Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Changing Season

With the passing of the hurricane, the weather took a turn for the colder with temperatures last evening. As the thermometer cruised down past 40, we decided to enjoy our first fire of the season.
Riordin Enjoying the Fire

Seems that we were not the only ones to enjoy that first fire in the fireplace.

Riordin was also seeking heat as the temperatures got cooler. We try to balance the BGE electric bill against comfort and warmth--it seem the cat likes the warmth part a bit more.

It is amazing how even the idea of a roaring fire makes a room warmer.

And it really was warmer.

After being in the house for the better part of the past two days, enjoying a glass of wine in front of a warm fire as nighttime fell too early was just the ticket. And I did find a great wine to enjoy too--a 2010 Keswick Cabernet Franc which was sultry and sensuous.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Frankenstorm: Before and After

Well, we escaped the worst of the storm.
Before Hurricane Sandy

I am watching the TV this morning as the news broadcasters explore the destruction from Hurricane Sandy up and down the coast. I grieve for the people of New Jersey and elsewhere who have lost so much during the storm.

My assessment is that aside from the usual branches and leaves, we are unscathed.  Well, I do have the leaky roof but that is something I can begin to handle once the rain stops.

None of our trees came down--thankfully. I still have plenty lying around to turn  into firewood.

It is, as of this hour, still raining. Not hard but constant.
After Hurricane Sandy

It is a good day to stay home and hunker down.

I took before and after images which I am sharing. At least the wind moved the leaves into easy to remove piles-except that they are drenched!

I note that the leaves are now mostly off the trees--that will make my decision not to rake the leaves before the storm seem a bit more insightful. I kinda figured the trees would be stripped of most of the remaining leaves after the winds and rain.

So now the clean-up begins.

And tomorrow it is back to work.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Frankenstorm Passes

We are still here and have apparently survived Hurricane Sandy.

So far we have retained our electricity and although it is still early and hard to tell, the damage to our immediate area seems minimal.

We survived a roof leak which saw me racing to Home Depot to get roof repair goop during the height of the storm and then up onto the roof in a driving rain, assisted by the collected family to try to stem the water which was running down along a wall.  I was mostly successful--a more permanent repair will be attempted when it gets drier.

Thank you for all of your concerns and prayers..

More updates will follow after dawn breaks.

My thoughts and prayers are with those who have lost power and have sustained damage.

Now the recovery begins!

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Monday, October 29, 2012

Monday Musings - October 29, 2012

1. Hurricane Sandy, aka Franken-storm, is upon us and canceling activities throughout the region. The devastation this storm can cause is only beginning to be realized.

2. I was happy that the Ravens had the weekend off from football. I needed the break while the World Series being won. Congratulations to the San Francisco Giants who swept the Tigers who swept the Yankees who stumbled by the O's.

3. I was amazed at how the area schools and offices respected the weather and decided to close and allow people to remain home to tend to their families.  Way to go U.S. OPM!

4. Today is the anniversary of the 1929 stock market crash. Have we done any better since then?

5. With the NHL season on ice--what am I going to do for my mid-week sports fix now that the World Series is over?

6. Did you hear the joke about the election next week? Neither did I.

7. If you are planning to travel during the next two days--change your plans.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Ask the Right Question

I drove through a neighborhood yesterday and spied a sign in front of a church. This one was brighter than most--aided by modern electronics and animation to ensure that I saw their message.

Think about it--one visible sign posted along a roadside to state in a fleeting moment the most important thing about the church/congregation.

And what was this most important question:

"Where will you spend eternity?"

Really? That is the best that they can do for an area full of people who aren't even sure how they are going to get through this afternoon or tomorrow? To a people with problems and pain that is the best that the church can do?

I hope not.

In order to get people to worry about eternity they need to help them through this afternoon. That sign seemed so bible thumping to me. So out of touch with the condition of the country and what is happening right around the corner.

Even worse--many people driving by the sign have no concept of eternity--they need to be taught.

But before that, someone needs to ask:

How was your day?
Do you need to talk?
Do you need a friend?

Before asking people about spending eternity somewhere like it is a vacation spot, we need to find out what we need to do to help them even consider the possibility that eternity exists.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Franken-storm Cometh

The east coast is abuzz with talk of and preparations for Hurricane/Tropical Storm Sandy. It has become all consuming--even here at home where took a few hours of leave yesterday to begin storm preparations.
Storm Proofed Back Deck Area

We have many plants and chairs and cushions along with assorted patio related items that needed to be secured. The task was to get everything out of the open areas and secured. Including off the porch.

The pool house has become a temporary greenhouse (although dark) to hide the plants that normally adorn the exterior of the house.

I enjoyed all of the leaves that had fallen and I hope that having the leaves mostly off the trees will reduce the numbers of fallen trees and branches which create havoc when they crash through power lines, roads, and houses.
The Pool House Becomes a Green House

The news media is everywhere ensuring that people are aware of the impending storm. That is a good thing.

Schools are preparing for contingencies.

People are panicking. Others are making preparations for the impending mayhem.
Makayla Keeping a Watchful Eye on Storm Preparations

Makayla, however, is just taking it all in. She parked herself on the pool cover and just kept a watchful eye on my comings and goings as I worked to move stuff around.

Sometimes, I wish I were a dog.

Then I could lay on the pool cover among the leaves and just relax while the world around me is working feverishly to prepare for a huge storm.

Well--although the storm is named Sandy--it is really a Franken-storm because is stands to destroy Halloween.

But, more on that another day.

I think I'm going to join Makayla on the pool cover.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Friday, October 26, 2012

Foreign Policy Question

Is having a coherent foreign policy important?  Seems to me that it must not be that important after watching the debacle of a debate the other night.

One candidate for president obviously doesn't believe in a coherent foreign policy because he has not implemented one and his challenger wanted to talk about domestic issues instead.

Why is foreign policy so important?  It is because the world is so small.

An inconsistent foreign policy means that our friends and foes alike cannot trust us.

Who really knows what are are doing. Even we don't it seems.

When presidential candidates are discussing foreign policy and someone is getting a tutorial about bayonets and horses and aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines--we have a problem. America has a problem.

Foreign policy is important and sometimes I feel like it is the second fiddle to everything else, like domestic policy and one up man-ship.

Maybe I care more than many people.

Maybe we need to really examine what the U.S. is about and make a reasoned decision.

All I know is that neither candidate made definitive foreign policy statements, but they sniped at each other like high schoolers without eliciting a meaningful, coherent policy.

Is there another candidate in the race?

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Argo - Review

What a great ride! The movie had everything--suspense, villains, a "you gotta be kidding me" plan, unlikely heroes, and a storybook happy ending. Best of all--much of it was true.

Argo is the dramatization of the 1980 joint CIA-Canadian secret operation to extract six fugitive American diplomatic personnel out of revolutionary Iran. Although I knew and remembered the outcome--the movie had be doubting my history as it went along. It was such a long time ago, 1979, and not much had been written about the operation in the intervening years so it was all new territory for me to appreciate.

The lead character, Tony Mendez, played by Ben Affleck, is a CIA operative who becomes involved in trying to exfiltrate six Americans who escaped from the Tehran Embassy as it was being overthrown by revolutionaries. The film brings in scenes from the 70's and recreates them with amazing detail while also having real news reports playing. I was amazed at the young Tom Brokaw in the background of one scene.

The plan, developed by Mendez is as improbable as anything I can think of. It was just that improbability that caused the plan to succeed. The actors surrounding Affleck did great jobs with their roles and I believe that John Goodman, who plays Academy Award winning make-up artist John Chambers, may be nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar. Alan Arkin gives a memorable performance as movie producer Lester Siegel.

I cannot vouch for the historical accuracy of the details of the movie, as I am only beginning my research; but, the movie is well worth the effort to see. I do know, from some of the articles that I have read, that the movie severely minimizes the role of the Canadians who at the time received all of the credit (or blame, from the Iranians). I believe the truth lies in between and that this operation may have been one of those bilateral success stories that happen only so infrequently. There is an article written by Anthony Mendez in The Daily Beast which does serve to provide some historical context for the movie.

RECOMMENDATION: See this movie. This movie is not suitable for the under 13 year old crowd as one obscene word is used fairly frequently.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Fire in the Sky--An Image for my Memory

I was rolling out of the club last evening after another disappointing racquetball outing and noticed the picture perfect sky above me.

The clouds were painted red with the setting sun--yes it is setting far too early, reflecting down to the ground and making me pause, for a moment, to consider the view. I wish I were a painter. I would love to capture the scene as it resides in my mind.

I thought for a moment about snapping an image on my phone--but I knew that with all of the built-in automated light correction algorithms that the image would be a sad representation of the view I was experiencing.

Sometimes, it is better to keep the images of life in our minds rather than trying to capture them digitally.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Ghost Bridge - Governor's Bridge Road, Maryland

Saturday, I was introduced to a Ghost Bridge--or Crybaby Bridge in Maryland.
Governor's Bridge Road Truss Bridge, Maryland

According to Wikipedia: On Governor's Bridge Road, in Bowie, Maryland, is a late 19th/early 20th century steel truss bridge; legend states that a woman and her baby were murdered in the 1930s. It is also said that in the early 20th century, a young woman was impregnated, but not married. In order to avoid judgement by family and peers, she drowned her baby in the river. Purportedly, if one parks one's car at or near this bridge, a baby can be heard crying; sometimes a ghost car will creep up from behind, but disappear when the driver or passenger turns around to see it.

We did not either hear the baby or see the ghost car while we explored the bridge--which is in need of some immediate repair. I discovered a lot of rusted and some broken metal while walking under the bridge. The bridge is a narrow, one lane bridge and fortunately, there was not a lot of traffic on the day we visited.

The view of the muddy water was actually very pretty for the autumn day. And the area is very remote--if that ids possible for this portion of Maryland.

There is a pull off for parking while people explore the bridge, but I did not see a sign to explain the ghostly nature of the area.

Standing along the rail, I could almost imagine diving off into the water on a hot, sunny, summer day as I am sure hundreds of boys have done during the many years the bridge has been spanning the river.
Visiting Governor's Bridge Road Truss Bridge

On Saturday, though, that was the farthest thing form the minds of the intrepid travelers with whom I visited the span.

And we listened for the sound of crying babies.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Monday, October 22, 2012

Monday Musings - October 22, 2012

1. Autumn has a way of endearing itself to me--but it is so short a visit.

2. The piles of leaves are coming.

3. I saw the movie Argo. Wow, what a ride. A piece of nearly forgotten history brought back to life. Go Canada!

4. I am amazed at how many things have happened during my life--many of which I don't remember until reminded. And now many of them are considered history.

5. Now that baseball is effectively over--I guess Sundays will have to be devoted to just football for a while since the NHL can't seem to solve its problems.

6. I enjoyed a nice evening in Annapolis on Friday. Sitting along the harbor, watching the boats come and go. Conflicted because at the same time I both wanted and didn't want a boat. How funny is that?

7. Who knew that there were Ghost Bridges in Maryland?

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Colors of Autumn

I had the opportunity to spend much of yesterday outside enjoying a spectacular weekend of warm temperatures and brightly adorned trees.

From the Soccer Field in Odenton, MD

I snapped a couple of quick images with my phone to help record the autumn beauty. It was great to enjoy the spectacular display of leaves before they fall from the trees and become a problem.

I was especially enjoying the reds mixed among the yellows and oranges.

The colors in the trees made me a bit sad because I  know that this is that last gasp before the bare branches appear in preparation of the cold and snow of winter.
Y Worry Pumpkin Patch and Christmas Tree Farm
Davidsonville, MD

We also checked out a pumpkin farm. What a spectacular scene--the blue sky, the orange pumpkins in the cleared fields--stunning!

I probably could have done better with a picture, but it captures the day pretty well. A classic autumn day--one that people remember when they think of why they love autumn so much.

Pumpkin patches are an October and autumn classic. The children just love running from pumpkin to pumpkin trying to find that perfect candidate for carving into a scary jack-o-lantern.

House in Autumn Color in Odenton, MD
While we were out and about, I snapped a picture of one house, across from the soccer fields, that just made a good picture of the day. I was impressed by the clear sky and mixed colors of the leaves.

It was truly an autumn day to remember.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Wicked at the Hippodrome - Review

I attended the Broadway Across America musical Wicked at the Hippodrome Theater in Baltimore on Thursday evening.

I admit that I am not a huge fan of the Hippodrome. I find the seats small and close. And unlike attending a ballgame, it is impossible to get up and head out to the restroom and concession except at intermission. And anyone who has tried to do both--restroom and concession, during intermission at a theater knows that it is practically impossible to accomplish both tasks.

That written, I found the musical to be a very enjoyable and it provided for an entertaining event. The music is complex and the songs are difficult to appreciate because I could not identify a compelling melody. I would have loved to come away with a melody that I could sing to remind me of the magical time in the theater, but the show is sadly lacking in this area. Even Cats, a show which I do not appreciate at all, had that one signature song: Memory.

For those who don't know, the show is about the witches of Oz--Glinda (the Good) and Elphaba (the Wicked Witch of the West). The show, set in Oz (as one might expect) documents the relationship between the to girls who were, believe it or not, friends. I enjoyed the interpretation of the motives for each choosing their course and in finding that sometimes being good is can be bad and being wicked can really be an instrument for good.

The scenery, sets, and costumes were excellent and visually stimulating. The acting was superb. I especially enjoyed Jeanna De Waal who played Glinda and Christine Dwyer who played Elphaba. The show hinges upon their performances--and they did not disappoint. Their voices are clear and strong--and that is critical because of the number of duets they sing. Of the two, I felt Christine had the stronger voice and most enjoyable. She easily filled the theater, when the score called for her to do so.

Not wanting the give away the plot, I will only comment upon the storyline in general terms. Being a huge Wizard of Oz fan, I enjoyed the synchronization of the story lines which I found complimentary and worked well together. Wicked is, in a sense, the backstory for the Wizard of Oz. But it is more than that, too.

RECOMMENDATION: See the play. It is worth it. Enjoy the experience.

--  Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Friday, October 19, 2012

Debates and Elections

Do debate winners make good Presidents?

I wonder.

Do we even know who really won the debates? I have read leading writers claim that both of the leading candidates won the most recent debate.

Perhaps it is considered a win if no one clearly loses. In my book though, it is a tie.

So I am left wondering--do good debaters make good Presidents?

History might say no.

Winning a debate alone is not a good indicator of Presidential characteristics. That written, in the classic sense, the Presidential Debates really aren't debates at all--but more like a free-for-all discussion of the hot button issues designed to sway voters.

Even the facts presented during the proceedings, aren't.

The plans presented to accomplish this or that, really aren't. Presidents don't propose bills--Congress does.

How will the future President work with a hostile Congress to get the business of the country accomplished? That is really the true question that needs to be answered during a debate. And recent history shows that even a Congress controlled by the same political party as the President, may be hostile!

Bi-partisianship! I would love to hear that word spoken more. I would desire that our elected officials put aside their personal goals and focus on running the country--together and not over the cold, dead bodies of their opponents. Partisan politics is out of control and it is fueled by special interest groups which have a singular focus with no respect for the larger issues.

Whomever I vote for in a couple weeks is going to need to show me that they have a vision for America which is both inclusive and bipartisan.

Oops! I don't think that candidate is running.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Out the Hotel Window - Huntsville, AL, October 2012

The colors of autumn were clearly visible as I opened the blinds yesterday morning to snap the image out the window.
Out the Hampton Inn window
October, 17, 2012

The dawn golden sun highlighted the reds and yellows already adorning the trees outside my room.

In recent memory, this was one of the most colorful views out the hotel window from my room.

I remember that I was surprised as the airplane was landing at the progression that autumn has already made into the area. I think the Baltimore region is behind even Alabama in that respect.

I have been to Huntsville before, although not for a few years now. I am always fascinated at how pretty the area is. I guess I have some other mental image of Alabama--along a muddy river with thousands of mosquitoes swarming to carry me off or something.

But it is not like that at all.

This trip was not without its challenges. I forgot my razor. I never forget my razor--but alas, not I can no longer say that. At least the hotel desk had one and the nice lady smiled at me as I sheepishly went down to retrieve one of their disposables.

Despite forgetting the razor, it looked as if it was going to be another beautiful day. Amazing how a bright and cheery dawn can set the tone for a day.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Out the Airplane Window - October 2012

I flew from Baltimore to Huntsville yesterday. It was a beautiful day flying along the mountains on the first leg from Baltimore to Atlanta and the scene just caught my eye.
Airborne over The Carolinas
October 16, 2012

Sadly, the camera doesn't do it justice with the mountains rising from the valley floor to meet the sky--but it helps that I have it fully processed in my head.

I just found the scenery stunning--green and alive. I think I have been traveling to Denver too often and am numb to the scenery along that journey which is essentially flat. Although sometimes I enjoy the Great Lakes off in the distance.

Yesterday, though, the mountains rising up from the broad valley floors were just inspiring to look at and to enjoy.

Thankfully the flights were both smooth and short because I get to make the return trip today.

-- Bob Doan, writing from Huntsville, AL

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Fine Wine, Great Steak, equals Awesome Dinner

The other evening Chris and I considered going out to dinner--but then decided to buy two thick Angus steaks, do up some potatoes and crack open a special bottle of wine at home rather than paying incredible prices for something we can do at home in the dining room by candle light without the chaos and cost.

The wine we decided on was a special wine--1996 Henschke Mt Edelstone Shiraz from the Eden Valley in Australia--which is a Barossa Valley appellation. I have had this bottle since about 1999 and I knew it had been properly cared for and should be stunning. I was a bit afraid that it would be corked, since the last two reviews that I had read about the wine indicated that the wine was corked--but this bottle was not only not corked--it was awesome. I was amazed at how a wine right at its peak of maturity provides mature and smoothly integrated flavors.

The steaks were done on the grill over low hear after searing to seal in the juices. They were done to perfection, I took them off at 130 degrees (medium-rare) and they were the hit of the meal blending perfectly with the wine.

Fine meals--wine and food, are so expensive when prepared by restaurants. That bottle of wine would have been untouchable price wise when eating out. But I remember how much I paid for it, in Australian dollars, during one of my trips and while it was a very affordable, it was one of the most expensive wines I had ever purchased back in 1999.

I was excited that it had aged so well and for over a decade in my possession. It was almost like parting with an old friend.

But it was well worth the wait. The dinner was perfect. The conversation intriguing and best of all--it was in our own dining room.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Monday, October 15, 2012

Monday Musings - October 15, 2012

1. Happy Birthday Chris. Wow. I don't feel as old as the calendar says we are. Seems like yesterday I was a jock on a high school football team beating Union Endicott 10-0 for her birthday present.

2. Baseball is summer. Period! When it ends, summer is over.

3. The pastor asked us to tell each other what we like about autumn in church. I said, "nothing." People laughed. I was serious!

4. Autumn precedes winter. Don't forget that. It tries to delude us with the colorful trees, but fundamentally the snow is coming. Ugh!

5. Baseball is day after day and not just once per week. That is why I like it.

6. Orioles!  Just think about it. Last year they were the 26th best team in the league. This year the 8th. Next year the World Series.

7. I have spent a lot of time these past few weeks thinking about cancer. It sucks. Survivors are heroes. Nuff said!

8. I wish we could elect a president who will fix the country, but I am afraid that will not happen.

9. Can you spell fifty-seven? Ugh! I can.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Baltimore Running Festival 2012

I attended, but did not participate in, yesterday's Baltimore Marathon and Running Festival. Personally, running for running sake and I never really got along. But I am impressed with those people who can run long distances without coughing up a lung.
Jeremy and Mike after the Half Marathon

Jeremy and Mike ran in the half-marathon and both completed it with really respectable sub 10 minute mile times. We were near the finish line outside Orioles Park to cheer them as then ran by--within sight of the finish line and they both looked really good running.
Baltimore Marathon October 13, 2012
Nine Mile Point

As we were waiting for their race to start we had the opportunity to see the world class runners pass the 9 mile marker about 40 minutes after the race began. They had significantly separated themselves from most of the other runners and were clearly in the lead.

These guys didn't even look tired.

The winner, from Kenya, finished the race in about 2 hours and 13 minutes.  We had a friend who ran the full marathon in just under 3 hours and 15 minutes--fast enough to qualify for the Boston Marathon. Congrats Kevin!

It was a beautiful day. The sky was clear and although very cool in the shade, the sun was warm and the humidity was low. A more perfect day for a run would be hard to imagine.

It was fun to be in the city and celebrate the joy of running and health, and pushing oneself to achieve difficult goals.

It was a celebration of life!

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Saturday, October 13, 2012

And so the Magical Baseball Orioles Season Ends

The Orioles lost to the Yankees in game five, the deciding game, of the American League Division Series (ALDS) last night.

Although it pains me to write it--congrats to the Yankees. I won't be cheering for you to win the series, but congrats anyway. I know the maligned Orioles from Baltimore stretched you in ways you never imagined possible. There was the home run or is it a foul ball home field call--but that's baseball.

Effectively, my baseball season is over. Yes, I will still cheer for the Giants. Personally, I hope the Yankees lose to Detroit, because my second favorite team is whoever is playing the Yankees.

I'm looking forward to the off season, and Spring Training, and the hope for next year.

One team had to lose--despite the best efforts of our school system to teach otherwise--one team wins and the other loses.

That's life. That's sports.

That is why we keep score.

Thank you to the Orioles. Each one of the, all season long. It was a lot of fun and it was downright exciting. The Orioles Magic is finally alive again.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Friday, October 12, 2012

Orioles Baseball Reflections--ALDS Finale Tonight

What a ride it has been with the Orioles this year.  The past two nights have had me staying up hours past my bedtime cheering for the team as they are locked in an epic struggle against the evil empire (Yankees). The teams are now tied 2-2 in a best of five series which ends tonight. They have played 25 innings of baseball over the past two nights--making me a very sleep deprived fan.

I am sure tonight will be dramatic. The best pitcher the Yankees have to offer will be on the mound against the "next man up" Orioles.

I like our chances.

I reread some of my blogs form March when I was headed off to Sarasota for Spring Training. The Orioles were expected to be terrible, but in my usual Spring Training mode, I believed that "it" could happen.

I am the eternal Spring optimist.

I go to Sarasota to get a feel for the team.

Here is what ESPN wrote before the season began:"Lefthanders Brian Matusz and Zach Britton make major strides before the team is crushed under the weight of a powerful division. For the sixth straight year, Baltimore fails to win 70 games, for the 15th straight year the team has a losing record. Yes, this is the best-case scenario."

Their best case scenario was, it turns out, a long way from reality. That is why the games have to be played.

The reality:
Entry Hall at Orioles Spring Training Facility

The Orioles won 93 games and made the playoffs for the first time in 15 years. They beat Texas (American League Champions for the past two years) in the one game Wild Card round. They have set up tonight's finale by playing the Yankees to a draw in the American League Division Series. All of these accomplishments are a long way from finishing with over 100 losses. I bought World Series tickets for the first time in my life and I believe that I may yet get a chance to use them to see the Orioles play for the crown of "best in baseball."

So win or lose tonight--the guys gave me and the other fans a season to remember. I hope they don't try to manage my expectations for next year. Because I know what goals I have in mind for this exciting baseball team.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Let's Talk Politics

How can you tell a politician is lying?  His/her lips are moving.

Sadly, it seems so true. We have become jaded by empty promises from office seeking people who will, it seems, do anything to win.

And then what? We are left wondering--what did I ever see in that person?

Who loses?

We all do when people without a clue get elected.

I always like to consider--can they make a decision? Do they surround themselves with people who will give them good advice--and will they take it? Can they evaluate competing views and choose the best one for the country? The news media seems to believe that consistency is the most important thing. Sadly though, the ways bills are written a seemingly good bill can be so loaded with pork that voting for it is just wrong. So really, it comes down to can they think, can they speak in full sentences, and can they make decisions under fire?

It is hard, as voters, to evaluate all of those complexities. And failing these items we become swayed by the manufactured facts and voting records fed to us by the campaigns and news media.

The real problem is that it is all so important. But often, there seems to be no right answer.

Maybe Mickey Mouse would be the best choice. At least I know the words to "It's a Small World" and I can never tell if Mickey's lips are moving.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Anti-ism wins: Protestants a Majority no Longer

The Associated Press reports that "For the first time in its history, the United States does not have a Protestant majority, according to a new study. One reason: The number of Americans with no religious affiliation is on the rise."  Rachel Zoll, an AP Religion Writer reported this in her article titled Report: US Protestants lose majority status.

Karl Marx wrote that "Religion is the opiate of the masses." I wonder what the lack of a widespread religious underpinning to our society bodes for the future?

The study suggests that the Americans who say they have no religion vote overwhelmingly for Democrats. I'm not sure what to make of this except that social policies offered by democrats may offer an alternative to religion. The aims are similar--take care of those around you through social programs. But the tax implications, as we have witnessed in European countries, are huge to pay for programs and that leads to bigger government and increasing inefficiency which creates more of a tax drain on society.

Despite the lure of social "do-goodism" though, the real issue is why are more and more Americans   choosing to avoid and reject the hope offered by religion?

Could it be because the message has become blurred by high visibility fanatical policies? Has protestantism become equated with an "anti-ism" approach to significant issues without providing an alternative? I can see it. In the name of religion we have witnessed Koran burning, gay-bashing, violent anti-abortionist activities, and in-your-face "I'm right and you're going to hell" mentalities which, frankly, turn me off.

It seems, aided by the sensationalism of the news media, that protestants are anti everything. It is obfuscating the message of eternal hope and the love of God. The efforts of the majority are being overshadowed by the radical few. And now, the numbers reflect that.

We need to be less damming and more affirming and forgiving. 

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

On an Damp and Cold Night

The night was cold. The crowd was loud. The game was on the line.
Orioles Park - October 8, 2012

The city seemed united behind a bunch of baseball players locked in a struggle between the rebel alliance and the evil empire.

I looked at the clock as the game ended--it was 11:59 PM on October 8, 2012.

The upstart Orioles pulled even with the Yankee juggernaut in the best of five elimination series.

But they had help.

48,000 fans were louder than I have ever heard them. I was listening to the cheers echo off the surrounding buildings during the pauses. Fans united, trying with their voices to help the team find a way to win.
Oriole Park - Post-season Baseball
October 8, 2012

And, in no small way it seemed that we did.

Nine innings of baseball with the crowd growing stronger with each pitch finally reaching a deafening roar as the last Yankee batter struck out to end the game.

Nothing could be sweeter for Orioles fans.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Monday, October 8, 2012

Orioles Baseball -- First Playoff Game in 15 Years

Last evening I attended the first home playoff MLB game is fifteen years at Camden Yards.

The stadium was alive. It was decked out for the game--spirits dampened only by the rain which delayed the start by two and a half hours. The crowd was alive and the team responded. Even with the rain and the delay--it was electric.

And I hope tonight will be more of the same.

That is the great thing about the baseball playoffs--they last for more than just one night/day; unlike the NFL.  When the season is 162 games long it is good that the playoffs are not a series of one-and-done affairs.

Go O's.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Monday Musings - October 8, 2012

1. Baseball is a 27 out game, unless tied. The Orioles were great for 24 outs yesterday. Unfortunately, the Yankees owned the last three outs.

2. Winning ugly is still a win.

3. Busy weekends pass so quickly. From Charlottesville in the morning, to Monticello, and then and Orioles game. Wow, what a day. Anyone want a holiday?

4. I am wondering if I am beginning to overload on baseball? Nah.

5. The colors of autumn are really beginning to invade the hills. We saw a windblown leaf storm this weekend.

6. Holiday mondays are a great way to recover form a busy weekend. Why are holiday's so busy, too?

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Wings Over Wine Country

One winery we visited yesterday was hosting the Wings Over Wine Country awareness for injured animals for the Wildlife Center of Virginia.

The organization brought along a few animals. including the screech owl in this picture.

This owl is missing one eye and the other is damaged rendering her effectively blind. They believe she may have been hit by a car or a train. he was found along railroad tracks near an intersection. Now she is a permanent ambassador to raise awareness for injured animals.

It is amazing what one finds while spending a great day sampling the fruits of the vine.

-- Bob Doan, Writing from Charlottesville, VA

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Out the Hotel Window - Charlottesvile, VA October 2012

The autumn colors are creeping into the afternoon sunlight illumined trees. The weather, although warm, is turning cooler with each passing night. The vineyards have harvested the grapes for the upcoming winemaking season and the preparation of the 2012 vintages are well underway.

It was an awesome day. I is a stop along a busy weekend that began last evening with the O's first playoff victory in over 15 years. Today was sampling wines at many of our favorite and one newly discovered vineyards.

Tomorrow a visit to Monticello and then home for a busy Sunday in the middle of a busy three day weekend.

It is becoming an annual event--doing something special on the first weekend in October. The weather is beautiful with the summer still close enough to remember and the autumn rain and chill still something that yet has not arrived.

But it will. Until then, enjoy life, drink wine, and love deeply.

-- Bob Doan, writing from Charlottesville, VA

Friday, October 5, 2012

Orioles Magic--Pushed to the Brink

One game play in. The October hunt is underway.

It sounds great, right up until it is game day and the entire post-season is on the line.

The team that few of the pundits believed in at the start of the season is one of 10 teams still standing and starting the post season today. Twenty other teams are sitting at home watching on their televisions.

The odds seem stacked against the Orioles:

An away game, in Texas who won 5 games against 2 losses this season against them. The O's are 1-2 in Arlington this season.

Starting a pitcher who is a clear candidate for Rookie of the Year honors (Yu Darvish,16-9 with a 3.90 ERA and 221 strikeouts in 191 1/3 innings)

Texas, who has a guy who hit four home-runs against them in a single game this season (Josh Hamilton)

Coming off the final series of the regular season after being held to 5 hits and 2 runs over the last 18 innings (2 games) and losing two of three to the Tampa Bay Rays to wind up on the road for the Wild Card game.

But it is the Orioles!

The team projected to lose possibly 120 games (they lost only 69 while winning 93).

The team that was in the toughest division in baseball with one of the smallest payrolls.

The team that set a new major league record for roster moves during a season.

The team with two players with more than 30 home runs, and five with more than 20 home runs.

I like our odds.

Take one scrappy team living the dream and play against a team that blew a 17 game lead in their division, put them together to see who advances on one night .

This is post season baseball and regardless of the outcome, Orioles Magic is back!

Like the first verse and chorus of the Orioles Magic song:

Something magic happens, everytime you go
You make the magic happen, the magic of Orioles’ Baseball!

When the game is close, and the O’s are hot
There’s a thundering roar from 34 to give it all they’ve got 

And you never know who’s gonna hear the call
Every game there’s a different star
That’s the magic of Orioles’ Baseball! 

Orioles Magic! Feel it happen!
Orioles Magic! Feel it happen! 

O - R - I - O - L - E - S ! 

Magic! Magic! Magic! Magic! 

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Life in the Friendly Skies

I reflected upon my recent traveling experience trying to remember the golden days of flying, when passenger comfort was what air travel was about instead of making a profit.

Yesterday, at times. I felt more like self-loading cargo, a term I remember pax (as we were called) being referred to when I was on active duty in the Air Force.
Looking at the 737 Being Readied to
Fly from Denver to Baltimore

Starting with the screenings before being allowed into the terminal, everything seems designed to remind us that we are the by-product of the system rather than the reason everyone there has a job. Oh, generally the people who work in the airport are nice and deferential--but I am convinced they believe that it would be a great place to work if there were no passengers.

Kind of like schools--a great place to work except for the students.

I remarked to another passenger that with all of the cost cutting measures (or cost increasing measures from a passenger perspective) soon we are not going to need to check our bags anymore. The will have us walk down the ramp and stow the bags in the cargo hold ourselves before going back up the ramp to our seats. And we will retrieve them after the flight. Oh yeah--they will still charge $25 per bag for the self-service option.

I have to chuckle at United's boarding sequence. I guess they have seven boarding groups. Somehow I was in group four yesterday. Turns out, I was the only person in boarding group four. And the plane was jammed. Many people went before me and most came after me, making me feel very conspicuous going through the gate.

Food on a flight? Fly first class or buy it. I remember when meal service was standard for all classes. Problem was that everyone complained about the food so they did away with it and now we can complain about not getting any.

I think the greatest thing that has happened in air travel is the permanent no smoking situation. I remember the days when the back  of the plane was blue with cigarette smoke. Getting stuck in the back was a sentence to a terrible trip--worse than sitting next to a screaming infant that pukes on nearby innocent passengers.

The next greatest thing in air travel will be allowing mobile devices to be used during take-offs and landings. The pilots are using iPads, why can't we? From a practical perspective it would save the airlines money because I wouldn't drag a book along with me to read during take-offs and landings. Since books have weight and fuel is used to fly weight--there would be some savings if most people decided not to bring additional reading material along.

So many stories and so little time.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Debate or Orioles?

Really--do you need to ask?

Tonight is the final baseball game of the regular season. It is also the first presidential debate.

The Orioles have played all season and a large number of things come down to tonight. Or tomorrow night. Or Friday night.

There are so many options and permutations.

The Presidential debate will not settle anything. Tonight's baseball game will settle a lot.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Out the Hotel Window - Denver, Oct 2012

Denver International Airport in the Distance
I did something different this time. I took the image during the late afternoon as the sun was setting behind me over the mountains and the white tops of the carnival tent looking terminal at Denver International Airport could be seen in the distance.

It was a pretty scene and I zoomed a bit on the airport terminal.

The sky was clear and the day was warm and inviting. The trees are beginning to change over from green and into their autumn colors. It was one of those season ending nice days that get etched into your memory.

I keep getting a room that does not face the mountains in this hotel. I like the mountains, but the prairie has its appeal as well. I like staying here because there is always a great view out of my hotel window.

-- Bob Doan, writing from Denver, CO

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Trouble with the Curve -- Review

Trouble with the Curve, although touted as a baseball movie, this movie will appeal to those who are not baseball fans. The movie is a story about the relationship between a father (Clint Eastwood) and a daughter (Amy Adams).

The father is baseball scout suffering from failing health and eyesight. The daughter is a high powered lawyer who is one the fast track in her law firm for partner. The baseball team is confronted with technology advocates and the scout refuses to use a computer. He evaluates talent on sight. There are some classic technology battles in this story--can a computer and statistics really tell you everything you need to know about a person or a team. The movie conflicts with the premise of the movie Money Ball, that in fact computers are better than eyes on scouting.

Add in a little love. A lot of past history and a bit of basebll and you have a good solid, yet predictable movie.

I enjoyed the movie and the character development. Clint Eastwood was masterful in the part and amy Adams played the conflicted daughter very well.

Recommendation: Go see this movie.

-- Bob Doan, writing from Denver, CO

Monday, October 1, 2012

Monday Musings - October 1, 2012

1. A storm swept through last evening with strong winds to churn the still green trees and which dropped the temperature about 15 degrees accompanied by some cold rains--the first cold rain of the coming season. I wonder if it was September saying good-bye?

2. Don't look now, but the team some pundits projected to lose 120 games, just made the MLB playoffs for the first time since 1997. Go O's.

3. I have to admit, for the first time in a long whole, I don't have a good idea of what happened around the world over the weekend--I have been kinda focused on a particular stadium in Baltimore.

4. I used my new smoker to smoke a chicken and some ribs yesterday--although I have some more tweaking to do, they came out all right. Practice makes perfect, so I expect there will be more smoking in my future.

5. Here's an interesting thought--on this day in 1908 the Ford Motor Company unveiled the Model T. I remember what Henry Ford reportedly said about customers--"If I had asked my customers what they wanted they would have said a faster horse."  Truth is, he probably never said that, but that is a discussion for another time.

6. A kick ball, three boys, and bases equal about an hour of fun.

7. What is the best time of the day? Morning of course, because at dawn the day is still full of hope and promise.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD
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