Friday, July 31, 2015

Curacao: Special Edition

I have finally finished editing the videos that Chris and I took while visiting Curacao. I broke them into two separate videos, one for the land highlights and the other for the snorkeling highlights.

Curacao on-land highlights are above and snorkeling highlights are below. 

We had fun while on Curacao.

I still have not completed the video of snorkeling on Grand Turk, we took too much video and it takes a long time to get through it all; and I have just begun to work on the Aruba snorkeling video.

All of my videos are available on my YouTube channel.

-- Bob Doan, aboard the Carnival Conquest in the Caribbean Sea

Aruba Rocks

Shopping District
Oranjestad, Aruba
The final port of call for my cruise occurred yesterday with a few, too short, hours in Aruba.

I can say that Aruba has stolen my heart and of the three places that Chris and I visited during the cruise, it is the one that we want to return to the most. Maybe next April!

We started the day by taking a taxi to a beach for a couple hours of snorkeling before the crowds appeared. The highlights of our time in the water off Aruba were a sharptail eel and many starfish. There were also a lot of cuttlefish!

Chris has a special place in her heart for cuttlefish.

We have enjoyed the snorkeling everywhere we have stopped, but I have state that it has not been "reef" spectacular. By that I mean, we did some fantastic reef snorkeling a few years ago while staying in St Lucia, and none of the areas we have snorkeled on this trip have come close to the reefs there.

Even so, the snorkeling was rewarding because there was something different or special at every stop. 

Yesterday was nice because we were able to return to the ship and change before going out shopping in Oranjestad. That was nice because the dive bag gets heavy after a short while of dragging it around into and out of shops.

Sharptail Eel
I prefer snorkeling and reclining on a beach to shopping, but it was fun to shop as well. 

We had a nice lunch and made it back comfortably to the ship before our 4PM departure. I was later told, by an eyewitness, that the announcement we heard calling out a number of our shipmates names at about departure time was because they were not yet onboard and the captain was preparing to cast off just as a taxi came screaming up to the quay, just in the nick of time. I suppose worse things could have happened than being stranded in Aruba.

Cuttlefish keeping a close eye on me
It was sad that all of our port calls have been completed, but we still have two sea days remaining.

I will be catching up on my pictures and editing the movies. Oh yea, and sitting in the sun by the pool.

-- Bob Doan, writing from the Carnival Conquest currently somewhere in the Caribbean Sea

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Reflections of Curacao

Willemstad, Curacao from the Ship
I spent the entire day in Curacao yesterday. Chris and I departed the ship promptly at 9AM and did not return to the ship until after 7PM. 

The excitement of being on one of the islands that I have read so much about and have longed to visit was rapidly met by the reality of life. 

Knip Public Beach, Curacao
We took a tour that covered most of the west end of the arid, poor, and trash clogged island. We visited plantations and learned of the history of the slave uprisings resulting in the eventual abolishment of the practice. In a strange evolution, we photographed flamingos living and eating on the same salt flats that the slaves used to work.

Chris and I visited three beaches and the National Park to watch the waves crash onto the north shore of the island. It was impressive.

Smooth Trunkfish, Curacao
The snorkeling was excellent right along the beaches with many interesting animals.

We had a lot of fun, but could see the poverty at every turn in the road from our seats in the open air tour bus.

I have more images to share, but it is an early departure for Aruba this morning and so this will have to do for now. I believe I have some great videos to share as well, compliments of my GoPro.

Another vacation day is at hand!

-- Bob Doan, writing from the Carnival Conquest just docking in Aruba

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Sea Days mean Fun Days

Towel Animal
One of the things that I enjoy about cruising is that as we travel from location to location, we take our room with us. Normally, travel days mean moving luggage and climbing into various forms of transportation. 

On a cruise, travel days, or sea days, are a relaxing time aboard the ship to enjoy the activities and lay in the sun beside the pool.

Chris with the Drink of the Day
Yesterday the most exciting thing that Chris and I accomplished was to watch the sea birds and a young boy try to infuse some enthusiasm into the crowd. 

Mind you, there is nothing wrong with relaxation, but in retrospect, watching sea birds fish for hours, and even taking video of them diving into the Caribbean Sea seems like one of the lowest forms of entertainment.

And writing of infusing excitement into the crowd, we spend almost 30 minutes yesterday watching a 2-year old spice up an otherwise absolutely uninspiring performance in the atrium of the ship. 

The entertainment aboard the ship is mostly amateurish at best, and at least those watching are attempting to add some value to the performances. 

Today, however, we are in Curacao! A whole day of beach wandering and enjoying the island. Tomorrow Aruba! It is the mid-point of the cruise.

-- Bob Doan, writing from the Carnival Conquest preparing to disembark on Curacao

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Onto the Sea after a Shore Day

Today marks the seventh day of my vacation and sadly, by this time next week I will be back at work and everything that I have been and am doing will be but memories and images. 

I am glad that I have been away as the Presidential Olympics continues to become more fractured and disturbing.  The more thuggish candidates are presently climbing to the top of the polls. Apparently they appeal to some dark side of the American electorate that has hitherto been untapped.
Snorkeling off Grand Turk

There is something appealing to waking up and having breakfast delivered to the door and then heading out to the balcony to watch the ocean pass by. Even the news channels on the TV have poor and almost unusable connections with forces me to focus my mind upon the plan of the day and not continue to be amazed by the state of the political disarray found across our nation.
Grand Turk, BWI
Nurse Shark off Grand Turk

Yesterday was a short stop in Grand Turk for some snorkeling and shopping.

Me Waiting to go Snorkeling
on Grand Turk
The snorkeling was good and there was, yup you guessed it, another nurse shark alone with many other beautiful fish. I was able to view the great drop off again where the ocean depth drops from a few feet to a few thousand feet.

Today is another sea day--which means relaxing on the ship. 

Enjoying another vacation day and making another set of memories while life goes on, elsewhere!

-- Bob Doan, writing from aboard the Carnival Conquest in the Caribbean Sea

Monday, July 27, 2015

Monday Musings - July 27, 2015

Carnival Conquest from the Stern
1. Waking up surrounded by the ocean is a great and humbling experience. I forget how big and vast is the Atlantic Ocean.

2. I wonder who will be Donald Trump's next target. it is too bad that people are positively responding to his negative message.

3. The Orioles managed to win a series on the road! They are still seven games out of first place.

4. Glaciers of frozen nitrogen? Where else but Pluto?
Chris at Lobster Dinner(s)

5. The U.S. Men's Soccer team took the Jamaica team far too lightly during their 2-1 loss. It is too bad that the men could not win the tournament.

6. It is hard to believe, but this is the last Monday in July! August is sneaking up on us.

7. Today Turks and Caicos! I'm headed to Grand Turk. I love vacations.

8. Two lobster dinners? Chris ate the whole thing!

-- Bob Doan, writing from aboard the Carnival Conquest nearing Grand Turk

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Good Morning from Sea

Chris Looking Out Over Port Everglades
Exploring the Ship
Chris and I are officially on vacation! Well, we have been on vacation since last Wednesday, but are on the cruise portion of the vacation about the good ship Carnival Conquest.

We sailed from Fort Lauderdale yesterday under the cover of an afternoon thunderstorm and still enjoyed seeing the coast slip past and cell phones go dead!
Out the Stateroom Window this Morning

It was a bit scary for me, personally, when my phone gave up the connection ghost!

Yup--no calls for a week!

That is a good thing, I'm told.

OK, I did buy the internet package so that we can stay in touch a bit. But I'm not planning on answering email.

We have enjoyed the partying and even though the sail away party had to be brought inside, Chris managed to dance up a storm.  Yes, I filmed it wrong! I can't believe that I did it, but I take full responsibility because it just seemed to fit better.

We are preparing for a fun day at sea. And of course, more relaxation. 

-- Bob Doan, writing from the Carnival Conquest somewhere in the Caribbean (The Bermuda Triangle?)

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Shark Encounter in the Water

Fish off Jupiter Island
Two days on the beach and two shark encounters.

Yesterday was a snorkeling morning. The water was calm and clear. Chris and I had a lot of fun. We also used the GoPro in the underwater mode for the first real run of the vacation. It takes great video even while being attached to the head strap, but we need to learn how to use it a bit better to get more viewable videos.
Juvenile Angelfish 

My underwater camera was also very useful and documented the really impressive things that we viewed during our event filled outing. 

The big event during the outing was the shark encounter. While we were snorkeling we came upon a small nurse shark, a pup, that seemed to be in a unique position--belly up. This caused us great consternation, as you will see from the video. We spend a good deal of time trying to decide what, if anything, we should to to help this small shark. 

Nurse Shark Belly-up in the Rocks
Of course there was a great difference of opinion. And in watching it further, I began to wonder if it was dead, I could see some fin movement, but I wasn't sure if it was caused by the undulation of the water. 

Our desire to assist a fellow inhabitant of the planet finally won out over common sense, and of course knowing that it was a nurse shark coupled with its small size contributed to the decision that it clearly needed assistance.

A rescue attempt was made, which ended with a great amount of laughter when the shark, startled a lot more than I was, took off never to be seen again.

Did the shark really need assistance? Probably not! But, we felt better about it when it was over because we made a rescue attempt.

Moray Eel
And then we were on our way for the neatest find of the day, and one unfortunately that the camera did not fully capture--a medium sized moray eel in the open, hunting. 

It is a good reminder why I never reach into dark areas while snorkeling. You never know what is there!

A great day in Florida. And the entire snorkeling adventure lasted only about an hour, leaving a whole day to get sunburned on the beach.

-- Bob Doan, writing from Jupiter, Florida

Friday, July 24, 2015

Shark Encounter at the Beach

Measuring in at 95 Inches

With all of the news about shark attacks this year, we had our own shark encounter on the beach. We were spending the day at the beach in the Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge and some youthful fishermen near us on the beach hooked a large, 95 inch, nurse shark and brought it to shore.
Nurse Shark

It was awesome to see such a beautiful creature up close and personal. Really up close. 

They were very gentle with the shark, which did not even attempt to attack anyone, but only wanted to get back into the water. 

Getting the Shark back into the Water
They measured the catch, removed the hook as best a possible without hurting the animal and released it back into the water so that the shark could get back to living. 

I have seen these sharks in the water, but seeing this large specimen up close was really a treat. Even though I know they are generally docile in the wild, I still give them a wide berth.

Everyone was very excited and the shark was treated with the utmost respect as an apex predator who was definitely out of his element.

I love the ocean and I enjoy mutually beneficial encounters between myself and the creatures which inhabit it.

-- Bob Doan, writing from Jupiter, Florida

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Clouds, Sunsets and the Lighthouse

My return to Jupiter, Florida, it had been two years since my last visit, embodied almost everything that I have come to expect and appreciate.
Cloud with Halo

There was a unique cloud formation, preceding a fairly ferocious thunderstorm, in which a cloud appeared to have a halo above it. I found the clouds fascinating--and I even was able to get a fairly good representation of it from my camera.

It was a beautiful and hot afternoon and we were enjoying happy hour at a local establishment as the storm made its way toward us. 
Sunset in Jupiter

As the evening progressed we transitioned to another establishment, right on the river and were able to be impressed by a spectacular sunset. I just can find a sunset framed by palm trees in Maryland. 
Jupiter Lighthouse

The sunset last evening was truly special. Why? Because I was able to enjoy it with friends and I am on vacation! It seems that the sunsets I see on vacation are always better than those back home. 

And then there is the signature feature of Jupiter, Florida. The Jupiter lighthouse.

I enjoy looking at the lighthouse and knowing its history makes it even better. 

The site was selected before the Civil War and there was collaboration between two eventual opponents on the field of battle: Mead and Lee.

Welcome back. It is vacation time again!

-- Bob Doan, writing from Jupiter, Florida

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

My Take--Money Talks, but Trump needs to Walk

I was shocked about what presidential candidate Donald Trump said about John McCain and his service record
Trump--The Angry Man

Someone who holds so little regard for the military and military service and especially for someone who suffered intolerable injustices and remained faithful, should never be endowed with the title Commander in Chief. Period.

By the way, Trump's military service record consists of a string of deferments.

When too much money talks without filters we can dismiss the ignorance; however, should a president speak like that on the world political stage, then wars start.

Ignorance must never be tolerated. We can choose to disagree, but an intolerant and insensitive bully should never become president.

I liked his direct speak in the beginning, but the veneer has been stripped away and it is clear the Trump, the man, has become a legend in his own mind.

Ruth Marcus, columnist for the Washington Post, wrote a piece yesterday titled Donald Trump and the anger of conservatives,  describing the Trump phenomenon and why he will never become president. 

I hope she is right. The man apparently appeals to the deep, dark side of the electorate--a reaction to everything that is wrong with our country by blaming it on someone or something. His plans to rejuvenate the country are to build a wall! Really? I almost believe that his next big reform idea will to start a war with Mexico to revive the economy. 

"Speaking to a gathering of Libertarians in Las Vegas before headlining an event in Phoenix, Trump repeated his charge that Mexico was sending violent offenders to the U.S. to harm Americans and that U.S. officials were being "dumb" in dealing with immigrants in the country illegally." This was reported in The Times-Picayune

There is history here of which we must be aware. Extreme reactionists get elected because they appeal to those who do not understand the deeper issues facing the country and the world. They have a knack for blaming our problems on others and then promising to get rid of the others. 

The problems do not go away, they only get worse.

Trump is not the answer, he is part of the problem.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Hot--The Word of the Day

Although the year to this point has been relatively cold, the past few days have reminded me that summer can pack a real punch.

Hot and sultry weather.

People forgetting the cold weather when they were wishing for summer.

I do love the heat!

I like writing about hot weather a whole lot more than cold. 

I spent most of yesterday outside, between playing golf and attending Artscape--then hanging out in the pool. Enjoying the heat.

I, for one, like opening the door to the outside and being greeted with a hot, humid slap in the face. It is far superior to having an icy hand rip though my lungs.

Enjoy the heat, colder is not far off and then we will be longing for hot temperatures. 

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Monday, July 20, 2015

Monday Musings - July 20, 2015

Artscape in Baltimore
1. Weekends are the best!

2. Sunday was a hot summer day. It was awesome.

3. I went to Artscape in Baltimore on Sunday. I was joined by a throng of other crazy people we went out on a summer Sunday afternoon.

Mike, Levi, Jeremy on the 12th Tee
Eisenhower Golf Course
4. I started another Sunday on the golf course with Jeremy, Mike, and Levi. I wish I had played better, but my game is coming together and I only had two really terrible holes.

Statue to the Confederate
Fallen in Baltimore
5. Some of the flowers in my garden have grown very big. They are fun to look at.

6. I was approached by a well meaning person with a petition to remove a Baltimore statue erected in memory of the Confederate soldiers who lost their lives. The removal of everything Confederate is part of the misguided trend of revisionist history sweeping the country.

7. The Cuban Embassy reopens in D.C. today.  The U.S. Embassy will likewise reopen in Havana. It is about time!

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Mid-Summer Madness

Hibiscus in my Garden
It is mid-July which means that while "summer" is but a month old, it is in reality half-over. 

The time for summer vacations and plans is rapidly drawing to a conclusion, and I haven't headed out to find new places, yet.

Many of the people I work with have already tapped into the renewal qualities of a summer vacation. 

My turn is coming, soon. 

Even so, I have been appreciating walking outside into the warm, sultry temperatures and humidity which have characterized the summer thus far. 

It has been hot--and rainy along the eastern part of the country. I have been enjoying the weather, mostly. The lawn has continued growing unlike some years when the dry heat makes it go dormant. 

Summer. It holds so much promise and it is frustrating when it speeds along unperturbed by my lack of accomplishment.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Saturday, July 18, 2015

My Take -- Bottled Water

If I had tried selling water when I was a kid, people would have laughed at me. 

Water was available everywhere! Free!

Look at us now. We have almost become slaves to bottled water. I myself, have two cases of bottled water in the garage. I am too lazy to go to the cupboard, get a glass, and fill it from the tap. I grab the plastic bottle and throw it in my pocket and head out the door.

An interesting OpEd piece in the New York Times writes about The Republican Fetish With Water Bottles, and describes how some National Parks have reduced the volume of water bottles in the trash while also encouraging a more environmentally healthy approach to ensuring proper hydration. 

Sadly, there are those in Congress who would reverse the trend of decreasing the volume of one time use plastic bottles in the trash--even despite an increase in profits at one National Park from the sale of reusable water bottles.

I do understand the problem with reusable water bottles. I keep losing them.

But, there are serious questions about the possible health effects from a steady diet of plastic bottled water. 

I like free, ubiquitously available water. Lets do that and reduce landfill volume and no worry about adverse health effects.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Friday, July 17, 2015

The Open in between Raindrops

I got up early this morning. I couldn't sleep--it happens and I don't worry about. 

I decided to watch The Open, which because of the five hour time difference was being televised from Scotland. Unfortunately, there was no golf.

I found rain!

Crews at St Andrews Moving the Water
I think I have had enough rain for a while. It was interesting to see the grounds crews squeegee off the greens--so much water. Water everywhere. 

The water on TV reminded me of the last time I played Patuxent Greens. I played one morning, shortly after dawn and after storms delivered torrential rains the night before. As I surveyed the course, I was amazed that it was even open at all. The grounds crews there did a great job, but they couldn't get the back nine open and the front nine had water standing on the course. The bunkers were even full of water.  I wrote about my experience in Raindrops of Life. At least in Scotland they were not waiting on the cart paths for turtles to swim by.

Golf is a tough enough game without adding indiscriminate water hazards in the middle of the fairways.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Thursday, July 16, 2015

My Take: The Iran Deal

Change is hard. Iran has been an enemy of the United States since the 1979 hostage crisis--and even the recently signed nuclear deal is not likely to change that characterization soon.

Too many people in our country, especially those with political motivations, are condemning the nuclear deal with Iran without reading the entire text and considering the alternatives. I have not read the agreement, nor would I expect to understand everything in the agreement were I to read it, but having an agreement that appears on the surface to limit access to the materials and technologies required to develop and deploy nuclear weapons cannot be a bad thing.

I am encouraged by the analysis in an article in the New York Times which writes about the depth and complexity of the agreement. Perhaps this agreement possesses the necessary tools to be successful. The Huffington Post also wrote and article which addresses some of the myths about the deal. 

I have read articles comparing John Kerry, Secretary of State, or President Obama to Neville Chamberlain who led the efforts to appease Hitler in the years leading up to World War II. These characterizations, I maintain, are very unfair and represent a "knee-jerk" response by people who have made offered their opinions without reading the text of the agreement.

I remember another President once brokered a nuclear deal with our greatest rival and enemy. That President was Richard Nixon and the deal was the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) Treaty--perhaps one of the most successful treaties in the history of the country. While that specific treaty is no longer in effect, there have been successful follow-on treaties which have limited the deployment and development of nuclear weapons for decades.

And then there is President Ronald Reagan, perhaps the greatest president of the modern era, who when speaking with Soviet Premier Gorbachev about strategic treaties used the words, "Trust but Verify!"

Trust but verify must be the mantra for all treaties and I see a verify component in the Iran Deal. 

Getting right down to the bottom line, sanctions against Iran have been in place for many years with dubious results. While the people of Iran have been suffering their government has been intent on developing the capabilities that this agreement seeks to limit. Except for this agreement, I do not see any other option short of military action to limit Iran's access and production of nuclear weapons. However, looking at is from a different angle, is can be said that the sanctions have worked! They have brought Iran to a point where they are willing to negotiate. 

I urge everyone to read the deal and consider the alternatives before rushing down the paths to either condemnation or congratulation.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

MLB All Star Game 2015 Reflections

I am convinced that Major League Baseball is the only professional sport that really knows how to stage an All Star event. Last night's version was nothing less that spectacular.

I did not watch all of the game, nor did I watch all of the coverage prior to the introduction of the teams earlier in the evening, but I have to admit as the individual all stars were being introduced their smiles at being selected an All Star were clearly evident. 

I was proud of the Orioles that represented Baltimore in the game and even more excited that Adam Jones was selected to start the game. Manny Machado and Zach Britton did their parts and displayed the Orioles Way before a national crowd. Darren O'Day did not get into the game, but represented the team and the city.

I attended the 1994 MLB All Star Game when it was hosted in Pittsburgh and it was an experience to remember. It was one of the few, if not the last, All Star games to go into extra innings. I look back on the roster of player that night and am simply amazed at some of the talent that I watched play together.

Johnny Bench, Hank Aaron, Sandy Koufax, Willie Mays
(from left to right)
Turning to last evening, however, one of the greatest moments of the game was the ceremonial opening pitch. Four baseball living legends were introduced and walked out onto the mound: Hank Aaron (last game October 1976), Johnny Bench (last game: September 1983), Sandy Koufax (last game October 1966), and Willie Mays (last game September 1973); seeing these four great players together made me remember so many great moments in baseball history. And then, to top it off, Sandy Koufax threw the opening pitch to Johnny Bench--a truly spectacular moment. 

Good job MLB. Oh, did I mention that the game was fun to watch as well? It lived up to the hype and was a great collection of All Stars gathered together to have fun and enjoy the game. And as an added benefit, should it be necessary, the American League team will get to host game 7 of the World Series--and that could be in Baltimore!

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

A Visit to Pluto

A space probe called New Horizons will make the closest ever fly-by of the former planet Pluto today. The estimated time of the closest point of approach is 7:49 AM EDT at which time the space craft will be 7,750 miles above the surface of Pluto. To put that into perspective, it is about the same distance that Seattle, Washington, is from Sydney, Australia, (7,744 miles); or New York is from Mumbai, India, (7,786 miles). 

It took a lot of planning to get a New Horizons to Pluto. In this case it took 9 years for it to fly the 3 billion miles. Most of us forgot that it was making its way through the solar system during that time. But here it is--fulfilling the purpose of its mission--to help us understand more about the solar system and ultimately even ourselves as we look outward from our own home.

Whenever a new space-related discovery is made or one of our craft crosses a new frontier my imagination becomes energized. The coverage of this mission has really hyped up during the past few weeks as the images have come streaming in from the far reaches of the solar system. I like the title of the article in Wired, Pluto will send Earth a Love Letter Tomorrow. 

NASA has developed an app to help people watch the flyby in computer animated style. It is called NASA's Eyes, and I installed it and have found it to be very rich in information.

Take some time today to follow the mission and let your mind consider the possibilities! We have come a long way from the days of Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers. We do not have to imagine what "outer space" is like. We are there!

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Monday, July 13, 2015

Monday Musings - July 13, 2015

1. July is screaming by--it is almost half over!
Pluto, A Planet Again?

2. The New Horizons spacecraft makes it closest approach to Pluto tomorrow! It only took 9 years to get there. 

3. Tomorrow is Bastille Day, a celebration of the French Revolution and a huge jail break. It is also my second favorite foreign holiday. Vive la France!

4. While those of us living in the eastern part of the country are experiencing incredible rains, the west is extremely dry. I wish it would all even out. We experienced a dryer weekend and it was goo to get outside.

5. When staying on vacation, have you been charged a "resort fee?" Maybe the fee wasn't fully disclosed.

6. It is tough to head back to work on Mondays!

7. It is quiet in the house this morning, the extra animals and children have returned to their own home. Maybe it is too quiet.

8. I have to make one golf comment, I played 18 holes in less than three hours yesterday and shot under 100 for the second time! I was looking forward to shooting under 100, but now have set my sights on sub-90!

9. I just figured out that somehow my twitter feed is automatically posting on my Facebook--sorry for the double posting last week. Who knew how that happened?

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Animals in the Yard

It doesn't seem to matter where in the yard I look, animals abound. Some are enjoyable to watch, others are nuisances. 
Squirrel on the finch feeder
Boogie Boarding Toad

Out front, on the finch feeder, there was a unique bird the other day--I call it the "squirrel bird." This bird is flightless, but loves bird food and can often be seen at feeders in the area. It is ubiquitous, and can often be a pest by chewing through the feeders. They are nimble and it seems nothing thwarts their efforts to obtain food.

In the back, specifically the pool, we are besieged by toads and frogs. The daily count continues to be in the teens, but one enterprising toad found refuge form the chlorinated water by climbing upon a brightly colored boogie board that was left in the pool. It was rescued and released into the long grasses around the pool, hopefully not to return.

I wish there was a way to frog-proof the pool, but I'm not sure that it possible.

I haven't even begun to address the damage the rabbits are doing to the hostas. But that is a story for another day.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Juxtapositioned Events

Yesterday saw two very different memorable events happen within hours of each other and caused me to reflect on the strange times in which we live and how unity can be achieved both by the raising and the lowering of a flag.

The first event, which began promptly at 10:00 AM EDT with an incredible amount of ceremony and professionalism occurred in Columbia, South Carolina, when the Confederate Battle Flag was lowered, permanently, from its post flying over the State Capitol where is had by flying since 1961. I watched the CNN coverage of the event live and was fascinated by the numbers of people who turned out for the event. Perhaps the Civil War is finally ending and America is entering a new era of unity and equality.

The second event, a few short hours later, signified the rebirth of unity in our country not by taking a flag down, but by raising the American flag high in celebration. The celebration for the FIFA Women's World Cup Soccer Champions--the USA Team! A ticker tape parade through New York City was attended by thousands and viewed by millions. It was a fantastic celebration of patriotism and the display of the American spirit was everywhere.

America is diverse. Celebrating unity cements the fundamental beliefs expressed by the Founding Fathers in the Declaration of Independence and The Constitution. These beliefs assure us that we can be and are, inherently, a diverse people with the rights to live as we choose. Raising the American flag high above our celebrations is a symbol our unity that protects our diversity!

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD
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