Monday, December 31, 2012

Monday Musings - December 31, 2012

1. This is it--the year is too rapidly drawing to a close.

2. With the ending of the NFL regular season yesterday and without the NHL to keep me sane, I am about to enter sports purgatory: The time between football and Spring Training for baseball.

3. I'm still writing my New Years resolutions, but I did note how empty the fitness club was on Friday. I expect it to be very full on Wednesday morning as everyone attempts to improve their overall fitness which is a laudable goal.

4. I've decided to stop receiving emails from a company which began its recent email to me as follows: "According to recent reports we’re worse off now than we were 30 years ago." It may be true, but I know I'm better off now than I was 30 years ago.

5. Congress still has not been able to overcome petty partisanism to solve the fiscal crisis and keep the country moving. I know the elections were just last month, but can we recall our representatives and do it over again? Something needs to change.

6. I am concerned--the pursuit of special interests had apparently destroyed our ability as a people and a society to reach compromise.

7. Partiers tonight should remember that drinking and driving does not reflect a mature decision.

8. Happy New Year everyone. May the year ahead be full of promise and blessing.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Blog Favorites of 2012

I enjoy taking some time near the end of every year to review the posts I've made during the year. It reminds me where I've been and some of the things that I've been writing about.

This year has been a great year for my blog. The number of page views per month, one measure of readership, has continued to increase. The readers set a record in November by crossing the 2,000 pages viewed during the month for the first time. December is close and may beat out November, as there are still two days to go-but it was nice to cross over the 2,000 threshold for the first time.

Thank you to my readers for that.

The increase in pages comes as I have posted fewer articles this year. It appears that I will finish the with 390 posts, well off the over 400 posts for the past two years (2010: 434, 2011: 430).

In terms of popularity one post stands out this year, Famous Airplanes and their Names. I enjoyed my day at the Air and Space Museum seeing the airplanes and being inspired to research famous airplanes of history.

I was surprised at the popularity of my post about Follow the Instructions--There may be an Important Reason for Them which was a rant that I wrote in response to the girl being bitten by the dolphin at Sea World Orlando.

The third most popular post of 2012 was Orioles Magic--Pushed to the Brink. What an exciting season the Orioles had and I am looking forward to the 2013 version of the Orioles with great anticipation.

One of my favorites was Flags and Ships which recounted my day at the Sailabrathon in Baltimore during June. The images of the flags flying in the breeze against the blue sky reminds me of that fabulous day.

My favorite poem for 2012, I seem to write poems during September, was titled Two Roads and a Field.

My favorite image posted in the blog this year was taken by Chris while we were on vacation in Florida. It is of an osprey just after catching dinner. It was published in the post Unraveling Days--Nearing Vacation's End.

These are my favorites for the year. I am looking forward to the year ahead and where it will take me through my blog.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Movies of 2012

During 2012,  I saw a number of movies. I did not see every movie released-but I saw a fair number. Here is my list of the best and worst of the year, based solely on what I saw.

As nearly as I can tell, I saw 14 movies that were released during 2012. Yes, there are some significantly popular movies that are  missing from my list--but life is busy and since I am not a professional reviewer I cannot make it to every movie that is released.

Bob's Best Movie of 2012: Les Miserables - Not to be missed

2. Skyfall - Probably the best James Bond movie ever
3. Avengers - fun, action, and my favorite heroes.
4. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close - deep examination and thoughtful.
5. Argo - Great history lesson, although a bit flawed
6. The Life of Pi - I really liked this movie, it is deep
7. MIB 3 (Men in Black) - fun continuation of the MIB series
8. Red Tails - Good history
9. Battleship - just plain fun, I watched it again last evening
10. Trouble with the Curve - A surprisingly good movie
11. Hunger Games - I don't like the premise, the acting, or the story
12. Hope Springs - Good acting but a bit plodding

The Worst Movie of the Year is a tie between
13. (Tie) Red Dawn and
13. The Odd Life of Timothy Green.

I really can't explain why I saw either movie--but they are probably both in the ten worst movies of all time with no socially redeeming value to either.

Some movies that I still want to see:
The Hobbit (maybe today or tomorrow)

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Friday, December 28, 2012

Les Miserables - Review

Despite some of the early reviews which indicated that the movie was less than spectacular, I went to see it for myself. I admit, I have never seen the staged production and I read the book by Victor Hugo so long ago that I have forgotten the intimate details of the story.

I loved the movie. I loved the music. I enjoyed the cinematography and the acting and the character development.

The movie is real and gritty.  The characters are caked with the reality of life during the early 19th century. I could almost smell the streets of France as the movie progressed.

The movie spans 1815-1832 during periods of rebellion and revolution in France; beginning with the final defeat of Napoleon and ending with the June Rebellion. The story revolves around a man, Jean Valjean, played by Hugh Jackman. He was imprisoned for minor thievery for 19 years and is pursued through the rest of his life for breaking parole by the chief policeman, Javert, played by Russell Crowe. Along the way, Jean adopts the daughter of Fantine, played by Anne Hathaway, who had fallen on very hard times and was striving to provide for her daughter, Cosette, played by Amanda Seyfried.

The music is spectacular and real. The character development is well done and effective. Did I say the music is fabulous?

Isabelle Allen is stunning and effective as the young Cosette. It is her face that forms the poster for the movie.

Th movie is long, listed at 165 minutes, but it is a fast movie. There are few places where it drags and the depth of the acting, the story, and the richness of the sets and characters make it a very engrossing movie.

I found the make-up to age the characters through the years to be especially intriguing. I also know that many of the actors starved themselves to give the realistic appearance of being destitute during the period of the movie.

In my humble opinion, this movie ought to have a lot of Oscar nominations: Best picture, Best actor: Hugh Jackman, Best supporting actress: Anne Hathaway, make-up, costumes, set design, and a few others.

RECOMMENDATION: See this movie!  Bring tissues for the ending.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Off the Fiscal Cliff

Not to be a bearer of really bad New Years news, but has any one noticed that Congress is still unable to fix the fiscal cliff?

It is still there and it appears the Republicans have taken their ball and headed off the playing field.

Pronouncements of doom and gloom abound.

Here is the part I can't figure out. If the tax rates go up to incredible levels and the salaries used to pay the taxes actually effectively go down, where do our leaders thing the money is going to come from to fuel the economic recovery?

I have seen it myself. My prescription plan is planning to raise my per prescription costs by $19 per prescription this year. My expected pay raise is currently set to 0%. My taxes are going to rise an untold percentage both for Maryland and the Federal government. That money is going to come from somewhere, because we all know that the tax man get's his cut first.  It is going to come from the money I might spend fueling the economy.

Can someone in Washington figure out that this doesn't add up?

Hello--First grade math needs to be applied there.

What we have here are leaders who cannot seem to understand that compromise is required for the greater good of the good of the country. We have elected a representatives who think that playing the game Chicken is good for the country.

Some people are talking that federal workers may face 20-50 furlough days this year. An item from PBS describes it this way:

In the event that no deal is made and we do have the automatic cuts known as sequestration starting in January, federal employees face job loss and in some situations, certainly in the Department of Defense, but throughout the federal government, people will be furloughed, forced to take unpaid days off, anywhere from 20 to 50 days. We really don't know.

So you want government services? Try getting anything with these kinds of cuts. And this does not begin to address the drastic cuts expected to be taken by the contractor workforce.

We are living in a time of multiple single points of failure. With all of those people forced to take time off, something is surely going to break.

As the dram continues, all we can do is watch--Oh yes, I urge you to write to your elected representatives to tell them your concerns about the situation.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Is it Over?

How quickly it all seems to pass. The day arrives and begins early--before dawn and then continues into the evening. But, even so, it is over so quickly.

All of the preparations, the gifts, the planning for the meals and the wines. Once it begins, it happens so quickly.
The Family 2012

It was a day of family. A full day of family. Even the Christmas photo this year is more complete than it ever has been.

It is worth it, of course, all of the planning. And I doubt that many of us could survive if it lasted much longer. It was full bore for the entire day.

I am happy though. Christmas this year was more than gifts. It was relationships. It was being together. It was interacting.

That is what it is all about. Giving and receiving gifts can be done in the solitude of a room, without human contact. Gathering together for holidays reminds me that we are about relationships. Being together to appreciate everyone for who they are and where they are.

Thanks to everyone in the family for being there yesterday. And more than that, for being in the moment and being present and not already checked out for NYC, Vegas, Houston, Orlando, or wherever that next trip is going to be taking you. For a few hours, yesterday, we were all together just being a family.

Holiday Hall of Fame

Bravest Person of the Day: Ethan (he knows why 2X)

Best Gift of Christmas: Everyone has one, and they know what it is

Funniest Moment of the Day: Playing Cards Against Humanity with my Parents

Most Embarrassing Moment of the Day: Me losing to a four-year old (Jax) in Wii Bowling

Hero of the Day: Santa (all of them)

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas 2012 Prayer

Father in heaven
I come to you with joy in my heart
rediscovering the gift of salvation
through your Son's birth
There is hope in His coming,
Hope for a broken world
where our children are senselessly killed
And wars continue in so many places.
A world where people live in oppression
under the rule of dictators, without hope
Your Son is hope
for a world that needs to hear songs of rejoicing
instead of mourning
A world that needs peace, instead of war
where there are rumors of terrible weapons being used
against innocent people
The world needs hope that only He can provide in His birth and life.
Ours is not so different from the world that your Son was born into
with oppression from foreign powers and atrocities
and murder and sacrifice, and hate, and unrest.
I look forward to the promise of deliverance
and salvation, and peace.
The promise of Christmas--hope
Hope for the people, the oppressed, the prisoners
The carols, the songs, the lights the preparation
The advent of His coming long ago, and again
instills hope in me by
reminding me that I am part of the plan
which began so long ago
in a town that no one cared about
on the outskirts of the empire.
Rekindle hope in me to make a difference
Father--I thank you for the blessings you have provided me
and my family
I ask that you be with the families who mourn this Christmas
the wounds are real and hard--give them peace
Be with our military and their families--let them know
that they are loved and appreciated.
Be with the leaders of our country--
help them to find compromise and compassion.
Thank you for the first gift of Christmas
that was told to the shepherds in their fields
and sung by angels.
To proclaim His coming.
Help me to remember your gift to em every day during the year ahead.
Thank you

--Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Monday, December 24, 2012

First Snow

And the snow started falling as if on cue on Christmas Eve. I wonder who dialed that up?

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Monday Musings - December 24, 2012

1. Happy Christmas Eve. May you experience the joy and promise of the season.

2. Hope is not a plan. But, sometimes, hope is all we need!

3. Saw this while shopping last week: Racks of swimming suits in between rows of winter coats. I call that, wishful thinking.

4. Remember when you said you were coming? How come you are not moving your feet?

5. The dog that is perfect is the one next to you.  John O'Hurley

6. The fortunes of football games hurt more when we the season ends and we were o so close.

7. Did anyone notice, the Mayans were wrong?

8. If someone intentionally drove a car into a group of people, would we call for more car control? We need to focus on people and better care and support for people with problems.

9. I just can't imagine a better way to be awakened on Christmas Eve than to the words of my wife standing over me and saying softly--don't get upset, but the toilet is clogged!

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Stockings Were Hung!

Stockings! I knew that I had forgotten something. They are in one of those boxes of Christmas, somewhere, waiting. An interesting tradition.

I head an Australian talking on the radio yesterday about the Christmas traditions there, where summer has just begun when Christmas arrives. Instead of being dark, cold, and snowy, it is beach weather. Awesome! He also talked about hanging a large pillowcase on the end of the bed and waking to find it filled with presents in the morning.
Santa on a Boat in Australia

So who needs stockings?

I found a website devoted to Christmas in Australia.

Throw me on Bondi Beach for some rays in the afternoon.

The website reports:

The most important day of Australian Christmas traditions is the Christmas Day (25. December). Often it starts with packing the picnic bags and eskies in the morning, to celebrate Christmas on the beach. It is a picnic lunch that starts early and doesn't often finish before the sun sets so a fair bit of food and beer is consumed. 
Australians used to eat the traditional British Christmas meal, Christmas turkey, but in later years we’ve developed our own Australian Christmas food, much more suitable for the hot weather. It consists of all possible cold snacks whether it is seafood, meat, chicken or a combination of them, and potato salad, pasta salad, or just green salad, and bread. Not everyone goes to the beach, many families have Christmas lunches in their back yards too, but it's always a lunch, not a dinner.

What's an eskie? American Eskimo Dog, of course, I think.

The high temperature in Sydney is expected to be 75 degrees today.

I, unfortunately, got to enjoy the mall again yesterday for that one last gift from a store that is only in the mall. I would have much preferred the beach.

Some year, perhaps a Caribbean Christmas cruise vacation!

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Hip Hip Hooray--An Extra Holiday

And as if by magic--we have an extra holiday--Christmas Eve 2012.  Of course it is a one time good deal because it falls on a Monday before the Christmas Tuesday holiday.
Grace Church Service Times

But I'll take it. Thank-you Mr. President.

Christmas Eve is a magical day for me. It is when Christmas becomes real. It is the next thing up--and I guess I am a next thing up kind of guy. Like today--Saturday, I have a ton of things to do, among which I am looking forward to my parents arriving, but even though the tree is lit and presents are beginning to adorn its base, I'm not in the Christmas "place" in my mind.

I remember when I was in high school and working in a clothing store after school that Christmas Eve was one of my favorite days. It was a day off from school so I was able to work at the store the entire of Christmas Eve. I had an extra benefit from working there--my Dad was the assistant manager and that meant I got to spend time with him as we drove the 10 or so miles to and from work and then during the day we'd see each other as we worked the store. Funny though, we never did lunch together.

On Christmas Eve, while working the clothing store, I observed the change in the shoppers from the morning through the afternoon. The morning was typically busy and bustling--but the shoppers had a sense of purpose and directness. There was so much crisp decision making due to the impending end of the shopping season. I think I learned a lot about decision making from watching and helping the shoppers on Christmas Eve.

By the early afternoon the crowds began to thin as people finished their shopping and were able to devote time to the next thing up--family and the holiday. It was fun to watch the traffic begin to thin on the street in front of the store. I could feel Christmas closing in. I could sense it in those few shoppers who were still trying to get that one last and best gift.

And then, they stopped coming. Our store was open until 5pm--but it was devoid of customers by about 4pm as the finality of the day set in. Christmas Eve was the only time I ever remember the owner closing the store early, except for weather related events. And even though he didn't celebrate the holiday, he succumbed to the Christmas Spirit and would walk over to the front door, sometime about 4:15 look at the street, put the key in and lock the front door while turning off the lights. Dad and I would gather up our belongings and head home.

In my mind, at that magical moment when the lights went off and the key turned--it became Christmas. Family, church, and everything good associated with the holiday started right then!

I will be out shopping on Christmas Eve--not because I need anything, but because I still love the different feeling that the shoppers have. I think there are lots of other crazies like me, who just love the be able to finally relax and enjoy the holiday as it makes its undeniable arrival.

The waiting is over. The holly is out. Christmas is near.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Friday, December 21, 2012

Driving off the Fiscal Cliff

I read in the news this morning that Congress is planning to give us all a unique Christmas gift--a total melt down.

The LA Times reports it this way:

WASHINGTON — House Speaker John A. Boehner abruptly canceled a vote on his Plan B tax proposal late Thursday after failing to find enough GOP support, a stunning political defeat that effectively turned resolution of the year-end budget crisis over to President Obama and the Democrats.
The speaker had spent the last few weeks negotiating one-on-one with the president, establishing himself as the second-most powerful figure in Washington. But with his strategy imploding, Boehner conceded that he would play a lesser role.
"Now it is up to the president," he said, to work with a fellow Democrat, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, "to avert the fiscal cliff."

So much for unity and a calm reasoned approach (as if there ever was one).

Taxpayers--I think our wallets are going to get a lot thinner next year as the governments (plural intended) siphon off more of our earnings.

I hope they get it fixed.

Oh, wait--Hope is not a plan!

What is the plan then? Apparently it is to keep the right foot heavy on the gas and drive straight for the fiscal cliff in an apparent Thelma and Louise type ending. That way, those responsible won't be around to clean up the mess.

So from our President and Congress to We the People, the Christmas message is clearly: enjoy life now, because it is all going to change in just over a week!

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Week Before Christmas 2012

It was the week before Christmas
And throughout Columbia Mall
Every shopper was scurrying
With lists and bags full

The sale signs were hung
by the doorways en masse
In the hope that my credit card
would soon disgorge there

The crowds they were stifling
the  kids not about
'twas noontime on a school day
and the parents were out

The shelves were stocked full
of the wares all for sale
and the sales clerks were worn out
from weeks without breaks

The parking garage was a free for all
the streets jammed with cars
more than one fender bender
was out and about

The lines at the counters
were twenty feet deep
as cashiers were tallying
up sale after sale

I walked through the mall
from  one end to the other
just to walk to the other end
and do it again

I lept to my truck
when I finished my shopping
and drove out of sight
feeling most very lucky

And as I drove off
from the mall parking lot
above the engines I heard
a faint carol of sorts

The song was an old one
I knew it by heart
the words made me pause
amid all of the screams

The notes stopped me short
a tear crossed my eye
for the song that I heard was
O Holy Night

The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of our dear Saviors birth

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Day Off

It is the Christmas season after all and I decided that I was way behind on a number of critical things--like shopping. So, I took the day off! A brave thing to do. I also looked at my use-or-lose leave balance and couldn't figure out how else I was going to get the rest of it used this year!


It is going to be busy as I attack the shopping arenas with vigor! Hopefully they will be mostly empty.

I have a few, too many, gifts to finish up. I admit though, I could get used to enjoying multiple cups of coffee in the solitude of my living room before starting the day.

I, frankly though, have put too many things off and although I was doing most of my shopping on line, there were/are a few things that I just need to see, handle, and look at in more depth to ensure they are just right. It is funny how some things just need to be seen.

And so, I'm off to shop.

Ho, ho, ho, ho, ho!

There, I feel better already!

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Did He Eat an Elf?

Having a donut with Lucas after church on Sunday was a lot of fun. The had these really cool star shaped, cream-filled green frosted donuts.  Mmmm, they looked good. Lucas had one.

By the time he was done, he had a green mustache and it looked like he had eaten an elf!

But he had a lot of fun with the donut.

Fortunately, I didn't get caught in the spray pattern. I was not covered with  the green frosting.

But I did enjoy the thought that I would send him home with his parents to be cleaned up.


-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Monday, December 17, 2012

Monday Musings - December 17, 2012

1. Terrible things happen in the world and try as I might, there is not way to make sense of them. By definition they just do not make sense.

2. What a weird sport football is, a team that plays extremely poorly three weeks in a row and looses by a blow out can make the playoffs because because another team just barely lost. Go Ravens! Time to turn the team bus around.

3. Less than two months until the first full Spring Training workout for the Orioles position players--February 16th.

4. One week to go until the huge celebrations begin. And then, peace because it is over for another eleven months.

5. If you want to have some fun, do a search for the worst Christmas songs of all time. There is little consensus for the worst song of all time. I have seen The First Noel, Feliz Navidad, Please Daddy Don't Get Drunk this Christmas (John Denver), Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer, and Santa Claus is Coming to Town all listed as the worst Christmas Song of all time. I guess it depends upon your personal view.

6. Saturday, Santa visited our neighborhood by firetruck. By the time he was done visiting all of the neighborhoods around us (which took most of the afternoon) I was composing a song parody titled Santa got run over by a Firetruck.

7. My vote for the worst Christmas song of all time is I'll be Home for Christmas. Just saying.

8. I was crushed to learn that the bengal tiger used in the boat scenes during the movie Life of Pi was computer generated. I was going to support him for an Oscar. He was the best actor I've seen in a movie all year.

9. If the world ends Friday, the whole Mayan calendar thing, and no one is left alive will anyone care?

10. Two weeks from today is New Year's Eve--I wonder of we will be falling off the fiscal cliff at midnight?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Watching the Grandsons

There I was yesterday morning. Alone, unarmed, and without a clue as to how to keep three grandsons under the age of 8 busy for a couple of hours. I was at the mercy of Lucas, Jax, and Ethan with no help.

Something possessed me to say yes when asked if I'd watch the boys for an hour (or so) as Chris and Nicole headed off shopping for those final Christmas presents. Lucas was already at the house to allow his parents the opportunity to attend an early movie. Ethan and Jax had arrived for a scheduled playdate.

Recognizing the impending arrival of the grandsons, during the morning I had completed the conversion of the nursery into a playroom equipped with wall mounted TV and a Wii. Just in time to check it all out.

Watching Star Wars on a Saturday
The Wii kept their interest for a while. I even got involved and won a bowling game but was utterly crushed by Ethan playing tennis. Seems he has been playing Wii tennis and this was my first attempt. I at least managed a few points in one game.

Then it was outside to play on the swings, pass the soccer ball around and practice some basketball bounce passes.

It is amazing how slowly time passes when  the clock is watched. Even so--an hour (or so) turned into two and was headed for three.

Somewhere in there I was able to provide snacks and drinks to keep the boys wired and happy.

The stroke of genius came from Ethan when he asked to watch Star Wars Episode 3.

As we all settled in to watch the movie, I realized that this wasn't so bad. The boys were awesome and we actually had a real good time tougher. Surprisingly, there was no blood, no tears, and only a minor incident when Jax walked into my backswing while playing Wii Tennis.


It was almost anti-climactic when the women returned as we were really getting into the movie. But good things soon end. Or is it that they end too soon when they are good?

I survived. The house survived--and so did the boys!

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Reflections of Monticello

Sitting in the garden pavilion placed among the gardens on the south side of Monticello provides a unique view of Jefferson's plantation. Looking over the hills of central Virginia and pondering what Jefferson thought about as he paused in this space.
Monticello's Garden Pavilion

The harvest was nearly complete on plantation and the views were stunning.

It is a beautiful spot to ponder life and enjoy the scenery.

Chris in the Monticello Garden Pavilion
I have been reading more about Jefferson and he was certainly a complex man working on many intellectual levels. I am currently reading Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power by Jon Meacham. I am fascinated by the unique view of Jefferson that he provides. One of the small things I discovered was that Jefferson was in Paris at the start of the French Revolution during the storming of the Bastille.

I enjoy wandering the grounds of Monticello and it seems that every visit brings a new discovery. I almost don't need the house tour anymore, however, I enjoy strolling through Jefferson's home and hearing the stories about his life. Most recently, I took a good look at the wine dumbwaiter alongside of the fireplace leading from the basement into the dining room. I noted the reconstructed side and was able to compare it with the original condition of the other side--huge difference and the clear evidence of the disrepair of the Monticello house during the past centuries. I'm glad they have not reconstructed both sides to provide a glimpse into the condition of the house without the restoration.
Right side of Monticello Wine Dumbwaiter

Left Side of the Monticello Wine Dumbwaiter
One other thing I have come to realize, in reflecting about the amount of thinking and reflection that Jefferson did on horseback is that it must have been nice that horses have brains, unlike cars. Daydreaming while driving a car is a recipe for disaster; at least the horse has a sense of preservation.

I will be back at Monticello again--and I look forward to the next discovery.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Friday, December 14, 2012

Christmas revisited

I find it interesting that there are two editorial pieces in the New York Times this morning about Christmas.

The first is titled, Hark the Herald Angels Didn't Sing. Written by T.M. Luhrmann the piece is about what the Pope wrote, using a pseudonym, to help educate Catholics about Christmas.

The second is titled, Holidays Without God written as a debate between two contributors about the need for God to be present in the celebration and even whether much of the basis for the holidays: Hanukkah and Christmas is valid. There is a deeper undertone of trying to bring together the two faith communities during this season and help the kids through the month.

It is so like us as a people to redefine the things we find difficult to make them understandable. Once, a long time ago, people thought the world was flat and that Earth was the center of the universe.

Do we need to redefine God and Christmas?

Golly, I hope not. But it seems that Christmas gets old, and it gets a year older every time it comes around. Maybe we get bored and forget the message.

I feel that way. I grow weary of the same old songs (some call them carols) played non-stop on the radio from Thanksgiving until Christmas. I worry that people believe we can boil the holiday down into a couple of tired songs, some traditions that we've forgotten the reasons for, and silver bells on the street corners.

We've become too familiar and comfortable with the basic concept.

One of the authors puts it this way:

"My children know the history and mythology behind each holiday, and we’ve even talked about the reasons for the timing — we observe Jesus’s birth at this time of year to counter the pagan celebration of the solstice, and we’ve elevated Hanukkah, a relatively minor holiday, to offer an alternative to Christmas for Jewish children. My kids pick up on some of this at school, too, along with a healthy dose of Kwanzaa. "

She goes on to write later:

"And we all know, as I said before, that Jesus isn't really the "reason for the season." The winter solstice is, and the darkness that closes in so early, and a very human desire that predates this whole discussion to light a candle against it."
So rational, historic, and human-focused. She takes the awe right out of Christmas. 

For me, it is the tired songs that bring me down. This season, I stumbled across a new Christmas song by Tobymac titled Christmas this Year that addresses the weariness and put spark and awe back into the holiday. Part of the bridge is:

It's all love
The season is a gift
When love came down to let us live
Let's open up and let our hearts embrace this moment

No matter when when or where we celebrate this season--we need to remain focused on the real reason--God deciding to come to live with people and provide a means to repair our relationship with Him. 

That is the first gift. Whether there were oxen and donkeys or not. And whether the angels sang or shouted (sorry Pope--its not's working for me)--the first gift came from God to restore our relationship. It is not a myth--it is not a nice story. It is not history or historical. It is still happening in our hearts if we let it--every day and every year.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Corny Christmas Movies

I watched one of those "made for TV" "corny Christmas stories" the other evening on the sappy Hallmark Channel.

I am amazed at the number of these specific genre movies that are available his time of year--considering they get to play them about once per year. But, then again they get to re-screen them every year.

I do not even remember the name of the movie, but Chris and I were enjoying some together time--which has been pretty scarce lately, and she likes the stories. This one was about a couple of bumbling government agents (aren't they all?) who track down Santa who is staying with a family in crisis in a small waterfront town. Somehow, a fighter pilot gets involved--he had shot down Santa the year before, and of course there were elves--and as is clearly evident the story line goes from unbelievable to absurd pretty quickly.

The key here is that I stayed awake and watched the movie, fortunately it was on DVR so we missed the commercials otherwise I definitely would have drifted off.

But the fascinating part was that when Santa, at the key moment in the movie when Christmas is about to be lost, calls for his sleigh and it arrives out of the clouds with nine reindeer, yup I counted, I got a bit emotional. There is something about seeing the reindeer and sleigh coming out of the clouds that rekindles the little boy inside of me and reminds me of the magic of Christmas.

I remember that magic from when I was a little boy and I knew Santa was coming and could hardly get to sleep on Christmas Eve. I remember walking into the too white light of the movie camera on Christmas morning to face a trimmed tree adorned with more gifts than I could ever imagine. And I knew it was magic.

And it still is in my heart.  It just gets lost in the business of life.

So, for a few minutes, I remembered those great times of unwavering magic all because I took time out to watch a corny Christmas movie.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Country Church Pastor Retires

It is there, in an almost forgotten place in upstate NY between Ithaca and Dryden. It has been standing there along the banks of a creek for over 100 years in Etna, NY.

Where is Etna, NY? It is in the heart of Central NY--far away from the bustle of New York City but closer to the center of life than most people would think. I found out, during my visit, that Etna was originally called Columbia, NY, into the early 1900's.

I had the opportunity to visit this church during November on the occasion of my Dad's retirement from service to the congregation.

Dad Walking Across the Parking Lot
We had a great pre-Thanksgiving celebration of Dad's retirement.

Retirement celebrations can be a lot of fun--and it is a good way to get almost everyone together.

It was a fun trip and a great way to reconnect with Mom and Dad and help ease them into retirement--where I hear they are busier than ever.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Christmas Panic Sets In

It is two weeks until Christmas--and the presents I am responsible for still have not been bought, ordered, or even thought of in some cases

That could be a problem.

It could be a large problem. I have a list--but I don't have a clue.

I'm such a guy.

I have become an Amazon warrior--I have been ordering the things that Chris tells me to order. I do love the one click and it is ordered feature. No lines to stand in, parking lots to navigate, or crowds to fight. And best of all the item usually arrives within the next couple of days.

And now, to complicate the season,  gifts from other people for other people are beginning to arrive at the house and confuse my less than complete plan.  It is a nebulous plan.  Such as it is.

Why is this such a confusing and complex season?

I though gift giving was supposed to be fun! This is more like a second job.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Monday, December 10, 2012

Monday Musings - December 10, 2012

1. Fifteen days to go all you shoppers! Feeling the stress yet?

2. Everyone who is waiting until Christmas Eve to do their shopping, take a bow. Everyone knows guys shop better when it is crunch time.

3. Is there someone I can push off the fiscal cliff to get the log jam broken? It could be a pretty subdued New Years Eve across the country if something isn't done soon.

4. I read that some taxpayers may face increases of $6,000 next year and they won't even know it until the end of the year.

5. Writing of taxes--there has to be something unconstitutional about tax laws that read $200,000 per single person or $250,000 per married couple. That certainly seems to be a marriage penalty to me.

6. "Good news for frequent-flyer gadget lovers: A federal regulator thinks it's about time you should be able to use your smartphone on planes." See this CNN article for more. From my standpoint, I think the airlines would save money because I wouldn't be lugging heavy reading material along on the place with me.

7. I wonder what this week will bring?

8. I just read that Key West, Florida, is considered one of the five creepiest towns in the United states by one travel company.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Sparkling Wines for the Season: Bin 201

Yesterday was one of those Saturdays which are common during the holiday season characterized by the the word--busy. There was the obligatory shopping for holiday gifts with its associated too-ing and fro-ing. But there was a nice timeout during the middle of the afternoon to sample and enjoy sparkling wines from around the world.
Bin 201 Sparkling Wine Selection

What a great respite from the insanity. We attended a tasting and class on Sparkling Wines sponsored by Bin 201 in Annapolis Town Center.

The course was called Binology 103: Sparkling Wines, and featured wines from France, Italy, Spain, and Oregon. Oregon? Yup. They make sparkling wines, too. There is also a good sparkling wine maker in New Mexico that I enjoy but whose offerings were not included in the course. The course reviewed the history of modern sparkling wines,  how they developed, the main ways that they are created, and highlighted the more important regions where they are produced.

Here is probably the most important thing I relearned: Champagne is a region (in France) not a type of wine. Champagne is also a process for making, in my opinion, the best sparkling wine. Hence the confusion. Many great sparkling wines are made using the champagne method.  Important safety tip--not all French sparkling wines are Champagne!

The drinking, sampling, is always the best part of the courses. These wines all drank very well with generally very fine bubbles and refined flavors. The differences were subtle--even between the rose and the whites. But the finest of the wines were very good--and I confess a couple of bottles made their way home in expectation of Christmas and New Years Eve celebrations.

I heartily recommend the courses at Bin 201 as a way to increase wine knowledge and develop a deeper appreciation for wine. More importantly, I am looking forward to enjoying these wines in just a few short weeks.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Christmas in Columbia Mall - 2012

Last evening I was coerced into visiting the Columbia Mall to do some seasonal shopping. I actually like visiting this mall during the holiday season because of the unique decoration that takes center stage: the Poinsettia Tree.
Poinsettia Tree, Columbia Mall 2012

This tree, I believe, is unique among the decorations used in malls and it is big--at least 20 feet tall.

I always feel a need to snap a picture of it because I find it so stunning. This was a quick shot from the second tier of the mall.

One year, 2010 I think, the mall decided to forgo the signature poinsettia tree and set up a cheesy Santa's Workshop center for the kids. The mall found out that people like myself look forward to this unique expression of the holiday season. The last thing we need is another Santa to deal with.

The poinsettia tree is unique and it is a local landmark.

And, I enjoy it. I think I posted last year's image taken from exactly the same location.

Happy Holidays--Merry Christmas, and haul out the holly!

As a side note--I did survive the shopping adventure.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Friday, December 7, 2012

Follow the Instructions--There May be an Important Reason for Them!

The recent biting of an 8 year old girl, Jillian Thomas, by a dolphin at sea World in Orlando, as reported by CNN, provides a great example of irresponsible people who can't follow simple instructions then believe they are entitled to compensation for what I refer to as: terminal stupidity.

While I am sorry that the girl was bitten by the dolphin, in reading the statements in the article it is clear that the parents forgot the first rule of parenting: parent are on duty 24/7 and as a result they became powerless bystanders (with a video on a cell phone to document the situation) in the relatively minor incident that now is being inflated into an apparent money making proposition.

Dolphins are wild animals! Treat them as such. I have been to Sea World Orlando and this attraction specifically and I found the instructions to be simple and clear--I believe if the instructions had been followed and enforced by the parents, who presumably are adults, then the incident would not have occurred.

The following statement baffles me:
Jamie Thomas said those feeding the dolphins were told the paper plate should stay on the wall, "but we really didn't know why." No one signed a disclaimer, and there were no signs indicating any risk, the father said.

I guess the risk is apparent now.  These seem to be the kind of people who would need someone to explain to them the significance of a fire alarm as it is blaring in and effort to get them to clear out of a building which is on fire.

The end result of this is incident is that Sea World will likely have to close or modify this hugely popular and enjoyable attraction. There will be a significant payment from the insurance company, there will be increased ticket prices AND there will be another example of terminal stupidity being rewarded by our misplaced legal system.

There will likely be another sign installed in the world with print too small to read the advise people that dolphins are wild animals.


What has been learned? Like the woman who received millions of dollars by burning herself with hot coffee, society has relearned that that dolphins are wild animals, fire alarms are important, instructions by the staff or crew are to be followed, and coffee is hot.

I call this--an intuitive grasp of the obvious!

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Christmas in the Hotel Lobby - Denver

So for the second time during this Christmas Season I am away from home and in a hotel that is decorated for the holiday's.
Christmas Tree in Denver Airport
Embassy Suites - 2012

The Embassy Suites I am staying in has a large atrium and they positioned an oversized Christmas Tree positioned near the entrance. I took this image form the bar which is located near the center of the atrium.

I like the big blocks around the base--I think they are very creative and festive. The tree is full of color and flocked with fake snow.

But I did notice one thing--the tree is not straight. I didn't notice it too much in person, but when I was looking at the image I took I found that the tree is clearly not straight. I went back to the atrium and checked it out to see if there was some weird thing going on in my camera. The tree isn't straight in person either.

So, call it a the Leaning Tree of Denver!

I wonder why they couldn't get it straight. Obviously a guy did it without the watchful eye of a woman to correct the deficiency.

-- Bob Doan, writing from Denver, CO

Out the Hotel Window - Denver, December 2012

There was no snow on the ground, yet it was evident on the mountains in the distance.
Out the Hotel Window - Denver Dec 2012

This was a different view for me from this hotel which I have visited many times before. Looking north to the plains, yet with the Rocky Mountains visible in the distance.

The mountains are stunning.

The clouds foreboding.

And yet, yesterday morning, they were the majestic part of the scenery. I definitely prefer their view to that of yet another building or hotel.

The scene out of the hotel window continues to change with the seasons and the compass.

It seems so empty.

So open.

So unlike Maryland.

-- Bob Doan, writing from Denver, CO

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Falling off the Fiscal Cliff

Saw this editorial cartoon by Steve Kelley in today's USA Today.

I feel much the same way.

I'm not too sure my wallet can sustain the demands of the holiday season.

It seems the presents are mounting faster than the money necessary to pay for them.

I think that Chris and I will singlehandedly bring the country out of its fiscal doldrums.

--  Bob Doan, writing from Denver, CO

Out the Cabin Window - Over the Mid-West

There is was last evening spread out before me to enjoy from my window seat on a moderately comfortable United 757 headed from Baltimore to Denver.
Out the Cabin Window at 38,000 Feet

It was the horizon and the sunset. I do not normally sit in window seats, so when on those rare occasions that I have to, I try to make the most of the experience. The sunset made the almost four hour flight crammed into a space too small to survive almost worth the adventure.

I don't often get to see the full, unobstructed horizon at sunset. Trees and buildings and even hills and mountains often steal part of the scene.

I had been watching the sunset develop, rather than taking my usual mid-flight nap. As it became deeper and deeper, I just knew I had to try an image to hold the scene in my mind. I know why painters paint--because deep in their souls they see something that needs to be captured and remembered.

Before it had become too dark to make out the details, I had been watching the towns and cities pass beneath the jet. I watched the lights come on as dusk gathered and finally began to notice the patterns of the street lights on the ground trying to stave off the darkness.

All too soon, it was dark and I was reminded that darkness is not the opposite of light, but rather the absence of light.

-- Bob Doan, writing from Denver, CO

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Living in a Right-Handed World

I am proud to be a member of the most oppressed minority in the world--left-handed people.

I continue to be amazed at how insensitive manufacturers are to those of us who are "in our right minds."
Right-handed Coffee Package

My most recent experience with the frustration of living in a right-handed world came last week while I was in Tampa. It involved coffee packages, of all things.

The hotel I was staying in was nice enough to provide complimentary coffee--which I always drink because the first thing I need when I get up in the morning is

The other morning I was standing in front of the coffee pot, it had been charged with water and the only thing lacking was to get the coffee out of the bag and into the pot to begin the brewing process. Naturally, I was holding the bag with the front up--I tore at the container to free the coffee--to no avail. Notice the small tear on the left side of the bag, just to the left of the "R."

The bag was not meant to be opened there, and it would not tear open! When I turned the bag over--back side up and tore at the bag, with almost no effort it opened to release the coffee within.  The bag was a right-handed bag!


There is nothing more frustrating than having a manufacturer throw a curve ball at me when I am barely awake.

Why not make the bag be ambidextrous?  The next bag opened exactly the same. As did all of the others I drank during my stay. None of them opened in a manner considerate of left-handed people.

I wonder if there is a discrimination suit in here somewhere?

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Monday, December 3, 2012

Monday Musings - December 3, 2012

1. I know why won't Congress let us fall off the fiscal cliff? They have too much at stake--personally.

2. I don't know why can't I sleep in anymore on weekends? I was up by 6AM on both Saturday and Sunday this weekend.

3. Galileo invented the telescope on this day in 1621. How do they know that? Go check out Jupiter, I hear it is close.

4. I have learned a lot recently about how innocent by standers wind up in the middle of the action. It happens pretty quickly.

5. I am amazed by the new leader in Egypt--he apparently decided the deposed dictator had it right. So much for revolution and freedom.

6. To celebrate the end of the Mayan calendar, I have some friends getting married on December 21st. They are not really celebrating the end of the world, but rather the love and respect they have for each other. It just happens to coincide with the Mayan's calendar. Two new beginnings.

7. I read a report that Singapore is the least emotional country in the world and the Philippines are the most emotional country in the world. The U.S. and Canada are among the 15 most emotional countries in the world. I'm not too sure what this means.

8. I placed my old iPhone for sale on Craigslist yesterday and received zero inquiries! So much for additional Christmas money!

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Disconnect: Fully Cooked Sushi

Walking around MacDill AFB, Florida the other day, I spied a sign that just didn't make sense to me.

Cooked Sushi?

Does that really make sense?

Wikipedia defines Sushi as Japanese food consisting of cooked vinegared rice (shari) combined with other ingredients (neta), usually raw fish or other seafood. Neta and forms of sushi presentation vary, but the ingredient which all sushi have in common is vinegared rice called sushi-meshi.

Note in the definition the words, "raw fish!"  Not cooked!

So, what gives with Fully Cooked Sushi?

Who came up with that idea anyway? Is it still sushi if it is fully cooked? Doesn't that make it a spring roll or something?

I avoided that place.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Things left to do during 2012

I was scrolling through some images this morning and ran across one of the things I had wanted to do during 2012, but haven't got around to doing yet.

What do you think? Diving with a Great White in Mexico!

Donations appreciated!

--Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

December Dawns

Yes, amazingly enough it is the first of December 2012.
Deviled Eggs at Thanksgiving

A whole year has nearly escaped and I am hard pressed to recall how it has passed so quickly.

Like the deviled eggs from the Thanksgiving feast of just over a week ago, the end of the line for 2012 is in view and it seems I have more to do than there are days left to do them.

And I don't just mean Christmas shopping. I have hardly started that, ugh! But, I had planned on traveling to new and far away places this year--didn't happen.

On a more mundane front I still haven't even cut the grasses around the pool. Maybe this afternoon I will get to that project. After doing the leaves for hopefully the last time in 2012!

But the Christmas decorations are up!  Mostly.

The good news is that there are still days remaining in December to knock out some of the hanging projects.

December is a month beginnings and endings. There are endings--like the year, Autumn. But there are beginnings too, like Winter, burr and the renewing of friendships during the Holiday season.

This year there are additional things to consider on the national front, like the fiscal cliff. When December ends will our economy fall off it? The New Years Eve celebrations could be very subdued if our elected leaders don't figure something out.

Given all of that I definitely don't want to rush the end of the year. There are 31 days left, I am making a personal commitment to enjoy each one and find something special in it.

-- Bob Doan, back home in Elkridge, MD

Friday, November 30, 2012

Christmas for the Hotel Lobby

The lobby is decorated for the season at the hotel where I am residing. It is fun, I guess, to see the decorations placed about the lobby bringing their version of good cheer to the entrance.

I especially enjoyed the tree and the poinsettias strategically positioned to brighten up the lobby.

It seems I need to work a bit with my iPhone camera to take better images of lighted Christmas trees. This one seems a bit blurry--but maybe it adds to the ambiance of the scene.

I notes that the tree is very traditional, complete with a star on the top. The lights are white, and there are pretend presents around the base of the tree.

It is the season of preparation and shopping and so these decorations make the scene complete.

I can almost feel the hustle and bustle catching up with me.

-- Bob Doan, Writing from Tampa, FL

Thursday, November 29, 2012

KB-50 Aerial Refueling Aircraft

Is it a prop plane or is it a jet? Nope, it's a hybrid.
KB-50 Aerial Refueling Aircraft at MacDill AFB, FL

I saw this hulking aircraft on display across the field from the building where I have been working this week. As I looked at it, I at first thought it was a venerable B-29--but then I looked closer and saw the outboard jet engines on each wing and added fuel tanks.

I considered for a moment what this aircraft might be. B-50? No, they never put jets on the B-50's, I thought. A modified RB-50? Yes, as I crossed the parking lots and busy four lane road of MacDill AFB, Florida, that is exactly what I expected to see. It made sense--Cuban Missile Crisis, reconnaissance, Florida. Although the jet engines still bothered me because I didn't think the RB-50 ever had jets.
KB-50 Side View Showing the Outboard Jet Engine

People who know me, know that I am reasonably good at identifying aircraft--especially aircraft that were in service with the greatest command in history--Strategic Air Command (SAC). So when I arrived at the site and saw the aircraft was a KB-50, imagine my surprise--I had never seen a KB-50 before.

The last of these venerable aircraft were retired during 1965--what a great run.

I enjoyed researching the history of the aircraft and finding out how they were used. I think it was one of those really successful repurposing of old, but useful aircraft. Just a short walk away, and flying overhead I saw the current aerial refueling aircraft in the Air Force fleet--the KC-135R. It is good to get away to an operational Air Force Base every so often.

-- Bob Doan, writing from Tampa, FL

Red Dawn - Review

I was looking forward to a campy, remake of the 1984 cult classic.

I didn't get it.

This remake of Red Dawn lacks imagination. plot, creativity, and the feel good ending that the original movie had.  Mind you, the original wasn't that good, but at least it left you feeling good!

This version is just bad. It has no socially redeeming value and is not even worth the time to watch it when it comes out on Netflix.

The acting is bad. The character development is practically nonexistent. The rest of the movie is trite and superficial. From a technical perspective, the bad guys are using US equipment for their military forces. The plot is poor and unbelievable--another secret weapon, not further specified, has crippled the US military and left the entire country defenseless and open to assault by North Korea. The landing is done by aircraft--how were they refueled in getting from North Korea to the US and without flying over Japan? The geography just doesn't work nor does the apparent logistics to support an army large enough to capture most of the US.

Come on, the US is not South Korea--whom the North Koreans hate more than us.

And that is just the beginning of the movie. The inevitable inclusion of the Russians and the bumbling North Korean officer who is in charge of the occupation are just more bad movie ploys. Given that the movie had a $65 million budget, I wonder why they couldn't have done better?

Another reviewer wrote:

Red Dawn really doesn't offer too much more in the movie department. The fact that a technologically strong country like North Korea doesn't have better armor for their troops is complete fiction and makes the threat of the enemy a little less intimidating. Throw in the fact that the kids can shoot better than the troops, and well you get a classic American cowboy film that further pumps up someone's ego. Aside from American pride, this movie also has a vague ending just like its 80's precursor that sets the stage for both ending and opens up for another movie. Whether or not this sways your vote I can't tell, but I'm just warning you that there is no definite closure to this film. 

I concur with all of the above.


-- Bob Doan, writing from Tampa, FL

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Out the Hotel Window - Tampa, November 2012

Autumn's grip on the Northeast is slipping and I am in Tampa enjoying 70 degree days that Baltimore may not see again until March or April.
Looking West from Westshore Drive, Tampa

Out my hotel window in the distance is Tampa Bay just before sunset on November 27th.

The still warm sun is hidden behind the clouds as it slips towards the horizon.

Yay for warmth and sun. I left behind gray, rainy, cold skies in Baltimore.

While the water seems inviting, it is a distance away and I have not had the opportunity to put my toes into its salty warmth.

The weather is definitely different here, I ate dinner outside at a local restaurant last evening! And it was enjoyable.

-- Bob Doan, writing from Tampa, FL

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Everything that's Wrong with the NFL

I can sum up everything that is wrong with the NFL in two words: Video Replay!

On Sunday, during the Ravens-Chargers game I was subjected to some of the worst officiating that I have ever witnessed.

Aside from the pass interference and leading-with-the helmet calls that weren't, the highlight of the game was the three-ring circus surrounding the Ray Rice pass reception for 30 yards on a 4th and 29 late during the 4th quarter.

Even with the assistance of video replay, the officials were hard pressed to make the right call. After determining that they spotted the end of the play wrong, they were then confronted with the problem that the first down chains had been moved and it was difficult to determine their correct placement in order to do a check for the first down. After a 15 minute, or more, delay in the game,  the end result of all of the video review and play changing was that the ball was repositioned about 12 inches and the Ravens still had a first down and the game continued. It was more likely that a truly correct reassessment of the ball position and first down markers would have resulted in a change of possession and the game being essentially over with the Chargers winning, 13-10.

Instead the Ravens scored the tying field goal and won the game in overtime, 16-13.

Please do not bring video replay to baseball. We don't need the delay and continued bad calls.

I continue to be amazed that even with video replay and the stoppage in play, officials still get the calls wrong. The TV announcers and even the coaches, apparently upon the orders of the league, cannot comment on the erroneous calls--but too many of them are too obvious to ignore. This is hurting the quality of the product being put on the field week-to-week.

Football, the king of American sports, has lost its competitive spirit. Video replay is not better than when officials were allowed to make the calls without the benefit of video replay. I think it is more fair and the games move faster.

BTW, when is CBS going to figure out that Sixty Minutes is not going to start on time when they are televising a 4pm game? The games have grown longer, it seems, from 3 to almost 4 hours.

And they are painful to watch, even when the my favorite team wins.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Monday, November 26, 2012

Monday Musings - November 26, 2012

1. The holiday sprint has begun. Check out the parking lot at your favorite mall if you want to have a frustrating experience. 29 days to go until the big day!

2. I went to a movie at a mall on Saturday evening--big mistake both for parking and the choice of movie. Review to follow.

3. Eleven boxes of holiday decorations and one weekend equals one tired puppy.

4. I enjoyed a bottle of the first northern hemisphere wine of 2012 Saturday night--Beaujolais Nouveau from France. It was young but had a very nice color.

5. I wrote down a couple of ideas during Sunday's church message about giving:

    a. Relationship is the basis of gifting, without a relationship between the giver and receiver gifts are just things.

    b. When I am giving a gift, it is not me doing the giving, but God giving through me.

    c. God's generosity to me causes me to be.

6. At 5:30 pm, when it is dark outside and day has passed into night I remember the summertime and how our outside activities are just beginning around the pool with a glass of wine.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Christmafication--A House Transformed

Yesterday was the day to finish, mostly, decorating the house by completing the changeover from Thanksgiving to the Christmas/Holiday season.
Christmas Jeeps

It makes for a busy day and includes such strange traditions as putting wreaths on the boy's Jeeps. This year, we found a way to put Christmas lights on the wreath on the yellow Jeep. That should be interesting. Patrick and Corey posed with their Jeeps for this picture shortly after we finished the project. It was pretty cold but we were happy in a devious kind of way. I have heard that the orange Jeep is coming over today to be Christmafied, too.

We use a seasonal word to describe this day of decorating. We call it Christmafication, which is a derivation of the word Christmafied. Take a moment to Google Christmafication--it is used a lot even though it has not beed accepted as a formal word, yet.

Garage Staging for Christmafication
Christmafication Day begins in the garage by collecting the boxes of decorations from the attic.

These boxes, containing their treasures, provide the tools necessary to transform the house into a Christmas ready paradise. I lost count at how many boxes of decorations we store from year to year. But they make a nice pile in the middle of the garage staging area.

Warm Glow of Christmas Lights
By the end of the day, these boxes will be empty and the house will be Christmafied. I realize later that two boxes were missing from this image--those of the two Christmas trees. Only one tree actually was set up during the day.

The 2012 Edition of the Doan House
Christmafication is a process. Although everything is mostly complete by the end of the day--there are a few activities that need to be completed on subsequent days. The second tree and associated decorations for the basement Family Room comprise most of them.

But the main living room looks--fabulous!

And so does the outside, for that matter.

Welcome to the Holiday Season--let's rock!

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Snow Village 2012

It is ready to help celebrate the Christmas season. Here is the 2012 Doan Family Snow Village--just completed!

On to decorating the rest of the house.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Conquering the World, or not

The Thanksgiving tradition continued. Another year and another failed attempt to conquer the world!  The Black Friday family Axis and Allies game ended with another defeat for the Axis--just like history. That's good--but Patrick and I were playing the Axis, so I lost again.

It goes with the territory, I guess. Just like last year  I just couldn't get the global war plan going with my Japanese ally. Maybe the German push into the Caucasus Region was a bit too far and stretched my logistics lines too much. Or the crushing naval strategy executed in the Pacific by the British and U.S. navies.

Crushed! My strategy was completely crushed by the Allies. Again! Ugh!

Face it--I don't make a good world conqueror, despotic dictator, or Napoleonic-style emperor. My Waterloo always seems to happen somewhere on the Steppes of Russia. I have that in common with a lot of would be world conquerors.

Maybe next year (or after Christmas) I will do better.  I need a do over.

On a positive note, the Thanksgiving left-overs were awesome. Cold turkey, cold stuffing, cold fruit salad (oh yeah, the salad is served cold anyway). Sometimes I think Thanksgiving dinner tastes better the day after.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD
My Zimbio
Top Stories