Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Day 3750

The world is starting to look like a Steven King novel. For the first time in years I was able to back out of the driveway during the afternoon rush hour without any worries about traffic. The streets were empty. I took some bills and a letter to my sister to the post office today and there were giant sheets of clear plastic hanging from the ceiling separating the postal employees from the customers. I saw no need to add to the madness and quickly dropped my mail in a letter box and left. I stopped by the bank on the way home and discovered that the lobby was closed but a drive thru window was still open. There were lots of cars at the drive thru, but I was already here, so I waited in line with everybody else. I guess a line of cars is social distancing. All the neighborhood stores and restaurants were closed and parking lots were empty. The lack of activity make me feel uneasy. In one empty parking lot there were two crazy people wandering around aimlessly and yelling loudly at nobody. Was this how The Stand started? I was glad to get back to my own house.

The park was almost empty this morning. Blocking the entrances has made a huge difference. I still saw my neighbors walking their dogs, along with a few cyclists and joggers, but that was it. It was almost like the old days before the city passed a big bond issue and decided to make the park a recreation destination. I enjoyed the solitude but I'm sure this is temporary. Someday the crowds will be back.

I don't know how she did it, but Janet managed to catch a urine sample from Dawn this morning. I haven't had any luck at all. Hopefully, Dawn doesn't have urate crystals or bladder stones. It is a common problem with Dalmatians and you often have to change their diet. Dawn really likes what we are feeding her now so I'd hate to have to switch to a different type of food.

Operating my computer from an external drive is going surprisingly well. The only problem is that the computer is painfully slow. If my company was still busy, fixing the damaged drive would be priority one. A slow computer doesn't seem to matter as much anymore. I'm equally slow. Just about the only thing I use the computer for anymore is writing the blog and storing Dalmatian pictures. I have a feeling that if I deleted all my old client files, I wouldn't even need a huge hard drive anymore.

When you hear on the news that 200,000 people in the United States could die from the virus, it makes you wonder whether you should leave the house at all. I guess you could have your groceries delivered, but who is actually delivering them? So few people are being tested that almost anyone could be a carrier. I still think long daily walks are healthy for both the body and the mind, but what do I know? What if the virus can be aerosolized and is floating around in the air? What if masks actually do work, but are still unavailable? Janet may be sewing masks instead of dog bandannas for next years Dalmatian Rescue gold tournament.

I'm starting to forget what day it is. They all seem the same.

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

Monday, March 30, 2020

Day 3749

The park is still open to pedestrians and cyclists, but all entrances have been blocked and there are signs saying that the park is closed to motorized vehicles. This seems to be something that is going to be enforced. I saw lots of parking enforcement cars and an increased police presence in the neighborhood this morning. This is a good thing for all the locals who love to walk their dogs in the park. These new rules should drastically decrease traffic within the park without changing things for Dawn and the neighborhood dogs at all. I wouldn't mind seeing then traffic rule becoming permanent. The park has become way too crowded in recent years anyway.

I still feel like defending the vast majority of dog walkers, joggers, and cyclists I've seen during the past week. They have all been very polite and make sure to keep their distance. I still see a few kids who seem determined to hang out with their friends, but even these groups are small. I think the city still allows groups of fewer than ten people to gather. I've never seen more than five kids walking together. These young people should still not be hanging out with non-family members, but I don't think they are a danger to anyone else in the park. It's a very large park and there's plenty of room to keep your distance. I still worry a lot more about going to the grocery store.

Crowds certainly weren't a problem today. It was cold and it rained a lot. Luckily Janet and I were able to walk Dawn and get our steps in before the weather turned ugly. We did get a lot of rain though. I'm pleased that both pumps on the roof are still working and no new leaks have appeared. The forecast shows more rain ahead, so I'm not going to be able to remove the standing water for quite a while. Fingers crossed. I hope my repair work continues to hold up.

I've transfered all the files on my desktop computer to three smaller external drives, but still haven't gotten the nerve to erase the damaged disk and see if I might be able to reformat it. As long as I'm still able to access data on the drive I might as well postpone this effort anyway. Once I erase the disk, the data is gone forever and there still might be something I need.

This is not a good time to be a hypochondriac. The media keeps bombarding us with information about how to tell if you might have the virus. Since many of the early signs are exactly the same as the flu or other minor illnesses, it's easy to wonder. If you feel winded after a run or long walk you automatically start thinking about your lungs. Are the normal aches and pains of growing older a sign of something worse? Is the virus really airborne as some people speculate? I try not to obsess about these things and remind myself that I feel fine.

Seasonal allergies are a bitch too. I've had bad Spring allergies for as long as I can remember. This is the worst time of year, when everything is growing and there is pollen everywhere. I've done a good job at refraining from sneezing when another person is anywhere in the vicinity, but it doesn't seem natural. If you have allergies, you sneeze a lot.

We're living in a time that is going to be in the history books, just like World War II and the Great Depression. I have no idea how this will end, but I would have definitely preferred my retirement years to be a little more uneventful.

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

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Day 3748

I spent a long time trying to salvage files today and reassemble them on an external hard drive so I can continue staring at a computer as I always do. I'm amazed at how prolific I've been over the years. There were hundreds of client folders filled with tens of thousands of work related files. There were even more pictures. Pictures and videos are what fills up a 4 terabyte hard drive. I was amazed to discover that I've taken over 50,000 Dalmatian pictures. Admittedly, some of the pictures are of other breeds. Dalmatian Rescue has been doing Santa Paw Christmas pictures for many years and I add thousands of Santa Photos to the folder every year. That still leaves a lot of Dalmatians though. Sometimes dogs aren't very cooperative. Occasionally I've had to take a 100 pictures to find one good enough to put on the website. There were thousands of pictures of Dot and Dash. It was kind of sad to see them fly by year after year on my screen as I was copying them to the new hard drive. I lead a solitary life, but you can't say I haven't been busy. I guess you can add over ten years of blog posts to everything else.

I guess the effort was worth it today. I've now got a working, bootable external drive that closely resembles what I had on the desktop computer. To get everything to fit on a much small drive, I threw away mountains of huge WeTransfer, Dropbox, and Zip files that clients sent me over the years. I almost always got way more input than I needed for writing jobs. I don't know why I saved all of my completed projects. Maybe it was just for nostalgia's sake. I actually liked working.

I'm starting to see tons of people posting on the Internet about how to cope with the coronavirus. It's tempting to add my own opinions, but few people would listen. As someone who chose social distancing as a lifestyle many years ago, I don't really have much to say about building a virtual community. I never even heard of Zoom until all this started. I'm not craving a hug either. Couldn't you all just learn to love isolation? It's actually very peaceful. Especially if you turn off the television and put away your phone.

I tend to take the long view on everything. That's why I like geology and astronomy so much. These fields study processes that take millions and even billions of years to complete. I keep hearing so much about global warming and destroying the planet. Do humans really think they can destroy the planet? The planet has been doing fine for billions of years. Humans are just a tiny blip in the grand scheme of things. Dinosaurs were around much longer than we've been here. What if plagues, ice ages, and the occasional asteroid strike are just nature's way of hitting the reset button. The coronavirus has only been around for a couple of months and already skies are starting to clear in many parts of the world. Life is slowing down. People are discovering that they don't have to spend hours each day on crowded freeways driving to work. Maybe we don't need all the things we compulsively buy. Maybe globalism wasn't such a great idea after. What if this was nature's plan all along? If we didn't have the wisdom and willpower to slow down on our own, she'd do it for us.

I hope the city doesn't shut down the parks. For the most part, all the walkers and cyclists have been acting vary responsibly and keeping their distance. If the city does close the parks, it won't be because of these people who love the outdoors. It will be because of the other people who are staying inside and complaining to the city on their phones about walkers and cyclists. Hey, don't try to shame me about social distancing. I'm the king of social distancing. I'm not going to get anywhere near you inside people. You're all batshit crazy.

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

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Day 3747

Finally, something has taken my attention away from the coronavirus. My main computer crashed late last night. What a giant pain. I'm having an almost impossible time salvaging 4 terabytes worth of data. Often you can restore a corrupted hard drive with special utility software, but this time I'm out of luck. The large hard drive is mechanically damaged and none of my disc utility software can save it. The computer won't boot up at all. It gets about halfway through the process and shuts off. To make matters even worse, all the Apple Stores in the country are closed right now. Who knows when stores will open again. Even smaller computer repair shops in Dallas are closed indefinitely.

I was finally able to copy some of the files on my damaged hard drive using an an emergency external start up disc. It's hard to copy 4 terabytes  of files though when you don't have another 4 terabyte drive. I think I managed to salvage my financial records and most of my photos and business files. A lot is lost forever though. I've still got my laptop, but it is only meant for travel and has a very small hard drive. I've lost most of my e-mail messages and a lot of my contacts. I shouldn't have any problems writing the blog, since I can post from both my laptop and my iPad. I imagine I could post from my phone as well, if the tiny virtual keyboard didn't drive me insane.

I was able to find fresh fruit at the grocery store. Actually, I was able to find just about everything on my list. The stores have done a pretty good job of restocking things, although there is still no toilet paper. There weren't a lot of people in the store when I went shopping this morning. I guess everyone has finally filled their homes with enough food and paper products to last until the next ice age. Not touching things is next to impossible. I wore some disposable latex gloves to get gas this morning because I've been reading that gas pumps are virus hotspots. I had to take the gloves off in the store though. The iPhone app I use to avoid the checkout line wouldn't work with the gloves on. When I finished shopping I completely forgot about the gloves and pushed my buggy out to the car with my bare hands. Lord knows how many times I've touched my face today.

I've seen a lot of couples where one person is wearing a mask and the other isn't. I see this in the park as well. Usually it is the wife that is wearing the mask. Nobody is sneezing though. I haven't heard anyone sneeze all week. This is a terrible time to have seasonal allergies. I'm always afraid I'm going to have to sneeze and I'll be thrown out of the store. So far, so good though. I haven't sneezed in public yet.

I finally know someone personally who has the virus. That didn't take long. This was a guy I met at a NASA event last year. He thinks he became infected at a business meeting a few weeks ago when he inadvertently shook the hand of a potential client who had flown in from out of town. The guy's wife has the virus too. Both are young and fairly healthy.

The park was full of people today. Everyone was keeping their distance, but it was clear that people were getting cabin fever. You can only stay inside for so long. It was a nice day and what else can you do when all the stores are closed? I hope things never get bad enough to require restricting outdoor movement. Some countries won't even let you walk your dog now. The people I see outdoors are doing the right thing. They are keeping their distance, while getting some much needed exercise.

Tomorrow, I'll return to salvaging as many files as I can before the damaged hard drive becomes completely inaccessible. I found a replacement drive on Amazon, but I don't know if I can install it myself. Fixing things on older Apple towers was easy. The new iMac models are much more difficult. Everything on my computer is crammed in a small space behind the 27" screen and is almost impossible to access or remove. Some parts are even glued together so you can't remove them. The last time I replaced a hard drive I had the folks at Experimac do the work. They've gone out of business though. All stores I like eventually go out of business.

So far, Janet and I are feeling fine. Hope that all of you are as well.

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

Friday, March 27, 2020

Day 3746

I finally heard from Sky and Telescope today. As I suspected, my manuscript wound up in the editor's spam folder again. I don't know why this happens so frequently, but it does make it difficult to communicate. At least the manuscript is in the right hands now and will be reviewed shortly. I really hope the editors like my article. I'll feel a lot more like an astronomy writer after I get a few things published.

Life still consists mostly of meals and long walks. It's easy for me to forget that it's been that way for a very long time. All I have to do is turn on the television and I'm easily convinced that I'm under a very restrictive quarantine. Maybe I'd go out to eat a little more often or wander around local shops when I'm bored, but basically I'll be living exactly the same way when the world returns to normal.

The pandemic has made me wonder about a few things. Why aren't they fixing the roads now? Traffic may never be this light again. I can't imaging that the construction workers would be in much danger. Most of them would be working alone inside their own excavators and bulldozers. This seems like a perfect opportunity to get some much needed work done without disrupting anything.

I also wonder whether we've gotten everything wrong about the virus. What if it was actually spreading around the globe much earlier than we currently believe. Maybe it spreads incredibly easily, but takes much longer than we think to register positive on current tests. Maybe all of us already have the virus but just don't know it. We really need to develop a reliable test to measure whether some of us already have antibodies to the virus. Right now we don't have a clue who actually is infected until they show up at the hospital. It's all about statistics. If a lot more people actually have the virus than we think, the mortality figures start to look less alarming.

I felt more comfortable walking Dawn in a harness today. She's actually learning to heal and walks very well on a leash, but she has a smaller head than our previous Dalmatians. In retrospect, it was pretty easy for her to slip out of her collar. Maybe we should investigate those wide collars that Greyhound owners often use.

Most of the people I see in the park are doing an excellent job of social distancing. The one exception seems to be young people who are still hanging out with their friends. I still see them walking in fairly large groups that are clearly not family members. It's still hard for me to understand people who don't enjoy being alone. It's peaceful being alone. I'm not going to judge, but I don't need a hug.

I will concede that petting a dog might be good for you. I'm enjoying having Dawn around. She is a difficult dog to get a urine sample from though. We've been following her around with a ladle every morning and haven't succeeded yet. Dawn squats very quickly and we haven't been quick enough to capture a sample. It's much easier to get a sample from a male dog. We do need another urinalysis though to figure out whether she has crystals.

I'm not looking forward to going to the grocery store tomorrow, but it's time to look for more fresh fruit. All I really need are strawberries and blueberries. I'll try to be quick.

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

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Day 3745

Dawn gave me a scare today. She got spooked by something in the park and pulled out of her collar. It all happened very fast. Luckily, she stayed put when I told her to stay and I was quickly able to put her collar back on. She will be wearing a harness from now on. Dogs are full of surprises. You really can't ever take anything for granted.

I'm still having a hard time wrapping my head around the idea of exponential growth. I'm starting to believe the people who say that eventually we will all get the virus. The number of people who are testing positive in Dallas is certainly increasing at an alarming rate. Interestingly, the wealthiest parts of town are getting sick the fastest. I guess this makes sense because these would be the people who travel the most.

I'm certainly not going anywhere these days. If we use our food wisely, we won't have to go to the grocery store for a long time. I have no desire to go to a grocery store. This is the one place where people still gather in crowds. I still feel good about going on long walks. People are keeping their distance in the park. There were fewer people today as well. There aren't many families walking with kids anymore. I think a lot of folks quickly discovered that it was a lot easier to park the kids in front of the TV or a Playstation.

I watched the Atlas 5 AEHF-6 launch on YouTube this afternoon. Some of my Florida friends were placing remote cameras near the launch pad. I wish I was there. I might not be going back to Florida anytime soon though. Many states including Florida are now starting to restrict incoming travel from other states. Southwest Airlines has already canceled 1500 flights. I saw a picture yesterday of a plane going to Houston with only one passenger. These are definitely strange times.

The Bluebonnets are here. Usually this is a photo opportunity with vast fields of the flowers within an easy drive. I'll have to remain content with the flowers I see in the park this year. The park is filled with wildflowers in the Spring, but Bluebonnets aren't as common as you might think. Spring has definitely arrived. The trees are green now and I'm seeing new varieties of flowers every week. What I'm not seeing anymore is the baby owl. The young owl has definitely flown the nest.

The weather was quite warm today. The air conditioner is coming on more often now. One benefit of warmer weather is that it's easier to remove rain water from the roof. When I went up on the roof this morning to clear away standing water I was surprised at how little water remained from our recent rain. The water evaporates quickly on a hot day. A dry roof is a small thing, but you've got to start somewhere.

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

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Day 3744

Hey, I'm doing my part. My car hasn't left the driveway all week. With the exception of a short trip to the vet yesterday, Janet's car hasn't moved much either. I can't say that my behavior has changed. I've been living this way for years. Janet is the only person I talk to regularly and I frequently drive less than ten miles a week. Isolation isn't all that bad. For many, many years I made a good income writing and designing websites from a computer in our spare bedroom.

It seems strange and somewhat disorienting to see people turning to things I've been doing for decades. Videoconferencing, working from home, ordering supplies online, maintaining a home network, and learning to tolerate long periods of silence and isolation are all skills I mastered years ago. I wonder how many people are going to decide that this is actually a better way to live when the pandemic is over?

I think people are already discovering the benefits of being outdoors. I see more people in the park than I've seen in years. I see them doing yoga, practicing kickboxing, and lifting weights, as well as the usually walking and cycling. Parents are taking their kids on long walks. I suspect that most of them are trying to wear the kids out so they will take a long nap and let the parents get some work done when they get home. Seems like a good plan to me. We all keep our distance in the park and hope nobody tries to force us indoors. There aren't a lot of things you can do proactively to stay healthy. I'm convinced that exercise and getting some good outdoor air into your lungs is a good place to start.

Local grocery stores are starting to limit the number of people inside the stores. In theory this is a good idea, but all it really does is cause people to bunch together at the store entrance waiting to get in. I wonder when the panic buying will stop? Eventually everyone is bound to have enough rice, bread, beans, and toilet paper.

I'm already starting to see used gloves and masks littering parking lots. This is insanity, but I'm really not surprised. For years I've seen people in the park pick up their dog poop in poop bags and then just throw the bags in the woods. What does this prove? There are plenty of trash cans in the park. Leaving a sealed poop bag in the hot sun is worse than doing nothing at all. Dog poop is biodegradable. Poop sealed in a bag and not disposed of properly probably becomes radioactive or something.

I wonder where all these people throwing away used masks and gloves in grocery store parking lots are getting them? You certainly can't find these items in stores yet. We still have lots of purple surgical gloves left over from Dash's chemo treatments. No masks though. When I administered Dash's meds every day, I couldn't touch the Palladia pills. They were very toxic and I had a complicated cleanup procedure to follow. Even Dash's poop was toxic and had to be disposed of properly. Washing my hands frequently seems simple by comparison.

One of the most enjoyable things about Spring is that there are new wildflowers to enjoy every single week. The Prairie Verbena arrived this week. These little purple flowers have always been one of my favorites.

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

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Day 3743

We took Dawn to the vet today. It wasn't the first time she's been to the vet. All the Dalmatian Rescue dogs get an extensive vet check when they enter the rescue program. She also spent several days at the emergency vet after she was attacked by the two pit bulls. This was the first time she'd seen our own vet though. It was good to see some familiar faces again, although neither Janet or I had expected to be back in an exam room so soon.

It was reassuring to confirm that Dawn was reasonable healthy. Since she had worms when the rescue group picked her up, we wanted to make sure that the first treatment was effective. Hookworms can be difficult to eradicate. Dawn's heart seemed strong and there was no telltale murmur that might indicate an enlarged heart. We did an ultrasound and it is possible that she might be a stone forming Dalmatian. Urate bladder stones are common in Dalmatians. We'll have to see the results of her urinalysis to confirm this. The vet thought that her front teeth were worn not from age, but by being caged for long periods of time. She was used as a breeding dog in her former life and never got a chance to live the life she deserved. Apparently she really is six year old. We thought she was much older. Considering that she has had a hard life, she is still very healthy.

We hadn't seen our regular vet since Dash died and it was nice to catch up on things. The clinic was quieter than usual for obvious reasons. I was glad they were still seeing patients. The place was sparkling clean and the entire staff had done an excellent job of adapting to the coronavirus threat. If only the grocery stores could do this well.

Our visit to the vet reminded me how expensive owning a dog can be. I told Dawn that she's going to be just fine until we go bankrupt. The stock market had a massive rebound today, but I don't think it means anything. It is too early for things to return to normal. It took me so long to get back to even after the 2008 crash that I knew I never wanted to do this again. Surprise. I'm going to have to pick up the pieces and rebuild all over again. I'm too old for this. Even if I do some smart strategic buying when the market finally bottoms, this is going to take a long time.

I know the virus is a serious health threat, but I wish the media would quit trying to instill fear in everyone. The media always loves a catastrophe. Jeez. This is not the zombie apocalypse. It's easy to forget how many people die every single day from other causes. If the media covered deaths from cancer, suicides, gunshot wounds, and car accidents with the same relentlessly zeal they're using to cover this virus, we'd be living in fear for the rest of our lives.

I guess most of the new safety guidelines seem reasonable to me. I've been staying at least six feet away from other people for most of my life. It doesn't bother me to shun crowds. I hate crowds. I've always gone shopping when other people are working just to avoid them. I think the real danger we are facing isn't the virus. It is a lack of common sense. If people used common sense and always acted rationally, I'm convinced that the dire problems we're facing now wouldn't be nearly as bad.

Hang in there guys. I'm glad some of you are still making funny memes. We still need to smile.

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

Monday, March 23, 2020

Day 3742

If we all die it will be because of a basic lack of common sense instead of the coronavirus. I really wonder about people. We are not running out of food. If we all just started shopping normally again, there wouldn't be shortages of anything. You don't have to stay indoors either. Just stay away from other people. I could be wrong, but I still think outdoor air and lots of exercise is good for you. And couldn't the people we elected just quit fighting for a while? Is it really that hard to pass a bill that would give hospitals and first responders what they need without trying to pack it with a long wish list of pet projects? Democrats and Republicans are equally guilty of this. I don't understand why quarantined senators and representatives aren't allowed to vote. Do you really have to physically be on the floor of the senate to vote? This is silly. It is just political gamesmanship with one side trying to gain an advantage over the other. There ought to be a way to test for antibodies, so people who have developed an immunity to the virus can get back to work. A complete shutdown just isn't sustainable for very long. The deaths ought to be put in context too. I suspect that a lot more people are still dying from auto accidents and gunshot wounds than from the virus here in the United States.

I went to the audio repair shop to pick up my Sequential Circuits synthesizers this morning. The employees were all wondering how long they could stay in business without musicians. Live music venues throughout Texas are all closed. There are no concerts either. Working musicians aren't thinking about repairing their equipment these days. They are more likely to be thinking about pawning something.

The head electrician who owns the company came over to look at my switch today. He said a lot of his younger employees didn't want to go into people's homes anymore because they had young children at home. I guess that's understandable. I have no desire to go into other people's homes these days either. The electrician did figure out what was wrong with my switch and said he could order a part to fix it. You can always depend on the old guys to actually fix things.

The baby owl has been gone from its nest for several days now. I'm thinking now that I may have seen the owl on the day it finally decided to fly. It was tentatively flexing its wings when I was photographing it. I suspect that both baby owls are still in the area. I hope they stick around. Since owls have taken up residence in our neighborhood, there has been a noticeable decrease in the number of mice and rats we see in the yard.

I finished my article about McDonald Observatory and sent it to the editor at Sky and Telescope. Now I wait. Unfortunately, I'll probably have to wait a long time. This magazine is not terrible responsive. I often wait weeks, wondering whether my e-mail has wound up in someone's spam folder. Since this has happened before, it is a concern. I think my article turned out pretty well. I hope the editors agree.

Dawn got another long walk today. Luckily, walking your dog is still acceptable under the new citywide lockdown. I see more people in the park lately, but social distancing isn't a problem. Most of the people we saw today were several hundred yards away.

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

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Day 3741

It was almost inevitable. Dallas, like many other large cities, is now under a lockdown. The new "Shelter in Place" rules go into effect tomorrow. I'm not sure if there will be many changes for Janet and I. We can still go to the grocery store and we can still take walks in the park as long as we stay at least six feet away from other people. It's a big park and other people are usually at least 300 yards away. I don't think this is going to be a problem. Maybe the new rules will make a difference. I hope so. There are already a lot of people testing positive in Dallas County and we aren't even testing many people yet.

So far, life seems normal until I turn on the television. Apparently, the world is ending but I just keep on having my morning smoothie, taking long walks in the park, and minding my own business. I never realized it before, but I've been sheltering in place for years. When this is all over, maybe introverts will finally get the respect they deserve.

I saw a meme this morning that said that people with seasonal allergies have become the new Salem Witches. It certainly feels that way. Every Spring my eyes start watering and I find myself sneezing a lot. I'm glad that most of this sneezing takes place when I'm alone in my office at home. It wouldn't go over very well in an office cube environment. You feel very self conscious when sneezing becomes unacceptable behavior. When I felt a sneeze coming on at mealtime at the Astronomers Lodge last week, I would excuse myself and go back to my room to sneeze. Sneezing and coughing was starting to be unacceptable even then. I'm sure things have gotten much worse.

The park was pretty empty today because it was a rainy day.  There were still plenty of people walking their dogs though. I've noticed that people do keep their distance when they pass on the trails. Generally the people I see in the park are much more polite than the people I encounter at the grocery store. If this virus really gets out of hand, it will be because of all the people hoarding toilet paper.

Dawn has her first appointment with our regular vet on Tuesday. I'm not sure how the new lockdown rules affect veterinarians. I'll have to call and see if we need to reschedule. If the vet still feels comfortable seeing us, we'll probably still go. I'm also supposed to get my second shingles shot tomorrow. I'm pretty sure that this will be classified as an unnecessary visit and will need to be postponed. No a problem really. There is a pretty wide window to get this second shot. Any time within the next three or four months is OK.

I told the audio repair shop that I would pick up my Sequential Circuits synthesizers tomorrow. It is becoming clear that they aren't going to sell and they want them out of the shop. Since all local businesses are supposed to remain closed during the lockdown, the synthesizers might need to stay a while longer though. One more thing to check tomorrow.

I still don't know anyone personally who has become sick. Friends of friends have become sick though. The disease is getting closer. A friend who lives in rural Kentucky and likes to hunt and fish has invited us to come and stay if all hell breaks loose. "We're all hillbillies up here, but we've already got a six month supply of food," he told me. I'm still hoping for the best, but the offer might sound pretty good a few months from now.

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

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Day 3740

The baby owls have really grown since I saw them last. I initially mistook one of the babies for the mother this afternoon. A closer look quickly revealed that I was looking at one of the babies, but it was still surprising to see how quickly they had developed. Evidently, young Great Horned Owls eat four times as much as adults, causing them to grow very quickly. The mom isn't around as much these days, but still returns almost every day to feed her children mice and encourage them to fly.

I think there are a lot more doomsday preppers than I ever would have imagined. I can't believe how much food people are buying. When I went to Sam's Club this morning to get some necessities, I saw people with enough food to last them for an entire year. Several people with large SUV's had the entire back of their cars stuffed to the ceiling with food and paper products.

It's easy to see how panic buying escalates. Literally everyone in the store had a big package of paper towels in their buggy, so I got one too. It wasn't a brand that I usually buy, but who cares when you are facing the apocalypse. I certainly hope people don't decide to start using paper towels as toilet papers. If that happens there are going to be some major plumbing problems.

I finally found some distilled water, oatmeal, and blueberries. I never realized that so many people need distilled water. I use it to prevent mineral scale from building up in my coffee maker. Other people use it for more important things, like preventing their Dalmatians from developing stones and keeping CPAP machines running properly.

I wonder when these Spring rains are going to end? I spent so much time clearing the roof of water yesterday and now it's raining again. Water on the roof is my own private version of the Sisyphus myth. The gods who condemned Sisyphus thought that there is no more dreadful punishment than futile and hopeless labor. They were probably right. At least the roof isn't leaking.

I think dogs are loving this pandemic. I've never seen so many people walking their dogs in the park. It's good that people are becoming more active. They seem to becoming kinder too. I wonder how long this will last when the pandemic is finally over? I think the panic buying will finally subside when people realize they have more food than they could possible use. Maybe people will continue to drive less as well. One can only hope. I hope some of these new behaviors become permanent.

It's a shame that I won't be able to go to the gym tomorrow. Our options for doing things away from home continue to grow smaller. Janet and I did do our part to support local restaurants by ordering a pizza from a little neighborhood restaurant that makes a good pie.

My dealer told me that I sold a few more brass trains today. It's kind of astonishing that anyone is still buying railroad collectibles during the apocalypse, but it's fine by me. Today's sales almost paid for my trip to McDonald Observatory. I still don't have the nerve to look at my brokerage account. Janet and I have both lost a lot of money, but it's better at this time not to know how much.

The lesson of this week is that life goes on no matter what happens. We adjust to things and establish new priorities. I hope you guys are all doing well. Nobody I know has died yet. I hope I can say the same thing next week.

Big Boy is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Friday, March 20, 2020

Day 3739

Maybe I'm fooling myself, but I'd like to think that all my long walks are keeping me healthy. What's not to like. Walking burns calories, strengthens your heart and lungs, lowers your blood sugar, increases bone density, reduces the risk of stroke, improves circulation and posture, and enhances creativity. Will my five mile daily walks keep me from getting the coronavirus? Hard to say. It certainly doesn't hurt to stay in shape though.

Dawn seems to agree with me. She loves her daily walks. I don't think she ever got a good walk before. All we have to do is show her a leash and harness and she's ready to go. It's fun to watch her explore and smell everything in her path. It's amazing that something so simple can bring so much joy to a dogs life. It's good to have a dog around again. Dogs have their priorities straight.

The pandemic keeps inching closer and closer to home. There has been a death in Dallas in the last few days and someone has tested positive in our own neighborhood. Janet and I still feel healthy and hope to stay that way. I think social distancing is working, but I feel sorry for all the small businesses that no longer have any customers. I took some letters to the post office this morning and a nearby strip mall was virtually empty. A lot of little shops and restaurants aren't going to make it if this national quarantine goes on much longer.

I went ahead and applied for press credentials for the upcoming Space X Crew Dragon launch that is supposed to take place in late May. This is a big one, since it will mark the first time American astronauts will travel to the International Space Station on an American rocket since the Space Shuttle program ended in 2011. The launch could easily get postponed, especially since NASA has already shut down the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans and the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. Who knows. The world could change a lot by mid-May. I'm going to stay optimistic though.

I'm also going to stay in touch with the astronomers at McDonald Observatory. I wrote one of my new friends today and asked hime to let me know when the 82" Otto Struve telescope is eventually rescheduled for another all night special viewing session. I would still really like to spend some time behind the eyepiece of this historic telescope. With all the disruptions caused by the coronavirus, it is doubtful that the telescope would be available until late this Summer. It's going to happen sometime though, and I want to be first in line.

I wish people would stop hoarding food. It forces you to go to the grocery store a lot more often than necessary. There is plenty of food. There is even plenty of toilet paper if people would just continue to shop normally. Panic buying forces you to go to the store frequently, just to see if the empty shelves have been refilled. One day you buy water. The next day you buy bananas.  I just hope there is still a steady supply of fresh fruit for my morning smoothie.

Life is still pretty normal for me. I spent the afternoon clearing water from the roof. Both pumps have become clogged with catkins from our remaining Oak trees. The roof was a mess, but apparently the patches I made recently are working. Despite an abundance of rain, we haven't seen any more leaks.

Baxter is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Thursday, March 19, 2020

Day 3738

The Crane Flies are back. I hate these things. They are like spiders with wings and every Spring thousands of them seem to gather by the back door, just waiting to get inside. I'm finding Crane Flies in every room of the house. They're slow and easy to catch, but they are a big nuisance. I've even found them inside the refrigerator.

The electrician came over today to fix the light switch in Janet's bathroom. As luck would have it, the switch wasn't made anymore and the replacement that the electrician thought would work wasn't compatible with the house wiring. Simple things always seem to turn into complicated things with this house. The electrician got the bathroom light and the exhaust fan working again, but a third switch on the receptacle that controls some exterior lighting is still inactive. I told the electrician to come back if he could figure out how to control all three circuits with a modern switch. It isn't critical though. The light works again and that was all that really mattered. Apparently, there are backflow problems with my house wiring. I'm not sure what that means at the moment, but it's one more thing to learn about.

Dawn was scared of the electrician. She didn't bark or anything. She just sat in the center of the bed and shivered. It's sad to see her frightened of anything new. It's understandable though. Dogs remember things and I'm sure she's had some very bad experiences in her life. At least she trusts Janet and I now. It's going to be a long, slow learning process to get her to trust the rest of the world.

I asked the electrician how he was coping with the virus and his reaction was about the same as mine. If everything you know is delivered by a media you don't entirely trust, how can you know what is true? I'm definitely keeping my distance from people, but I would be doing that anyway. The weird thing is that nothing has changed in my life. Nobody has sent me home from work. I have no children or older parents to worry about. If I don't show symptoms in another week or so, it's a pretty safe bet that I didn't catch anything from star party guests at the observatory. It's unlikely that any of these people were infected anyway, but anything is possible.

I got a notice that NASA was taking applications for media accreditation for the first Crew Dragon flight to the ISS in mid-May. Will the virus have subsided by then, or will things be even worse? It's impossible to tell at the moment. I think I'll apply anyway. A lot can happen in two months. I'll have to ask the British magazine that has been publishing my articles to send me to Kennedy Space Center, but I have a feeling that this won't be a problem. The real problem will be whether I have the nerve to get on a plane again after the pandemic runs its course.

I finished the first draft of my Sky and Telescope article today. I'll still need to do some editing, but I'm pleased so far. It's been so long since I initially proposed the McDonald Observatory article that I'm not sure the magazine is still interested. It doesn't hurt to be optimistic though. I think the article is pretty good.

I took the trash out to the curb, but it doesn't look like I'll be going out to breakfast tomorrow. All the restaurants in town are closed.

Pringles is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Day 3737

It's going to be a very long Spring. They say that new cases of the coronavirus won't begin to peak for another 45 days. Even if infections begin to decrease after that point, it's going to be mid-Summer before life returns to normal. I hope the experts are wrong. I'm not really prepared for toilet paper riots at the grocery store.

So far, nothing has changed for me. The only time I left the house was for my long walk. Janet and I walk Dawn three miles every day and then I continue walking another two miles by myself. Janet has started jogging, since she can't go to the gym anymore. We may be bored, but we're going to be in good shape.

I started writing my Sky and Telescope article today. The first draft is almost done, but the article will need considerable editing before I'm ready to submit it to the magazine. So far, so good. I've got some human interest stories about life at the observatory. There are descriptions of the astronomical targets I viewed through the 36-inch Dall-Kirkham telescope. There are side trips to the Tull Spectrograph and the Hobby-Eberly Telescope. I think this will be interesting to other amateur astronomers, but what do I know. I hope the article gets published. Sky and Telescope actually pays for articles.

The house continues to deteriorate. A light fixture in Janet's bathroom quit working today. I can't decide whether to problem is in the wiring or in the switch that controls the light. I just finished paying the electrician for his last visit to the house, but it looks like I'm going to have to call him again. The problem isn't a bad bulb and I'm not all that good with wiring. I took the fixture apart and couldn't find any loose or burned wiring. Anything beyond that and I'm likely to electrocute myself.

My taxes are done. Once again I owe money. It doesn't seem fair that I'm paying more now than I was when I was working. It makes a big difference when you have nothing to deduct. I sure wish I had converted my IRA to a Roth IRA a long time ago. The mandatory distributions all count as earned income. It would have made a lot more sense to pay the taxes upfront when I was making a good income rather than now when I am living on a fixed income.

Dawn becomes more relaxed with every passing day. It is clear that she calls our place home now. Sudden movements still spook her, but that's understandable. After the way she was attacked, I don't think she will ever be completely comfortable approaching strange dogs again. She's certainly got a personality. I've never seen a Dalmatian smile quite as often as Dawn does.

I certainly hope the medical experts are right. Shutting down the entire country is pretty drastic. I've been around a long time and have never seen anything like this. Our collective reaction to 9/11 wasn't nearly this severe. I guess this is a perfect storm. What we have is a fear of financial ruin combined with a fear of dying. That pretty much covers all the bases. A lot of senior citizens are going to lose their savings. A lot of younger people are going to lose their jobs. Some people are going to lose their lives. Any way you look at it, this pandemic is not good.

Luckily, we're not running out of toilet paper and there's enough food in the freezer to last for quite a while. I'm going to take things one day at a time.  What else can you do.

Nick is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Day 3736

I'm still getting used to the new normal. Lots of people were walking their dogs in the park today. There were more people without dogs as well. Hey, exercise and fresh air are good things. There was a lot less traffic as well. In Dallas that's a great thing. It's ironic that now that the roads are finally clear, there is no place to go. I feel bad for all the restaurants and small businesses in our neighborhood. Nobody is going anywhere. I wonder if some of these restaurants will survive.

The grocery stores are still doing well. If you're going to get the coronavirus, it will probably happen in a grocery store. This is the only place left where people tend to congregate. Everyone is still looking for water and toilet paper. I saw several people waiting for the bus carrying big packages of toilet paper and nothing else.

I don't think I need to worry about a lack of fruit and fresh vegetables. The produce aisles in most stores are still well stocked. Apparently, people can go without food, but not without toilet paper. I'm having trouble finding distilled water for my coffeemaker. Is there anything special about distilled water? I initially thought it would be easier to find than regular bottled water. I can't find rubbing alcohol either. I guess people started buying that when the stores ran out of hand sanitizer.

My life hasn't changed much. I've been living in a semi isolated state for decades. Even when my business was busy, I rarely saw clients face to face. Most of my business was conducted over the Internet. It's amazing how much you can get done when you aren't distracted by meetings and office politics. I have a feeling that when this pandemic has run its course, a lot of people aren't going to want to go back to work. Working from home isn't so bad.

I'm really glad I got to attend the Solar Orbiter launch and spend a week out at McDonald Observatory before the world changed. Those were the only trips I had planned this Spring anyway. Lots of people's vacations are being rescheduled as we speak. This is definitely not the time to be visiting Italy or taking a cruise. This won't last forever though. I have a feeling that there are going to be some tremendous travel bargains later in the year.

I hope that large companies and our own government are finally starting to realize that it's not a good idea to outsource production to countries that can make the stuff cheaper. Wouldn't you rather pay a little more for your medicine in return for the security that it was always going to be there when you need it. We could solve so many problems if we made our own stuff again. I can remember when every little town had a factory. It was these thousands of factories that kept people employed and helped our parents and grandparents win World War II.

Mistakes have been made, but hopefully we can learn from them. Personally, I hope that things don't return to normal when all this is over. I like the fact that there is dramatically less traffic on the roads. Maybe we'll all discover that we don't need to drive as much. They say air quality has improved as well. There are already dramatic air quality improvement in China because their factories aren't churning out an endless supply of things we don't really need. Could we solve the global warming problem just by consuming less? It's worth a try.

I hope I don't get the virus. I hope you don't either. Until the panic subsides, I'll just continue doing what I've always done. I'll make my smoothie in the morning. I'll take long walks by myself. I'll get to know Dawn a little better. And I'll write my blog in the evening. As far as I'm concerned, life is good.

Allie is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Monday, March 16, 2020

Day 3735

I'm glad I went to the gym yesterday. I got an e-mail this morning saying that they were closing until further notice. Stores are closing. Restaurants are closing. The world as we know it is starting to disappear. No wonder people are buying everything in the grocery stores. Things are changing so rapidly that it's hard to tell what is going to happen next.

Janet and I both went back to get more groceries today. I think we've got plenty of food for at least a month. As luck would have it, they were restocking the bottled water when I went to the store, so I added to our supply. Janet got extra food for Dawn and lots of things we can freeze. We've got plenty of food, water, medicine, and household supplies now. Eventually we'll use all these things, but I hope our lives don't depend on them.

It's weird that everything is closing to keep people from congregating, but the grocery stores are still full. There was no social distancing at the store I went to today. The place was packed and people were buying like there was no tomorrow. It's hard to know what to buy for the apocalypse. If things really do get bad, I imagine that most of us will realize that we bought the wrong things.

I heard that the stock market had it's worst day in history, dropping 3,000 points in today's session. This is not good. A lot of small businesses will be wiped out. It's sad to see so many restaurants closing. Owning a restaurant is not easy during the best of times. I hope all my favorite places survive. When this all blows over, there is going to be a huge desire to go out to eat again. Canned beans and tuna fish are going to get real old after a while.

This is a bad time to lose faith in the media. There is so much information floating around and it's almost impossible to tell which of it is true. I was feeling pretty good when I read that if you could hold your breath for ten seconds, your lungs were in good shape and it was unlikely you had the virus. On a good day I can hold my breath for thirty seconds. Later, I was disappointed to read that this test was bogus and had nothing to do with the coronavirus. The theory that drinking lots of hot tea or other hot liquids will kill the virus turns out not to be true either.

It looks like I'll have plenty of time to write my Sky and Telescope article. I'll start writing tomorrow before the memories begin to fade. Even though my trip to McDonald Observatory was cut short, I had some very memorable experiences. It was an amazing week. If I can manage to turn my time on the mountain into an article worthy of publication, a little home quarantine might even be worth it.

I wonder if society is going to fundamentally change after this pandemic runs its course and things return to normal? I can't remember a time where we were all actively encouraged to stay away from each other. It would be ironic and even a little funny if a lot of people started living like me. What if people discovered that living in relative isolation wasn't all that bad? It's been my little secret until now. If you stay away from people, you automatically remove most of the things that cause you stress.

I don't think my life will change all that much, even if we are in a lockdown. I've been known to go weeks without leaving the house even when things were normal. I doubt that anyone will ban walks in the park. Outdoor air and exercise are good for you. I guess we'll all just have to wait and see what happens. This is all new. I have no idea what will happen next, but I hope it ends well.

Ruthie is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Sunday, March 15, 2020

Day 3734

I'm glad my gym was still open this morning. There were a few additional signs about wiping down the machines after use, but just about everyone did that anyway. The only changes I noticed were that the water bottle and paper cups had been removed from the water dispenser and all the magazines had been removed from the magazine rack. All the gym rats were still there. I don't think anything would deter these people from exercising.

The gym seemed comforting and familiar, but the grocery store certainly didn't. I've never seen the shelves so empty. Bottled water, toilet paper, cleaning products, diapers, and many other items were completely gone. There was a long line of people waiting for something at the back of the store. I don't know what they were waiting for. When I got my items and left the store, the line was still there and nobody had moved.

When I went to pick up a prescription at a pharmacy located inside a different grocery store, the situation was the same. Empty shelves everywhere. Conditions like these are what causes panic buying. You can't help but thinking that all the other people must know something you don't.

Before I headed home again, I went to Home Depot to look for an in-line dimmer switch for a floor lamp in the living room that had broken. Apparently they don't make these things anymore. I needed to find something to turn the lamp on and off and ended up buying a WiFi plug that claimed it would let me switch things on and off with my phone. The high tech switch turned out to be even harder to connect to the network than our new petcam, but I ultimately got it to work.

It's raining pretty hard now, so the time I spent on the roof removing all the standing water this afternoon was a totally wasted effort. Janet said the pumps on the roof were working while I was gone, but they must not have been working well. There was a lot of water on the roof. This roof is almost as frustrating as the virus. The problems never seem to end.

Janet and I both thought we had plenty of food on hand, but rumors are swirling now about a 14-day lockdown. We both made a list of things we might need if the grocery stores and restaurants were closed and will go shopping again tomorrow. Most of the things we like to eat are only available fresh, but a lot of fresh meat and vegetables can be frozen. We'll try to be creative. Neither of us plan on eating canned beans for the next month.

Dawn doesn't appear to be afraid of storms at all. There is lots of thunder and lightning right now and she is snoozing calmly on the bed. Dawn has seen some hard times in her life, but she seems to have learned to handle almost anything. She is one of the most calm and well adjusted Dalmatians I've ever seen. If the world continues to go to hell in a handbasket, she'll be good to have around.

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you already know that I'm not a big fan of globalism. I wonder if people will start listening to me now? We need to start making the things we need ourselves again and quit being so dependent on China. What we are seeing now is what happens when you outsource everything just to save a few bucks. It is unbelievably that we get most of our medicine from China. Who let this happen? We need to rethink a lot of things as a country. I hope we can finally put and end to all our political bickering and get to work.

Carmine is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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