Friday, August 31, 2012

Cat Fails

One of my cars--the Jaguar convertible, is known as Cat. Cat has an issue. As I pulled into the garage last night clouds of steam billowed up from under the hood and orange coolant began forming on the floor of the garage.

Cat has a problem. One of the heater hoses burst and hot coolant was steaming out everywhere. It was a huge mess, and frankly it was something that I really didn't need after such a nice drive home on a beautiful afternoon.

In retrospect, where better for a car to fail than in the driveway?  At least I was not stranded on the side of a rush hour clogged highway with scores of travelers gawking at me wondering what was wrong.

I was safely in my garage.

I was home and my biggest concern was moving my racquetball gear to my truck in preparation for the morning.

Do I call AAA and have them tow Cat to a repair place? To a Jaguar dealer?

Do I attempt a backyard repair?  It looks pretty simple. Really. Only problem is that I spend most of the evening online and cannot find the hose needed to effect the repair. It has two bends in it.

Monday! I'll fix it on Monday afternoon.

I hope.

Ugh! Why do cars break? Why when we least need them to break. Although, when is a good time for them to break?

At least, as I wrote earlier, it was not alongside the parkway on a busy afternoon. I hate being stared at. People wondering what transgression I committed for my car to fail.

I'll drive my truck today.  I could drive Kitty. I have choices.

I am blessed in so many ways.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Tragedy in a Baltimore School

I decided that I needed to comment on tragedy which occurred in a local high school this week--a 15 year old boy allegedly (OK, they saw him do it) shot another student in the lunch room on the first day of school.

The school? Perry Hall High School--with over 2100 kids the largest high school in Baltimore county.

The weapon? A shot gun.

The shooter? A troubled boy, who reportedly was bullied and comes from a problem filled home and life.

The tragedy? This is a far reaching tragedy which includes first and foremost the boy who was shot and is in critical condition at a local hospital, his family, the students of the school, the community. The tragedy is in the lives destroyed by this incident.

A sensational article in the Baltimore Sun really got me going, and on my soap box about irresponsible reporting. Apparently everyone is to blame for this shooting--from parents and step parents, to everyone who knew this kid and even those of us reading the article after the fact should have intervened it seems. I'm not sure if the article placed any blame on the shooter.

The article in the Baltimore Sun begins:

Charged as an adult in the Perry Hall High School shooting, 15-year-old Robert Wayne Gladden Jr., was held without bond Tuesday as a portrait of a withdrawn and occasionally bullied student with a troubled home life emerged through interviews with classmates and court documents.

The article goes into a very detailed look at not only his life, but the lives of everyone associated with him. Their lives, and mostly their failings, are laid out for everyone with even a passing curiosity to read and ponder. I felt that some of the details presented passed beyond responsible news reporting and into the realm of tabloid sensationalism.

Did I find it interesting that the shooter's step Dad was arrested later that same day after police searched his house and found marijuana and firearms? Turns out the step Dad is a convicted felon and it is against the law for him to possess firearms. Is it germane to the situation? No, because as the article continues, the shot gun used in the shooting came from his Dad's house where he "sometimes stayed."

For the gun control advocates--BTW--there is a data point that gun control doesn't work.

Another news agency, Business Insider, provided a more balanced view of the shooter and his motives.

Interestingly, another article suggests that the student that was shot was a bystander and the shooting occurred after the gun was discharged at the ceiling for effect and subsequently went off as he was being tackled. This is the only article I could find about the incident and really changed my perception of the events.

This incident is a tragedy. We may never know the real reason that this young man decided, with some premeditation, to take a disassembled shotgun and some vodka to school that day. But, the desperation that many people are facing in today's world is reflected in his face and his actions. And everyone around him suffers as a result.

Pray for everyone involved in this tragedy. They need hope. And don't forget to pray for the recovery of the shooting victim and for his family. They are the true victims of this tragedy.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Winds of Autumn

I noticed it yesterday morning for the first time this season. It was dark when I took Makayla out and I couldn't really see very well to clean up after her. I had to feel around on the ground for the warm spot.

Autumn is coming.

The morning temperatures are drifting down. I noticed they were expecting 48 degrees in Upstate NY this week. Not just cool, but cold.

Too cold for me.

Too cold for palm trees.

And the darkness of autumn is already upon us as the daylight grows shorter every day. The equinox is coming--even though still three weeks away its presence is being felt, or seen.

Football is in the air. Cold is clinging to the morning in the dew.

Even after the rain and an 85 degree day, it is cool in the morning.

I have noticed the leaves beginning to turn and fall in small numbers form some of the trees. I was asked when I was closing the pool--never I replied, although it was merely bravado. I don't have the time to clean it once autumn fully arrives and the leaves fall to the ground in waves.

The grapes are being harvested to make wines--2012 vintage. I'm sure the rains of the past few days have been a real problem for the wine makers.

And daylight fades into darkness as the grip of autumn strengthens.

It is almost September. Wow. Just yesterday, it seems, we were moving from May into June and the hope of the now completed summer was still in front of us.

At least summer is coming somewhere south of the equator.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


It doesn't happen too often, but I got really emotional and, frankly, pissed off last evening while playing racquetball.



I play racquetball because I love to play. I don't call hinders and screens unless they are flagrant. I played a guy who was so intent on winning that he called even the most minor, and frankly not there, hinders. I could not believe some of the calls--in fact when I won the second game I was more concerned with looking around to make sure he couldn't call a hinder than I was celebrating a great comeback and a stolen win.

We had played last week and he upset me with his tick-tacky calls then. As we were discussing that game after last night's game he admitted he called screens on two of my ace serves because they were close. The standard is 18 inches--and at the time I knew they weren't that close. That is just the wrong approach. If we were playing for money in a tournament, then there would be a disinterested party, a/k/a/ referee, to make close calls. Without a referee, my philosophy is--play on.

I know how to lose--Lord knows I lose more than I win now. I just don't like losing when we are playing two different games on the court. I play racquetball because I love the game and the competition.

But I admit, I kinda lost it last evening and just let the other guy have the last three points of the tiebreaker--just because I was so upset about the bad, questionable calls he kept making. I didn't even return the last three serves just to express my dissatisfaction.

Bad on me.

Today is a new day though. I'll try to do better.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Monday, August 27, 2012

Monday Musings - August 27, 2012

1. Heard at the wine tasting about one of the lesser know Italian wine regions, Lazio, around Rome: They produce wines in quantity, not quality. Historically they had to supply the Roman Legions and the Roman Legions were just a bunch of guys sitting around drinking wine.

2. Manned space is in the news again with the death of Neil Armstrong. It is hard to believe that those first pioneers of space are getting so old. And now we can't even put a man into space anymore. Priorities need to be reevaluated.

3. The Boston Red Sox have apparently packed in the season by sending off three of their highest paid players to the Dodgers. The Orioles have moved to within 4 games of the Yankees!

4. Preseason football is really difficult to enjoy. It is even slower than regular season football.

5. The Republican Convention begins a day later than planned. Do we get a respite from the campaigning for a day?

6. Communication is behind most of the problems we have,

7. “Houston,Tranquility Base here.The Eagle has landed.”~ Neil Armstrong (1930 – 2012 ) I remember that day so well. We were all united together as two Americans landed on the moon.

8. To the educators, the bus drivers, the janitors, the parents, and the students--let's have a great school year. Enjoy day one of the 2012-2013 year!

9. I had an interesting conversation yesterday where the NCAA and the US Anti Doping Agency (USADA) were both considered to be agencies that need someone watching over them due to their apparent arbitrariness.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Tasting Tuscany Wines--Bin 201

Yesterday, I sojourned to Annapolis to a wine store named Bin 201 for a tasting of wines selected from Italy and more specifically, Tuscany and some of the nearby regions.

I enjoy attending these tastings because they are more than just tasting wine--they are about understanding the grapes and conditions in the region.

Bin 201 Being Prepared for Tasting
Although Tuscany was the principle region for yesterday's tasting, I was also treated to a sampling of wines from Umbria, Marche, and Abruzzo.  But the wines of the day truly were from Tuscany: Chianti, Chianti Classico, Super Tuscan.

I admit, one of the wines did not have a pleasant nose--it smelled like a cat box, but most of them were very nice and enjoyed. The tasting was complete with a plate of cheese, salami, prosciutto, and of course some palate cleansing bread.

The Canalicchio di Sopra Brunello de Montalcino 2000 Tuscany was clearly the wine of the day. But it was $87.99 and I just don't buy wine that expensive because I never want to drink it--so the enjoyment is never fully realized because it just stays on the wine rack.

The best buy was Ornellia "Le Volte" 2009, Bolgheri, Tuscany for $29.99. This was a Super Tuscan, being a blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot. It gets a solid average 88 rating on Cellar Tracker and I think it will be awesome with pasta.

I love expanding my wine knowledge and my tastes, and yesterday was no exception as I also tastes a few whites--but nothing spectacular.

While the Bin 201 tastings are not free, they are not expensive--less than tastings for more in Napa. And, we tasted 10 wines coupled with history and a small intimate group of 14 people. It makes for a nice Saturday afternoon activity. I highly recommend these events.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Crushing a Hero - What is the USADA, anyway?

I have to weigh in on the Lance Armstrong situation.

Despite whatever they say, Lance still won seven Tour de France races from 1999-2005. Period. And now, seven years later, the revisionists are trying to rewrite history. Nice move.

I don't understand the singly-focused expensive effort to discredit a hero and cancer survivor. And from what I can tell, the evidence, if there is any, is not all that conclusive.

One article notes that: federal judge wrote last week, “USADA’s conduct raises serious questions about whether its real interest in charging Armstrong is to combat doping, or if it is acting according to less noble motives.”

Until yesterday, frankly, I didn't even know that there was a US Anti Doping Agency. I am still not sure where they get their funding--if there is any governmental money involved, then I think we have found a probable way to help alleviate some of the budget deficit. They indicate that they are a non-profit, non-governmental watchdog agency authorized by Congress, so there are few controls on them.

Unless more compelling evidence is released--I believe that the USADA needs to be suspended.

Continuing on in the referenced article I cited earlier, the writer related the magnitude of the odds stacked against the athletes by the USADA and the 

So forget Lance. I have so many problems with USADA, the World Anti-Doping Agency and the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) — which is supposed to be where athletes can appeal, only they never, ever win — that it’s hard to know where to begin. American athletes have lost 58 of 60 cases before the CAS. Would you want to go before that court?

Anyone who thinks an athlete has a fair shot in front of CAS should review the Alberto Contador case. Contador was found to have a minuscule, insignificant amount of clenbuterol in his urine during the 2010 Tour de France. After hearing 4,000 pages of testimony and debate, CAS acknowledged that the substance was too small to have been performance-enhancing and that its ingestion was almost certainly unintentional.

Therefore he was guilty. He received a two-year ban.

There has to be a better way. I understand why Lance is dropping his fight--it is not a fair playing field.

So, despite the proclamation by the USADA--Lance still won seven Tour de France races, AND, btw, is still a cancer survivor--I bet they want to strip him of that title next.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Friday, August 24, 2012

Convention Watching

Now that the Olympics are completed, it is time for our every four-year Presidential Sweepstakes in which we the people get to exercise our right to vote for the officials who will declare war and raise taxes while fighting economic maladies. Well, it sounds good anyway.

And it is off to Tampa, for the Republican entertainment. I think it would have been more fun had no one actually wrapped up the nomination. Maybe we the voters and people would have been better served as we watched the floor fights and the dealing to determine a candidate.

So the really fun part will be if the hurricane hits Tampa at the same time that Romney is accepting the nomination. Would that be considered a mandate for winds of change?

What do I expect from the convention? Not much really. It is just another campaign event.

And after the Republicans--then the Democrats get their turn. I think the last convention with meaning was the 1944 Democratic convention which found Harry Truman on the ticket with FDR--that was not the plan at the start of the convention--but it was a back room deal.

Unless Biden winds up being replaced, I'm not thinking we will have anything that exciting.

Too bad.

We could use a bit of mystery in the election season to help people decide.

But, with the Olympics over, we do need something to talk about and the conventions should do the trick. That is, if the Republicans don't get rained out.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Thursday, August 23, 2012

And it is only Thursday

Some weeks have a way of lingering beyond their welcome.

This week is exactly such a week. I do not know why that is, nor can I finger any specific instance or series of instances, but the week is just dragging.

It may be  that I will actually report to the office on all five days--even though I escaped yesterday for an afternoon of fun filled doctors appointments topped off by a blood draw and my allergy shot. If only the doctors had been running on schedule maybe I could have parlayed some of the afternoon into pool side lounging. But no--by the time I left the first appointment with the added surprise blood draw and got my chores done, it was time to go off and sit at another doctor's office who was running over 30 minutes late for my appointment.

At least I was able to get my allergy shot while I was waiting. What a reward that is--an annoying needle prick in the arm! Yay!

I am beginning to have dreams about getting shots--really!

I tend to like to schedule multiple doctors for the same day--it reduces the pain of leaving work for these appointments significantly. But by the time it was all done, I effectively got home later than when I would have done had I worked.

And on top of that, my insurance company has dropped the ball on paying for all of the shots I've been getting--so now I have to call them and discover why it is taking over 90 days to reimburse the doctor who wants to charge my credit card. Ugh!

And then the Security Company called to advise me of a low battery situation in one of my sensors at my house! Great! Another appointment for a service call. Too bad they can't call and say something like: "We are seeing a low battery situation in one of your sensors, our service technician will be there in 15 minutes to remedy the issue."

What a service concept that would be.

But no, I get a two hour appointment block on Monday.

Like I wrote--it is only Thursday, and early morning at that,

At least it is only two days until the weekend and then I get to do it all over again with a whole new set of issues and problems. Like traffic as the schools reconvene for the 2012-2013 School Year. Busses, soccer Moms (and Dads), teachers and too many students joining the already crowded roads. That is something to look forward to next week!

Well, there is that way cool wine tasting I'm doing on Saturday to look forward to. And sleeping in (until 6AM) is always nice. Lawn to mow. Errands to run.


It is still Thursday.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Freaked Out Dog

Bring in the Dog Whisperer. Makayla has gone off the deep end and is displaying a deep seated phobia about walking on the hardwood floors.

It is not so much walking, but rather starting from a standing. She looks like Fred Flintstone trying to get his car going as she flails against the floors to get moving.
Makayla Fighting Against the Wood Floor

Yet, she does not need to aggravate herself so.

She walks perfectly fine once she is going forward.

It is just the spinning her wheels (or rather paws) which freaks her out as she tries to gain some forward momentum.

I feel bad for her, but I do not want to contribute to the delinquency of a canine by coddling her. But the whining is terrible.

But, I cannot give in to her fears or they will not get better. And when she accidentally jumps on the couch--she cannot get off. Or rather she will not get off until she finally determines that no one is going to rescue her.

Where is the Dog Whispered when I need him.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Intolerance--A response

An article in the new yesterday about a 12 year old girl in Pakistan with some burned pages in a bag whose neighbors are calling for execution under the local blasphemy laws highlights one outcome of intolerance. The article, Pakistan girl jailed, accused of blasphemy, highlights the intolerance potentially associated with fundamentalist religious beliefs.

I believe this article also points out the widespread anti-Christian situation of many places on the planet. If not open persecution, very nearly so.

And, I also note that the situation in which this girl and her family find themselves is the end result of the intolerance of one belief system towards another. Special interest groups seek to impose their narrowly focused beliefs upon the larger majority, in even our own country. Unchecked, they are a threat not only to our way of life, but to the Constitution as well. They do this by seeking to implement laws and regulations designed to deny other portions of the population rights that seemingly are protected by the Constitution. It can be insidious at first--just a small loss of rights here and there--but where do there infringements end?

The article about the Pakistani girl contains some very concerning allegations:

Under Pakistan's blasphemy laws, anyone found guilty of insulting Islam's Prophet Muhammad or defiling the holy book, or Quran, can face life in prison or even execution. Critics say the laws are often misused to harass non-Muslims or target individuals.
Police put the girl in jail for 14 days on Thursday after neighbors said they believed a Christian girl had burned pages of a Quran, gathering outside her house in a poor outlying district of Islamabad, said police officer Zabi Ullah. He suggested she was being held for her protection.
"About 500 to 600 people had gathered outside her house in Islamabad and they were very emotional, angry and they might have harmed her if we had not quickly reacted," Ullah said.
Almost everyone in the girl's neighborhood insisted she had burned the Quran's pages, even though police said they had found no evidence of it. One police official, Qasim Niazi, said when the girl was brought to the police station, she had a shopping bag that contained various religious and Arabic-language papers that had been partly burned, but there was no Quran.

I highlighted an important phrase. Potentially false accusations directed at someone to deny them of rights or life.

We must be on guard for similar behavior in our own society and country. I fear that we are becoming increasingly intolerant and allowing extreme special interest groups increasingly more access and power. The situation a few weeks ago revolving around the statements made by the owner of Chick-fil A is a good example of the depth to which some intolerant special interest groups have seized political power in our country. I wrote about this in my blog.

What can we do?

Pray. Really!

Pray for the girl in Pakistan and her family and her Christian community (which is apparently being persecuted) and pray for the persecutors that they would find enlightenment and tolerance, and pray that the local officials would seek truth amid inflammatory accusations.

Pray for our country. Our leaders--even if you don't like them, they are all we have. Pray for the person on the highway who just cut you off. Pray that intolerance can be defeated and that the enlightenment and hope upon which this country was founded can be restored.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Monday, August 20, 2012

Monday Musings - August 20, 2012

1. The colder temperatures of the mornings these past few days are announcing the end of summer.

2. The movies released lately are definitely not summer blockbusters.

3. I am tired of the political phone calls and mail already. Can we vote already?

4. Someday I will retire (again). But I will not stop doing something that I want to do which keeps my mind sharp.

5. I saw a funny sign the other day: We only serve fine wines! Did you bring any?

6. How about the Orioles? Still in the race in late August. I am beginning to feel really good about the team.

7. Heard in church yesterday--The answer to prayer is not as important as is the assurance knowing we are heard!

8. Headline in yesterday's New Your Times: School is Starting Soon, It's Time to Drug the Kids.

9. I felt very conspicuous last evening at a wedding when they did the who is married the longest dance--and Chris and I win.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Summer Sun Afternoon in the Pool

I can tell that summer is beginning to wind down. I looked at the thermometer this morning and it told me that it was all of 60 degrees outside. Yesterday it was 62 and for some days before it has been running about 64 degrees.

The afternoon temperatures are in the low to mid 80's. It is cooler. The humidity has broken and it is pleasant to be outside working around the house again in the afternoon. Chris and I finished cutting up the tree that we had felled earlier in the week. I also noticed the lawn is growing more slowly--I'm not sure if it needs to be mowed this week or not.

The pool is also beginning to cool in response to the lower overnight temperatures.

And so it was with this pre-autumn, early summer's demise that yesterday afternoon I spent a couple of hours in a floatie in the pool trying to restore some of my faded tan. The water was cooler. But the sky was so blue and the sun was warm--not hot, like it was just a too short month ago.

I read that the grape harvest has begun in Virginia. The first whites of 2012 are being prepared to transform from fruit on the vine into wine.

Summer is winding down.

Autumn is lurking.

I know there will likely be a few 90 degree days left to enjoy before the leaves decide to come off the trees. But every day right now seems cooler than the one before.

But at least for one day, I was in my pool, relaxing with my sunglasses and just enjoying the sun and the afternoon.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Hope Springs - Movie Review

Hope Springs, starring Meryl Streel and Tommy Lee Jones surprised me for its raw honesty and sensitivity. I am not a Steve Carell fan, but even he played a good role in the movie. It was a different role for him and he pulled it off fairly well.

I was surprised because I had low expectations for this movie--a true to life exploration of how marriages become dysfunctional after three decades together. The couple, played by Meryl Streep (Kay) and Tommy Lee Jones (Arnold), had reached a definite low point in their marriage and something had to change. At the insistence of Kay, Arnold is coerced into an intensive week of couples therapy in a small New England town conducted by Dr. Feld (Steve Carell).

I thought the acting was excellent--especially Tommy Lee Jones portrayal of the husband, Arnold, who is more concerned about his career than his marriage. I admit--I found a lot of similarities, too many really, between my own experience and his portrayal.

Meryl Streep, as Kay, was believable as the catalyst for the couple to reconnect through an intensive week of marriage counseling to rekindle their relationship.

I was pleased at the way the subject matter, sometimes sexual in nature, was handled. Professional and definitely not graphic. But this was not a movie about sex between a couple--but more importantly the reconstruction of an interactive relationship.

This movie will not appeal to a wide audience--not should it. But, for couples married for more than about 15 years, it should be mandatory viewing. To retain vibrancy and intimacy requires constant work, and it is the small things that occur in combination which can cause couples to drift apart--and cause the end of a relationship.

I especially enjoyed reflecting upon the breakfast scenes used in the movie to help document the state of the relationship. One strip of bacon and two eggs, perhaps a boring subject but definitely a bell weather of their relationship.

Recommendation: Married couples need to see this movie. Un-married people will not appreciate it. The movie deals with adult subjects and is not suitable for the under 17 crowd--but they shouldn't be there anyway.

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Odd Life of Timothy Green - A Review

This is an OK movie to spend time viewing when there is nothing else happening in life.

The character development is lacking, the acting is OK, and the cinematography is great! Filmed in the Northeast during the Autumn, the colorful leaves and hillsides were filed in their full glory. That, however, is probably the best thing that can be said about the movie.

The story revolves around a childless couple relating their history to a social worker while attempting to adopt a child. The story is about their encounter with their perfect child--Timothy Green. One night, after determining that they can never have children naturally, the couple writes attributes of their ideal child on pieces of paper and then buries these papers in a box in the garden.

From there, the story line is predictable. After fantasizing about their perfect child during the night in the middle of a freak a thunderstorm set in the middle of a drought--he appears. But, he is only with them for a short while. We, the audience know that but the couple seems oblivious to the developing story line--until the very end.

The movie is trite and full of overused lines and situations.

That said--it is a tear jerker at the end, even though everyone knows what is coming.

The moral is clearly, enjoy what you have been given today because you never know when it will be taken away. The couple grow as parents during their all to brief time with Timothy, as all parents grow. And of course, then there is the somewhat sappy ending.

Recommendation--If you need to suffer through a chick flick--find something else. I enjoyed the movie and the story, but I am a sucker for these kinds of stories. The movie was a bit long and seemed drawn out. I would not see it again nor will I rent it when available.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

At Stay-cation's End

It is back to work this morning after completing my stay-cation. That is a hard reality to comprehend.

It had been a great respite at the end of the effective summer. Projects were accomplished around the house, movies were watched, and I even made a journey yesterday to the shooting range to fire some rifles--including my 42 year old Ithaca .22. It was good to hear the crack of a .22 round bursting forth from the barrel of my long time friend again and also for Patrick to be able to finally achieve a dream in firing that rifle.

Most of all though, I was able to spend some quality time with Chris as we worked side-by-side accomplishing the projects or watching the movies.

I saw two movies in their first days of release:
The Odd Life of Timothy Green and Hope Springs. I have not done that in a long while. I actually saw The Odd Life of Timothy Green on its premier day--which was yesterday. I also enjoyed watching Jaws with Ethan the other afternoon--so I also saw a classic from 1975.

I could not believe that Jaws was released in 1975, but it was. My how things have changed--even our understanding of Great White sharks. I saw an clip on Shark Week that suggested that the movie Jaws was instrumental in advancing our understanding of Great White sharks--even though the movie portrayed them incorrectly.

But this morning, it is back to work, albeit only two days this week. I'm glad it is a short week--but Thursdays are the busiest days of the week. Now, frankly, I am wondering why I didn't take the whole week off. And maybe next week, too.

Chris and I did a quick review of the stay-cation and decided that it is definitely a keeper! I will do it again next year. Plan a short vacation to go no where but home.

Dorothy, from the Wizard of Oz said it best: "There's no place like home!"

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

And the Tree Came Down

Although the rain in the morning made for some soggy conditions, it dried enough by early afternoon to tackle the dead tree.

It needed to come down as it was becoming green with vines and would soon come down on its own and at a time when we least needed it to wind up in the yard. So off with my chainsaw I went, assisted by Chris and Ethan to fell the tree. It seemed a simple task.

Nothing is ever as simple as it seems.

I surveyed the tree and determined which direction it should fall--not being straight there was an element of deciding the center of gravity and which direction was the natural direction for it to fall. That direction seemed good to me--so there was no need for ropes or cables to attempt to direct the tree to another location. I should have surveyed the scene a bit better.

The chainsaw started and ran better than it has in a long time. I tore into the tree making the notch to help ensure the direction of fall.

Then the chainsaw blade got dull. Ugh! I was making a lot of smoke--which had a nice sweet burning wood odor to it, but not cutting a lot of wood.  Off to the garage to change the blade. Yes, I have five blades--but after this blade change I have only one more sharp one. It is time to go off to get the group sharpened again.

After the delay--and the blade was really hot, too hot, it was back to the tree. I finished the notch and then began work on cutting the tree down.

The tree began falling--in exactly the right direction and then the upper branches became caught on another tree. Not a good situation. How to get the tree down.

Use a rope! Great idea. Off to the garage for a rope. After a few minutes the upper limb was roped and we began to pull on the limb to move the tree. Nothing.

What next?

The winch, of course! Thank goodness I have a hand winch. Off to the garage again.

The cable was too short to be of any value. Wait--the tow cable. Back to the garage.

We finally got the tow cable secured to the offending limb and hooked to the winch secured to a nearby unsuspecting tree and began to slowly pull the limb away to allow the tree to continue to fall.

Wait--another tree--a smaller one was now hanging up the entire process. The chainsaw made quick work of this obstacle and then it was back to the winch. We should have taken a picture of this incredible scene--a winch, a tow cable, a tree and a rope--but we didn't.

The three finally succumbed to the force of the winch and fell to the ground, whereupon, I began cutting it into firewood for next winter. Already seasoned, I love the smell of the wood as it is cut.

Success--I was totally drenched in sweat, but survived the project without major injury.

I am going to hire someone next time I need to fell a tree!

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Day Off and Rain Changed Activity

I am in the middle of a three day holiday (stay-cation) to celebrate the end of summer and complete some projects around the house.

And it is raining. Really! Wet.

Although I love rain, it makes working outside problematic, especially when one of the projects I had planned on accomplishing was dropping a dead tree. The rain just makes that a bit tougher.

OK-- really dangerous.

So the tree will wait. Until tomorrow!

Yesterday the garage was cleaned--thoroughly. Until I put the lawn tractor back inside we actually could have put two cars into the two-car garage. Miraculously.

The truck is fully loaded for a trip to the dump.

I fear the rain has moved cleaning the attic into the forefront of activities planned for the day. Ugh. I despise cleaning the attic--which is why in the almost 12 years we have lived here the attic has not been thoroughly cleaned. There are boxes there untouched by human hands for a dozen years. The next time they are opened will be when they are tossed into the dumpster at the dump.

Flexibility is the key to fun and the successful completion of projects.

Rain is just an opportunity to find new ways to get things done.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Monday, August 13, 2012

Monday Musings - August 13, 2012

1. Olympics completed. Medals won. The world shrunk a bit for a few short weeks.

2. Completion. That is the exclamation point on the deck project with the final screw being driven into the final piece of wood.

3. Politics heats up as we head into the convention season. Less than three months to go.

4. Mars--the Red Planet seems closer again as Curiosity begins its mission. I know that Bugs Bunny's nemesis Marvin the Martian is hiding there somewhere.

5. I am taking a few days off this week to complete those summertime projects that haven't been completed yet.

6. Check out the Orioles--they are still in the play off race and it is heading into mid-August. Ya gotta believe!

7.  Olympics highlights--Michael Phelps, USA Women kicking the world's butt, USA Men's and Women's Basketball, Women's Soccer, Men's Platform Diving, Men's and Women's Swimming. Wow!

8. In 3114 BC, the Mayan calendar started on this date.

9. In 1940, The Battle of Britain begins on this date. I wonder if the Olympics ended yesterday because of this historical remembrance.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Olympic Thoughts--The End is Here

The U.S. is pulling away in the medal take at the Olympics and even has more gold medals than China.

I watched some of the Men's 10 m Platform Diving--which ended with a surprise Gold Medal for an American. Think about it--10 m platform diving is like jumping off a three-story building. I think I am too sane to even try that one. I dove off a 3 m springboard once and thought I was going to die after crashing into the water.

And then there were the track and field events. I had hope that with three Americans in the field that we would get at least one medal on the 5,000 m race. But no. It wasn't to be.

Sadly, the U.S. women--who seem set on conquering the world, settled for silver in volleyball. The men never even made it that far.

The nice thing about the Olympics--there always seemed to be something on tother than the nonsense of the regular TV programming. I mean, how many episodes of some program on HGTV can one person really watch?

We tried to find a movie to watch last evening--with over hundreds of channels we felt lucky to find Moneyball playing on one channel for some evening entertainment as the thunderstorm rained down upon us.

At least the Olympics are entertaining. And they can be mind expanding by watching events that we never even knew were in the Olympics-like mountain bike riding.

As the games close today, we will be forced to choose from the usual mind numbing shows to watch on TV again. Ugh!

Just when you think it can't get worse-it finds a way.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Saturday, August 11, 2012

A Running Mate for Romney - Yawn

I am sitting in front of the TV, taking a break from the Olympics to focus on something important--the Presidential sweepstakes.

The pundits are gearing up for the stretch run and the Republican candidate is announcing his running mate. The scene is splashed with flags and red, white, and blue bunting. Imaginary excitement, it seems. Whipping the crowd into a political frenzy by touting the record of failures--but never spouting a vision for the future.

I wish the campaign would change into one focused on defining the future in terms other than one candidate is better than the other guy.

So, while I'm watching and listening to the candidate bashing, I wonder what is in store for the winner of the election the day after inauguration? It is like too many marriages--all of the effort is put into the wedding day and none into the day, weeks, and months after that fantastic day.

We need a President who has a vision for the four years after inauguration day.

And so, I wait. And while I listen to the bashing and the blustering, I yawn and wonder . . .

is there any substance to either of the leading candidates, one of whom is our President? Will there be any positive action as a result of the words?

I hope so, because one of them will be leading our great nation come January 2013.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Friday, August 10, 2012

Anniversary Number 37

Last evening--it was off to Yellowfin, near Annapolis, for a celebratory dinner.
Looking out the Window of Yellow Fin

Thirty-seven years ago at the tender age of 19, my high school sweetheart and I were married. Really. And it has been an adventure ever since.

It is fun, once a year to reflect on life together because we spend so much time living day-to-day that we often don't have the time to think about where we've been--only where we are going.

Sitting at the restaurant, looking out at the water and the boats as the sun was setting behind a cloud was a great place to reflect on where we've been and plan for the future. You can almost make out the roses in the vase in the corner--I put them in the image intentionally--but now am not so sure it worked.

Every couple needs time to reflect, away from the hassles of life in a spot isolated from iPads and iPhones. Last evening was ours.

Happy Anniversary. It has been 37 years to the same person. Cool. Sometime when asked I remark that I have been married too long, but in reality it has passed so quickly that the time seems too short. I guess it is easier when you are married to your best friend.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Thursday, August 9, 2012

All in a Day's Work

Some days are unique just due to  diversity of the activities involved.

Yesterday was no exception.

Weirdly, I went to work for the morning, then off to the dentist, followed by the allergist for one of my twice weekly shots, and the reconnected the Wii for Ethan to play some games followed by more work on the stair railings on the deck--which, are all but complete, finally.

The balusters are all in place and I am doing some final work on the rail and topping for the railings--but it is so close to being done that I am about to say, finally, the project started during the first weekend of June is done.
Bird Sweeps-up

For an encore, it was off to see the now nine games over 500 Orioles sweep the Seattle Mariners, 9-2. It was a hot and muggy evening. Very close, I would describe it. Except for the score. I do enjoy seeing the Oriole Bird with a broom sweeping away the competition.

Muggy is an interesting word. It is of Scandinavian origin it turns out.  Who knew?

Being at Camden Yards last evening was great. The crowd was small but, about 17,000, but it was all Orioles fans and were definitely into the game. Chris and I visited Boog's Barbecue and Boog Powell himself was there signing autographs. I like seeing the great former Orioles first baseman as it reminds me of the great history that the team has, and especially the 1966 World Series sweep of the Dodgers. Maybe lightening will strike like that this year.

After the game, yes, I stayed until the last pitch was thrown, it was back home and into bed a bit past my bedtime, but at the end of an activity packed day. I sure am glad that every day is not like yesterday, but then, I am glad that some of them are!

--Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Football? Hall of Fame?

For the first time in many years, the NFL Football Hall of Fame game came and went with almost nothing louder than a whimper. It was played last Sunday! Another meaningless pre-season game marking the beginning of the NFL campaign.

Although a number of great football players were inducted into the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, we heard almost nothing about the ceremony this year.

The news coverage was drowned out by the playoff inspiring Orioles here in Baltimore.

Yeah--the Ravens, the Steelers, the Redskins and the other 29 teams in the NFL are in training camp and the NFL season opener is less than a month away.

But we are in a play off race for the first time in 14 or more years.  It's BASEBALL, baby!

The O's have a winning record and have their sights set on the evil empire, the NY Yankees, who currently sit atop the AL East. There are 52 games left and it is on, again.

Football can wait--we are extending summer this year! I even have visions of October baseball and trying to get tickets to sold out Orioles games at inflated (rather than reduced) prices.

For the first time in years, we have a contender on the diamond. And i am heading out to the ball park tonight to cheer on the Boys of Summer!

--Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Standing in the Throng

It happened Sunday. I was in church part of the gathered congregation singing an especially great praise song. It was dark, the band was leading and it seemed that everyone around me was singing joyously. I suddenly got lost in a vision.

I understood, just for a brief moment, these verses in Revelations Chapter 7:

7:9 After these things I looked, and here was an enormous crowd that no one could count, made up of persons from every nation, tribe, people, and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb dressed in long white robes, and with palm branches in their hands. 7:10 They were shouting out in a loudvoice,

“Salvation belongs to our God, to the one seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!” - NET Bible

I was part of the great multitude singing, no we were shouting, to God seated on His throne. I could hear my small voice joining with thousands of others in choruses of praise. And I never tired of singing songs of praise. For a moment, I think I had a vision of heaven.

I realized that I never tire of singing praise songs.

But it was standing in the middle of a great congregation on Sunday that reminded me that I am journeying here. It is not my home.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Monday, August 6, 2012

Monday Musings - August 6, 2012

1. The first week of August is nearly gone and I am still thinking it is July. It is hard to let go of a great month.

2. I think I'll buy something from Chick-fil A today--just because. Did that whole political outcry backfire, or what?

3. Do we like Michael Phelps more because he is from Baltimore? Perhaps. The most decorated Olympian of all time--not a bad signature block.

4. Well it is off to work again. Balancing work and life is one of the most difficult things that I do. Sometimes I spend too much time at work, but at other times, I want to spend too much time at home.

5. Watching the Olympics events, I continue to marvel at the dedication of the athletes. The sacrifices they make to become the best in the world are incredible.

6. Weird events in history--on this day in 1967, the Orioles Brooks Robinson hit into a record 4th triple play.

7. When we hit our lowest point we are open to the greatest challenge. Aang

8. Mars--the red planet continues to intrigue. NASA and the US is there again. Way to go for Curiosity and a safe landing. Now, let's find those pesky Martians!

9. Is where we grew up the same as where we are from?

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Heat, Sweat, and Saturday

It was hot and humid yesterday. Almost too hot for working around outside--but that is exactly what I did. I mean, I am the crazy that vacations in Florida during the summer.

The stairs on the deck are still screaming to be finished--so I worked on them. Chris power washed the exterior of the house to remove the built up grime that just is a part of life.

She at least had the cooler job although she did have to play like a monkey on the ladder.

The rails for the stairs are not yet done. It was slow, tedious work requiring lots of measurements and cutting. I used both my table saw (Shop Smith), my compound mitre, and my jig saw to at various times during the day to fit in the pieces.
Stairs Near Completion

We also discovered that one of our hoses needs replacing as do the connectors on the others. It made hooking them together quite an experience.

The house looks good and the stairs are getting closer. I even have one baluster installed--just to see how it looks and how the final project will come together.

This project certainly has dragged on for over two months.  But, I guess when vacations, surgery, and other activities are considered, at least we are still making progress. I just want to be able to say that it is finally done though.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Olympics Reflection - Near the Mid-point

They are everywhere it seems, the Olympians, the news, the papers, even the social pages. We were out to dinner in Fells Point last evening and the people in the restaurant were asking about how often Michael Phelps visits.

He lives nearby.

I was watching a ping pong match on TV. Why? Just because it was on and there was an American playing. Poorly.

It is nice to see and hear so many people interested in the team representing our country on the world stage. I was even happy to see that the US Team medal count finally crept in front of China--both in terms of total medals and gold medals.

So far, it has been a pretty much a swimming show--but we are transitioning into the track and field part of the Olympics.

But the swimmers have been fantastic.

Why aren't baseball or racquetball Olympic sports?

Who knows. But then neither are cricket or squash. But handball? Rugby? They are. And most Americans don't even know what handball is. And it is not two people in a court whacking at a ball with their hands, either.

I could complain about the TV coverage--but why? It is what it is. We live in a world run not by politics, but by corporations.

So--press on American Team. There are a lot of events yet to be played out. Do your best and make those of us back home proud.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Friday, August 3, 2012

Prince Michel Vineyard - Review

Wine on the Vine at Prince Michel
Although not actually placed on one of the Monticello Wine Trails, Prince Michel Vineyard and Winery sits at the northern gateway to the region right astride Route 29, the main north-south road into Charlottesville. I always find that as I am traveling into the wine region that this winery is definitely worth a stop--if not just to get into the mood for the day's activities.

The winery is well marked--I believe the first sign is about 8 miles form the entrance, but it comes up very quickly. Don't panic though if you miss the first driveway, there is a second on just past the building and at the bottom of a small road.

As always, check the website for current hours, but one advantage for this winery is that it opens at 10 am on Saturdays and Sundays, making it one of the early openers in the area. This means that driving from the Baltimore area, I am usually driving by the winery right as it opens.

The self guided tour of the wine making process is well planned and allows a nice behind the scenes view of the process. The wine tasting area is large and also contains a large assortment of wine related items which can be purchased.

The wines are good. I found the whites to be the best. Especially noteworthy was the 2009 Chardonnay, which I thought was an especially good value.

Enjoy Prince Michel. Stop and get a day of wine tasting started.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Thursday, August 2, 2012

White Hall Vineyard - Review

Along the Monticello Wine Trail, one of the vineyards we visited was White Hall Vineyard. The winery is on the Northern Monticello Trail and a bit of a drive (OK, maybe 15 minutes) to get there but we were rewarded with some very drinkable wines and a generally good time at a very nice facility.
White Hall Vineyard Tasting Room

The whites are very nice, I especially enjoyed the German-style wines like Gew├╝rztraminer, Petit Manseng, and Chardonnay. They also had a nice Bordeaux blend, Cuvee de Champs, which was very enjoyable. I found the remainder of their extensive red wine offerings to be somewhat light and thin. I found the 2010 Pinot Gris and the 2010 Viognier to be good, but not exceptional as compared to other wineries in the region.

The facility is really enjoyable and on the Saturday we visited there was live music to accompany the tasting the wines.

The wine tasting area in in the middle of a large, nicely sized, modern building which serves create an enjoyable atmosphere for wine tasting. The server was knowledgeable of the wines and the grapes form which they were made or blended.

The overall experience was pleasant and I recommend this winery as a stop on a Monticello Wine Trail tasting day.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Next Ban Churches--The Chick-fil A Controversy Continues

I am stunned by the insensitivity and the ignorance of so many political leaders. I believe the current vilification of Dan Cathy and his successful Chick-fil A corporation for saying what he believes demonstrates the true level of threat to civil liberties in America today.

What he said according to the Washington Times:

The current hysteria began after Mr. Cathy, son of the chain’s founder, gave an interview that ran in the Baptist Press on July 16. Mr. Cathynoted that Chick-fil-A’s management is “based on biblical principles, asking God and pleading with God to give us wisdom on decisions we make about people and the programs and partnerships we have. And He has blessed us.” When asked about the company’s positions in support of marriage and family, Mr. Cathy went on to say, “Well, guilty as charged. We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit.”

He never said anything overt about gay marriage as the hysteria (I like that word) would have us believe. He made statements that many Americans relate to and believe.

Now it is a crime to say these First Amendment protected things?

The response (also from the Washington Times)

Acting more like Benito Mussolini than Paul Revere, Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino said he will block Chick-fil-A from opening a restaurant in his city. Chicago Alderman Proco Joe Moreno said he will stop Chick-fil-A from building its second Chicago store. In Philadelphia, Councilman James F. Kenney sent a letter to Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy advising his company to “take a hike and take your intolerance with you.” Meanwhile, the Jim Henson Co., owner of the Muppets, has canceled a deal to provide toys for Chick-fil-A kids’ meals. This is just the beginning.

Even more concerning is what the former White House Chief of Staff, now Mayor of Chicago said as quoted in the Washington Times:

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel took exception: “What the COO has said as it relates to gay marriage and gay couples is not what I believe. But more importantly, it’s not what the people of the city of Chicago believe.”

Hmm.  So, Mr Emanuel, do you propose to ban churches next? I guess it is good to have free speech rights as long as they don't disagree with the Mayor's.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

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