Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Ah--And So It Begins

It is grind my axe day today!

The headline in the paper says it all--"Obama proposes pay freeze for federal workers." And so now I am nothing more than a pawn in the budget battle.

Consider this--the article indicated that freezing federal pay for two years would save the government $60 billion over 10 years. Given that the debt for just 2010 was $1.3 trillion, it will only take an additional 216 years (plus or minus) to retire that debt and then there is the rest of the debt to deal with providing that Congress does not incur more debt!

Like that is going to happen.

Fundamentally in the realm of the budget and the deficit they are dealing with "chump change."

And, by freezing pay (which is a pay decrease since taxes and health insurance are increasing) they run the risk of stalling the economic recovery. The planned pay increase was only going to keep the standard of living at the same level, it isn't as if it was some fantastic amount like 5 percent.

The impact of this type of ill-advised budget process should already be seen on the retirees--who will not have seen an increase in two years, yet medicare and taxes continue to increase reducing disposable income.

Headlines like this make a big splash--since everyone, it seems, likes to take shots at the federal workforce--but who is going to administer the billions in programs that the government is responsible for? Those same federal workers. Do the taxpayers of the U.S. deserve a qualified workforce of professionals running programs including intelligence and defense, or should they sell out to the lowest bidder?

There is not a lot of ability in the federal workplace to earn extra money. And frankly, I have been beginning to receive offers from industry offering to double my salary should I leave federal service.

But I love what I do--and I am really good at it (so I am told).

I am not a federal worker to get rich. That is never going to happen. I work where I do, doing the job I love because I am a patriot. And yes--I will probably continue to work without the prospect of increasing my salary and retirement benefits for the next two years--but really, there ought to be some sense in the process. If the federal workforce is going to be competitive it needs to receive comparable pay.

I note that the bonuses to the employees of the Wall Street banking companies which were bailed out are back up in the ionosphere this year. Maybe that is the problem?

Which segment of society is next? After the retirees and the federal workforce, there aren't many places that can be hit--except for the military.

Enough axe grinding. It is bad everywhere and going to get worse. So much for Happy Holidays!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Monday Musings - November 29, 2010

1. The last Monday in November and only four Mondays before Christmas.  If is isn't planned by now--it probably isn't going to happen until next year.

2. We had a false security alarm at the house yesterday--one of the security devices had come lose and caused a false alarm. Although there were a few moments of angst, I am glad it was a false alarm and not an actual break-in.  The security company will be coming to inspect the devices during the week ahead.

3. Last night I was watching Ravens football as night fell with the Christmas tree lit, the mantle candles burning and a nice fire in the fireplace. It was only 5:55 pm. During the summer, evening activity would just be getting underway rather than settling down for the night.

4. 146 days until pool opening Saturday.

5. Hot bean soup, fresh corn bread, a nice glass of Merlot and candles--sounds like a great dinner on a cold almost winter's night.

6. I'm glad we had ham along with the turkey on Thanksgiving--I am really enjoying ham and cheese omelettes for breakfast.

7. I looked at the trees yesterday--they are ready for winter. Now my lawn is filled with the leaves that used to be on the trees and it has become too cold to want to work in the yard.

8. It was 27 degrees yesterday morning and the thermometer reads 23 degrees right now. I guess our mild weather has departed and the gathering clouds portend winter's arrival on the scene as autumn flees for warmer climates.

9. The last time we experienced temperatures in the 20's, with the exception of yesterday morning, was March 6th.  It was a good run. When are the 70's and 80's returning?

10. Anyone know where I left the ice scraper after last year?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Christmas Season Arrives

I have created a new verb: Christmify. Simply it means the act of transforming something from its native state into a Christmas decorated or ready state. Usage: The house was Christmified yesterday. There is an adjective: Christmassy listed in dictionary.com, but not the verb: Christmify.

Christmas Tree 2010
And so after dragging seven more containers laden with Christmas decorations out of the attic and purchasing a new artificial tree--the process of Christmifying the house begins. Christmifying the house is an annual event and it comes with expectation, stress, tears, wine and lots of merriment.  The stress is related to the annual event of discovering where Bob hid Chris's first Christmas ornament in the boxes for safe keeping and being sure it had not survived to celebrate another Christmas--right up until it is found and hung on the tree accompanied by the memory of over five decades of Christmases past.

Seriously though, Christmifying is a process--the initial Christmas decorations were emplaced on Veteran's Day with the exterior decorations being put up--since it was warm. Then there was Snow Village Saturday, and there was last evening--when most of the rest of the house was decorated. There are dishes to swap out and decorations to place. The process of Christmifying the house is completed over time--it is truly a transformation--of both the house and our minds. This year we will again have two Christmas trees to celebrate the season and only one is yet erected--the second is a project for some night this week.

The process of Christmifying is similar to what we must go through to transform our minds and get ready for the season of Christmas. We cannot just flip a switch and be ready for Christmas. Preparation is involved--to prepare ourselves for the day. Some churches celebrate the season of Advent to prepare for the Christmas Day celebration--and this parallels the transformation of our minds that happens during the ramp up to Christmas Day. In olden times (one of my favorite phrases) Christmas was celebrated for 12 days--from Christmas Day until January 6th--Epiphany or Three Kings Day. So the preparation of nearly a month resulted in a festival of twelve days.  Sadly, we have lost much of the festive season and reduced Christmas to a day. That, it seems, is all of the time we can give to celebrate the birth of The King.

And so the house is nearly fully transformed into the Christmas spirit--and now begins the process of transforming my mind and heart to accept the joy of the season and not focus on the 27 degrees of cold it is currently holding at outside.

Merry Christmas and may you be fully Christmified in all you do this season.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Pair of Kees

Makayla and Ben Napping with a Wary Eye
Makayla and Ben resting after a morning of playing and activity. They have grown to be best buds.

Having two dogs is a bit of work. But they have a lot of fun together and keep each other company. And they get along really well.

Late-Autumn Blooms

There it was yesterday.

November Clematis
Late-November unexpected color along side the driveway. A clematis was blooming and offering its beauty to the graying world which daily displays more signs of the approaching winter.

I was surprised to see the blooms along the fence.

They were hanging on as the time for sleep approached.

And then I looked again down along the fence and I could tell how mild the season has been--Brown-eyed Susan's blooming along the fence to grace my late-November searching eye.

Susan's Along the Fence
The garden has been neglected for the past month or so and the leaves from the trees are blowing in along the fence--but the flowers are there blooming among the leaves.  They were very bright on the gloomy, rainy day I snapped the picture.

We have Christmas Lights illuminating the house at night and flowers reminding us of the summer past.

Now all I need is a warm sandy beach and a palm tree to complete the illusion.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Axis and Allies

Annual Axis and Allies Game
The annual recreation of WW2 is underway. We are playing the European Campaign this year. Round 1 is only about halfway done. At the rate we are playing: 2 hours per turn, we might be done at midnight.

Follow-up--after four rounds of heated conflict in Europe and with the U.S. managing to win the War of the Atlantic and to land troops in Vichy France--the Russians fell to the Germans and the game was over. The US and the UK were just barely unable to reinforce Moscow in advance of the German panzer armies push.

Learn German. Congrats to Patrick on a well played and hard fought victory.

Day After

The feast was fabulous.

Even the football was exciting. The anticipated blow-outs did not materialize and the games were close--well at least the first two.

The family was gathered around the table. The great-grandparents were seated. The five dogs (Jeff, Florence, Makayla, Ben and Chewie) were penned in the basement, Ethan and Jax were rested and involved, and the wine was perfect for the brine soaked turkey--which was moist and flavorful.

The prayer was given.

And as the eating began--the thanks though unspoken was evident. We were together again. Gathered around a table sharing a meal and thankful for family and the freedoms we had which include the ability to gather together without fear and with a table full of foods.

The pies were tasty--I sampled two--a pumpkin and an apple.

And then as we became bored with the NFL's Thanksgiving offerings, some of us slipped out for a movie--the latest Harry Potter offering.

Finally arriving home after 10pm--I knew it had been a great Thanksgiving once again. Not because of what I ate, or or what I did--but because of who I was with. And that was what I was most thankful for--the who's sitting around the table and the relationships we share.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Snowstorm in the Village

2010 Village Blizzard
So last Saturday was Snow Village day. Well, yesterday, the 5 year old grandson, Ethan, decided the scene was a bit too bucolic. So a snowstorm was needed to liven things up a bit.

Needless to say the designer initially was not amused. But in retrospect it demonstrated a creative genius. The snowstorm survived the night.

Happy Thanksgiving

Well--it arrived right on schedule.

The national day to give thanks.

I have said, on a couple of occasions, that Thanksgiving is the most religious of all of the national holidays (note: I wrote religious and not Christian). And I believe this to be true. While some may argue that Christmas is the most religious oriented--I maintain that Thanksgiving is the one one of the two which has remained closest its original purpose for a broader percent of the population--

I present the quick definition from Wikipedia:

Thanksgiving Day, known informally as "Turkey Day," is a harvest festival celebrated primarily in the United States and Canada. Thanksgiving was a holiday to express thankfulness, gratitude, and appreciation to God, family and friends for which all have been blessed of material possessions and relationships. Traditionally, it has been a time to give thanks for a bountiful harvest. This holiday has since moved away from its religious roots.

While the holiday has moved away from its religious roots--it still retains that sense of a holiday unspoiled by blatant commercialism and which is still designed to make us pause--and give thanks for all we have and the bountiful blessings bestowed upon us. Most of us, thank God. Because we know--it's not us!

And so this year, I am thankful for our military members on the front lines in far off places and the civilians who are there along beside them. I am thankful for family, for close friends who put up with my antics, my dog, and the blessings that God has poured out upon me. More than I can count or even appreciate.
May you and yours recognize the blessings you have and be thankful for them today, tomorrow, and into the future.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Left the Station

The train is a full throttle racing away from the station--only there is no track in front of it.

Sometimes life seems to be like this.

All speed and no vector.

The holidays seem like this sometimes more often than not.

There are so many schedules to juggle--so many things to do and not nearly enough time to get them all done.

Sanity--or preserving sanity during this season relies on finding balance. It also relies upon recognizing that choosing to participate in one thing may preclude doing another. For example--going shopping on a Saturday afternoon precludes raking the leaves. As long as I am good with that--life is OK. But if I become stressed because of both what I am doing and what I am not doing--nothing good will result.

It is a bit sad that a season of joy has become a season plagued by stress.

But--like the picture--even though it appears the tracks are not there--if we slow down, take a deep breath and smile, we can get through the drifts of the season which are competing for our time and attention. The tracks are there--but we must move at a reasonable pace not to get derailed.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Race is On

You probably didn't even feel it when you woke up this morning--but the pace of life has just doubled. And it will stay on "fast forward" until January 3rd or so.

Yes--despite Thanksgiving being a couple days off--the rush of the holidays begins now.

There are dinners and desserts to plan. Wine lists to coordinate.

Activities to plan as well.

At work, today we are having a pig-in! Just to get things rolling along on the festivities. So it should be a week of eating and partying.

And it is a short work week too--Since I'm taking leave on Friday--it is a three-day week. I could get to like working like that.

So like I always say this time of year--Don't be a turkey, eat one!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Monday Musings - November 22, 2010

1. Read in a news item: "More Americans can identify the Three Stooges than the three branches of government--you know, the ones who are jockeying over our welfare." AlterNet

2. Want to check how much you know about religion? Take this survey: U.S. Religious Knowledge Quiz. I missed one question.

3. TSA and pat downs and whole body scanners. We can find a reason to justify almost anything it seems. There is a risk to everything we do. Maybe in their zeal to make flying risk free they have gone a bit too far.

4. Afghan Hero Dog Is Euthanized by Mistake in U.S. From the NY Times: The glory, though, was short-lived. Target, after learning to get along with the Young family’s other dog in Arizona, becoming accustomed to dog food and to using a doggie door to relieve herself, escaped from her yard. She was captured last week and euthanized by mistake.

5. Have kids or grandkids? Here are the 10 worst toys for this holiday season.

6. Well it was clear from watching the games yesterday that, according to Jeremy, the NFL is becoming the other Flag Football League--it seems that the flag happy referees can't let the game play on. It really slows the game and we saw at least three flags thrown for non-penalty items in one game. Even the announcers agreed.

7. From the Drudge Retort this morning: Former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee said in a radio interview that court rulings can be superseded by the other two branches of government. "A president has certainly got to respect a ruling of the court, but if the ruling of a court is wrong, and it's fundamentally wrong, and you have two branches of the government that determine that it's wrong, then those other two branches supersede the one," he said. The whole article is in Think Progress. BTW--he's wrong.

8. The clowns in circus of life are there to keep us from getting too serious about meaningless stuff.

9. This is a holiday week--which starts the larger holiday season. Which means it is going to be a bit crazy until about January 3rd.

10. BTW--remember--it is OK to say: "Merry Christmas" and not try to be politically correct by saying "Happy Holidays." Why? Christmas is the Federal Holiday.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Thanksgiving is Here!

How do I know?

We have our own Thanksgiving forecasting cactus.

every year around Thanksgiving it breaks into full blossom. And this year is no exception--it is magnificent.

It is fun to take care of this plant all year long and then in November to see it begin to bud and then spring into full flower.

We have had this cactus for many years now--and I think it is blooming a bit earlier now than it used to--but no problem--whenever it blooms, we enjoy its flowers.

And with the blooms--the turkey is not far behind.

And the holiday season.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

2010 edition of the Doan Family Snow Village

It is Snow Village Saturday. And the 2010 edition is set up and ready to rock in the Holiday Season.

The annual tradition dates back to about 1983 but it has grown larger every year.

This year the village is at one end for the first time.

Only 6 hours start to finish

The One Thing

Here is the scene:

Curley is riding his horse during one scene in the movie City Slickers, and provides insight into the deep meaning of life. He holds up his finger and pronounces that it is about one thing.

Mitch, riding along side Curley gets excites and asks--"What is the one thing?" And Curley calmly tells him, "That's what you have to find out!"

Curley's one thing is different from Mitch's one thing.

My one thing is different from yours. We are each different and have different purposes that make us tick

That really struck me the other night as I was at a meeting where the discussion turned to talking about the "one thing" that really is our personal mission.

I envisioned a box, which when opened would have the one thing there--for me to see and be reminded of. The one that that is me and my personal mission/vocation in life.

Sadly it is not that easy.

I think I used to know what that one thing was--but a few years ago it got crushed and I haven't reconstructed it yet

So in my mind the other evening I opened my box and looked inside for the one thing--and it was empty. There were a lot of things hanging around outside the box--but no one thing had taken charge.

I was depressed, but I think I knew it all along.

But look at the opportunity. I get to redefine myself and my goals as I rediscover my one thing!

Wherever it is.

Friday, November 19, 2010


I love dawn
when the sky transitions from night to day.
The first hints of light silhouette the landscape,
I can just begin to discern shapes along the horizon
but the stars remain in the still night sky.
It begins as a narrow band of light.
No color.
As it expands and dark colors begin to come into view,
I can begin to make out shapes on the landscape.
The world has no depth.
Only dark shapes on the horizon.
Dark trees and buildings.
The light continues to build,
orange gold colors of the morning begin to grace the sky.
I can begin to make out some depth in the land.
I can tell the trees are losing their leaves to the coming winter
And so quickly
The darkness is driven away by the light
The stars are gone
The world stirs from its slumber
How quickly it happens
Darkness and then light bathing the land
And I can see the colors of the trees
and the houses and the depth of the landscape.
Night is gone.
Day arrived
full of promise and plans.
And I witnessed the miracle, again.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Chewbacca -- A Puppy Arrives

Chewie for short.

Patrick and Tina's new lab mix puppy. A bundle of fun and energy.

He is the only animal right now that can keep up with Florence--Nicole's Italian Greyhound.

Look at those eyes--they are just full of mischief.

He is a lot of fun to be around and he follows really well.

Patrick and Tina are doing a great job being pack leaders.

It is kinda cool when Ben, Makayla, Chewie, and Florence are all together. Dogs everywhere.

Then add in Ethan, Jax, and Lucas and we have our own circus.

It is what makes it all fun!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Encouragement--The Power of Building Up

Encouragement seems to be a recurring theme in my life.

In an effort to remain a positive person full of optimism and continuing to grow, I have witnessed the aftermath of a less than encouraging experience.

It is simply, destructive.

I fear we are all guilty--and not just me. I mean, I know of times when I see something which is the result of hard work on the part of another--and I find the flaw. All to often the resulting conversation goes something like: "Wow, that is a really great job, but . . . "

That, friends, is not encouragement. Encouragement would stop before the ",but . . ."

We had a message in church a week or so ago about encouragement, and I had forgotten that the command to encourage one another was so prominent in the New Testament. Paul wrote:

"Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, just as you are in fact doing."
- 1 Thess 5:11 - NIV

Pretty strong words.

I have written a few blog entries on encouragement. Tear 'em Down or Build 'em Up? Leading in a mixed up world and Leadership: The Power of "Good Job" and "Thank-you" and of course Empowerment and Encouragement.

It is a recurring theme with me because I see so many people in need of an encouraging word. I know it is tough to be encouraging when I am reviewing a document for publication and need to make changes. The goal is to make it an encouraging teaching moment rather than a demoralizing experience for the author. It is tough to do. But it needs to be done.

If I want to encourage risk takers--in thought and action; I need to encourage them and not assassinate them when the results fall short of the vision we had.

I remember the saying--every cloud has a silver lining. Now that is truly encouragement.

We learn more from adversity than from success.

So from an encouragement point of view--we'll do better next time.

Let's go out for a drink and talk this one over--get out of the office, out of the threatening professional trappings of power and leadership and talk person to person. And at the end of it all--be happy that action was taken. Be encouraged. Tomorrow can be better than today.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Leadership--the Intangible

Leadership is intangible, and therefore no weapon ever designed can replace it. Omar N. Bradley

I get a lot out of this quote from General Omar Bradley because it underscores the fundamental nature of leadership. Leadership is not a physical thing and it must be done by people--leaders. I do not believe leadership can ever be relegated to a computer to recreate. It is a skill about handling and motivating people.

So there you are---a great technician, fully knowledgeable in your area of expertise. Loving being a technician. You could be a great teacher, or a research engineer, or a software designer.

A recognized expert in your field.

Respected by peers and superiors.

And now suddenly you find yourself "promoted" into a leadership position. They (notice how we often refer to leadership above us as , "they?") want you to lead a team.

Scared? Yeah, if that is what happened to you, you should be scared because good technicians make good leaders only with assistance and if they have not offered you assistance--you are being set up for a lot of frustration and potentially failure.

That means that you must actively search out and get leadership advice. Notice I said leadership and not management. You are a manager--we all are managers. We all manage things in order to survive: the fuel in the gas tank, the money in the checking account, the groceries on our shelves. So being a manager at work is fundamentally no different than what we do every day.

But . . .

Leadership is different--it involves people.

It is intangible.

It is not easy and there is no cookbook formula for success. Why? Because every team and every person and every task in different. A good leader is able to find the style, the motivation, the approach for the specific situation or mission.

It took me a long time to understand the subtleties--but that is why leadership in the US Navy was always seemed so different from the leadership I did as an officer in the US Air Force. But now I understand, there is a different mission and set of standards that must be followed on a naval vessel as compared to an Air Force Base.

That is why leadership of a small church group is so different from leadership of a work group charged with a specific task.

The skills are similar--but are not identically transferable.

So what is needed? A discussion of the basic principles of leadership and tools for the tool box.

Most important though? Leaders need to see the person in each team member.

It is through motivating people to achieve that leaders succeed.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Monday Musings - November 15, 2010

1. I went to the doctor for a physical the other day and he gave me both good news and bad news. The good news was that I don't have any new problems to worry about. The bad news? I still have all of the old ones to deal with.

2. Why are days off from work are shorter than work days?

3. Is it really 5 o'clock somewhere? And if it is, why am I not there?

4.Watching someone's dog can be trying.

5. What do you get when you add three boys under the age of six with four dogs and try to watch a football game?

6. Weekend? What is a weekend?

7. Football is a fickle sport. Every team in the AFC North lost this week and the Cowboys won!

8. A high school in Virginia has eliminated the "F" grade. No one fails anymore. Wow, if only life were really like that. How are kids going to learn to live if they don't learn the truth about consequences and life? People fail--and that is not all bad, ask Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried chicken fame. He failed 1,000 times before he succeeded. One "A" can erase a lot of "F's."

Sunday, November 14, 2010


I decided to read through some of my first blogs the other day--to get in touch with where I've been and to help me stay true to my vision for this blog.

I found that my blogging has become a journal of my thoughts and the events in my life that I want (or not) to share with others.

And so I reread the first entries that I made as I inaugurated the blog in December 2007 and into 2008. I reviewed the entries of joy, and hope, and also the hard times surrounding the miracle baby, Jax and his stunning recovery from open heart surgery at six days old.

I reflected on how Jax is one of the smartest and most energetic kids that I know--and I recalled seeing him connected to all of the wires and tubes keeping him alive in those hours after the surgery, no one would believe it now--except for still visible straight line on his chest--that reminder of God's mercy and healing power given to this one little precious boy.

And then I ker-thunk-ed.

From the miracle of Jax I ran headlong into one of the darkest and most difficult decisions that I have ever made recorded in the entries from March and April 2008. Perhaps I was reviewing these blog entries because of a song that Eric Scott sang at the house concert which I found therapeutic. Perhaps because there are still dangling threads to this chapter of my life that need to be tied up. What ever the reason--they are still there, raw and dangling.

I saw that I had hidden within my leadership essays the pain that I was feeling during that time. The betrayal. The loss of friends and connectedness with a family of believers that I had been a member of for a long while. I chalked much of it up to life lessons, but even now, two-and-a-half years later I have a hard time getting over the broken relationships with people whom I considered not just friends--but family. When I really needed support and an arm on my shoulder--I got sermonizing and bad theology from the person who I both respected and considered to be my closest friend.

I felt that I had to leave because the bonds of trust and friendship had been crushed through words and inaction.

I was reminded at this point of a verse from Job--"Then they sat down with him on the ground for seven days and seven nights, yet no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his pain was very great." Job 2:13 - NIV. And I reflected that for seven days Job's friends just sat with him--they were with him and said nothing. Can you imagine sitting with someone for seven days and saying nothing? Just being there?

Sometimes the best thing to say is nothing at all.

I wrote some blogs which helped me deal with my hurt while also trying to help me catalog some of the leadership principles that I could see coming from the reflection on everything that brought me to make the decision--Empowerment and Encouragement and People or process? Where's the joy? These two blogs were the first in my Leadership Series and they also were ripe with the pain I was feeling. Another Leadership Series blog about Co-leadership is also based upon my experience and it has been read worldwide and I have received more email about this entry than any other blog I have written. It is apparently widely used in some colleges.

Sadly, though I wrote of my pain and frustration--my friend never pursued me, so I know that the relationship was one-way. I believe this because when I lose something, or something gets lost, like keys or a dog or a cat, I pursue it. I look for it. I find it! Are not people and their relationships worth even more than the relationship with a dog or cat? Yet, through this I felt as if I have been erased from the memory despite my occasional attempts to reconnect, which so far have been rebuffed.

The whole situation is like a festering sore that is quiet for a while and then flares up. And then I bury it again and forget it. But some nights, when I have insomnia, I remember the good times and wonder how they went so terribly bad. I think is was a package deal, all wrapped up in the emotion of Jax's crisis and the family coming together.

But it is still out there--in the dark nights, in the blogs, in my heart. Maybe like Eric Scott, I should write a song.

Or a blog.

To read again in a few years.

But I stopped reviewing my blog at that point. Who knows what else is hidden in there, clawing at the prison bars to escape? I'm almost afraid to look.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Flying Old Glory - Update

Sanity reigns.

This just in from California regarding my post from earlier this morning:

A news article from this mornings Turlock Journal

Cody Alicea can fly his flag again:

However, after an outcry was raised locally and from afar, the district reversed that call on Friday, once again allowing Alicea to fly Old Glory.

This is critical and a huge victory for patriotism. But the article also points out some of the rest of the story.

The way it happened:

“A school employee said some students have been complaining about my flag and I needed to take it down,” Alicea said. “So I took it down. I was kind of mad and upset because I have been flying it for two months and all of a sudden its Veterans week and it’s a problem.”

The Denair Unified School District backed up the campus supervisor’s decision, in part because they had previously made other students stop displaying the flag of Mexico on Cinco de Mayo.

I had forgotten that Denair was the district which had banned the Mexican flag on Cinco de Mayo. But still--banning the American flag is a lot different. Like--this is the U.S. and not Mexico.

And by the way--the victory at Puebla on Cinco de Mayo was a victory for all of North America and probably allowed the Civil War to end with the United States re-unified rather than two separate countries.

But--that is a story for another day.

Congrats Cody and all Americans--we can still fly our flag in the USA!

Whose Flag are they Talking About?

Published yesterday--November 12, from the people's democratic republic of California comes the following news item:

School Makes Boy Take American Flag Off Bike
Elissa Harrington FOX40 News
November 12, 2010
13-year-old Cody Alicea rides with an American flag on the back of his bike. He says he does this to be patriotic and to honor veterans, like his own grandfather, Robert. He's had the flag on his bike for two months but Monday, was asked told to take it down.

A school official at Denair Middle School told Cody some students had been complaining about the flag and it was no longer allowed on school property.

"In this country we're supposed to be free," said Cody. "And I should be able to wave my flag wherever I want to. And they're telling me I can't."

There is a little bit more to the story--but these are the salient paragraphs, click on the title link for the complete text.

I did a little research on this. Denair is a public school system and therefore, presumably, it flys an American flag in front of the school and probably has an American flag in every classroom. So I wonder--how could they ban an American flag from school property?

The Denair Middle School has a website which, when I last checked, made no mention of the report--but the site was running, as you might suspect, very slowly.

They did not call it an safety hazard--just an unspecified complaint.

I wish all the kids would ride their bikes with American flags on them! It is what i was bemoaning on Veteran's Day about the schools not promoting patriotism--but rather an educational based humanistic socialism.

I bet young Cody was just having too much fun being a proud American.

We can't have that, can we?

Friday, November 12, 2010

So What Did You Do On Your Day Off?

It is a rare thing when I have a day off and Chris has to work.

It only happens about three times a year--Columbus Day, Veteran's Day and President's Day.

So I do look forward to those days on my own--where I can get special projects accomplished and I can work at a leisurely pace around the house.

Sadly, the days never work out like I imagine them.

I had dreams of an afternoon nap--a leisurely day. But then reality set in.

The day started great--did I sleep in? No. I didn't plan on sleeping in and I chose instead to play racquetball at 0530--as I do on most Thursdays. I am continuing to play even though my game is becoming "spotty" at best. The best position for my opponent to be in is for me to have a lead--like 11-5. Yeah, I'm losing a lot now 15-11 after leading big. Ugh! I can't close the game out--kinda like the Ravens last night losing 26-21.

But still, I love racquetball.

And then the real day began. Back home for breakfast with Chris and watching the Today Show. I'm a hopeless Today Show junkie and I usually only get to see it on weekends.

Coffee, breakfast, the paper, computer in my lap and my dog at my feet--what could be better?

Really? Not much.

But I had a physical to go off to. Chris loves to schedule doctor appointments on my days off--that way I don't have an excuse.

And the doctor's appointment went amazingly well. I was home for lunch and then onto the big project: putting up the outdoor Christmas lights. We do this on warm days in the period between Veteran's Day and Thanksgiving. We don't turn them on until the Friday after Thanksgiving, but they are ready and I do not have to suffer through numb fingers and chilling temperatures to get the lights up if I do them on a warmer day--which yesterday was.

A normally two hour project took almost four hours!

I was besieged by nagging little problems--which sucked up the entire afternoon and of course my desired nap time too.

So by the time I finished, Chris was getting home from her day and we had dinner plans with friends.

At least I was able to enjoy a free Blooming Onion at Outback in honor of Veterans! Which I am. And we had a great dinner with stimulating conversation.

So what did I do on my day off? All of the important stuff but little of the enjoyable stuff.

And who knew that a day off was so much shorter than a regular work day?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veteran's Day 2010

It saddens me that some holidays are just not widely observed anymore. Schools are in session and many businesses are open today. We as Americans are not taking time to remember an important segment of our population--our Veterans.

We are losing a part of our past, our heritage and our history.

A day like today reminds us of the sacrifice and patriotism that so many of our brothers and sisters have made to secure us the freedoms that we have today.

Instead of fighting for our survival as a nation and a people, we are fighting among ourselves over health care and taxes and other more domestic needs. That is far better that than fighting for our very survival--thanks to our veterans.

I'm not sure our schools are doing a good job of instilling the core values of our country into our youth. Taking time to teach about sacrifice and heroism. Touching on those potentially politically incorrect subjects because they are fact--and need to be discussed.

Service before self. (USAF core value)

Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country! (President John F. Kennedy Inaugural Address 1961)

I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country. (Nathan Hale, 1776)

I have not yet begun to fight. (John Paul Jones, 1779)

Nuts! (General Anthony Clement "Nuts" McAuliffe, December 1944, Bastogne)

Better to fight for something than live for nothing. (General George S. Patton)

It is good that war is so horrible, or we might grow to like it. (General Robert E. Lee)

Every attempt to make war easy and safe will result in humiliation and disaster. (General William Tecumseh Sherman)

Set your course by the stars, not by the lights of every passing ship. (General Omar N. Bradley)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Hahn Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 - Review

It has been a while since I reviewed a wine, mostly because I have been using Cellar Tracker and writing reviews there as I sample different wines.

But, this wine was recently recommended to me and I really need to let everyone know how good this wine is--and it is a best value, even according to Wine Enthusiast magazine.

Chris and I sampled Hahn Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 the other evening. We were both very impressed. This wine is really special.

The wine is described this way on the website:

Luscious scents of sweet berry fruits, opening to wisps of cola, licorice, and spice. Ripe blackberry and boysenberry fruit flavors are accompanied by notes of cassis and vanilla, balanced by firm tannins and food-friendly acidity.

Deep ruby in the glass, this Cabernet Sauvignon commands attention from the moment it is poured. Rich, luscious scents of sweet berry fruits entice the nose, opening to wisps of cola, licorice, and spice. An intense core of ripe blackberry and boysenberry greets the palate, giving way to notes of cassis, vanilla and earth. Firm tannins and food-friendly acidity balance the plush fruit, leading to a long, pleasant finish.

The intense character and complex nature of this Cabernet Sauvignon make it a strong partner for meat dishes such as beef stew and roasted venison. Try it also with a flavorful starter, such as gorgonzola and walnuts, or a simple dessert like espresso gelato.

I found this to be very true. I wrote the wine us as follows: This is a great wine especially considering the price. Great nose followed by a taste which includes dark cherry and black currant flavors. Some structure underneath the berry flavors with tannins. Nice feel in the mouth and it finishes strong and lingers.

RECOMMENDATION: If you like Cabernet Sauvignon, buy this wine. For about $10 per bottle, the price is great and the wine drinks very nicely and it should continue to drink nicely for a few more years.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Eric Scott House Concert Review

Cellar Music Concert- ilyAIMY 2009
I attended a house concert Saturday, November 6th night featuring Eric Scott. The concert was sponsored by Cellar Music and in short it was fabulous.

The venue, in a wine cellar in a private home, is intimate and has excellent acoustics. The performer sits with the patrons and it makes for a highly interactive concert and great access to the performer. Cellar Music has an informative website describing the concerts--which are for singer song writers and not cover bands. If you have never been to a house concert, I highly recommend you check one out. And there is probably none better than Cellar Music.

But let me tell you about the performer--Eric Scott. Eric sang all of his own songs with the exception of one encore song which he covered an old Cat Stevens song. Check out his website for additional information.

Eric Scott
I found Eric to be extremely personable and interactive with the audience. He sings his music and plays the bass guitar and brings Mike Stacey along to play lead guitar. It works. The two work really well together and have a comfort level which showcases the music and the talent of both performers.

Eric has a strong and sweet mid-tenor voice. His lyrics are deep and meaningful but the melodies are easy to sing along with. The concert attendees actually began singing some of the songs while Eric was performing--the tunes are just that compelling. And they are singable. Eric was on pitch for every note of every song--and even when he agreed to play song that he had not played in a long time--after a short pause to checkout the words--it was flawless. There are Christian overtones to much of his music--which add to the authentic nature of the performer and the performance. The music is from life and the heart. Some of the lyrics are really hard--hard in that they touch the raw nerve of hurt and pain, but it is also therapeutic.

The performance showcased the familiarity between Eric and Mike. There were long guitar riffs and solos that not only added to the intimacy of the music, but also showed the mutual respect between Eric and Mike as music professionals.

Listening to songwriters sing their own music is really satisfying. You hear the stories behind the songs and what led the writer to write the song. Eric provided a lot of background on his songs--which makes the entire evening just that much more enjoyable.You feel like you are getting to really know someone and even making a new friend.

Well, it was a great evening. Great music, good friends and concert goers and you know what? No post concert traffic jam! That is another great advantage of the whole house concert idea--access to the performer and no post concert traffic. The best it can be. When was the last time you went to a concert and got the performer to sign the CDs? Or even talked to the performer about their music.

Thanks Pam and Gary of Cellar Music for hosting the concert and especially thanks to Eric and Mike for their music. It was a great concert and was the best house concert that I have attended.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Monday Musings - November 8, 2010

1. From the editorial page of the Baltimore Sun on November 4, 2010 about the election: "Change wins again . . . . . .but not in Maryland."

2. Even after 56 years--it is good to see a team win the World Series. I guess San Francisco has finally shaken off the demons from moving out of New York in 1958. I thought they were the best team and I was happy to see them win.

3. Wow--I got my water bill the other day for the summer months. There is something fundamentally wrong when the government (Howard County) can raise water rates without notice AND THEN provide the bill with a new due date almost three weeks earlier than expected designed to coincide with the start of the Holiday Shopping season. I'm just frustrated, I wonder how many homeowners out there this is really going to cause a problem for. It certainly was short-sighted on their part.

4. I ran across some really interesting statements from Regina Brett's book God Never Blinks: 50 Lessons for Life’s Little Detours. They are in a newsletter titled Chocolate, Purple And Making Peace With The Past – 50 Lessons To Live By. I found them interesting and here are a couple.

- Make peace with your past so it won’t screw up the present.

- Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don’t save it for a special occasion. Today is special.

- Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.

- Forgive everyone everything.

- Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.

5. Looking for something to do on a cold Saturday evening? Attend a house concert, I did. Full review tomorrow.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


Wednesday is becoming known as home and at work as E-day.

I am following up on a blog from a couple of weeks ago--Gap Filler Pop-pop.

For a couple of weeks now, I have continued to be the after school care giver gap filler for Nicole and Mike. I have to admit--I am beginning to look forward to Wednesdays. And although originally Chris and I were going to switch off--I think I'm going to do this as an every week event.

Wednesday, for instance, I arrived a bit early and was able to sit on the door step and watch for the van carrying the precious cargo to arrive. It was really neat the way E bounded out of the van to greet me as we began to walk to his house.

We have learned to spend our time together wisely--Phineas and Ferb, playing Angry Birds, walking dogs, getting drinks and snacks, and even doing homework (for the second time this past week).

The hour and a half or so that we are together rockets by each week--and I have been impressed with how smoothly it all goes. Of course I just jinxed that, didn't I?

Oh well--you know about other duties as assigned, but sometimes it really is nice when those duties are enjoyable.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Turkey on the Loose

It is the turkey time again. Be one.

Be a Cow--Watch TV

Really, it is true.

Cows like to watch TV and they produce more milk when the watch grass grow on TV.

This comes from an aarticle in Scholastic Magazine titled Cows Like TV, Too!.

And apparently they do like TV especially in the winter.

I was so fascinated with this article, that I extracted most of it here, but do check out the link, there is a really cool image of TV's in a cow barn.

People often complain that something's boring by saying they would rather watch grass grow. But it turns out that cows actually like watching grass grow—so much so that watching images of grassy fields on TV can help them make more milk.

Last year, farmers at the Rogachyovo Farm near Moscow, Russia, wondered why their cows produced less milk during winter. They discovered that cows get sad in winter because they don't like being cooped up indoors. When cows are sad, they make less milk.

So to make their cows a little happier, the Rogachyovo farmers began an experiment called Farm 2.0. Veterinarians set up a special barn where 10 of the 20 cows in it could watch TV.
The screens played images of grassy fields in the Alps, a mountain range in Europe famous for spectacular green valleys where cows graze. "Alpine cows give the best milk," explains the project's manager, Konstantin Labzin.

The veterinarians who took care of Rogachyovo Farm's cows announced that the experiment worked! The cows that watched TV during winter made three liters more milk per day than those that didn't watch. They say the images on TV relaxed the cows, making milking easier.

I wonder if there is something here that we need to notice.

TV helps me through the winter, too. Maybe I should watch mroe of it so that I produce more--


Friday, November 5, 2010

Wow, it Seems Cold

I am not enjoying my first taste of cold weather.

Not at all.

It is just plain cold!

I do not like seeing my breath as I exhale when I stumble outside in the morning to allow Makayla to do her thing--and then realize that I really needed to put on a coat because it really is cold and only about 32 degrees.


Jupiter Beach, Florida
July 2010
 I am ready for the winter--but do not look forward to its arrival.

Someone reminded me the other day that in a couple months I will be looking back upon these days with fondness for their warmth.

But last week's high 70's were so much more enjoyable.

It really is awful having to drive my convertible with the top up and the heat running.

And it really isn't cold, yet.

Hey, Spring is only about 136 days away!

Pool opening day is only 169 days away.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Yellow Today and Gone Tomorrow

They are nearly bare now,
the trees.
Last week adorned in royal autumn robes
now cast aside like confetti
A bright colored canopy strewn on the ground,
the parade has passed and the heroes are gone
they stand still tall,
branches reaching up into the sky
defiantly calling to the north wind
unafraid of the snow and ice.
Some will not see another spring
to wear green leaves again
they will stand
for the beetle and woodpecker--
though dead
they will support life
until they too fall like the leaves
for so many seasons before
to renew, restore and live again.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Mid-Term Elections: The Day After

They voting is over--although the counting is not complete in some areas. Absentee ballots will not be counted until November 12th in Maryland, I understand.

I find election nights to be more exciting than any sports championship. Why? It is real and it matters. I was glued to the TV watching the returns coming in. Many of my candidates winning--but most losing.

With the campaign ads off the air we can again watch our favorite beer or feminine hygiene product ads. We no longer have to be assaulted by grown adults bickering over who did what, when, and to whom.

It all sounds the same after a while.

And the telephone computer robot ads never seem to cease.

The phone is quiet now. Yay!

I don't have to worry about whether a fee is a tax anymore. By definition a fee is not a tax--but if it is coming out of my pocket, do I really care about the difference? And that, for those of you not in Maryland, summarizes the Maryland governor's race.

I have read some pretty scary projections about incredible increases in taxes that are coming as a result of new programs and policy shifts--but I really could not tell how much of that was pre-election hype.

Heard on CNN (really): "President Obama has done more than any President since Ronald Reagan to unite and focus the Republican party."

Also heard on CNN: "Now they are all going to find out how hard it is to transition from being outside and pointing out the shortfalls in policy to being in office and having to do something about them.'

I wonder what the future holds.

I am sure it will not be more of the same--it is just, what does that really mean?

Can someone actually have a workable plan? It is real easy to toss boulders from outside--but once on the inside, can the rocks be turned over to create economic prosperity and peace?

I sure hope so.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Space--the Final Frontier, Ends

Sadly, as Chris and I were discussing over dinner the other evening, we are witnessing the end of an era--U.S. manned space flight.

The shuttle Discovery is scheduled to launch on Wednesday, November 3rd, on a mission to the International Space Station and then be retired after its return to Earth. The other shuttles will be retired next year and by the end of 2011, the U.S. will no longer have the capability to launch humans into space. Scary enough--only the Russians and the Chinese will be capable of launching people into space.

I was one of those kids who grew up watching the heroes of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo missions blaze trails into space and onto the moon.

There is no follow-on program. The program to develop the next generation manned space launch vehicle and capsule has been canceled.

Space was a source of national pride and technological achievement. Remember the space race with the Soviets--who could put the first man on the moon? And we won!

Space was a place where only the best of the best could fly and survive to return for another mission.

I fully believed that one day I would lead the first manned mission to Mars--and looking back, it seems we have lost our desire for exploration.

Here is a fact from the Smithsonian website: Eugene Cernan, commander of Apollo 17, still holds the distinction of being the last man to walk on the Moon, as no humans have visited the Moon since December 14, 1972.

It has been almost 38 years since mankind stepped foot on the Moon. We could not even do it today, we do not have the heavy space-launch capability anymore.

With the retirement of the shuttle fleet next year--little by little the United States is losing its vision. As a nation we are losing the drive and enthusiasm which set us apart from the other nations of the world.

I remember the phrase: "The difficult done immediately, the impossible takes a bit longer."

I know there are arguments about whether the space program is a waste of money--but really, the money pit of social programs that the money is being reinvested into shows no return on investment at all. At least space pushes the boundaries of technology and gives us products and things which otherwise might not exist.
As a nation, we used to push the frontier.

But no longer. We are mired in a budget catastrophe of our own doing that has our sights turned inwards and not seeing what is happening around us.

We have lost, it seems, our mojo.

So the tombstone for U.S. manned space may ultimately read:

US Manned Space Program
For 50 years we led where others feared to go

Monday, November 1, 2010

Monday Musings - November 1, 2010

1. It is November already. Where did October slip off to?

2. Halloween is over, bring on the turkey's.

3. Seems the grand kids are learning the ways of Halloween a lot better--things went pretty quickly this year.

4. Football. baseball, hockey--who can keep up with all of it?

5. Makayla was a trooper last evening in her costume watching the festivities of the kids running from door-to-door.

6. Shopping in Ellicott City on a nice autumn Saturday was an almost fun experience.

7. The trees have lost their leaves already. Yellow today and gone tomorrow.

8. Just a bit of frost--the other night. We've pulled the sensitive plants inside. But there will still be nice days.
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