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
Watch of the Day

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
Watch of the Day

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Day 1582

Not a bad day. The weather was absolutely gorgeous. It was cool enough to keep the dogs happy, and warm enough to keep me happy. There aren't many days like this in Texas, so I try to take advance of them. As an added bonus, I was able to start the day off with a clear view of the total "blood moon" eclipse. As luck would have it, I actually did wake up to to to the bathroom about 2:30 AM and this was just about the middle of the eclipse in our time zone. I'm glad I went outside and took a look, since the dark red moon was quite spectacular. Red was definitely the theme of the night sky, since Mars made it's closest approach to Earth last night as well, glowing a rusty red slightly to the right of the blood red moon.

When the dogs were younger, it would have been impossible to go out in the back yard in the middle of the night without Dot racing out the back door and waking up the entire neighborhood with her barking. Neither dog woke up at all last night and slept soundly through the entire eclipse. I'm glad they didn't wake up. As soon as Dot and Dash wake up, they think it is breakfast time.

I generally don't like meetings, but I had a surprisingly good meeting with a client this afternoon. We tackled a tough problem and came up with a innovative solution that we both thought would work. Trust me. This doesn't happen very often at client meetings. I even got the go-ahead to develop a prototype and see if the idea works. If this happened every day, or even every week, I might actually enjoy working.

My mechanic called today and told me he might have a buyer for my old Maserati. The potential buyer is some guy in Holland why likes to buy cars in American and ship them back to Europe to restore. Unfortunately, the guy wants the car for a dirt cheap price. I could get a lot more for the car if it was running, but then I'd have to pay quite a bit to make the necessary repairs. Some of the parts the car needs are virtual impossible to find anymore. They just don't exist. My gut tells me that it would probably be better to sell the car "as is" in non-running condition. I could spend a small fortune fixing the thing with no guarantee of finding a buyer when all the repairs were finished. Selling an old car is a lot like selling real estate. Often the best time to sell is when you actually have a buyer.

I'm proud of myself. Janet got a free loaf of delicious looking artisan bread from Central Market last week when she was grocery shopping. So far, I haven't touched the bread, even though I would have loved to have turned half the loaf into a big stack of french toast this morning. As tempting as french toast drenched in maple syrup sounded, I had my regular bowl of oatmeal and fruit instead.

Sometimes it's hard to stay strong, but when I was watching Dot trotting along in the water treadmill this afternoon, I kept thinking "Hey, if she can do it, so can I."

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

Monday, April 14, 2014

Day 1581

I can see the writing on the wall. I think I need to get out of the website business. All my clients are unhappy. They're not upset with the design or the writing on their sites. They all think that whenever someone searches for their type of business on Google, they should be at the top of the list. I try to tell them it's not that easy when you've got ten million other companies who also want to be at the top of the list. It used to be relatively easy to get on page one of a Google search, but when everybody on the planet has a website, the game changes a bit.

I know a lot of the unhappy folks think it's my fault that they're not on page one of every Google search, but there's not all that much I can do. I tell them why time honored SEO tricks don't work anymore and why Google wants everyone to buy Adwords, but they don't want to listen. Adwords are expense. SEO companies are expensive too, and don't always produce results. Most of my clients don't want expensive. They want their website to be like Facebook. Facebook is free. Their friends notice their Facebook posts too, so they think everyone should notice their website. Sorry guys. It just doesn't work that way.

I had to turn the furnace back on this morning. The temperature dropped from yesterday's balmy 80 degree weather, to a damp, chilly 40 degrees this morning. Winter is not giving up without a fight this year. I didn't think I would have to wear my goose down ski jacket again, but that's what I had on this morning when I walked Dot. With the addition of a nasty thirty mile an hour wind, it actually seemed a lot colder than 40 degrees.

I never dreamed that Dash would be so eager to go in for cancer treatments. He know when he gets radiation now, and on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday he's the first one up. Often he is waiting at the front door for us to put his harness on while we are still getting dressed. I'm really glad that he likes the other dogs at the cancer center and seems to think we're taking him to doggie day care. It's definitely not what I expected though.

I'd love to see tonight's total lunar eclipse. I'll probably miss it though. In the Central Time zone, the eclipse doesn't even start until 1 AM and won't reach totality until 2:45 AM. My only chance of seeing the thing is if I wake up to go to the bathroom during the middle of the night and happen to look out the window. There was a time when I would have spent hours setting up telescopes and cameras to document an event like this, but not anymore. I've seen dozens of lunar eclipses and they're all pretty much the same. Anyway, there will be tons of pictures of the moon on Facebook tomorrow anyway.

I moved Dot's acupuncture appointment to tomorrow, since I have a doctor's appointment when she typically goes for acupuncture and water therapy. I need to remember to send in my Quarterly Estimated Taxes tomorrow as well. I got another jury summons in the mail today, so I guess they didn't forget about me after I postponed my jury duty last month. I don't know why they would want me on a jury anyway. I'm convinced that everyone is guilty before I even get to the courtroom.

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

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Day 1580

One of these days, I'm going to have to bite the bullet and go paperless. Every couple of months, I try to wade through the mountain of accumulated paper and throw away as much superfluous mail as I can. I have a tendency to save things that I think might be important, and then forget what was so important about the letter later. On days like today, I find myself throwing away a ton of coupons that expired three years ago, invitations to attend seminars that have already taken place, and the ubiquitous unopened proxy statements. I don't know why I get the proxy statements in the first place. Please vote for the following slate of directors, they say. Like my 100 shares are  actually going to make a difference? Annual reports, proxy statements, unsolicited credit cards, surveys, almost anything from AARP is a total waste of postage.  Today I found five letters that really did need to be dealt with and threw away over 100 that were just junk.

What does it mean when 90% of your e-mail winds up unopened in your spam folder, 95% of your phone calls are from telemarketers, and virtually everything the mailman delivers is junk mail?  I must be the kind of customer marketers are trying to reach, because I am deluged with junk. I don't add my name to "do not call" lists because I'm convinced that this will actually increase the number of telemarketing calls. I never open anything in my spam folder because I think this might trigger a hidden malware application. Proxy statements go directly into the paper shredder. It wasn't always this way. As recently as ten years ago, I looked forward to a visit from the postman and clients routinely called me on the phone instead of sending cryptic e-mails that wind up in my spam folder anyway.

After I reduced my mountain of unopened mail to a more manageable size, I got some bleach soaked rags and tried to clean up my bathroom. Somehow when dust, moisture, and soap interact, it leaves a thin layer of scum that is almost impossible to remove. The electric toothbrush, water pic, soap dishes, and toilet are all sparkling clean now. In about a month, they will all be covered with the same scum again. I'll have to deal with the tile grout another day. That's getting pretty disgusting too.

The only reason I even attempted to deal with these tiresome chores today was that it was pouring rain outside for most of the day. I won't need to water the new grass in the back yard for a few days, but I will need to go up on the roof again and remove all the standing water. I'll need to go to the battery store and get a new 24V lawn mower battery too. If I let the front lawn go too long, it will be a tangled mess of tall weeds within a matter of weeks. The lawn mower battery will be expensive, but it's still a lot easier than putting my gas mower in the car and taking it to one of the city's few remaining lawn mower repair shops. These little shops used to be everywhere, but not anymore. Today, people apparently just drag their non-functioning mowers out to the curb for the trash truck to take away and buy another cheap mower at Home Depot. Actually, they just get a yard guy to mow their grass. I'm one of the only people in my neighborhood who still mows his own grass.

As the day progressed, the skies gradually cleared and by late afternoon there were patches of blue sky punctuated with billowing cumulus clouds. The day started dismally, but it ended up being quite pretty. The dogs were as eager to get out of the house as I was, so we took advantage of the nice weather and went on a long afternoon walk. On the way, I thought I saw a squirrel staring at me from a knot hole in a nearby tree. "This would make a cool picture," I thought, and inched closer to the tree to take a picture. When I got about a yard from the tree, I noticed that it was a rubber squirrel that someone had placed in the knot hole. Sure fooled me. Who would bother to put rubber squirrels in random trees in a public park? You'd have to be crazy. Oh wait. That would describe half the people who visit this park. I guess random rubber squirrels are just another aspect of life in the city.

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

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Day 1579

Didn't this happen last year? I get out the lawn mower to cut the grass for the first time and the battery won't hold a charge. Batteries are the Achilles heel of modern technology. I hate them. I did everything right this year. I kept the 24V battery inside, so it wouldn't freeze during the Winter. I kept it on a trickle charger the entire time. How did this ungrateful battery reward me? It powered the mower for about three minute and then it died.

So far this Spring, I've had battery problems with my UP fitness band, my iPhone, one of my laptops, and now the lawn mower. Refurbished batteries never work as well as new ones either. My replacement UP band only holds a charge for seven days instead of the promised ten. The lawn mower battery was refurbished with new cells last Spring. Maybe that is the problem. I guess I could go back to the gas powered mower, but I probably couldn't even start it anymore with my dislocated shoulder. Gas mowers are difficult to start in the Spring anyway. Usually I forget to prepare the mower properly for Winter and the gas lines and tank are all gummy when I try to resurrect the machine in the Spring. Gasoline is meant to be used immediately. It really doesn't sit well for months at a time.

I counted six loose dogs in the park this afternoon. There are signs all over the park saying that dogs must be on a leash at all times, but nobody seems to care anymore. I live in a city where a significant percentage of the population doesn't even bother to get a driver's license. If they don't think a driver's license is important, I'm sure they don't think a leash for their dog is important either. There is an increase in people bringing aggressive dogs to the dog park as well. Just last week one of Janet's friends had her dog attacked by an aggressive dog in one of our favorite parks. With each passing year, I have fewer and fewer good things to say about living in a city.

I sympathize with those ranchers battling the government in Nevada. I've always admired farmers and ranchers. They seem to be the last hard working, no bullshit people left in this country. If my family had been grazing cattle on open range land for decades and I was abruptly told by some government bureaucrat that the land was now a protected habitat for a turtle, I'd be pretty pissed too. At any rate, I hope the ranchers stand strong. Our government has gotten out of hand on so many levels.

Although today's attempt at mowing the grass was a dismal failure, all the other weekend errands got completed. The grocery shopping is done and the pantry is restocked for another week. The car has been filled with gas and the sheets are clean. There are thunderstorms in the forecast for tomorrow, but I hope we avoid them. There is still a lot of work to be done.

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

Friday, April 11, 2014

Day 1578

Dash is back on schedule again. The cancer center called at 6 AM this morning and said the radiation machine was working again, so we resumed the treatments. He's slightly more than halfway done now and is starting to show a bit of what the oncologist euphemistically calls sunburn. They say this skin redness is normal during radiation therapy, but truthfully, nothing seems very normal about this whole process.

Work was slow today so I finally got up on the roof and removed all the standing water from last week's rains. You'd think that the water would have evaporated by now, but it was still there.  I should have gotten the water off the roof earlier, because pollen and debris from the budding trees had turned the water into a dark brown mess. The energy saving white roof was kind of pointless, because all the junk that falls from the trees every Spring has already stained the roof, turning the reflective white into a rich brown sienna color. I don't think Burnt Sienna is a very energy efficient color.

I need to find something new to eat for breakfast. I'm growing tired of all my Friday favorites. The only things that appeal to be now are wheat products like pancakes and french toast that are still on the forbidden list. I've done such a good job at eliminating sugar from my diet and keeping diabetes at bay, that I really hate to return to eating french toast and waffles again. My body seems to convert wheat products directly into sugar, so I'm better off without it. Bread sure sounds good though.

I still get lots of trade magazines in the mail. In fact, trade magazines and bills are just about the only things I get in the mail. I avidly read all the magazines with reviews about new gear. I love reading about the latest and greatest guitars, cameras, microphones, lenses, and recorders. The other magazines are filled with business tips about improving productivity and streamlining business processes. These magazines bore me and I throw them away. I have no interest in improving my business processes whatsoever. Actually, I think I started my company just to give me an excuse to buy lots of cool gear. It worked for quite a while, especially when I was doing a lot of radio and TV commercials. Now, I mostly just write things and this requires virtually no gear at all. What a shame.

It looks like it's time to get the lawn mower out of the greenhouse. If I don't get the front yard under control soon, weeds are going to overpower the Bermuda Grass and I'll have to ask the landscaping guy to come back again. The big Yazoo gas mower isn't going to start without a major tune up, but I've still got the electric mower. The electric mower should start just fine, because I've been keeping the heavy 24V battery nice and warm under my desk all winter.

I'm glad the weekend is here, although I don't really know why. It's not that different from the rest of the week.

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

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Day 1577

We still don't know whether Dash will be getting radiation therapy tomorrow. The cancer center said they're still working on the machine this evening and will call us between 6AM and 7AM tomorrow morning to let us know whether to bring Dash in for treatment. There must be a serious problem with the machine, since they've been working on it for almost three days now. Hopefully, everything will be fixed tomorrow. I worry that a big gap in treatments might compromise the effectiveness of the therapy.

Machines always seem to be the problem. On a much smaller scale, I've been having weird problems with my iPhone lately. I'll start to take a picture and the phone will abruptly shut down like the battery was dead. When I go to recharge the battery, I  typically discover that it still has a 50% charge. I went on a couple of Apple forums and discovered that this was actually a common problem for people who have upgraded to IOS 7. Apparently it is some sort of firmware problem where the battery controller gets scrambled ant doesn't know whether the battery is charged or not. I wish Apple would concentrate on developing a better battery, rather than making an even thinner case or a larger screen. I don't particularly care about the size of the phone. I just want it to work reliably.

One of my clients has been having problems with their online forms ever since the hosting company made a server change. The hosting company called me today and told me they had resolved the problem. I tried out one of the forms and quickly discovered that it still didn't work. This is the problem in dealing with technical support. Just saying that a problem is fixed, doesn't necessarily mean that it is actually fixed. It doesn't matter if the problem is a software glitch, a billing discrepancy, or a password that doesn't work, it usually takes at least five tries before you eventually get it right.

Despite all the problems, I managed to get quite a bit of work done today. I efficiently wrote and submitted three new articles. Then I wasted a ton of time inefficiently struggling to resolve a variety of technical issues over the phone with technical support people in India. I have a hard enough time understanding these people and and even harder time finding a satisfactory solution to my problems.

I was kind of disappointed to learn that Stephen Colbert will replace David Letterman. I was hoping that Craig Ferguson would get the job. Ferguson's lazy, largly unscripted brand of humor doesn't appeal to everyone, but he's become my go-to guy when I can't get to sleep at night. The guy does the same thing over and over again with minor variations, but it still seems funny to me. Maybe I'm just jealous that Ferguson gets paid for not really giving a shit about what he does. I wish I could get paid for not giving a shit.

Who knows what will happen tomorrow.  Either Dash will return to his radiation treatments, or the entire treatment schedule will slip even further behind. I sympathize with the folks at the cancer center. Their fancy radiation machine is much, much more expensive than my balky large format printer, but I'm sure their frustration is the same when the machine refuses to work for some inexplicable reason.

Apollo is today's Dalmatian of the Day
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