have to worry as much about setting the outdoor faucets to drip before a freeze anymore. They all leak anyway. I checked a few faucets in the back yard this evening and they were already dripping.

The roofer hasn't responded to my letter. I'm not really surprised. I have to be persistent to get any sort of response from the guy. The current forecast says it is supposed to get up to to 75 degrees this weekend. I hope this is true. If the weather gets warm enough, I'll use the last of the silicon material I have and do my best to stop the leak myself. I wish the roof wasn't such a problem but everyone has problems. This one just happens to be mine.

I just noticed that there's a new restaurant in the neighborhood. Maybe I'll give it a try tomorrow morning. I looked at the menu online and a brisket breakfast taco sounds pretty good right now. Dawn is getting comfortable around the house, so I think it will be fine to leave for an hour or so. I'm going to start writing my article tomorrow as well. I won't bother any editors though. I promise.

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