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.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Day 4042

I signed up for the vaccine on a few websites today. I thought this whole vaccination effort would be more organized, but this is apparently how you do it. All the pharmacies, hospitals, and other locations that have been designated as distribution centers have websites saying that they'll have the vaccine soon. None of them appear to have it now. You just leave your e-mail address on the websites and I guess they'll get back to you. I was just going to wait until I could get the shot at my doctor's office, but if Janet and I can get vaccinated earlier, we'll feel a lot better about traveling.

I'm sure there are side effects to the vaccine but I'm not going to worry about them. I've already been vaccinated for almost everything and there were side effects to all those other vaccines too. Most vaccines leave me with a sore arm for a few days and that's it. I'm old enough to remember kids who had polio. You really want to eliminate these kind of problems if you've got a chance. If we all end up growing a third ear a few years from now, well it won't be the first time that humanity screwed up.

Dawn seems to be walking fine now. She's not very adventurous and only wants to walk for one mile on very familiar routes, but she does seem to be enjoying herself. What was going through her head when she used to take much longer walks with us? We thought she was enjoying herself then too. This is a fairly dramatic change and there doesn't appear to be any physical reason for it. We've had Dalmatians for many, many years and they've all loved to walk. Maybe something happened when Dawn had her seizure several months ago. Maybe she's finally become confident enough to let us know how she really feels. I have a feeling that we may never know what has caused this strange change in behavior.

After we took Dawn back to the house, Janet and I continued walking along the old route where we used to take Dawn. It was a beautiful day, but it didn't seem the same without a dog. We both kept thinking that Dawn was missing out on an enjoyable afternoon. Dawn probably thought we were missing out on an enjoyable nap.

I feel like I've lost my momentum. I'd made some good contacts at Kennedy Space Center and had made three trips out to McDonald Observatory. Stories were getting published and I felt like I was on my way. Then Covid ruined everything. NASA became much more restrictive with press credentials. My main contact at the Air Force retired and I'm going to have to start all over again getting credentialed through them. West Texas became a virus hot spot and the observatory shut down. There's absolutely nothing I'm interested in writing about in Dallas. I get up in the morning and I walk. That's about it.

We'll go visit the Dalmatians at the kennel tomorrow. On Tuesday Dawn has an appointment to have her teeth cleaned and then on Wednesday I have my own dental appointment. I think that the SN9 Starship prototype is supposed to fly next week as well. It should be a fairly busy week. I don't think there will be time to get the leaves raked before the next big trash day. We'll save that for next month.

Chief is today's Dalmatian of the Day

Watch of the Day

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Day 4041

Today seemed busier than usual, even though very little actually happened. I got my grocery shopping done right after breakfast. I found everything on my list and was in and out of the store fairly quickly. This week there was plenty of fresh fruit.

Our shortened walks with Dawn continue to be a success. As long as she can choose a familiar path and doesn't have to walk over a mile, she's a happy camper. It doesn't seem to matter whether I walk her or Janet does, but she definitely listens to Janet better.

When Dawn returns to the house, I just continue walking. I guess this is my new schedule for a while. I ended up walking six miles today. The weather was great. The sky was clear and yesterday's wind was completely gone. My new shoes have really helped eliminate my foot pain. Most of the aches and pains now can just be attributed to old age. I wish the new shoes were a little more durable. They are already showing some wear. I have hiking boots that I've worn my entire adult life. Running shoes seldom last more than a year. I guess that's fair. A durable shoe that is painful isn't of much use at all.

Today was the big day for the Artemis-1 static fire at Stennis Space Center. Maybe it was just as well that I didn't attend this test. The planned eight minute hot fire was aborted after just one minute due to a still undisclosed problem with one of the engines. I watched the news conference later in the day where everyone was trying to put a positive spin on things, but you could hardly call this test a success. The rocket has been sitting on the test stand for over a year now. You'd think that would have been plenty of time to work out all the bugs in this rocket. During this amount of time, Space X has already flown three Starship prototypes and is getting ready to launch a fourth next week. I have a feeling that by the time Artemis finally makes it to the moon, Space X will already be there waiting for them.

I got gas for the first time in a month today. I started driving less when Covid restrictions started last Spring. Now that I've fully adapted to this new normal, there just isn't anyplace to go. I don't go to the bank or post office anymore. All these transactions are handled online now. I don't go to the pharmacy as often because I've switched all my prescriptions to 90 day renewals. Almost all my shopping is done online as well. About the only people I need to see physically anymore are my doctors and appointments aren't that frequent. No wonder I'm eager for another launch opportunity or a trip back to the observatory.

Janet has already signed up for the vaccine at two different locations. I guess I'm going to have to do the same. I was just planning to wait until I could take the shot in my doctor's office, but that might be a while. It's not going to be good if Janet is vaccinated and I'm not. My doctor sent out a letter telling patients to get vaccinated at their first opportunity as well. Oh, well. One more unpleasant thing to add to my to-do list.

I picked up some ribs for dinner at my favorite barbecue place. The ribs and brisket are great. The location of this place, not so much. Got harassed by a homeless person while taking my order out to the car again. City life just isn't what It used to be. 

Shelby is today's Dalmatian of the Day

Watch of the Day

Friday, January 15, 2021

Day 4040

I went along on Dawn's walk today. She seemed confident and happy. She trusts Janet and she seems to know that she doesn't have to walk too far anymore. We took turns holding the leash and it didn't seem to matter as long as Dawn was leading the way and could go wherever she wanted. One mile seems her limit now and she definitely knows the way home. Is there a lesson in this? I'm not sure, but it's clear that our fitness goals are not the same as Dawn's.

Maybe something happened after Dawn had the seizure. Maybe she's finally become confident enough to let us know what she really thinks. Either way, it's fine. Dawn is not a young dog and if she only wants to walk a mile, there's nothing wrong with that.

I'll continue taking long walks, mostly because I can't think of anything better to do. Walking is a great way to daydream and think. I find myself thinking about cars and astronomy a lot. When Covid fades from the scene, there are a lot of dark sky sites I'd like to visit. I almost never find myself thinking about politics and current events. I don't even care. My little world has always been a private one. Walking in the woods and watching ducks suits me just fine.

Today's walk was incredibly windy. The wind almost blew me over when I was walking by the shoreline. I always worry that another tree is going to blow over in the yard when we have strong winds. This is always when it seems to happen. Luckily, everything was still standing when I returned home. Today I saw three vultures eating a dead possum by the side of the road. They would take turns with one vulture tearing into the carcass at a time. There are three Muscovy ducks that I see almost every day. A small female joined the two males several months ago and now appears to be the leader of the group. She swims ahead of the two males and leads the way when they are on land as well. Ducks and geese always seem to have a leader. I wonder who gets to be the leader in those giant v-shaped formations I often see flying overhead?

I need to find a new way to occupy my time. Following rocket launches is getting harder and harder because of Covid restrictions. McDonald Observatory has closed again too. I doubt that they are going to be needing volunteer help for quite a while. I don't write songs anymore and I can't imagine building a website just for fun. So many things I used to enjoy just seem stupid now. It's probably not a good sign that my favorite activity now is taking long naps.

It's time to make a grocery list again. These weeks go by incredibly quickly. It seems like I was just making a list yesterday. The last time I went to the store, a lot of shelves were empty again. I hope people haven't resumed hoarding stuff. When other people start hoarding, you start hoarding as well and it quickly gets out of hand. It took us months to use up all the stuff we got last April.

I wish Dawn would start trusting me. Maybe that's too much to ask. There are people I know who still don't trust me.