Thursday, January 31, 2013

Awake Before the Day

It happened again.

I was awake, but the clock indicated that I still had time to sleep.

I wanted to sleep--but I could not. My mind was on. Preparing for the day ahead.

Guilt. I will be tired tonight before my usual time. I will probably fall asleep in the chair watching some mindless offering on TV, or worse, during the commercial of the mindless offering.

TV is a sleeping pill for me, it seems. When I travel, I turn the TV on to put me to sleep in the bed that is not my own, on the pillow I just met moments before, in a room that I just walked into, in a city away from home. The only familiar thing are the mindless programs on the television.

But this morning I paused. Listening to the sounds of the sleeping house. Feeling the cat under the covers with his back against mine sharing my warmth. The even breathing of Chris next to me was reassuring. Yet, I grew more frustrated and awake because the clock continued to tell my that I had 20 minutes more of sleep.

Failing sleep, I got up and started the day.

I wonder how it will go.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Mid-Winter Respite

The temperature achieved 60-something yesterday breaking a two week long cold snap.

It was actually nice to walk outside and believe that springtime is as close as the daffodils that are poking through the ground.

The warmer temperatures reminded me that we do not have to continue suffering through the incredible cold, but there are places where it is warmer.

I want to more there.

I thought about putting the top down on Cat and driving around, but, alas, as I am recovering from a nasty cough that probably wouldn't have been the best idea of the day. And, it was only 63 or so degrees. Cat has a heater, though, I probably would have been warm. It is hard to believe that I have had Cat for three years.

Warmer days after a cold snap make me begin to think of the coming warmth. Springtime and pool opening.

With today's forecast of 66 degrees and rain, can springtime be far off?

Tomorrow though, it is back into the 40's.

I will enjoy today--even the rain because it is warm and not snowing.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Blending a Winning Wine

One of the events that Chris and I look forward to participating in every year is the Consensus Blending sponsored by Keswick Vineyards in Virginia. This past weekend marked the fourth time that we have made the trek to the vineyard to participate.
Keswick Barrel Room
Ready for Consensus Blending

The task is to create the best tasting wine from the young wines that the winemaker provides as raw material. The event was held over three weekends this year allowing for about 360 members of the wine club to participate. Divided into teams of six people each, which allows for about ten teams on each day of the weekend, the teams come up with their best wine and enter it into the judging to become the Consensus Wine which will be produced, bottled, and sold by the winery.
Chris, Sue, George, Peggy, and Mark
The Team 

We went to the winery with a complete team, ready for the blending. Chris and I, and Mark and Peggy are veterans, while George and Sue were the rookies. But, we have gone in previous years on our own and just joined a table when we arrived. It is a pretty laid back start to the day.

This year, Stephen, the winemaker at Keswick, provided two different cabernet sauvignons, a norton, and a syrah as the raw material for blending. Seated in the always too cold barrel room and after a few opening remarks, the blending begins. Stephen says that we are doing in two hours wine blending that takes him six months.

But it is not just blindly blending wine. Or drinking wine for that matter. Each of the prospective wines in the blend must be evaluated for their strengths and weaknesses. Then the team decides upon a strategy to put the wines together to create a complete blends that had a nice aroma, good color, and a full flavor in the mouth. The hazards are many. Out table, for instance, appreciated wine that is dryer, while the most salable wines in America are fruitier and not as dry. The winners will create a wine that others will like and buy not necessarily one that we will like or buy.

Through seven different blends of the wines, we collectively decided upon the blend that we thought was the best of the wines provided. It, coincidently, was the third blend we created, but we had been unable to improve it through subsequent iterations.

Once all of the tables blend and submit their entrants, there is a break for lunch after which the judging begins. Each wine is judged by every table. A couple of ringers are added for control purposes and although there were only 8 tables on Sunday, we judged eleven wines--three of them were the same. It provided insight into how tough it really is to judge wine.

Did we win the day? No. We were a very close third--only four one hundredths of a point out of second place. The wine that won the day then entered the next stage of the competition against the other five day winning wines to become the 2012 Keswick Consensus Blend based upon average score.

In the end the real winner was everyone who participated. The wine craft learning and insight that I get every year is more that worth the trip. But more than that, it is just fun to be in the barrel room with the winemaker talking wine and blending and getting insight into how award winning wines are produced.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Monday, January 28, 2013

Monday Musings - January 28, 2013

1. A measly half of a point separated the team I was on for the 2012 Consensus Blending at Keswick from the first place team. We finished four one hundredths of a point out of second.

2. Looking at a pastoral setting of fields, mountains, a dark sky and cows the remark was made that the cows were peppered across the landscape.  Really? Peppered? Nice thought thought--on a plate.

3. The weekend was bookended by bad weather--off early Friday and in late Monday. I still prefer summer though.

4. It is amazing how different the same wine tastes during a blind tasting when it is inserted in three different places. I scored it differently every time.

5. A classic movie: Dr Strangelove premiered on this date in 1964.

6. I have determined that an ice storm serves no useful purpose. Well, maybe it is a good way to prune the weak branches off trees.

7.  While enjoying some good Virginia wines this weekend I was struck by how empty the vineyards are after the vines have been trimmed and while they are waiting for the warmth of spring to get them growing again.

8. It is always reassuring when Makayla is excited about seeing me after I have been gone for the weekend.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Sunday, January 27, 2013

So Many Vineyards

Awesome Saturday in Charlottesville. What more needs to be written?

The plan was to visit four or maybe five vineyards for a mid-winter respite.

We actually visited six and passed a seventh without stopping.

The day was beautiful and warmer--still not above freezing for most of the day, but warmer without the biting wind.

The vineyards?

King Family - I highly recommend a visit
White Hall - I highly recommend
Stinson - Limited selection but a nice in between stop
Veritas - Great tasting room, but I didn't really think the wines were drinking that well
Flying Fox - Nice stop--especially for reds. This was a a first time visit for me.
Trump - This was my first visit. The sparkling wines are good, the non-sparkling wines are average at best.

Today we are off to Keswick for the Consensus Blending to see if we can create a winning wine.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

So Many Vineyards

Awesome Saturday in Charlottesville. What more needs to be written?

The plan was to visit four or maybe five vineyards for a mid-winter respite.

We actually visited six and passed a seventh without stopping.

The day was beautiful and warmer--still not above freezing for most of the day, but warmer without the biting wind.

The vineyards?

King Family - I highly recommend a visit
White Hall - I highly recommend
Stinson - Limited selection but a nice in between stop
Veritas - Great tasting room, but I didn't really think the wines were drinking that well
Flying Fox - Nice stop--especially for reds. This was a a first time visit for me.
Trump - This was my first visit. The sparkling wines are good, the non-sparkling wines are average at best.

Today we are off to Keswick for the Consensus Blending to see if we can create a winning wine.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Long Awaited Weekend

Four day weeks--meaning, weeks which contain a holiday, often seem harder than the regular five-day work week. It is simple, really. Five days of activity is crammed into 20 percent less work hours. So, by the end of a four-day week, I am five-day exhausted.

And the weekend is here.


This weekend, Charlottesville is in the plan and an attempt to recapture past glory as the Consensus Wine Blenders for Keswick Vineyards.

A great diversion and some real fun learning more about wine and blending and grapes and agriculture.

I think it is a great mid-winter diversion. Drinking and blending wine which is the product of the non-winter seasons.

It couldn't come at a better time--in between the NFL playoffs and the Super Bowl. I will miss nothing important--well the Pro Bowl gathering in Hawaii. Another placeI long to be during this spate of cold and snowy weather.

At least---it is the weekend.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Friday, January 25, 2013

Where Have all the Flowers Gone?

The other day I had to go to Lowe's for some tools and guy stuff.

I love going to home improvement /maintenance stores because there is always something cool to look at that I didn't realize that I needed.
Lowe's Garden Department in Early January

I was looking, on this trip, for some simple fencing to help restrain Riordin, the cat who came back, from jumping off the deck and wandering off into the great unknown, again.

Yes, it seems that his curiosity has gotten the better of him and he has found a spot that is only six or so feet off the soft earthy ground to jump down to freedom.

Not wanting to go through the pain of losing him again, he is currently on lock-down until the restraint can be installed.

The fencing is kept near the garden center and so after heading out the doors, I was greeted by a very stark and empty sight--the garden center was empty. No plants, almost nothing. The area in the image is full to overflowing with plants and trees and flowers during most of the year--but on this dreary January day, it was a drab uninviting place.

I was stunned!

It made sense, but still, I had never experienced such emptiness in a store before. I can only imagine what it will look like by the end of February as the sturdy, cold-tolerant plants begin to arrive for the gardener in me to buy, and plant, and dig in the earth.

Given there is snow on the ground and more in today's forecast, I cannot wait for warmth and Springtime to arrive.

13 weeks until pool opening!

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Snow Surprise

I guess I was totally out of touch yesterday about the weather. When I woke up this morning, snow had  graced the lawn and streets.

Imagine my surprise.

The world was white when I expected the brown and gray of a snowless winter. Alas, I think it also surprised the road crews and apparently the roads are also snow covered and slippery.
January 24, 2013 at 6 AM
Out the Front Door

It is another snowpocalypse? Not hardly, we have only received just over an inch or so--and the snow only reminds me of how cold that the past few days have been.

Ugh! Cold. Fourteen degrees cold--almost too cold to snow!

I guess that it is good that the weather is unpredictable--it provides a wildcard experience in life for a bit of creative problem solving. Who has not experienced a rainstorm when outside activities were planned? Or snow, when any activity was planned?

It is just the way that it is.

Well, at least Makayla loves the snow. She went out and frolicked--yes, I actually wrote that word, in the snow.

My feet just got cold.

Did anyone see where I misplaced the palm trees that are supposed to be growing in my yard?

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Morning Has Broken, Again

I have noticed and been enjoying the dawn these past few days. With the skies being clearer, although the temperatures are cold, the dawns have had that "fire in the sky" look to them.  There is always one star shining at the dawn to remind me of the night--but the sun is spectacular as it casts those first rays on morning onto the light clouds.

I have always loved the dawn.

The beginning of the day when everything seems new and the promise of the day has not yet been tarnished by the reality of life and living.

When the skies are gray and cloudy as they have been many days, I miss seeing the dawn light breaking out of the darkness.

I remember going into a dark room with no windows once and lighting a match. It was amazing how light drives out darkness.  Darkness is not the opposite of light, it is the absence of light. I think that makes a difference. I guess that means that darkness cannot overwhelm light--but can only exist when there is no light.

And the morning drives away the dark of night with spectacular color and enthusiasm for the dawning day.

I should be so enthusiastic.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

National Aquarium - Baltimore

The question in the morning was what to do with the dual holiday/inauguration day-off and two grandchildren. Obviously, hanging around the house and shooting baskets was not going to be a good answer--it wasn't going to be warm enough.
Leaf Scorpion Fish

After digging around in the bag of tricks, a trip to the National Aquarium was the chosen destination diversion.

Getting there was easy, parking was expensive--but that is true of almost everywhere in Baltimore, and the day was cold and beautiful. A perfect destination.

It has been a couple of years since I visited the aquarium and some things have changed. Entry remains easy--we decided on becoming members again--so that took a bit more time, but was still quick. There is a major renovation underway which has removed one of my favorite exhibits--the big ray tank is gone and is being replaced by a new reef shark tank. It is all boarded up and cannot be viewed and that has affected the walking through entry area.

I guess the decision to visit the aquarium was shared with many other people because the place was packed with small children. It made keeping track of two rambunctious boys difficult and Chris and I frequently had to change plays on the fly to assure constant coverage given the darkness in many exhibits and the people.

The aquarium has grown and it takes a full day to fully appreciate the varied exhibits--from Australia to the Rain Forest to the Dolphin training area.

I am still awed by the reef tank with its varied fish and animals as well as the current shark tank. It seems as if the number of animals has been reduced--as I know there were less sharks and with the closing of the ray tank, there certainly are fewer of those magnificent animals that seem to be sweeping effortlessly through the water.

Well worth the day, but not without its inherent problems of crowding; I recommend the National Aquarium as a great way to keep busy children entertained while also learning more about our complex and varied world.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Monday, January 21, 2013

Monday Musings - January 21, 2010

1. Happy Inauguration Day. We can argue about the results of the election, but we cannot disagree about the importance of this day happening every four years to reaffirm the viability of the Republic.

2. Just gotta write this: The Ravens are going to the Super Bowl! I was reading the news and the sports people pointed out that the favored teams were 8-2 in the playoffs this year--the only underdog that won were the Ravens, twice. They are already 4 1/2 point underdogs for the Super Bowl--I'm feeling kinda good about that one.

3.  Note to self--never be a hostage in Algeria. The death toll there has topped 80.

4. It is not a good day to be going to London--they are having a snow storm which has canceled more than 10 percent of the flights.  I don't hear about snow in London very often.

5. I found an interesting web site: 10 Things to Know for Today.

6. I didn't realize that President Obama is the 17th President to win reelection.

7. I am sitting here writing and I hear the sound of two grandsons waking in their beds. It is strangely different to have these sounds back in the house again.

8. Who knew that Memphis was the fifth most dangerous city in the US? See the article about the five most dangerous cities in the US.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Club House Tour - Orioles

The highlight of my weekend was doing something that I have never done before--nor, had I even known that it was possible to do--tour the Orioles clubhouse.
Orioles Club House

While leaving Fan Fest, we saw signs for the Club House Tour and followed them--not knowing if there was an extra fee or not. Turns out, it was free and the Orioles open the club house for tours once per year--during Fan Fest.  Wow!

And what a tour it was. Behind the scenes, into the training facility, the club house, the indoor batting cages and onto the field in the dug out!
Adam Jones Locker


Standing in fron of the Orioles Dug Out
How does one describe the excitement of going through the tunnel from the club house into the dug out where I have seen the team during so many Orioles games that I have lost count.

But to actually stand on the warning track and to sit in the dug out.
Orioles Park from in front of the Dug Out

It was a perspective changer.
Buck's Office

The day was beautiful. The sky was clear. Baseball was in the air.

Line-up Board
What a day!

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Earl Weaver and Orioles Baseball

I took this image during a tour of the clubhouse during Orioles Fan Fest today. Earl Weaver's passing hung over the event--but it was still a celebration of baseball, the season ahead, and the boys of summer.

The quote is:

"You can't sit on a lead and run a few plays into the line and just kill the clock. You've got to throw the ball over the damn plate and give the other man his chance. That's why baseball is the greatest game of them all." - Earl Weaver #4

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Orioles Bird perched for a run




At FanFest ready to soak up some before Spring Training baseball excitement.

Championship, Fan Fest, Hockey--a True Sports Hangover

We've been down this path before--Ravens--Patriots in New England playing for a berth in the Super Bowl.

I love the drama.

It is some of the best I've enjoyed since the Orioles and the Yankees were playing in the play-offs during October.

It is easy to get lost in the hoopla and forget--it is just a game, albeit one I expect the Ravens to win against the seemingly overwhelming odds--again this week.

At least I live in a city where both the baseball and football teams made the playoffs this year.

On top of that--hockey begins again today to help chase the winter doldrums away: Penguins and Flyers.

And then there is Orioles Fan Fest that I'm heading off to in a few minutes! I need my fix of spring.

By the time Monday morning rolls around I should be thoroughly afflicted with a sports hangover.

And did I write that #6 Syracuse is playing NCAA Basketball against #1 Louisville today?

That will come right after Ethan heads out onto the court for his basketball game.

So many opportunities--so little time.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Friday, January 18, 2013

Dark and Dreary

The past week has been an example of dark and dreary, cold and rainy days.

The word yuck comes to mind.

The rain and the chill have affected many people in different ways. Driving around the area has slowed to a crawl. Traffic snarled as drivers navigate rain clogged roads and the resultant accidents.

In a word--awful.

The four letter word associated with winter perception was used today and I think people were almost excited that the skies might be blue at the end of a snow event.

Not me--any snow is too much.

I still have not put the cinder blocks into the back of my truck for added traction. I'm in denial about the snow.

But the darkness continues. Days fade from gray into the black of night
and then back into gray again.

Ugh. Someone called me from Florida yesterday just to tell me that the sun was shining and it was 81 degrees. Definitely not gloomy.

Maybe that weather will make its way here--before July.

I was encouraged this morning though as I noticed stars in the still night sky while walking Makayla. Better weather may be ahead? 99 days until pool opening day (It is under a hundred!!)!

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Life We Live After

I read a thought provoking article in the Baltimore Sun the other day. It was about Ray Lewis--the retiring all-pro, all consensus Hall of Fame bound middle linebacker of the Baltimore Ravens.

The editorial was written by Dan Rodericks and recounted the trouble that followed Ray Lewis at the beginning of his career.

Lewis was troubled and associated with people who were not of the highest character; Ray calls his acquaintances thugs.. As a result, there was an incident after the 2000 Super Bowl where two men were killed and Lewis and his companions were implicated. Many people insist that Lewis got away with murder, but Dan Rodericks takes a different view--and e has some first hand information.

Rodericks admits that Lewis made mistakes--but don't we all. He should have cooperated with the police and not obstructed the investigation--a charge which he was convicted of and the only charge that the Fulton County Police were able to get from the entire investigation.

My view? A lot of people remember that situation, but have not taken the time to really examine the circumstances and hold onto to what they want to believe about Ray. I guess I am more willing to forgive. This is not like another NFL personality who was convicted of cruelty to animals--and came back to play. Or another NFL player convicted of carrying a weapon in a crowded night club and ultimately shooting himself. Or even one teams head coach who carried a loaded revolver through airport security without declaring it.

Two men died that night in Atlanta.  After the police investigation and the trial no one was convicted of murder. Ray Lewis made a mistake by obstructing justice--and was convicted on that charge alone. He has turned his life around in the subsequent 13 years to become an inspirational leader of his team and the Baltimore community. 

Perhaps there is wisdom in the line from the movie The Natural that Dan Rodericks quotes:

"I believe we have two lives," says Roy Hobbs' old girlfriend in "The Natural," played by Glenn Close. "A life we learn with and a life we live with after that."

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A Society Missing the Boat

The gun debate swirls, taking the pressure off Congress and the President to fix the economy.

Lance Armstrong admits he lied. I'm crushed. I forgive him.

The penalty for allegedly stealing internet information exceeds that for manslaughter. Knowledge, therefore, is more important than people.

Wow, what a wild past few days it has been.

We have lost perspective and become a society run governed special interests.

Guns are not the problem--people are the problem. We are living in a time when people are not well equipped to handle the stresses of life. The media surround them with inappropriate responses to stress and their mental health is compromised enough not to be able to separate imagination from reality.

For right now, given the problems in our economy and society--guns are the problem. At least we are persecuting an inanimate object. Other societies have persecuted ethnic groups.

In the end, the real problems will continue to grow worse until they no longer can be masked.

I guess the next few months will be very telling.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Happy 3rd Birthday Lucas

Last evening I had the pleasure of celebrating Lucas' third birthday. We spent an evening at the local Dave & Busters just enjoying the person that he has become. It was special because I will not be able to attend his blow-out family, friends, and neighborhood birthday party due to a previous out of town engagement.

I am not a huge fan of Dave & Busters, but at least last evening we effectively had the place to ourselves as it was mostly deserted.

The lack of other patrons and screaming children made the evening almost perfect. A nice dinner and some time with the grandson playing games was a good change-up from what I normally do on Monday evenings.

The fun part, after dinner was trying watching Luke decide which toy he wanted from the ticket winnings playing the games. With four adults and one child playing multiple games around the arcade he amassed quite a number of tickets. In the end he decided upon a large snake/dragon. It was funny watching his parents try to talk him out of the selection (with no success) after he had made up his mine. Three-year olds can be very decisive and the stubborn.

I had the honor of riding the victorious hero out of the arcade with the giant snake/dragon in tow. Luke called it a snake, but I think it really is a dragon.

It really doesn't matter what it is, he likes it and it almost fit into the backseat of the car with him.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Monday, January 14, 2013

Monday Musings - January 14, 2013

1. The fortunes of football are fickle. I watched Seattle grab defeat from the jaws of victory, leaving 31 seconds on the clock for Atlanta and then losing; while, Baltimore left 31 seconds on the clock after tying Denver en route to an overtime win.

2. Doomsday asteroid during 2036? I guess we need something to worry about. Where in Bruce Willis when we need him?

3. There is something wrong when it takes longer to get the children's toy out of the packaging than the child will play with it.

4. Here is a thought: Be careful or you will end up in my novel.

5. Hockey is back. Now I have something to keep me interested until baseball season. Go Pens!

6. Why is the Super Bowl, super?

7. I watched a couple hours of the Golden Globe Awards last night. I wonder why? Perhaps because there was nothing else on.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Sunday, January 13, 2013

A Hush Fell Over my Living Room

The story line was classic. The 9 point underdog and the giant facing off on the field of battle. The visiting underdog was supposed to lose easily and quietly depart from the stadium hoping for better fortunes next year.

But the hush that fell over Sports Authority Field at Mile High as the Ravens rookie kicker, number 9, Justin Tucker trotted out into the frozen atmosphere was palpable. The contest was into the second overtime period, on its way to becoming the fourth longest game in NFL history. The night was cold--the wind chill as reported on the television to the fans watching from the warmth of our living rooms was -3 F. The game was a classic struggle, knotted at 35 and which has seen the teams trade score for score for 60 minutes and then play a scoreless, 15 minute sudden life overtime period.

A hush fell over my living room. The expected "ice the kicker" time out never came, perhaps the kicker was iced enough from being on the frozen sidelines for over four hours. The snap, the kick, and the trajectory was not straight as we have come to expect--but it was true and found its way between the uprights to snatch victory from the middle of the heavily favored home team. My living room erupted--I had just barely recovered from the miracle catch with about 41 seconds left in regulation to tie the game for the Ravens.

The game was a classic football game. It was the kind of game which reminded me of why I like football. As I watched about two hours of post-game coverage and interviews I was impressed with the professionalism and demeanor of the men speaking for each of the teams.

The reporting of the game contains additional ideas. This article's title says it all: Baltimore Ravens' NFL Playoffs Win Over Denver Broncos Is One For The Ages.

Ray Lewis, Ravens number 52 retiring middle linebacker, described the game as follows:

"We never wavered, we never wavered," Lewis said. "This will probably go down as one of the greatest wins in Ravens history."

And next week, we get to do it all over again!  Like someone said during the post-game interviews, the only way to top a game like this is to win next week.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Saturday, January 12, 2013

AIG: Biting the Hand that Saved Them

I am happy that insurance giant AIG has opted out of a lawsuit against the US Government for lost revenue for its shareholders.

I have noticed a great number of television commercials promoting how good AIG is and how it has fully repaid, with interest, the bailout monies.

The article I referenced writes about the lawsuit as follows:

The board of AIG decided on Wednesday not to join a lawsuit against the U.S. government over the terms of the company's bailout, following two days of fevered backlash from Congress and the public over the prospect. 
AIG had been weighing whether to join a lawsuit filed by its former chief executive, Hank Greenberg, and his company Starr International, which owned 12 percent of the insurer before its 2008 rescue.

It seems that some at AIG feel that the bailout was unfair to shareholders.

Reality check!

If there had not been a bailout, the shareholders holdings would have been worthless--or at best worth pennies. That the shareholders still have shares, still have investments, and still have a company which is making a return on their investment is due to the overly generous bailout provided by the people of the U.S.

And if that is how major corporations and businesses in America say thank you, we are really in trouble!

I am reminded of the Aesop fable about the scorpion and the frog.

They should have been left to go bankrupt for their unfair and ill advised investment strategy.

Just saying!

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Friday, January 11, 2013

Orca Predicament Ends Happily

The whales made it to freedom--without the assistance of humans. I was extremely happy to hear the news.
Trapped Orcas - January 2013

Why I actually care about a pod of Orcas is beyond me, but I do. Nature can be cruel and it is only humans that realize this. We are the only species on the planet able to mobilize ourselves against nature and win--sometimes.

And other times, even we lose miserably, like tsunamis.

I guess I rejoice when good things happen in seemingly hopeless situations. Because this situation seemed hopeless.

The situation was reminiscent of 1988 and Operation Breakthrough near Barrow, Alaska to free trapped gray whales..

One writer, made the following observation after the gray whales had made it to freedom:

Most importantly, I think there was and is a human lesson to learn from what happened with this International effort. Don't take this the wrong way, I love whales. I do. But I can't help but think it is amazing how much money and energy was expended, in brutal conditions, to rescue these whales. While it provided a nice diversion from the ongoing political races at the time, it remains sad to realize what we are willing to do for whales, yet we won't take the time or money needed to help out each other. Poverty, elderly folks being prisoners in their own homes, hungry children... all right here in America. It's wrong.

I really can't disagree, but then, we do what we can when we can and how can it be bad when we rally together for good?

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Force is Strong with this One

Lucas and I are enjoying a great start to the morning.

Star Wars Episode VI--with the Ewoks is currently on. We have already done the complete tour of the outside, thankfully, it is a beautiful day.

He is a pistol.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Grandparent--Other Duties as Assigned

Yesterday I had the opportunity to chat with a newly minted grandmother. Her grandson was one month old and she was still getting used to finally (her words) being a grandmother.
Lucas, Christmas Day 2012

It was fun to listen to her and it reminded me that I sometimes take for granted the enjoyment that I derive from having the "grands" around. They certainly brighten up a room, house, party, or whatever other event they are attending. Chris says that they keep us young.

Being a grandparent means that sometimes I have accept other duties as assigned, or requested.

Today, for instance, I get to spend a one-on-one day with the youngest grandson--Lucas. I took a day of leave from work and am expecting his arrival soon. We should have an interesting and exciting day. I am lucky enough to have time available and also have the level of activity at work low enough to allow me this opportunity.

Ready, set--let's rock through the day.

Then tomorrow, back to the grind.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

In the Heat of Battle

Sports, it seems, can be a reflection of the warrior spirit that hides inside of us. Like anything, each person is gifted with different portion of warrior spirit--some are blessed with an almost self-destructive portion of warrior spirit.
RGIII on Sunday January 6, 2012

I was moved on Sunday during the Washington Redskins game. As he was laying on the turf after his already damaged knee which had hobbled him for much of the game, I saw that warrior spirit in their quarterback--RGIII. And it may not be a good thing.

The warrior spirit, unchecked, can cause rational people to make irrational and ill-advised choices. The ability to decide to take a path to self-destruction, while sometimes viewed as heroic, can also extract a high toll upon self and those in the vicinity.

While he was clearly heroic on Sunday in trying to lead his team to victory in the face of every increasingly over whelming odds, the decision to remain in the game and face a potentially career ending injury probably was not the right decision. Unlike warfare where there may not be a tomorrow or a next year, in sports next season holds the promise of even greater achievements--if able to participate.

But, in the hear of battle those decisions are not so clear. The harsh morning light of the day after, though, provides the illumination to evaluate decisions.

Leaders need to be sensitive to heat of battle decision making and keep the strategic objective in sight. Needlessly throwing human or fiscal capital into a losing position may have greater a negative impact on the organization than just accepting the position at hand.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Monday Musings - Tuesday January 8, 2012

1. Off to a not so good start for the new year--totally missed writing Monday Musings yesterday. I guess I'm not musing too much this year, yet.

2. Walking outside yesterday at 5:30 PM, I was amazed that it was not totally dark. Yay, the dark times are beginning to pass. All of the celebrating did its job. Go druids, go!

3. Taxes--I have a feeling we haven't seen the last tax increase this year.

4. Who else, like me, realizes that the 2 percent increase in the Social Security withholding (OASDI) this year is a tax increase? They keep trying to sell it as the expiration of a tax decrease--but that still makes it a tax increase, right?

5. I noticed that the socialist government in France was trying to tax individuals who make a million Euro or more at a 75 percent tax rate. That is going to really spur economic recovery.

6. Are you worried about the trillion dollar coin concept? Read about it here. It is not a good idea.

7. How about the national championship game. I really thought Notre Dame was going to play a better game. But all we are left with is a rousing chorus of roll tide roll!

8. The NHL is back! I can't believe it took so long to get back onto the ice.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Monday, January 7, 2013

Snow Remains

As I was walking up the driveway to get the newspaper yesterday morning, I noticed a remnant of snow from the storms we had just after Christmas. A small, unassuming pile has lasted over a week to remind me that it is winter and with just a little bit of unluckiness--we could have had lot more of it.

Thankfully, it is just a small pile.

But it remains there.

Right off the drive next to the fence.

I hope it goes away soon before the weather can add to it. I think between yesterday's mild temperatures and today's--it will surely be gone by tonight.

Time will tell.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Sunday, January 6, 2013

On into the Rest of the Year

The final decorations of Christmas have been returned to their storage containers where they will remain until after Thanksgiving 2013.

My, how quickly the season came and went--but I've written that before.

Today, it is onto football, playoffs, and enormous amounts of foot to celebrate the start of the rest of the year!

It is really exciting for the region that both teams are hosting playoff games on the same day. I'm not sure anything else is getting done anywhere around here today.

Hopefully, the football playoffs will not end the same way the baseball playoffs did with both teams losing in the first round! That was a real bummer.

But--here is a thought, I don't think the both of the regions baseball and football teams have ever made the playoffs during the same year!

That, as they say, is really exciting for a region where cellar dwelling has been perfected.

Focus on the positives--we are there. The outcome matters but not as much as just getting there. There are 20 other teams in the NFL whose seasons ended last year--and we are at least playing on and at home!

Go Ravens and Go Redskins (Fight for ole DC even though you play in Maryland)

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Saturday, January 5, 2013

First Basketball Game

Ethan's first game. Rolling along for another season. Going to be fun.

First Saturday

Believe it or not, the first Saturday of 2013 has arrived and after the frenzy of the holiday season I would say it is a welcomed arrival except that this day and this weekend promise to be as busy and harried as the season just completed.

The phrase that comes to mind is kick the tires and light the fires!

The last remnants of the holidays will likely be purged from the house--two Christmas trees need to be deconstructed and stored until later this year when they can reappear to assist in celebrating the demise of 2013. And then all of the remaining decorations need to be packed away and the house returned to its eleven-months-of-the-year condition.

Putting the period on the end of the seasonal decorations is somewhat sad. It causes me to reflect on how long we anticipate the season and then it seems to rocket by and we are thrust back into the routine of life. Anticipation gives way to celebration and then into a New Year and reestablishing the routine again.

Is it possible to change the routine?

I think my feeble attempt to encourage growth and change from the season is in my resolutions. I set one for myself and that was to be more sensitive of the blessings in my life--every day. Specifically, I resolved to recount at least three blessings in my life before I went to sleep at the end of every day. People who know me realize that I tend to group things into threes--hence, three blessings to find and consider.

Now four days complete into the New Year, I can report that I am running at an about 50 percent success rate. I am too tired some nights to remember anything before I my head hits the pillow.

But I think about the blessings in the morning--so maybe I need to tweak my resolution.

As for today's agenda? De-Christmasifying the house, attending a grandson's first basketball game of the season, Church in the afternoon, and squeezing in two NFL playoff games.

The blessings in these endeavors--I am not alone, my parents are still visiting and I can enjoy these activities with them, God has given me the means and the health to enjoy life and my family.

Definitely a good way to start the first weekend of the year.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Friday, January 4, 2013

Walter's Art Museum: Part Deux

I played hooky from work yesterday afternoon and took my parents to visit the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore.
Syria: The Night Watch
Brighton Riviere 

It was my second visit in a few months and it was every bit as enjoyable as my first.

I am really happy that such a world class art collection is available right here in Baltimore--and that I don't have to sojourn to D.C. every time I need an art fix.

One painting caught my imagination, Syria: The Night Watch by Brighton Riviere. I could not help but consider the current unrest and atrocities happening in that country and look at the lions in the painting patrolling the streets looking for people to devour. There was something very eerie about the painting and the reports in the news this week that 60,000 people have died in the civil war happening in Syria.

The Ideal City

I did, finally, get to view The Ideal City, which was traveling the last time I was there. I find this painting fascinating and extremely out of style for the period of paintings in which it is displayed. This is one of those very special enigmatic paintings.

It was a great afternoon and I will be visiting again, soon!

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Talking Down from the Cliff--Well Almost

Congress and the President managed to avert disaster, barely.

But they did it! And the markets responded yesterday with the DOW raising over 300 points!  Yay, somebody made money, I just wish it were me.

I was happy to see that a compromise for the good of the Republic was reached before deadline put everything that had been achieved during the past over 200 years at risk of collapsing.

Am I happy with the final deal? No. But, that is a good thing I think. Everyone seems equally unhappy and that means that some form of middle ground was reached. Is the spending being cut enough? Probably not. Are taxes going up enough? Thankfully, no.

Are we going to be printing a lot more money? Probably yes.

I have been doing research on the numbers of people who do not pay income taxes. Too many. Most for very good reasons. But, it seems to me that if everyone is not invested in the country, then those who are not invested have a skewed sense of reality.

I believe it is time for a major tax overhaul and first and foremost we need to get rid of the personal income tax,

Yes, I just wrote that.

I noted that I am taxed twice on my income. First when I earn it and second when I spend it. That makes no sense and is really double dipping. We need a single fair tax--that would be some form of consumption tax on goods and services which everyone pays the same percent, but those who can afford to buy more--will therefore rightly pay more in taxes.

I looked at my pay statement. I am taxed by a thousand cuts it seems.

There is the Federal withholding and the State withholding. Then there is separate FICA and Medicare. In some places, thankfully not where I live, yet, there is also a locality tax. And then sales tax--in Maryland it is 6% on some things and 9% on others. How insane is that?

The governments have made it hard to determine the true tax rate being paid. A single consumption tax--call it VAT (value added tax or sales tax on steroids) and having it in one place and paid at one time would be considerably fairer. Everyone buying goods and services would be paying the tax.

That seems fairer than what we are doing now.

Thank you Congress and the President for forestalling the fiscal cliff--now get together and let's see some true tax and spending reform!

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Cardinal in the Snow

During the snow storm the other day, a solitary cardinal perched himself on the tree outside my window and became a subject for numerous pictures.

I like to believe that  deep inside me there is an Ansel Adams like vision of the world waiting to be unleashed.

Probably not.

It is just, after all, a bird in a tree. How many birds have been imaged in trees.

But the white snow blanketing the back ground really set him off as he sat there seemingly unconcerned with the snow. Of course, the bird feeder was only a few feet away from the tree in which he was perched.

For me? It was too cold and snowy. I would prefer living somewhere that people have to travel to see snow and not have it just fall on them at the worst possible time.

But, this image is a good way to start off the new year.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2013 Arrives with a Whimper

Happy New Year!

As the morning dawned on the new year, I looked out of my window to see the world much as I left it last evening when I charged off to a New Year's Eve party.

I had a marvelous time welcoming in the new year with friends and watching, for the first time, the ball drop in New York City without Dick Clark.

In the news department, many of our elected representatives were busy at work into and through the dawning of the New Year. Just before midnight, it appeared that the country was spared the scourge of falling off the fiscal cliff. But, as I read the news this morning it is hard to tell where we are in relationship to the fiscal cliff. The Senate and the President are clapping themselves on the back and declaring success while the House of Representatives still has to weigh in. A definite wild card in the process.

Chaos could still reign.

So we drove off the cliff but there may be a trampoline at the bottom kind of like a Road Runner cartoon.

Resolutions for the New Year?

I resolve that I am going to appreciate the blessings in my life more. Instead of focusing on the I wants, I am going to appreciate the thank you because I have. Every day!

Vacation Plans?

I guess the page is kind of blank right now, I haven't thought about going anywhere yet. Well, except to Sarasota during March for Spring Training. Then maybe Florida in July. And a cruise would be nice . .

A New Year with so many opportunities--Bring it on!

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

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