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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

LGBT/Bain 50+ Center film event


    The culture wars today are often played out with LGBT rights being under attack in many of our conservative states.  Target's decision to respect the choices of  the transgender community is now getting the expected push back from the political right with their campaign to boycott Target.  We know how this political debate will turn out because we saw the same arguments decades ago against the civil rights efforts.  Even in our present day it seems that fear and anxiety about our differences still cause some to deny rights to others who differ from them.  However, expanding rights will always win out in the long run against those who want to discriminate and deny rights to individuals.   That's what we call progress.  
     What is often overlooked in the campaign for expanding rights for the LGBT population is that the struggle has been fought by many people who are now senior citizens.  Often they faced much stronger pressure to "stay in the closet" than what is faced today.  Unfortunately staying in the closet only delayed the progress that we see today.
    On Thursday May 12 at 6:00 pm at the Bain Center the LGBT Older Adults Task Force of Howard County is showing the movie "Cloudburst" starring Olympia Dukakis as Stella and Brenda Fricker as Dotty.  Doors open at 5:30 with refreshments.  This film is about a lesbian couple from Maine who embark on a road trip to Nova Scotia to get marred after Dotty is moved into a nursing home by her granddaughter.  On the way they pick up a young male hitchhiker.
    A discussion will follow the film addressing the issues of family dynamics, aging, loss and love.  To learn more about the LGBT Older Adult Task Force check out their Facebook Page.


Monday, May 2, 2016

Rain barrel hooked up

     With the predicted rain for this week I finally got my rain barrel hooked up this past weekend.  This was one of the free barrels given away at Greenfest.

  Saturday night's rain filled the entire barrel.  The screen shown is to stop the leaves from getting into the barrel.

   The overflow tube was already channeling the excess water away into the yard.

   The two valves at the bottom can be hooked up to a garden hose and used to water a garden or flowers. 

    The pressure from the water and gravity from being on an elevated deck should be enough to use a hose with a regular nozzle.


Friday, April 29, 2016

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust

    In honor of Arbor Day today I wanted to take a different look at the value of trees. We all should recognize the value of living trees but I wanted to point out their value in death.  With the coming of Spring nature is regenerating in ways that is often unexpected.  The picture above that I took this past week shows a piece of a decaying tree that is providing nourishment to a host of insects and ferns.  It also makes an interesting photo of different colors and shapes.

   Often the decaying trees along our paths provide a wonderful home to birds like the Blue Jay pictured above. 

  Although I haven't seen the raccoon family that has inhabited a dead hollow in our Beech tree this year I have watched the tree be a home in past years to a Mother and 6 babies.  Kinda like nature's circle of life.
   Decaying wood also provided a nutrient rich soil for mushrooms like the Morel mushroom pictured above.  Look for these around Lake Elkhorn right now.  You have to have a sharp eye but spotting them will provide you with a great tasting mushroom.  I just I spot them before you do!  We Morel hunters are very secretive about our exact spots.  A little flour and frying these is a wonderful treat. 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

New rules for tipping--again!

    I once again return to the topic of tipping.  Recently I have noticed that my check receipt has started to have my tip already figured out.  My receipt now shows how much a 15%, 18% and 20% tip would be.  No figuring out those tip amounts.  It is also a not too subtle way to suggest the new tipping amounts are now above the old traditional 10% tip.  It has always been my feeling that tipping is an outdated way of supplementing the low hourly wage of wait staff.   Interestingly the minimum wage that was recently raised for employees in Maryland wasn't raised for service workers.  With the newer automated ways that restaurants are using maybe a new method of revisiting the tip will start.


    Chili's, like some other restaurants, are installing these tablets at their booths to have customers order from their table.  According to sources,

   "The tablets let your order your meal—and pay for it—through a screen, as you would with online ordering. (They also, as a bonus, offer games for kids and news offerings from USA Today.) Chili's just completed what it's calling "the largest rollout of tabletop tablets in the U.S."—which includes the installation of more than 45,000 tablets across 823 Chili's restaurants."

   So using one of these new tablets who are you really tipping?  The person bringing you your food? The person cleaning the table?  Do you tip at the above mentioned rates for this reduced impersonal service? Or maybe it is time to just pay higher wages to wait staff and add the extra cost to the menu price as some restaurants are doing in Seattle which raised it's minimum wage to $15.  Of course opponents of paying a higher minimum wage would argue that the extra costs would have to substantially increase the cost of a restaurant meal.  A look at the extra cost for McDonalds would be 10% with a $10 minimum and a 27% increase in price with a $15 minimum wage.  Interestingly the cost of beef has increased 38% since the last increase in the minimum wage and McD's still seems profitable.  Furthermore it is not always accurate to just assume that the extra cost would all be passed onto the customer. The most relevant argument in this wage debate for wait staff is that eating out is still a discretionary expense for most of us.  If you can't afford to eat out and tip decently then maybe a little more home cooking is your best option.

     I once blogged on tipping pizza delivery persons fairly so I won't rehash this issue but only to say that anything less than a $5 tip for delivery is not going to cover the expenses of the driver to bring you your pizza.  And that isn't good on a business order of $100.  Ask any pizza delivery person who has received a $2 tip on that type of order.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Noodles and Company opens at Columbia Mall

    We not have seen it coming but the new hot trend in the restaurant business is noodles.  This Asian oriented food trend saw a new entry this week with the opening of Noodles and Company in the Columbia Mall food court.

   This past weekend Howard County bloggers were given a free preview of the restaurant with choices from their extensive menu.  

    Following the trend to build your own dish the choices went from American favorite mac and cheese to more Asian bowls.  With each dish you can chose your protein, i.e. meat.

   I chose the spicy Thai peanut bowl that provided a real kick of spices that I would highly recommend if you like spice.

     For those with a preference for more traditional taste the grilled chicken salad is a safe choice.
Check out their website.