Sunday, May 31, 2020

Day 3811

I watched the astronauts arrive at the International Space Station this morning. It must have taken them two hours to open the door to their spacecraft. These guys had a checklist for everything. Even the most minute proceedure was followed to the letter. I'm a methodical person, but this blew me away. I kept thinking that we should all be a bit more like this. If we had an exhaustive checklist for our daily activities and actually followed it, we could avoid so much trouble.

My checklist would be pretty basic. Make your bed every morning. Brush your teeth. Eat a decent breakfast. If you have a dog or a child, take care of their needs before your own. Don't be in a hurry. And never skip an item on your list. You get the idea. I'm a big believer in leading a disciplined life. I've always been suspicious of people who let their emotions get the best of them. Emotions aren't to be trusted. I'm much more comfortable when someone acts like Spock on those old Star Trek shows.

I think the past three months have been defined by strong emotions. First there was the fear caused by the coronavirus followed almost immediately by the anger caused by the death of George Floyd. I guess fear and anger are pretty basic. I get scared and angry too. I don't really think these emotions solve anything though. There's got to be a better way.

I cringe whenever I hear someone say "we're all in this together." Jeez. "Don't drag me into this," I think. I prefer to solve problems by withdrawing and thinking through things on my own. Of course, this kind of attitude will never solve the problems of society. At best it will only allow you to live outside of society. Is that so bad though? I felt happy when I was the only person inside the huge dome of the 107" telescope at the top of a lonely mountain in West Texas. I could live this way. Maybe I should have been a forest ranger. Is it really that hard to learn to love the sound of silence? Is it that hard to just mind your own business while you follow your own personal checklist?

Today's checklist started with a walk with Dawn. The walk even comes before making the bed these days. The warmer the weather gets, the earlier we need to start. The weather is wonderful before the sun gets too high. I just need to figure out how to get more sleep. I've been going to bed late because I'm having trouble writing the blog. The blog is always the last thing on the checklist and I still want to get to Day 5000. It's not really enjoyable writing about a world falling apart though. I'd much rather write about visits to observatories and the joys of getting published in obscure little magazines.

I washed the car today. I'm not going anywhere, but I do like a clean car. We'll take Dawn on another long walk tomorrow morning. I like a happy dog too. Janet made pulled pork in the slow cooker, so there's tasty food for the rest of the week. Who knows. Maybe I'll even hear something from the Air Force about getting media accreditation. All in all, life is good.

Amy is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Saturday, May 30, 2020

Day 3810

It was nice to see something positive today. The Crew Dragon launch was flawless. It was amazing how clean and futuristic the capsule looked. Somehow the two astronauts even managed a change of clothes a few hours after liftoff. I wonder how long before scenes like this become commonplace again. I'll have to remember to watch TV again tomorrow when the capsule arrives at the space station. Maybe I'll get to see one of these launches in person someday. The world has to return to normal eventually.

Normalcy is already returning to Dallas. There are no lines at stores anymore. The grocery store wasn't even crowded this morning. It's still impossible to find Clorox wipes, but almost everything else was on the shelves. I wonder how long we will continue wearing masks? If there isn't a huge surge in new infections two or three weeks from now, I predict they will slowly disappear. We'll probably be like Asian countries where some people will always wear them. I'll probably ditch mine later this Summer as the virus fades from the news.

Of course, maybe it doesn't fade from the news. Maybe all the large crowds we are seeing on TV will trigger a whole new wave of outbreaks. Almost anything could happen in a year like 2020. I'm just waiting for hurricane season to start.

The weather is still very pleasant. We had a nice walk with Dawn this morning. We started before 7 AM, but there were already a lot of joggers and cyclists in the park. More people must be working again, because weekends are starting to feel different than weekdays. As the day grew warmer, large groups gathered in the park for picnics and play. I'm sure people are still being diagnosed with coronavirus in area hospitals. There are probably protests in town as well. Nevertheless, it still seemed pretty much like a normal Saturday in Dallas. Normal is good. We need a lot more normal.

I wasted a lot of time watching the launch on TV today. This stuff never gets old for me. I wondered whether the black boots the astronauts wore are actually part of the spacesuit, or were more like the rubber garden boots I wear on rainy days. Maybe the white space suit was under these boots. I wonder whether toy stores are already sold out of sparkly toy dinosaurs? I was surprised to see that one of the astronauts wore glasses. I guess perfect vision isn't a requirement. It's amazing these rockets even work at all. They are so complicated. My car doesn't even work all the time. Neither does my computer.

I went out and brought home a large pizza for dinner. Pizza and beer, a friendly dog looking for table scraps, a warm Spring evening, and a rocket launch. Sounds like a good day to me.

Ollie is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Friday, May 29, 2020

Day 3809

I started looking for new walking shoes today. There are so many choices. I probably have enough shoes already, but none of them are comfortable on long distance walks. Should I wear a boot or a light weight running shoe? Maybe something in between? Do I need a custom orthotic? Maybe the shoe isn't even the problem. Do I have a hairline fracture? I went to a podiatrist once who x-rayed my foot and just said I had an unusually high arch. He prescribed an orthotic that looked just like the kind you get at the drug store except it cost ten times as much. I think it was made of carbon fiber. Shoes are irritating to me. I've tried all kinds and have occasionally listened to experts. Most shoes are comfortable for three or four miles and then all bets are off. Now that I'm walking more, I can't wait to take off my shoes when I return to the house. I guess I'll try again, but the effort seems futile. Maybe I should just try swimming.

I couldn't figure out why the park was so crowded today. I don't think it is a holiday. Maybe virtual school is over for the kids. There were a ton of children in the park this morning with there parents. I thought it was Saturday for a while, but it is just a regular Friday. Maybe everybody else is having trouble keeping track of the days too. They all seem the same. I had to check a couple of times today just to make sure it wasn't Saturday.

I'm kind of glad I didn't go to Florida now. There is so much unrest in the country and the weather isn't very cooperative either. It seems like a good time to just stay home an mind your own business. It does seem weird that just a few days ago we were all talking about staying six feet apart and now there are massive protests with thousands of people packed tightly together. Just like that, everyone forgot about the virus. It's hurricane season too. How long before a giant hurricane sweeps up the East Coast? 2020 definitely isn't shaping up to be a good year.

The liquid nitrogen treatments on my skin are finally showing results. I thought something would happen right away, but apparently that's not how it works. I can feel skin dying on my face and the splotchy appearance the doctor promised is starting to appear. I'd glad he told me not to worry about this, because it definitely feels odd. Hope the freezing treatment works. It is definitely preferable to cutting.

My train dealer sold another model train to someone in Belgium today. I think we were both surprised. Inch by inch, the collection slowly continues to sell. Sales are at a snails pace though. I don't think the entire collection will sell in my lifetime. Maybe I'll have to leave the rest of it to the Dalmatians. At least the artwork sold quickly. I think I've already lost interest in downsizing.

Dawn is slowly getting used to being in the car. Janet continues to practice with her every day. Who knows. Maybe there's a car trip in her future after all.

Emmitt is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Thursday, May 28, 2020

Day 3808

I got the oil changed in my car today. I basically just wanted to get the irritating "service required" light on the dash turned off, but the oil hasn't been changed in over a year so it was probably time. The dealership said that an oil change didn't count as "service" so they couldn't turn the light off. I told them that at the prices they were charging, it damn well better count as service. I got my way. I've been a customer of this dealership for long enough to know that service representatives come and go, but in the end the customer is always right.

While I was waiting for the service to be completed, I took a look at the new Defender that had just arrived at the dealership. I've been waiting to see these ever since I sold my Defender 90 quite a few years ago. This iconic model got delayed again and again and went through many design changes along the way. I was disappointed that the new Defender has lost the boxy, hand assembled look of my former car, but I had to admit that the updated version looked a lot better than the pictures I'd seen on the Internet.

Will I get another Land Rover after being overcharged for service for over twenty years? Who knows. The car I was looking at wasn't even for sale. It was just a dealership demo and there won't be any Defenders available for sale until later in the year. The short wheelbase model like my former Defender won't make it's debut until 2021. There's certainly no hurry to get another car. I can't think of many reasons to buy another Land Rover either. If I wanted a practical car for West Texas I should just buy a Ford. That's about all I saw when I was out at the observatory. If I want to be really practical, I don't need a new car at all. It seems to work pretty well to just rent cars when I travel.

Dawn's new collar came today. We got her a hand beaded collar made by the Maasai tribe in Kenya, just like the ones Dot and Dash used to wear. When one of our dogs goes to the Rainbow Bridge, their collar is retired and placed in the cedar box with their ashes. Hey, everyone has traditions with their pets and this is one of ours. The Maasai collars are works of art and last a lifetime. Dawn seemed to know hers was special. She was excited and kept wagging her tail while we were fitting her tags to the new collar and seemed proud to wear it. Who knows what dogs really think though. She probably just liked all the attention.

I think my Spring allergies are finally coming to an end. I can take a walk without watering eyes or constant sneezing again. This was one of the longest allergy seasons on record. It's also one of the wettest Springs I can remember. Hopefully the seasonal allergies don't return until next year. They've really been a nuisance. This is definitely not a time when you want to be sneezing constantly.

I'm beginning to think that my application for media accreditation from the Air Force got lost, just like the manuscripts that I used to send to Sky and Telescope. I still haven't heard from them. For some reason mail coming from my hosting account occasionally gets classified as spam by other mail servers and never gets delivered. It's weird that a big company like Bluehost gets classified as a spammer, but it happens occasionally. I have to use an alternate e-mail account to communicate with the University of Texas and with Sky and Telescope. Maybe this has happened with the Air Force as well. I should have heard something from them by now.

Now that I've gotten my oil changed, the only thing left on my list is getting a haircut. The salons are open again so maybe I'll make an appointment. I can't live under a rock forever.

Sam is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Day 3807

I wasted hours today watching a launch on NASA TV that ended up getting scrubbed at the last minute because of weather. If I was down in Titusville as I'd planned to be, I'd be wondering now if I could afford to stick around until the next attempt on Saturday. Launch delays get complicated quickly. Sometimes the hotel is full and it is difficult to extend your stay. Airline and rental car reservations need to be rebooked. You alway have to keep in mind that the next launch attempt could get rained out as well. I've been lucky on my last two trips to Kennedy Space Center. The Solar Orbiter went off right on schedule and the Falcon Heavy STP-2 launch was only delayed a few hours. I've had to return home without seeing anything though. It's always a risk.

It was fun watching the launch preparations today. I kept thinking "I've been there" when I saw something familiar. I recognized an astronaut I'd met in Houston and noticed a few familiar faces among the NASA media relations staff. I missed this launch and I might miss a few other until the pandemic is over, but I'll be back. Maybe the next time I return, I'll have a few more publications under my belt and it will be easier to get media accreditation.

It may still be raining in Florida, but I think the rain is over in Dallas for a while. We had a nice walk with Dawn this morning. It was still overcast when we left around sunrise, but we could see patches of clear sky by the time we returned. As Summer approaches, it is increasingly important to get an early start. Dawn enjoys these walks but dogs can easily get overheated. I always worry about Dawn because she's not a young dog anymore. It rarely occurs to me that Janet and I are getting older ourselves. Neither of us think of ourselves as old. Probably the rest of the world does though.

My chore for the day was clearing the standing water off the roof. Since there is no rain in the immediate forecast, maybe my work is done for a while. The warmer is gets, the more unpleasant it is up on the roof. It can get quite hot in the Summer. At some point, I need to power wash the surface and look carefully for more bad spots before I apply the rest of the silicon material. I don't think there is any rush to do this though. I seem to have sealed all the leaky areas.

I've got to come up with a Plan-B for the Summer. It doesn't look like McDonald Observatory is going to reopen any time soon and it might be a while before I can get media accreditation at the Space Center again. I've photographed all the plants and animals in the park, but don't really feel like going anywhere else on a photo expedition. I don't feel like buying new gear either. The pandemic has got me spooked about spending money. The Land Rover dealer called today and told me that the new Defenders have finally arrived in the showroom. I wasn't even interested in that. It's definitely time for a Plan-B.

Libby is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Day 3806

The weather was much better today. There was a slight chance of rain as we headed out on our morning walk, but we chose to ignore it. The park was surprisingly quiet this morning. People must be returning to work. It's amazing how quickly traffic has returned to normal levels. I don't know where everybody is going, but they're certainly going somewhere. It appears that Texas has decided the pandemic is over.

Those companies that make vinyl signs and banners bust be doing a booming business these days. Almost every store and restaurant in the neighborhood has a brand new banner saying that they're open again. I was kind of hoping that the empty highways and quiet skies would last a little longer. I understand the urgency of getting back to business though. So many small businesses are on the verge of going under. I'm sure that if I wasn't retired I would feel a lot more urgency about getting back to business myself. It takes an enormous about of work to make a small business successful. It still seems so unfair that the only winners in this whole situation appear to be huge companies like Walmart, Home Depot, and Amazon.

We took Dawn to look for a new collar today. Hey, even a dog can help support small business. Janet is convinced that short excursions will help Dawn overcome her fear of the car. Dawn seems excited to be going somewhere now, but she still doesn't like the car itself. We didn't find the perfect collar at the pet store, but the short trip gave us all something to do. I think Dawn would have preferred to go for ice cream again.

I took some letters to the post office this afternoon and was planning to get stamps while I was there. There was such a line at the counter that I quickly decided that I didn't need stamps after all. Ever since the pandemic started there have been lines at the post office. I don't get it. The grocery stores have all figured out how to make this work. Somehow the simple process of buying something at the post office has gotten way more complicated. I'm sure once the government gets involved everything becomes more complicated. I dread the day when I need to fly again. I have a feeling that going through the TSA line will be like getting a medical exam.

I keep wondering who got selected to cover the Demo-2 launch at Kennedy Space Center. Somebody is out there taking photos and making videos. I'm seeing lots of activity as the launch approaches, but I don't recognize many of the people making videos. I think NASA staff is doing a lot of the coverage themselves. At any rate, tomorrow is the big day. There seems to be a good chance that the launch will get rained out, but I'll be watching tomorrow afternoon anyway. I'm still disappointed that I couldn't be there in person.

I got Murphy up on the Dalmatian Rescue website today. At least I did something constructive. I'll probably be up on the roof again tomorrow. I'd much rather be at an observatory.

Chief is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Monday, May 25, 2020

Day 3805 - Memorial Day

Another all day rain. This one was a soaker. We thought we could squeeze in a shorter walk this morning, but we were wrong. The storm moved faster than we did and by the time we returned home we were all very wet. Oh, well. We tried. I think Dawn would have preferred to sleep in late.

I must have done a decent job on roof repairs because even though we have had a ton of rain this Spring, there is still no evidence that the leak has returned. I left the pumps running all day today. They can't keep up with the rain, but over time they do help reduce the amount of standing water on the roof. It's clear that I will be up on the roof again soon. I've just got to wait for the rain to stop.

The wet weather didn't stop us from visiting the Dalmatian kennel. Today, in addition to playing with all the dogs, we photographed Murphy, our new arrival. Murphy is an owner surrender. Like most owner surrenders, I can't imagine why anyone would even consider giving this dog up. Murphy was extremely friendly and had obviously had some obedience training. He knew how to sit, stay, and lie down. He also seemed very adept at catching treats in the air. I don't think Murphy will be with us for very long. He's an amazing dog and should find his forever home very soon.

There were no Memorial Day picnics in the park today. There wasn't even much traffic on the roads. A hard rain really puts a damper on things. There is more rain in the forecast for tomorrow, but I hope the forecast is wrong. I'm sick of this wet weather. Pandemic confinement is bad enough on a good day, but wet weather makes it seem even worse. As long as I can take a long walk, I'm fine. Sitting in the house watching TV while rain pounds on the roof gets old quickly though. I'm totally over listening to "experts" disagree with each other about the virus. It's refreshing to occasionally hear a thoughtful person admit to the world that actually nobody has any answers.

The weather isn't looking good for Wednesday's Demo-2 launch. Maybe NASA's new media restrictions just saved me from making an expensive trip to Florida to view a launch that ended up getting scrubbed. This has happened to me before. Sometimes it is possible to stay an extra day or two, but other times you end up going home without seeing anything. Hopefully, everything will go according to schedule. Whatever happens, I'm sure I'll be streaming the event on my computer.

I'll add Murphy to the Dalmatian Rescue website tomorrow. Hopefully the skies will clear so we can take a decent walk without getting wet. Maybe I can think of something else to do as well. It's hard to believe that it's almost June. Half the year is already gone and the world is still on hold. I'm certainly on hold myself. There are no observatory trips to plan. I have no idea when Kennedy Space Center will open again. I haven't heard from the Air Force yet either. I'm a self-motivated person by nature but it's hard to get excited by anything when the world feels like a giant jigsaw puzzle that has just been dropped on the floor. I'm not smart enough or patience enough to put all the pieces back together. You probably aren't either.

Ranger is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Sunday, May 24, 2020

Day 3804

We went out for breakfast this morning at a little neighborhood restaurant that had recently reopened. We should have taken Dawn with us, since the place had a nice dog friendly outdoor seating area. You could tell that the restaurant was trying super hard to get back on its feet. All the new distancing rules were followed and everyone was super friendly. I was initially a little sceptical about going to a restaurant, but I'm glad we did. I hope this place makes it. They had only been open a month or so when the pandemic hit. Not very good timing.

We took another very early walk this morning, but the park wasn't empty this time. I guess I should have expected more people since it is Memorial Day weekend. We were expecting rain again, but the skies lightened and we began to see patches of blue during our walk. I got overconfident seeing the weather improve and went up on the roof to remove yesterday's standing water. I should have waited. The rain returned later in the day and the roof is already wet again. This has definitely been the wettest Spring I can remember.

It was time to defrost the little spare refrigerator today. We got this refrigerator during a power outage because it could be powered by our generator. Somehow the refrigerator went from temporary to permanent after the power was restored and is now an essential part of the kitchen. Things that won't fit in the regular refrigerator go here. I wonder if anyone makes a self defrosting dorm refrigerator? We never even looked. It's hard to believe that everybody used to have to defrost their refrigerator. All the places I lived right after college had refrigerators that needed to be defrosted. I never did this very often. Usually my freezer compartment was caked in a thick sheet of ice.

I sure wish that bee hadn't stung me the other day. I've still got a big welt on my leg. Now that I've started looking, I'm seeing the beginnings of nests everywhere. It's time to get some more wasp and hornet spray and get rid of them before they get any bigger. We have wasps who build paper nests and mud daubers who make theirs out of mud. Both critters seems to love our house. The spiders are starting to return as well. Welcome to Summer in Texas.

I've started listening to astronomy podcasts. I was surprised at how many there are. Obviously a lot of people are a lot more industrious about their hobbies than I am. One of the astronomers I met at McDonald Observatory does regular videos about galaxies and deep sky objects. Several people I've met at NASA events have podcasts about rocket related stuff. I watch some of these too. It seems weird to me that there seems to be fewer and fewer really good blogs, but an abundance of podcasts. I like listening to podcasts, but can't imagine doing one myself. I don't even like to talk.

We're not sure if the kennel will be open on Memorial Day, but if it is we'll go photograph a new Dalmatian that recently entered the rescue program. If the kennel is closed I can always make my smoothie and sweep the water off the roof. It's life in the fast lane around here.

Ziggy is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Saturday, May 23, 2020

Day 3803

Dawn woke us up last night barking at the wind and rain. She's not scared of storms, but definitely doesn't like things that go bump in the night. The power went out just long enough to cause all the backup power supplies to start beeping which got Dawn barking all over again. Eventually things calmed down and we all went back to sleep. I reset the clocks and timers in the morning and wondered why we were having such a rainy Spring.

We walked Dawn as soon as we woke up since it looked like it was going to rain again. Starting early was a good idea. The rain never arrived and it ended up getting quite warm and humid later in the morning. I didn't feel like going up on the roof today, but since the pumps are working I don't think there will be a lot of standing water. Maybe I'll do this tomorrow.

My chore for the day was mowing the grass in the front yard. I think I'm the only one in the neighborhood who still mows my own grass. It's not my favorite chore but it's a small yard and I don't feel like dealing with a lawn care service. Pushing the mower does seen a little harder with each passing year however. Maybe I'm just a creature of habit. I've mowed this yard for as long as I can remember.

I had a lot of things on my grocery list today. I found most of the items we needed fairly easily but I don't think Clorox Wipes are ever going to return to the shelves. Shopping is certainly different now. Although stores are officially open again, it looks like some of the pandemic rules are here to stay. I'm still not a fan of one way aisles.

My e-mail server was down for most of the day. Being without e-mail is no great loss. Most of my messages are spam anyway. I never learned what the problem was but it must have been major. Service wasn't restored until almost supper time.

We haven't had barbecue for a while so I picked up some ribs from one of my favorite barbecue places. The restaurant was open for table service, but there wasn't a single customer inside. All the table were spaced out for social distancing and there was a full staff on duty. I really feel sorry for restaurant owners. They really got hit hard by the pandemic and it still doesn't seems very fair. I hope this place manages to stay in business. They definitely know how to smoke meat.

I keep getting letters from my gym telling me to be patient. They still can't decide when they are going to open again. I'll probably return to the gym as soon as they open. The place was never very crowded to begin with. I'm not so sure about restaurants. Many of the places I like are quite small. I guess we all choose what to believe about this virus. The theory that recirculating air from building air conditioning systems might be a problem sounds reasonable to me. I guess that's the problem in airplanes as well. My plan is to wait a month and let other people try these things first. We'll see how bold I actually am if I manage to get media accreditation for the upcoming Mars 2020 launch this Summer.

I didn't have much to write about today. I may have even less tomorrow. No Sunday plans at all.

Willie is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Friday, May 22, 2020

Day 3802

Maybe I've become too dependent on weather forecasting apps. Janet and I were both convinced that it was going to rain this morning, so we walked Dawn even earlier than we usually do to avoid getting wet. Getting started before sunrise meant we had the park to ourselves. We saw dozens of Great Egrets and very few people. The temperature was nice as well. I was a little sleepy when we started our early walk, but I hope we can manage to do this again. It was a very pleasant two hours.

It never did rain today. Actually the skies cleared up and it got quite warm later in the day. I didn't feel like mowing the grass, so I thought I'd try to remove the water stains in the living room ceiling with bleach. I don't know why I'm always convinced that this will work, because it never does. I certainly didn't get off to a good start today. When I went outside to get the stepladder, I got stung by a bee.

It's not easy to soak the ceiling with bleach, because gravity causes it to drip down my arm and all over the floor. I've ruined a few items of clothing when I've tried to do this in the past, so I only wear things that I don't mind getting soaked by bleach. I made a good effort today, but I can't honestly say that the ceiling looks any better. I guess I'll be forced to sand everything down and patch the areas with drywall mud. There's still no reason to actually remove and replace the sheetrock until we get a new roof. It would be nice if the house looked a little better though.

I paid some more bills and did a little accounting in Quickbooks this afternoon. Online banking is starting to seem more familiar now. I don't know if I'll ever be confident enough to set everything up to auto-pay, but I'm making progress. I'll have to admit that this is a lot easier than writing checks and driving to the post office.

After all the dire warnings from my dermatologist about possible side effects from cryosurgery, I haven't noticed anything at all. If my face is going to turn bruised and blotchy, it certainly hasn't happened yet. The keratosis doesn't look very different either. Did I even go to the dermatologist? We'll see if the liquid nitrogen treatment works, but this wasn't what I expected.

It's a shame I'm not down in Titusville now. I'm starting to see a lot of media coverage of the Demo-2 mission now that the launch is only a few days away. Obviously some people still have media credentials. Too bad I'm not one of them. I can see these guys asking the astronauts questions on TV. I wonder how many members of the press are actually there. NASA isn't saying, but the Press Site at KSC does look pretty empty.

It was amusing to hear Dr Fauci say that there would be irreparable damage to the country if we didn't open up soon. Wasn't this the same guy who said kids shouldn't go to school next year and that we should stay in lockdown mode over the Summer? I wonder why nobody seems to hold the good doctor accountable for his many flip-flops? He has changed his mind radically on almost everything. The virus isn't something to worry about in the United States. No, forget that. The virus will kill millions. Don't wear a mask. Nevermind. You've all got to wear a mask. I could go on and on. It's all on tape. Hey, the guy's got an honest face. And he's a scientist.

In other news, the State of Washington announced today that they mistakenly gave away millions of the state's unemployment money to a Nigerian Prince. Yep. We're really on top of this pandemic stuff.

Rosco is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Thursday, May 21, 2020

Day 3801

Another uneventful day. I set up a few more accounts for online payments this morning. Hope I don't regret this later. I've been a fan of paper for a long time, but I guess it's finally time to move into the future. I just need to convince my Luddite sister to use e-mail and then I won't have to use the post office at all.

Restaurants in the neighborhood are opening again, but I think I'll just stay home and make an omelette tomorrow instead. I have a feeling that my tradition of going out for breakfast on Friday morning might be gone for good. It's not a fear of the virus that keeps me at home. People have just become more irritating.

It was a little warmer this morning and I could tell that Dawn didn't have quite as much energy. The temperature wasn't bad, but it was quite humid. I didn't have as much energy myself. We're going to have to make an effort to get out earlier. I still tend to stay up quite late and it's hard to get up early in the morning. I don't know how Janet does it. By the time we take our walk with Dawn, she has already been out and run three miles.

I think we're headed for some dark days ahead. When did mask shaming become a thing? Some of our leaders have become petty tyrants. People aren't happy. A recent poll showed a dramatic increase in the number of people in almost every state who would prefer to secede from the union if given the choice. We are talking about building an army of contact tracers to follow your every move. Isn't this what we have criticized China for doing for years? Where is the ACLU when you really need them? A lot of what is going on right now violates the constitution in so many ways and all people have to say is "Well, it's an emergency." The latest version of Apple IOS already has the contact tracing backbone built into the system. All that is waiting is the official government app that we will be implored to download "for our own good." I can almost guarantee that this won't end well.

I think we could end this whole virus mess in a hurry by just banning partying. No more bar hopping, rock concerts, or football stadiums. No more big weddings, cruise ships, or family reunions. Sound extreme? It wouldn't change my life much. I'd actually prefer a ban on large gatherings to an army of contact tracers snooping on everyone. I don't think I'll be installing that Apple tracking app either. Personally, I think individual liberty is still more important that some vaguely defined concept of "the greater good." Unless we can all agree what this greater good actually is, it means nothing.

Just quit the mask shaming you guys. You can look right on the CDC website and see where it says that most masks are completely worthless against a virus. A virus is almost microscopic. When was the last time you saw a picture of a biolab technician wearing a bandana? This is all getting ridiculous. Masks have become nothing more than a symbolic gesture. They're like wearing a team jersey. That's why they are so important to some people. I wear a mask when I am out in public so I'll blend in and not call attention to myself. If the rule was to wear a plastic purple hat, I'd probably do that too. When people are in the mood for witch trials, you definitely don't want to be the witch.

I still think a lot about the David Mountains. Maybe if I lived somewhere very remote and far away from all this nonsense, the world would start to feel normal again.

Casey is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Day 3800

My visit to the dermatologist wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I was diagnosed with actinic keratosis which my doctor assured me could be easily and effectively treated. This was good news because I was a little nervous that the rough skin on my face might be squamous cell carcinoma instead. Left untreated, actinic keratosis can actually turn into squamous cell carcinoma, which is probably why my regular doctor wanted to get me into the dermatologist's office in a hurry.

Treatment was fairly straightforward and involved no cutting. Basically the doctor wanted to destroy the skin lesions by freezing them. Technically this is called cryosurgery, but it felt more like accidentally getting freon on your skin while you were trying to top up your car's AC. The doctor took a pressurized canister of liquid nitrogen and carefully sprayed the skin lesions. "Don't freeze my eyeball," I told the doctor. "I still need these eyes."

The whole process took less than five minutes. The dermatologist wants to see me again in a month to makes sure the actinic keratosis has completely disappeared. He said there would probably be some redness, blistering and crusting in the weeks ahead but not to worry about it. On the off chance that the liquid nitrogen doesn't work, he said that there might be some curettage and excision involved on my next visit. This sounds suspiciously like going under the knife, so lets hope the liquid nitrogen works.

I wouldn't recommend spraying your face with liquid nitrogen. I've felt like I've walked into a hot frying pan for most of the day. A freezer burn is still a burn. The whole purpose of the treatment is to destroy the keratosis. Luckily our new social distancing rules will ensure that few people see me for the next several weeks.

We had a nice walk with Dawn this morning before I left for my doctor's appointment. The sky was overcast, but this kept the temperature down and Dawn was happy. I like overcast days. Everything photographs better without hard shadows. For photographers, an overcast day is like having a giant softbox in the sky.

I watched an interview with Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley after they arrived at Kennedy Space Center this afternoon. I noticed that the pair arrived in a Gulfstream corporate jet. Quite a change from the old days when astronauts used to fly their own Northrop T-38 fighters to the cape. I guess they won't be using the old Airstream Astrovans anymore either. These guys will make the final journey to Pad-39A in a Tesla Model-X.

When I handed my ID cards to the receptionist at the dermatologist's office this morning, she handed me back the ID cards belonging to another patient. I recognized immediately that the Medicare cards were wrong, but ended up putting the other guy's driver's license in my wallet. Jeez. I didn't even recognize my own picture. The error was quickly rectified but it made me wonder how the world works at all. We all make mistakes every day. I make many of them myself.

Harley is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Day 3799

If I told you that it is hard to differentiate one day from another it wouldn't be news. I'm sure you've heard this before. You've probably heard it from me before. When we take our walk with Dawn in the morning I look for things that have changed. We watch the progress of a road construction crew we see along the way. It take longer than I thought to build a road. We're seeing sailboats on the lake again. Why weren't they there before? I wonder if the sailing club was shut down or considered nonessential? It wouldn't make sense to ban boats on a lake, but then nothing really makes sense these days. The White Pelicans are gone, but one stayed behind just like last year. I wonder if it is the same bird? I think about these things because there isn't much else on my mind.

It's definitely getting warmer. The temperature was in the low 90's for the second day in a row. By walking very early we are still able to keep Dawn from getting overheated, but those days are numbered. I've never been a fan of Texas summers. Hey, at least we had a nice long Spring. It's been a wet spring as well and everything is very green.

Janet continues to take Dawn on short trips in the car in hopes of getting her used to traveling. If Dawn wasn't fearful of car travel, we could take short day trips with her. Janet tries to do something pleasant on each of these trips so Dawn will eventually look forward to getting in the car. It's a work in progress. Today they went to get ice cream at a local custard stand. Dawn apparently loves frozen custard. Maybe we'll take her to Keller's next and get hamburgers. We use to do this with Spot and it was one of his favorite things.

I still check my e-mail each morning, hoping to hear good news about two yet to be published articles. In addition to the upcoming Sky and Telescope article, there is another article about my visit to the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans that I'm waiting on as well. Both of these articles have been approved for publication, but waiting on them to appear in print is testing my patience. I need some sort of positive affirmation that I'm making progress.

I need a haircut, an oil change for the car, and new walking shoes, but I have little desire to leave the house. I'm not that worried about catching the virus, but somehow the pandemic has made me even more reclusive than I was before. Now that I've become more familiar with online banking and shopping there is no compelling reason to get in the car and go anywhere.

I do have a doctor's appointment tomorrow that is unavoidable. Since it is a mid-morning appointment, I'll either have to skip breakfast or my morning walk with Dawn. It's hard to say which will be more important when I wake up tomorrow morning. I have a feeling that the walk will win. I haven't really been that hungry lately.

It will be interesting to see how things go at the dermatologist. They said to wear a mask to my appointment, but the patch on my skin that they are supposed to examine is actually covered by the mask. I'm sure the doctor will want me to remove it and I'll break the earloop like I always do. I'd better take a spare with me. It's all part of the new normal.

Holly is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Monday, May 18, 2020

Day 3798

Visiting the rescue dogs on Monday has become part of our regular schedule again. We missed seeing these guys when everything was shut down. Hank, Charlie, and Cinder are the only Dalmatians currently staying at the kennel, but we don't want to forget about them. Each of these dogs has their own distinct personality and it's fun spending time with each of them. They certainly love the attention.

Dawn is content to stay home when we visit the other dogs. I don't think she has any desire to return to the kennel. When we return from our long morning walks, she immediately hops on the bed and takes a long nap. She's found what she wanted. Dawn still loves her walks, but I think we're going to have to shorten them as the weather grows warmer. Dawn is not a young dog and Texas summers can be pretty intense. So far, it's still really nice early in the morning but I don't know how long this is going to last. Today's high temperature was over 90 degrees and it's not even June yet.

I finished filling out all the paperwork and sent my application for media accreditation to the Air Force. Hopefully, my request will be approved. There are several important launches taking place this year and I'm uncertain if NASA will return to normal operations in the immediate future. Getting military clearance might be my only chance to return to Kennedy Space Center this Summer or Fall. The magazine I write for has been very helpful. We'll see what happens. Now I've just got to sit back and wait. I'm still looking forward to covering the Mars 2020 launch in July.

I'm not looking forward to seeing the dermatologist later this week. I've known that I probably needed to have the blemishes on my face looked at for quite some time, but I've been avoiding making an appointment. My doctor finally made the appointment for me and gave me no choice. Maybe it won't be that bad, but I've seen what dermatologists do. I don't want anyone cutting on my face.

Stores are open again in Dallas, but I have no desire to go shopping. I wonder how many of my new habits will become permanent. I wash my hands obsessively now. Whenever someone approaches on a path in the park, I move well out of the way. I've always been somewhat suspicious of strangers and now I look at them like hand grenades waiting to explode. I'm not really fearful about the disease, but my natural suspicions about people have been amplified. This is probably not a good thing. Especially if millions of other people feel the same way.

I'm not sure when I'll return to a restaurant. I believe the information I'm hearing that confined indoor spaces where you linger a while are the most dangerous. Grocery stores are actually pretty safe because you are moving around and are not in one place for very long. Walking in the park is not dangerous at all. I'm glad I have no desire to go bar hopping. A crowded bar is probably the worst place you could be right now.

I know where I'll be tomorrow. We'll be walking Dawn early in the morning to avoid the heat and then I'll make my morning smoothie. Sounds pretty much like what I did today.

Skippy is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Sunday, May 17, 2020

Day 3797

The weather was much better today. We got up early to avoid the crowds, but apparently we didn't get up early enough. Even before 8 AM, the park was already filled with runners and cyclists. This must be the city's new exercise destination now that the gyms are closed. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised. It was a Sunday morning on a very nice day.

It's pretty clear that the quarantine is over in Dallas. Traffic is back to normal and people aren't shy about gathering together in the park. When I returned later in the day for my afternoon walk, the place was packed. There were large barbecues, clusters of hammocks strung between trees, and a flotilla of kayaks on the water. Most of the large gatherings consisted of young people. Maybe they are starting to develop herd immunity.

There are still a lot of people wearing masks in the park. I suspect that some of these people will continue wearing masks forever. They will become a fashion statement or a badge of identity. There definitely aren't many who know how to wear a mask correctly. I see a lot of noses poking out on top of these masks. People take them off to talk to other people or even to sneeze. Basically, you wear a mask to show other people that you are a team player. Medically, most of the disposable earloop masks are of dubious value.

I was back on the roof this afternoon removing the standing water from yesterday's rain. Both pumps are working again, but there is still a lot of residual water after it rains. Removing the water with a big push broom is actually good exercise. I'm usually tired after I finish the job. I'm always careful, but I hope I never stumble and fall. That's the first question my doctor asked at my physical last week. "Did you have any bad falls last year," he said.  I guess I've arrived at the "I've fallen and I can't get up" stage of life. I felt like telling the doctor that I was much more careful than he was. At least I don't ride bicycles.

Dawn likes our bed so much that she gets upset when I change the sheets. I told her that everything was going to be OK and that she would be pleased when I was finished. After everything was clean, there was still dog hair on her blanket. I've noticed that the vacuum cleaner canister fills up twice as fast now that we have Dawn. Dalmatians shed constantly. You just get used to the dog hair after a while.

I had another 20,000 step day, but I didn't do anything of consequence. 20,000 step days are so common now that maybe it's time to up the ante and try for 25,000 steps a day. I'm hoping that walking will keep me in shape, but I need something to occupy my mind as well. I'll complete my application for launch access to Kennedy Space Center and send it to the Air Force tomorrow. Maybe I'll start editing my McDonald Observatory pictures and send a batch to Sky and Telescope. They haven't actually requested the pictures yet, but have indicated that they will use them when the article eventually appears. I'll be glad when they give me a publication date. Right now I don't know whether the article I wrote will appear a few months from now or next year.

The chigger bites still itch, but I've got some nice looking fresh fruit for tomorrow morning's smoothie. Life goes on.

Susie is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Saturday, May 16, 2020

Day 3796

Today was dismal. You know how I feel about an all day rain. We were lucky to be able to take Dawn for a short walk before the rain started in earnest, but even on this little excursion we managed to get wet. Dawn isn't scared of storms, but she definitely doesn't like to get wet. Neither do I. I definitely got wet today. I had to go up on the roof during the rain to restart one of the pumps. Water had caused a short in an extension cord and thrown a circuit breaker. I managed to get everything fixed, but the pumps couldn't keep up with all the water. It was a very heavy rain.

I should have skipped grocery shopping this morning, but I needed more fresh fruit. I had to go to two different stores to find strawberries. All the berries destined for Sam's Club must has been delivered to Kroger instead. There was a huge display and the berries were even on sale. There seems to be an abundance of food, but distribution is all messed up. You never know what you are going to find at a store on any particular day.

The chiggers have arrived. I got my first bites of the season yesterday. I must have gotten bitten when I stepped off the path on our walk the other day to photograph some Texas Thistle for my blog photo. It doesn't take much. Now I am itching like crazy. I'm pretty good at avoiding poison ivy, but I seem unable to escape chiggers and mosquitos. We've got to check Dawn for ticks every day as well. The bugs are back for the Summer.

I'm making progress on my quest to return to Kennedy Space Center. I contacted my editor at SpaceFlight Magazine and the magazine agreed to sponsor me, providing the information I needed to apply for clearance from the military. I'll fill out the government forms over the weekend and send them to the Air Force next week. I don't know how long the approval process takes, but I hope to be able to cover the Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover launch later this Summer.

I am completely baffled that so many people want to stay in lockdown mode until a cure for Covid-19 is found. Don't these people read history? There may never be a cure. It took over 100 years to eradicate polio and several early attempts at a vaccine were disastrous. To this day there has never been a successful vaccine for any virus in the coronavirus family. We all get our flu shots, but some years this vaccine is only marginally effective. The common flu keeps mutating and a new vaccine must be developed every year. Remember, vaccines don't actually cure anything. They just accelerate the process of building herd immunity in a population.

There have been other pandemics in my lifetime, but I don't remember a reaction like the one I'm seeing now. This is irrational panic. The Hong Kong flu killed well over a million people in 1969 and few people even remember it. I don't and I was there. The Hong Kong flu was a major global pandemic that caused huge disruptions in Europe, but nothing was shut down anywhere. Corpses were stored in subway tunnels in Berlin. Half the workforce in France was bedridden while the rest of us were preoccupied with Woodstock, Vietnam, and going to the moon. A vaccine was eventually developed but it didn't eradicate the disease. It remains in circulation today as a strain of the seasonal flu. Quick cures for viruses just don't exist.

I hope the rain stops tomorrow. I'm tired of shepherding balky pumps and nervously looking for leaks. The "service required" light came on in my car again. I'm tired of that too. Give me a break. I'm not even driving the car these days.

Liberty is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Friday, May 15, 2020

Day 3795

The lights are flickering and a big storm is headed our way. I hope the power doesn't go out before I can finish this post. It has certainly happened before. It's giant pain to have to start over using battery power, a laptop, and an alternate Internet source. At time like these I wish I could write faster, but I'm pretty slow.

Other than the bad weather, it has been a pretty good day. We had a nice walk with Dawn this morning before the weather turned bad.  My Friday morning omelette was tasty. It wasn't a busy day, but it wasn't a bad day either.

I'm gradually becoming more familiar with online banking, but I think I still prefer writing checks and going to the post office. Somehow checking a few boxes on a website doesn't seem real. I keep checking the website every few days to make sure the transaction has actually gone through. I don't know why I trust the post office so much. The post office has lost my mail several times. So far, the bank's website has worked perfectly.

I'm going to have to get used to doing as much as I can online. New regulations have made doing almost anything in person a totally frustrating experience. Texas is technically open again but you'd never know it if you have to go shopping. With each passing week going to the grocery store becomes more complicated. The new trend is to put lots of arrows on the floor and establish a one way traffic pattern throughout the store. This is not the way most people shop. If you are going to have one way aisles, you definitely need a few passing lanes. It is almost inevitable that you will end up stuck behind someone who can't decide what they want to put in their buggy and they just stand there blocking everyone behind them. Some stores have even blocked entrances, leaving only a single door to enter and exit the store. Not only is this a potential fire hazard, it also creates even more traffic jams. Keep in  mind that I didn't even go shopping today. I'm just remembering this madness from last week. I have a feeling that things will be even worse when I make my weekly shopping run tomorrow.

A Florida friend told me that I might have better luck obtaining access to Kennedy Space Center through the military than with NASA. I didn't even know that this was an option. I found out how to contact media relations for the Air Force and I think I'm going to apply. The forms I need to fill out are lengthy and a magazine needs to sponsor me but what have I got to lose. Evidently this is how some photographers are still managing to get launch access. It's easy to forget that Cape Canaveral is still an active military base.

The virtual NASA Social event for the upcoming Crew Dragon launch is actually more interesting than I'd thought it would be. I find myself posting to the group frequently. Admittedly this is mostly because there isn't much else to do these days. Hey, if I'm going to do something online, I think I'd rather talk about rockets than complain about masks.

I continue to be amazed that Dawn seems to have no fear of storms. All our other Dalmatians had pretty severe storm phobias. This evening while the lights were flickering and thunder was rumbling, Dawn was just calmly lying on the bed as if nothing was happening.

I may get gas tomorrow when I make my weekly shopping run. It's been well over a month since I filled my tank. The new normal isn't normal at all.

Sadie is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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