Monday, June 1, 2020

Monday Musings - June 1, 2020

1. The sixth month of the crazy year 2020 begins today. I am pretty sure no one saw all of this coming when the year started. 

2. Although the country is opening, the coronavirus has extracted an huge toll by claiming the lives of at least 103,000 Americans.

Eastern Black Swallowtail
Elkridge, MD
May 30, 2020
3. I saw one of my first butterflies of the season on Saturday, an eastern black swallowtail. It was flying in and around the grasses near my pool.
Robins Nest with 2 Eggs
Elkridge, MD
May 28, 2020

4. The robins are back and when last I saw the empty nest, there were two eggs in it. 

5. It was strangely cold this morning at 47 degrees! 

6. There is concern that the protests in over 100 U.S. cities demanding Justice for George, may cause a spike in COVID-19 cases

7. The past few afternoons have been great pool days. It appears that summertime weather has arrived! At least for a while. Well, until this morning arrived. 

8. There are at least three things that I wish we could return to China and never have to deal with again: coronavirus, stink bugs, and the emerald ash borer

9. Sometimes I feel as if our society is caught in a maze of choices that have no good outcome. Down one path is COVID-19, and down another is justifiable civil unrest, then there is a path to economic disaster, followed by trade wars, failed fiscal policies, and a crashing stock market. I'm not sure there is a path to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness left on the table.

10. Today in History. On June 1, 1980, CNN (Cable News Network), the world’s first 24-hour television news network, makes its debut. The network signed on at 6 p.m. EST from its headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, with a lead story about the attempted assassination of civil rights leader Vernon Jordan. 
CNN went on to change the notion that news could only be reported at fixed times throughout the day. At the time of CNN’s launch, TV news was dominated by three major networks–ABC, CBS and NBC–and their nightly 30-minute broadcasts. Initially available in less than two million U.S. homes, today CNN is seen in more than 90 million American households and over 160 million homes internationally.

Astronauts Dock With Space Station After Historic SpaceX Launch - The New York Times

As Protests and Violence Spill Over, Trump Shrinks Back - The New York Times

Twitter Had Been Drawing a Line for Months When Trump Crossed It - The New York Times

Rebounding U.S. Stocks Outpace Rest of World - The Wall Street Journal

Hong Kong leaders say Trump ‘completely wrong’ for curbing ties - OANN

Hundreds of protesters rally in London, Berlin over U.S. death - Reuters

Ronald Reagan Quote for the Week

America has always been greatest when we dared to be great. We can reach for greatness again. We can follow our dreams to distant stars, living and working in space for peaceful, economic, and scientific gain. Tonight, I am directing NASA to develop a permanently manned space station and to do it within a decade. 

From State of the Union Address (25 Jan 1984).

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Return to Orbit

Yesterday was a momentous day for the United States. 

Falcon-9 Dragon Space Launch
May 30, 2020
For the first time since the last Space Shuttle flight humans were launched into orbit from the United States. The last space shuttle flight was the Space Shuttle Atlantis from July 8-21, 2011. Since that flight and until yesterday, the United States did not have the capability to launch humans into space--only Russia and China had that capability. All of the U.S. astronauts who had flown to the International Space Station during that period rode into space aboard a Russian Soyuz space booster. 

It was exciting to watch the most sophisticated human space flight vehicle in the world take off from Cape Canaveral. The 9-year hiatus is over! The United States is no longer dependent upon Russia to place U.S. astronauts into space. 

It is something to cheer as we face the coronavirus and the protests over the wrongful death of George Floyd. 

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Changing the Focus

Another day, another shifting issue.

Although the stock market had started the week strong and actually ended the week higher--it sagged during the last two days as the government added another issue to the ones we are dealing with: COVID-19 and the death of George Floyd. 

The continuing problems with China are important, but it seems they generally reach a critical state when our leaders are trying to shift the focus from other important issues. I look at it as the moveable crisis. Unfortunately, every time that China becomes the focal crisis, I lose value in my investments! 

It is like the administration is trying to ignore coronavirus and the unrest caused by the death of George Floyd. 

And so now the most important issue in the world is the Hong Kong crisis and the discontinuity between China and the U.S. I agree that it is an important issue, but it seems that it is conveniently important to distract attention from incredibly critical domestic issues--like COVID-19 and the continuing injustice that people of color face in America. 

I was appalled at the arrest of a CNN reported yesterday morning, live on TV from Minneapolis. 

A Twitter feed from the Minnesota State Patrol said: In the course of clearing the streets and restoring order at Lake Street and Snelling Avenue, four people were arrested by State Patrol troopers, including three members of a CNN crew. The three were released once they were confirmed to be members of the media.

Really? I watched the event on TV and the reporter had a camera, microphone, and credentials at the scene--yet he was arrested while another CNN reporter with similar credentials a block away was not arrested.

And worse, in reviewing the tweets from the president, he is turning this into a political issue. It is a leadership issue. 

I saw one tweet which indicated that it was time for a change in 2020. I agree, it is time for a change--the president must stop shifting issues, take responsibility, focus, and begin to fix the problems.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Friday, May 29, 2020

The Scorpion and the Frog

Who despises fact checking more than someone who abuses facts?

Figures don't lie, but liars figure.

When a person in a position of power has a well-documented disturbingly distorted sense of the truth and labels any disagreement as fake news and further cannot engage in a rational discussion of right and wrong--it is an abuse of power. 

Everything and everyone is subject to fact checking. 

According to The Washington Post, 
President Trump made 18,000 false or misleading claims in 1,170 days
The attacks this week are against social media, but when will more overt attempts be made to muzzle the free and independent press?

And here is the really confounding aspect of the president's attack upon social media, from a New York Times article this morning, 

But the logic of Mr. Trump’s order is intriguing because it attacks the very legal provision that has allowed him such latitude to publish with impunity a whole host of inflammatory, harassing and factually distorted messages that a media provider might feel compelled to take down if it were forced into the role of a publisher that faced the risk of legal liability rather than a distributor that does not.

“Ironically, Donald Trump is a big beneficiary of Section 230,” said Kate Ruane, a senior legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, which instantly objected to the proposed order. “If platforms were not immune under the law, then they would not risk the legal liability that could come with hosting Donald Trump’s lies, defamation and threats.”

And the search for truth amidst the bluster remains. Twitter, however, as reported by the New York Times, responded:

Twitter said early Friday that a tweet from President Trump implying that protesters in Minneapolis could be shot violated the company’s rules against glorifying violence, in a move that threatens to escalate tensions between Mr. Trump and his favorite social media megaphone over its content policies.

The company prevented users from viewing Mr. Trump’s message without first reading a brief notice describing the rule violation. Twitter also blocked users from liking or replying to Mr. Trump’s post.

But Twitter did not take the tweet down, saying it was in the public’s interest that the message remain accessible.

Since the message was still available on Twitter, the inflammatory headline carried on Fox News this morning is both incorrect and irresponsible:

Legally, had Twitter been following the letter of the Executive Order and considering their potential liability, they likely should have removed the tweet as it violated their policies. Not censorship, but legally required!

The situation has become like the fable about the scorpion and the frog

A scorpion, which cannot swim, asks a frog to carry it across a river on the frog's back. The frog hesitates, afraid of being stung by the scorpion, but the scorpion argues that if it did that, they would both drown. The frog considers this argument sensible and agrees to transport the scorpion. Midway across the river, the scorpion stings the frog anyway, dooming them both. The dying frog asks the scorpion why it stung the frog despite knowing the consequence, to which the scorpion replies: "I couldn't help it. It's in my nature."

By "stinging" social media with an executive order, the President may lose access to the very forum which has enabled him to spread his particular brand of embarrassing vicious commentary and falsehoods.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD 

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Not so Fast!

They're back. 

An Egg in the Nest
Elkridge, MD
May 27, 2020
The robins returned yesterday after a couple days of quiet. I did not see them during the day, but as we were departing for an evening walk, I saw a robin peeking out from the middle of the hanging basket. Ugh, I thought, that is not good. 

When we returned from the walk the robin was not around and this image confirms my worst fear--the robins have taken possession of the nest and are in fact nesting! There is only one egg right now, but I suspect that there will be more soon. 

Not good news. It creates a few problems. I hope that the robins get used to the level of activity in our yard. The nest is actually, as I understand it, protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act as long as it is being used--so we are required to let the robins have access to it until they no longer are using it. I hope we can find a way to keep the flowers alive and water them without disturbing the birds.

Squirrel Keeping Watch
Elkridge, MD
May 27, 2020
We did enjoy a short evening walk to the catch pond to look for geese and other wildlife. Along the way I spied a squirrel keeping tabs on us from the safety of a tree. 

The squirrel was very interested in staying away from Finnegan, who also had spotted the squirrel. 

I was fascinated at how long the squirrel remained and just watched our party as it moved along the sidewalk. 

It was just another day living with the coronavirus and finding things to enjoy and entertain us right in our own neighborhood. 

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Industrious Robins Depart

Robin's Nest in Hanging Basket
Elkridge, MD
May 24, 2020
A pair of industrious robins determined about two weeks ago to build a nest in one of our hanging flower baskets. 

Robin's Nest Amidst the Flowers
Elkridge, MD
May 25, 2020
We do not want the nest in the hanging basket because the birds were destroying the flowers by digging around and damaging the root structure. Additionally, we were concerned that we would not be able to water the flowers once the nest was occupied. A friend suggested putting golf balls into the nest to deter the Robins. Great idea!  Except, the robins, after a couple days, built a second nest on top of the golf ball.

And then Memorial Day Weekend happened. The robins were actively trying to finish their construction project on Sunday, the same day that the family including four excited dogs arrived to celebrate the unofficial start of Summer. I had a couple encounters with the robins bringing material to the nest during the morning hours, but Chris and I had decided that we wouldn't not further actively deter the robins. It seems, however, that the afternoon and evening with the dogs and the boys racing around complete barking and yelling did what we could not do--the robins have abandoned their construction project. 

I am a bit disappointed because I was planning to install my GoPro to document the egg laying and rearing of the fledglings. But, the robins apparently decided that there was just too much commotion for them to safely nest in a hanging basket on our front porch. 

I hope that they have decided on a better and more secluded location.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Holiday in the Rear View Mirror

Memorial Day is behind us and it was definitely changed by the coronavirus. But, the time spent with family and friends was enjoyable and memorable.

Outlet Being Examined and Cleaned
Elkridge, MD
May 25, 2020
I went to Lowes yesterday and was very impressed. The store placed an arrangement of flowers in one of the parking spaces dedicated to Veterans as a memorial to our fallen comrades. I found it very touching and appropriate gesture.

One of yesterday's projects was devoted electrical ghosts. An electrical circuit in the house went off-line and I was chasing down the reason. After finding, opening, and examining and tightening all of the wires in all six of the outlets in the circuit, it began working again. I have no idea which outlet was causing the issue, but the circuit began working again when I restored power. It was a frustrating three hours of my life that I will never get back. 

I did, however, get to enjoy relaxing on a floatie in the pool for a few minutes before beginning work on one of the pool lights that had become detached. Ugh. There always seems to be another project. From what I determined, the pool plasterers used a too small screw when reinstalling the light and it worked free during Sunday's celebration. The hard part is that the screw has to be a stainless steel screw because it is under water and must not rust. Of course, I bought the wrong size at Lowes. It is the story of my life. 

I wonder what new challenges the week ahead will bring?

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Monday, May 25, 2020

Monday Musings - May 25, 2020

1. Happy Memorial Day! I will wager that this Memorial Day is very different from others as businesses are still only beginning to reopen after the coronavirus shut-downs. I know that we did not travel as we often do and our planned trip to Florida for the holiday did not happen.

2. It is the last Monday of May. June begins next Monday!

3. Do not forget to vote in your State primaries. The election season is upon us. We will be voting by mail in Maryland's primary elections.

Boys and Dogs in the Pool
Memorial Day Weekend 2020
Elkridge, MD
May 24, 2020
4. Memorial Day is for family and dogs. Yesterday we celebrated as a family for the first time since the coronavirus burst onto the scene. It was a fabulous day that went into the night around the fire pit making S'mores and talking of old times. IT was the most normal thing that we have done together in months.

5. I noticed that gasoline prices were creeping up in expectation of increased automobile travel this weekend. 

6. Since our trip to Italy did not happen during late-April and early-May as planned, it appears that there will be no big trip this year and we will spend some much needed time at our Florida condo. I am still working to get my airline tickets refunded from the canceled Italy trip.

7. Coming this week. After a nine year hiatus, astronauts launched from the United States will enter space. Wednesday at about 4:30 PM, two U.S. astronauts will launch from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, and rendezvous with the International Space Station. We're Back Baby!

8. A Memorial Day thought: "Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid. They have earned our undying gratitude. America will never forget their sacrifices." - Harry S. Truman

9. Today in History. On May 25, 1977, Memorial Day weekend opens with an intergalactic bang as the first of George Lucas’ blockbuster Star Wars movies hits American theaters.
The incredible success of Star Wars–it received seven Oscars, and earned $461 million in U.S. ticket sales and a gross of close to $800 million worldwide–began with an extensive, coordinated marketing push by Lucas and his studio, 20th Century Fox, months before the movie’s release date. “It wasn’t like a movie opening,” actress Carrie Fisher, who played rebel leader Princess Leia, later told Time magazine. “It was like an earthquake.” Beginning with–in Fisher’s words–“a new order of geeks, enthusiastic young people with sleeping bags,” the anticipation of a revolutionary movie-watching experience spread like wildfire, causing long lines in front of movie theaters across the country and around the world.

Political fights break out as dozens of states modify voting rules in light of pandemic - The Washington Post

Coronavirus Threatens to Hobble the U.S. Shale-Oil Boom for Years - The Wall Street Journal

Hong Kong Protesters, Resisting China’s Push, Clash with Police - The New York Times

U.S. Deaths Near 100,000, an Incalculable Loss - The New York Times

Elon Musk’s SpaceX Readies First Astronaut Launch by Private Firm - The Wall Street Journal 

Hong Kong's security, police chiefs warn of growing 'terrorism' as national laws loom - Reuters

Dutch government: second case of mink transmitting coronavirus to human - Reuters

China blames U.S. for North Korea talks stalemate - OANN

Elon Musk's Crew Dragon puts America back in the space race - The Guardian

Ronald Reagan Quote for the Week

Remarks, May 26, 1986 speech at Arlington National Cemetery. I urge you to taker a listen.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Golf with the Next Generation

With temperatures soaring to near 80, it was a beautiful day for golf. And Chris and I did not disappoint ourselves by missing the opportunity to get out onto the course and swing our clubs. 

Lucas at Carroll Park Hole 5
Baltimore, MD
May 23, 2020
We put together a foursome and obtained a Tee Time at Carroll Park for the afternoon. This was a special foursome, however, as it included for the first time the next generation of family golfers--Lucas. As it turned out, we picked a good day to golf with him because the golf was slow. Painfully slow. It took 2 hours and 45 minutes to play 9 holes of golf that should take not more than about 1 hour and 45 minutes. 

With the pace of play being painfully slow, Lucas was able to get some assistance in making shots and learning the game. We waited to tee-off on every hole and so there was a lot of time to talk about the game. 

Lucas did remarkably well, but the delay in play did not help my game at all. So it was a so-so day on the course, but still fun to be out there with Jeremy, Chris, and for the first time, Lucas. 

With temperatures soaring and walking a golf course on a Saturday, it almost seems as if life is becoming normal despite the safer-at-home suggestions of Maryland. Stores still have not fully reopened and the clubs and bars are closed. Although I didn't often visit clubs or bars, I do miss the crowded parking lots. Not really. 

Believe it or not, after golf I was actually able to dive into my pool to refresh myself. The water was up to 77 degrees and felt very refreshing on a humid afternoon. 

Saturday, normal activity. It is Memorial Day weekend after all.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Reacting to This Morning's Headlines

The rain has stopped and the sky is blue this morning. The sun's rays are striking the trees and the green canopy is nearly fully deployed on the trees and shrubs around my house. It is like a green face mask protecting my home from the world.  

The economic toll of COVID-19 continues to climb. I read that Hertz, one of America's largest car rental agencies is filing for bankruptcy. I understand it--if no one is traveling, then the need for rental cars is very low. But, Hertz? Wow! I consider Hertz to be one of the stalwarts of the rental car market. It could be the beginning of the expected major shuffle of companies in the travel services industry. 

The number of Americans filing for unemployment this past week was 2.4 million more, bringing the total to 38.6 million Americans who are jobless according to most major news agencies. I am quoting from The Washington Post. Despite this, the most important thing being reported by Fox News is Joe Biden's misstep which pales in comparison to some of the President's statements which were life threatening. When that is the biggest lead story, one wonders why they are trying to cover-up? The Wall Street Journal, conversely, led with a story titled,  The Job Market's Long Road Back

Remember, when we are talking millions, sometimes the faces get forgotten. Using my loose math, 38.6 million lost jobs equates to about 115.8 million Americans living in homes where jobs have been lost and that now equates to roughly 35 percent of Americans overall! 

It May Not Look Like It--but This Church is Open
And the most important thing our President is interested in is getting the churches open! Churches are important, but they are not going to get Americans back to work! By focusing on visceral issues that directly impact his a percentage of his voting base, the president marginalizes the remainder of Americans when he should be focusing on coronavirus testing, control, and tracking to help the governors get their states reopened and get people back to work in a safe and sane manner. 

The truth is that churches have not been closed during this crisis. No one closed churches! Large gatherings have been banned, but churches are still open. The effective ones are finding ways to bring people together via the web and many are thriving and meeting people's needs on a daily basis. The idea that churches have been closed is false. Faith and church is not something that can be turned on or off.

Let's focus on real issues with real solutions for a change. 

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD
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