Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Autumn is in the Air

Decorated for Autumn
September 18, 2018
The remnants of the former hurricane Florence passed by yesterday dumping inches of rain on the region. Since then,  the temperatures have cooled a bit and I detect that Autumn is in the air.

The season officially begins on Saturday evening, but I already detect the subtle signs of its arrival. 

One way to tell are the decorations outside our front door. The season has definitely changed and the orange and reds of the autumn are visible along with the pervasive pumpkins.

The leaves are beginning to fall from the trees. These first ones have just decided to let go from their branches without changing color, but I know the big change cannot be far off as color will fill the senses after the first frost. 

It should be a busy couple of months as the seasons change from summer to autumn. 

Bring on the pumpkins!

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Sitting Here Watching the Rain Fall

It rained again last evening.

All evening.

Even during the night I was awakened by a thunderstorm. 

It is raining. A lot. 

Chris knew that I had had a particularly trying day and had happy hour waiting for me when I finally made it home about 6 PM after a long day. It was a great transition into the evening. 

I sat on the porch looking out at the sea of green punctuated with dead ash trees and I realized that autumn is not too far off. Many people get excited about autumn and the bright display of colors that nature provides to ease the transition from summer's warmth and green. I admit, the colors do provide temporary enjoyment.

I began thinking about the trees and how much I appreciate and respect them. I don't know why I used to color tree trunks brown when I was a kid, they are gray. The summer green gives way to winter gray and it remains gray until springtime revives the world. I wonder if Crayola has a crayon named Winter Gray?

We have had a lot of rain. And gray skies. The forecast calls for rain and thunderstorms until about 6PM. According to the local weather station we have received 1.36 inches of rain since midnight!

More rain. 

Tomorrow is supposed to be sunny and bright! We will see. I hope so. I have almost forgotten what that bright orb in the sky looks like. I enjoy feeling its warm rays on my face.

Until then, more rain.

Until then, like a tree, I will just enjoy the view.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Monday, September 17, 2018

Monday Musings - September 17, 2018

1. A weekend without rain, mostly. 
it was a different way to start the second half of September.

Moon over Elkridge in the Sunset Sky
September 16, 2018
2. The leaves falling from the trees are making the job of keeping the pool open and clean a daily task. Unless I get a contract to resurface the pool, next weekend I will close the pool.

3. Weekend family sports teams results were dismal:
    Ravens (1-1) lost 23-34 to Bengals (Thursday)
    Steelers (0-1-1) lost 37-42 to Chiefs
    Redskins (1-1) lost 9-21 to Colts
    Cowboys (1-1) defeated the Giants, 20-13

Finnegan Rocking His Colors
September 16, 2018
4. The Orioles (43-106, .289) set a milestone over the weekend. By winning Sunday's game over the White Sox, the Orioles cannot lose 120 games this season and therefore cannot tie the 1962 Mets for the most losses during the modern MLB baseball era.

5. Finnegan got into the spirit of NFL football Sunday and dressed out in his jersey yesterday.

6. For the first time in about a week, I saw the moon last evening while Chris and I were out on our walk. 

7. At the beginning of another week I take a moment to consider the activities laying between me and the weekend. Am I really living through weekdays just to get to the weekend?

Burnside's Bridge
Antietam Battlefield
July 28, 2018
8. Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in men, but it is easily treated when caught early - the problem is that too often it is not. That is why the Prostate Conditions Education Council (PCEC), – a national organization committed to men’s health and a leader in prostate cancer screening – is sponsoring its 27th Annual Prostate Cancer Awareness Week (PCAW) from September 17-21, 2018.

9. Today in History. Beginning early on the morning of this day in 1862, Confederate and Union troops in the Civil War clash near Maryland’s Antietam Creek in the bloodiest single day in American military history. I visited Antietam during July and was reminded of the titanic struggle and unfathomable loss of life that occurred there. 


Typhoon Mangkhut Hits China and Hong Kong as Philippines Death Toll Rises - The New York Times

Ronald Reagan Quote for the Week

We will always remember. We will always be proud. We will always be prepared, so we may always be free.
   -- D-day Commemoration in Normandy, France, June 6, 1984

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Sunday, September 16, 2018

As the Clouds Clear

From the 4th Tee Box
Timbers at Troy
September 15, 2018
Finally, for at least a day, the rains stopped and the world began to dry out.

Plugged Golf Ball
Timbers at Troy 11th Hole
September 15, 2018
The drier conditions were a welcome relief and allowed me to get a few projects accomplished around the house. 

But first, I was able to get in a respectable round of golf at Timbers at Troy with the guys. It was good to stroll out onto the course just before 7 AM with a club in my hand and hit my first drive down the middle of the fairway. 

Although the day was generally gray, the sun broke out of the clouds later in the round. The course was very soft and it was cart path only, which slowed our pace of play. The soft course also meant that there was almost no roll out after the shot and most balls rested near their point of impact. I had more than one shot that plugged into the soft course. The greens were very slow which hampered putting a bit.

Newly Transplanted Crepe Myrtle
After the round of golf and as the day dried out even more, I was able to get more than a few projects accomplished around the house, including removing a dead shrub, installing a new outdoor security light, removing the electricity wires from a dead ash tree which will likely be felled this week, transplanting a crepe myrtle, and mowing the lawn. 

Of course the pool received some needed attention as well. I am hopeful of closing the pool next weekend and being done with the maintenance for the year. Summer is winding down and the falling leaves are becoming a nuisance.

It was a full and busy day. The only thing I wished I had done was get Radio Flyer up for a flight, but there just wasn't time. I though about it as Chris and I were relaxing on the deck at the end of the day with a glass of wine, but it was better just to sit and talk and plan for today.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Saturday, September 15, 2018

When Fiction Becomes Fact

This is an image of an Apple
Are you sure?
How do you know?
Just because I stay something is not true, does not not make it not true. Likewise, just because I say something is true does not make it so.

I am afraid.

As a nation we are struggling to understand the difference between real and imagined. Forces in our society have blurred the lines by decrying that free media are purveyors of falsehoods.

The idea of "Fake News" is not new. It has been around for a while, but in today's context it is threatening to rip the fabric of society apart. 

The free press has done a good job, in the past, of policing itself and pointing out exaggerations and inaccurate reporting given the opportunity to do so. I remember the downfall of Brian Williams, the former NBC News Anchor who lied about some of his experiences during the Iraq war. He was swiftly removed because he no longer represented the highest journalistic standards.

Now we have a split media that reports fake news with a megaphone, by passing on the rants of politicians pitted against the media which struggles to provide balanced reporting. Are those who accurately report the words of senior politicians and leaders reporting fake news or are they accurately reporting what is said and therefore fake news has become fact?

To what end?

The end game is not pretty.

I have been appalled about the recent discussion concerning how many Americans died during the Puerto Rico hurricanes. No matter what the answer truly is, in my view too many Americans died and it was because of an inefficient and poorly planned hurricane response. Focusing on the number and labelling dissenters as providing fake news is a deft way to change the true point of the discussion from why did so many Americans die to how many Americans died and then we forget the real point of the question.

Context and competition is needed. Rather than decrying what is reported as fake news, the correct way is to provide documented facts. 

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Friday, September 14, 2018

Hurricane's Path - Florence Arrives

Finally it is Friday. After a long week.

It has rained every day this week. Chris and I got out for a walk yesterday during a brief break in the clouds and even felt enjoyed the feeling of sun on our faces. It was so nice that I condsidered flying Radio Flyer over the neighborhood.
Hurricane Florence

And then the gray and rain returned.

The week has been pretty much of a wash out. 

I am not complaining, however, because Hurricane Florence is not aiming at the Baltimore area directly. In fact, according to projections, the Baltimore-D.C. region will be spared as the hurricane and its tropical remnants actually spin around the area.

The news for the past few days has been focused on the hurricane and that has been a relief from the nonsense that usually comes from Washington. Even so, I was appalled at the discussion yesterday about how many people were lost when the hurricanes hit Puerto Rico last year. The debate over the death toll cannot hide the inescapable fact the the Federal Government did not prepare effectively to help the island and has not done enough to speed the recovery.

A much different response will be seen in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, I am sure. This is a significant hurricane and there will be many opportunities to debate the adequacy of the government's response. 

But, to focus on the present, my prayers are for those directly in the path.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Thursday and the Orioles

I tried to watch the Orioles game last evening. I had tickets to the game against the Orland Athletics, but decided not to drive into the city to watch the team get squashed. 

The Orioles play mostly playoff bound teams for the rest of the season. 

I tuned into the game during the second inning and the score was 0-0 with the Orioles looking competitive against the playoff bound Athletics. 

And then the third inning arrived. It was a third inning that never wanted to end for either team. After the top half of the inning, I found a movie to watch.

It was another frustrating game, for Orioles fans, with the final score having the team in the loss column again and by a shutout, 10-0. All of the scoring occurred during the top half of the third inning which saw the Athletics score 10 runs. The starting nine for the Athletics all scored before the Orioles recorded even one out. In all, 15 Athletics went to the plate during the Athletics at-bat. 

Did I mention that the Orioles managed only one hit during the game? In all they sent 28 men to the plate during the ENTIRE game. The Athletics sent 15 during just the top of the third inning alone.

And that was the tale of the game. As the camera panned the empty stadium, a place where I have personally experienced so much enjoyment, I saw that many of the Orioles faithful, like myself, are already looking forward to next season. The announced attendance was over 10,480, but most of those were season ticket holders, like myself that stayed home hoping for the team's fortunes to change during the offseason. 

The Orioles now sport a league worst record of 41-104, .283. Seventeen games remain until the season mercifully ends. Eleven of those games are against playoff bound teams! Six of the games are against rivals with losing records. I remain hopeful that the Orioles finish with only 115 losses, but I am becoming less hopeful. They need to go 6-11 .353 for the rest of the season and I cannot find 6 wins during the next 17 games. 

Statistics say the Orioles will go 5-12, .294, but looking at the teams they are playing, I fear it is more likely they will end the season in total collapse with by finishing 3-14, .176, and ending the season with a dismal 44-118, .272 record which will secure 7th place on the all time list of worst seasons in modern MLB history just behind the 2003 Detroit Tigers who were 43-116, .265. 

It was sad not to get the playoff ticket offering from the team this year. I am not expecting one next year at this point either. 

There are only two more Thursdays in September, meaning I will write an Orioles update only twice more this season--if I decided to actually write one at all. 

Dismal. I remember the season started with a win. And it has been a disaster from there.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Allure of the Seas - A Review

Allure of the Seas in Cozumel
August 29, 2018
Allure of the Seas is one of the largest ships afloat.  The Oasis class ranks fifth among the longest ships in the world (as a class) after some really large container ship and tankers. There are four ships in the Oasis class: Oasis, Allure, Harmony, and Symphony of the Seas.

Allure of the Seas in Casa Maya
August 31, 2018
We sailed on Oasis of the Seas last year and were excited about cruising on her sister ship, Allure of the Seas. It is a big ship that provides personalized amenities. Despite the number of passengers, we never felt crowded except when first boarding and then again at debarkation.

Allure of the Seas from a Beach in Casa Maya
August 31, 2018
The ship is a grand ship and we always felt comfortable. It is easy to navigate, well if you know fore from aft and port from starboard. There are effectively 16 decks that are easy to access. There are really 18 decks, but the top two are reserved for suites. The expensive suites.
Carousel on Allure of the Seas

The ship is full of entertainment possibilities and of course pool/deckside lounging. The adult area is fantastic and during our cruise we never had any problems finding deck chairs to lounge in, despite the size of the ship. The ship sports a Promenade Deck complete with shopping, food, and lounge opportunities. It has a large theater and we enjoyed a full production of Mama Mia, which was spectacular. There is a Boardwalk complete with carousel and also a Central Park with trees and walk ways. It is a diverse and exciting ship. In a seven night cruise I felt as if I was just earning the ship as the cruise ended.

My favorite spots on the ship were Vintages Wine Bar, the balcony of my stateroom, a deck chair in the Solarium, and singing in the piano bar with my family.

Allure of the Seas with Patrick and Tina in Roatan
August 30, 2018
The ratings:

Ratings note: I rated the boarding and debarkation process at Port Everglades under the Royal Caribbean blog I wrote yesterday.

Cabin and Cabin Service: A

  Chris and I had a balcony. I love balconies. It provides a window on the world. The cabin was clean, quiet, and comfortable.

Entertainment: A

  The shows and entertainment options were varied and provided a full range of opportunities. I most enjoyed Mama Mia, the Comedy Show, and the Texas Tenors.

Central Park on Deck 8 Looking Aft
Allure of the Seas
August 26, 2018
Dining in the Main Dining Hall: C

  The dining was good and solid. The food was well prepared and the servers were efficient and took special care of the boys. The major area for improvement: wine service at the table. The servers did not know the wines and as there were seven adults, it often got confusing when the servers could not remember who ordered which wine and even which red wine they had on the platter. On one occasion, I was served a white wine when I had ordered a red.

Embarkation and debarkation in ports: A

  A smooth operation. We never stood in a long line and towels and water were available in convenient locations either on the quay or in the ship.

Looking onto the Promenade Deck
Allure of the Seas
August 31, 2018
Shopping: B

  I don't go on a cruise to shop, but there were opportunities and the shopping on the Promenade Deck is available. There were generally lines in the one store in which I considered buying a souvenir item, and hence, I did not purchase anything.

Guest Services: A

 They were efficient even with long lines at the usual spots in the cruise. We had one small issue and they took care of it completely and without issue.

Sports Opportunities: A

  Everything is available. A running track, basketball, flow riders, and the fames zip line. I did not get to play miniature golf, although I had a club in my had at one point.

With the Grandsons on the Boardwalk
Allure of the Seas
Port Everglades
August 26, 2018
Ship Maintenance: A

  The ship appears as grand as it is and was well maintained. No areas were closed off for maintenance during the cruise. Even in the busiest places around the pools, the decks were clear and continuously maintained. 

Sailing Characteristics: A

  It is a big ship and it sails smooth. I noticed some gentle rocking only during high winds while in the dining rooms. The ship docks smoothly and I slept through the entire process at the end of the cruise in Port Everglades. 

The Crew: A

 All of the crew were fantastic. Our Cabin steward, our dining hall servers led the group, but every interaction we had with a crew member was professional and most all of them provided a time of day appropriate greeting. 

Allure of the Seas overall: A

  It is a great ship and crew. I highly recommend sailing on the ship and experiencing a BIG ship. It turns out to be much smaller than you believe. 

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Royal Caribbean Cruise Scorecard - A Review

It has been over a week since Chris's Retirement Cruise was completed and think it is time to do some critical reviews of the cruise and ports of call. I need to get these thoughts out for other travelers and to record what I remember about the various portions of the cruise.

The comments below relate to my experiences sailing with Royal Caribbean on Allure of the Seas from August 26 - September 2, 2018. the ship departed and returned to Port Everglades, Florida, near Ft Lauderdale.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Line

Pre-Cruise Support - A

 Calling the cruise line is recommended if there are changes or when looking for pricing improvements. The agents on the phone are knowledgeable and helpful. Sometimes the process takes a long time, but in the end they worked to help us get the best deal. This was a complicated trip given that there were four cabins and family units involved. And there were changes. The agents handled the changes and were able to keep the cruise on track for everyone. I was a bit sad that given we were reserving four cabins that we were not offered an upgrade.

Boarding Process in Ft Lauderdale - A

  It was smooth and efficient. I think it took less than 20 minutes from when the taxi dropped us off with our luggage until we were on the ship and ready to cruise. The process was smooth and efficient. It really helped that we had completed all of our required paperwork beforehand. The addition of the picture submission during the pre-arrival registration process made the boarding process smoother.

Royal Caribbean Web Page 
Royal Caribbean Web Site - C

  The site is complex and not user friendly. It was easy to get lost in the site and not complete the proper forms. That written, the site is comprehensive and contains nearly everything to ensure a successful cruise. There are some things that the site does not make clear enough, especially the need to make reservations for shows on the Oasis-class ships. While there is no cost, the need for reservations for some activities needs to be clearer.

Smartphone App
Royal Caribbean Smartphone App - C

  The app has so much promise, but it just doesn't get the job done. I did not purchase wifi for the cruise, but the app was supposed to work despite that. It did have some basic functionality, but it did not display my daily activity and reservations and the ships activities differed from those actually provided.

Debarkation in Ft Lauderdale - F

  On September 2, 2018, this was a disaster. I am sure that there must have been a problem with the computers that Customs was using, but our projected departure time was delayed from 8:45 AM until 10:30 AM. The real problem was the lack of transparency in understanding the problem. The boards just continues to move the projected debarkation times back without explanation. I assess that Royal Caribbean may need to separate domestic from foreign travelers because once we actually got out of the lines and into the baggage and customs app it took only a few minutes to clear and be outside ready to head off to the airport. There apparently was a problem processing international returnees. Mind you, everyone got on the ship in Ft Lauderdale. How hard can it be?

Will I Sail with Royal Caribbean Again?

 Definitely! Overall the experience was great. I have sailed on three other cruise lines and from four other ports so I do have a small basis for comparison.


I will review the ship and each port of call during the next few days.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Monday, September 10, 2018

Monday Musings - September 10, 2018

1. It is the second Monday of September, already. What happened to August?

Friends Sharing a Milkshake
at Zinburger, Columbia
September 7, 2018
2. I am not sure that I am ready for the 50 degree temperatures that have arrived in the region. I had to put on a pair of jeans yesterday and a long sleeved shirt to stay warm.

3. What do friends do when they go out for Happy Hour? Well, they share a milkshake, of course. What did you think they do?

4. Isn't it scary when a former President makes a statement about the situation in the country and the sitting President thinks it is about him? I was reminded of the Carly Simon song, You're So Vain.

Firefighters struggle to contain backfire in the
Pollard Flat area of California in the
Shasta Trinity National Forest
 on September 6, 2018.

Josh Edelson, AFP/Getty Images
5. I wish there was a way to send some of our rain to California to quench the fires. It rained here all day yesterday and we do not need the rain like California.

6. The Orioles have the dubious distinction of being the first MLB team to reach 100 losses this season (41-102, .287). The team is on track to lose 115 games but the good news is that they can lose no more than 121 games with only 19 games left on the schedule. Mercifully, the season will be over soon. We are already planing our Spring Training trip.

7. For the first NFL weekend the results for the family favorites are:

      Ravens -    W (1-0) 47-3 over Bills
      Redskins - W (1-0) 24-6 over Cardinals
      Cowboys -  L (0-1) 8-16 to Panthers
      Steelers -  T (0-0-1) 21-21 with Browns

8. September is prostate cancer awareness month. By some reports 1 in 7 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lifetime. The American Cancer Society estimates that for 2018 that 164,690 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer and that 29,430 men will die from the disease. Why doesn't the NFL wear light blue during September for prostate cancer awareness month? They wear pink during October for breast cancer awareness month. Step up for Blue!

9. On this Day in HistoryOn this day in 1897, a 25-year-old London taxi driver named George Smith becomes the first person ever arrested for drunk driving after slamming his cab into a building. Smith later pled guilty and was fined 25 shillings.


China Is Detaining Muslims in Vast Numbers. The Goal: ‘Transformation.’ - The New York Times

Interstate 5 remains 'unsafe' for travel as Delta Fire rages in northern California - USA Today

Ronald Reagan Quote for the Week

We have no territorial ambitions. We occupy no countries. We build no walls to lock people in. Americans build the future. And our vision of a better life for farmers, merchants, and working people, from  the Americas to Asia, begins with a simple premise: The future is best decided by ballots, not bullets. 
  -- State of the Union address, January 25, 1984

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD
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