September 19th, 2014

“Defence of Fort M’Henry”

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Sometimes business trips work out as planned; most times, such plans do not work out; from time to time, a trip exceeds one’s hopes and plans.

I’m fond of Baltimore. Big enough, small enough, familiar enough and foreign enough to offer adventure at every visit even though I gravitate to my favorites in Little Italy, Fells Point, the Harbor and about Roland Park.

Last week’s trip began in the usual way with an on-time departure that only got as far as 500 yards from the gate. We parked due to “traffic control issues”, meaning that the airline got an AttaBoy for leaving on-time even though the airline authorities knew that we’d have to wait before actually taking-off. Isn’t it funny that on-line departure refers to leaving the gate and not leaving the ground. Next time that someone leaves our house, I’ll say that they’ve departed even if I can see them standing in the driveway.

Arrived at BWI in a drizzle, in company with many Yankee fans for the weekend baseball series. I expected better performance from the New Yorkers in Derek Jeter’s final season. Happily, the Os are well ensconced in first place of their division. The day concluded in the drizzle, the Os lost in the rain and I returned to Fort Marriott to watch Navy football on my in-room tv. Willie Loman, who art thou?

Sunday was a new day in a new way. Ironically, it truly was a Sun-Day. Bright light showered from clear skies from the rise of the sun to its exchange with the moon. In between, I joined – without being invited or even being aware – the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the composition of our national anthem, The Star Spangled Banner (SSB). Francis Scott Key, imprisoned on a British warship in Baltimore Harbor, so described the bombardment of Fort McHenry by our English cousins – actually former landlords at that time.

I believe that this SSB Commemoration is part of the Bicentennial Celebration of the War of 1812. It would be inaccurate to call this program of semi-national festivities a celebration because, well, no one is celebrating it actually. Which is curious in an historical context and typical of Americans and our reverence or even awareness of the events that conspired to propel us to where we are in time. By the way, stunned was I to silence a few years ago when neither my high school nor middle school sons could not confidently place the Revolutionary War, The Civil War nor WW2 within 5 year windows. They knew the order of, shall we say, battle, but not the years. I suppose that they could just ‘look it up’ if necessary.

The War of 1812 was important in the development of America’s 19th century future. For starters, winning this war or, at least, not losing it, enabled us to remain independent of Great Britain. The War of 1812 reflects a poignant case of Buyers Remorse on the part of the British. Having banished Napoleon to Elbe in May of 1814, it seemed as though the Brits were eager to renegotiate the lease-buyback agreement with the Colonies, now charmingly referred to as the United States of America.

Taking a tough negotiation stance, the English pillaged Washington, D.C., burning the White House in August of 1814. Although the Treaty of Ghent in December of 1814 technically concluded the fighting between the USA and Great Britain, had the Americans not decisively defeated the British at the Battle of New Orleans on January 8, 1815, the English might have reneged on the agreement. Word travelled at much less than Internet speed in that time (“I’ll get right back to you in about 60 days.”). Until 1861, the Battle of New Orleans was celebrated as the second victory for American Independence. As Louisiana sided with the Confederates in the Civil War, there was little national inclination to continue to celebrate its prominence in keeping the country free from the British.

As I enjoyed a fish N chips lunch in the splendid Baltimore Harbor with a view of the Coast Guard’s training vessel, Eagle, a band from one of the visiting Navy’s set-up nearly in front of our table. At 1030am sharp, a soprano voice from the bandstand sang fluidly and enthusiastically our National Anthem. My view was of many hundreds, planted in all directions, standing in silence, absorbing every phrase of our anthem. Over the bow of the Eagle, one could see a section of Fort McHenry.

I’ve been to many military parades and plenty of sporting events where the SBB inaugurates the occasion. I love this song and am transcended by its relationship to the events in my life. Never have I been so moved by a rendition. The gent in front of me wore a tee-shirt with the words of the SBB on its back. For once, I read along as the soprano sang.

Later that afternoon, a friend remarked that Americans seem to be unique in their reverence for the national flag at public events. I’m not certain that this is accurate as I see plenty of country flags at televised soccer matches. It is true that Americans love our flag and whatever it may represent to the individual. Maybe it’s because this flag makes us all Americans which is a splendid and deeply gratifying thought for me if true. Nonetheless, my Sun-day in Baltimore began beautifully, inspired by a couple of minutes of collective reflection with hundreds and hundreds of strangers who happen to be my fellow Americans.

Later in the day, I ventured to the Walters Museum on Monument Square. Touring the Square, I stood in front of the United Methodist Church reading that Francis Scott Key died there in 1843 in its previous incarnation as the home of his daughter, Elizabeth Howard. At that moment, the six Navy Blue Angels flew right overhead enroute to a scheduled performance above the Harbor. Impressive, for certain, and might even give the British something to ponder in case that they ever consider a three-peat.

Unexpected as they were spectacular in tight formation only meters apart at the highest speeds, they were the second most impressive event of my day. “O Say Can You See?” Indeed!

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August 17th, 2014

The O-Bird Has Flown The Coop

Returned home to a home just as we left it. Curious, wonderful, at last. Please know that children venturing finally from home is as satisfying an experience as it is sudden. Poof! Not here even though there is a bag of chips on the the nightstand, rumpled bedding and an opened sock drawer amidst the full laundry basket, the lacrosse gear and the flotsam of 13 years of public schooling. This layout recalls scenes from a crime drama where the person of interest fled hastily.

Last night, I was able to interpret the creaks and whistles of a sleeping house as the familiar even reflexive signals that Owen was just home. I even imagined the refrigerator opening. At 0300, I left the bed to make sure that he wasn’t here.

This occasion is as satisfying for all as it is opportune and unknown. His college dorm room is the width of three single beds with two actual single beds for him and his roommate. There is a small fridge and a microwave, a board of a desk and an open closet for his one suit, 7 pair of tennis shoes, winter clothing, lacrosse sticks and an 8 pack of toilet tissue. His first field report described a satisfying first night’s sleep, fun dorm-neighbors and a full day of campus orientation. “Dr. Livingston, I presume?”

Down from the mountain, we celebrated with a game of tennis; a late and lengthy cocktail hour; and Chinese take-out, the leftovers of which were, indeed, leftover when I opened the fridge this morning.

Right now, it seems as though Owen is away at summer camp. I won’t get started on how too-accurate is this resemblance to modern university life and practice. I’m sure that the regularity of reality will set in soon for us all. He’ll miss home-cooking and we will experiment with a replacement metronome for our lives. Even though the end of this family chapter, despite its lengthy forewarnings, seemed to arrive suddenly, we were ready for this denouement- honestly all eager for it. I believe that since life is short, children should set their own sails as soon as practical. Although only three hours away, he’s ventured over the horizon, his future fully his own. Of course, we remain the financiers and the warehousing service which will pretend to keep us connected to his numerous adventures. All in all, it’s everyone’s occasion to examine the familiar and, perhaps, opt for change. I think that I’ll see what it’s like to have Chinese food for Sunday breakfast.

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August 13th, 2014

Blue Pane Studio Produces Apps #69 and #70

ISBM app

BCBS


August 9th, 2014

One Last Cup: In Memory of Jane Allan Bowie

I was introduced to Jane Allan by the Queen of Carnival. 1971. In that fall, I had just begun my second year in Annapolis at the Naval Academy desperate for refuge or something resembling the life that I knew in New Orleans before joining the Navy.

We lived on 622 Adams Street in New Orleans in a duplex shared with Christine Westfeldt, a classmate of JA’s at Hollins College. Although unassuming and far beyond our social circle of Italian Catholics in parochial schools, we all knew that Christine came from the Westfeldt family where everyone became the King or Queen of Rex riding in the big float on Mardi Gras day. To me, Christine was the young, older woman upstairs who let me use her apartment to study afar from the mayhem of the four women and one bathroom in our own apartment.

Then was the time of telephoning Information Baltimore to ask the operator if there “is a number for a Christine Westfeldt somewhere in the city?” There was; I called; she invited me to West University Parkway (was it 853?). “What an amazing neighborhood,” I thought as I arrived one Saturday after noon meal formation at the Academy. “You can walk to Memorial Stadium to see the Colts.”

It was fun from the beginning to the end, a total of about 3 years until I graduated in 1974, fully convicted never to return to Maryland or D.C. and, especially, Annapolis, ever again. Of course, several years later I married someone from Maryland at a ceremony in D.C. I was in Annapolis, at the Naval Academy, last week.

If I could, I’d tell these simple stories about Jane Allan only after we’ve poured a cup of the richest, darkest cafe au lait. Coffee in her apartment was ever at the ready. Strange to me, initially, was that she could cold-drip the chicory and then refrigerate the two inches of brew in a glass jar. It would keep for days or weeks or I don’t know how long?! I’m not sure that I ever saw her actually make a pot of coffee. From invitation to milk steaming to the ratio of 9 parts milk and one tablespoon of refrigerated coffee took a couple of minutes. Who needs a microwave?!

Over our years, I converted numerous fellow midshipmen to avid coffee drinkers as they sought to replicate that first fix from Jane Allan’s kitchen.

Across the hall from the apartment were 3 guys and a girlfriend. I recall that they had only two albums and both were Jethro Tull. Two of them had just served in the Army and dealt with the transition to civilian life by smoking pot a lot. So, we joined them. Sat on the floor, listened to Aqualung and got smarter with each toke. It was a blast. You may purge any adjectives that reflect poorly on The Junior League.

Christine deserves my gratitude for Jane Allan becoming my friend even though a woman 6 years older and out of college, with a job, an apartment, who knew the secret of exotic coffee, who could contribute something to every topic of conversation, who was primed to laugh at every moment, who knew everyone and everyone in Baltimore County, seemed ages beyond my age. She even taught me how to iron a shirt, the irony of which amused her as she thought of her own friends perceiving such instruction by her.

Over a short time, the trips to Baltimore from Annapolis multiplied. We’re talking no Harbor, Route 40 into town, Urban Homesteading where one could purchase a row house for $1 (the one that Jane Allan and I looked at is maybe right field at the Orioles Stadium but time distorts personal geography) and Bertha’s at Fells Point was about the only place there worth the risk of a car-jacking.

As I visited more often, I was accompanied by fellow refugees from the Academy: Nadolski, Sharpe, Warden, McBrayer, McCabe, Murdoch and the three girls from Manhattanville College. Jane Allan’s living room floor could be configured for whatever number of unannounced guests and her closet provided bedding for all always.

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One Thanksgiving, she invited me to her parents home in Lutherville. A military flight cancelled at the last minute stranding my roommate and two others at…Friendship Airport. So, they were invited to dinner as well. We spent the late morning and early afternoon listening to Mr. Bowie’s tales of out-running the Gestapo in Hamburg while in the Merchant Marine and a tour in Burma as a surveyor where his team got lost and found a squad of Merrill’s Marauders. At dinner, Mrs. Bowie cleared some of the the 5,000 publications and books of hers. We sat together where she questioned us and amplified nearly every remark that we made with a relevant and interesting point or personal connection. We overstayed our welcome meaning that we were supposed to return to Annapolis by 4:30pm. One of us was sure that it was 6:30. We called the Academy, Mr. Bowie explained the situation, we were granted liberty until 8pm and he drove us all back.

I could go on with the story of how she helped me prepare for a picnic with the latest most beautiful girl that I’d ever met in the summer of 1973. This one from Seattle. Jane Allan recommended a picnic at Loch Raven Reservoir and a bottle of white Burgundy. I’ve never encountered either since. The LMB girl returned to Seattle.

Jane Allan’s friends were neat too. I guess because Hollins girls seldom met Mids? They were always older but still in there 20s (I’m cracking-up to think of such a characterization), serious, fun and curious about our lives in the Navy. Truly boys amongst women. And persuasive. Ken McBrayer of Atlanta studied hard to be accepted by the Navy’s new medical school program. He worked day and night, mostly on organic chemistry. I dragged him from Bancroft Hall to Baltimore over one three day weekend. JA introduced us to a friend, Ann?, who studied sculpture in the area. So smitten was Ken with the West University Parkway (WUP) retreat that when Ann mentioned that the sculpture studio used live models, Ken, without compunction or hesitation, either agreed or volunteered to be the unclothed, aka nude model for the next class on the holiday Monday. Ken did not go to medical school. He left the Navy, became an investment banker at Sandler O’Neill and died on 911 in the World Trade Center. At his memorial service, I related the moment that he drove my van with the wide mirrors and decapitated the mailbox of a Bowie neighbor in Lutherville.

My naval service shipped me out to the West Coast and beyond. My last tour of duty was in DC. I just remembered that my sister, her boyfriend and I had this idea to print Jazz Festival posters because of our New Orleans connection. We had no clue how to find a printer in the area. Jane Allan did. One of the resultant 4 color lithographs of Billy Holiday hangs in my office.

We last met in 2007 when our family of four visited Baltimore for the Army-Navy game, but not at Memorial Stadium. She took us to Cafe Hon for a drink and a midnight tour of the backroads of Roland Park which only a Bowie would know. BTW, I never made the Bowie, Maryland connection until that time.

I’ll forever, whether watching The Wire again or wondering what the Orioles are up to or when someone mentions all that Fells Point has become, drift to a picture of Jane Allan with the bow in her hair, the smile that signals that she is ready for anything and my eagerness to ask for another cup of her cafe au lait. I only wish that I had been a better friend.


July 17th, 2014

Do Not Ever Ring The Bell


May 21st, 2014

Casey Carroll, 29 yo Duke lacrosse player, is one of my heroes.

He spoke to our USNA Alumni Assoc in November 2013. Son and brother of New York City firemen. Preparing for his meeting with us, he expressed his fear of public speaking. Doesn’t he hide it well?!


May 20th, 2014

Shot on Goal and A Shot into the Head

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Our son’s lacrosse team plays in it’s high school regional championship tonight. The winner advances to the state championship on Saturday. Owen has been part of championship teams since he was 7 years old on his first soccer team. I don’t really believe that he yet understands how rare and even lucky is that level of achievement. They’re not the favorites tonight which is fine because they were not the favorites in the three previous games either.

Despite the pre-season promise for this team, the odds turned against them when their All-American teammate injured his knee rendering him unable to play at all this season. So, they regrouped, wandered a bit and found their stride in time for these play-offs. Regardless of tonight’s score, they’re the darlings of the tournament and share a collective achievement that time and its sidekick, experience, will burnish.

I drove to a morning breakfast meeting thinking about this evening’s contest. I want to find the occasion to thank publicly the injured All-American who participates in every game by instructing and rooting for his teammates. If you are familiar with lacrosse, he’s the face-off man as well as scoring mid-fielder making his absence twice as deep. His father volunteered to fill the role of Assistant Coach when the actual Assistant Coach left for higher ground because he felt that the All-American-less team had few prospects (True!).

I envisioned telling the boys that their achievement reveals one of the keen messages of team sports: that the whole is almost always greater than the sum of its parts. I imagined myself thanking the Schmidt family for the superior example of finding a way to contribute to the team after Thomas injured his knee. I want them to know that perseverance in the face of adversity is the manifestation of character, individual and collective. How we compete describes our essence.

Then I had breakfast with the young woman who has a bullet in her head.

From a good family not far from our home, she was first curious then trapped by adults preying upon naive middle-schoolers. A calamity of compounding bad decisions led to a drunken binge, a flat tire in the middle of the night, a helping hand from a ‘man in a white SUV’, his robbery of her cigarettes and $4, his gunshot to the back of her head. This was in her second year of college.

Her junior year began with a crack addiction supported by a 24 hour per day concentration on lying and stealing to support her habit. Now she is a financial manager at TROSA in Durham, North Carolina having completed its two year drug rehabilitation program.

After the breakfast discussion, 25 local business types toured TROSA’s 470 bed facility and its $13mm per year revenue-generating enterprises including the landscape business, long distance moving services and frame shop. Their CEO, Kevin Mcdonald, is the most self-effacing executive that I’ve ever met despite his credential of building this business only aided by his wits and the commitment of the residents.

Again a moment for me where I was reminded, embarrassingly so, that my day does not consist of problems, my life is abundant with opportunities.

Kevin’s son is on the Jordan lacrosse team, one year younger than our son. Kevin and I sit together at the games because we like to compare ideas about what sports can mean and how sports can be interpreted to mean more than they do.

Now I’m wondering what did I learn at TROSA this morning? What is the essence of its achievements and success? It’s in the front part of the dictionary: acceptance and accountability.

Jordan High School’s lacrosse team began the year with bright prospects for success. Events conspired to derail the this path. I now believe that they accepted this and in a minor way, compared to the enormous change in behaviors demanded of the TROSA residents, and, maybe each in his own way, have agreed to a modified set of accounts and accountability.

There has to be a measurement to the contest tonight, aka the score; maybe there will be one more lacrosse game on Saturday night. That would be fun. What truly matters has revealed itself with the promise that many others, who may rely on these boys in the future, will benefit as a result.

Bonus comment: on one of the walls in the TROSA dormitories are handwritten phrases of resident advice and observation including:

Rule #1: Don’t Worry about the small stuff in life.
Rule #2: 100% of life is comprised of small stuff.

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May 12th, 2014

The Weekend of The Future: Ensigns, Graduates and Over-Time Goals

When it all occurs at once, it’s usually too much to absorb. On occasion, the confluence of events reinforce one another. As I journey into retirement, curious and unsure simultaneously, I wonder what it will mean, what defines it, when this phase will end. Am I gracefully approaching the can’t-be-too-distant shore or am I swirling in a whirlpool soon to disappear (I’m avoiding the image of heading down the drain)?

I feel as though mine has been a complete life even if the measurement is that I’ve done and seen more than I ever expected. If 40 is the old age of youth, then nearly 62 is the youth of age on my scale. My big thrills now stem from the victories of others. This past May weekend brought me a joy that one experiences when one is a child at Pontchatrain Beach or a teenager at an evening Mardi Gras parade or other precious moments that announce themselves in advance.

On Friday morning, I presented the George Herbert Leadership Award at the Naval ROTC Commissioning Ceremony at North Carolina State University. With treasured younger friends on Friday afternoon, I attended the NROTC Commissioning in the glorious Chapel of Duke University. My elder son flew from Naples, Italy to witness on Friday the graduation of his delightful girlfriend in Boulder, Colorado. That Friday evening, my younger son scored the winning goal, in overtime, to help his high school lacrosse team advance, contrary to prediction, into another round of the State Championship Series. On Saturday, I refereed 5 games girls lacrosse, ages 6 to 12; in the evening, we participated in a dinner for the seniors of Senior Prom, our final prom of four (2 boys x 2). The dinner felt like adult wrens awaiting the first flight of their brood.

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As I read the New York Times, I can persuade myself that “it’s all going to hell in a hand-basket’ wondering exactly when the adult world conspired to devour its young. My frustration and insight may be well-founded and it’s misplaced. The future is as bright and brighter than any other future. There are capable and motivated young men and women, the sons of Marines and the daughters of doctors, eager to serve their country; the bonds of love remain strong even from afar; sports are not life and they can teach you plenty about self-sufficiency to get through life.

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A dedicated paragraph about the Senior Prom. I’ve been the Grinch each year as I make fun of how involved are we helicopter parents. Closely on the heels of the modern rock-star quality weddings of the average couple are the Academy Award quality prom parties with photo shoots, pre-dinners, an appearance at the actual prom followed by the after-parties (I kid you not). Until Saturday evening, I considered this ceremony to be the Age of Everybody Gets a Trophy and An Orange Slice gone wild. As the handsome young men and the 18 going on 28? young women described to me their near futures – at Boston University to study electrical engineering (girl), bio-mechanical engineering at NC State (boy), medicine in Indiana, play lacrosse in Virginia – with bright eyes, deferential demeanor and sober enthusiasm, I grew up.

It’s going to be alright. It may be different. They may be challenged. And they are more ready and more capable than we, the adults or, at least, this one, may understand fully. I’m taking the point of view that what really scares the bad guys are these guys because they are so independent, optimistic and adventurous.

It may not be time to exit stage right or otherwise fade into the shadows; it is time to pass the torch to a newer generation of Americans. I know that I am and I believe that we are all better off for it.


May 7th, 2014

Blue Pane Produces Apps #67 & #68 for Blue Cross & Artsplosure Raleigh

HCS

Artsplosure


April 25th, 2014

Blue Pane Studio Delivers App #66

Both on iOS and Android. Android remains a complicated platform for our designers with so many variations in display as there are 4,000+ kinds of Android devices and versions. Really! We see clients leaning towards iPhone and iPad with conviction; Android is becoming the ‘if the budget permits’ item. Could be an opportunity for Windows phones and this device has a long way to come to catch-up. No one has yet asked for an app for a Windows phone.

App 66 is a simple one and we are grateful to our friends at The Special Event Company for this project partnership.

SAS #66