Monday, January 25, 2021

Day 4050

These weeks go quickly. It's Dalmatian day at the kennel again. Cooper was much more relaxed this week. He has started playing with toys and we discovered that he already knows several commands. If you have a treat in your hand he will sit, lie down, stay, and come. Clyde is still pretty shy, but he will sit and extend a paw for a treat. Charlie is still a crazy nut. He loves the new toy we bought him last week. It is shaped like an octopus with tough webbing tentacles and a head made of a rope that has been knotted into a ball. The toy is virtually indestructible, but give Charlie enough time and he will figure out a way to "kill" it. He loves to take the toy and vigorously shake it back and forth. I'm surprised he hasn't knocked himself out. 

Dawn walked two miles today. We discovered that after she walks her mile in the morning, she will walk the same route all over again later in the day. She might not do this every day, but she seemed to enjoy a double walk today. The weather was so nice this afternoon that we all enjoyed a second walk.

I continued walking again after Dawn and Janet returned to the house. I probably should have gone home with them. For some reason my foot pain returned with a vengeance this afternoon. I was still wearing the special shoes the foot doctor recommended, but there was no magic today. My left foot hurt so bad after I had gone five miles that I could barely make it home. Oddly, my wrist hurt more than usual today as well. Maybe my aches and pains are weather related. The weather was really nice this afternoon, but there were severe thunderstorms and a lot of rain overnight. Truthfully, I have no idea why my joint pain varies from day to day. I understand what is going on with the loss of cartilage, but logically it seems like the discomfort would be constant.

I bought some more N-95 masks today. I have a feeling that we're going to be wearing these things for a while. It's odd that N-95 masks are still hard to find. I have to order them from a specialty medical supply company in New York. You'd think that after companies have had almost a full year to ramp up production, these things would be everywhere.

I'm still thinking about buying a new lens for my camera. I probably will. There's nothing like a new lens to get me photographing things again. I don't have a lot of natural curiosity about the world around me, but I do like to test equipment. I"m much better at preparing for things than I am at actually doing them. Hey, what's to lose? If I ever get to attend rocket launches again or spend time at observatories, I'll be ready.

Janet and I are still trying to figure out Dawn's odd reaction to me. She is very friendly when we are resting on the bed together. She is very nervous when I'm out in the kitchen. She loves to eat, but sometimes she won't even leave the bedroom when I'm fixing her meals. I've learned to never make sudden moves. If I move suddenly, she panics and runs away. She likes me to walk her though and is very good on a leash with me. This inconsistent behavior doesn't make a lot of sense. Dawn has spent her entire life in a kennel. Maybe she just thinks I'm a kennel attendant.

I hope my foot feels better tomorrow. I don't think I'm walking too much, but maybe I am. If I had to give up walking, I'm not sure what I'd do. So much is on hold until the pandemic is over that walking has become the perfect placeholder for meaningful activity. Nobody questions walking. If I sat in my room for months and did nothing, people might become alarmed. If I say I'm going on a walk, everything is fine. 

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Day 4049

I'm getting tired of all this rain. I keep forgetting that this happens every year, but the gloomy days are still irritating. It will be a while before we can rake the leaves. The yard is a soggy mess rtight now. We did manage to get Dawn walked before the rain started. That was a good thing. There are no problems with walks now that Dawn gets her own way. I'm not surprised that Dawn is stubborn. Most of our Dalmatians were stubborn. I'm just surprised that she doesn't like to walk. I thought all dogs loved a walk.

After we took Dawn back to the house, Janet continued walking with me. We generally walk along the same trails where we used to take Dawn and wonder what the problem is. We see lots of other people walking their dogs and most of the dogs seem to be having a great time. Oh, well. Dawn still walks a mile a day and maybe that's all the exercise she needs right now.

I need to find a project that doesn't involve cleaning or yard work. I'm kind of envious of my Florida photographer friends who still manage to show up at Kennedy Space Center for every single launch. It's just too expensive to do this unless you are a local. I'm a little less envious of my friends in West Texas. It's snowing out there and very cold. I have a feeling that I won't be returning to until the weather is warmer. West Texas is still a virus hot spot. 

It's weird that there is almost nothing I'm interested in doing in Dallas. Was there ever anything I was interested in doing in Dallas? It's hard to remember. Most of my time here has been spent behind this computer. If your occupation involves writing and web design, you end up spending an enormous amount of time staring at a computer screen. There's really no reason to continue doing this, but old habits die hard.

I spent some time this afternoon configuring my new camera. Every time I buy a camera, the menu list keeps getting longer and longer. New digital cameras are complicated. You can configure this one to do almost anything, but I doubt that I will ever use most of the settings. I still take pictures exactly the same way I did years ago with my old Nikon-F.

I've found a lens that I'd like to use with the new camera. Maybe I'll go out and look for this sometime next week. I used to buy almost all my equipment for the business online, but Covid has given me a new respect for local businesses. There aren't a lot of camera stores left in Dallas and I'd like to support them. I think retirement hit me at about the right time. This definitely isn't the best time to be running a small business. It doesn't seem fair that Amazon keeps getting richer while small businesses of all types are being decimated by the pandemic. Life never was fair though. Even the ducks in the park know that.

Something tripped a breaker while we were eating dinner tonight and the kitchen and utility room went dark. Strangely, the television and the microwave in the kitchen were still on. These appliances must have been on a different circuit. Nothing was turned on in the kitchen when the breaker got tripped, so the whole thing is a big mystery. Our new sensor that is supposed to monitor the electric wiring didn't detect anything either. Ghosts? It could be. This is a pretty old house.

Holly is today's Dalmatian of the Day


Watch of the Day


Saturday, January 23, 2021

Day 4048

Today was busier than usual. I can't say that I accomplished a lot though. When I woke up, Janet had gone running and Dawn was nervously peering around the corner of the bedroom door at me. As soon as I got up, she hopped on the bed and reclaimed it for herself. It's unfortunate that she still doesn't feel comfortable being alone in the house with me, because that's how we spend most of our time together. Janet has always spent more time away from the house than I do. Eventually, I made the bed with Dawn sitting right in the middle. I've actually gotten pretty good at this. Dawn is often on the bed when I'm trying to make it.

Before getting started on my Saturday errands, I wrote a letter to my sister and took it to the post office. This periodic letter to a Luddite relative is the only reason I have to go to the post office anymore. It's the end of an era. I've spent a lot of time at the post office over the years. On my way to the grocery store, I stopped at my pharmacy to ask when they were going to get the vaccine. My pharmacist had no idea. He said that the website I'd signed up on was only to receive information about when the vaccine might become available. It was not a sign-up sheet to get vaccinated.

I found everything except for raspberries on my grocery list. I had to go to a second store to get the berries and ended up buying some tasty looking items at the deli counter for dinner. I also stopped at Fry's to get a nickel metal hydride backup battery for an audio recorder. I thought that this hard to replace battery was the reason that the time and date settings wouldn't stay in the recorder's memory. I had to disassemble the recorder to access the rechargeable battery, but it turned out that this wasn't the problem after all. The recorder's main battery had gone bad.  

After lunch we took Dawn on her one mile walk. She loves the one mile walk but definitely doesn't want to go any further. I continued to walk after Dawn and Janet returned to the house. That's what I do these days. I thought it might rain, so I wore the new raincoat I got for the last launch I attended in Florida.  The raincoat was a tight fit over my winter coat. I guess I should have gotten a larger size. Maybe it will just be a summer raincoat. It fits perfectly over a t-shirt.

I seldom get over 20,000 steps on a single walk, but I did today. With Dawn's new schedule it's more convenient to take one longer walk than the morning and evening walks I used to take. Hey, I'm flexible, even if I continue to do the same things over and over again. My new shoes are still comfortable, but they are already starting to show some wear. Expensive running shoes are a new thing for me, but they are much more comfortable than the longer lasting leather hiking boots I used to wear outdoors. I guess since all I do these days is walk, the cost of these shoes isn't exorbitant at all. It makes more sense to spend money on something I use every day than on audio recorders that sit on a shelf until all the batteries go bad.

There are severe thunderstorms in the forecast for tomorrow. I'm never happy about the prospect of thunderstorms. I have too many memories of leaking roofs and falling trees in the backyard to appreciate this type of weather. I don't think the bad weather is going to start until sometime in the afternoon. Tomorrow's project for the day is to convince Dawn to walk in the morning.

Chloe is today's Dalmatian of the Day


Watch of the Day


Friday, January 22, 2021

Day 4047

Another gray, dismal day. At least it wasn't raining. It's hard to get motivated on days like this. I impatiently channel surf while I'm eating breakfast, never finding anything worth watching. I check the pumps on the roof and then forget to turn them off. I turn on my computer and mindlessly scroll through my Facebook timeline. I keep thinking I ought to be doing something useful and usually just end up charging camera batteries.

Janet goes grocery shopping on Friday now, so we didn't walk Dawn until she returned home. Dawn acts listless and seldom leaves the bed when I'm puttering around the house by myself. As soon as she hears Janet's car in the driveway, she hops us and races to the door to greet her. Lets face it. This dog just doesn't like me. I guess I can live with this. She's a very sweet dog and I'm sure she has her reasons.

As long as we take the short one mile route that Dawn likes, we have no problems walking her anymore. I'm beginning to think that she never liked our longer walks, but just went along with us because she was afraid something bad would happen if she resisted. Dawn is much more confident and assertive now. Maybe we're finally starting to see her real personality. There are any number of reasons why Dawn could be acting this way, but maybe she's just a lazy dog.

When Dawn returns to the house with Janet, I continue walking. I sometimes think that Dawn has the right idea, but I'm more disciplined than she is. I know that I'm getting older and my contemporaries are dropping like flies. If I want to stay healthy, I'm going to have to work at it. I have no interest in taking a class at the gym or doing anything competitive. Walking is the best way I can think of for staying active. 

When I leave the house, I can go West or I can go East. There is a well developed path that goes all the way around the lake and smaller trails that branch off in different directions. I've tried them all. The park is interesting and is a great place for bird watching, but after ten or fifteen years there aren't many surprises anymore. I probably should find someplace new just for a little variety, but I can't bring myself to get in a car just to go walking. Some days are boring, but I'm content with learning the habits of animals and watching the seasons change.

I'm reading more and more about astrophotography and realizing that the premise of the article I'm planning to write isn't original at all. People have been writing about this subject for decades and what's new to me is already old hat to scores of others. It's a good thing that I'm discovering this now. I'm a good writer, but I need to learn more before I attempt to teach. I'm still going to submit an article to Sky & Telescope, but it will take a little longer and will probably be much different than what I originally envisioned.

It's time to make a grocery list again. I continue to be amazed at how quickly time flies when you're doing nothing. I would have thought that the days would just drag on in slow motion, but this entire year has gone by in a flash. For a while I was frustrated that Covid has seriously curtailed my efforts to become a space and astronomy journalist. Now I'm realizing that there's a reason for everything. I couldn't really afford to be traveling all the time anyway. I'll attend launches and see dark skies again, but taking a break gives me time to rebuild my finances. My big project now is getting Dawn to like me.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Day 4046

Another rainy day. Even Dawn got bored today. By the time the rain finally stopped around 4 PM, she was eager for a walk. Cabin fever didn't make her walk any longer, but she enjoyed all the new smells in the wet ground. When she reached her one mile limit and headed back toward the house with Janet, I continued walking. A long walk was about all I was going to accomplish today and I wanted to accomplish something. I was able to walk four miles before I noticed that it was getting dark. Even though the days are slowly getting longer, the sun still sets pretty early. By the time I returned home it was completely dark.

There wasn't much to do today. I decided to inventory a bunch of old camera gear and discovered a lot of things I'd completely forgotten about. Why did I buy this stuff? Did I ever use it? The answers to these questions are lost in the mists of time. On thing is certain. I've spent as long, long time photographing things.

I'm getting tired of watching static fire tests on the Boca Chica live feed. The SN9 Starship has had multiple static fires this week. The rocket sits there for hours doing nothing and then the actual test lasts about one second. Space X must be learning something because they keep doing these tests over and over again. Next week SN9 will do another high altitude hop. That will be worth watching.

I'm seeing more and more people posting pictures on Facebook when they get vaccinated. Is this the thing to do now? They even have stickers that say they got vaccinated, just like those stickers you get when you vote. Most of these people I see are younger than me and have nothing to do with the health care industry. I wonder how they got the vaccine? I thought this first round of shots was only for first responders and old people. I'm still in no hurry. I'm happy to let these eager beavers be the guinea pigs.

We had a short power outage today, but the new detector I installed that is supposed to monitor our household wiring and power lines didn't detect anything. Hmm. This gadget probably doesn't work any better than the noisy dehumidifier that keeps rattling in the bathroom. One of my watch winders quit working today as well. I guess that's not a big deal, since I don't wear mechanical watches anymore anyway. A lot of new stuff just isn't made very well. When I was cataloging camera gear this afternoon, I kept noticing that the older something was, the better it appeared to be made.

I decided to go paperless with a few more bills today. I'm getting tired of wondering whether something got lost in the mail. Pretty soon everything will be paperless. I never thought I'd get to this point, but our mail service isn't what it used to be. Most of the mail we get these days is junk anyway. Maybe my goal is to just be able to throw all the mail away without even looking at it.

The trash has been taken out to the curb and Dawn is waiting for her late night snack. This day is done. I don't expect anything exciting to happen tomorrow, but you never know.

Molly is today's Dalmatian of the Day


Watch of the Day


Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Day 4045

It's dental week at our house. Yesterday, Dawn got her teeth cleaned and today I did the same. My proceedure was a lot simpler than Dawn's. There was no anesthesia involved and I was in and out in less than an hour. I think it took me longer to drive back and forth to the dentist's office than it did to get my teeth cleaned. My dental hygienist always seems pleased with how I care for my teeth. I do try. I think I'm doing penance for all those years when I wouldn't see a dentist for decades at a time. Now I get new x-rays once a year and have my teeth cleaned every six months.

I'm always surprised that my dental hygienist wants to talk. How can you talk with a bunch of dental implements in your mouth? There's an art to having a conversation during a dental cleaning. There are lots of long silences. We mostly talk about dogs, but I did learn that dentists and hygienists aren't on the vaccine list yet. This surprised me. My doctor and most nurses I know have already been vaccinated. You'd think that dentists would be at the top of the list since they are right in your face when they are working on your teeth.

Dawn didn't get a walk today. It was a cold, rainy day and she was much happier just taking a long nap on the bed. I insisted on getting my steps and kept checking the weather radar until a found a little gap in the weather pattern that would allow me to walk a few miles. I'm not very good at gauging these intervals anymore. I did pretty well for the first three miles, but on the last mile back home I got soaked. Oh, well. It wasn't much of a walk, but I got 10,000 steps and closed all three activity rings on my Apple watch.

There's a new episode of The Expanse every Wednesday, so this gave me something to do after I returned from the dentist's office. Episode Eight wasn't that good, but I watched it anyway. By next week I will have totally forgotten what happened. This type of episodic television isn't very memorable. There is always a cliffhanger at the end of the show and nothing gets resolved. I could probably watch the same episode over and over again and never realize that I'd seen it before.

I've been reading a lot of articles on beginning astrophotography and I'm starting to realize that the premise of my own article isn't that unique. I'm going to have to rethink the article I'm planning to send to Sky & Telescope or it will never get published. No magazine is going to publish something that they have already published several times before. I'm not sure I even have anything interesting to share, since everything I know about astrophotography is based on a few clear nights in West Texas last October. Nothing ventured, nothing gained though. I know that I need to write about any interesting experiences I have since I really don't do that much. You can't let a good experience go to waste. We'll see what I can come up with. I'll start reworking my outline next week.

I hope the weather clears up tomorrow. I tend to get cabin fever on rainy days, but don't like to drive in the rain. Since I don't like watching television either, it leaves me with very little to do. I'm glad I got a short walk in this afternoon after my dental appointment. The rest of the day was spent doing laundry and paying online bills. Exciting stuff. I'm still researching telescopes and astrophotography gear, but there's definitely no hurry to buy anything. I might not see the stars again for months.

April is today's Dalmatian of the Day


Watch of the Day


Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Day 4044

Dawn has clean, white teeth again. She had quite a bit of tartar build-up and really needed a cleaning. Dawn of course had other ideas. She always goes into panic mode when we take her to the vet. She was so upset this morning that she had an irregular heart beat when they tried to sedate her. The vet took things slowly and gave her a mild sedative and waited for her to calm down before giving her anesthesia for the cleaning procedure. 

We were afraid that she might need some teeth extracted because she'd spent so many years biting at the bars of her crate when she was used as a breeding dog. Her front teeth have been worn down, but luckily what remains is still strong and she has no cavities. No teeth needed to be removed today and her gums are in good condition too. Dawn didn't enjoy her day at the vet, but we feel better knowing that her teeth are healthy and in good condition.

The forecast called for rain today, but predictably it was wrong again. I was able to take my long walk after all. I haven't gone anywhere new for a while and continue to follow the same well-worn paths. I feel like I should name the ducks I see along the way because most of them have become quite familiar by now. Apparently ducks are no more adventurous than I am. My walks may be boring, but I still occasionally see something new and I'm definitely getting more exercise than I'd get staring at this computer for an additional two hours every day.

The replacement dehumidifier has started rattling again and it's driving me nuts. I know the manufacturer sent me a refurbished model even though I can't get them to admit it. The customer support folks won't even answer my questions now. This is a bit baffling to me, since they were so responsive when I was initially trying to get a warranty replacement. It kind of feels like they have a policy that if the manufacturer sends you a replacement, they can never talk to you again.

As I continue to learn more about astrophotography, I'm becoming increasingly tempted to buy a tracking mount. This is the only way I'll be able to take longer exposures of the stars. There is no need to rush things though. A tracker would be a total waste of money until I can start visiting dark sky sites again. Even the best tracking mount wouldn't help me much out in my back yard. I keep hoping that eventually Covid will be over and I can pick up where I left off at the astrophotography workshop last October. It would be nice to start visiting Kennedy Space Center again too. When is this all going to happen? I have no earthly idea.

I keep getting messages from my doctor encouraging me to get vaccinated at one of those mega-sites where you have to stand in line all day. Don't think I'm going to do that. I'd rather just stay away from other people for a while longer. Apparently my doctor's office gets a small supply of the vaccine every month, but so far it's being used on patients who are in a lot worse shape than I am. I'm in the 1B priority group, but so are millions of other people. I'm sure I'll get a call one of these days telling me that it's my turn. Take your time guys. I still have lingering fears that this vaccine will turn out to be a horrible mistake like Thalidomide and other drugs where the side effects weren't discovered until years later.

Dawn is unusually quiet tonight. I don't think the drugs have worn off yet. When she came home, she immediately drank a ton of water and then threw up on the bed. We're still washing all the bedding. Hopefully, life will be back to normal in the morning. 

Daisy is today's Dalmatian of the Day


Watch of the Day


Monday, January 18, 2021

Day 4043

We got a new supposedly indestructible toy for Charlie today. In less than five minutes he had broken the squeaker and was shaking the thing so vigorously that I thought he would knock himself silly. Charlie was just having fun, but if I was a squirrel, I wouldn't get anywhere near this dog. Clyde is gradually overcoming his shyness and Cooper seemed much calmer than he did last week. Everyone is making progress and they were all glad to see us. We'll be back again next week. Visiting the kennel Dalmatians has become a permanent part of our routine.

Dawn is making progress as well. She is eager to take her shorter walks now and doesn't balk or freeze at all. Now that she has become confident that we're not going to try to lead her somewhere where she doesn't want to go, she's a happy camper again. Like most of our previous Dalmatians, Dawn is gradually training us instead of us training her.

I continue to walk about six miles every day. I can't say that the walks are always fun, but they are the only real exercise I get. I'd like to walk ten miles every day, but I don't think my feet are up to it. The new shoes help a lot, but I still feel like an arthritic old man when I return home. I had been planning on going back to the gym again, but now that Covid is resurgent, I think I'll wait a while. I've managed to stay healthy all year. There is no reason to start tempting fate now. The pandemic will eventually be over and I have a high tolerance for doing nothing anyway.

I missed my chance to get rid of the leaves in the yard before big trash day. It's supposed to rain tomorrow and the bulky trash trucks will arrive on our street in a day or two. I was hoping that our recent windy days would blow some of the leaves away, but all the wind did was blow more leaves into the yard. The leaves never used to be a problem before all the neighbors started putting up tall security fences. Now, they just stay in the yard forever until we haul them away.

I continue to bookmark interesting astronomy and telescope sites, making imaginary lists of equipment I need to buy and places I'd like to visit. Oddly, I seldom go out in the backyard and look at the stars. I always seem to have an excuse. It's too cold. It's too wet. You can't really see anything in Dallas anyway. I should make an effort just to stay in practice, but I suspect I have become spoiled. Once you've seen the stars from the dark skies in West Texas, looking up at the sky in a large city hardly seems worth the effort.

I hope I don't buy a bunch of gear that I never end up using. I already did that with audio equipment, but I never returned to songwriting. Once I lose interest in something, it's very hard to rekindle. I think my interest in astronomy is real. I had a telescope in junior high and high school and even thought of becoming an astronomer. Math put an end to that. There was some math involved in becoming an architect, but it was nothing compared to being a physics or astronomy major. Let's face it. I was never very good at math.

I learned something new today. I can't open pictures taken with new iPhones. The new photos are saved using the HEIC image format which isn't recognized by anything on my older phones and computers. I finally found a website that allowed me to convert a photo that was sent to me today but it was a pain to use. I'm glad I am retired or I would have to upgrade everything. Why does Apple continue to do this? I continue to get further and further behind. Adobe and Microsoft have gone to subscription services for all their software and now I can't even see iPhone pictures. Maybe my sister was right in becoming a Luddite.