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Friday, September 30, 2011

Pushing your limits-- Becoming Odyssa----A Book Review


I haven't posted a book review on HoCo Connect before but I have just finished a book that I can highly recommend.  Becoming Odyssa is the tale of a young woman, Jennifer Pharr, who hikes the Appalachian Trail to find herself after finishing college.  What she finds it that she is stronger as a person than she would have ever thought before hiking the trail.  The book is as much about pushing ones limits as it is about hiking.  She was fortunate to discover this early in her life.

For all of us there are challenges that we should take on to make us test our limits.  For some it maybe learning to overcome a fear that holds them back. For others it maybe overcoming a handicap.  For me it has been running and seeing how far I could push myself to determine where my limits were.  Even though I didn't reach most of my running goals I gained some knowledge about how disciplined I could be in reaching a goal.  This has translated into other areas of my life beyond running.  I can be very persistent and tenacious in reaching a goal I set for myself.  What we accomplish is limited mostly by the narrowness of our goals and our fear of failure.  We give up too easily.  As the saying goes "the race is not given to the swift nor the strong but he who endures until the end."

So what limit do you want to push?  What fear do you want to overcome?

P.S.
Event will feature local media voices in a discussion of communications in today’s world
 
Communication methods have changed dramatically in the last 50 years, but the need to communicate is basic and constant. As part of its celebration for American Archives Month, the Columbia Archives will host a discussion with local voices in print and online media on Wednesday, October 12 at 7 p.m. at CA Headquarters. David Greisman, Columbia Flier/Howard County Times; Lisa Kawata, freelance feature writer; Lisa Rossi, Columbia Patch; and Duane St. Clair, HoCo Connect; will discuss the challenges, opportunities and importance of context in getting out the news in today’s world of instant messaging and sound bites. Archives have traditionally been a source for journalists to give context and perspective to current events, for as George Santayana said, “the one who does not remember history is bound to live through it again.”
When Jim Rouse posed the question in 1963 about how to communicate to the community, The Rouse Company answered with a carefully constructed marketing plan and innovative ideas including cable connections to every home. An exhibit of marketing materials, national media coverage, correspondence and local newspapers will highlight the ways The Rouse Company communicated the idea and reality of Columbia initially and how the responsibility for communication shifted to the local press and others in the community. The exhibit at the Columbia Archives is open to the public and will be up October 10 through December 30.
Columbia Archives preserves the history of Columbia and the career of James Rouse. It is a public research facility and offers outreach programs to make the material accessible. It is open to visitors on a daily basis Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit ColumbiaArchives.org, e-mail Columbia.Archives@ColumbiaAssociation.com or call 410-715-3103.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Why does the United States spend so much on Health Care and gets so little?

  As the recent report from the Kaiser Family Foundation points out that health care costs in the US increased by 9% last year the question raised is “how high does our health care bill go before we are ready to change our current system?”  Would we accept paying for a Mercedes and getting a Yugo? Expanding coverage to people without health insurance will probably never drive the reform of our health care system.  But the amount that insured persons have to pay might be a more powerful force for reform. As the Kaiser Report also showed the percentage of persons with insurance that have to pay more than a $1,000 deductible each year has increased dramatically to over 31%.  This is a rise from just 10% five years ago.  As more companies use high deductibles to control their health care costs this trend seems to be one that will only continue to grow.

The United States pays over 15% of its GDP on heath care and that is more than any other industrialized country by at least 4%.  According to a report of the British Medical Journal the US is last among 19 industrialized countries across a wide measure of health care results.  We may have examples of the best medicine money can buy and medical facilities like Johns Hopkins and the Mayo Clinic but we are also a country that still pays for most health care through insurance provided by employers. The development of employer health insurance didn’t really occur until after World War II when unions began negotiating this benefit in its labor negotiations.  Before that doctors and hospitals worked out payment systems with patients that sometimes involved low cost prepaid arrangements.

While the opponents of single payer systems demagogue health care reform as “socialism” and “Obamacare” we will continue to move to an unsustainable health care system. While opponents decry having “government bureaucrats making health care decisions for all of us” we continue to accept insurance bureaucrats rewarded for denying payment to maximize insurance profits.


P.S.
     Join the Howard County Legacy Leadership Institute for the Environment (HoLLIE), a volunteer leadership and environmental education program targeted at 50+ adults.  The fourth annual session starts February 1, 2012. To apply, send an email to HocoLLIE@gmail.com.  Application forms and sample curriculum are at www.HowardLLIE.com   Sessions are limited to 15 people.  Call Barbara Schmeckpeper, 410-381-5279, or Cathy Hudson, 410-796-7232 for more information.  A $50 fee is required at enrollment.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Changing Role of Community Colleges

Over time affordable higher education has taken many forms.  In the not too distant past this was the role of junior college.  As someone who didn’t have much money coming out of high school I saw this route as one that would provide a path for me to obtain a college degree without going heavily into debt. 

By living at home and with some scholarship money from the State of Pennsylvania (back when states thought this was a good investment in the future) I received an associate’s degree from Keystone Junior College without touching my savings from working summer jobs.  Now this was a time of different higher education costs.  The tuition cost was $500 a semester or $2000 for the two years.  The cost of going to the college I transferred to after 2 years, American University, would have been $10,000 for those two years.  I have to say that the quality of the education I received at Keystone was higher than that which I received at American.  At Keystone the instructors were there to teach and they were available for meeting and talking after class and in their offices. At American I frequently had lecture classes of 200-300 students and the use of graduate teaching assistants was  common.  The relationships I formed with my instructors at Keystone greatly enhanced the learning experience. The quality of education could be seen in classmates of mine who transferred to Georgetown and Princeton.

Today the junior colleges have either gone out of existence or turned into four-year colleges.  Today Keystone is a four-year college with tuition of almost $25,000 a year. What has replaced the private junior college is the publicly supported community college.  Starting in the 1970’s there was an education movement to provide an affordable model supported by tax revenue to insure that higher education was available locally in an affordable manner.  Training would include courses for students looking to transfer to a four-year college, as had been the case with junior colleges, but would include vocational and technical training that don’t require a four-year degree.

Like most things in Howard County we have a local institution that is a great example of what a community college can be. Howard Community College (HCC) has grown into a prime example of how students can receive the necessary training to meet the employment needs of our local employers. Started in 1970 the College has grown to over 10,000 students taking credit courses and over 17,000 when those taking non-credit courses are added in. While many students still transfer to a four-year college to pursue bachelor’s degree, community colleges provide the training for many para-professional occupations.  By identifying the careers that show the most potential growth HCC can develop the necessary programs that lead to a certification or an associates degree that can open up many employment opportunities.  Many of these programs are geared to the expanding health care jobs.   A new health sciences building will open in 2013 with programs in medical diagnostic sonography, medical laboratory technician, dental hygienist and physical therapist assistant. Currently 11-month certificates for students who want to be a licensed practical nurse (LPN) and a bridge program for LPNs who want to be a registered nurse are available.

Want to continue your own lifelong learning? Check out the interesting offering in their continuing education non-credit courses.  How about learning about the Civil War in Maryland or Magic for Adults? Take a walk around the HCC campus when you get a chance.  If you haven’t done that recently you will not recognize the campus from when it was just a couple of buildings.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

From "Father Knows Best" to "Modern Family"


       Some of the most interesting statistics that have come out of the 2010 Census was the changing face of families today.  While we all laugh at the best comedy on TV today, Modern Family, it does show what changes families have gone through since the 1950’s and 1960’s.

     One of the most profound changes is in when people marry today and the size of families. According to the Census:

“The median age at first marriage increased to 28.2 for men and 26.1 for women in 2010, an increase from 26.8 and 25.1 in 2000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. This increase is a continuation of a long-term trend that has been noted since the mid-1950s. In addition, the overall percentage of adults who were married declined to 54.1 percent in 2010 from 57.3 percent in 2000.
     According to America's Families and Living Arrangements: 2010, the average household size declined to 2.59 in 2010, from 2.62 people in 2000. This is partly because of the increase in one-person households, which rose from 25 percent in 2000 to 27 percent in 2010, more than double the percentage in 1960 (13 percent).
     The percentage of households headed by a married couple who had children under 18 living with them declined to 21 percent in 2010, down from 24 percent in 2000.
    The percentage of children under 18 living with two married parents declined to 66 percent in 2010, down from 69 percent in 2000.
     In 2010, 23 percent of married-couple family groups with children under 15 had a stay-at-home mother, up from 21 percent in 2000. In 2007, before the recession, stay-at-home mothers were found in 24 percent of married-couple family groups with children under 15.
   Between 1980 and 1994, the birth rate for unmarried women ages 15-44 increased from 29 to 46 per 1,000. Between 1995 and 2003, the rate has fluctuated little, ranging from 43 to 45 per1,000.”

          With the increasing age of marrying comes the increasing age of when women have their first child.   According to a report of the National Council of Heath Statistics “from 1970 to 2006 the proportion of first births to women aged 35 years and over increased nearly eight times. In 2006, about 1 out of 12 first births were to women aged 35 years and over compared with 1 out of 100 in 1970.”
For one thing, more American women are exiting their childbearing years today without having had any children. This is especially true of highly educated women, Bianchi said. If they do have children, highly educated women tend to have fewer than they said they wanted when they were younger, researchers have found.

       For one thing, more American women are exiting their childbearing years today without having had any children. This is especially true of highly educated women, according to sociologist Suzanne Bianchi. If they do have children, highly educated women tend to have fewer than they said they wanted when they were younger, researchers have found. Currently in the U.S. among women ages 40 to 44, 20 percent have never had a child. That’s double the percentage for this same age group 30 years ago. The trend is even stronger — the percentage rises to 27 percent — for women in this age group with graduate or professional degrees.

       According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, “between 8 and 10 million children are being raised by gay parents.  In a study published this month in the journal Demography, Michael Rosenfeld concludes that children being raised by same-sex couples have nearly the same educational achievement as children raised by married heterosexual couples.  With the increasing acceptance of gay marriage and the development of in vitro fertilization and surrogate mothers the number of children raised in gay households will continue to grow rapidly in the coming years.”

     The last changing family fact that I want to highlight is the “blended” family.  With over 50% of marriages ending in divorce and 60% of second marriages ending in divorce and 65% of remarriages involving children from a previous marriage the old concept of a nuclear family is being changed to the blended family.  Different styles of child rearing and change of birth order can cause major issues with the success of blending children from two families.  The Brady Bunch is not the typical family situation for a blended family.

        In Howard County we have two valuable resources for families.  The Howard County Office of Children’s Services has many resources for families and children.  The second is the Family and Children’s Services, which used to be the Family Life Center, with an office in the Wilde Lake Village Center.

Monday, September 26, 2011

First Reaction to the Robinson Nature Center--Wow!


I got out to do my first visit to the newly opened Robinson Nature Center and it won't be my last.  While there are still some parts of the Center yet to be built it is already one of those places everyone should take the time to visit. 

Still to be developed is an amphitheater for bird demonstrations and a butterfly garden.  The displays of life like animals is on the bottom floor.

Check out the exciting programs that will be conducted by Recreation and Parks which include the following:

Discovery Days
3-7 yrs / 1st and 3rd Sat, starting Sep 17 / 10-10:30 AM /
Free with paid admission
Every weekend holds a new natural discovery for your little one with the Robinson Nature Center’s “Discovery Days” program. This is a half-hour, drop-in activity (no preregistration required) that introduces your child to Maryland plants and animals through stories, puppet shows, games or craft activities. Themes and activities vary by week. Program is available on a first-come, first-served basis to the first 12 children each Saturday. Programs will be held on the following Saturdays in the fall season: Sep 17, Oct 1, Oct 15, Nov 5 and Nov 19.

Backyard Bird Feeding for Beginners
5 yrs+ / Oct 1 / $6
This family program is designed to engage young and old alike in one of the most popular outdoor hobbies ever, backyard bird feeding. Come out to the nature center to discover basic bird identification (ID), proper foods for birds during the year, how to distribute food and various feeders to use. Walk outside on the trail and to our wildlife viewing station for bird ID. Each family will receive a bird feeder to take home.
RP4805.501 9-10:30 AM Sa

Hooked on Herpetology
8 yrs+ / Oct 7 / $5
Turn over a rock and you never know what you might find. Join Sue Muller to learn how you and your family can contribute to a statewide search for amphibians and reptiles that will help create the Maryland “Herp Atlas.” Sue will cover search techniques, herp identification and a sneak peak at what has already been found in the first year of the project, including two new species for the County.
RP4807.501 7-10 PM F

Full Moon Walk at Robinson
7 yrs+ / Oct 8 / $8
You’ve never experienced the dark like this before! Learn about the senses that nocturnal animals use, and see how well your own senses compare as you wind your way through the woods at Robinson Nature Center. Dress warmly. Children must be accompanied by an adult.
RP4804.501 7:45-9:15 PM Sa

Nature Sketching for Beginners
10–14 yrs / 3 wks, session dates below / $65
View nature in a new artistic way with the experience of Holly Highfill, the highly talented artist who painted the murals throughout the nature center. This class includes sketching lessons using natural objects from both the nature center’s collection and those found by participants outside. A variety of mediums are used, including pencil, charcoal and color. All materials are provided. Class runs for three Saturday sessions.
RP4806.501 Oct 8, 15, 22 10-11:30 AM Sa

Fall Nature Walk at Robinson
All ages / Oct 16 / $6
Fall is a transition time for wildlife; birds are migrating south and leaves are turning colors. Join us on the trail to learn how flora and fauna at the Robinson Nature Center change with the seasons. Water and juice are provided. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Dress appropriately for the weather and wear shoes for hiking.
RP4808.501 1-3 PM Su

The Universe through Little Eyes
3-5 yrs / 2nd and 4th Sat, starting Oct 22 / $3 with paid admission
Give your young one a night time experience during the day! From the comfort of the Robinson Nature Center’s NatureSphere, a digital planetarium and dome-style movie theater, your child is introduced to planets, constellations and more. Children must be accompanied by an adult.
RP4802.501 Oct 22 10-10:30 AM Sa
RP4802.502 Nov 12 10-10:30 AM Sa
RP4802.503 Nov 26 10-10:30 AM Sa

Space – the Final Frontier
5 yrs+ / 2nd and 4th Sat, starting Oct 22 / $3 with paid admission
Space holds many mysteries that you can access right here in Howard County. From the comfort of the Robinson Nature Center’s NatureSphere, a digital planetarium and dome-style movie theater, see the night sky without the interference of street lights and discover planets and constellations with which we share the final frontier.
RP4801.501 Oct 22 1-2 PM Sa
RP4801.502 Nov 12 1-2 PM Sa
RP4801.503 Nov 26 1-2 PM Sa

First Friday NatureSphere Nights
5 yrs+ / Nov 4 / $6
Experience the wonders of space in the comfort of Robinson Nature Center’s NatureSphere, a digital planetarium and dome-style movie theater. On the first Friday of each month, join us as we explore our universe – from planets, to constellations, to black holes.
RP4800.501 6:30-7:30 PM F
RP4800.502 8-9 PM F

The trail at the center is approximately 1 mile of rugged, wooded terrain.  
 It includes a stream crossing, passes along the Middle Patuxent River and guides visitors to the old mill race and ruins of the Simpsonville Mill.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Israel Kamakawiwoʻole



When I heard the different rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow in the movie “Meet Joe Black” I had to find out who did the song that way.  The story of the performer who did it was interesting and thought I would pass on the story.

From Wikipedia (where else?):

 Kamakawiwo'ole's recording of "Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World" was featured as a sound track in the movies Meet Joe Black, Finding Forrester, 50 First Dates and IMAX: Hubble 3D among others. "Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World" reached #12 on Billboard's Hot Digital Tracks chart the week of January 31, 2004 (for the survey week ending January 18, 2004), and passed the 2 million paid downloads mark in the USA as of September 27, 2009.

On July 4, 2007, Kamakawiwoʻole debuted at No. 44 on the Billboard Top 200 Album Chart with "Wonderful World," selling 17,000 units In April 2007, "Over the Rainbow" entered the UK charts at #68, and eventually climbed to #46, spending 10 weeks in the Top 100 over a 2 year period.

In October 2010, following its use on a TV advertisement – for Axe deodorant (which is itself a revival of the advertisement originally aired in 2004) – it hit #1 on the German singles chart, was the number one seller single of 2010 and was eventually certified 2× Platinum in 2011

As of November 1, 2010, "Over the Rainbow" peaked at No. 6 on the OE3 Austria charts, which largely reflect airplay on Austria's government-operated Top 40 radio network It also peaked at No.1 in France and Switzerland in late December 2010. It also peaked at No.1 in Germany at November 3.On December 6, 2010, "Iz" was named one of the 50 great voices on National Public Radio

Throughout his life, Kamakawiwoʻole was obese and at one point carried 757 pounds (343 kg; 54.1 st) on his 6-foot-2-inch (1.88 m) frame (BMI = 97.05 kg/m He endured several hospitalizations because of problems caused by his weight, and beset with respiratory and other medical problems, died in Queen's Medical Center at 12:18 a.m. on June 26, 1997 Kamakawiwoʻole is survived by his wife, Marlene Kamakawiwoʻole, and their daughter, Ceslie-Ann "Wehi

The Hawaiʻi State Flag flew at half-staff on July 10, the day of Kamakawiwoʻole's funeral. His koa wood coffin lay in state at the Capitol building in Honolulu. He was the third person in Hawaiian history to be awarded this honor, and the only one who was not a government official. Approximately ten thousand people attended the funeral. Thousands of fans gathered as his ashes were scattered into the Pacific Ocean at Mākua Beach on July 12

P.S.
Couldn't help but notice two changes in the Sun paper this morning.  An advertising section that looked like the front page of the paper and the notice that the Sun will start to charge for more than 15 articles read online starting Oct. 10th.  The online world has caused the old media to "think outside the box."

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Best Panini Ever--The Maryland Panini

 
New sandwiches are always a favorite of mine.  Watching Diner, Drive-Ins and Dives recently the profiled a sandwich which sounded so good I had to try it.  Here is the recipe:
Good crab dip
Fried shrimp
2 slices of cheese ( I prefer sharp cheddar)
Old Bay
1 Tsp of fresh lemon juice
Shaved ham
Sliced tomato
Good panini bread

Layer the first slice of bread with first slice of cheese, then fried shrimp, ham, then crab dip, sprinkle Old Bay and lemon juice (optional), sliced tomato, second slice of cheese and then top piece of bread.  Butter outside of top layer of bread and put that side down on panini maker or George Foreman grill. Then butter the top outside piece of bread and shut the lid on the grill.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP)


With Fall upon us this week it is not too early to think of individuals who live in Howard County that might benefit from the Weatherization Assistance Program in Howard County.  In our County the Community Action Council (CAC) is the lead agency for this program. Referrals to CAC can be made at 410-313-6440.

The Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) operated by the Department of Housing and Community Development’s Single Family Special Loans Programs (SLP) helps eligible low income households with the installation of energy conservation materials in their dwelling units. These measures both reduce the consumption of energy and the cost of maintenance for these homes. Funding is provided by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Electric Universal Service Program, along with Baltimore Gas and Electric (BGE) and Washington Gas utility companies.

Eligible Applicants

Owner applicants must be income eligible (currently 60% of statewide median) and able to prove ownership of the housing unit. For rental units, landlords must prove ownership and also agree to participate and invest. Priority is given to homeowners who are elderly, disabled, have families with children and/or have the highest energy consumption.
Current Income Eligibility Limits
Family Size Monthly Income Annualized Income
1 $2,520 $30,249
2 $3,296 $39,556
3 $4,072 $48,864
4 $4,847 $58,171
5 $5,623 $67,479
6 $6,398 $76,786
7 $7,174 $86,093
8 $7,950 $95,400
Each additional person add $ 775 $9,307

Service Delivery Options

Once eligibility is determined, the CAC will schedule an energy audit inspection. If the existing condition of the dwelling permits, the program may provide the following treatments to make the unit more energy efficient:
  • blower door air infiltration reduction
  • insulation in the attic, floors, walls
  • Hot water system improvements
  • Lighting retrofit
  • furnace clean/tune, safety repairs, burner retrofit or replacement
  • Health and safety items
 P.S.
From the Tale of Two Cities blog the tracking of the falling satellite is now possible at a Fox News link.  I am surprised that I haven't heard of office polls on when the satellite will fall.

P.S.
Check out the Woman's Empowerment Conference being held by Pinnacle on Oct. 28th at the Columbia Sheraton.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Is there a place for the "working poor" in Howard County?

The poverty level in this country is rising to levels not seen since the early 1960's before the creation of the social programs of the Great Society.  Today one in five children live in poverty.  As much as we would like to think that poverty doesn't exist in Howard County a report released yesterday shows that not to be the case. The Association of Community Services of Howard County (ACS) released its report called "Making Ends Meet" that lays out the challenges faced by persons working in Howard County in low wage jobs. In Howard County 7750 families,almost 30,000 persons, are working poor families.  The study was the work of the Policy Analysis Center which is a joint effort of ACS and the Horizon Foundation. The study was conducted by Marsha R. B. Schachtel and Shelley E. Spruill of theJohns Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies.  A copy of the full report can be found on the ACS website.


The Report shows how as workers increase their earnings they often lose public benefits that move them away from being self sufficient.  The loss of benefits creates real roadblocks for workers to accepting a raise or a promotion. The benefit eligibility levels for most public programs are set based on the federal poverty levels.  Those levels are often far below what a person needs to earn to live in Howard County.  An example of this is a single parent with two pre-school children.  To be self sufficient in Howard County that parent would need to make $72,000 or four times the federal poverty level for a 3 person household.  In other areas of Maryland or United States the difference between the federal poverty levels and self sufficient income could be dramatically lower.

The Report highlights some of the growing occupations that can provide a path to self sufficiency.  The following is the list of occupations with the greatest growth forecasted for the next 10 years:

Professional, Scientific & Technical Services -- 24.8%
Computer support specialists, Network & computer systems administrators

Administrative & Support Services --14.8%
Customer service representatives, Supervisors/managers of housekeeping/janitorial, Supervisors/managers of landscapers, Tree trimmers & pruners, Correctional officers, Private detectives & investigators

Finance & Insurance --5.3%
Accountants & auditors

Transportation & Warehousing --4.1%
Bus drivers, Truck drivers

Social Assistance --19.7%
School counselors, Mental health counselors, Social workers

The challenge facing the County is how do we provide the education, training and vocational supports necessary to prepare low wage earners to move into these jobs. ACS is looking to identify persons who would be interested in participating in the work, taking place over the next few months, to address these challenges and provide a smoother path to self sufficiency for Howard County workers.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Did you feel the ground move Tuesday night at 12:01 am???

Contrary to all the predictions from opponents we didn't even notice when we finally ended “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”  None of the warnings about how this will affect the military will come to pass. Fear mongering that was done by those opposed to the change will be shown to be unfounded.  As one of the last western countries to accept gays in the military we again have been aligning ourselves with such countries as Iran, Somali, Syria, North Korea, Yemen, Uganda and Saudi Arabia until Tuesday.  Ending discrimination of gays is the civil rights issue of our times.  As gay marriage moves to the top of Gov. O’Malley’s legislative agenda hopefully Maryland will join the parade of states finally recognizing that denial of marriage rights for gays is an injustice whose time is up.

There has been a great deal of argument made that civil unions should be enough and why does marriage have to be granted to gays. But according to a 1997 General Accounting Office report over 1,000 rights and benefits are granted to married individuals not to civil unions.  The wording in many federal statutes and programs use the word “marriage” and not “civil unions.”  Even though gays are now allowed to openly serve in the military their partners or spouses are not eligible for benefits or rights granted to married heterosexual spouses because of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) passed in 1996 and signed by Bill Clinton.  The Act requires the federal government not to recognize the legal marriage of gays. Someday DOMA will be repealed---it is only a matter of time before young people today who favor gay marriage are in a position to repeal the Act.

A great way to celebrate this sign of progress is to attend the PFLAG picnic this Sunday. PFLAG Howard County/Columbia’s mission is:
To promote the health and well-being of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered persons, their families and friends through:
  • SUPPORT - to cope with an adverse society
  • EDUCATION - to enlighten an ill-informed public
  • ADVOCACY - to end discrimination and to secure equal civil rights
Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays provides opportunity for dialogue about sexual orientation and gender identity, and acts to create a society that is healthy and respectful of human diversity.

Join Us!
on Sunday, Sept. 25, 2011
from Noon until 5 P.M.
for our 11th annual family picnic

Summer's not officially over until we say it is!

At Cedar Lane Park West
Off of Route 108
Directions on our website



Labor Day is over, school has already started and everybody is getting ready for Fall.

But not us!  There's still plenty of warm weather left and it's still daylight savings time, so let's come out for the picnic and have a great day outdoors with our friends and families.  Good times!

This is one of our favorite events of the year.  So put it on your calendars and make a point of coming by for a bite to eat, or spend the whole day.  We do!  We're going to have lots of fun.  Be a part of it.

Sincerely,
PFLAG Columbia-Howard County Picnic Committee 

The PFLAG Family Picnic
Where we eat, drink, play games, talk, meet new friends and old and have a great time.

Bring something to barbeque and a dish to share.  Dogs on leashes are welcome.  We provide the grills, the charcoal, cooking utensils, plates, cups, soft drinks, condiments, ice and napkins.  This event is for everyone - parents, kids, gay, straight, transgender, allies.........everyone!

A donation of $5 per family is appreciated. 

Sunday, Sept. 25, 2011 from Noon until 5 P.M.
if it's raining and you're not sure,
call 443-977-9757
(this number valid the day of the picnic only)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Thinking Outside the Box

 
There is a good movie coming out soon starring Brad Pit called “Moneyball” that is about Billy Beane the General Manager of the Oakland Athletics. Being a small market team the Athletics could never compete with the richer baseball teams to buy the best players.  Beane had to come up with a different way to win without buying big salary baseball players.  He had to “think outside the box.”

As Wikipedia explained it,

“The central premise of Moneyball is that the collected wisdom of baseball insiders (including players, managers, coaches, scouts, and the front office) over the past century is subjective and often flawed. Statistics such as stolen bases, runs batted in, and batting average, typically used to gauge players, are relics of a 19th century view of the game and the statistics that were available at the time. The book argues that the Oakland A's' front office took advantage of more empirical gauges of player performance to field a team that could compete successfully against richer competitors in Major League Baseball.

Rigorous statistical analysis had demonstrated that on-base percentage and slugging percentage are better indicators of offensive success, and the A's became convinced that these qualities were cheaper to obtain on the open market than more historically valued qualities such as speed and contact. These observations often flew in the face of conventional baseball wisdom and the beliefs of many baseball scouts and executives.

By re-evaluating the strategies that produce wins on the field, the 2002 Athletics, with approximately $41 million in salary, were competitive with larger market teams such as the New York Yankees, who spent over $125 million in payroll that same season. Because of the team's smaller revenues, Oakland is forced to find players undervalued by the market, and their system for finding value in undervalued players has proven itself thus far.”

So why don’t we “think outside the box?”  Probably the biggest factor is the fear of the uncertainty of change.  What if we make a mistake?  What if we fail? Do we punish those who try and fail?  The second most common reason is “groupthink.”  Who wants to “swim upstream?”  Groupthink is common in cohesive groups that have developed a common framework of operation.  “We have always done it that way so why change?” is commonly heard.  It is not surprising that the person in an organization that is most likely to think outside the box is someone new to an organization. Sometimes a child will come up with a new way to solve a problem.  My nephew showed this recently when his Mom had finished reading the story of two women coming to King Solomon and each claiming to be the mother.  Of course Solomon’s solution was to say he would cut the baby in two and give a half to each would work because the real mother would never agree to that solution.  My nephew’s solution was to suggest that the two women get married and raise the child together! 

One of my favorite examples of thinking outside the box is one that I have blogged on before—the example of a guy starting a barter with a red paper clip and bartering to a house. 

Another great example of thinking outside the box comes from the world of sport. In 1968, a high jumper named Dick Fosbury jumped higher over the bar than anyone had before. Before the Fosbury Flop, the way to jump a bar was to keep the body parallel to the bar. Fosbury set a world record by turning his back on the bar and flipping over it backwards. By thinking in exactly the opposite way he revolutionized the high jump.  Up to that time everyone did it one way because that is how it had always been done.

Finally I can relate how I have used thinking outside the box.  I have done a number of strategic planning sessions for different organizations. After using the traditional technique of starting with a SWOT analysis, developing a mission statement then identifying goals and objectives and finally action steps I noticed that everyone got excited in the action step process.  This was after I struggled to get people to involved in the earlier steps. What if I got that energy at the beginning of the process and worked backwards?  What if I started by asking everyone what their organization should be doing and how they should do it and then identified goals and objectives and finally developed the mission statement?  I tried it and it worked tremendously! I never received better evaluations.  After that it was the only way that I did the planning.

Think of something you do the same way every day or every week.  Now look at it from another angle or approach it from a different direction. Turn your approach upside down. You will get better at this exercise the more you do it.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Is Planning the Enemy of Action?

I have often wondered if the time we take planning leads to more successful outcomes.  Is just trying something and learning by trail and error a more successful way to develop something new or improved?  We can all think about times when a committee was appointed to accomplish a task, committee meetings were held, a report was made and then nothing happened.  How many strategic plans ever get implemented?  The extended time that the planning effort can take many times makes the group’s efforts irrelevant.  I recently read an article by David Brooks in the NY Times that discussed just such an example of this.

“When the Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman was a young man, he led a committee to write a new part of the curriculum for Israeli high schools. The committee worked for a year, and Kahneman asked his colleagues how long they thought the rest of the project would take. Their estimates were around two years. Kahneman then asked the most experienced among them how long such work took other curriculum committees. The gentleman pointed out that roughly 40 percent of the committees never finished their work at all. But what about those that did finish? The gentleman reported that he had never seen a committee finish in less than seven years and never in more than 10. This was bad news. They might fail to finish a task that they thought would be done in three years. At best, the project might consume eight or nine years. Yet this information didn’t affect those on the team at all. They carried on, assuming that though others might fail or dally, surely they wouldn’t. As it turned out, their project took eight years to finish. By the time it was done, the Ministry of Education had lost interest, and the curriculum was never used.”

Often the planning process produces the wrong answers because of wrong assumptions of cause and effect.  As a fan of the Freakonomics books I find it fascinating to see how our common assumptions came be so wrong.  An example of the wrong assumptions is how assumptions are connected.  If “A” is true of “B” and “B” is true of “C” then is “A” the cause of “C”?  Often it is not.  An example of this is in the current Republican candidate debates.  A) Rick Perry is Governor of Texas.  B) Texas has the highest number of new jobs of any state C) Rick Perry is the reason Texas has the highest rate of new jobs.  But does the fact that Texas has a big oil economy and oil has been booming as a business the past few years have more to do with the job growth in Texas?  As much as Rick Perry or any other elected official would like to admit they really have very little to do with economy.  The things that government can do like tax cuts and tax raises have little impact on economic growth.  You can find examples of a booming economy in a time of higher taxes and a time of recession in a time of lower taxes.

So am I saying that planning is a waste of time that only produces the wrong solutions? Not exactly.  What I would propose is that planning be clearly focused on a measurable outcome tied directly to what you hope to accomplish, how you will accomplish it, who will be responsible for the tasks proposed and when will each task be accomplished.  After that there is a recognition that no planning effort is worth anything if it does get implemented, tested and modified as necessary.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Maryland Public Television Invites Community Leaders to a Community Forum

You are invited to attend an interesting forum for Maryland Public Television that will be held next month in the Center of the Arts in Ellicott City.  MPT uses these forums to gain an understanding of the issues impacting communities through Maryland.  Pass the information around to others who might like to participate.  I attended one of these forums a couple of years ago and it was great.

Public broadcasting has the unique opportunity to reach communities across Maryland. Everyday, Maryland families choose to make local stations a part of their lives, as a source of information, entertainment, education and more. But in order to take full advantage of this opportunity, stations like MPT must step up to hear and respond to the needs of diverse communities throughout the state.
Howard County Center for the Arts, Classroom 14
8510 High Ridge Road
Ellicott City, MD 21043
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
12-2 pm
Limited to first 12-15 participants.
Light refreshments
will be served.
RSVP: Kristin Cook at 410-581-4035 or
KCook@mpt.org
In the Community Listening Project (CLP), MPT is engaged in a series of discussions with small groups of community leaders and regular citizens. Representatives of schools, health community, Kids & families, the environment, civic organizations, local business, the arts and cultural organizations are encouraged to share there perspectives on community issues. The goal of these conversations (12-15 attendees) is to listen and learn about the issues most important to these diverse groups of viewers. Armed with an understanding of Maryland's communities, MPT can then help to build them up, by structuring community engagement and programming around the issues most relevant to them. Twelve stations nationally are involved with this project, sponsored by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting as part of the Harwood Institute's Community Engagement Initiative.
MPT sees the conversations fostered under CLP as an exciting opportunity for strengthening the relationship between local stations and their viewers. Public broadcasting is unique in that it can reach neighborhoods, towns and cities from the Eastern Shore to the Appalachian Mountains, while maintaining close relationships with the groups they serve. It is these relationships, which will help MPT to create better programming and more relevant public service, and ultimately lead to a more active public broadcasting system and a better, more vibrant community.


Saturday, September 17, 2011

Bon Fresco---Columbia’s best sandwiches

I have to admit that getting a really good sandwich that goes beyond the typical deli sandwich is hard to find.  Not that some deli’s like Joe’s and Charter aren’t bad but still not great.  Bon Fresco in Owen Brown off Oakland Mills Road near the Ledo’s is what makes sandwiches great.  It’s greatness starts with their crusty ciabatta bread and continues to its sandwich ingredients that are fresh and beyond the routine.  It’s a great place for meat lovers and vegetarians alike.  The Challah bread, available on Fridays, is great too.  I use it for great French toast. Check out one of my posts on my favorite French toast recipes.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Mentors make a difference

I happen to be at a meeting yesterday that had representatives from some of the mentoring programs in Howard County and thought I would highlight them in today's post.
St. John's Mentoring program
Fostering Futures
List of many of the mentoring programs in the County

 P.S.
Maryland Public Television Invites Community Leaders to a Community Forum
Public broadcasting has the unique opportunity to reach communities across Maryland. Everyday, Maryland families choose to make local stations a part of their lives, as a source of information, entertainment, education and more. But in order to take full advantage of this opportunity, stations like MPT must step up to hear and respond to the needs of diverse communities throughout the state.
Howard County Center for the Arts, Classroom 14
8510 High Ridge Road
Ellicott City, MD 21043
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
12-2 pm
Limited to first 12-15 participants.
Light refreshments
will be served.
RSVP: Kristin Cook at 410-581-4035 or
KCook@mpt.org
In the Community Listening Project (CLP), MPT is engaged in a series of discussions with small groups of community leaders and regular citizens. Representatives of schools, health community, Kids & families, the environment, civic organizations, local business, the arts and cultural organizations are encouraged to share there perspectives on community issues. The goal of these conversations (12-15 attendees) is to listen and learn about the issues most important to these diverse groups of viewers. Armed with an understanding of Maryland's communities, MPT can then help to build them up, by structuring community engagement and programming around the issues most relevant to them. Twelve stations nationally are involved with this project, sponsored by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting as part of the Harwood Institute's Community Engagement Initiative.
MPT sees the conversations fostered under CLP as an exciting opportunity for strengthening the relationship between local stations and their viewers. Public broadcasting is unique in that it can reach neighborhoods, towns and cities from the Eastern Shore to the Appalachian Mountains, while maintaining close relationships with the groups they serve. It is these relationships, which will help MPT to create better programming and more relevant public service, and ultimately lead to a more active public broadcasting system and a better, more vibrant community.

 
P.S.2
 

Just a few things that I saw this week that made me smile
Fedex Commercial
Why some people should stay away from new technology
Have a good weekend and enjoy the cooler temps!