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

Friday, May 22, 2020

Daily Status Message

Here is the daily status message--it is raining again. The temperature is 58 chilly degrees and the day's high is expected to be 70 degrees. Every morning when I awaken, I look out the window to see the weather. I am more interested in the weather than enjoying my first cup of coffee. The weather sets the tone for my day. 

The Neighbor's Red Knock-out Roses
Elkridge, MD
May 20, 2020
If it is raining, as it is this morning, I expect slow traffic clogging the roads I travel on my way to work. 

Hopefully the image of my neighbor's roses will brighten the rainy, somewhat gloomy day. Rain and gray skies just make the day feel dreary.

When it is raining, I know that outdoors activities, like this evening's planned Happy Hour with friends, are likely to be curtailed. According to Weather Underground, the rain is supposed to stop about 3 PM--maybe Happy Hour can yet be salvaged.

The Maryland coronavirus Safer at Home Advisory has increased the importance of outdoors activities. Many activities we used to conduct in the house have become outdoors activities, like Happy Hour and this weekend's Memorial Day activities. Before coronavirus we would not think twice about re-hosting these activities into the house. But, while the virus is still raging, people and even family are not comfortable being inside where proper physical distancing cannot be assured. 

We each need to find our coronavirus comfort zone and respect the zones of our friends and family. 

While I cannot stop the rain, I can keep my spirits high and find a way to enjoy the day. It is Friday and a holiday three-day weekend is ahead!

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Bamboo Wars on Another Coronavirus Day

Was yesterday really Wednesday? I remember something about "Hump" Day, but lately so many days are similar to Saturdays that sometimes they blur. Coronavirus stay-at-home and now safe-at-home orders make many days pass in a sequence of sameness. I sincerely hope that retirement is not like this.

The significant difference between the days has been the weather. This morning it is only 47 degrees outside of my window. It is early and still dark, but I hear birds chirping. I know that is five degrees colder than yesterday. I also noted that this morning's low is seven degrees below the normal low for the day. 

Bamboo Growing on the Edge of my Yard
Elkridge, MD
May 20, 2020
While mowing, I made a disturbing discovery. The bamboo that has been growing on the property of the condo homeowners association, which borders my property, has begun to encroach into my yard. Not a good thing since bamboo is difficult to control. Bamboo is considered an invasive species and should be controlled or removed. 

In reading about control measures on the web, the most effective, and easiest they wrote, is to dig a 36 inch trench and fill it with a concrete or very thick plastic sheeting. That does not sound easy to me! I have to protect my entire yard. So while working for a more permanent solution, I cut the bamboo stalk down, dug up the roots, and sprayed the hole with Round-up. I also cut a few of the stalks that were behind it and sprayed the stumps with Round-up. I do not know if Round-up kills bamboo--but hopefully it will at least slow the growth. I also wrote and mailed a letter to the condo association advising them of the problem and my desired solution. I further attempted to contact the Maryland Department of Natural Resources for assistance, but was only able to leave my name and phone number hoping for a callback. The callback will likely never come.

I do not want my backyard to become an Asian forest suitable for pandas. 

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

When May Feels Like March

It is cold again, cold like March. I awoke to 52 degrees this morning and the wind is blowing, still! The skies are gray and dark and it is definitely not going to be an in-the-pool day. The wind is generating a lot of extra pool-work for me.

Elkridge, MD
May 19, 2020
But, the flowers of late-Spring are in bloom. Yesterday our peonies were in bloom and we brought a few of the sweet fragranced flowers into the house to enjoy. The lilacs have completed their run and are slowly falling from the bush and their smell is fading. I will miss walking outside and immediately enjoying their scent. 

Flower Petals and Leaves in the Pool
Elkridge, MD
May 19. 2020
The Honey Locust trees are also in full bloom. While I usually enjoy these trees, the winds of the past few days are creating problems in terms of pool maintenance. The flower petals are falling at such a rate that at times it seems as if it is snowing. The wind is directing them into the pool and they then have to be removed. It usually takes two times around the pool to remove them all. And they keep falling!

Since the weather is cold I shouldn't mind being in the house riding out the coronavirus. I could be playing golf, but in addition to skimming the pool I made two trips to Lowe's yesterday for project supplies. One was to get the soil and seed to fill in the tree-stump holes in the yard. The four stumps that were removed were fairly large and it was no small project to fill them and get grass seed down. I only hope that it warms soon so the seed will germinate. The other project was reinstalling screen over the fireplace flue now that the birds have hatched and departed. 

So how cold is it? 

Forecast for Elkridge, MD from Weather Underground

Here is the ten day forecast from Weather Underground. Three days of highs in the 60s, followed by four days of 70s before reaching the 80s again a week from now!

I am ready for Summer! Memorial Day Weekend is almost here and I want to enjoy steamy, hot weather.  I had originally hoped to be in Florida for Memorial Day, but because of the coronavirus, that did not happen! Maybe during July--and I love the heat and humidity of Florida during July!

For now, I am hoping to enjoy the final month of the Spring by watching the flowers bloom as they step through the month. 

-- Bob Doan, still in Elkridge, MD

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

What do you have to lose?

Some of the most frightening words that I have heard uttered from The White House have made the news again.

The phrase, "What do you have to lose?" was again used by the President when he was discussing his daily hydroxychloroquine regimen. 

"What do you have to lose?" Trump said. "OK, what do you have to lose? So, I have been taking it for about a week and a half. Every day at some point, every day. I take a pill every day." As reported on Fox11News. 

Frankly, decisions about courses of action should not be based upon half-baked ideas where the only reason for doing them is "What do you have to lose?"

The answer is simply--your life! You could lose your life!

Further on in the Fox 11 News article, it is reported:
The Food and Drug Administration last month issued a warning that it should only be used in hospitals because of a risk of heart complications. Several studies have also shown the drug has no benefit in treating coronavirus compared to patients who didn’t receive the drug.
In some studies, there were more deaths among patients given the anti-malarial drug than those who received standard care.
Hydroxychloroquine has a known history of serious side effects, including heart rhythm issues, severely low blood pressure and nerve damage.
It appears to me that the stakes can be very high for taking this drug without a good reason and a competent medical guidance. 
I do want to debunk a myth, however, about the President's use of the drug. It was rumored that he could receive substantial financial benefit if the drug was adopted as a standard treatment for COVID-19. I checked Snopes and found that this is mostly untrue. He does own, via some mutual funds, interest in multiple companies which manufacture the drug, hydroxychloroquine, but the holdings are insignificant when compared against his overall wealth. Increasing his personal wealth, then, does not seem to be a viable reason that he is promoting the drug.
So, back to the question, "What do you have to lose?" For the President, perhaps nothing although there are risks for his health, for him that risk may be acceptable. BUT, as a leader who many people follow, sometimes blindly, he could be needlessly putting their health at risk by professing use of a drug with dubious benefits in treating COVID-19 and known and sometimes dire health consequences.  Leaders need to consider their actions and the impact on others. Modeling good and reasonable behaviors are what good leaders are called to do. Leaders lead through conscious decisions and modeling of desirable behaviors.
Making decisions for good reasons and encouraging people to follow is leadership. "What do you have to lose?" does not inspire followership. It creates a conundrum that is the antithesis of leadership.
Another way of looking at it is, What do I have to gain? When do the benefits outweigh the consequences? Good leaders clearly outline the benefits or consequences for following, or not following them. 
"What do you have to lose?" 
The Fox 11 News item contained this sobering statement: In some studies, there were more deaths among patients given the anti-malarial drug than those who received standard care.
Maybe nothing, but then, maybe everything. 

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD
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