Wednesday, December 31, 2014

And so it Passes

Pikes Peak during January 2014
2014 ends tonight. What a year it has been. I am at the same time happy and sad to see it pass.

It is the turning of the year that helps me take a moment and review the year.

One of the high points was the trip to Oregon during July. Wow, what a beautiful place. I highly recommend it as a place to visit. It may be too rainy and cold to live there.
Consensus Blending: The Mad Scientist Lives

I had forgotten how much I traveled during the year: to Colorado a bunch of times and to Alaska during February. Then there was also the Consensus Wine Blending at Keswick--which is always a great weekend in Charlottesville, VA. Spring Training to Sarasota got me out of the cold for a few days and into a baseball state of mind.
Alaska in February: Who Travels There Then?

And there were also trips to Ithaca and wineries. I lost count of how many wineries were visited this year--but I know they were in five states: Maryland, Virginia, New York, Pennsylvania, and Oregon. 

There were wine dinners and wine evenings throughout the year the kept me busy and helped me to enjoy life to the fullest. 
Sarasota with the Orioles Bird

Spring finally arrived, and with it Opening Day and the fantastic Orioles baseball season which saw my team come just short in the League Championship Game. OK, so they were swept. But the Orioles proved themselves as one of the best teams in baseball. 

There were celebrations during the year: I officiated at two weddings during the year and celebrated my parents 60th anniversary and a host of birthdays. But, there was also the mind-numbing loss of our nephew, Troy,  that will never be fully overcome or understood.

Mom and Dad do 60

Out of the loss though, I began learning a new sport: golf! I played in a tournament and discovered that golf is enjoyable, frustrating, more frustrating, and a life sport to compliment racquetball as something that I do and not something that I only watch others do.
Tracks in the Hail Stones after the Storm

During the year, I survived a horrific tornado-infested hail storm in Denver. I have never seen hail fall from the sky in the volume or size that I witnessed during one afternoon in the Mile High City. 

Beach time was very limited and I was able to make it to Ocean City for Labor Day--my only beach trip of the year. For the first year I can remember in a long time, I did not snorkel or dive into the waters of an ocean. I barely got my feet wet in Ocean City as the surf was rough and cold.

Chris Enjoying a Late-October Evening fire
An October evening fire and wine began capping the year's events. As the mosquitos finally went away we were able to reclaim the backyard. From there there was the succession of holidays: Halloween, Veteran's Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas--all great and all special.

As I reflect upon the year, there are so many events that occurred that is it hard to recap them all and I know I have missed a few great ones. But that is the point--even with the numbing loss we experienced, 2014 was a great year. New vistas achieved, new places visited, and friends and family were at the center of all of it. 
On the Beach
My Preferred View of the World

Who knows what 2015 will bring. I already know that will have a new experience before January plays out--and I am looking forward to the Caribbean warmth that goes along with it.

Another Consensus Blending trip is on tap in an effort to repeat as the champions--and if not, at least have a lot of fun.

--Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Monday Musings - On Tuesday December 30, 2014

1. I've been having so much fun being off from work that I forgot yesterday was Monday!

2. 360 shopping days until Christmas!

3. 2014 is winding down rapidly. I have to admit, I will be happy to see this year end, there have been some great times, but some really down times, too.

4. Got health care? 2015 is the year we need to declare or pay penalties.

5. Winter has returned after a great respite. 

6. Pitchers and catchers report in about 52 days signaling the end of winter--at least in my mind.

7. NFL playoffs are in swing and the Ravens miraculously made the cut. For at least a week anyway, I'm afraid they are headed into a steel curtain ambush.

8. New Year's is upon us. Drive safe, be smart, and party responsively.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Monday, December 29, 2014


It is a beautiful sight in my backyard. The bullseye!

It is a Christmas gift purchased with the gift cards that I received form a local golf store.

I admit, the bullseye may be a bit excessive, but having my own driving range in the backyard is really neat. I even acquired a bag of about 100 used golf balls to launch at the target. 

And it makes a really nice, and loud, sound when it gets hit right in the center--which is not that often. 

Hopefully the mat will save my yard a bit of wear and tear.

I wandered out a few times yesterday to launch balls and frustrations at the target. It is a lot more satisfying hitting real golf balls than the spongy ones that I have been hitting.

The other nice thing is that i don't have to worry about hitting any houses if I mishit a ball--which I do pretty often.

I wonder if I will actually get any better?

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Good and Evil through the Eyes of a 14-year old

Usaid Barho  Reenacting His Surrender
There is an international story circulating about a 14-year old Syrian boy who was seduced into service with ISIL (or ISIS, IS) and figured out that by volunteering to become a suicide bomber he could escape from the radically, fanatic militant group.

Usaid Barho, 14, is the latest in a string of children who are victims and heroes in the barbaric conflict being waged across the Levant. The article in the New York Times titled, How a Syrian Boy, Sheathed in Explosives, Escaped the Islamic State's Hold, details how Usaid left his home in Syria and eventually wound up in Iraq with a vest bomb strapped around his body in from of a mosque that the ISIL fighters wanted him to bomb.

There are so many things wrong with this situation:

1. A 14-year old being used as a suicide bomber
2. Religious persecution
3. The target was a house of worship
4. The threat of abuse of his Mother and Sister if he did not fight for ISIL

But, there are a few things right with this tory:

1. A boy who knows right from wrong
2. A daring plan that saved not only himself but many other innocents
3. A security officer not afraid to separate the bomb vest from the boy.

I urge you to read the New York Times story to get a sense of what is happening in the region. 

Here is an excerpt:

Usaid said he still planned to become a doctor, and hoped to study in Turkey. He said that he missed his mother, and that the Iraqis had promised to return him to his parents one day.

Before the war, he said: "We were a normal family. It was just a normal life."

Whether he has a chance at a normal life again depends, in part, on how the Iraqis treat him: as a terrorist or as an exploited child.

We need to be aware that the pain, persecution, and suffering being experienced by the people of the region is real and we need to be reminded that life there is very different than life here.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Warmer Weather and High Spirits are not just for the Birds

The temperatures for the holiday period have been unseasonably warm. Today the temperature is supposed to top out near 53 degrees, and of course that means a trip to the golf course for a bit more frustration and jubilation. 

But, the fun part of the weather has been playing with one of my gifts of Christmas. I got a GoPro and am still learning about it. It has a lot of really exciting features--like its small size and ability to ride in places that allow for continual imaging of situations allowing for unique views.

Earlier this year, Patrick took his GoPro diving in the Bahamas. Not just diving, but diving with sharks and obtained some stunning video. I was sold right then and there. The GoPro is a versatile as any camera I have ever come across. 

I have created my first GoPro movie: Birds at My Feeder. It isn't too exciting, but the weather was awesome and the birds were anxious to get some food before the colder weather arrives. 

Even the birds are happy about the warmer weather.

Go forth and celebrate before winter decides to resume its grip on the land.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Friday, December 26, 2014

What did You Get?

Weirdest Gift if Christmas
Isn't that the question that we get asked the most in the days after Christmas?

While we are still trying to come to grips with the idea that Christmas is over and the gifts are opened we try to extend the magic just a bit by talking about the great gifts of Christmas.

Of course, it is not all about the gifts. Really. And I think our family proved that yesterday. Christmas is about being together and enjoying each other during the celebration of life and gifting. What took center stage yesterday? Was it the food? Or was it the games we played until after dark? Was it the conversation or the wine? Was it the gifting? 

No--it was all of it together. Even the couple of minutes I took before noon to whack a golf ball around my yard. It was a complex and fantastic day that began about 5:30 AM and didn't end until after 10PM when I slipped under the covers on my bed and fell almost instantly asleep.
Earthworm on Christmas Eve

So, what did you get? Well, in the weirdest gift of Christmas category was the book about the Hittites received in a gift exchange. Really? Hittites?

The most interesting gift was seeing the earthworm in the driveway during the Christmas Eve rainstorm. We never see earthworms that late into December.

But the best gift of Christmas was not just a gift. It was a collaboration! A group and and event. It is our clan all gathered together again to celebrate. Together! 

Christmas 2014
And the dogs, too!

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Isn't Joy for Everyone

I am reminded this morning as I am celebrating the birth of the Savior of the World: the Son of God who became man, so that men could become son's of God; that many people are in pain and cannot fully accept or appreciate the gifts or even the simple greeting: Merry Christmas!

My heart grieves for them because they are grieving. They are grieving the loss of loved ones, or health, or jobs, or something equally as tragic and important. They look at those of us who are celebrating and wonder why? Why did someone have to be taken from them or why did they get cancer or some other terrible disease. 

It is hard, no it may be impossible to accept the simple Merry Christmas greeting of others without being hurt and cynical and saying under their breath, "If you only knew," or "What's so Merry about it?"

I know people who are hurting today. And it hurts more today because they want to be happy, but they cannot. They withdraw.

What can I say to them? Nothing. 

I am reminded of verses from Job 2:12-13 where some friends came upon Job who was suffering a tragedy.

2:12 But when they gazed intently from a distance but did not recognize him, they began to weep loudly. Each of them tore his robes, and they threw dust into the air over their heads. 2:13 Then they sat down with him on the ground for seven days and seven nights, yet no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his pain was very great. (NET Bible)

No one said a thing. Sometimes the right thing to say is nothing at all. But the most important thing was being together, they were there, even in the silence.

That is what we need to do to help our friends and family who are suffering during this season--be with them and help them to know, not through words but through actions, that they are loved and supported. 

I pray that those who mourn will be comforted, those who suffer illnesses will find relief, and those who are facing the worst that life can dish out will find the strength to wake up tomorrow and say to themselves: today is the first day of the rest of my life and I am not going to waste it!

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

It's Christmas Eve Again or Finally

The words and tune of a 1971 song have been rattling around in my head for the past day or so. It is a John Lennon song written during the height of the Vietnam anti-war, peace movement. The song is titled, And So This is Christmas. It has been covered by many artists including Celine Dion, although I like the original Lennon version, too.

And So This Is Christmas
So this is christmas and what have you done
another year over a new one just begun
and so this is christmas I hope you have fun
the near and the dear one the old and the young
A very merry christmas and a happy new year
let's hope it's a good one without any fear 
And so this is christmas for weak and for strong 
the rich and the poor ones the world is so wrong 
and so happy christmas for black and for white 
for the yellow and the red ones let's stop all the fight 
A very merry christmas and a happy new year 
let's hope it's a good one without any fear 
And so this is christmas and what have we done 
another year over and a new one just begun 
and so happy christmas I hope you have fun 
the near and the dear one the old and the young 
A very merry christmas and a happy new year 
let's hope it's a good one without any fear 
war is over if you want it war is over now

I think what has grabbed my attention is how the words are ringing so true this year. We are in a torn world where wars are rampant internationally and there is tension here in America between the police and citizens. If I let myself--I might think everything is bad.

But--it is Christmas. And my prayer is for peace, protection, love, healing and helping. We can give these gifts to each other.

God bless you and protect you.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Eve of Christmas Eve

I remember that when I was young--very young, like 8-ish, that the longest day of the year seemed to be the day before Christmas Eve. Yes, Christmas Eve could be long too, but at least there were activities planned, like church, which provided mile markers along the pathway of the day.

The day before Christmas Eve, however, has no such mile markers to guide the day along and see it to a successful conclusion and transform the season from anticipation to almost here. I note that the local schools are mostly open today--and that is good for the kids, it will help them not to dwell on the "you can almost reach out and touch it" aspect of Christmas being upon us. 

I do not get into the Christmas spirit until very late in the season. Usually, my favorite day to shop is Christmas Eve because there is a feeling of magic and a sense of "this is it" watching the other shoppers scurry around. I remember working in the clothing store in Ithaca, NY, while I was in high school on Christmas Eves--the store had been open for almost two weeks straight until 9 PM, (except for Sundays when it was closed and Saturdays when closing was still 5PM) that was four hours longer than the normal closing time. I always noticed a change in the shoppers and the staff about noon--as the impending holiday grew closer.

But, the day before Christmas Eve has no sense of finality associated with it. There is still Christmas Eve out there if something needs to get done. Today, for instance, I have to slug to work--being sick and had this been a normal week I would have taken another sick day because I am feeling only about 60 percent--but with Christmas Eve tomorrow and I will be on leave and holiday for almost two weeks, I have a lot of loose ends to tie up. Somewhere in there the meat for Christmas dinner is waiting at the store--I have to purchase it and get in ready for the upcoming feast. 

And then Chris and I need to finalize the breakfasts, dinners, and create the agenda for Christmas Eve and prepare to plow into Christmas which has become a full two-day family celebration which begins with breakfast on Christmas Eve and does not end until after the last present is opened and dinner is complete sometime about 5PM on Christmas Day. 

So for me, Christmas Eve Eve has become Christmas Eve--because everything begins happening tomorrow as the season of preparation transforms into the season of joy and understanding that the most important gift was the one that we first received. You can read about it in Galatians 4:4-5

Say Merry Christmas to someone you meet--it will make them smile!

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Monday, December 22, 2014

Monday Musings - December 22, 2014

1. The pace of life has continued to increase as the holiday season deepens. The is going to be a big sigh about 3PM on Thursday as all of the anticipation turns into wishes fulfilled.

2. Rain is the forecast for the next three days. At least it is not snow. The forecast for Christmas Day is for 50's and a heat wave!

3. 2014 is drawing to a quick close. It's funny, I just got comfortable writing 2014 and soon I will have to start writing 2015.

4. Being sick sucks! Seriously. Especially when it is a couple of days before Christmas and there is so much to do. So I'm home today feeling so worn out that I am not doing anything.

5. The news from this past weekend was especially bad. The assassination of the police officers in New York City was especially heinous. If I only listened to the news media, I might think nothing good ever happens, but I know there are millions of points of light out in the world doing good for other people.

6. I wrote about the governmental approved torture in my blog When the Good Guys Aren't. There is a good OpEd piece in the New York Times today titled Prosecute Torturers and Their Bosses that cogently expresses a good view on the matter. 

7. OK, I am tired of looking out my window at the leafless trees and gray colors. Bring on the green!

8. The NFL season is finally winding down. Baseball is two months away as pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Sunday, December 21, 2014

And the Evening was Quiet

A funny thing happened yesterday evening--Chris and I were at home. . . 

And that was the funny thing! For better than the past two weeks we have been on a constant tear with somewhere to go and something to see or buy. 

Not so last night. A quiet, sappy movie, The Holiday, was on the Blu-ray player (betcha haven't thought about Blu-ray in a while). The house was quiet. Just the cats and dog for a nice evening. It was really different. We relaxed and let the Christmas spirit seep into our souls. Well, and a bottle of wine, too!
Louis in the Nativity

The fire in the hearth was a fascinating attraction for Riordin--he loves the heat from the fire. Louis, on the other hand, picked a quiet spot in the Nativity for a nap. One swipe of his tail and the whole nativity could be lost! Fortunately, he is pretty careful.
Riordin by the Fire

And Makayla? She was sprawled out on the floor--not really picture worthy. 

And that was how the first quiet evening of Christmas played out. 

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Enjoying the Lights in Dundalk

New holiday experiences can be fun and add some variety to the seasonal preparations. Last evening Chris and I along with a few friends went to Captain Larry's, a Baltimore City neighborhood bar, and boarded a school bus to tour the Christmas lights in Dundalk, Maryland.

There are a lot of local jokes about Dundalk--but last evening the joke was on the jokesters as the residents showed off their artistic skills in their holiday decorations. The bus stopped in front of the best yards and the revelers disembarked to enjoy the lights and chat with the owners, it they were lucky enough to be home.

It was fun riding around on a too full bus with other holiday revelers enjoying the lights while also supporting a local charity, BARCS, a no-kill animal shelter.

We learned about the Dundalk Trinity: Mickey Mouse, Snoopy, and Baby Jesus all incorporated into one lawn display. Seriously! It was identified more than once by the eagled-eyed viewers on the bus. 

We also learned about yard lights which are matched to music. Dial up an FM radio transmitter and watch the lights dance to the music. It was pretty to watch. I took a short video of the lights at one stop, but couldn't hear the music. I actually thought the video was longer when I was taking it.

It was a full evening. There was also a stop at a neighborhood bar, Howard's Pub and Deli, in Dundalk for food and fuel that broke up the bus ride. Then it was back to scouring the neighborhoods from the big yellow school bus for the best yards. 

Fun and different. A new holiday tradition? Maybe!

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Friday, December 19, 2014

One Week to Go

Columbia Mall, MD
December 18, 2014
What did I do last evening? Scoured the local mall for the final gifts of Christmas.

Unsuccessfully, I must add because at least one gift remains at large.

The parking lots were overflowing, the stores were jammed and the holiday spirit was noticeably absent from most of the people I came across during my walk around the Columbia Mall. It was a bit sad and I have to admit that I too, had a frown and not a smile on my face.

Shopping during the holiday season is no fun! Traffic and people and overloaded stores.

It is necessary, however.

Here's hoping your shopping experience is rewarding.

--Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Steak on the Bar-bee; Stain on the ceiling

Steak on the Bar-bee
I celebrated unseasonably mild temperatures last evening by cooking a steak on the grill for dinner. It was a mid-December treat. Even though my grill is under cover and I can grill year round, December is tough because of the obstacles caused by decorations arrayed between the kitchen and the grill.

The grilled steak was a treat along with some steamed vegetables and a carb free dinner in preparation for more weekend carb loading. Last weekend was a two pound weekend! Ugh.

I don't need that again, it takes all week to recover from three successive days of overeating.

But racquetball helps to get the weight back within targets.

One thing, in addition to the shopping and gifting, that is literally hanging over my head is the stain on the ceiling from the over flowing toilet tank. It is there, right in the family room waiting for paint. 

I think it is finally dry enough to prime with Kilz and then paint for effect. 

I am still amazed at the mess one slowly overflowing toilet tank can cause. I just need everything to be really dry before I repair the damage and put the light fixture back into place. Maybe I can get to the damage once the purchasing and present wrapping is completed--whenever that happens.

It is a busy time of year.

One week to go until the big day. Shopping is nearly, mostly complete!

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Joy of the Season - Elementary School Holiday Concert

Ethan on the Cello
The pace of life is increasing to match the reduced time until Christmas and it seems that more and more activities get crammed into every evening. Last evening it was the annual Holiday concert at Waugh Chapel Elementary School in Odenton, Maryland, where Ethan and his cello were front and center.

The concert was short--because the school has wisely separated the ban and orchestral concerts due to lack of space and fire marshall concerns for overloading the cafeteria/auditorium. OK, maybe it was a bit too short--the orchestral concert was over in 25 minutes and it takes longer than that to drive to the school in traffic and get prepared for an evening of music.

But, the concert was fun and it was great to see "E-dawg" play his cello, he is a second year cello student, and enjoy the attention he received. 

Being his second year with the cello, he was ready for and seemed to revel in the chaos that is an elementary school music presentation. I was excited to see that the cello's, there are three, were situated front and center in the orchestra. Not only could I see him, but during the one piece that contained a cello solo I could even hear him. 

Note: I did not shoot the video, the person who took it forgot that movies need to be taken in the horizontal and not vertical direction. 

I enjoyed the serious look on his face as he strove to create music in a less than perfect environments followed by the smile of achievement when it was over. 

It was a great evening and a great celebration. Good job to all of the young musicians!

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

When the Good Guys, Aren't

The revelations about the extent to which the United States government tolerated and possibly authorized extreme torture against enemy prisoners under its control as depicted in the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) report on the CIA's detention and interrogation program  have deeply affected me. 

I am appalled.

The report details a very dark time in our history where it seems that the moral character and fiber of all Americans is suspect.

As an American and a private citizen I am gonna lay it out right here: torturing prisoners is wrong and constitutes a breach of faith and potentially criminal acts, no matter what the politicians and appointed officials say.

Torturing prisoners is un-American!

I have always believed that we, the United States of America, were above the use of these tactics against our enemies. We used to be proud of the moral high ground that we as a nation walked. Even in the face of intolerable torture, such as depicted in the book and movie Unbroken, Americans have always possessed and portrayed the best traits of the human race by resisting the urge to torture and mistreat of prisoners.

Sadly, the SSCI report, which I laud the committee for releasing, describes how this is no longer true. We have stooped to the same level, or possibly below that of our adversaries. We, as a society and a nation, have taken a left turn with no blinker and traveled down the dark road into abyss of torture and human rights violations from which we must now extricate ourselves and work to repair our reputation around the world.

And now we are trying to justify this behavior!

Our moral character is suspect and our position as a world leader for human rights is tarnished, possibly beyond repair.

I have read much of the report and listened to the political leaders who try to say that the ends justifies the means--it does not!

In reading the SSCI report, I now firmly believe that those who participated in the torture and inhumane treatment of prisoners of from the War on Terror are no better than many of the War Criminals convicted at the end of World War 2 as a result of the Nuremberg and other post-war trials.

The Code of Conduct is clear about how American POWs are supposed to conduct themselves in captivity, do we have any reason to expect less from our enemies? The Constitution is clear, no matter how those involved in this black eye against America try to skirt it by not bringing people into or onto the territory of the united States. By following the letter of the law, the intent of the law has been violated.

Didn't anyone realize that these activities and actions were wrong and possibly illegal? No one stood up to say, we need to stop? And now the dark truth is exposed and it is far worse than we all realized at the time.

We need to beg forgiveness from the court of the world and vow that this type of behavior will never be tolerated again.

We the People must not tolerate this aberrant behavior anymore. It is time to ensure that our leaders and the instruments of our government do not engage in torture--anywhere in the world. It is just wrong!

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Monday, December 15, 2014

Monday Musings - December 15, 2014

1. 10 days until Christmas! The elves better get a move on.

2. What happens when a toilet in an upstairs bathroom malfunctions? Spots on the ceiling below and an emergency Christmas repair! Fortunately the water was from the tank and not the bowl--so it was clean.
Outside the Columbia Mall

3. Shopping on the second to last Saturday before 
Christmas and the most interesting thing I found was some deer in front of the mall.

4. Who says cell phones are not a necessary part of life? She didn't even know I was in the store with her.
Chris in the Mall

5. Sunday afternoon football with a lot of people cheering for different teams in a local sports establishment was a lot of fun--especially when close games resolved for the favorites. 

6. What do you get when you wash white throw rugs with a red table cloth? Pink!

7. All of our Apple classic iPad charging cords have disappeared. I wonder where they have gone? My iPad is down to 2% and dying quickly.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Court Rules and the Game Stands

The courts have wisely distanced themselves from making a decision about the outcome of an Oklahoma High School Football Playoff game. As reported in the New York Times article, Upon Further Review, by Judge, a Botched Playoff Ruling Stands, the court has determined that it has no basis in law to intervene in determining the outcome of a sporting event.

I wrote about the situation last week in my article, The Game is Over--No, Wait--the judges have to make a ruling

Specifically, as reported by the New York Times, There is no precedent allowing a court to order the replay of a high school football game, and no way to ensure that a replay would be fair to both teams, because the conditions of the disputed contest could not be replicated, District Judge Bernard M. Jones II said in a written opinion Thursday.

I agree. The courts do not have a role in determining the outcome of sporting events.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Friday Nights at Christmas

Our Pyramids
I'm writing this with the memory of an impromptu party that Chris and I hosted with our some of our closest friends last evening still fresh in my mind

What a great evening and a perfect end to a busy week. Friends,  conversation, dinner and easy relaxed fun.

I lament that I have to wait for Friday for these evenings to happen.
Christmas Stars by Wiley Purkey

A couple roasted chickens from Costco, a salad or two, munchies, and a few bottles of wine couples with fun conversation--what could be better. 

Well, the season definitely does add some ambiance to the settings for the gathering. The decorations add character to the house by providing visually stimulating diversions. We bought a new art print last week and it has found a prominent place in the house. It was fun to watch the artist, Wiley Purkey, at work on another piece that we are hoping to buy a print of this week. 

It is all good. Oh, by the way, happy 12-13-14!

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Friday, December 12, 2014

Christmas Season Birthdays

This may seem strange, but I think celebrating Christmas birthdays is awesome! 

And the definition of a Christmas birthday is any birthday in December.

I attended the celebration of a December family birthday last night and there is just something awesome about having the Christmas Tree lit and opening presents on a day other than Christmas day. 

Birthday's are great for families to get together and celebrate.

Last evening, it was for Nicole--my daughter. And with Christmas just a fortnight away, it was nice to celebrate a birthday. And to experience the love of a family gathered for a special and awesome person.
Nicole Blowing out the Candles

As 2014 comes to an end, every day is a new beginning. Another page in the chapter of life that is a year. Celebrations remind me that every day is special and worthy of celebrating something or someone.

Happy Birthday.

It is two weeks until Christmas.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Thursday, December 11, 2014

And the Government Spasms

The current budget battle hides the deeper problems in America right now. 

The failure to prepare a budget annually is evidence that our elected officials do not know how to do the one job we elected them to do: govern the country.

We the people have elected too many single issue representatives and they do not posses a good understanding that the most important thing we elected them to do is ensure that America is strong and well cared for.

Single issue representatives apparently do not understand the art of compromise to achieve long-term goals. They are looking for quick wins and constant success--but the success they seek is to often personal and not tied to the wider successes won from sound fiscal, domestic, and foreign policies.

Just because they represent different parties does not mean that their goals should be different, only that their means may differ.

How weird that the current explosive issue is about immigration--here's a thought, almost all of us are immigrants. 

We leaders who can focus on the strengths and similarities and not the divisive differences.

Let's move into the future!

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Game is Over--No, Wait--the judges have to make a ruling

We live in a society that is too quick to say, "see you in court."

Here is the latest. In Oklahoma, a high school football game's results are in court because the referees made a bad call. 

A New York Times article describing the situation is titled, After Referee's Blunder, Next Call is a Judge's. In the balance is whether the last 64 seconds of a semi-final high school football game will be replayed to determine which team will play for the Oklahoma State championship.

Wow--mistakes happen all the time in sports. Why? People are involved.

This could be the end of sports as we know them if the courts can become involved. Sure, its wrong if it's wrong; but bad calls are made all of the time.

The problem? Money!

There is too much money involved in sports even at the high school level.

There are serious issues the courts need to address. Sports are not one of them because sports, after all, are entertainment. The problem is that sports have become too much business. I read recently that the University of Alabama-Birmingham terminated its football program because of expenses. And they actually qualified for a post-season bowl game for the first time in many years. Having to retain a full legal team to review the on-field results of every game or match will only increase the costs associated with sports and ultimately reduce the opportunities available for kids to play.

Leave it on the field--no matter how bad the call! Referees are part of sports and they make bad calls--but bad calls on the sports field should not be a reason for a court date.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Shopping Solo

Poinsettia Tree
Columbia Mall 2014
A sure sign of the season is a solo shopping trip to the Columbia Mall. It happened yesterday. I risked car and limb by heading off to the mall to begin finding the special things on my list.

I am not a shopping kind of person. I don't mind shopping if I can accomplish the task by tapping on the keys of my laptop. But, every year I actually have to head out to the brick and mortar stores to find gifts for the special people (or person) on my list.

I feel so alone walking the mall looking into the stores. It is a bit surreal--so many thing to buy in which I have so little interest.

Them most frustrating part of the experience is that I often know what I am looking for, but cannot find the perfect gift. It is unsettling to see hundreds of offerings, but realizing that they are not the perfect item. Then comes the calculation and the compromise. The battle between price and function brings inevitable question, is this the gift for which I am searching?

I walked into one store and the staff asked what I was looking for and how could they help. I replied that I was looking for inspiration, and they understood.

I am not a huge fan of gift cards.They make the process too easy for the gift giver. Gift cards take all of the agony and decision making out of the shopping process. 

I survived my sojourn to the mall, however, I will need to make an additional trip to complete my shopping list.

I CAN shop, I just don't LIKE to.  I can even shop alone. But I like shopping on my laptop best.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Monday, December 8, 2014

Monday Musings - December 8, 2014

1. What an interesting couple of days it has been: St Nicholas Day (6) and Pearl Harbor Day (7). I have never really thought about the positioning of these two days before.

2. I was reminded how exhausting it is to spend two long day with two to three boys under the age of 10!

3. I attended the movie Penguins of Madagascar yesterday. I was disappointed. It should have been so much better than it was.
Tioga County, PA

4. There is a rest stop on the south side of Route 15 in Tioga County, PA, that provides spectacular views--especially in the light of the rising sun.

5. Sadly, I am burned out on all the Christmas songs on the radio. hey just seem to play some of them  way too much. I have decided the worst Christmas song is Santa Baby, followed closely by I'll Be Home for Christmas. But Rudolph and Frosty are beginning to be played too much as well.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Symphony of Lights - 2014

It was a dark and rainy evening. Three grandsons were having an overnight and Chris and I needed a distraction for them. Let me rephrase, not a distraction but rather an event to prepare them for bedtime.

Symphony of Lights immediately came to mind. In the rain? You bet, the lights were on and the car was warm and dry. 

I enjoy the Symphony of Lights in Columbia, Maryland, and although it is not an every year event, the years that I drive through the lights I am reminded of how much fun it is and that I am making a donation to Howard County's only hospital. 
Lucas, Jackson, and Ethan looking at the
Symphony of Lights

I have been by the entrance to the lights an seen cars stacked up waiting to enter for what appears to be an hour or more. Last evening, however, because of the rain, there were no lines and no waiting. Not to self--rainy and dark nights may be the best nights to visit!

It was a fun drive through the lights, listening to Christmas music provided on the local broadcast FM station. All of my old favorites were there. I especially enjoy the cannons lobbing cannon balls over the road as I drive through.

The pictures even came out acceptably this year. The rain added a nice reflection in the foreground and increased the enjoyment.

It was a fun ride and an enjoyable time--especially with no lines and no waiting.

Bob's RECOMMENDATION: Visit the Symphony of Light and enjoy the sights and sounds of the Holiday Season. The donation is $20 per car--cash only.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Christmas Midnight Madness in Ellicott City

Ellicott City during Midnight Madness
in the Rain
Christmas must really be close. Last evening we braved to cold temperatures and the rain, I even wished it was snow, and enjoyed the festivities in Historic Ellicott City, Maryland. This is an annual event--Midnight Madness, and it happens on the first Friday of December every year. 

It is an enjoyable event being out with thousands of other holiday shoppers. The parking is horrendous--but it is worth the effort to wander the historic district and enjoy the crowds and retailers as the kick-off to the holiday season gets underway. 
Midnight Madness in Ellicott City
December 5, 2014

After creating a parking place in one of the lots, we started the evening with happy hour and dinner at Cacao Lane restaurant. After dinner we headed out into the crowds and light rain. 

It was an enjoyable stroll along the bustling streets and the vendors provided light munchies which added to the ambiance and the enjoyment of the event.

I saw one sign along the street that made me smile.

How many calories do they have and are they gluten free?

Bob's RECOMMENDATION: Plan to attend this event next year--and even if you missed it this year, Ellicott City, MD, is a great place to shop no matter the day. Go enjoy the holiday season.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD
My Zimbio
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