Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The 4th Amendment Quandary

The Supreme Court heard cases yesterday regarding the rights, or not, of the police to search cell phones without a warrant when the phones are on a person being arrested for good reason.

I hope that the Court holds that without a warrant the contents of cell phones, regardless of their location, cannot be searched. The crazy part is, that as I understand it and I am not a Constitutional lawyer, my cell phone is protected in my home from random police searches without a warrant, but when I step outside with it on my person the government maintains that my same phone is fair game for unwarranted searches. 

Everywhere, it seems, we are being asked to surrender our 4th Amendment rights and many people blindly think that is OK. When we lose our protection from unreasonable searches and seizures, we will never be able to get it back. Even if the government creates the illusion that it is in our best interests to surrender our rights--nothing good will come if it. The trick that government and law enforcement especially use is that if we voluntarily provide the information, then no violation of the 4th Amendment occurs. 

I was appalled that Edward Snowden was considered by Time Magazine to be one of the 100 most influential people on the planet for 2013. He is traitor and a criminal--but, he has brought the entire issue of 4th Amendment Rights to the forefront of discussions.

Each time we blindly surrender our 4th Amendment Rights, we move closer to becoming as totalitarian state. It is too easy to find reasons to surrender our rights--and it is hard to resist the faulty logic presented.

I believe we are already seeing the negative results that come with government and business acquisition of personal information. Each time another business reports a security breach in which personal information is compromised, I question why the company needed all of that personal information anyway?

I wish it were as easy as just saying no--but the consequences of saying "no" include not being able to get a mortgage or credit card and many other important things. In some cases saying "no," a perfectly legal right, can result in loss of job. Who protects individuals and throws the penalty flag when businesses and government exceed reasonable requests for personal information which violates our 4th Amendment right to privacy?

I wish I knew. 

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Don't Leave Us, Again!

Louis and Riordin in the suitcase
It was clear, from their reaction when we arrived home Sunday and started unpacking, that the cats in our lives were happy we were home and wanted to ensure that they were not forgotten the next time we traveled. 

Louis and Riordin staked out in the suitcases as we were unpacking.
Cats in the Case with Ghost Eyes!
It was pretty funny. It was as if they were saying--if you go, we go! We were still in the process of unpacking, but they were convinced that we were planning to depart yet again. 

There have been a log of goings and comings lately. I can understand their confusion. Frankly, I have been confused, too.

It will be good to be home for a while. 

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Monday, April 28, 2014

Monday Musings - April 28, 2014

1. Sitting on the back deck last evening with Chris, who is finally home, and a 2001 Pinot Noir from one of my favorite wineries in California was a fitting end to a difficult time.

2. As I turned onto my street yesterday afternoon at the end of a six hour drive from Upstate New York, I was amazed at how the trees had filled out. There were actual leaves on the trees and their shadows were no longer of stick figures.

3. Due to the cold weather, I am sad to report that pool opening day has been slipped two weeks to May 17th. Maybe the thermometer will be registering more 70 degree days and fewer 30 degree nights by then.

4. Game 6 tonight--Penguins and Blue Jackets, Pens up 3-2 in the series. Be there!

5. I had an interesting discussion the other day about taxes. It is amazing how municipalities are finding new and creative ways to increase revenue through taxes. Why is it that our representatives believe they should be increasing taxes as first resort to balancing budgets?

6. While I'm on taxes, Maryland, between 2007 and 2012 levied 24 tax and fee increases totaling $2.4 billion, according to the referenced report. AND during the 2014 session, when there was a surplus in the budget, instead of refunding the excess, they found new ways to spend the money and reduced tax deductions, which is effectively a tax increase.

7. Chris and I visited a very nice winery on the shores of Seneca Lake while on our way home yesterday, Catharine Valley Winery. I'll write it up later, but for those of you tracking, we did get two more grapes on our quest for wines from 100 different grapes!

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Sunday, April 27, 2014

My very special nephew Troy

Yesterday was a difficult day. It was a celebration. How can a celebration be difficult?

Well when you are celebrating someone who was very special and made a huge impact on his local world in 23 all too short years and is now gone, it can be difficult.

But it was uplifting to see how much of an impact one person can have on others.

His story was in the local paper, The Ithaca Journal, on Friday and was picked up today by USA Today. Wow.

I learned a lot about my nephew yesterday from his friends. He leaves a great legacy and so his story is not yet finished.

Thank you everyone who has been praying and supporting my family through this difficult time.

Bob Doan
Elkridge, MD

Saturday, April 26, 2014

50 Years

OK, I know I am not supposed to write about work and the stuff happening there in this blog--but, celebrating 50 years as an organization is really special.

To everyone I work with, everyone that I have worked with in the past, and everyone that came before me in the organization--thanks, you are all great. We have a great history and we live for the future--how much more awesome could that ever be?

Today is going to be an especially tough day for me personally. Many of you have read about my nephew Troy and know what my family is dealing with--but the culmination of 50 years of fantastic service to our nation by my small organization has really helped me to focus my energy and time.

Even Makayla senses my anguish over how this particular Saturday is going to play out. She is going to have an overnight with her best friend Chewie, Patrick's dog.

To all of my work friends--congrats on 50 years of success.

To all of my family--I pray for peace and comfort in this distressing time.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Friday, April 25, 2014

Troubled Drivers

The speed limit is 55 MPH on Maryland Route 100. I was going somewhat faster, but moving with traffic and not trying to be either the fastest or slowest car on the highway.

A huge pick-up truck came up onto my bumper trying, I believe, to push me to go much faster than the speed I was going. Yes, I was in the left lane, but I was still traveling at a speed which risked a ticket from Maryland's troopers. 

There was no way that was I going to go faster. The driver behind me was inching closer to my bumper. OK, I slowed a bit to make a point and hopefully get him to back off, to no avail.

It was scary. 

Finally, the driver passed me on the right and was able to get just in front of me before I exited the roadway. 

Why are people like that? All of that angst and aggravation to gain 50 feet. Less than a second of driving.

Aggressive and in-your-face drivers make the roadways dangerous.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Below Normal Temperatures

Forecast from April 24, 2014
Although Spring is here, I am still hearing the words "below normal temperatures" every morning on the daily weather forecast.


I could really use some warming weather where the temperatures are "above normal" for a few days or weeks. 

I long to have my pool open, but the cold temperatures are keeping me from even buying my annual supply of chemicals, which I need to do before the sales end. 

In addition to the below normal temperatures, rain seems to dominate the forecast. Cold, rainy, gray skies. That, of course, leads to a gray and gloomy mood.

I dream of hot sun and sand on a beach somewhere where the ocean water temperature is at least 80 degrees. It is time for palm trees and warm weather flowers--cue the geraniums! But, I fear there is still a threat of frost! 

There have been a couple 80 degree days recently, but they were just teasers and soon departed for the cooler temperatures we are experiencing. 

Warm temperatures are out there and I am sure there will be a lot of complaining when they finally arrive. But I, for one, am looking forward to basking (or is that baking) in the warm sunshine.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Gardens Grow so Quickly

I took a quick tour of the gardens even as it was raining yesterday and was amazed by the bleeding hearts. They have grown from almost nothing into thriving plants complete with blooms in less than two weeks. Despite the cold weather and rains, they continue to grow.

I am encouraged by their growth because I enjoy the bleeding hearts in my gardens. They are definitely springtime plants, but the speed at which they grow is also encouraging. 

Although I am definitely a summertime person, I appreciate the rebirth of life that abounds during the springtime. I recall Sunday morning, looking out the window an seeing three rabbits playing--OK, it looked like they were playing, in the yard in upstate NY. They were running around the yard chasing each other similar to the way that children play. I can imagine they were enjoying the more moderate springtime temperatures, in the low 40's that we were experiencing that morning.

Each new day brings new joys to discover. And yes, the lawn still needs to be mowed, it was raining yesterday when I had time to actually accomplish the second mowing of the year.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Grass Needs to be Mowed

Well, I wished it upon myself. I was waiting for the grass to green up so that I could mow it for the first time and enjoy riding my tractor around the yard. 

Be careful what you wish for because it may come true. 

I looked last evening and I noticed that the grass needs to be mowed again--just a short week after my first triumphant ride across the lawn on my tractor!

Somehow it already doesn't feel like a victory.  But it is springtime and the lawns need to be mowed and cared for. That is why I put fertilizer on the lawn--to make it green so that I could mow it. 

But I have been so busy lately, I haven't even had much time to enjoy the greening of the lawn before I need to rev up the tractor again.

As I was heading out last evening, I noticed that many of my neighbors were also mowing their lawns--it is that time. The trees are green and the lawns are growing.

That is a good thing. 

The weeping cherry was beautiful, as expected. I do miss my plum trees which died last year--they would have been full of blooms as well. But, there are a few dogwoods blooming in their place.

It appears that all of my favorite friends are recovering from winter's grasp.


-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Monday, April 21, 2014

Monday Musings - April 21, 2014

1. Happy Easter Monday, be sure to enjoy the White House egg roll.

2. It has been a rough weekend and, amazingly,  Easter happened despite everything else going on.

3. I was surprised at how springtime has happened in Maryland but not yet un upstate NY. It was nice to watch springtime return as I traveled farther south yesterday. 

4. Sleep is overrated.

5. Faith is what gets us through the times when we can't see the way.

6. On this date in 1836, the Texas army under the command of Sam Houston defeated the Mexicans at the Battle of San Jacinto. 

7. Computers can be very frustrating. I was trying to install new software and I couldn't get it to run properly! Ugh!

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter Mercy from Iran

Happy Easter!

As most of my readers probably understand, my celebration is a bit muted this year. But, it is because of Easter that my faith continues strong despite the deep unanswerable questions that confront me.

While reading the news the other day, I ran across an act of mercy from an unlikely country, Iran. I call it Easter mercy, although I know that Iranians don't celebrate Easter.

The situation was that a young 18 year-old Iranian man was to be executed for murder. He was sentenced to be hanged for his crime.  The victim's mother pardoned the killer and stopped the execution while the noose was around the condemned man's neck. You can read the full story in Sky News.

The story resonated with me because like the condemned man in Iran, I too deserve to die for my sins. But, the good news is that because of Easter my sins are forgiven.

If people could forgive each other in the same way that God has forgiven us, what a great planet this would be to live on!

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Outpouring of Love

I was up early this morning, about 5 AM. I looked out the window and saw the first signs of the day. It was an early morning scene filled by deep red hues and silhouetted hills on the east side of Cayuga Lake.

It was a surreal scene. I was thinking about Troy and Easter and resurrection and eternal life. No wonder I couldn't sleep. My mind just kept turning over the events of the past week and how quickly things had changed.

I checked the Ithaca Journal on line for Troy's obituary. The outpouring of love for Troy has been astounding and I am constantly amazed by the entries on his Facebook page from his friends. 

The images in this blog were posted by some of his friends.

The comments on his page are even more telling and not just from peers, but from teachers as well. His infectious personality affected everyone he met.

I have made up my mind not to talk about him in the past tense--but in the present because he still lives. Not just in my mind and heart, or the minds and hearts of everyone who knew him, but he lives eternally at a new address. It's just I can't phone him right now.

The last couple of lines from his obituary provide some information that some of my friends have asked for and so I will copy it here--but I urge you to click the link above and read about the wonderfully full life of my extraordinary nephew.

Excerpt from the Ithaca Journal, April 19, 2014:

We were blessed to have him in our life, but are deeply saddened by his passing at such an early age, with so many things left he wanted to experience. A memorial service will be held on Saturday, April 26 at 2:00PM at the Danby Federated Church, 1859 Danby Road, Danby NY. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to a scholarship fund which will be set up in memory of Troy at Ithaca High School. Donations to the Troy Whittemore Memorial Scholarship can be sent in c/o Mike Kasel at 320 Elm Street, Ithaca NY 14850. 

-- Bob Doan, writing from Ithaca, NY

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Battle is Over and the Survivors Remain

Troy with Lucas last weekend
Many of you know that my 23 year old nephew Troy has been fighting valiantly against cancer. The end came suddenly and unexpectedly yesterday and has left a gaping hole in the hearts of everyone who knew him--his family, friends, and the healthcare professionals who worked with him.

It was just last Sunday, five days ago, that he and his mom were at my house on their way home from the Master's Golf Tournament in Augusta, Georgia, where he was able to attend the opening round. I had no indication then as they pulled out of the driveway that it would be the last time that I would hug him and tell him that I loved him.

There is a huge hole in my heart.

I always believed that he would beat the evil illness that was trying to kill him from within.

Last Saturday I officiated at the wedding of my best friends and a week from tomorrow I will be attending Troy's memorial service. It is surreal.
Troy (on right) and his family with Derek Jeter last year

I am mad that the doctors couldn't heal Troy. I am mad that science has not figured out how to cure this terrible plague on humanity despite the billions of dollars that it has consumed.

I want to do something--I want to change the culture among young men so that we can talk about private things more openly--like Testicular Cancer. How many other young men must suffer and die before we can overcome the social taboos and begin to save lives? 

I was thinking of an Easter Hymn--The Strife is O'er, the Battle Won, I don't know why, during the six hour drive from Baltimore to Ithaca yesterday. Maybe it is because it is the Easter season and today is Good Friday when our Savior died for our sins and to give us eternal life. 

Some of the Lyrics are as follows:

Nicole and Troy many years ago
The strife is o'er, the battle done,
the victory of life is won;
the song of triumph has begun.

The powers of death have done their worst,
but Christ their legions hath dispersed:
let shout of holy joy outburst.

Troy's three year plus battle is over and while he is no longer with us, I am convinced that he won the battle. He demonstrated grace and incredible maturity and resilience at every step of the way. I watched him grow from a boy into a man. We who remain behind are scarred; there is a big hole in our lives. But my memories of him are real and keep him alive to me.

I know that Troy still lives because I believe in eternal life. I know, in my head, that his pain and suffering have been taken away. But because Troy no longer walks among us I cry.  We have lost someone that cannot be replaced--a unique man with incredible promise and abilities. He has walked across the bridge from life into eternal life and although I cannot see him and talk to him anymore--he is alive in my heart and I will see him again, someday.

As I once heard a very wise man say, he has a new address in his forever home and while I can't text him on my cell anymore--he will be there when I finally take up residence in my forever home.

I still cannot believe that he is gone--but he will never be forgotten.

-- Bob Doan, writing from Ithaca, NY

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Race for Maryland's Governor

The advertisements and campaigning have begin in earnest for this November's election. Maryland will get a new governor. The O'Malley tenure will finally come to an end, but sadly, I'm not sure, from what I've seen so far, that the ineptitude in the State House will come to an end.

The Maryland Minority Report highlights some of the abuses of power that the majority party continues to inflict upon the residents of the state. For me, I would like to see a flat income tax--period. Everyone contributes to support the state and the services they receive. Why is that bad?

Maryland politics needs a thorough house cleaning, from top to bottom. With the just ended legislative season I was appalled at by the statement of many delegates as they remarks---we didn't raise taxes, but we reduced deductions. Really? What is the difference? I lose more of my take home pay to support the bloated spending in Annapolis. 

Bottom line is that I need to see some concrete proposals from the candidates as to how to relieve the tax burden and become a thriftier state in terms of budget. 

So far--only platitudes about supporting the disabled and what the candidates did in their prior lives before politics. Let's get real--the state needs leadership to get out of the budgetary abyss that it is falling into and which is threatening the industrial base as well as the livelihood of everyone who lives here.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Spring Break 2014

It finally arrived yesterday, Spring Break. After a whirlwind trip to Denver, I was able to join Chris for a week off of house projects and other activities around the house. Some call it Spring Cleaning. Sadly, though, I brought the cold weather back with me from Denver and this morning has dawned clear and cold at 31 degrees.

Weeping Cherry 2014
I am glad that I have not planned a lot of outside activities for today until it warms back up a bit. I had thought about a baseball game, but I am not sure I really want to brave the cold to watch baseball. 

The flowering trees around the area remind me of how beautiful springtime is with the trees looking like snow cones on a trunk alongside the highway. Even my weeping cherry is breaking into blossom in response to the warmer temperatures and longer sunshine. Except for the below freezing temperatures, this is a great time of year because the scenery changes day-by-day as more and more plants begin the wake up process from their winter slumber.
Leaves coming on the trees

I noticed green leaves finally coming on many of the trees yesterday as well during the torrential rains which definitely exceeded the whole concept of April showers bringing the May flowers. 

I am excited that summer is getting closer, but I definitely want to enjoy the springtime this year as well. The winter was tough and it is making the prospect of springtime all the more appealing. 

Bring on the sun and fun! Soon, please.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Out the Hotel Window - Denver, April 2014

Out the Hotel Window
Penance! That is what it was. 

I had to pay for the glorious weekend that I enjoyed in Baltimore including days of temperatures above 80 degrees.

And so on Sunday evening I flew to Denver and was greeted by a blinding snow storm and temperatures of about 25 degrees. I left Baltimore in a shirt sleeves and had to pull my winter coat out of my suitcase before deplaning in Denver.

The dawn, while beautiful, was snow covered. And cold! I am ready for this kind of weather to be gone. Forever gone. Well, at least until December or next January.
Later that same day at the airport

It was definitely not the D.C. Cherry Blossom Festival. The roads were icy in the morning and reminded me of everything I do NOT miss about Winter.

The good news is that the snow melted and was gone by the afternoon. Yay. Although, there is more snow in their forecast. Happily, I won't be around to enjoy it.

-- Bob Doan, writing from Denver, Colorado while waiting at the airport

Monday, April 14, 2014

Monday Musings - April 14, 2014

Ethan Opening Gifts
1. My reward for enjoying 80 degree temperatures this past weekend was flying into a snowstorm last evening and going back to 20 degree temps.

2. Birthday celebrations can be overwhelming. I think Ethan was a bit overwhelmed yesterday celebrating his birthday.
Lucas, Chris, and the Tractor

3. I was able to mow the lawn for the first time during 2014 yesterday. I was very excited and I was able to enjoy some quality time with Lucas as well. Little boys love riding on tractors.

4. It is funny how different people are when it comes to driving routes. I like the get there the fastest route, but others like the stay away from the big city routes. It is great that we can all get along and drive the paths we choose.

Mary and Fran and Me at the Wedding
5.  Two of my best friends got married this weekend, and it was fun to see them so happy. I need to spend more time enjoying being happy.

6. I like wifi on planes, it makes the time go faster.

7. Kitty is officially for sale on auto trader. It will be hard to let the old car go.

8. Overheard at the birthday party as the gifts were being opened: "Don't give it to gramma."

-- Bob Doan, writing from Denver, CO

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Miles 4 Kyle

Miles for Kyle
I happened upon an interesting event yesterday. I was a charity event for a college student at the University of Maryland who has cancer. It was called Miles for Kyle

Groups of runners, followed by two busses and escorted by police were running along US 1 from College Park to Johns Hopkins to raise money for a fellow student afflicted with a rare form of cancer. I could not find direct information about the run on the internet, but I did find a couple of other events dedicated to Kyle.

I was parking my car in Elkridge town center when I saw the police escorting the group. I was lucky enough to learn the story from the proud mother of one of the runners who was there taking images of the group as the ran through Elkridge. 

It is amazing what a bunch of college kids were able to put together to support one of their own. I learned that Kyle was not able to observe the event because he was receiving therapy in Baltimore that day. But his friends were definitely on guard for him that day. 

As a result of my conversation with the proud Mom, I found the imaged note on the seat of my car when I returned. She was a great woman of faith and we had a deep conversation about cancer and young people and God's plan. We talked about how it is encouraging to see young people rally for those in need. I think we were both encouraged by each other after that short exchange. 

It is amazing how you can meet the best people in the most unexpected places. And I am praying for Kyle, and all of his supporters, too! 

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Hats of the Game

Maryland Flag O's Cap
Hats are worn everywhere and for almost every occasion  I must own 50 or more hats and caps. And I do have a hat for every occasion. 

Showing off my new cap with Patrick
This morning I have a new hat! I was at the Orioles game last evening, watching them lose because of ugly errors, but came home with the hat the that I had wanted since Opening Day thanks to the perseverance of Patrick and Tina. I had gone to the only stadium store which sells the hats and they did not have my size. Chris and I asked the manager about more hats in my size--which apparently in one of the most popular sizes only to be given a number to call back during the week when more were expected. As a surprise, later that same game, Patrick and Tina were able to get a hat, in my size, from the same store and the same manager! How does that work?

That was my personal highlight of the game--that, and being out on a beautiful, but breezy, Friday night with Chris, family and friends. 

I wish the outcome of the game had been different, but it was a beautiful early April evening and I was happy to be out at the ballpark celebrating the first official 80 degree day since October 2013 and watching baseball.

Thanks for the hat! When is my next game?

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Friday, April 11, 2014

Spring Fever

Forsythia by the House
Yesterday was one of those days that I just enjoy because i can marvel at how quickly the springtime had shaken off Winter's cold grip. 

I was able to check out some of the true signs of Spring and enjoy their once per year color. For instance, my forsythia are in full bloom. Hidden around the side of the house, I almost missed their flowery explosion which brightens an otherwise dark corner of my lot. 
Buds on the Weeping Cherry

I was encouraged by the greening of the grass and the other early springtime flowers which are pushing up into the the sunshine. I saw my bleeding hearts pushing through the mulch into the sunshine where soon they will be part of the next wave of plants to blossom as life returns to the gardens. 

I am waiting for my weeping cherry to blossom. It has buds and should be beautiful for Easter pictures. I love Spring! It is fun to watch everything spring back to life.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Pool Man Cometh

Pool on Closing Day 2013
I was around by my pool yesterday evening with a contractor who will be giving me an estimate about rehabbing the entire thing.

It needs it because it is about 23 years old and most everything associated with pools is certified for about 15 years. We are about 8 years beyond the normal life expectancy.

That, however, translates into thousands of dollars. I found out that there are no tax credits available for upgrading pools! Now I know why so many get filled in about 15 years into their life. 

Dirt is dirt cheap!

But, it is time to redo the pool and continue to make it the centerpiece of my resort-life at home concept. If I can't live on a beach, I can at least bring the beach life to me.

I realized that I need to order the chemicals--better living through chemicals, to get the pool through another summer. When I looked under the cover last evening I saw the usual springtime mess on the bottom. Important note though, I could see the bottom!

May 3rd is coming and that is pool opening day and my unofficial beginning to summer. 

The weather seems to be cooperating as well, the first 70's of the year are forecast for the weekend.

It is going to be awesome! Why am I always looking ahead to the fun activities that I'm going to do as an escape from the mundane things that I'm doing?

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Fortunes of the Game

Safe at Home!
Baseball is a fickle sport. Unlike football, a four game losing streak is not the end of the season, but rather just another bump in the highway that is MLB's 162 game season. 

It is hard to get excited about a team when they are losing, but a big win, like the one yesterday over the team from the north that shall remain nameless, restores a swagger to both the team and their fans. And hey, they have won two of their past three games.

But today is another day. The teams will take the field tonight to do it all over again.

Baseball provides an example for life. Just because yesterday was, bad or good, today is a new day with new possibilities. It is not a day until I get into it and despite the apparently crushing schedule  I may have on my calendar, I still have the opportunity to crush a home run and have a great day. Even if I don't park one over the fence, I can still hit a solid single and bring the day home successfully.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

It is Springtime when?

Daffodils in my Garden
The signs of springtime are everywhere. In my own garden the daffodils are now in full bloom. Due to the abundance of shade in my gardens, flowers tend to bloom later than elsewhere. It can be frustrating because I see them everywhere else, but then I get to enjoy their blooms later and longer than my neighbors.

The April showers have been excessive. I believe that almost an inch of rain fell yesterday, most of it during my drive home from work. At least the lawn was ready to receive it and the weed and feed I spread on Saturday morning should spur the growth of grass while killing the undesirable weeds.

And then there are the taxes, one of the true joys of springtime which are due exactly one week from today! I was appalled at the amount of taxes that I pay. It feels like I'm paying more than the GNP of a small third world nation. I mean the total tax bite--including federal, OASDI and Medicare plus my ransom to Maryland, one of the most heavily taxed states in the Union. The great lie of tax season is the refund scam where the government keeps more money than they are entitled to and I say thank you when they give some of it back making the hidden tax bill somehow more palatable.

Maybe yesterday's gray skies and rain just made me more grumpy as I completed my taxes and was wishing for a better way, like a flat tax.

One of the final signs of springtime is the completion of March Madness and the crowning of the nation men's basketball champion which happened last evening and saw the string of upsets continue to complete the upsetting tournament. Congrats to Connecticut, I never guessed they thad a chance. I had them going out in the second round.

It surely is Spring. Let's play some baseball now that the weather is warmer. I even see 70's in my local seven-day forecast.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Monday, April 7, 2014

Monday Musings - April 7, 2014

1. It is tax season! Ugh! Why is it getting more painful every year? And it seems to get worse no matter how hard I try to make it better. I'm tired of paying for everyone else to get the things I want.

2. Blue skies and warmer temperatures, it was a marvelous weekend.

3. T-ball batting practice can be hilarious, especially when the fielders decide the all want the ball and wind up in a heap in the field. 

4. I find it very cool that the military forces of the U.S. can be used to help sailors in distress, like the 1 year old girl. Good job all who participated.

5. Chris made chocolate chip cookies yesterday. Mmmm. I have a huge weakness for them. So much for my diet for one day.

6. I have decided to sell my 1987 Jaguar named Kitty. Having two Jags is a bit much and I want a Jeep so I can have fun at Jeep weekend.

7. I am so glad that baseball is back, I just wish the O's were doing a bit better.  OK, a lot better.

8. Are left-handers the most discriminated against group of people in the world? I wonder?

9. On this date, April 9, 1865, General Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House officially ending the U.S. Civil War. I wonder why this date is not a national holiday? It passes almost without anyone noticing, yet almost everyone who died during this war fighting on both sides was an American.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Simple Designs Gone Bad

Cart Designed for Right-Handed People
I was in Lowe's yesterday buying supplies to make my lawn green so that I can mow it more and discovered a seemingly simple but poorly designed cart.

Yes, the pictured cart is the offending item. 

As I was pulling the cart through Lowe's, I kept bumping things and running into displays. It was not trailing well behind me.

I looked as I pulled it and discovered that was offset to my left and not trailing right behind me. Even my lovely wife made mention of the fact that I was having a difficult time controlling the cart after it pushed over a fruit tree.

So I stopped for a moment and looked closely at the situation. Surely, I was not the only shopper to have trouble pulling the cart through the store. 

And then it occurred to me: this cart is designed uniquely designed to be pulled only by right-handed people. I was pulling the cart with my left hand--when I pulled it with my right hand, it trailed perfectly behind me. Wow, I was the problem!

I suffer through examples of this kind of poor designs all of the time. This is a design flaw that could have been easily remedied by designing a bend in the bar leading to the handle so that the handle would be centered over the end of the cart rather than offset to the left.

Most people use this cart and never notice the unintended discrimination against left-handed people.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Saturday, April 5, 2014

On the Edge of the Weekend

Friday's are unique days.

Friday is special because it is a work day but it is also the launch point for the weekend and executing plans for both Saturday and Sunday.

I enjoy hearing about the plans of my friends and their expectations for the weekend. Likewise, I enjoy sharing my  plans for the weekend with them even when I know that mine are a bit nebulous.

This weekend is a sports weekend. Lots of kid oriented baseball and lacrosse. Add to that some wine tasting and watching the Orioles try to get the baseball season back on track after three successive losses and I am sure I have many more expectations for the weekend than it will be possible to execute.

I guess that is what makes the weekends so special, the planning and the ability to change life up and do different things for two all too short days.
Four Legged Garden Eating Machines

Sometimes, things occur on weekends that will affect my planning for the future. Like, the deer in this image which I took this morning, this totally changes my plans for the gardens this year. Can I spell deer resistant?

One thing that is true about my weekends, however, is that they are almost never relaxing. But that is not a bad thing, it is just the pace of life.

Despite the pace, I always look forward to the weekend.  So, enough writing, it's time to get started!

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Friday, April 4, 2014

T-Ball Begins Anew

I am serving as an assistant coach for Jackson's T-Ball team again this year. Last night was the first practice and my first opportunity to meet the team and the many new players.

The core of the team are two returnees, Jax (of course) and Jack. It was good to be on the baseball field with youthful talent (4-6 year olds) excited about playing baseball and learning the game.

And the parents were there too, watching their sons (we have no girls on the team so far) learn the game.

This age group of kids has an attention span of about 30 seconds. I think of them much like Dory in Finding Nemo

But they are fun and eager to please.

The field was soggy, but we were shagging baseballs and talking baseball! Jax had a great night batting and also throwing strikes to me from first base.


-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Lawn Tractors on Steroids

I read an interesting article about how Honda has created the world's fastest lawn tractor. Coming in at 116.57 MPH, this Honda is equipped with a motorcycle engine and it is called the "Mean Mower.


Why do I need a lawn tractor that can go in excess of 116 MPH. The Snapper runner up did over 96 MPH. Still too fast for my yard. I wonder how the blades stay on and how much damage they would do to the the surround structures and even people if they did fly off the tractor.

I also wonder how it corners around a tree at 116 MPH? I bet it rolls over multiple times.

I'm happy with my Sears tractor that maybe does 8 MPH. I rarely go that fast. Driving too much faster would make mowing much too exciting.

I'm glad Honda was able to construct a lawn tractor with a high top speed, but I don't think it would sell very well. I wonder how log the engine and transmission would last at those speeds?

Lawn mowing should be enjoyed. There is something intoxicating about the smell of fresh mowed grass. I can't wait to do my first mowing this season. As soon as the ground dries I will be out there with my tractor making tracks on my lawn.

Tim the Toolman would be proud of Honda if he survived using such a beast, but he might be the only one. 

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Makayla's Rough Day

Makayla Relaxing after the Vet Day
If dogs had support groups to discuss the things in their lives that cause them problems, then Makayla would definitely need to discuss her day yesterday.

She did not have a spa day, but rather a vet day. She knew something was up when she didn't get a cookie after our short morning walk to allow her to take care of her personal business. And then, there wash no food or water. Both were a sure sign that something was up, and it definitely was.

It was dental care day at Banfield. Had that been the only thing she had going it probably would not have been too bad--but there were shots to be had, nails to be clipped, and anal glands to be expressed. She knew something was up when I dropped her off at 7AM. Her separation anxiety almost got the better of her as she refused to go with the vet tech, but her resistance was futile. When I picked her up at about 4PM she was still a bit groggy from the anesthesia. But she was happy to see me. I was happy to see her too. There is something great when your dog is excited to see you.

She has to take some antibiotics for a few days, and she hates pills, but she came through the ordeal very well and her breath smells good, too.

She certainly would have a lot of issues to discuss at her doggie support group.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Opening Day Reflections

Opening Day Baltimore Orioles 2014
Springtime arrived, at least for a day. With temperatures soaring into the 60's and skies turning blue allowing the warming rays of the sun to do their work, it was an idyllic baseball day in Baltimore. The stadium was ready and beautiful bathed in the sunlight with the backdrop of the city to complete the image. The Orioles faithful arrived in droves decked out in orange and black enveloping and hiding the few outsiders who tried to represent for the visiting team.

A Sea of Orioles Orange
The home team players ran down the orange carpet to the cheers of the crowd and the excitement in the air was a prelude to the game which was to be played. 

Baseball is back on center stage. Despite it being opening day there was still a lot of talk in the stands about other sports, but baseball was the prime topic. This game pitted the Orioles against the World Series Champion Boston Red Sox and everyone knew that it would not be an easy game. The Red Sox are talented and demonstrated their ability to win close games last year. It was not to be this day as the hometown Orioles took a close, well pitched and played game from the Sox 2-1. 

Conflicted Fan
Highlights? There were a few. Like the conflicted fan. Although I have seen something like this before, I am always astounded when fans want to hedge against announcing which team they are cheering for. I did tell this nice person that I would be using this image in my blog today and she actually posed for the shot. Out of a deep love for the game, I guess I can appreciate her position being from the visitor's city but living here in the land of the Oriole's. It must be a tough life.
Patrick in the O's Maryland flag cap

Another game highlight was the Maryland flag Orioles cap that made its debut at the game. I wanted one of these caps, but by the time I got to the stadium store, they were sold out. Ugh. Why is it that Marylanders love their state flag so much that they want to wear it? I dunno, I guess because it, along with the Texas flag, is the coolest state flag in the country. 

It was a great afternoon of baseball and fun with nearly 47,000 of my new best friends. Sadly, I was late to the festivities and so I missed all of the pregame hoopla at the local watering holes this year with the boys. But, Opening Day is a special day for all of us. More than any other day of the year it is a celebration of springtime looking forward to the hot Dog Days of summer and the many hours of family, friends, and fun that lie ahead.

Walking Eutaw Street in the Stadium
Even better, the Orioles started out with a win! As did all who attended the afternoon game no matter which team they supported. It was a beautiful day after a long and hard winter.

Baseball is back!

Summer is around the corner.

Singing "Take me out to the ballgame" was fun and the crowds were real. Who cares that it took me almost an hour to get home after the game because the traffic was terrible? 

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

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