Saturday, February 28, 2015

Snow in my Truck

Snow in the Truck
The snow continues to cover everything in the region like a bad dream that won't end.

I want the snow to leave! It has been here too long and overstayed its welcome.

The ground here has been covered now for almost two weeks. The snow is still in the bed of my truck! Usually it goes away pretty quickly, but not this year. 
Plymouth & Brockton busses are running between
Provincetown & Boston. Picture taken on Rt 6 Cape Cod

The situation is not a bad as the Boston area. The image of the bus on a road with two stories of snow around it is stunning and sobering. Fortunately, it is not so bad here. 
Deer in the Yard
February 27, 2015

The deer are getting confused by the snow. Last evening four deer thought they were birds and checked out the bird feeders. At one point they were lined up eating from the ground under the feeder, but I was having a hard time getting a good shot and I was left with them realizing that they had been discovered and departing the area. 

This is the last day of February. It has been a month to remember, or rather a month to forget. I'm hoping that the arrival of March will turn the weather around. Temperatures are forecast to touch 60 on Wednesday and along with the expected rain, it is possible that the snow will depart and not return until long after summer come and then gone.

I know springtime will arrive when the snow melts from my truck.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Friday, February 27, 2015

Congress on the wrong path--Again

I have been watching drama play out in Washington, DC, because the city is on the verge of decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana according to an article titled, Republicans Warn Washington to Think Twice About Legalizing Marijuana published in the New York Times. 

It is immaterial whether I agree or disagree with the decriminalization of marijuana--but that the Congress, which has legislative authority over Washington, DC, can override and threaten the elected officials of the District is wrong! Since when did congressmen elected from districts across the country presume to represent the citizens of DC? It is one of the interesting paradox's of our representative form of government. Washington, DC, truly is without representation.

Voters in Colorado, Washington State, and Alaska can vote to change their marijuana laws--but voters in DC cannot. Congress has the ultimate oversight and therefore the people living in DC do not have representation as the lawmakers in charge of governing them are not elected by the people.

The District of Columbia is a lot more than federal land and landmarks. The people living there deserve responsive representation. Congress should recuse itself from meddling in this and most other issues affecting the District.

The incredible tale of this issue is reported as follows in the article: A few weeks after the marijuana ballot initiative passed, House Republicans placed a provision into a large federal spending bill prohibiting the city, which is overwhelmingly Democratic, from spending tax dollars to enact the initiative. But district officials argue that the marijuana law had already been enacted and certified by the Board of Elections before Congress passed the spending bill, so there was no “enacting” for the House to prevent.

I think the Mayor said it best and succinctly, Ms. Bowser [the Mayor] said Wednesday that the city would carry out its own law and that Congress should “not be so concerned about overturning what seven out of 10 voters said should be the law.”

Congress needs to stick to the bigger issues of running the country and let the people of DC govern themselves--perhaps they need to gain statehood in order to truly achieve representation. But that is an issue for another day.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Hardest Places to Live in the US

I ran across an article titled, Where are the Hardest Places to Live in the U.S. in the New York Times.  It ranks the counties in the United States by quality of life and focuses upon the hardest counties to live in. That was a new twist on the way I look at the United States. The interactive map is very interesting.

I usually look at the best places to live and never even consider the counties at the bottom of the list.

I was amazed a what the interactive map in the article revealed about some of the places live or visit:

Howard County, MD is 9th best county in the US out of 3135 counties.
Albemarle County, VA is 16th.
Tompkins County, NY is 170th.
Palm Beach County, FL is 344th.
Sarasota County, FL is 391st.

But at the other end of the list--Clay county, KY is 3135th.

The article is very interesting. I never really thought about how great the difference is between the top and bottom of the lists. When I look at the interactive map, I was amazed at the poverty and difficult living conditions along the Appalachians and especially in Eastern Kentucky.

Other observations. Wyoming, Connecticut,  and Hawaii do not have any counties in the doing worse category. 

From the article: The 10 lowest counties in the country, by this ranking, include a cluster of six in the Appalachian Mountains of eastern Kentucky (Breathitt, Clay, Jackson, Lee, Leslie and Magoffin), along with four others in various parts of the rural South: Humphreys County, Miss.; East Carroll Parish, La.; Jefferson County, Ga.; and Lee County, Ark.

Personally, I found it amazing at the disparity between counties in some states. Maryland has Montgomery (6) and Howard (9) counties (9) while a short distance away is Baltimore City (2419) and Somerset County (2518). The biggest disparities seem to be in New Mexico between Los Alamos (1) and McKinley (2793) counties or South Dakota between Lincoln (8) and Shannon (3080) counties.  There are a couple of counties in Alaska for which there is no data--which I found interesting. 

The U.S. is a land of great diversity and I know that I rarely consider the quality of life of the people outside the region in which I live or visit. There is a great disparity in quality of life and despite taxes and social programs, I'm not convinced the needs of those living in the counties near the bottom are being adequately addressed. 

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Beating the Snow and Cold

I have been exploring ways to cope with the snow and cold. 

The view out my window is white, bare trees, and no signs of Spring. In a word--monochromatic! Or, boring.

How to cope with the snow and cold?
Colorful flowers and grilled food
to imagine being warm

1. Plan a trip, in my mind, to someplace warm, like Key West or the Caribbean.

2. Watch the Golf Channel showing a a tournament from a warm and green location.

3. Sit in the sauna at the gym and dream that it is summer in Florida.

4. Watch replays of old baseball games.

5. Get excited about Spring Training in Florida.

6. Go on a cruise to someplace tropical!

7. Get a reservation for a beach house somewhere.

8. Buy some colorful flowers.

9. Grill a steak, even if it is snowing.

10. Drive to work with the heat so high that I want to open the windows to cool off.

11. Sign up for golf lessons.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Tuesday Comes Round Again

Tuesday is a tough day of the week for me. 

Tuesday is too far from the weekend to get excited about and it is so close to Monday that the bulk of the week remains yet to be completed.

Think about it. Monday is the first day of the week and many of my friends and coworkers mourn the loss of the weekend and bravely face the challenges of the week ahead. I have a friend who made Monday his favorite day of the week just to help with the transition from the weekend to the work week.

Wednesday is hump day and we have the camels to add some levity into the middle day of the week. The concept of cruising over the hump of the week makes me smile.

Thursday is the day before Friday and the promise of the weekend charges everyone up. 

Friday is, well Friday with many people looking to leave work early even though I usually wind up working longer on Fridays than many other days.

Tuesday is a day of mixed meanings. From Wikipedia I discovered the following about Tuesday: In the Greek world, Tuesday (the day of the week of the Fall of Constantinople) is considered an unlucky day. The same is true in the Spanish-speaking world. For both Greeks and Spanish-speakers, the 13th of the month is considered unlucky if it falls on Tuesday, instead of Friday. In Judaism, on the other hand, Tuesday is considered a particularly lucky day, because in the first chapter of Genesis the paragraph about this day contains the phrase "it was good" twice.

I do admit, one Tuesday per year is special--that would be Fat Tuesday, the day before Lent when the celebrations get crazy in New Orleans. I've never been there, but the TV coverage makes them seem like a lot of fun. 

Tuesday needs something to get charged up about. Even the mail deliveries are smaller on Tuesdays than other days. The Huffington Post reported in 2009 that if the Post Office went to five day per week mail delivery it was possible that Tuesday might be the day cut rather than Saturday due to the light volume on that day. 

Tuesday needs to work on its image. 

I guess I need to work on my attitude. After all, it is not Tuesday's fault that is follows Monday and precedes Wednesday. It is just another day full of promise and challenges.

Happy Tuesday.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Monday, February 23, 2015

Monday Musings: February 23, 2015

1. In the movie The Imitation Game, I was taken with the following statement--made twice: Sometimes it is the people who no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine.
Ready to Shovel

2. How cold was it last week? Here is an image of me as I headed out to shovel on Tuesday morning with temperatures in the low single digits and wind chills of 20 below. I survived without frostbite!

3. Heard during the TV weather forecast yesterday: It's hard to remain optimistic, but Spring really is coming!

4. I spent the weekend watching a couple of the Oscar nominated movies. I was especially moved by Boyhood--what an interesting concept and movie. 

5. I was excited to see the temperature the 40's yesterday. Maybe the grip of winter is loosening?

6. I guess I kind of skipped over hockey on my way to MLB Spring Training. Oops.

Louis in my Lap
7. I am reveling in the knowledge that MLB Spring Training is underway. 

8. Overheard in Macy's while shopping for wine glasses: The wine glasses are too big, they hold 17 ounces!  I was thinking, 5 ounces is still a full serving the rest of the space is to allow the aromas to gather. Please don't fill the glass to the rim.

9. When the white cat jumps into your lap, be afraid. Be very afraid!

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Something to Warm-up My Thoughts: Orioles Update

Ed Smith Stadium
Sarasota, FL
Stuck in a frozen snowbank that is generally called the mid-Atlantic Region of the United States, it has been hard to remember that Spring Training has started in Florida and Arizona for the upcoming Major League Baseball season. 

It is a pleasant respite to the frigid weather, snow, and ice that I face right outside my door. 

But just about 985 driving miles away in Sarasota, Florida, where the temperature yesterday topped out at 75 degrees with 78 the expected high today, the Orioles are gathering and preparing for the season.

Here are some of the highlights.

First, the baseball glove that was used to give Derek Jeter a homer in 1996 and defeat the Orioles in the playoffs on an incredibly controversial and poorly umpired play that shall live in infamy forever has been sold at auction for $22,705. 

Second and beyond, the Orioles are still getting the team together. About five players are finalizing contracts or lost arbitration hearings and preparing to arrive at the facility. 

According to Roch KubatkoThe Orioles have 14 pitchers throwing in the bullpen today, six more than yesterday.

Also as reported by Roch:

Manager Buck Showalter shared some observations from today's bullpen sessions, including how new left-hander Wesley Wright is effective because of the way he hides the ball behind his back during his delivery.

Reliever Darren O'Day will be brought along slower than other pitchers in camp because, as Showalter quipped, "He's going to make the team."

Left-hander Brian Matusz will be stretched out again in camp so he can work on his changeup.

Ubaldo Jimenez has been "very engaged" in camp, according to Showalter. "He's got a little burn."

And of course, it goes without saying that every Orioles fan is watching the progress of all-star catcher Matt Wieters and his return from surgery. 

Baseball is back and at least the thought of it makes me feel warmer. and maybe the snow will melt faster.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Saturday, February 21, 2015

What to do on a Snowy Day

It is snowing--it has been snowing. Five inches of snow already and more falling from the sky every minute.

About the only thing I have been doing is watching movies and golf on TV. Well, I have been watching the birds at the feeders, too.

At one point there were six female cardinals on my back deck chowing down. Feeding birds can be a lot like taking a $20 bill out of the wallet and lighting it on fire every time more seed is required. 

But, on a snow day they provide some comic relief.

I need some comic relief. 

I need to head off on a Caribbean vacation  and it has only been one month since my last vacation.

The snow has been falling steady now for six hours.

The driveway has been cleared once but the street is impassible by the vehicles I currently have in my stable.

The roads are bad and supposed to get worse as the snow turns to freezing rain and sleet and who knows what else?

The storm continues--no end in sight at this point.

The birds are feeding, there is a fire in the fireplace keeping the room toasty warm.

A great down day.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

As the Sun Rises

Minutes before Dawn
February 21, 2015
The sun is rising--I can just begin to see the shapes of the naked trees silhouetted against the clear, frigid sky.

Another "it's gonna be too cold" day begins. It is forecast to be (and I quote) "much warmer" today than yesterday. There is something fundamentally wrong when much warmer equates to a high temperature of 29 degrees!

Sunrise is set for 6:51 AM and I am not sure that I really want the day to begin given the forecast for an afternoon and evening full of snow to the tune of possibly 8 inches. It will be another day spent with a shovel in my hand and the promise of Spring slipping further and further away from reality.

I am not just complaining about the weather in my region--but all across the nation it is cold and snowy. Denver, Colorado, is forecasting up to 20 inches of snow in some areas. I was reading that Syracuse, New York, has received almost 49 inches of snow in February alone! The low in Miami, Florida, was 42 degrees yesterday missing the record by a scant 1 degree. I want to live somewhere where the record low is in the 40's. 

In Baltimore we set a new record low of 1 degree besting the record of 7 degrees set in 1885! The high was 18 degrees and when added together they still don't get to the 42 degree low of Miami! The high temperature in Anchorage, Alaska, yesterday was 32 degrees! Go figure.

Optimistically--maybe this is the last big storm of the season?

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Friday, February 20, 2015

Cold and Disappointment

The weather is the topic that most everyone seems to be talking about these days. And with good reason because the weather is harsh! 

There is talk in the region of setting record low and of hitting temperatures not seen since 1996. It is that cold!

I worry about the grapevines in the region. I wonder if they can handle the sustained cold? According to some of the models that I have been looking at, bud and vine damage could begin to occur. 

The disappointment that I refer to is the 10 day forecast for Elkridge on the first day of March. Presently, and the forecast changes wildly between now and ten days from now, March 1st is forecast for a high of 34 degrees and 5-8 inches of snow! Ugh! That of course ignores the forecast for tomorrow of 5-8 inches of snow and temperatures achieving a balmy 31 degrees.

I think tonight I will curl up next to a roaring fire and enjoy a bottle of wine while watching a sappy movie. Tomorrow, well, I will face tomorrow after surviving -20 degree wind chills of today.

I am really writing this to document that yes, I am looking forward to the first 80 degree day of the year and it will not be too hot for me. I got so excited the other day when the temperature achieved 23 degrees that I wanted to put on shorts and sandals and run outside to celebrate.

Warmer weather is coming. Take care of yourself. Stay warm and be happy.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Thursday, February 19, 2015

In Search of March

The temperature this morning is 10 degrees and there is about three inches of snow on the ground! Next month has got to be better. February has become a snowy, cold month that deserves to be forgotten as soon as warmer temperatures can be found.

Wherever they are! The grip of cold is pretty tight!

As the deep freeze continues, I almost hate going outside. I've dodged frostbite--narrowly, and kept my fingers warm enough to shovel snow and put air into the tires of my truck.

I looked at the extended forecast and there are only two days between now and the end of the month where the temperature is expected to exceed 32 degrees! We are in a deep freeze of epic proportions!

The ornamental grasses around the pool are cut and ready for warm sunshine to signal rebirth and begin growing. I long to remove the cover from my pool and see the water again. And don't even talk to me about leaves on the trees--the naked gray trunks swaying in the gale force winds are not a vision I care to remember. 

Blue skies, 80's, leaves, grass, and the feel of a lawn tractor underneath me--these are the things I long for. 

On the good side--Orioles pitchers and catchers report today. I wish I were in Sarasota where the expected 52 degree high today seems cold unless compared with our expected high temperature of 18 degrees. That is an important 34 degrees of difference. I long to live in a place where 52 degrees is called: cold!

I have never wanted a month to end as much as this one--but February 2015 has earned it all across the nation!

Did someone say that baseball season is getting under way? I think I will focus on that and stay warm.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Dog in the Snow

Makayla in the Snow
I am not a fan of snow and there was three inches of the white stuff waiting for me when I woke up yesterday. Someday, I want to live someplace where I only have to read about snow and not experience it first hand.

I had already coordinated with the neighbor to start up the snowblower about 8:30 AM and as a result, clearing the driveway was a fairly short event aided by the fact that the snow was very fluffy. It almost took longer to clear the frozen newspaper from the blades of the snowblower than it did to clear the entire driveway. I really wish people would pick-up their newspapers.

Makayla loves the snow. She especially likes the freshly fallen snow and she likes to roll around and run through the snow. She is very cute about everything associated with snow. I'm so cold that I don't even remember to take pictures of her antics. But, I snapped a few yesterday as I was clearing the snow from the driveway and sidewalk.

She has been weird the past couple of days with the cold. She runs outside and seems amazed at the weather. She accomplishes her task and quickly returns to come inside. Then, in a few short minutes, she wants to go outside again hoping the weather will be different. Sadly, it isn't. I should have made a movie of her with my GoPro, but I haven't.

Keeshonden (yup, that is the plural form of the name) seem to really like the snow and cold. It invigorates them--but at the same time I think they get cold, too. They are house dogs, after all.

Makayla is really a kid in disguise the only big difference is that I do not have bundle he up on coats, mittens, hats, and boots to have her sojourn outside for only a few brief minutes.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

A Holy War Expands

The Christian Crusades
Like most civilized people around the world, I was appalled at the ruthless murder of 21 Christians by the adherents of the Islamic State (a/k/a IS, ISIS, ISIL) in Libya. The murderers attempt to legitimize the act by calling it an execution, but what crime was committed? They were innocents and this was persecution! What I noticed in these medieval acts, however, was the direct attack upon Christianity and the globalization of the jihad.

In one Fox News article, an analyst calls it a "a major, tectonic shift."

Another interpretation of the beheadings reported that after beheading Coptic Christians, Islamists say they will ‘conquer Rome’ next. Is it any coincidence that the seat of Catholicism, Vatican City, is located in Rome? I think not.

I have been reading a number of articles about the threat posed by the IS, but one trend I see is that the group is being successful in areas that are susceptible to chaos because of a weak political structure. The Egyptians were taken in Libya which has been in the middle of a civil war for the better part of a year--but the western powers are steering clear of that area providing a ripe region for the infiltration of IS adherents. The US evacuated its Embassy and personnel on July 26, 2014. 

For historical perspective, I read an article published in the New York Times titled, The First Victims of the First Crusade, which provides some background on crimes visited upon the Jews by the Christians during the First Crusade almost 1000 years ago. 

Note to self: Turning our back on the problem and running away is not going to make the situation disappear or resolve itself.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Monday, February 16, 2015

Monday Musings - February 16, 2015

1. Happy Presidents Day! It is a good time to celebrate the Presidency and the greatness of the United States. Of course George Washington did it first and best!

2. Grover Cleveland is supposedly the most honest President ever according to an Opinion piece in the Boston Globe

3. How cold is it? Pretty cold! Officially a new record was set in the area today.

4. I thought it was too cold to snow but the news media is threatening that we will receive 4-8 inches of snow beginning tonight and into tomorrow! Anyone have a snow blower?

5. If the situation in the Middle East and North Africa with the Islamic State (a/k/a ISIS, ISIL) wasn't personal before now, the heinous execution of 21 Egyptian Christians should change that view.

6. 163-158 the final score of the NBA All Star game highlights everything wrong with professional basketball. I attended a Jackson's game yesterday. The final score was something close to 12-8 and it was a lot more exciting than seeing a bunch of guys just running up and down the court and scoring.

7. Pitchers and catchers report to Orioles Spring Training in Sarasota, Florida, in three days.

8. It seems that I am not the only northerner trying to get further south. A record setting six cruise ships with about 30,000 passengers were docked in Port Canaveral this weekend. I wonder if any of them were from Baltimore?

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Sunday, February 15, 2015

How Cold is it, Really?

I watched the temperature drop this morning from 7 degrees at 2AM, yes I was up, to just over 5 degrees when I woke up and then even further down to just 4.5 degrees in just 45 minutes.

Yes, we keep the house cool in the 63 degree range during the night.

So in a shout out to my family living in the frozen wastelands of the Northeast, my smug attitude of missing the biggest and coldest storms is finally catching up with me.  We are getting cold. 

It is really cold.
February 15, 2015
7 degrees cold

The wind chills are below ZERO! As I write this it is being reported at -13 degrees.

I may not even shovel the snow it is so cold. The forecasters are  saying that it will be below freezing all week!

I do note, it is warmer in Key West, Florida.  I even checked airfares to Florida this morning to see if I could escape--I could, but I won't.

Well, maybe. The high will be at least 70 there!

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

5 year olds on a soccer ball--It's true

Lucas (#20) with the Soccer Ball
I attended a youth soccer game in which Lucas, my youngest grandson, was playing yesterday.

I had a great time being reminded that the phrase "5 year olds on a soccer ball" is still as true as it ever was. 

The game occurred in an elementary school gym with no seating and so the parents were arrayed along the playing field and had the task of moving the soccer ball back onto the field of play and into the crushing mass of 5-7 year old humanity when the ball went out of bounds. 

Play was stopped only for goals, injuries, and when the ball landed on the back of the goal. 

It was great fun. Lucas is just five years old and hence was the youngest player on the floor, squeaking in just under the age wire. It shows in his play. He is wearing #20 and I took a few videos, much to the chagrin of his Dad, on my iPhone for posterity!

This was my second youth sporting event of the day, as I had earlier watched Ethan play basketball, and later today will be attending Jackson's game. 

Youth sports is a lot more entertaining that some professional sports.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Optimistic is . . .

Tractors in the Evening Light at Lowe's
February 13, 2015
Walking into Lowe's last evening to get some supplies to assist in fighting the impending arctic conditions, I saw something that Chris called, "optimistic." 

It was a line of brand, spanking new riding tractors ready for the upcoming Spring sales. There was not a snow blower in sight, despite the threatening prediction of snow in the forecast.

The line-up of tractors was almost as optimistic as I am when looking at the seven-day forecast and seeing 3-5 inches of snow. I am pretty sure it isn't going to happen this year. So far, there have been four forecasts for our area of heavy snow which has resulted in almost no precipitation. 

Another optimistic view was when I looked at the current weather on my phone yesterday while I was headed out for a medical appointment and saw that the temperature was 23 degrees. I started counting the days until Spring starts and determined that it was a short 35 days until March 20th. And the sun was shining!

Optimistic is knowing that Orioles pitchers and catchers report in five short days and that despite the calendar, Spring will begin in Sarasota, Florida!

Optimistic is looking at the calendar and seeing that daylight savings time begins again on March 8th.

Optimistic is knowing that the weather will be warm somewhere, despite the temperature at my house.

Optimistic is watching golf on the Golf Channel and realizing that warmer weather is not far off despite what is happening outside my window.

Optimistic is looking at a Valentines Day bouquet and feeling warm despite the freezing temperatures.

Happy Valentines Day--be an optimist!

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Friday, February 13, 2015

Legislators Out of Touch

Woman in Yoga Pants
I read an article about a legislator in Montana who is apparently abusing his elected authority by submitting a new law to outlaw yoga pants and speedos in public.

As reported by Fox NewsThe proposal would expand indecent exposure law to include any nipple exposure, including men’s, and any garment that “gives the appearance or simulates” a person’s buttocks, genitals, pelvic area or female nipple.

The Republican from Missoula said tight-fitting beige clothing could be considered indecent exposure under his proposal.

“Yoga pants should be illegal in public anyway,” Moore said after the hearing.

Moore said he wouldn’t have a problem with people being arrested for wearing provocative clothing but that he’d trust law enforcement officials to use their discretion. He couldn’t be sure whether police would act on that provision or if Montana residents would challenge it.

Interestingly enough, the law outlaws shirtless men in public. How would this affect public pools and swimming teams? I wonder what the definition of public would be under the law?

This is clearly a case of misguided morality and using a publicly elected position to push a personal agenda. The ramifications of this kind of law would be far reaching well beyond their intended impact. Why do I believe he is misusing his elected authority? Because he is forcing a narrow personal belief upon the electorate. 

Why can't legislators review laws and get rid of old ones that make no sense anymore rather than writing new ones that needlessly restrict personal freedoms?

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Dog who Loves Cat Treats

Cat Treat Toy
Makayla, my Keeshond, is a funny dog and everyone who knows her understands that this is true. I know why she is so different, she learned to be a dog from an old Yorkie and I can see many of Zachary's traits in how she reacts to many things.

Makayla is not a huge fan of dog toys. She doesn't fetch and she only rarely plays. But, she is mine and she is a great, intelligent dog. 

Well, until I saw her yesterday morning working over the cat toy that dispenses cat treats. She was totally into the treats--and she had already consumed breakfast and her morning cookies for doing her business outside.

Yesterday, however, it was all about the cat treats. Riordin was unceremoniously pushed aside and Makayla took control. I made a short movie of her antics.

The dog who loves cat treats. Something to enjoy.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Pharmacies Problems and Prescriptions

It only took three trips and one phone call back to the doctor's office to get the three medicines that had been prescribed.

Fortunately, I live only two miles from the neighborhood Rite Aid--but the level of insanity associated with the process was incredible.

Leaving the doctor's office after the procedure, three prescriptions were provided. One had to be taken in paper form and the other two were phoned/faxed into the pharmacy. Upon arriving at the pharmacy--the two that had been sent ahead had not arrived. Ugh!
Elkridge, MD, Rite Aid

It happens all of the time, I know that. I should just get paper prescriptions from the doctors for all of the medications.

That the prescriptions failed to arrive at the pharmacy meant that I had to call to the doctor's office--now closed, and then via the after hours number have the the prescribing physician contacted to get them retransmitted.

This stuff is not rocket science! Why can't simple prescriptions transit cyber space and arrive promptly at the pharmacy for processing? Sadly, this is not an isolated instance, because it has been this way for years at this pharmacy. 

I am stuck with using this pharmacy as my insurance only uses Rite Aid to fill prescriptions in my area. Fortunately it is close--but, three trips for prescriptions? How inefficient is that? 

The must be a better way.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Verizon's Dark Side

This following represents my personal opinion based upon fact.

Four years ago I allowed Verizon to convert my copper-based telephone line to a VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) line. 

In looking back on the conversion, Verizon misrepresented to me what they were doing. I went from having a fully reliable, storm-proof system to a VOIP system that requires a battery back-up to function when the power goes out. The battery is not permanent and needs to be replaced periodically.

The battery lasted less than four years. 

Guess who has to pay for the new battery?


Is it particularly expensive? No--but here's the rub, with my copper everything to keep the system running was provided. Now, with modern technology, I have to buy a battery and support an additional industry. 

The Verizon installers did not disclose that I was responsible or replacing the short-lived battery, I thought it was part of the system and would be maintained by Verizon as had my previous system.


It has been suggested that taking the battery out and cycling the power on the unit may revive the battery. Give it a try!

Can I get my good old reliable copper-wire line back?

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Monday, February 9, 2015

Monday Musings - February 9, 2015

1. Wine weekends are a lot of fun--especially in Charlottesville, VA where the wine flows freely.

2. I figured out the name for my first wine--Smug Bastard, that is how the winemaker at Keswick referred to me during the blending this past weekend.

3. Sitting in a noisy restaurant where it was hard to hear resulted in some funny situations the other evening. When the waitress asked if we needed bread, I  responded, "and white, too." It was a red, white and bread moment.

Sunrise on the Blue Ridge Mountains
February 7, 2015
4. Later that same evening we were talking about tapas, but some at the table felt that they have been left out by never going to a topless bar.  Funny evenings.

5. Sunrise on the Blue Ridge Mountains can be fabulous! With the mountains facing the rising sun that reflect red in the dawn light.

6. I wish grocery stores in Maryland could sell wine. It is really weird that they can't. 

7. Gas prices bounced up about 20 cents per gallon this weekend. I guess the ultra low, sub $2 per gallon prices are gone.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Let the Blending Begin

Spending a day at a winery is one of the things that I truly enjoy. Spending a day with some raw materials and creating a nice wine just adds to the joy of being at the winery.

That was yesterday. We gathered with friends to try our amateur hands at wine blending. We were provided four 2014 vintage Virginia wines and given the charge to create our best wine. This is the annual Keswick Vineyards Consensus Blending.

The wines were Touriga, Chambourcin, Syrah, and Norton. Each had some very nice qualities but was not a complete drinkable or salable wine. By the end of the day we blended a great wine that had everything the wine drinkers look for in a wine. We have need down this path before. Last year we did not place well in the blending with out entry. This year we were much happier. In fact, I like our wine.

The results? We finished as the runner-up less just over a half point behind the winners of the day. I even rated their wine ahead of ours.

A great day and great fun. We will do even better next year.

-- Bob Doan, writing from Earlysville, VA

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Virginia Weekend

It is consensus blending weekend and I am making my annual trek to Keswick Vineyards for the fun and education of hands on wine blending.

Last year's team is reassembled and ready for the competition. Ok. It really isn't a competition it is just fun. And we will have fun because wine blending is just plain fun.

It all begins in a few short hours. I learn more and more about wine and blending every time I participate and this is perhaps my sixth trip to Keswick for the blending.

-- Bob Doan, writing from Earlysville, VA

Friday, February 6, 2015

Travel Horror Story

It's Gonna Be a Good Travel Day
When the Jet Arrives on Time

Traveling can be as much fun as it can be frustrating. When the jet arrives at the gate on time--it is generally a good travel day, but sometimes we may not be at the gate to take our jet.  The real challenge in traveling is successfully clearing airport security and the TSA checks which are done to ensure our safety as we board and travel to our destination. The TSA agents wield a lot of power and I respect them and the job they do to keep me safe. But as with every profession, there are some bad apples out there who can make a good day go bad very quickly.

The story, as told by Ronnie Polaneczky a Daily News Columnist in his article titled, Innocent frequent flier detained after run-in with TSA, is about what happened to frequent flier Roger Vanderklok, a Philadelphia architect and marathoner, who was detained, arrested, and arraigned on false charges after requesting a form to file a complaint regarding his treatment during a prolonged investigation of his carryon baggage during January 2013 in Philadelphia.

I have known for a very long time that TSA agents have a minimal sense of humor, but I always wish them a nice day when I travel for  a couple of reasons. First, I appreciate what they do and frankly, I'm not sure I could do that jobs every single day. Second, I truly hope they have a good day because if they are having a good day, then most likely I will also have a good day of flying. 

Vanderklok was in a difficult situation.

On this day, he was headed to Miami. In his carry-on bag was a packet of PowerBars and a heart-monitoring watch. When the bag went through the X-ray scanner, the items looked suspicious to a TSA agent whom Kieser supervises.

For the next 30 minutes, screeners checked the bag several times. Vanderklok told them that a tube-shaped case in the bag contained his watch. Then he was asked if his bag contained "organic matter." Vanderklok said no, as he thought "organic matter" meant fruits or vegetables.

PowerBars, which contain milk, grain and sugar, are considered "organic matter" and can resemble a common explosive. Terrorists often use a small electronic device, like a watch, to detonate the explosive. Hence the agent's concern.

Sometimes, when I travel simple things do not make sense. I think it is because I am out of my normal routine and struggling to retain a sense of normalcy. I remember being in Chicago returning from an overseas trip having been awake for the better part of 20 hours and the security agent asked me to "step up." There were no stairs and I was operating in a total literal mode at that point and just could not understand what he meant by asking me to "step up." Fortunately, he probably saw I was exhausted and through his patient repeating of the command I finally understood he meant to "move forward."

Vanderklok had a similar problem when the agents asked him about organic matter and he didn't realize the complete definition of organic matter includes, believe it or not, power bars. 

It was at this point that the situation got serious with Vanderklok missing his plane, being arrested, detained, and charged with a crime. There is also the part where one of the TSA agents is allegedly less than truthful in the situation when his story is compared against the videotape of the incident. It might be easy to suggest the story has a happy ending--but in reality the lost time and money spent on attorney's fees can never really be recovered.

My take away from the story is that when traveling, always be nice to the TSA agents and if I want to file a complaint--I will do it afterwards via an online resource.

So far I have been fortunate and all of my TSA interactions have been professional and positive. I hope to keep it that way.

Happy Flying!

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Teasing with my Affections

Miami at Dawn from the Disney Wonder
January 28, 2015
The thermometer at my house recorded 51 degrees yesterday. Call it a mid-winter respite as today the temperatures return to too cold to do anything meaningful outside. I remembered that Wednesday morning last week I woke up on a cruise ship tied-up in Miami, Florida.

Normally, a 50 plus degree day during the winter season would have me scheming to get to a golf course to whack at the little white ball, or to a driving range to do the same thing and try to improve my inconsistent golf swing, or at a minimum swinging at balls on my home driving range. I truly need all of the work that I can get.

But alas, I was unable to do any of those things do to a too busy work schedule that saw me working late and recognizing that I am still recovering from a nasty cold that I picked up somewhere and just won't let go. I haven't even played racquetball this week because I just do not want to sap my strength.

At least I was smart enough to drive my remaining Jaguar, named affectionately Cat, to help keep the battery charged. Yes, I did for a passing moment think about putting the top down to drive home from work but the temperature was already falling and I just didn't need to get a chill.

Today the temperatures return to mid-winter reality. Fortunately, there is no snow to speak of either on the ground or in the forecast. Maybe, unlike last year and in defiance of the rodent's, Punxsutawney Phil,  prediction, spring will grace us with an early arrival.

I can dream, right?

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Forces of Darkness and Anarchy

The news of the day yesterday was appalling and a clear confirmation that the Islamic State's (ISIL, ISIS) inhumanity and barbarism is beyond anything seen on the planet in decades. Anyone who has a different interpretation has clearly not been reading the news or understanding the magnitude of the murders and slaughter of innocents occurring in the region.

The Washington Post article titled, Islamic State’s killing of pilot, depicted in video, spurs calls for revenge in Jordan covers the story.  A captured Jordanian pilot was forces to walk a gauntlet of heavily armed militarists to the place where he was to be executed in a cage by being burned to death. And then we discover that the execution occurred a month ago and that the Islamic State attempted negotiations for his release after his death.

Almost no day goes by when some new atrocity is not reported coming from that region of the world. The toll mounts even in light of the military response by the United States and other allied nations committed to eradicating the threat to peace loving people everywhere.

The impact of these barbaric acts is on the region is becoming clearer. In Jordan, the populace was beginning to wonder why the country was supporting the United States's coalition--after all it wasn't their conflict. The attitude in Jordan has changed the country retaliated overnight by executing two terrorists as reported this morning in the NY Times

I am concerned that the news media is not fully reporting the travesties occurring in the Levant. The sensational events get coverage--but if one diligently digs through the news there is so much more occurring and we need to be informed. We need to understand that hundreds of people are dying, being imprisoned, and tortured at the hands of ISIL and most of these people are peace loving Muslims. 

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

In Defense of Imagination

Having just completed a cruise aboard a ship run by a company devoted to bringing imagination to life with two grandsons, I wonder about school systems which apparently are committed to destroying imagination.

The question comes from reading an article about a fourth grader in Texas who was suspended for bringing his Tolkien Lord of the Rings ring into school and suggesting that he could make a classmate disappear. This was considered a threat by the school and the boy, Aiden Steward, was suspended. It was his third suspension of the year.

Aidan's dad made the following observation to the principal of the school: “I assure you my son lacks the magical powers necessary to threaten his friend’s existence,” the boy's father later wrote in an email. "If he did, I'm sure he'd bring him right back."

Admittedly, there is something larger at work in this case since found Aiden has been suspended three times for apparently minor transgressions as reported in the referenced article. But, I have to giggle just a bit since the name of the school, Kermit Elementary, located Kermit, Texas, which is near the New Mexico border, evokes images of an imaginary green frog by the same name. 

The stifling of imagination may be one of the greatest threats to our future existence. Without imagination we would quickly become society of automatons. I like what Albert Einstein said: "Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world."

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Monday, February 2, 2015

Monday Musings - February 2, 2015

1. What happened to January already. It's gone!

2. Driving around the neighborhood the other night I noticed that some people are having a difficult time letting go of Christmas. It is time to let it go and take the decorations down. 

3. Is the Super Bowl really super? Or just average.

4. My assessment of the Super Bowl--Seattle snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

5. Orioles pitchers and catchers report in 19 days. Opening day is just 63 days away!

6. With the arrival of February, I am beginning to think about March and getting the mower ready. I should be mowing in 60 days with any good fortune at all.

7. In case you are confused about who is and who is expected to or not to run for President, I have provided a link to the NY Times candidate tracker. Enjoy.

8. Happy Groundhog Day!

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD
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