Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Fastest Plane, Ever

SR-71 Nose On
Standing in the entrance to the Udvay-Hazy National Air and Space Museum near Dulles Airport I heard a question from an excited Ethan, "Poppop? What was the fastest plane ever?" Although I know he knew the answer I replied "Why, the SR-71 Blackbird"

How fast, he wanted to know. So we looked it up on the internet and gave him a number that was totally meaningless--because none of us could really comprehend how fast 2,600 plus mph really was.


SR-71 at Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum
The boys were fascinated with the aircraft, which is the center piece exhibit at the National Air and Space Museum near Dulles Airport.

For a Sunday afternoon there is not a better way to spend time with the boys that reveling in aerospace history.

The missiles, the bombs, the Space Shuttle and satellites, and of course the aircraft--from the early propeller planes to the fastest jet ever conceived.

Ethan, especially was impressed when he realized that when missiles were shot at the SR-71 that the best tactic was to just fly faster and  outrun the missile. That's fast.

How fast?

Faster than a speeding bullet, fast.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Monday, January 30, 2012

Monday Musings - January 30, 2012

1. Airplanes, rockets, missiles, and spaceships go together very well with grandsons.

2. Who would have believed that the two front running Republicans would have names like Newt and Mitt. Makes me think of salamanders and baseball but not Presidents.

3. Why does the NFL actually play the Pro Bowl exactly? Oh yeah--show me the $$. And who cares?

4. Baseball is on the way to create some actual sports interest for a bit.

5. Evening television is becoming very spotty, despite the huge numbers of channels we have access to.

6. Given the warm weather, relatively, I keep looking for the crocus to bloom. Alas, they apparently are smarter than I am.

7. Groundhog day is this week--I wonder if we can receive a repeat of last years early Spring forecast? No matter, I think Spring is here already.

8. Today is National Croissant Day! It is also FDR's birthday (1882). I'm not really sure why or if those two pieces of trivia really go together.

9. Mornings when I wake up well before I need to are difficult. I long for sleep, but I also enjoy the quiet of the house and the attention that Makalya gives me as she too wonders why I am awake so early.

10. I met an interesting retired AF colonel at the museum yesterday. Wolfgang W.E. Samuel was there signing his books, I bought one, about war and life. I bought the autobiography about growing up in post-WWII Germany. He wrote a nice inscription to me on the cover  page of the book.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Reflections on January 2012

We have managed to survive the New Year party celebrations and are already ending the first month of 2012. Where did the time go?

This has truly been a January to remember.

It has been warmer  than normal, and there has been almost no snow.

Sometimes the lack of winter snow results in low water supplies for the subsequent summer, but we have seen some rain, so I do not believe there is a threat of drought. .

I saw a guy driving a Porsche convertible yesterday, with the top down. Although it was a bit cool, driving a convertible with the top down in late-January is not something that happens much here.

I was, I admit, a bit envious that I had not had the same idea. 

I am hopeful of getting through February without a major school-closing snowfall. And then Mach will be close on its heels along with the first lawn mowing of the year. I am truly a crazy by longing for the sound of my mower in the afternoon sun.

But then two days remain in January.  Who knows what can happen?

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Air and Space museum

Spending a day with two of the grandsons exploring aviation history. And yes, the Blackbird is still the fastest jet on the planet.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Orion on the Horizon

As I was walking back to the house the other evening from depositing the garbage container at the street, I noticed Orion hanging in the early evening sky moving lower on the horizon.

The hunter and harbinger of winter and cold weather, I have watched Orion since August transition from the early morning sky and now into the early evening sky, is beginning to loose his grip on the planet and allow the warmer days to return.

We have finally crawled over ten hours of daylight per day--I noticed that last evening as I was outside after 5pm--and there was light.

My drive to work remains in darkness--but at least I can begin to imagine being outside during the unseasonably warm weather we have been having. I need to remove the neighbors garbage from my yard where it has blown in since they can't seem to secure their trash containers to prevent the critters from enjoys a mid-winter meal at my expense.

Despite my well know lack of appreciation for winter, Orion is my favorite constellation. It is far more complex than the Big Dipper or Cassiopeia, and I associate Orion's arrivals and departures with the changing seasons. It is a love hate relationship. I love Orion's return from his travels and summer sojourn as one of my friends in the sky, but I hate what that means--dark and cold.

Soon, I expect, my old friend of the sky will head off on his annual vacation and I will be left looking for his return during August or September.

But I have a lot of things to do before I am ready for his return.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Power of a Song

Thursday's are one of my most difficult days, schedule-wise, at work. It is one of those days where the calendar conspires against me to create a day filled with meetings and activity. While that may not seem to be a bad thing, it means that I cannot interact with the people I work with and delve more deeply into the issues of the day.

The pace of the day also means that I cannot stay up to date with the presents being delivered by the "e-mail fairy" and so I tend to get bit behind.

Fundamentally, Thursday's are a high stress day for me. A day where I am clearly not in control of my schedule nor my work-life.

And then, as I turned the key in my truck while preparing to depart the gym after a less than exiting racquetball match, one of my favorite songs was playing on the radio. The song is "Today is the Day" written and performed by Lincoln Brewster. I wrote a blog about this song when I discovered it back during 2008, titled Today is the Day--Get Started.

The song on the radio and my response to it, singing, changed my entire out look on the day ahead of me. The transformation in my truck was amazing to me because I was no longer dreading the day ahead, but rather, I was prepared for the challenges.

As it turned out, I needed to be ready for the challenged because the day included a mad dash back home to change my shirt before the last meeting of the day due to one on my pens having a major malfunction. I just didn't think the big, blue spot on my shirt looked professional.

In the end, I made it through the day and I know my positive outlook was due in part to the song that played on the radio at just the right moment.

The power of the song is in the words, especially one part of one of verse which contains the following phrase--the words that helped me change my day!

I`m reaching my hand to Yours
Believing there`s so much more
Knowing that all You have in store for me is good

And since yesterday was the day, so is today!

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Bottom Out Day

An interesting thing happened yesterday. I confess that I had never considered it before--but it is a pretty significant occurrence for the Baltimore region.

Yesterday was the bottom out day--the day when the average daily high temperature begins to climb, ending the slide which began on July 15th. We bottom out at 41 degrees. The highest average high is 88 from 9-17 July and then it begins the slide which ends on 25 January.

The average low doesn't begin to increase from its bottom of 24 degrees until tomorrow, the 27th.

So happy bottom out day.

Springtime is coming--but it is still cold out there.

Have a cup of hot cocoa and enjoy the idea of the warmth that is on its way. It's coming, really!

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Fighting Through the Fog: A Road Warrior's Short Tale

We have had some really oppressive fog the past two mornings that has significantly complicated my relatively short drive to work and I had forgotten how tough it can be to safely occupy the highway with other drivers when darkness and fog are working together.

The one driver that scared me the most was the guy who didn't have his headlights on, but was driving by the light of the daytime running lights. I am sure that he/she does not understand that the tail lights are not on in that situation and that is why they almost got rear ended twice before realizing that they were putting not only themselves, but other drivers at risk. I had flashed my headlights at them, from behind a couple of times to try and spur a change in behavior--but to no avail.

And then there were the paralyzed drivers who assume that because they are uncomfortable then it is OK to drive 20 mph on I-95 where the speed limit is 65 and even with the fog traffic is trying to move along crisply at 60 or so. Very scary situations developed across all of the lanes and inpatient drivers made their way around the slow moving road obstacle.

I guess the fog is worse than snow--because most of the timid people stay home when it snows.

I admit, I was a bit uncomfortable because I am not too happy with the way my headlights are aimed, but it was the car that decided to attempt to change lanes into my fender really spooked me. Fortunately, I was able to avoid a fender bender because even though they did not see me, I saw them and took action.

Note to self--find a reason to stay home until daylight next time the fog is thick.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Year of the Dragon

Happy year of the dragon. Chinese New Year began yesterday and the mythical dragon reigns this year.

I guess it is appropriate--especially given all of the concern about the end of the Mayan calendar.

I do like Chinese food, too.

I wonder how they came up with the creatures that grace their calendar.

But it sure does make the year exciting, and magical when considering a dragon. It has to be better than a rat. Or a snake, which is next year.

It is kind of fun to transition through a year and celebrate all of the different means by which we reckon time.

And writing of fun stuff, the California Gold Rush began on this date in 1848. I don't know how that ties into Chinese New Year, but it was an interesting fact.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Monday, January 23, 2012

Monday Musings - January 23, 2012

1. Good-bye Joe Pa. Although I never rooted for Penn State, I respected your record and approach to the game.

2. There is something relieving when a sports season effectively ends--as it did for my Ravens yesterday. Now I can focus on hockey and baseball.

3. Bird flu is back, China reported a second death.

4. It was a rough sports weekend for the teams I cheer for--in addition to the Ravens losing in a particularly ugly manner, Syracuse--the previously and undefeated number 1 ranked college basketball team in the country suffered its first defeat. That written--at least the Penguins did beat the Capitals in overtime.

5. The first snow of 2012, now ice in the yard, remains due to the very cold temperatures. I'm ready now for Springtime.

6. At the beginning of the third quarter of the Ravens game I hear: "Bob, I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that the Ravens are looking good, the bad news is that the sink in the kitchen is clogged." And that began a struggle to watch the game and fix the clog which became a major leak and required a complete plumbing redo to clean out the line and then repair. But I did not miss a play of the game!

7. Another busy week ahead and a busy week behind. Too bad it does not seem that I am gaining any ground.

8. The frisbee was introduced on this day in 1957.

9. I noticed that the Republican Presidential sweepstakes is a bit of a mess right now. The front runner--isn't, and no one seems to get the message that we will know what we want when we see it--and we haven't seen it yet. Anyone else out there want to tryout for President?

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Then There Were Four

We have arrived at the football weekend that presents incredible excitement as the remaining four teams vie for a spot in the Super Bowl which will be played in two weeks.

I am wrapped up in that excitement again this year as the Baltimore Ravens have ascended to the AFC Championship game against the perennial superpower New England Patriots.

Regardless of the outcome--the season has been fun and at the same time frustrating. The Ravens have posted victories against some of the best teams in football, and lost to some of the worst. Their inconsistent offense coupled with untimely defensive lapses have created nail-biting situations from which they usually have been able to extract themselves. But, the possibility of catastrophe is always there.

Today will be no different.

Despite going into the game in Foxborough as at least a touchdown underdog, I believe the Ravens will prevail. But it will be a nail biter. Asked for a score prediction, I am looking for 27-21 Ravens victory but the Patriots will likely be on or near the Ravens goal as time expires coming up just inches short of the winning touchdown.

So, recognizing that my brother is a huge Patriots fan--I offer my regret in advance that I am not rooting for his team. And to the Steelers fans out there--I know you probably can't cheer for the Ravens, but think about it, can you really root for Tom Terrific? How about some towel for the Ravens today for the honor of the AFC North?

Football, it tears families apart at the same time that it brings them together.

Game on!

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close Movie Review

What an incredibly touching and deep story. A new actor, Thomas Horn, plays Oskar Schell who loses his Dad (Tom Hanks) in the 9/11 Twin Towers attack. Playing opposite Tom Hanks ad Sandra Bullock (Oskar's Mom) is no small feat. But this 14 year old star of the movie pulls it off with panache.

The movie puts different spin on 9/11--even though officially it is not about 9/11 and it isn't. It is not a 9/11 movie, but yet at the same time it uses the events of 9/11 to put a very personal spin on how real people are affected by real incidents. The movie is about growing--accepting loss and overcoming the paralyzing fear of the unknown.

Oskar is a 9 year old, special needs boy who loses his best friend, his father, on 9/11. He sets out on a quest to put the pieces of the story together centered around a key he finds in his father's closet a year later. His devotion to trying to find the lock that the key opens enables him to overcome a myriad of fears and limitations while growing and developing new relationships. Along his journey he meets many people--many who are also hurting, but they all have a story.

This is a must see movie about the victory of love over the forces of hate which would deprive us of fulfilling relationships. Most of all, the movie is about growing and becoming better than we were when we started despite the events that confront us.

Tom Hanks, Max von Sydow (the Renter) and Sandra Bullock give excellent performances. It has been a long time since I have seen von Sydow in a movie and he gives a performance worth of Oscar consideration.As I wrote already, this movie is carried on the shoulders of Thomas Horn, whose portrayal of Oskar is deep, complex, and consistent throughout. I believe his inaugural performance is also Oscar worthy because he truly carries the movie.

I learned a new word--which will always make me smile and help me to remember the movie--oxymoronist.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

First Snow of the Winter

And there it is in the still dark pre-dawn light--the first snow clinging to the car in my driveway as sleet begins to fall on it.

Definitely a day to hunker down and stay warm.

There is something exciting about the first snow of the season. I don't know why that is--but it is. At least it does not appear we are going to experience another snowpocalypse, this time.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Friday, January 20, 2012

Sunrise, Sunset

No, I am not writing about a great song from a play and then a movie many years ago. I did something that I hate doing yesterday. I am not happy about it either.

I saw the first rays of light gracing the eastern horizon on my way to work and I also witnessed the last light of the sunset as it faded from view on my way home.

It was one of those long days that never seem to end--and then when it does, I wonder where the day went.

So, where did the day get off to?

I admit--I did get out in the middle of the day for a quick trip to the dentist for some routine maintenance, but I left during the middle of a meeting to head off to the dentist and walked directly back into a different meeting when I returned. Sadly, I never even took time to eat lunch.

I guess it was a day of wall-to-wall meetings.

As Thursdays go--it was worse than most. Right now, my least favorite days of the week are tied between Monday and Thursday because of the meeting load I carry on those days.

But, Thursday carries with it the promise of Friday--and well, my weekend usually begins on Friday evening, before sunset with friends and a bottle (or more) of wine to celebrate the passing of the week.

Tonight, I believe, there will be a lot of celebrating.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Paranoia, Fear and the 60's

My take-away from reflecting upon the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was the recognition that during the 1960's the United States was full of paranoia.

I watched a television special about Dr. King and his life while home on the holiday and was struck by the level of paranoia that seemed to be everywhere believing that our way of life was going to evaporate by giving all races the inalienable rights to which they were endowed by our Creator.

From my study of history, I know that the U.S. was paralyzed with fear about communism, Cuba, and the bomb. We became involved in Vietnam to deter the domino theory--which never panned out.

Paranoia--pure and simple. Our way of life was at risk if we submitted to rational thinking.

The 60's were a time when we, as a people and a society, were filled with fear.

I could not believe the fear that caused the State of Alabama to deploy the State Police to stop the march from Selma to Montgomery. And use violence against the marchers.

I was appalled at the violence and the bigotry.

I wonder if we are any better now, some almost 40 years later. We are afraid of muslims and the Taliban. And the Chinese and the Russians and the Pakistanis and the Mexican drug cartels.

Every generation it seems, brings a particular paranoia with it.

I wonder, why can't we just be friends. I found new hope in the phrase "We shall overcome." Hopefully, we can overcome the paranoia and the fear that keeps us from being brothers and sisters.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Live Long to Pay Taxes

The Maryland Legislature is back in session plotting to increase taxes on a multitude of items and services. I have heard that Baltimore City wants to increase the bottle tax by an additional nickel per bottle. Last year, Maryland, in response to special interest groups, increased the sales tax on alcohol, to include wine, to a whopping 9 percent. This year they want to increase the gas tax by 15 cents per gallon--making our gas tax the highest in the nation.

Where does it end?

In the toilet, literally--Maryland is also considering tripling the flush tax--yup, we get taxed on flushing our toilets, to $90 per year. We already pay incredible sewage costs on water we use in the garden. And then there is the ever popular Chesapeake Bay tax already on our water bill.

One of the most interesting taxes I have ever heard of was the $1 per bullet tax on all bullets purchased in the City of Baltimore in a effort to reduce crime. Do criminals really go through the purchase documentation requirements to buy bullets for their stolen gun? I wonder who will really be paying that tax?

As I researched some taxes for this blog, I ran across this really interesting tax on Billshrink. Perhaps the most puzzling tax in the entire world is the state of Tennessee’s tax on the possession of illegal drugs. According to CNN, “you have 48 hours to report to the Department of Revenue and pay your tax” on any illegal substance you purchase in Tennessee, after which you will get “stamps to affix to your illegal substance” which “serve as evidence you paid the tax on the illegal product.” There are some other interesting taxes in that article if you are interested.

So I was at the gym last evening, joking with the guys that we were all working out and playing racquetball so that we could be healthy and live longer. And that by doing so, we could pay more taxes.

That was a sobering thought. There is the old adage about the only things in life that are a certain are death and taxes. But at least death only happens once. Taxes keep increasing so we can continue to enjoy paying them.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Capsized Cruise Ship: Heroes and Zeros

The capsized ship off the Italian coast seems to contain stories of heroism and and also infamy.

The infamy of the captain driving the ship onto the rocks and then being one of the first to abandon ship--whatever happened to the captain going down with the ship in an effort to ensure the safety and rescue of the passengers.
Why would the captain of the Costa Concordia abandon ship without ensuring the safety of his passengers and crew?

Remember, by contrast, the heroism of Captain Sully Sullenberger the command pilot of the US Airways flight which crashed into the Hudson River two years ago, almost to the day, on January 15, 2009? He walked through the plane as it was settling into the river to ensure all of the passengers and crew had been evacuated.

Yet, from the sinking of the Costa Concordia comes the story of the purser who single-handedly helped hundreds to the safety of life boats until he slipped and broke his leg. Sadly, in the panic no one helped him and he remained on the ship for 36 hours until rescued.

In thinking about this tragedy, I realized there was a lot of panic--but I hope, had I been in a similar situation that I would be able to care for an injured person and not left him there to fend for himself. I wonder how many people ignored him as they rushed for safety.

Heroes and zeros--every tragedy seems to have them. I wonder which I will be when my time comes?

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Monday, January 16, 2012

Monday Musings - January 16, 2012

1. The laws defined by Newton and Kepler were reconfirmed over the weekend as was the size of the planet and the distribution of land and water. And everything came down OK it seems.

2. I am amazed at the way the NFL playoffs are proceeding this year--so far, in eight games only one home team has lost. I hope that improves a bit next week, because I really think it would be nice to see a the teams coached by the Harbaugh brothers play in the Super Bowl (call it the Har-bowl) and that means that Baltimore must slip by New England in Foxborough. Could happen!

3. The part-time legislature has resumed meeting in Maryland and the only questions seem to be how much are taxes going to increase and on what. Too bad the question is not if taxes are going to increase. It seems the governor and the democratic legislature have already decided to make Marylanders the most taxed people in the nation.

4. Long weekends and clear skies even though cold days go together well to create stunning sunrises and sunsets.

5. Did you ever notice that it is the consumer (that would be us) who always get gouged when politicians talk?

6. Why are children's toys packaged in such a manner that sophisticated tools are required to extract them and let the kids play with them?

7. I wonder how many resources could be saved/preserved is packaging overall was simplified or reduced? Do light bulbs really need to be surrounded by impenetrable layers of plastic? What happened to simple cardboard packaging? Do the aspirin tablets need to be wrapped so tightly that an engineering degree is required to open the bottle?

8. I did watch some of the Golden Globes last evening just to see what all the fuss was about. I thought Ricky Gervais was pretty funny. I won't comment on what I thought was the best joke of the night.

9. There is something rustic and relaxing about sitting next to a roaring fire in the fireplace.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sitting by the Fire

Last evening as things began to wind own from the activity of the day, I was sitting by the fireplace watching the first of the NFL contests of the day thinking about the varied activities I had participated in through the course of the morning and into the early evening.

Lucas's birthday was a definite highlight of the afternoon. Ethan's late morning basketball event was another highlight. In between somehow there was a trip to Lowe's, Costgo, And a wine store. Towel racks were fixed in one bathroom and a new shelf unit was installed. It was a busy, but enjoyable mid-winter day.

Although a lot of time was spent on the road and in the car, a lot of time was spent with family.

And that is what it is all about.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Quandary of the Three-day Weekend

Standing, or more correctly sitting, at the threshold of a three day weekend, I am reminded of all the promise that weekends like this hold.

I am sure the next three days will fill quickly with activity. I already have commitments for important events like watching the Ravens football game on Sunday and as many of the other playoff games as I can possibly squeeze in.

Mostly small projects will be accomplished and the ever present shopping requirements for unimportant things like food.

And then there is also a basketball game and a birthday party to enjoy for diversion. It is hard to believe that Lucas is two years old already--where has the time gone? I am amazed at how quickly the terrific trio of boys are growing.

I know for sure that I will not be spending the weekend in a chair doing crossword puzzles though. It will be busy and fun.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Friday, January 13, 2012

As the Days Turn the Holidays Subside

I have been looking forward to this weekend since the year began. Why, you might ask? Well because it is the last of the three-day weekends associated with the holiday season.

This year, unlike many, all of the three-day weekends associated with the Christmas, New Year, Martin Luther King celebrations have occurred on Mondays--which make them just a bit more fun.

It is also a bit sad, because it means that we are getting into the meat of the year and the holidays are going to become more scarce. Sure, there is President's Day in February (20th). But after that--it is a long road to Memorial Day broken up only by Spring Break, which the schools get to celebrate.

Of the ten federal holidays, five (Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year, and Martin Luther King day) occur during a short, just over two month period from November 11th until January 16th-ish. It is a great time of year--but the remaining five holidays are more thinly spread out a across the remaining months (February, May, July, September, October).

I recently read an article about how Americans are some of the hardest working people in the world. Perhaps a holiday a month would be an idea to slowing people down? I know I could fully embrace the concept.

Alas, there are still places in the U.S. which ignore some of the Federal Holidays--like the Howard County School system which routinely ignores Columbus Day, Veteran's Day, President's Day and this year went back to school on New Year's Day (celebrated). Our children are not being taught how to relax and rest from the grind of the day. Likewise, they are not being taught the history of our Nation and why we have these days set aside for celebration or remembrance.

So as the winter (even though incredibly mild so far) grinds on and the holiday season really ends, can it be that the hope of February 2nd is not far off? And that hope would be Punxsutawney Phil predicting an early Spring. He has too, right? My Springtime flowers are already active in the garden.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Hockey Night

Last evening I had the opportunity to enjoy one of my Christmas gifts--tickets to a hockey game between the Penguins and the Capitals. Although the Penguins lost--0-1 to the home team, I enjoyed the game and the experience.

The rain we are currently experiencing makes travel incredibly slow in the area and walking outside similar to swimming at the beach--but traveling into D.C. via Metro was enjoyable.

I could tell that the season is at its mid-point. Both teams lacked the excitement I noted when they last met on December 1. The crowd was more subdued as well, as if still shaking off the holiday blues.

That written, both teams were missing a number of their star players--but the long periods of quiet in the arena to just watch the game unfold were unusual for a match up between these two teams. Perhaps it really was the rain soaking everyone's spirits. Some of us even remarked about the lack of excitement in the Metro on the way home.

Well, there is a lot of season left--40 or so games. My job is to make it through today after getting home about two hours past bedtime and still bounding (OK, a slight exaggeration) out of bed at the sound of the alarm (and Makayla).

Yet, the day will go on, busy or not. I also have the memory of a great evening of hockey. Bring on the NFL playoffs!

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

After the Decorations are Gone

Happy Stepin a Puddle and Splash Your Friend Day.


The decorations are gone from the house and things have returned to the blah of normal. The excitement and festivity of the holidays are behind us and the ever present grip of winter is ahead.

The deepest of the dark days have passed, but there are still too many days remaining until spring.

It is time to rekindle the fires of adventure and excitement within myself to cast off the doldrums of the winter season. The now returned to storage Christmas decorations did that for a bit with the warm glow of lighted decorations.

Now I need to carry on that same sense of expectation into the rest of the year and not fall back into the rut of the normal. I have some trips coming up--Houston, Sarasota, Orlando, and maybe a trip to the left coast which will help with that. But I long for the dog days of summer.

The decorations are gone from the house, but that does not mean that the joy has to be gone from my heart. I need to find that joy within.

It is there--I just need to let it out.

I need to get excited and enthused about new holidays, like Merry Ides of January and Happy New Moon!

Hmm, that doesn't seem to be working too well.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Vote for America

The New Hampshire primary is in the news as the Republicans continue the process to challenge for the White House in November.

Although I am affiliated with a particular political party, more and more I am feeling the need to advocate to people that we should be electing people based upon their ability to do the business of America and not because they represent one or the other political party.

Partisan politics is not working.

The divide is too wide to allow one or the other party to control our government and system.

I would prefer the ability for truly unaffiliated people to run for office based solely upon their plan and qualifications to do the work of the nation. But, alas, fundraising is very difficult and the best people to run this country are not independently wealthy.

It is clear to me that we are not being well served by many of the people we have elected. Some of the most junior are too idealistic and are unable to work within their convictions and ideology to run the country. Some of those who have been in office for along time are unable to adapt to the changing situation in the country and the new mood of the electorate.

The business of running the country has almost become a secondary task.

Some people have proposed a part time Congress--I am NOT a fan. Living in Maryland where we have a part time legislature, I witness an example of why that concept will not work every year.

No--it is up to "We the People" to elect the right representatives--and in some cases reelect those representatives. I am not a fan of not reelecting any incumbent because we need some experience in Washington to be familiar with how the system works.

Elect a President and then support that person with Representatives and Senators who clearly demonstrate an America first and politics second approach! That is what I am looking to do this election season. People willing to do the work of the nation, regardless of ideology.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Monday, January 9, 2012

Monday Musings -- January 9, 2012

1. I can hardly believe that the first week of 2012 is in the history books. Where did it go?

2. Football playoff weekends are longer than regular football weekends even though there are fewer games--they are more spread out.

3. The weather this past week went from really cold and winter-like to springtime. I looked in the flower beds to see the daffodils and hyacinths are already planning for an early arrival this year.

4. Is it possible that we will have a winter with no snow accumulation?

5. Through some miracle, I have been a week without a headache. Maybe the grip of NDPH has loosened and I am free!

6. While walking around the grocery store, I noticed they were selling crawfish from China. Why not Louisiana? They also were selling shrimp from Vietnam. Really? Why not Texas? Is it really cheaper to ship these items from Asia?

7. There is almost nothing worse than being awakened in the middle of the night to the sound of a cat hocking up a hairball.

8. I was at memorial service for a friend yesterday who died before his time. It was good to be in the company of so many people who, like me, loved him and were awed by everything he had accomplished.

9. Athough we did not set a record, I enjoyed the unseasonbly warm tempertures this past weekend. I'll take 60's in January while living in Maryland any day.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Grandsons and Basketball

I attended Ethan's basketball game yesterday. A typical sporting event it was not.

The gym was packed with prents and supporters and the players were charged up to play their games. Practices had been completed and the teams were ready. The introductions were accomplished in the best style of the NBA with the players running onto the courts to the sound of flashy music and an announcer calling their names.

It seemed like a normal youth basketball game, similar to many youth events I have attended or coached during my life. But this was different.


Because the games were played in a gym attached to a large church and they began with a prayer and half time was a devotion for the spectators. They even closed the concession stand during the halftime devotion.

This league is church league and the ministry of this church. It was really an experience see sports and God brought together on the same court, in public, for everyone to see.

I wonder, sometimes, what we are teaching our children about life and sports and good and bad. This church, through this seemingly thriving sports ministry, is truly making a difference and helping to reduce the confict that sometimes occurs in our lives between believing and living what we believe.

I am told there is a devotion at every practice. Wow, that is really powerful. God and sports together.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Saturday, January 7, 2012

War Horse -- Movie Review

I was lucky enough to see this movie last evening. I am a huge softie for dog and horse movies, so I definitely wanted to War Horse

The movie was much more than I expected.  I had expected a sappy tale about a boy (Albert) and his horse (Joey)--and when the Joey was separated from Albert the subsequent journey for them to be reunited.

What I got was a movie about the hard side of life in England and Europe during the early part of the 20th Century and focused mostly on the WWI time period of 1914-1918.

Life was hard and real. Albert is there from Joey's birth, although his family does not own the horse and they come together on a whim of Albert's father who buys the horse at auction--and really buys the wrong horse for what they need--although in the end, Joey is exactly the right horse for what is asked of him.

The characters in the movie are real--it is easy to hate the hard, business-like, buffoon-seeming landlord and his overly privileged son. Even the weather is used to create the sense of hardship and that nothing can go right for life in the period.

The movie is about relationships centered around the horse--Joey, who by the end of the movie has at least four different names. One of the most touching relationships is between Joey and a rival cavalry horse, a big black stallion, who experiences life with Joey during the war. Through the movie, Joey touches the lives of many different people, and almost all of them are a bit better for their contact.

There are some really hard scenes of war--the trench warfare of WWI France is graphic--although not as gruesome as the movie could have made it, the scenes there are truly memorable and hard. The use and abuse of horses in war during the transition from agrarian based life to our current mechanized lifestyle is evident. It is hard for an animal lover like myself to accept how horses were treated--but one scene stands in my mind as Joey is being marched off to war and Albert is allowed one last good-bye, the battle hardened sergeant cuts the good-bye short by saying something about Joey being a horse, not a dog.

This movie is not for children--and it is a hard movie for adults to enjoy, because the hardest realities of life and war are ever present in the movie. I sat through the movie hoping for a happy ending--which seemed impossible. The struggles, the ever present death and destruction, even the interludes of moderate joy were tempered with the knowledge that these too soon must end--and they did.

I am glad I saw the movie on the big screen of a theater to experience the fullness of the movie. I am sure that it will not be nearly as powerful in a TV. The movie gets long in places--it seems that the trials of the war will never end, but then war is like that.

Recommendation: See this movie, but do not expected to feel good about yourself or the world while in the theater. You may even wonder why you went to see a movie that is so hard and real and that seems to highlight the worst of all of us at every turn. But, like other great war movies that depict war at its worst and hardest--this movie deserves to be seen.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Cats and Computers

Riordin has a need for warmth and he hates it when I am working on my computer, as I was last evening.

Usually, he crawls into my lap, or face, and tries to get between me and the computer screen.

But while I was away for a moment--he decided to take extreme action and placed himself directly on the keyboard.

I was getting some help from a site I was working with and had to step away for some additional information and when I returned, my keyboard was being used--by a feline.

Some days it doesn't seem fair--but when I picked him up, he was definitely very warm.

So I smiled and enjoyed the moment with him.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Fault and Responsibility

Our society is missing the boat when it comes to the issue of personal responsibility. That is probably why 40,000 new laws went into effect on January 1st, because we place the responsibility for the actions of an individual on the wrong people.

An article in the Baltimore Sun the other day really got me going and highlighted for me how backwards we have become.

The article is about a local congressman who is facing problems associated with an incident last summer when an underage intern was allowed to have alcohol at a party.

There is a lot of finger pointing in the article about who is to blame and who was reprimanded and how such a travesty could occur--that a 20 year old might get a drink of alcohol at a party. The article goes on to say that the Representative's Chief of Staff was reprimanded and further suggests that one aide was fired for the incident. The firing part was later determined to be untrue.

Here is the problem.

What about the underage drinker? They certainly knew the law and that they should not drink alcohol at functions. Why is the responsibility for wrong doing being deftly shifted away from the responsible party? There was almost no mention of the underage drinker in the entire article and their name was not mentioned at all.

That seems to be the way our society works. Instead of holding the guilty responsible, laws are passed which shift the responsibility to others. In this case, we are dealing with a 20-year old who is able to vote and serve in the military, own property and serve on a jury. Yet, the blame rests on the person holding the party.

That is wrong!

Think about how much better life would be people were responsible for their actions.

Instead of someone suing because the coffee burned their tongue, they would realize that coffee by definition is hot and can burn.

I have tried to read the warnings and labels on many products--the type is too small and all they are really trying to tell me is: Don't be stupid. But still it seems that if I am stupid and hurt myself for some reason, others are responsible.

We need a society where people stand up and say, "I did that and it wasn't very smart." That same society can also allow people to say "I'm sorry and it won't happen again" without threatening dire consequences, unless of course they do it again.

So my response to the article simple is--the writer missed the real culprit and the rose is being pinned on all the wrong people.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

January Freeze

Winter's grip is firmly on us at this point. The mild temperatures of December have been lost with the changing of the calendar into January.


Really cold. Twelve degrees of cold this morning on the thermometer outside of the house.

I am really glad I got the Christmas lights down off the outide of the house on Monday when it was warmer. Chris and I spent last evening beginning to pack up the indoor seasonal decorations. My back really feels the weight of each box which I forced up the ladder into the attic. And it was cold in the garage last evening as the temperatures were beginning to fall.

But, I am looking forward to the dawn, because on cold mornings like this the dawn is usually pretty spectacular.

A new day and new promise.

The news last evening was reporting how we had not seen a cold snap like this since January last year. It seems weird to say last year already when referring to 2011, since we are just four days into 2012.

I knew that winter was coming--I guess it had to arrive sometime. I had been enjoying the low bills from the local electric company--I guess those are over as well.

I continue to be amazed at how much of my life is tied to the weather, even though I am not a farmer. I use the weather to predict the mess I'll face driving to work and what I should wear. I use the weather to help me decide what kind of afternoon activity I will choose to participate in.

Yesterday, when some snow flakes began to fall, it was amazing to hear everyone that I work with suddenly interested in the weather--specifically the snow. I guess there is something exciting about the first snowfall of the year--although it turned out to be just a few wayward flakes dancing in the morning air.

From my standpoint, I know that to get to spring there must be a winter. So let's get on with it. Football is finally winding down and Oriole Spring Training is not far off. In about 75 days, it will be pretty much over and the grip of winter will bbe gone and we will be well into the springtime growing season.

So even with frigid outdoor temperatures, there is a silver lining: Springtime is not far off!!

Oh yeah--115 days until pool opening Saturday. See? I knew Springtime was coming.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Most Popular Posts of 2011

I reviewed my blog's statistics for 2011and it was interesting to find that an area that I have been ignoring was responsible for some of the most popular posts of 2011, that would be wine reviews and reviews of wineries. I have been limiting my wine reviews to a program called CellarTracker, which I use to monitor my wine cellar.The other popular area pertains to reviews of concerts. I wrote four concert reviews during the year and two of them wound up in the top five.

The most popular posts written during 2011, in terms of hits, were

1. Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 -- Review

2. An Evening with Josh Groban

3. Sheldrake Point Vineyard

4. Surfboard Poppop

5. Dynamic Duo Create Memorable House Concert Evening

From my perspective though, I find it much harder to decide the best post of 2011 from the 430 posts that I wrote during the year.  I find that parts of the year are a bit fuzzy and others stand out clearly in my memory. The posts from St Lucia and St Vincent were certainly the most interesting in terms of travel, but I was amused by my out the hotel window series.

But, in reviewing the entries, I really enjoyed reliving the experiences described in The Turtles of Tobago Cays.

I wrote seven poems this year--mostly, I notice late in the year as I lose touch with summer. Of the seven, October Night was my favorite.

I tried to find my favorite image of 2011--but there just too many for me to narrow down. Sunsets of St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines contain not a few of my favorites. But the image of the fence in the sand in On the Beach, Again really appeals to me. Although the best was probably taken by Chris and published in Image of the Weekend from Assateague.

The post which I reused was When One Plus One is One and I think it worked really well as the message for the wedding that I did during the year.

So all in all--I am glad that I don't have to pick just one favorite or best. It's my blog after all and I get to set the rules.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Monday, January 2, 2012

Monday Musings - January 2, 2012

1. Happy New Year--don't forget to write 201"2" on everything you do for the next year.

2. I read a scary item in the news about 40,000 new laws taking effect yesterday across the nation. Really--can anyone keep track of all of the laws we have on the books? Some of them can be found at the article titled 40,000 State Laws to Become Reality in 2012. A more complete list is at New Laws Ring in the New Year.

               a. One of the new laws is that anyone 11 or under in Colorado who appears to have sustained a head injury during an sporting event will be forced to sit out the rest of a game until they can be examined. OK--here is my take--just forced to sit out? Why don't they require immediate medical attention or something more drastic? And who is making the decision on whether the the child has sustained a head injury?

                b. A law in California will require gay and lesbian history to not be overlooked in public schools. Really? And what is the purpose of this law--to rewrite history yet again?

3. 2011 ended with some really enjoyable and mild weather. I believe we will soon be paying for all of that nice weather when the worst that winter can throw at us arrives.

4. Resolutions? Do we really need resolutions to help start the year? We discussed a few in church yesterday that resonated with me and that I will be attempting for the year ahead. If you want to hear more about them, go to the website and click on More.
               a. More desire, less duty
               b. More trust, less panic
               c. More aprons, less bibs
               d. More friends, less acquaintances
               e. More compassion, less apathy

5. The county that I live in has wasted over $250,000 trying to buy a piece of land for a new school. They began planning to build before settlement--really, why can't our government officials use the same common sense that the rest of us use when buying land. It is not ours until after settlement. I am happy about the school not coming to my neighborhood, by the way.

6. When should the Christmas decorations come down? I'm planning on starting today--although we have already put the Christmas dishes back into storage.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year 2012

And so it begins--2012.

Who knows where we will be this time next year? And for most of us it really does not matter. The year ahead will do its thing and we will wind our way through its twists and turns and emerge at New Year's Day 2013 different than we are today and hopefully better for the experience. Sadly, that will not be the case for all of us.

I know that to start the year, I have to put away the decorations from last year. It seems every year begins that way--having to clean up the mess from the Christmas season and the holidays.

Chris and I got a start on that yesterday and received a bit of help from Riordan--the cat who came back. He crawled up into the empty cupboard as we were swapping Christmas dishes for the everyday dishes. I thought it was cute in that he at least wanted to give us a bit of assistance. Or was he trying stop us from putting away Christmas.

Well the dawn is breaking and 2012 is itching to begin.

As the old TV show used to state:"And away we go!"

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD
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