Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Day 1590

I woke up exhausted this morning. Dash got up in the middle of the night and seemed convinced that it was morning. He wanted his breakfast. He wanted a walk. He wanted everybody else to be completely miserable until he got what he wanted. He was acting so weird that I started wondering if the cancer center folks might have accidentally pointed the radiation machine at his brain instead of his surgery scar on Monday. Usually, in situations like these, I can bribe the dogs with a treat, but Dash was already fasting for today's radiation treatment, so he couldn't eat anything. Janet took him outside twice. I took him outside twice. We traded places in the bed, but nothing seemed to work. Eventually, he wore himself out and went back to bed. Dot was the only one who got a good night's sleep. Her hearing is so bad now, that she slept through the entire commotion.

I got an e-mail from Network Solutions today asking me to confirm all my personal information. The letter said that if I didn't comply, my domains would be deactivated. This letter seemed like a textbook example of a phishing scam, so I didn't reply to the e-mail. I called Network Solutions technical support instead and after waiting on hold for fifteen minutes, talked to a friendly technician who informed me "Yes, the letter I received was genuine." "I bet you've received a lot of calls like mine this morning," I told the lady. "Yes, we  have." she said. "Why on earth would you format a letter to your customers so it would appear exactly like a phishing scam," I asked? The tech support lady didn't have an answer to this obvious questions, and blamed everything on ICANN instead. I made a mental note to move the rest of my domains to GoDaddy.

I think I solved the second of my three vexing website problems today. Only one more to go. I don't feel much joy as I continue to wade through this labyrinth of broken code and unrealistic expectations though. Times have changed and all I'm really doing is bailing water out of a leaky boat. Some people spend so much of their lives online these days that they start to think of their website as a member of the family. To me, a website today is not that different from what a Yellow Pages ad was to people in the 1950's. The difference is that back then, people wouldn't compulsively stare at the phone book all day.

It's getting harder and harder for me to eat oatmeal for breakfast every day. I made myself a sausage omelet this morning instead. The Kale salads in the evening aren't as tasty as they used to be either. The dilemma I'm facing is that I now know exactly what to do keep diabetes at bay, avoid a heart attack, and ensure that my liver stays healthy. There is no question that a good diet is the unequivocal secret to staying healthy. Just about anybody could lose weight, lower their blood sugar, and clear their clogged arteries just by eliminating all packaged and processed foods from their diet. No sugar, no salt, and no alcohol is a perfect recipe for no fun though. I have a lot of willpower, so I imagine I'll stick with this healthy way of eating, even though I'd rather subsist on cheeseburgers, pizza, and beer. Where's the fun going to come from though? In my younger years, most of my fun came from indulgent, self-destructive behavior. I'm not sure I've been passionate about anything healthy in my life.

Wyatt is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Day 1589

I stopped to get some tickets to a neighborhood tour of homes when I was driving home from the post office today. Unfortunately, they wouldn't take credit cards, so I'll have to make another trip later. Sometimes these local home tours are fun. I know where most of the houses are and and am often curious what they look like on the inside. Our house could easily be on one of these home tours if we had picked designer decor instead of Dalmatians many years ago. I'm glad we picked Dalmatians though, even though they've made a mess of the doors and the furniture.

If you know where to look, you can still see impressions in the woodwork left by Spot's puppy teeth when he was teething.  There is still a giant hole that Petey tore in the carpet while he was trying to dig a hole to China during a thunderstorm. I've conveniently covered up the hole by placing the large format printer on top of it. Greta was the most destructive. She chewed holes in most of the decorative throw pillows in the living room and completely destroyed a beautiful set of Palazzetti Tomasa dinning room chairs. Despite all this, there is no doubt that the dogs have made me a better person. I don't care about all the dents and scratches. It wasn't always this way. If you think I'm OCD now, you should have seen me back in the days when I arranged all the furniture with zen-like precision and didn't even want anyone to sit in it.

We watched a news crew from the local NBC affiliate set up for a live segment on the evening news while we were taking our evening walk. It looked like a big deal because they even had a news helicopter overhead. There's a big controversy right now about building a restaurant in the park. The city wants the restaurant. The neighbors don't. I have a feeling that the neighbors will ultimately lose this battle, but who knows. The city has already turned an arboretum on the other side of the park into a hugely profitable venture. They'd probably like to do the same thing with our section of the park. I'm sure the park department would monetize every square inch of the park if they could get away with it. Personally, I don't mind the idea of a restaurant. I don't like to drive and it would give me a place to eat that I could easily walk to. I do hate the city's efforts to turn the park into an urban entertainment center though. When I first moved to the neighborhood, the park wasn't even on the city's radar. It was largely abandoned and seemed authentically wild and natural. Now it's just becoming a park department version of Disneyland.

Dash sailed though his annual physical with flying colors today. This is usually when he gets his rabies shot and any other necessary vaccinations, but we decided to wait on these until his cancer treatment is finished. Dash has more than enough to deal with right now, without the addition of even more meds that might cause an adverse reaction or additional stress. We'll catch up on the vaccinations later.

Work has been unusually slow this month. Since I had the time, I decided to gather up all the twigs and dead limbs I could find and take them out to the street for bulky trash day. I was surprised that there was still so much brush around the yard to gather up. Wasn't this what I hired the landscape guys to do last month?  At any rate, for the first time in about six months, I managed to get this chore completed before big trash day. I think the trucks are coming to pick things up tomorrow.

Mindy is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Monday, April 21, 2014

Day 1588

I realized this morning that I've got an appointment for the dogs at the vet every single day this week. Today Dash had his fifteenth radiation treatment. Tomorrow he gets his annual physical and vaccinations. Wednesday it's more radiation therapy. Thursday Dot gets her weekly acupuncture and water therapy. Friday we finish things out with Dash's next to last radiation treatment. It's a good thing that I've got a flexible schedule.

I was expecting terrible weather today, but most of the bad storms went to the North of us. We still got a little thunder and lightning, but now that Dot's hearing isn't so good, the storms don't tend to bother her as much. The loud severe weather alerts that take over the TV from time to time during storm season bother Dot more these days than the thunder itself. I guess we're in the middle of tornado season, but it hasn't been so bad this year. Like I've said many times, you can never figure out Texas weather.

One by one, my laundry list of website problems is starting to get resolved. Today, the recalcitrant forms on one site finally started working again. Maybe one of the dozens of calls I made to technical support eventually resonated with someone. Hopefully, I can now check this problem off my list and move on to other things. Maybe this problem got solved first because it was basically a coding issue. Broken code is always easier to fix than finding the answer to vexing questions like "why isn't my site popular?"

I've been watching this show about FAME Studios and Muscle Shoals, Alabama on PBS this evening. I'd forgotten how many amazing songs had been recorded there. The show seemed like the sound track to my life. Everything from Percy Sledge's When a Man Loves a Woman, to the Rolling Stones Brown Sugar, and Paul Simon's Kodachrome were recorded at FAME Studios. Lynyrd Skynyr's Sweet Home Alabama was actually about Muscle Shoals. I only mention all this because this particular music is one of the few things that still manages to break through my somewhat stony indifference. I loved playing these songs when I was a bass player in an obscure rock band. When I wrote jingles for commercials, I would occasionally daydream about quitting my job as an advertising copywriter and moving to Nashville. It never happened though.

I guess everything works out as it should though. I've got no complaints. I understand Dalmatians better than most men and take some damn nice pictures of local wildflowers. All that being said, I still might dust off the guitar tomorrow and play a few tunes to make the day go faster.

Joe is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Day 1587 - Easter

I hope everyone had a pleasant Passover, Easter, or just a nice day. I certainly did. I knew it was going to rain sometime today, so I thought I'd get up early and get a lot done while the sun was still shining. As luck would have it, the skies were clear and sunny for most of the day. I got the lawn mower running and got the front yard looking decent again. I think the cause of my battery problems is my battery charger. It no longer shuts itself off when it reaches a full charge. I'll have to remember to manually unplug the thing this Summer after it charges for about three hours. Otherwise, I'll burn up the new battery fairly quickly.

After I got the yard looking nice, I weeded a few flower beds. I encountered quite a few honeybees while I was working. Hopefully, they were just passing through gathering pollen. I certainly hope they aren't planning on building another huge hive in my house. Once you've been stung by a bunch of angry bees, you don't tend to forget.

I took some more stuff to the storage warehouse this afternoon. If I lived in a rural area and had a bigger yard, I'd buy one of those metal warehouse buildings that all farmers seem to have. I'd fill it with industrial metal shelving and alphabetize each aisle from A to Z. I'd take great pleasure in categorizing and archiving all my stuff, until the zombie apocalypse came and I realized that all my treasured tools were hopelessly rusty with completely dead batteries. Janet thinks I'm dangerously close to becoming a hoarder, but I think my pack-rat tendencies are no worse than her own tendencies to always buy in bulk to take advantage of sales. I may still have every Macintosh I've ever owned, but at least I'm not responsible for the year's supply of soup in the kitchen pantry.

Today is a huge day for family picnics in the park. Typically, one family member arrives early in the morning to stake out a picnic table and the rest of the family arrives later. Some people erect elaborate tents and put up volleyball nets. By ten-thirty AM, the air is thick with the smell of barbecue and smoked meats. I try to walk the dogs in secluded areas on days like this. Dash loves an audience when he poops and never fails to embarrass me by pooping right in front of a large table of people eating their holiday dinner. There's way too much candy littering the ground too, since the kids seems to only find 50% of what their parents hide for the egg hunt. Easter candy is the last thing the dogs should be eating. Chocolate is poisonous to dogs.

The rain did eventually arrive late in the day, but we were all safely back inside by then, eating our Easter dinner. A great dinner is always a nice way to end a good day. Tomorrow, Dash goes in for his fifteenth radiation treatment. I'm on the home stretch of my own Hepatitis-C treatments as well. I usually don't look forward to birthdays, but this year might be different. By June, most of this Spring's long medical journey should be in the past.

Wilson is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Day 1586

I got lucky today. When I went to the Interstate battery store to get my lawn mower battery repaired, the technician noticed that the defective cells he was removing from the case were still under warranty. The one year warranty on the two battery cells was going to expire in four days. I had forgotten that the old battery even had a warranty. I've just gotten used to replacing these batteries every year. At any rate, the technician refurbished my battery for free. If I had waited until next week to take care of this chore, it would have cost me $90.

I finally made it back to the gym this afternoon. I really need to figure out how to do these workouts on a more regular basis. It was starting to seem easy when I went three times a week. Now that I can only make it to the gym sporadically, these workouts are killing me. It took me about three months to build up a good rhythm and now it appears I'll have to start all over again. No rest for the weary, I guess. I don't even like going to the gym, but I do like the results. I'd hate to start gaining weight again.

While I was at the gym, Janet called and said she'd lost her car keys at the grocery store. I drove home and found a spare pair of keys to take over to her. While I was home looking for the spare keys, the dogs were very indignant that I wasn't feeding them their dinner. Both of them started barking loudly when I left the house again about five minutes later. You'd think having their dinner thirty minutes late was the end of the world.

I got another letter from the city today saying that Dash's animal registration had expired. This happens every single year. I always get new city tags for the dogs when they have their annual physical exam. My vet sends the updated information to the city immediately, but somehow the city is permanently three weeks out of sync. If they would just wait a few weeks before they send out this noncompliance letter, they might realize that Dot and Dash always have current city tags.

The park is going to be a disaster area tomorrow. Every Easter, throngs of people descend on the park to have family Easter egg hunts. Nobody hides real eggs anymore though. They all just hide candy for the kids. For weeks after Easter, I have to be especially vigilant when walking the dogs. There are are tons of candy left in the grass that the kids failed to find, along with assorted chicken bones, beer cans, and dirty baby diapers. I liked this park a lot better before the city discovered it. It's still nice on weekdays after everybody has gone to work, but weekends and holidays are a madhouse.

I'm not sure what I'll do tomorrow. If the weather's nice, there are still a ton of chores with my name on them. Mowing the grass will probably be at the top of the list. If it rains tomorrow, I'll probably just take a long nap  with the dogs.
 
Marley is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Friday, April 18, 2014

Day 1585 - Good Friday

Good Friday seems to be an optional holiday. The stock market was closed today, but the post office was still delivering mail. The Interstate Battery store, where I was going to replace my lawn mower battery, was closed, but Dash's cancer center was still open. Janet's office was officially closed, but most people went in to work anyway because they were busy. All over town, some businesses were closed and others were open in a random sort of way. This is probably just what happens to religious holidays in an increasingly secular world.

I surprised the staff at my favorite breakfast restaurant this morning by ordering something different. I must have been really bored this morning, because I always order the same thing at this restaurant. Maybe I should take a chance more often, because my alternate choice was really pretty tasty.

I wonder if there is an effective way to get telemarketers and scammers to leave you alone? I've been feeling inundated with scams lately. Phishing scams are growing increasingly sophisticated. I get dozens of these each day. It's gotten so bad that I almost don't trust any e-mail  receive these days. Today I got a realistic looking confirmation of a hotel reservation I never made. Two hours later, I got an unsolicited credit card in the mail, with a letter urging me to activate it immediately to avoid fraud. Nope! Not going to do that. Many of these phishing scams try to alarm you enough to call a fake help line were telephone operators try to grab even more of your personal information. It's such a shame that our society has come to this. If spammers and scammers put as much energy into starting a legitimate business as they did trying to cheat people, our economy would probably be booming.

I got an e-mail today telling me that my company had been recognized as a 2013 Texas Excellence Award recipient by the US Trade & Commerce Institute. I looked on the web and there really is a US Trade & Commerce Institute. Sadly, I suspect this is a scam too. There are quite a few companies in the business of selling pretty looking, but entirely bogus professional awards to excessively vain people. The pretty crystal award, which recognizes my company for "Excellence in Marketing" would certainly look good on my desk, but I'm a bit suspicious. I don't pay any attention to marketing whatsoever. What a joke! Hey, the only award I want would be to get in the Guinness Book of Records for "Most Consecutive Blog Posts."

Today wasn't very productive, but I need to start looking at the glass as half full rather than half empty. I didn't resolve any of yesterday's vexing website issues, but I did discover something new and very tasty to eat for breakfast and Dash continues to do well at his radiation treatments. He only has two more weeks to go!

Mattie is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Day 1584

I feel like I'm locked in my own personal Ground Hog Day. I've been trying to resolve a website problem for almost two weeks now. I call technical support every morning and talk a cheerful person who seems to understand my problem. He, or she, always says the problem seems easy enough to resolve, but that it will need to be escalated to the next level of support, because they don't have access to the information I need. The next day I get an e-mail saying that my problem has been solved and my ticket has been closed. I then go to the website in question and discover that nothing has changed at all. The problem has definitely not been resolved. I then call tech support again and explain the situation to another friendly person. They apologize for the mix up, telling me that they have reopened my service ticket and that the problem will be resolved properly this time. The next day I get another e-mail saying that my problem has been solved and my ticket has been closed again. Once again, nothing has changed. This has been going on for weeks.

I'm trying to solve a different type of problem with another client and have contacted a developer who supposedly knows all the answers. Today, he sent me detailed instruction, telling me exactly what to do to make the changes my client requested. So far, so good. At the very bottom of the letter was a final paragraph telling me not to do anything to the website during business hours and to be sure to back everything up before I attempt to make any changes. The developer concludes by telling me that if I follow his instructions exactly, I still might crash the entire site. WTF? I was hoping that thy guy would give me an answer, not a roulette wheel.

I went to my hepatologist for another blood test this afternoon. From now on out, these periodic tests are somewhat of a formality. By all indications, the treatment has already worked. These guys are just playing it safe. I will continue to get bi-weekly blood tests until June, and then probably once a year thereafter. One thing I have learned during Dash's cancer treatment and my own Hepatitis-C treatment is that doctors tend to take the amount of medication necessary to resolve a serious problem and then double it, just to make sure. This is especially true with cancer, since there is no definitive way to prove that the cancer will never return.

Maybe I'll have time to get the lawn mower battery replaced tomorrow. I can't put this off too much longer, since the grass is still growing. Dash has another radiation treatment in the morning and I have an appointment with an egg at my favorite restaurant. I hope I can get some of these ongoing website problems resolved soon. It's way too late in the year for Ground Hog Day.

Bella is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Day 1583

I ran into a group of photographers when I was walking the dogs today. They had tripods and long telephoto lenses and were attempting to photograph barn owls in a nearby tree. Surprisingly, I knew exactly which owls they were talking about. I told the photographers when I usually saw the owls and they told me that one of them recently had three babies. I hope the photographers got the pictures they wanted, because they had traveled a long way. That's the difference between me and the other people in the park. I live here. I'm not much of a naturalist, but I'm here every day, year after year. I see patterns. I can tell you when the White Pelicans leave for the Summer and when the baby ducks take to the water for the first time. I can predict when and where flowers will bloom and can tell you where the sun will touch the horizon on any given day. Some people become experts because they are passionate about a subject. My own expertise is usually acquired simply by showing up.

I know every inch of the park because I have a high tolerance for repetition. I have walked a succession of Dalmatians in the park for well over twenty years. This ability to to the same thing over and over again is why I am writing to you for the 1583rd  consecutive day. Endless repetition either drives you crazy or gives you the ability to see nuanced differences. Hopefully, I am not crazy. When I have by favorite breakfast eggs, I can tell if the chef has cooked them 15 seconds too long. When someone takes a book off the bookshelf, I instantly know which book has been removed. Inside every web page is a lot of HTML code that is very similar to all other web pages. The same can be said of print advertising. The only important thing is the headline. The text is just words place together in familiar patterns.

Maybe this is why Texas weather bothers me so much. It seems completely random. I can predict a lot of things fairly accurately, but I can't predict the weather at all. If it rained every Wednesday, I could compensate for it. I never know when it is going to rain, or snow, or when we're in the path of a tornado. The stock market is basically unpredictable as well. There are a ton of people who will tell you that they have the market figured out. Since none of these experts can predict the future, most of them have been fooled again and again.

Today was certainly predictable. Dash had another radiation treatment at the cancer center. I got my exercise by sweeping standing water off the roof. I made an omelet for breakfast using a recipe that became stuck in my head long before I ever moved to Texas. I used to wonder how dogs could get so excited about eating the same bowl of kibble over and over again for breakfast. I do the same thing though. Maybe we just like the ritual of eating. Whatever it is, I think dogs have discovered the secret of life. Eat. Sleep. Play. Repeat. That just about covers it for me.

Becker is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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