Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Weather Change

Ah, the cold winds of Autumn have finally arrived. The leaves are falling from the trees by the bushel basket loads. Pumpkins are golden in anticipation of the winter ahead. Snow flurries are becoming a regular sight on the national weather map.

We are currently doing our own version of the plant dance. Plant dance you ask? Yes. Moving plants indoors (to the pool house) to avoid the frost at night and then returning them to the nourishing sunlight and warmth of the day so they may continue to flourish before being trapped in the house for the next five months. Five months--is it really that long? Wow--it is. Until March.

Some have already been moved indoors permanently--the Angel-wing Begonia and one palm tree. It seems a bit earlier this year than last. I fear the cold grip of winter will be more severe that we would like.

Hawaii or Florida sure so seem inviting right now. The December trip to Disney World will be a great way to escape the onset of Winter--even if only for a week. And then zoom into the holiday season without looking back. Maybe we can slide through January and leapfrog over February. Until the lamb or lion March portends a return to the warm days and green trees.

So I stand on the doorstep, looking at the sky; much like I did this past May during the first 90 degree heatwave, and girding myself against the bone-chilling wind I say: "Bring it on.!"

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Hanging Out

Well--we were able to slow the pace of life down a bit towards the end of the week. We actually spent Friday and Saturday night, Chris and I together watching movies on the sofa.

That doesn't happen often.

Of course that was after a hugely busy week highlighted by going to Toby's Dinner Theater on Wednesday evening to see "The Producers," Chris' trip with Ethan to the ER on Thursday which came after a three-presentation day at work for me.

So we stopped the world for a bit and spent time enjoying each other.

But, and there always is a but--we did have time to redo one of the bathrooms--including primer and paint!

But today is Sunday and it's another football spectacular with the Cowboys, Ravens and Redskins all taking the field at 1PM followed by the Steelers at 4:15. We should be busy watching either the TV or the grandkids all day.

Wow--if we only could work it so we would get three-day weekends--then think of all the time we could have together.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

V-No Wine Bar, Baltimore Fells Point

What a great find. Right on the water in Fells Point. And we enjoyed some great wine with friends last Saturday night before going off to dinner at a local restaurant.

OK--let's get to it. This is a real keeper. If you are in Fells Point definitely visit V-No Wine Bar at 905 S. Ann Street.

The wines are reasonably priced and the owners are enjoyable to chat with. The corkage fee is also reasonable and the munchies are great.

The wines are unique--I dare say you'll have trouble finding them anywhere else. And if you are unsure--ask for a sample. We wound up enjoying a bottle of an Italian light red wind which was fabulous as it was different. And the munchies list definitely compliments the wine selections.

If you are unsure about what to order--ask for help and they will steer you to the right selections. It was awesome.

Recommendation: A great place to start or end and evening. A great mid-day shopping stop. The wine prices are reasonable--many as low as $10 per bottle and most are less than $20. Figure out how many $8 cocktails or $6 beers that equates to.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Next President is . . .

What a weekend of politics. And no, I'm not in a predictive mode about our next president. There is still a lot that can happen between now and election day.

One of my heroes threw his support behind one of the candidates and I thought his reasons, albeit personal, made sense. He made a good argument for his personal decision. I disagree with him on a couple points--like the supreme court justice

Did/does it change my vote? I don't know. Believe it or not--I'm not completely sure how I'm going to vote. I'm still evaluating--but I am leaning one particular way. I could be convinced otherwise.

And then there was Saturday Night Live with the woman who would be vice president.

And both sides are talking about change.

Who is talking about the good that America is doing in the world? Who is talking about the strength and perseverance of the everyday Americans who go to work everyday and want to live their lives in peace and be protected from the forces of darkness and chaos that surround us?

Did you see that gas is down to $2.80 per gallon (and we're happy about it)?? Oil closed under $70 per barrel--gas should be below $2.00 per gallon. I don't hear either candidate talking about the gouging of America that the oil companies are doing.

And for all the money pumped into banks--did you notice that it is harder to get a car loan? Houses still aren't moving? Congress is still sitting on their haunches not wanting the current administration to get any credit for working through the economic mess and so they are sacrificing the middle Americans just to win an election.

What a great country.

Don't forget to be an educated voter and vote. And, before you go vote--pray hard for guidance that God will lead this country through our votes.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Short weeks seem so long

I know it is one of those mystifying aspects of life--but why do four-day workweeks often seem longer that five-day weeks?

I had Monday off and although I worked around the house, I still enjoyed the time off. But whew! This week has seemed to be the never ending week from the Black Lagoon where the creature lies in wait.

It is because we are trying to include five days worth of stuff into a four day week?

It is because with the extra day off we realize that there are a lot of other places we'd rather be?

I wish I knew--but I know it is a real feeling.

But, today is Friday and the weekend is upon me. The trees are beginning to don their autumnal royal colors for their final magnificence before the dark days begin.

And--there is another four-day work week coming in a couple weeks. I'll enjoy that one, too.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Connections Part 2 -- Getting and Staying Connected to people

I struck a chord with myself on this idea--and so I wanted to flesh it out a bit more.

How do we become connected? How do we stay connected? What are the advantages of being connected to each other?

I've thought about this a bit and it seems we become connected initially with our families. As we mature these connections change and sometimes it takes work to keep them strong. I am really bad at maintaining connections. It is an out growth of my innate hatred of telephones. But I am a huge email fan--and that is a way to stay connected.

I am reminded of John and Abagail Adams (the 2nd President!). During his worldwide travels and even his travels to and from the seats of government, John and Abagail remained connected through letters and these letters provide an incredible insight into their lives. They worked hard to stay connected.

Families need to work in the same manner to remain connected with each other. Our family has a series of events this past summer that reminded us that we really do care about each other and that we need to overcome the inertia of daily living and keep in closer contact. We have been trying, with limited success to do just that.

In addition to families, we become connected to others through work, and outside activities/groups such as scouting and church.

As long as the groups are functioning the connectedness seems to work. But as these collections of people begin to dysfunction--possibly at the core, there is a loss of connectedness. Members begin to feel disenfranchised and set apart for the group. They lose the connectivity which to them translates into a sense of aloneness. And then they are lost to the group. That is the sad part. It happens so slowly over time that no one is aware of it until it has happened.

The object is to get connected and to stay connected. It requires effort--connectedness does not happen by magic. Communication is a two part process: sender and receiver. Connectedness is similarly a multipart process where multiple people become and remain connected. The vectors of communication are personal face-to-face contact, email, mail, telephone, newsletters, meetings and a host of others. Good connectedness is based upon personal contact--not mass mailings. It is an effort. But a good effort. Communities are built on this type of effort--the effort to remain connected.

Get connected and stay connected. We are all working our way through life together--and we needs each other despite what we might like to believe.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Connections--how we stay part of the world

I've been struggling with the idea of connections--how we are each connected to others. Despite what I would like to believe about myself, I value connections to others. I would like to think that I am an island in the middle of the sea of people around me, but I'm not and island at all.

The idea that connections to other people were important to me crept up on me in a very unexpected way through the transfer of ownership of a Yahoo group. It really hit me hard when I realized that I was severing a connection with a group of people that I care about. I did not expect the turmoil that the severing of this connection would cause--even though, by my own choice, I am no longer a member of the ring of people who are represented in that Yahoo group. I felt the loss of the connection to these people deep in my heart.

Perhaps I just need to move on and keep walking down my own path--but I'd like to think that I'm not like that. Everyone I meet and especially those I learn to know and love leave an imprint on me. Like my profile says: "Just a guy. If I knew where I was going, I'd be there by now" A lot of us are traveling a similar path. And as we journey, we meet a lot of other guys and gals who are living their lives and it is through our connections with them that we grow stronger as people and as a larger community.

When we begin to care about others, we sacrifice of ourselves--our time, talent, and even money for the greater good and for mutual support with and for others. And not even because we hope that they will be there for us someday. We support other people because we can, and because as we are connected to others we care for them and help them when we can, rejoice with them when we can, and cry with them when they need us to.

When relationships go bad and we lose connections to someone there is a void. It would be nice if that never happened--relationships going bad, but we are people and these things happen more than they should. And the void that is left after the relationship has ended has a lot of pain associated with it. It demands to be filled--with other people, groups, or hobbies so we can grow beyond the lost relationships and continue our journey. But we never forget.

Does time heal all wounds? No. It masks them but unless the wounds of the heart and soul are addressed--they don't heal. They fester and affect us in negative ways. The wounds can foster hate, despair, insecurity, anger.

So, this week I surrendered one measure of connectedness to friends. I will work to discover and create new pathways to be connected with the people in that group who want to remain connected. We all need each other--too often we just don't think we do.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Jeremy's Move

Well--the past two days have been rough in terms of physical labor, but Jeremy and Nicole are moved! The old townhouse is clean and they are living in the next building over in a larger and nicer place.

This whole experience reminded me--it doesn't matter whether you're moving next door or around the world--moving is tough and a lot of hard work.

Yesterday we spend a lot of time setting up a new, larger, better salt water tank--it is beautiful but oh man is it heavy. Even empty. Ugh.

But congrats are in order to Jeremy and Nicole on their new home--it is beautiful and I do have fun with the alternate name for the "storage" room. Yeah.

I think the last time I came home after 11PM was New Year's Eve. And last night was definitely no party. But we all worked hard and the job is done!

Contact Jeremy and Nicole for their new address--you will just have to change the building and apartment number.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

A Christian in the Political Environment

Chris and I attended a small group session sponsored by our church last night where the topic of discussion focused upon Christians and politics. This entry is my personal (not the group nor the church's) view and take on what we discussed.

As you might suspect, the basis for the discussion centered upon Romans 13:1-7, where Paul reminds that God institutes governments and that we are to respect the governments God institutes by being in subjection and paying taxes.

But as Christians, what are we supposed to do? Be activists in politics or withdraw and be the best Christ followers that we can be? The Amish come to mind as an example of those who have chosen to withdraw.

If governments and leaders are instituted by God, then why bother to vote? God's got it in control! No matter whether Obama or McCain are elected, it is God's plan. (And that is more reassuring than you might think)

But wait! The expectation in the United States is that this country is "Of the People and For the People." We the People are the government. As Christians living to be subject to the government we have to accept this call and be involved--because if you read Romans again it is telling us not to resist authority and then by extension--we are resisting authority by not being involved in the government.

How can Christians be involved? The are many ways to be involved and they do not all require fanatical policital activism.

At the most basic level--be an informed voter and vote. On election day fall on your knees and ask God to guide your vote. This is the means through which God implements our Government--through us: We the People.

Live every day as a Christ follower. In that way you will affect others and potentially their votes and involvement in the government. Be a Christ follower first and foremost.

Then there is the extreme level--be actively involved in government and elections. Not everyone is called to do this, but some are. Be careful not to appear to be imposing your personal will on the system--because non-Christians are really good at identifying what Christians are against--but have a poorer grasp on what we are for. Personally, I'm a huge fan of eternal life.

We, Christians, need to do a better job helping non-Christians understand what we are for and what we believe and I will tell you it is certainly not a laundry list of "Thou shalt nots."

Be compassionate, respect others and understand that even as Christians we have different takes and views and that we are not carbon copies of each other. How boring would that be?

Being a Christian in the political environment is an important task that God gives each of us to, but we bring different talents and gifts. The only absolute about the task is that each of us as resident of the United States, are absolutely expected to be involved and as a minimum vote.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Playing not to Lose--implementing the Prevent Defense too soon

The debates last night treated the American public and the rest of world to more of the same: Two candidates who are trying not to lose the election in November and one of them is definitely going to lose.

In pro-football, near the end of the game, the team with the most points on the board sometimes goes into what is known as the "Prevent" Defense. The Prevent Defense is designed to bend but not allow a potentially winning score from the other team. The idea of giving up a lot of ground in the middle of the football field to ensure that a winning score does not occur often results in total failure. I'm sure it works in theory--but in practice knowledgeable fans know that the prevent defense is a recipe for disaster.

In the case of the debate--I'm not sure either candidate has a verifiable lead. Although, if you listen to NBC news, Obama will be our next president based upon projections showing that he has to win only one of the six states still up for grabs in the Electoral College voting.

Back to the debate--so what was new or different from the previous debate? Nothing. I was frustrated at one point when a question about Afghanistan addressed to Obama turned into a diatribe about how it shouldn't have been a problem if the situation had been handled differently.

Great--but it is a problem and how are you going to deal with it? That is the key part.

I don't want a President who is going to waste valuable decision making time reviewing why a problem shouldn't be a problem--deal with it! What are you going to do. And in the end, what he said was nothing. I felt bad for the person who asked the question as she never got an answer from the man who would be President.

Both candidates are trying to win by looking backwards. I want a President who is looking into the future. They spend too much time on voting records and all the has been stuff.

We're in a bad place, I get it. The economy is in trouble. I get it. Our foreign policy is in a shambles except for our real allies, I get it. Answer me this. What are you going to do about these things from this moment on? Focus in that. Yeah, it's important to understand how we got here, but turn around and look into the future.

I miss Ronald Reagan. He had a vision. He made me, a citizen of this great country, part of the means to achieve the vision.

I loved the question from the Internet, the last question of the night, "What don't you know and how will you figure out what it is" or something like that. Obama couldn't admit that he didn't know everything or had a plan for what he didn't know. It was way too much "I". McCain was clear about what he didn't know, and plausible, but again way too much emphasis on "I" and not the "We" as in "We the people . . . "

I wish one of these evenly matched men would decide not to worry about "not losing" and decide to win the election--for us, for the United States, for my children and their children, and for the world.

Take a risk--make us part of the vision of the future! And then let's not look back but always look forward.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

2006 Four Vines "Heretic" Paso Robles Petite Sirah

Wow--we tried this wine at a local wine store wine tasting, bought a couple bottles and discovered that it is fabulous from the bottle during an evening with friends and food.

The wine has a superior nose and is extremely smooth on the palette with berry flavors and some black pepper. There is a complexity to the wine which makes it very enjoyable. Not over powering, but pleasingly complex with berries and some black pepper which gives the wine some zing. And then it lingers for a while so that the full flavor comes out.

This is no ordinary wine. I believe it would be excellent with a meaty, spicy meal like ribs--and it would hold its own.
As good as the wine is straight from the bottle--it gets even better when decanted.

Recommendation: A bit pricey at about $35 per bottle--but so pleasing to taste and enjoy. A great bottle of wine for that special celebration.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Pool Closing

Well--it's done. The pool is closed for another season. It all went by so quickly it seems. The summer is gone and now the final vestige of the summer past is closed--the Doan family pool. Scene of frolic and fun. Of learning to swim and friends gathered for wine and social fun.

It was a great summer. And the pool being closed really put the reality of autumn into my mind. I can see the colors coming in the leaves and the crispness in the air means we will be soon raking the leaves and greeting the little goblins and ghouls on the doorstep as October changes into November.

Ah the great memories. The clear blue water and the warm summer sun of 2008. Next time I peer into the water under the pool cover, it will be 2009--with another summer of fun ahead of us and memories to be made.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Debates? I Think Not!

I watched the Vice Presidential Candidate Debate last night. Ugh. I had also watched the first Presidential Debate last Friday as well.

OK--did you notice something. They are not debates. There is no debate going on, just a rehash of agendas and campaign promises. Everyone is sidestepping the concept of really debating and laying out objectives and policies.

The campaign strategies are clear (and if you loo at it are reversed between the Presidential and Vice Presidential strategies)

Obama is trying to make McCain look like he's old school and part of the problem.

McCain is trying to make us believe that Obama is inexperienced and doesn't have a clue.

Palin is trying to make it seem that Biden is looking to the past and is the problem

Biden is trying to make Palin appear like a country bumpkin from Alaska without a clue.

Ugh! Talk to the issues! I don't care about past voting records. Disjointed voting records and facts don't sell me, action does.

And here is the interesting part, thinking of action--the only one of the four who has actually governed anything and shown the ability to work within the boundaries of the governmental process is Palin--and people are afraid she won't be a good President? One of the best Presidents we've ever had was an actor who served as governor. In fact--as a whole I think former governors make probably the best Presidents because they have actually has experience working with legislatures and governing. Some of the great presidents: Jefferson, Monroe, Polk, Wilson, McKinley, Teddy, FDR, Reagan--all governors! (OK there were some slugs too like Andrew Johnson and Grover Cleveland). All in all, there are 16 Presidents who were governors, I'll let you find the rest and I figure you'll probably be able to name at least two (like the current and former Presidents).

I want to know--in detailed fashion, how the next administration is going to restore the U.S to preeminence in the Foreign Policy arena, successfully transition Iraq to a self-governing, self protecting country, fix the domestic economic crisis without raising my taxes, and clean up the mess in Afghanistan--for starters.

I want specifics to which the candidates can be held accountable.

Oh, yeah guess there is a wild card here--Congress. They have really made a mess of things lately. Did you see the PORK being added to the bailout plan?

But back to the debates. The moderators are asking good questions, but the candidates are so concerned about losing that they are not playing to win! Answer the questions with specifics and let me decide. I'm tired of lofty platitudes about change (BTW--both side are speaking Change as their mantra) couples with the appearances of plans which upon digging deeper really aren't plans and don't have a chance of passing in Congress.

The debates--they are not even good entertainment. Sadly, we are going to be electing a new President in 32 days and no one yet has demonstrated that they have a clear idea on what to do. Telling me they're going to do it differently is nice--but HOW?

So let the debates begin for real and let's stop dancing around the issues.

Who has a plan? And what is it? Let me know. I'll keep watching and waiting to hear.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Reflections on a Birthday Weekend

Wow--and what a weekend it was. Chris planned a birthday celebration that spanned three days and left me absolutely amazed that so many people could enjoy a celebration like that and that my family could actually survive such a weekend.

So, in reverse chronological order, here are the salient events from the weekend.

Monday, my birthday gift from my loving wife arrived via FEDEX! She was crushed that it didn't arrive in time for my Sunday family celebration--but it's OK (and now I have some leeway if I screw up and miss her's some year).

The highlight was, of course, Sunday Football at the house (with new security system) and nearly everyone (except for Tina) in attendance! I wish it were warmer and we had been able to make it a pool party--but it is late September after all. It is always great when we all (the family) get together to celebrate an event and watch football. Ethan says it best when we get together--"my family is here!" I echo that remark to myself every time he says it. And somewhere in there I even got to eat birthday cake #2 Hawaiian Pineapple a la my childhood and enjoy some of the most creative birthday cards I have ever received.

Saturday was a prelude to the Sunday festivities--with Nicole, Mike, E, and Jax coming over for a celebration. Dinner was fantastic and the "boys" were great. We shared some fabulous wine and generally had a great time together. I also got to enjoy birthday cake #1 -- Pineapple Upside Down Cake. E had a problem understanding the "upside-down" part of the cake. But ate some of it anyway. I think even Jax got a taste to enjoy for himself (shhh, don't tell his Mom).

Of course, it wasn't all about Bob. Friday night I shared the spotlight with Fran and Sue as our Friday evening wine group went out for dinner and three birthdays to celebrate at a local restaurant: P F. Chang's China Bistro at the Columbia Mall. I may write a review of the restaurant later.

I also was able to chat with my parents on my actual birthday--and received their love filled rendition of "Happy Birthday"--which everyone in the family looks forward to receiving on their birthday every year! Awesome dudes! Thanks for starting a truly inspired tradition.

Gifts? They were all great. I'm officially armed and considered dangerous for Best Buy. I have expensive Tequila to drink. I received a really cool wine decanter, Riedel wine glasses, and a nice bottle of wine to enjoy. AND--on Monday, a Sidney Crosby Pittsburgh Penguins Hockey Jersey to wear while watching the Pens play the season and hopefully win Lord Stanley's Cup next year. (I may have to sneak in a subscription to Center Ice somewhere, now that there is no Orioles Baseball to watch)

So--given the love of my family, my health and a lot of nice gifts--what more could any person want for their birthday. Actually? Nothing.

Wow--am I blessed or what? I pray your birthday is as celebratory and filled with love as mine was. And I say thanks to all of my family and friends who made it a birthday to remember.

Ugh, it makes transitioning into my mid-50's almost bearable!
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