Sunday, November 30, 2014

Flying South with the Geese

Geese flying South during November 2014
There they were flying south the other morning. The geese were formed in their classic "V" formation.

The sky was clear and blue. 

It was a beautiful scene. I even caught the airliner leaving a contrail in the image as I recorded the sight for my memory.

The geese were flying south, and with them they were carrying my heart. I wish I were heading south to the warmth of a nice sandy beach somewhere.

The jet was heading north--probably to New York or Boston or some other equally as frozen city.

My vote is clearly to go with the geese--they know their way is the best way.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Axis and Allies: WWI 1914 - Review

Wow. Axis and Allies WWI 1914 is a fantastic and complex game that captures the essence of World War I.

Three of us traveled 100 years into the past to recreate the situation in Europe at the beginning of 1914 and play out the Great War, or the War to end all wars. This is what we do while the women in our lives face the crushing Black Friday crowds.

Thankfully, the game was simplified from the actual history of the time. The instructions indicate that the game averages 8 hour to play. We played for 10 hours and still none of the national capitals had been captured. The game played out much like history records WWI--slow and plodding. But, each turn was important and critical to the overall outcome.
The Board for Axis and Allies WWI 1914

We played with three players and I have to admit, I was the central powers and the game requires constant attention. The first round through the 8 countries took us 3 hours--but much of that time was learning the rules and the differences between the classic Axis and Allies versions and this one.

After the first round, the game picked up in pace, but our efforts to achieve a decisive victory on the field of conflict were just as inept as that of the countries involved in the war. No country or alliance could gain the advantage and the game quickly descended into a war of attrition which the allies gradually began to win especially as the U.S. was allowed to entry the conflict on turn 4 and in this case the French developed into an effective fighting force.

The game is complex. Eight countries are represented. On the allies side there are the French Alliance, the British Empire, the Russian Empire, Italy, and the United States arrayed against Germany, the Ottoman Empire, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

My mistakes? As Germany, I thought that I could quickly take Moscow and before the French and British could organize and then I would be able to hold the lines while the Austrian-
hungarian armies pushed through Italy and then onto Paris. I didn't pay enough attention to the India connection of the British Empire and my Ottoman Empire forces were neutralized and I was in a defensive posture for the bulk of the game.

After 10 hours of play, Moscow was under attack and Constantinople and Berlin were under siege. The Austro-Hungarian Empire forces were finally making their way through the Alps to pressure the French and the Italians, but Ottomans and Germans were effectively neutralized. The Central Powers navies had been neutralized and the allies had unopposed command of the sea lines of communication. I conceded the game.

RECOMMENDATION: It was a great game and another fantastic Black Friday event! If you enjoy this type of historical simulation--this game is for you.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Friday, November 28, 2014

To Shop or Not: Bring on the Games!

Black Friday has arrived!

I am sitting safely in the comfort of my chair, writing, just before 6AM and the women in my life have already headed out to risk life, limb, and wallets at the explosion of after Thanksgiving Day sales. Early reports indicate that it is a jungle out there.

Great Dinners mean Fantastic Left-overs

I have no expectation of gracing a store today, except maybe to get more beer.

Today, as is every Black Friday, is devoted to wargaming and learning more about the history of the world wars. The guys gather to play Axis and Allies, while the women in our lives shop. The kids? They are with us, but are pretty much on their own.

I take another sip of my coffee, stretch, yawn, and reflect upon yesterday in the quietness of my living room. Not even the TV is on to allow reality to disturb me. The grazing and gaming are expected to commence about 9AM. 

We are playing a new version of the game this year: WWI:1914. The map is completely different we are struggling to learn the rules before convening. We got tired of confirming that the Allies win WWII every time we play no matter who plays the Axis or who pays the Allies.

The women shop while the men play! What a role reversal from prehistoric times when the men were the hunter-killers and the women stayed at home.

Who cares? Game time is coming soon! 

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Thursday, November 27, 2014

The food, the Snow, the Day: Thanksgiving

Flag in Front of the House
Happy Thanksgiving! This is one of those truly American holidays that cuts across all of the cultural boundaries.

I am saddened that more retailers are opening their stores on the holiday this year. Thanksgiving was the last holiday that retailers recognized and now, even this holiday, is being minimized in the pursuit of profit.

The season of the turkey is here for the annual celebration. Yet, even yesterday, the tendrils of winter reached across the land to provide a sample of the cold, dark, weather on tap for the next couple of months.
Snow in my Yard

The scene around the area was very wintery. Even in my yard there were examples of the snowy, cold weather although for the most part this area was spared the terrible conditions faced by many others in the northeast. 

I am glad that I was not traveling yesterday and that the travelers in the family had already safely arrived at their destinations.
Cranberries on the Stove

I got to experiment with cooking yesterday afternoon by making cranberry sauce from scratch. I love canned cranberry sauce, because I have only rarely been able to taste the made from scratch variety. I believe I may never appreciate the canned variety again. Especially since one of the secret ingredients in the cranberry sauce I made is Port! Yup!
The completed Cranberry Sauce

Food, football, family, friends, and fun! I am ready for the day.  (The five "F's" of Thanksgiving)

I will take time to give thanks for the blessings that I have received today and for the blessings that everyone in my family has received. We are richly blessed and we are genuinely thankful.

Have a great day. Be well. Give thanks.

--Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Twas the day before Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Thoughts:

Eat a turkey, don't be one.

Be thankful for your blessings.

Enjoy the day and the weekend.

Stay away from the black friday sales, all they want is your money.

I found a website about 62 Thoughts Everyone has During Thanksgiving Dinner. Here are my favorites:

2. It’s about time. The turkey “is going to be ready in 30 minutes”…for the past hour and a half.
14. Oh great, now dad has to carve the turkey. Why didn’t he do that before we sat down?
15. Watching dad carve the turkey is the Thanksgiving equivalent of watching paint dry. Except I am HUNGRY.
30. Everyone calm down! I’m not Dr. Octopus!
31. Why are we talking about politics? This will only lead to the parents shouting so loudly people are spitting food across the table.
33. Darn. Mom mentioned Hillary. Here we go.
34. Oh no, grandpa tasted the turkey. I am not ready for this.
36. DRY! It’s dry! I feel so very #blessed.
60. Literally all I am capable of doing right now is rolling over to the couch and passing out.
61. God, I am SO glad Thanksgiving is over.
62. And I can’t believe we’re doing this again in a month for Christmas.

Happy Thanksgiving!

--Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

November 24th--Respite Before the Storms

What a day! It was unexpected and fantastic.

Although, officially we did not make 70 degrees, the local weather station recorded 69.5 degrees and the day was fantastic.

The rain ended, the sun came out and I enjoyed a great afternoon and evening.

Silhouetted Deer in setting sun on the course
Let's recap the afternoon--which was the creative part of the day. 

I slipped out of work, with the approval of my supervisor, to head off to the golf course with Jeremy.  Yup--a warm, sunny afternoon was celebrated outdoors on the golf course. 

It was not that I played that well on the course, but that it was November 24th it was warm enough to be outside in a short-sleeved shirt playing golf! We played until dark--14 holes and on the way to the club house spied deer all along the course in the sunset lit landscape. 

Back at the house, it was time for  happy hour and some quality time around the fire pit with Mom and Dad. 

Glasses of wine, cheese and some great conversation in the evening light was a true memory.

It was, after all, November 24th. A day when cold should reign, but for a moment, for an afternoon, the temperatures were warm and memories were made. I am beginning to realize that I must take advantage of great weather when it is unexpectedly provided.

I strive to grasp and remember days like yesterday. Today's high will be 55 degrees and that will happen this morning. The evening forecast calls for 39 degrees accompanied by rain and snow! Oh by the way, it is thirty days until Christmas!

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Monday, November 24, 2014

Monday Musings - November 24, 2014

New Door Mat
1. Happy Thanksgiving. Eat a turkey, don't be one.

2. Be safe traveling this week, remember, this week has one of the busiest travel days of the year.

3. It is supposed to be in the 70's today. Yay! A final respite before the onslaught of winter begins.
Snowman picture on the wall

4. Winter takes many forms. Lots of people like snowmen. This one has lights! And it now hangs in my family room. It blinks. Really!

5. Traveling through Pennsylvania on a Sunday morning is the best time.

6. Turn signals. What a concept. I wonder how many people really know what the lever on the left side of the steering wheel is for?

7. What exactly is a turkey trot?

8. It is good to have the family gathering for the holiday! 

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Sunrise Fire in the Sky

Sunrise Reflected in the Car Door
Yesterday morning the fiery sunrise that graced the eastern sky was something to behold.

I walked outside to photograph it and I saw its reflection in the car. It was stunning, ruining in a stripe along the door of the car.

The sunrise was even more spectacular when looking at it through the naked, ready for winter, trees. The day was dawning and with it promise and excitement. Even though it was clear and cold, it was about 18 degrees as I stood outside with no coat and bare feet taking the picture, the artistry in the sky was something to be marveled at and appreciated. 
Sunrise, Saturday November 22, 2014
Danby, NY

I wish I were a painter like Van Gogh, but at least I can take an image to remember the magnificence of the scene.

I saw the fire of the sun as it crept above the horizon, the scene seemed even colder than it was because of the bare trees.

I am glad I imprinted this scene on my mind. But that was yesterday.

I wonder what joys today will bring?

-- Bob Doan, writing from Danby, NY

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Travel, sunset, flags and pizza

Looking Up a Valley in Central Pennsylvania
This time if year, it is best to leave for a road trip while there is still plenty of daylight.

The road trip this weekend is to upstate New York near the region where the epic snows have been falling, but not quite there; thankfully!

I enjoyed the drive because I didn't have to drive the first part of the trip and was able to look out the window and absorb the views as the sun began to set. It is that golden time of day when the sun makes even the leafless trees look interesting in the setting light. I especially enjoyed the lengthening shadows cast by the setting sun on the hills.

The colors were so bright yesterday against the crisp (OK, cold) sky.
Flag on the Bridge to Northumberland, PA

Sadly, though, as we were traveling across the bridge into Northumberland, PA, I saw something that needs to be corrected. The bridge has a number of US flags adorning the span, but they are in a sad state of repair and need to be replaced. Many of the flags along the bridge were torn similar to the one I imaged here. Proper care an respect of the flag mandates that these flags need to be replaced. I hope this happens soon.
Dinner at the end of the road

Fortunately there was only a dusting of snow on the ground when we arrived. The heavy snow is more north. The good news was that when we arrived there was a pizza waiting for us and that easily erased the memory of the trip. 

Traffic on Friday afternoon was frustrating even though we left just after noon. It took almost an hour to drive the 30 minutes around the Baltimore beltway. That set up a chain of events that caused us to hit heavy afternoon traffic in two other locations. Ugh! All told, traffic added an hour to our trip. 

But we arrived safely and I enjoyed the views until darkness fell and then, of course, it was my turn to drive.

It is the weekend. I am going to enjoy it and have a great time. I will be back home and at work too soon.

-- Bob Doan, writing from Danby, NY

Friday, November 21, 2014

Keeping My Eyes Open

It was a beautiful November Sunday afternoon headed into a Baltimore Ravens football game on the Sunday before Veterans Day. What should I have expected?

Firstly, I didn't expect to be going to a Ravens game nor did I expect the weather to be idyllic.

Walking along the Ravens walk, however, I discovered two fully restored venerable vehicles from World War II. A half track and a Willys Jeep.

I remember watching television shows and movies with both of these vehicles in them and I never realized how reliable vehicles like these helped to change modern warfare.

They seemed out of place amid the throng of modern day football fans and many of whom barely paused to notice there historic machines. 

By keeping my eyes ope, I discovered something that did not seem to belong.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Dark to Darker

It happened yesterday for the first time this season. It actually is the one thing I don't like about this time of year even more than the cold and snow.

It is going to work and later arriving at home during hours of darkness. 

Sunrise was 6:54AM as I was arriving at work, and sunset was 4:49PM for a grand total of 9 hours 55 minutes of sunlight upon the region. 

The darkness saps my energy. And my memory apparently,  I forgot that the Leonid meteor shower was at its peak on Tuesday night! Ugh! It was too cold to watch them anyway. 

Last evening I had to head over to do what I call, grandpa duty and be at the house when Ethan and Jax arrived home after a hard day of school. That ultimately delated my own arrival at home until well after darkness had fallen upon the land.

Frigid temperatures and increasing darkness. Yup, it is winter time no matter that the calendar tries to tell me winter does not begin for almost another month.

I now understand the concept of keeping the home fires burning.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Reflections of Autumn

Buffalo, NY, November 2014
I noticed yesterday, while driving home from work, that the end has arrived for the autumn leaves. I have to admit, it was a beautiful and long autumn in my area. The colors of the leaves on the trees provided many opportunities to be amazed as their hues pasted against a clear cerulean and cold sky. 

Most of the trees are now bare and ready for the onset of winter. The leaves which once adorned their branches are scattered in piles upon the land and no longer muffle the sounds of traffic on the interstate. 

Snow has even been seen falling recently and more will soon be expected. We have not seen, nor do we expect to see as much snow as some areas of Upstate New York, near Buffalo. I downloaded an image posted by a friend which made me feel better about being in Maryland. That is just too much snow! And, in case you had forgotten, it is only November!

I remember last winter just did not want to let go and allow spring to arrive. It seems that winter has been waiting for the past eight months to get revenge upon us for allowing spring to arrive at all!
Jay on the Beach

After looking at the cold and preparing for my excursion out into the 17 degree morning, according to my home thermometer, I came across an image of a Jay standing on a warm looking probable Florida beach in Facebook. Thanks for rubbing it in Jay. 

It is a really nice image. I like the sun in the background. 

I wish I was on a warm beach somewhere enjoying the afternoon sun with my dive mask and snorkel in hand. 

But I'm not! I'm lamenting the end of autumn and the cruel onset of winter.

I am encouraged that temperatures will rebound in to the 40's and 50's by weeks end. When did I ever think I'd be looking forward to temperatures of 40's and 50's?

Good-bye autumn and hello winter! Spring must not be far off!

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Coldest Morning of the Season

It is cold out this morning. It is the coldest morning of the season, thus far. As some would read the thermometer, it is not really that cold. It is not the bone chilling frigid weather being faced by people living in the midwest where Denver saw -1 the other day. Thankfully, it is definitely not that cold.

But still, cold is cold. My local weather station reports the temperature at 23.8 degrees Fahrenheit. That qualifies as cold. A freeze, even. All of the annuals have dies with the recent spate of below freezing temperatures. It was sad to see them go, but freeing because the gardens are beginning the process of readying for revival.

A review of some of my favorite places finds temperatures ranging from 19 degrees in both Ithaca, NY,  and Denver, CO; to 75 degrees in, wait for it, Key West.

I noticed that it is 27 degrees in Charlottesville, so even the Virginia wine country is cold.

I could wish I was further south, but I'm not so I just have to deal with it.

I may even have to wear an overcoat this morning to protect myself from the chill.

As the day prepares for dawn, the temperatures will rise--but it will still be cold. 

Be careful out there!

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Monday, November 17, 2014

Monday Musings - November 17, 2014

1. There is just over a week until Thanksgiving and the turkey's are getting fat.

2. Holiday decorations take a long time to put up. 

3. The baseball off-season is heating up. 

4. Is it possible to enjoy the holidays and not gain weight?

5. Do football and turkey have anything on common other than Thanksgiving?

6. What is your traditional Christmas Day meal? Ours is prime beef and presents.

7. I like the Penguins of Madagascar. Smile and wave, boys--smile and wave. I'm looking forward to the upcoming movie.

8.  I enjoy Sunday's when the Raven's have a bye week.

9. Wine for Thanksgiving? I'll give some suggestions this week in my wine blog.

10. My favorite Thanksgiving activity is the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Let the floats fly!

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Snow Village Arrives for the Holidays

The completed display
After a year hiatus, the annual version of our Snow Village was created yesterday. It was an especially complex assembly because we decided, at the last minute, to add a train to the scene. The train was graciously loaned to us by Patrick and Tina. 
The boxes being staged

The first and most difficult decision surrounding the display was the location. Even though the Snow Village is fairly large, we actually discussed five different locations and the final location--interestingly, was not one of the initial choice. This year, the display is in our dining room.
Initial layout without train

The Snow Village is a whole day project, well almost all day, that requires multiple boxes to be retrieved from the storage area and staged. The multiple buildings and pieces which become the scene must each be checked and placed on  the underlying base which I have made configurable for what ever space we choose. 
The train is Assembled and the city placed

The train caused the base to be changed this year, which delayed assembly, but also provided some exciting creativity moments. The change is evident in the pictures I have added. We used an HO scale train, however, upon reflection, I'm not sure that is the best scale for the Snow Village. But, hey, it works and it is fun, for the first time ever, to have an operating train in the village. 

Seven hours after we began--it was complete. I believe we will continue to incorporate trains into the village and will do a better job planning in the future. It will likely become a train display with a Snow Village rather than a Snow Village with a train. 

Bring on the holidays!

Note: One observant reader asked about the Christmas lights I put on the house on Veterans Day. To clarify, the lights are in place but not illuminated. We do not begin lighting them until the day after Thanksgiving when it truly becomes the Christmas Season.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Big Hero 6 - Review

Lucas in front of Baymax
What are you doing this cold weekend? Getting ready for the holidays or hoping they won't come?

Here's a thought. Go to a movie! Yup. I went to see Big Hero 6 with the grandsons and I confirm--it is worth the time and money. 

The movie is well paced and has a good story with a not so obvious twist. 

The story revolves around a Hiro Hamada, a 14-year old genius whose older brother, Tadashi, motivates to achieve something higher than where he was happy being. Tadashi, who tragically dies, was a genius as well and created a personal health assistant robot, Baymax. Teaming with his older brother's friends, Hiro, accompanied by Baymax, unravel the details around Tadashi's death and begin down the road to becoming super heroes.

The story is fast paced with action to keep the younger crowd engaged, but also has an engaging story for the older audience, like me.

RECOMMENDATION: See this movie, preferably with kids or grandkids. In my case I was lucky--I went with both kids and grandkids. Have fun. Buy some popcorn and escape for a couple hours on a cold weekend's afternoon.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Friday, November 14, 2014

Unnamed Holiday, Holidays

What is in a name?

It seems quite a bit. Montgomery County, Maryland, has decided to omit the religious names of observances from the calendar.

So let me get this straight--if I don't call it Yom Kippur or Easter, but there is still a day off it makes it all better?

CNN reports it this way:

(CNN) -- Starting next year, the names of religious holidays like Christmas and Yom Kippur will no longer appear on the school calendar in Montgomery County, Maryland.

Instead of Christmas break, students will have winter break. And when Yom Kippur rolls around, the calendar will simply state that there will be no school.

I'm caught up in the old idea that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. A holiday, although unnamed, is still an observance!

This sounds really petty--and all because another special interest group wanted to add another holiday to the school calendar.

I sat on the Howard County, Maryland, School Calendar committee planning the 2014 calendar and I have some observations.

First and foremost--Christmas needs to be excluded from the discussion of religious holidays with respect to school calendars. Why? Christmas is a federal holiday unlike all of the rest of the days being considered. So it is truly acceptable to say Merry Christmas and not worry about it being construed as a religious event.

Second--everybody should have seen that this situation was going to be coming soon. There are enough teacher work days built into the schedule to be able to move them around to accommodate the "religious" holidays if the school districts really wanted to account for them. 

Third--at least in Maryland, not all of the federal holidays are observed by the schools. 

Finally, the calendars in the school systems are built around the last day of school. Anything is negotiable as long as the last day of school is not too late during June. With some creative work everyone's wishes could be accommodated.

I think the final paragraph from the CNN article really sums it up:

"They're trying to be politically correct so they don't offend anybody," he said. "But let's be real here; they're going to offend a few people. People always get offended."
It is not that hard. If we, as a society, are going to be inclusive--as we say we want to be, then we need to act that way. Taking the religious names off the calendar doesn't change the fact of the observance, it only obscures it.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Winter's Approach and the Deer Draw Near

Deer in the Forest
During the warm days of this past weekend, I became aware that I was being watched, closely, much of the time I was working in the yard. 

As the season grows darker with the coming of winter, it seems that the four-legged critters that we share the area with lose their fear am draw closer to the house. Not only have the deer been stalking me, but the yard is full of rabbits and squirrels. Makayla loves chasing them from the yard--but it is only a temporary measure. 

There were actually five deer near me that day. Two panicked and ran as I got close to the boundary separating my yard from the wild area, but these three remained hoping for a hand out, I think.

I have watched to two smaller deer grow from fawns at the beginning of the year. I am amazed that they are still at their mother's side even as the winter draws near. 

I enjoy living on the boundary between civilization and the wild land. It is reassuring that there is so much wild space near us that it supports a thriving herd of deer--which, admittedly are a nuisance, but were more well behaved this year and did not eat the expensive flowers to the ground thinking they were a gourmet deer meal.

I also was really amazed at how close they let me approach the group before the walked--not ran, away. They were never bothered by my presence until I got about 40 feet away. I was reminded of a golf outing a few weeks ago at twilight when the deer herds were running the golf course and I actually took one shot while looking a buck in the eyes. He was only about 20 feet away and totally unconcerned that I was swinging a club at a small white ball. I remember taking another shot across and above a small grouping of deer. They were very accepting of my presence.

The frigid cold is approaching and with it winter-like weather. I'm sure I'll be seeing more of the deer and other critters in my yard seeking food.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

What I Did on Veterans Day

I was very busy on Veterans Day. I think I would have been better off to go to work, because I worked hard around the house. 

I played some too.

Here is how the day went down.

I wrote my Veterans Day blog.

Driving Range
Then, because the morning was cold (36 degrees) and the lawn was still wet, I decided to go to a driving range and hit some balls, since I wasn't going be able to play golf. I also had one club re-gripped because it was a disaster. I hit 168 golf balls in about an hour and a half while the sun crawled higher up into the sky and the day began to get going.

Back at the house it was time to finish cutting down the grasses that form the privacy fence around the pool. I love the grasses, but every year they must be cut down and removed. It is not a hard job, but it isn't a lot of fun because they make my arms swell a bit because I am a bit allergic to them. Even though I wear a long sleeve shirt, they manage to get under the fabric around my wrists.
My Truck loaded with the Grasses

Then it was off to the landfill to recycle the grasses with my trusty dog Makayla. She loves to go for road trips and I like having her along for the ride. Speaking of the ride--wow, two delays. First, I got a mile down the read before I realized that I had a soft tire so it was back to the house for air. Then I realized I needed gas--ugh! Why didn't I fill the tank on Friday when I knew it was low?

Back at the house it was time for lunch. 

Then Christmas decorations. I do exterior decorations on Veterans Day, especially if it is a nice day, because then I don't have to worry about them later. For this event, I called in reinforcements: Patrick and Tina. The small army working together completed the task in record time and by 4:00 we were done! Yay.

But the day wasn't over yet.

I have been working to make the fire table have real flames for over two weeks. I have ordered a number of things to make this happen--and have been thwarted. Today, though, the FEDEX man delivered the final part--an adjustable regulator. With Patrick's assistance the fire table was transformed from a warming table to one with true flames and became a true place to enjoy.

But wait, there's more, it was racquetball evening. By 5:30PM I was on the racquetball court playing a match. 

I was there for a bit and then it was home, arriving about 7:30 PM. 

Dinner and a glass of wine around the refurbished fire table was the perfect exclamation point on the day. 

A great day. Very busy and full.

--Bob Doan, Elkridge, Md

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veterans Day 2014

Service, sacrifice, patriotism!

Veterans Day grew out of a President Woodrow Wilson proclamation during 1919 for a commemoration of the end of the war to end all wars, as it was known, which ended on November 11, 1918. 

I get to enjoy a holiday today and, apparently, will also be blessed with great weather.

I continue to be frustrated that public schools in Maryland are not observing the holiday. I sat on the Howard County Calendar Committee developing the calendar for this year and I just could not get the country to allow students and teachers a day off to remember the service of our Veterans. I consider it one of the failures of the process of developing a school calendar.

On the other hand, I am continually pleased to note how many businesses celebrate and honor the service of veterans by offering a military discount. The list of businesses offering Veterans Discounts is large. Thanks! 

Hug a veteran and say thanks!

P.S.-- you are welcome!

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Monday, November 10, 2014

Monday Musings - November 10, 2014

1. Veterans Day is upon us. Known as Remembrance Day in much of Europe to remember the carnage of World War I. Take a moment to pause and thank a Vet.
Tower of London Poppies

2. Remembrance Day is also known as Poppy Day, and the poppy is the symbol of the day. This year a special remembrance was conducted in the moat around the Tower of London with thousands of ceramic poppies in honor of the 100th Anniversary of the start of World War I.
Chris, Patrick, and Tina at the after Ravens Game party

3. A special thanks go out to Patrick and Tina for taking Chris and me to the Ravens game yesterday--in the Club Level no less! We had a great time, the weather was awesome, and the Ravens won the game. It was a perfect day--a total surprise.

4. There is something nice about driving to work as the dawn breaks. Sadly, though, it gets dark so much sooner that I feel like is it 9PM when it is only 5:30PM.

5. Big shout out to the Homer, NY, High School Football Team which won its sectional game yesterday. On to the Regionals next week! Go Trojans!

6. It seems as if winter wants to take control of the weather over a month early with the monster storm heading East. Ugh! Snow. Who needs it?

7. Yes, I took today off in advance of the Veterans Day holiday to get some final outside work done around the house before the big freeze begins!

8. I have been enjoying the color saturation of the golden sun on the still clinging to the trees leaves in the cool autumn mornings.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Agony of Defeat becomes Real

I remember the words of the opening lines of ABC's Wide World of Sports talking about the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. The image of the ski jumper crashing on the slope after a failed launch still plays in my mind as the visuals associated with those words scroll through my mind.

I have felt the sting of defeat--losing a contest or event that I really wanted to win. I have watched my favorite sports teams accept defeat. Only one team can win, we are told. Or, both teams are truly winners--but only one can be the champion.

Usually, there are no tears--we have become resigned to not crying when we lose. We must be tough and accept the end result even though every fiber of our being wants to scream, it's not fair! We should have won! We are the better team!
GORC Playoff vs Andover
November 8, 2014
Arundel High School

That is why we play the games.

Yesterday, on a cold, but bright, November morning I witnessed the end of the season for a group of six and seven year old football players including my grandson Jax. They lost a playoff game by one small point (19-18) to a team they had previously beaten 25-0. Jax's team had lost games before--so they have felt the sting of loss. But this was the first time they felt the loss associated with a season ending defeat. 

With the filters off--because six and seven year olds don't have many filters, I was reminded how much losing a game that really needs to be won hurts. I was astonished to see tears in the eyes of most of the players as the finality of the game became real. And I realized, that there have been many times when I have lost a tough contest that I wish I could have cried--but couldn't. I thought the coach's speech after the game was perfect--he reminded them that this was only their first year of football and that they had come so far and learned so much. He encouraged them not to lose touch with each other and that next year--next year, will be different.

I'm sure the words meant much more to the parents who were tending to their crying football players than to the players themselves, but that is the gift of sports--we'll get them next time!

The agony of defeat stings hard, but it is temporary and motivating!

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Saturday, November 8, 2014

First Frost Surprise

It wasn't supposed to happen this way. There was no forecast of frost for our area--but sure enough, last night the temperature dipped four degrees colder than it was supposed to and the frost arrived to terminate the autumn flowers we have been enjoying. 

It is still dark outside, and so I do not know the extent of the damage; but at least I brought in most of the plants we want to save through the winter.

The house is near the bottom of a low spot, and I have learned that cold goes downhill seeking the low places--that would be my house. The official temperature at 6AM, still 44 minutes before sunrise is 32.4 degrees. But my thermometer is recording 29.8 degrees, and falling. The temperature has gone down a whole degree since I woke up at 5AM and realized a freeze was in progress and rescued as many of the plants as I could.

The extent of the damage is unknown and likely it will be a day or so before we know how many will succumb to the cold.

Autumn has moved into the next phase--the final lock down before winter arrives. The cold winds of November are blowing. The darkness is settling and we are more and more confined to in door activities. The trees have mostly given up their leaves, and those remaining give the world a rusted hue when meeting the rays of the dawning sun. Green is giving way to brown and gray as the cold works its way into the region and winter's first big storm is lashing the Pacific Ocean making its way towards the coast and to cover the land with unseasonably cold temperatures. 

I am happy that I have so far enjoyed the season--but I do long for spring, already.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Friday, November 7, 2014

Feeding the Homeless Deemed Illegal

I read an article on RawStory about a 90 year old man and two ministers who were arrested in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for feeding the homeless on a sidewalk.

Remember--Fort Lauderdale is where a significant amount of Spring Break partying and debauchery occurs annually.

The article, titled, 90-year-old Florida man faces 60 days in jail for feeding the homeless is an interesting read. Homeless advocate Arnold Abbott describes the incident as follows:

“As contemplated on Sunday, I was arrested for feeding the homeless and received a citation to appear in court,” Abbott explained on Facebook. “However, only 4 people were fed before an officer told me to, ‘Drop that plate immediately!’ As though it were a weapon I was holding, and to go with him to the police car. After a time I was allowed to get the food back on the van and we were able to find a small churches [sic] driveway, where we set up, and fed the people who followed us over.”

I am confused. How is a non-profit organization feeding homeless people that otherwise might have to resort to public assistance a problem for the city? As I read the article, the larger problem may be the number of homeless in Fort Lauderdale--but apparently, the city isn't solving the problem only exacerbating it through their "police state" actions. And it seems Ft Lauderdale has no problem with encouraging the annual partying and problems associated with Spring Break.

Hopefully, cooler heads will prevail when the courts get involved.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Thursday, November 6, 2014

A New Butler in the House

I felt rich, for about a minute last evening as the new butler, Hermann, arrived to tend to our needs.

And then it was all downhill. Although it was a great buy from the after Halloween sales, the butler is just creepy! He has a mean sense of humor too--like saying something about dinner being served in the dungeon. Really? We don't have a dungeon, do we?

He says a bunch of other weird things and Makayla is terrified of him. 

Frankly, I get kind of creeped out by him too. Thank goodness he was on a 90 percent off sale and Chris brought him home for $5. 

It is almost too bad he will need to wait a whole year to terrify some unsuspecting trick or treater.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Shock Waves across the Country

I love it when "We the People" speak with a nearly unified voice. The election yesterday was one of those times.

I'm not saying that I am excited that a particular party was victorious, but I found that the message being sent to the political leaders in Washington, DC, was simply--"That dog don't hunt!"

Or put a different way--it is time for a course correction.

The leadership of our country has been dysfunctional and the people want a functioning government.

I note that in Maryland the voters elected only the 7th Republican governor in the history of the state. Democrats reportedly outnumber Republicans 2-1 in Maryland. I believe the results are clear, it is not about politics--it is about leadership.

I hope the winners take note of what the people want. No more gridlock in Washington or in the State Houses across the country. The people want functioning government, lower taxes, consistent policy and integrity.

I hope you voted! I did.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Tree Ate It! Really!!

Orange Golf Ball in a Tree
Yesterday, after I mowed the lawn primarily to remove the leaves that used to form the privacy canopy in the trees, I decided to hit a few practice golf balls.

My yard is not particularly large--but it is private. I use orange foam practice balls so that I do not risk breaking anything--like windows. 

I work mostly with my wedges and short irons trying to consistently hit the ball--which is a lot harder that I ever imagined it would be. 

All too often my shots leave the yard and fly into the wild and forested area next to the house. 

Yesterday, I  hit one and was tracked it into the wooded area as it flew off course, but I didn't see it come down. I knew about where it was headed, so I went over to look for it. The orange golf balls--which, while easy to see in green grass are a lot more problematic to find in the orange and red autumn leaves piling up around the yard. 

After searching for a few minutes, some of the people I play golf with say that I am a fanatic about finding lost balls, I was unable to find the missing ball. I replayed the shot in my head and remembered that I never saw the ball come down into the underbrush. 
Orange Golf Ball up Close

I decided that maybe, since it was a foam ball and not as heavy or dense as real golf ball, that the ball might be in a tree. The area is surrounded by juniper trees which are still green and have small needles for leaves. 

I looked up into the first tree and there it was--in the branches.

Wow! I was happy, I hate losing golf balls. It was funny to find the bright orange ball nestled in the branches of the tree. It was a lot like an Easter Egg Hunt.

I lose enough balls, it was nice to find a wayward one.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

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