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Friday, August 31, 2012

Fighting obesity by adopting the Asian Lifestyle

    Health causes seem to come and go in popularity.  Alzheimers disease was once the cause of its time, AIDS had its time, breast cancer was "the" disease that rallied people.  Not the new cause seems to be obesity.  Michelle Obama, the AMA and locally the Horizon Foundation have all given this cause greater visibility as  a public health issue.  Getting Americans to adopt healthier life styles is seen as our number one public health goal.  Who do we look to to identify the lifestyle to be adopted?

     Over the years of running Columbia's paths I have noticed the large number of elderly Asian persons walking the paths usually in small groups.  I have also watched an elderly couple doing Tai Chi by the dock at Lake Elkhorn. Walking and Tai Chi seem to be a life long form of exercise for this population.  Walking and healthy eating maybe why this segment of the world's population have some of the longest life expectancy.   According to a United Nations Development report, "  With an average life expectancy of 83.2 years, Japan easily beat out Hong Kong (82.5 years) and Switzerland (82.2 years) for the top spot." 

      According to Diet.com, " The Asian diet is an ancient and time honored way of eating. For thousands of years people of the Asian world have eaten a diet based on plant foods such as rice, vegetables, and fresh fruits. Unlike Western diets, meat is rarely the main dish of any meal but rather an accent and flavor compliment. Fish is often eaten in main courses. In many Asian cultures diet is closely related to religious practices and tradition. It is an extremely healthful diet. Asian populations who have access to a sufficient variety of traditional foods are some of the healthiest and longest lived people on Earth. Many chronic illnesses that plague Western cultures such as heart disease, cancer, and obesity occur rarely in these cultures."

   Unfortunately many of the Asian restaurants that serve Americans stray from the traditional Asian dishes to make them more palatable for American tastes.  Frying and sauces too often take away any of the healthier aspects of Asian food choices.  The following information from the website One Result gives us a look at this reality:

       "Egg Rolls: As an appetizer, this is the absolute worst. Not a single real "egg" insight. Even the veggie version has about 250 cals and 65% of calories from fat, which we know is going to be mostly saturated and trans-fat (the bad kind!) On the bright side, there are tons of other starters that make much healthier choices, including: wonton, egg drop, or hot and sour soups, steamed veggie dumplings, and spring rolls or lettuce wraps. Just steer clear of those thick dipping sauces – they tend to be surprisingly high in calories and/or sugars."

      "Lo Mein: Wanna know what gives it that glowing brown hue? All of the oil it has absorbed from the pan! According to an independent lab analysis done by Center for Science in the Public Interest, one plate of these noodles has 1,100 calories, 40 grams of fat, and 3,500mg of sodium... that’s almost two days worth of salt! And, if you can believe it, the Chow Mein and Chow Fun noodles are even worse. If you care deeply about the health of your heart, arteries, brain, etc. stick to noodle dishes that are not “crispy” or “fried” and choose steamed white or brown rice instead. Just keep in mind that a typical mall food court will serve about 2-3 cups (aka too much) rice with your meal."

      For anyone looking to have a healthier Asian meal I would recommend  sushi at Sushi Sono and  Vietnamese food (noodle dishes and soups are very good) at Pho Dat Thanh.  To try Tai Chi try the classes at Acupuncture Works.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

President Johnson predicted today's Republican Party in 1964

        Reading Robert Caro's final volume of the biography of Lyndon Johnson this summer has been a nice diversion from the current heated rhetoric of the 2012 Presidential campaign.  It has also shown how much the political process has changed over the psst four decades.  As the Republican and Democrat conventions convene over the next two weeks it is hard to remember when conventions actually had some drama and uncertainty.   Today the ticket is complete long before the conventions start and they become nothing more than each party's opportunity to present their candidates in the best possible light.  As the Caro book explains, this was far from the situation in 1960.  Many states still remained uncommitted to a candidate with many states having "favorite sons" looking to use their votes to bargain with the different candidates.  Johnson wasn't selected as Kennedy's running mate until after Kennedy has wrapped up the nomination.  All of these realities have been changed with the increasing use of state primaries to allocate delegates to the conventions.
          One of President Johnson's most famous quotes was his quote on the occasion of signing of the civil rights legislation in 1964.  He was quoted as saying that he had just delivered the South to the Republicans.  This reality slowly developed over the late 1960's and into the 1970's and 1980's.  Where the Republican Party once had liberals such as Jacob Javits, Charles Percy, Mark Hatfield and Edmond Brooke the party took to eliminating the liberal wing of the party.  The South has become an increasingly important anchor of the party.  The political leanings of the conservative South has made it politically dangerous for any national Republican to stray too far from its conservative doctrine.  Not believing in science and tolerance for an increasingly diverse population has put a "Southern stamp" on the national party.  Regardless of the outcome of this year's election, and moderate voices such as Jeb Bush , this trend seems to be taking stronger root in the Republican party as each year passes.  The 2012 Republican Platform seems even too controversial for Mitt Romney to embrace some of its planks.   This reality is shown by Reince Priebus, the National Republican Party Chairman, saying that "This is the platform of the Republican Party. It's not the platform of Mitt Romney." Huh? Is Romney running as an "independent?"

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Volunteer to protect Howard County's watershed

        
We all are aware how water that runs off our yards eventually flows into our lakes and ponds and eventually the Chesapeake Bay.  The dredging of our lakes and algae blooms each summer are only the most visible signs of how we impact our watershed. The picture above shows how rain water runs off our yard and is the area I plan on having a rain garden installed this Fall.    Now there is a way to become more active in this effort.

Become a Certified Howard County Master Watershed Steward
  • Want to be a leader in your community?
  • Want to get off the sidelines and make a real change?
  • Is there a drainage problem in your neighborhood that you want to fix?
  • You don't have to be an expert, we'll show you the way!
  • The Howard County Watershed Stewards Academy is a great opportunity to learn how to solve environmental problems in your community and find a local network of energized leaders.

Applications due September 12th.  Contact Barbara Schmeckpeper, 410-381-5279 or Sylvia Huestis at howardwsa@gmail.com
Program sponsors are University of Maryland Extension, Howard County, Columbia Association, Howard County Office of Environmental Sustainability, Center for Watershed Protection and the Howard County Legacy Leadership Institute for the Environment.

Master Watershed Stewards work with their communities to:
    Assess Watersheds - identify their pollutant sources and create strategies for reducing these pollutants.
    Educate Communities - help neighbors understand the most pressing environmental problems in their area
    Reduce Pollutants - work with communities to target pollution sources such as pet waste, fertilizer or pesticides
    Coordinate Action - help communities reduce the polluted runoff by coordinating the installation of rain gardens, rain barrels.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Important Maryland Referendum Questions this November

        With most of the attention this November on the Presidential election less attention has been given to the important referendum questions that will be on the ballot in Maryland. Republicans in Maryland have found a way to attempt to overturn laws passed by the Democrat controlled Maryland Legislature.  This effort has been led by Del. Neil Parrott.  He has set up a website to collect signatures to place referendum questions on the ballot to overturn laws passed by the Legislature. Voting yes on the questions upholds the laws and voting no overturns the laws.

Question 4
Referendum Petition
Public Institutions of Higher Education – Tuition Rates (Ch. 191 of the 2011 Legislative Session)


Establishes that individuals, including undocumented immigrants, are eligible to pay in-state tuition rates at community colleges in Maryland, provided the student meets certain conditions relating to attendance and graduation from a Maryland high school, filing of income taxes, intent to apply for permanent residency, and registration with the selective service system (if required); makes such students eligible to pay in-state tuition rates at a four-year public college or university if the student has first completed 60 credit hours or graduated from a community college in Maryland; provides that students qualifying for in-state tuition rates by this method will not be counted as in-state students for purposes of counting undergraduate enrollment; and extends the time in which honorably discharged veterans may qualify for in-state tuition rates.

 Question 5
Referendum Petition
Congressional Districting Plan (Ch. 1 of the 2011 Special Session)


Establishes the boundaries for the State’s eight United States Congressional Districts based on recent census figures, as required by the United States Constitution.

 Question 6
Referendum Petition
Civil Marriage Protection Act (Ch. 2 of the 2012 Legislative Session)


Establishes that Maryland’s civil marriage laws allow gay and lesbian couples to obtain a civil marriage license, provided they are not otherwise prohibited from marrying; protects clergy from having to perform any particular marriage ceremony in violation of their religious beliefs; affirms that each religious faith has exclusive control over its own theological doctrine regarding who may marry within that faith; and provides that religious organizations and certain related entities are not required to provide goods, services, or benefits to an individual related to the celebration or promotion of marriage in violation of their religious beliefs.

 Question 7
Gaming Expansion Referendum
Gaming Expansion (Ch. 1 of the Second 2012 Special Session)


Do you favor the expansion of commercial gaming in the State of Maryland for the primary purpose of raising revenue for education to authorize video lottery operation licensees to operate “table games” as defined by law; to increase from 15,000 to 16,500 the maximum number of video lottery terminals that may be operated in the State; and to increase from 5 to 6 the maximum number of video lottery operation licenses that may be awarded in the State and allow a video lottery facility to operate in Prince George’s County?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Will the college campus go the way of the Post Office?

   I have blogged many times about how many businesses and organizations are dying or have died because of the digital revolution.  Kodak, Borders, movie theaters, pay phones and phone land lines and now the Post Office seems to be close to being radically changed and diminished.  Bankruptcy of the Post Office seems to be inevitable without a federal bailout.

    With many college students back in class this week I thought it was a good time to talk about a time where going back to class wouldn't be on a college campus but simply logging on to your home computer.  As the cost of college seems to be more and more out of reach for more students the online education revolution seems to be poised to finally take education into the 21st century.  Like most other businesses that have a pre-digital model colleges continue to cling to the campus based model that is becoming cost prohibitive. Over the last 25 years the median family income has increased 150% and the cost of college has increased 400%. Public universities tuition now averages over $21,000.  And that is just tuition.  Book cost for courses can easily approach $1,500.  Book publishers do have DVD's of the course books but you only get those when you buy the hardcover book.
     In the pictures above notice how little change there has been in the college model of instruction from 1900 to 1950 to 2000.  Now look below what a classroom of the future might look like.
      Individualized instruction, self paced and experiential will replace the teacher instructing in front of a classroom of students.  One size fits all will go the way of the black board.  Some of the most innovative models of using the digital capabilities to develop a dramatically different model is occurring with charter schools.  Fox News recently highlighted one school in Yuma, Arizona called Carpe Diem School.  In this model the teacher moves from instructing a class from the front of the classroom to individually assisting students as they move through a self paced digital based model.  The self pacing is a better educational model than a "one fit all" traditional educational model.  

     Unfortunately while most colleges are beginning to determine how to move in this direction the for-profit education sector has moved much faster in this direction.  Last year for-profit colleges received 40% of the federal student loan funds.  This has raised questions about the quality of the education provided by for-profit online colleges where profit (and federal dollars) seems more important than providing students with a quality education. As the New York Times reported about a recent report released by Sen. Tom Harkin,
     " According to the report, which was posted online in advance, taxpayers spent $32 billion in the most recent year on companies that operate for-profit colleges, but the majority of students they enroll leave without a degree, half of those within four months."

     “In this report, you will find overwhelming documentation of exorbitant tuition, aggressive recruiting practices, abysmal student outcomes, taxpayer dollars spent on marketing and pocketed as profit, and regulatory evasion and manipulation,” Mr. Harkin, an Iowa Democrat who is chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said in a statement on Sunday. “These practices are not the exception — they are the norm. They are systemic throughout the industry, with very few individual exceptions.”
     
     So will colleges move from the campus-based, professorial model of instruction in which they are so firmly entrenched?  How many campus-based colleges will exist at the end of the 21st century?  I would bet that even the campus-based colleges that exist then will look nothing like the campuses we now know.  See what that vision might look like.


 P.S.
From the HoCo Library:
 Classics Club, Jr Discussions and activities about classic stories for ages 7-9; 30 min. Register for each session separately. August selection is Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown. Copies are available for checkout at the Central Branch Children's Desk. Registration is required. Register online or by calling 410.313.7880. 08/29/12 6:30 PM Central Branch



www.flatstanley.com
Welcome to Flat Stanley's Flatter World the official home of the Flat Stanley Project. Create your very own Flat Stanley, Flat Stella or other flat selves and watch them 
P.S. 1
From HoCo Parks and Rec

 September 8, 2012
Centennial Park South - Boat Launch
5-10 PM
Boat or shoreline anglers can fish for prizes in this catch-and-release event. Youth win trophies and are entered in a random prize drawing. Adults win cash prizes and trophies. Categories include bass, bluegill, catfish, crappie and trout. Fishing license is required for age 16-up; electric motors only, with a minimum of two people per boat. Call 410-313-4623 or visit Tournament Webpage to download a flier and rules. Register on-site or in advance. Advance registrants receive a tournament t-shirt. Check-in begins at 4:30 PM. 
 
Centennial Park South - Boat Launch/Pier Area
RP9151.101 / 5-13 yrs  / $25 
RP9151.111 / 14 yrs + /  $25

General Information
Event Info
  • Meet at the boat launch/pier area.
  • This is a catch-and-release tournament. All fish will be released after weigh-in.
  • Accommodations will be made for participants with disabilities.  Call 410-313-4623 to make arrangements at least 24 hrs. in advance. 
  • Registration will be accepted on the day of the tournament.
  • Call 410-313-4623 on the day of the tournament for inclement weather information.
  • Complete tournament rules are available at Tournament Webpage 
  • Pre-register to get a tournament t-shirt.
Boats
There is a two-person minimum per boat. Electric motors only. Please use lights on boat and check in at the Concession Dock. There is a 40-boat limit.
Equipment
Bring your own equipment. Bring your own bucket.  If you own a two-way FRS radio, please bring it with you. Periodic tournament announcements such as random prize drawings and time remaining in the tournament will be made via two-way radio.
Donations
We welcome donations from local businesses. If you would like to donate a prize for this event, please call 410-313-4623.

Age Categories
Ages 5-13 
Random drawing for prizes.
Trophies will be awarded for the three largest fish in each category: bass, bluegill, catfish, crappie, and trout.
Parent/guardian must accompany children.
Ages 14+
Fish for cash prizes and trophies!
60 anglers (minimum) are needed in order to award all cash prizes. Fish eligible for prizes must meet minimum standards: bass 12", bluegill 6", catfish 10", crappie 6", trout 10".
First and second place in each category receive cash prize and a trophy. Third place in each category receives a trophy.

Fall Outdoor Recreation Programs 
Check out the many nature & outdoor programs offered by Howard County Recreation & Parks this fall! There is something for everyone.   Click here to view our Fall Program Offerings.

P.S. 2

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Wegman's: Is the "bloom off the rose" already?

   Only a few short weeks ago going to Wegman's meant traffic jams and crowded grocery aisles.  When I went back yesterday it was more like a normal shopping trip.  We all knew that the first week craziness would not last and it actually makes stopping in for a few items worth the hassle.  I have to admit the newness has passed quickly.  I have a few favorite items but will not probably do my weekly shopping at Wegman's.  Not much different than how I shop at Trader Joe's or the Family Market in Long Reach.

P.S.
Speaking of the Family Market in Long Reach I found out that you shouldn't shop there on Mondays.  Many of the shelves were bare.  But I did find a few interesting items.
Curried flavor noodles
Papaya biscuits
Key lime wafers

P.S.
Meet the Author: Kathy M. Miller



Chippy ChipmunkAward-winning author and photographer Kathy M. Miller introduces her Chippy Chipmunk series. Learn about chipmunk and backyard bird behavior, nature photography, and how to tell a story with pictures. Construct a burrow and practice capturing wildlife in action. Bring a camera, in case of chipmunk sighting. Ages 3 & up; 45 min. Books available for purchase and signing.


Date Time Branch Register
Monday, September 10 1:00 PM Elkridge Branch No registration required
Monday, September 10 7:00 PM Miller Branch No registration required
Tuesday, September 11 10:30 AM Glenwood Branch No registration required
Tuesday, September 11 2:00 PM Savage Branch No registration required

P.S.1
   Checking Out the Green: Miller Branch "LEEDS" the Way



Miller Branch TerraceLEED Accredited Professional Jeffrey Williams teaches about green building attributes and the innovative and sustainable features of Miller Branch.

Date Time Branch Register
Monday, September 10 7:00 PM Miller Branch Register for this event

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Good bye Lance ---It only leaves us with Cal

     Certain athletes attain a status that far surpasses their accomplishments in their individual sport.  Lance Armstrong was one of those athletes with his survival from cancer and his work on behalf of cancer survivors.  How many of us can name any of the cyclists in this year's Tour de France?  Every year that Lance raced I would watch the summaries of the daily rides to see how he did.  Now it is just a European sporting event like the soccer (football!) World Cup.  Even his name, Lance Armstrong, sounded like a fictional superhero. Now he is brought down to earth as another athlete who felt that to compete he needed to go the drug route.  Heroes with feet of clay.

    But we still have Cal to look up to and serve as an example to our children.  Thank God for Iron man Cal.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Life is fragile

     In reading about the train derailment in Ellicott City the loss of the lives of two young people is the element of this story that is the most tragic.  For all of us the most tragic experience we can ever experience is the death of one of our children.  If you ask me to identify the worse day of my life it would be the day I visited one of my children in the hospital after they had a life threatening medical emergency.  To see one of your children with multiple tubes and monitors and not be sure what the next few days would hold is something that will always be seared into your memory.
   Recently NPR had a story on the loss of a son and  Lorenza Colletti described it this way:

"It's like a nightmare," Lorenza Colletti says more than 14 years later, choking back tears. "You go to sleep at nighttime — if you can even catch some sleep — and then you wake up in the morning and the nightmare begins all over again. And it's all over again, day after day.
"I mean, when your child is alive, you don't think of him 24 hours a day. But when he's gone, that's the only thing that's on your mind. And then you walk around and you see maybe someone wearing a cap that reminds you of your son, and you quickly turn — maybe that's him. Your mind plays so many tricks because it's so hard to really understand the depth of what has happened to you."

    Here in Howard County we have two support groups for persons experiencing the loss of a child.

 Bereaved Parents of USA
Meetings: 3rd Wed. at First Presbyterian Church
9325 Presbyterian Circle, Rts. 29 & 108 E
Columbia, 8:00 p.m. (includes sharing group for bereaved parents of infants & miscarriages)
Call: 410- 461-3272
Howard County Hospital
5755 Cedar Lane
Columbia, MD 21044
Mary Peroutka, 410-884-4709
www.hcgh.org/content/greystone_2470.htm

P.S.
The topic of today's blog was a little heavy so I wanted to leave with a video that you might leave you with a better mood.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Opportunity to tour early 1800's Howard County slave quarters

   I have blogged about the Underground Railroad in Howard County and now you have an opportunity to see one of the last physical structures that show the history of slavery in Howard County.   I received the following information from the Columbia Archives and recommend that you put the BikeAbout and the tour of the slavery quarters.  I received the following information from the Columbia Archives:

"The public is invited to Woodlawn Slave Quarters, located near Bendix Road in Columbia, for a rare opportunity to examine a historic renovation project and glimpse at what life might have been like in Howard County in the 19th century.
The stone building was restored by Columbia Association (CA) in 2007 to preserve a piece of history. The building is believed to have been constructed in the early 1800s. While there is no definite evidence that the building was built or used for slave housing, it is known that the owners of the property during that period owned slaves.
The construction material is primarily field stone, but the hand-hewn, quarried cornerstones — or quoins — are indications of the fine quality of the original construction.
Woodlawn Slave Quarters is not often opened to the public. The site is being opened from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sept. 15 as part of the annual Columbia BikeAbout though visitors don’t have to participate in that event to view the building. Nearby parking is available. Volunteers will be on site to guide visitors through the two-room structure, and interpretive signs will help explain the history of the building and life in Howard County during that period.

Watch this video about the Woodlawn Slave Quarters that aired on Columbia Matters in 2010."

P.S.
  The blogging community is getting behind an effort to help the merchants of Main Street Ellicott City survive the train mishap this week by encouraging everyone to patronize these merchants this week.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Are Columbia and Ellicott City now "Twin Cities?"

Columbia/Ellicott City have once again rated in the top 10 for best small cities to live in the United States by Money Magazine.  We now come in at number 8.  Weren't we just number 2 in 2010?  Are we falling behind???  Didn't we just get a Wegman's and soon a Whole Foods store?

   This year's number one is Carmel, Indiana. At first I thought it was Carmel, California and who wouldn't like living there.  But Indiana?  Near Indianapolis?  Near the city that stole the Colts??? I have been to Indiana and Indianapolis and I'm staying put in Maryland.  Everything there seems 20 years out of date and Lake Michigan is not the Eastern Shore or the Atlantic Ocean.

    The other thing I don't get is why Columbia and Ellicott City are linked like twin cities.  I know that the development of Columbia has long ago spilled over into Ellicott City but I don't find much of the planned features of Columbia in Ellicott City.  Columbia would look like an ordinary suburban development created by housing developers if not for Jim Rouse and the Rouse Company.  Where are the bike paths and pools in Ellicott City? OK I will grant you that Main Street in Ellicott City is a fun place to visit and shop but take that away and Ellicott City is a fairly bland place.  I think Columbia would still be on the list without Ellicott City but I doubt that Ellicott City could stand alone and make the list.

    Well I guess insulting a Midwestern state and Ellicott City is enough for one day.

P.S.
OK Ellicott City, I really do like your Asian merchants along Route 40.

P.S.1
We are still the number 8th best place to date a "nerd."  Take that Carmel!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

With Medicare we have seen the enemy and it is "us"

      With the selection of Paul Ryan to the Republican ticket a much needed discussion has occurred about the precarious viability of the Medicare program.  Unfortunately this discussion is occurring within a partisan political debate that generates much much heat but little in depth rational analysis.  Much of the debate seems to be trying to win the votes of the senior citizen population and portray the other as "pushing granny over the cliff."

     As with much in life when we look at a problem we that have to own up to the fact that we have prolonged illnesses in the final year of life and especially the final two months of life have always accounted for a significant portion of the Medicare (and Medicaid) budget.  The numbers are 28% of costs in the final year of life and 12% in the final two months of life.

 Chronic conditions such as arthritis, heart disease, kidney disease, respiratory  and especially diabetes has driven up costs of medical care for the elderly.  Four of the five conditions above have a significant relationship to the lifestyle choices we make.  Throw in the lifestyle choices related to many cancers and you can see that we are paying an enormous costs for many of our poor lifestyle costs.
  
    In an article in the magazine of the American Diabetes Association the problem is outlined this way:

   "The diabetes population and the related costs are expected to at least double in the next 25 years. Without significant changes in public or private strategies, this population and cost growth are expected to add a significant strain to an overburdened health care system."

     "The high cost of caring for individuals with chronic diseases is one of the most pressing issues in health care in the U.S. today. The baby boom generation is aging, and advanced age is accompanied by costly chronic illnesses. As a result, Medicare and other health-related governmental programs will face demographic and epidemiological forces that will challenge their financial viability." 

   Finally when you are talking about chronic illnesses the fragmentation of our health care system becomes a major spending and health care issue.  The Healthcare Financial Management Association explains it this way:
     "System fragmentation means that chronically ill patients receive episodic care from multiple providers who rarely coordinate the care they deliver, and chronic disease management programs are notably absent in traditional fee-for-service Medicare. As Congress, the administration, providers, insurers, and consumers debate reshaping the U.S. health system, they must address these changed health needs through evidence-based preventive care.”
    
    So is there a solution to the solvency of Medicare?  Like every other budget issue it comes down to slowing costs, cutting benefits or raising revenue (i.e. taxes).  With our present uncoordinated care system of health care controlling the cost increase will be next to impossible without some type of rationing which is politically difficult.  That leaves the option of benefit reduction by most likely raising the age of eligibility (to 66 or 67) and raising the Medicare tax.  Unfortunately we all know how likely that compromise is with the current Congress.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Ranking Howard County's top 10 assets

   We all know that Howard County has one of the best "quality of life" rankings of any community in the United States.  Hardly a month goes by that we don't find ourselves in somebody's "Top 10" rankings.  Today I would like to rank some of those assets in my biased opinion.  I am sure others would list assets that I miss or dispute how I have ranked the assets.

1) Howard County schools- This is a no brainer! What attracts a large number of highly educated persons to this area are the schools.  This leads to the development of many of the other assets.  A challenge for this asset is that we are increasingly seeing a growing disparity in the perceived attractiveness of schools across the system.
2) Diversity of our population- Jim Rouse's vision for for a diverse Columbia has been expanded into the vision for the entire County.  When you look at where the growth in the County population is coming from it is in the Asian and Hispanic communities.  Looking around at the increase in number of merchants serving these communities you can see how much this asset is adding vitality to our County.  An area that doesn't recognize the need for increased diversity is a community that will die.  The strength of this asset for the United States is also a strength for Howard County.
3) Howard County Library-  This is one of those spillover assets created by our great school system attracting a highly educated population. Combine this educated population demographic with an innovative, creative Library staffing and you get a great institution. 
4) Green spaces- This again is a Countywide asset that has Jim Rouse to thank.  His thinking on the importance of green spaces (40% of Columbia) for healthy communities has been adopted by County planners.  We are truly a well planned County when you compare us to surrounding Counties.
5) Columbia Association/Howard County Parks and Recreation-I have combined these two assets because they work so will in tandem to give us such a full spectrum of recreational and leisure activities. Many times residents couldn't even tell you which of them run each asset.  Centennial Lake is a perfect match for the lakes managed by CA.  The sport fields managed by Parks and Rec complement the recreational facilities managed by CA.  CA's path system blends nicely with the Parks and Rec path from Lake Elkhorn to Savage Park. Is there anyone who hasn't had someone in their family who hasn't used one of these assets.
6) Honest, competent elected officials and public employees- OK as a former Howard County employee I am somewhat biased in this asset.  But my many years in County employment has brought me into frequent contact with our elected officials and County employees.  I can tell you that they are some of the most competent, honest and open people you will meet anywhere.  Deal with these same people in other jurisdictions and you will see what I mean.
7) Howard County General Hospital- I remember a time when the Hospital was a small 60 bed community hospital with limited services that often had us having to go out of county for specialty services.  I remember a time when chemotherapy patients had to go to Baltimore hospitals for treatment.  As the County had grown so has the services of the Hospital.  Doesn't it seem like the construction trailers never leave the Hospital grounds!  The Hospital being purchased by Johns Hopkins Hospital System only enhances this asset.  It isn't a surprise that Johns Hopkins choose Howard County General Hospital when it started to buy community hospitals to build its health system in Maryland.
8) Diversity of Retailers- This asset is sometimes seen as a bad thing.  Even I have pined for the old local, home grown merchants that have been pushed out by the large national chains. The loss of Produce Galore and the Village Hardware stores has been a loss for us.  But I have to admit that getting a Wegman's, Trader Joe's and soon a Whole Food store enhances our food purchasing choices. I no longer have to go to Sports Authority on Route 40 in Catonsville but now can go to Dick's and REI in Columbia.  I remember having to go to White Oak to get an home improvement item from Hechinger's before we got our own Hechinger's and now we have a short trip to either a Home Depot or Lowe's. I have to admit that I rarely go to the chain restaurants we have and still mostly frequent the excellent choices in locally owned restaurants.
9) Proximity to DC and Baltimore-- I could easily throw in Annapolis, the Eastern Shore and Atlantic Beaches.  Day trips for us to these locations are annual vacation trips for others from around the United States and the World.  I know we don't often take advantage of this asset enough but just knowing we have them close is nice.  
10) Active community engagement- I know that many times you hear people talk about how disengaged many County residents are.  We are sometimes described as a "bedroom community of commuters."  While this does have some truth in it when you look at the low turnout in Columbia Village elections (full disclosure--I have never voted in a Village election) when you look at that the fact that we had one of highest voter turnouts in the State for most elections it does point to an engaged electorate.  Additionally, Howard County has one of the most active blogging communities anywhere in the Country (thank you HoCo Blogs).  OK as a member of this community for the past 18 months I am again biased on this asset.  While this community is not large when you realize that only a very small percentage of our community participates in the blogging community.  Though small in number I wouldn't under emphasize its importance.  As the traditional news media struggles through its transformation brought on by the online media, blogging will mature into a more recognizable way we stay informed and engaged in our community.

   So there you have it--- my top 10.  I bet you feel I have left out one that you would add or disagree with my listing in some other way.  Feel free to add your entries.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Blame the Umpire!!

    Watching a recent Orioles game where the umpires had some close calls that went against the Orioles I couldn't help but think what impact the tirades of the managers and players have on young people watching the game.  How is throwing a temper tantrum seen as a normal reaction to something with which you disagree?  Why are managers allowed to come on the field to argue a call?  Do they really think the umpire is going to change a call? Is this the proper way to "fire up" your player?
    I have a little perspective on these matters by being a softball umpire for a number of years in Howard County.  First rule of umpiring is to get the call right as you see it and stick with the call.  Changing your call only makes you look indecisive.   Second rule of umpiring is don't make the call until you are sure of the call.  If you make a call too quick you may have to reverse it.  Best example of this is calling a force out quickly and then having the fielder drop the ball. It doesn't look good to call a "out" and then a "safe."
    Back to the Orioles game.  On the tag play at home plate the umpire was out of position to make the call.  His view of the play was blocked by the catcher and he had to hop over the player sliding into home.  It is hard to quickly judge the best position to be in to make a call as the throw can cause cause fielders to adjust their position on block your view.  Moving to a new position can cause you to take your eye off the play.  On the home plate umpire overruling the first base umpire after a manage protest is a big "no-no."  The home plate umpire should only have ruled on the play if the first base umpire had requested assistance in making the call because his view had been obstructed and not because of a manager protesting the call.
  Finally one thing I have learned in umpiring is that the losing team will almost always be the one to complain about your umpiring calls.  Losing causes people to look for scapegoats.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Got unused children's book? Monarch Mills Book Drive for Guilford Elementary

     It is that time again--back to school.  I have blogged in the past about the importance of reading in student achievement.  Monarch Mills Apartments on Monarch Mills Way, right off Oakland Mills Road, is having a book drive to supply reading books to students at Guilford Elementary this upcoming school year.  They are looking for gently used picture and chapter books for children 4-10 years old.  For information or to drop off books contact Stephanie Goines at 410-381-0769.  Check out the Facebook page

Friday, August 17, 2012

Weekend Fun---car show at Rockburn Park

 Free to the public

 HCRP Logo Blk(1) 

Classic, Antique, Hot Rods & Modifieds - 1999 & older
Awards: Gary J. Arthur Memorial Award, EAAA Jay Herbert Memorial Award, Best of Show, People's Choice Award, and Best of Class for American Cars, Corvettes, Trucks, Euro Imports & Asian Imports
  • Car Show
    Preregistration fee $10, On-site $15
  • Automotive Flea Market*
    Preregistration fee $25, On-site $30
  • Automotive Sales
    Preregistration fee $20, On-site $30
  • On-site Registration 8:30-11:30 a.m.
  • To register call 410-313-7275 or visit www.howardcountymd.gov/rap 
 Click Here for more information.

P.S.
This week's music video is from one of my favorite musicians Roy Orbison.  He maybe unfamiliar to the younger crowd but not to baby boomers.

P.S. 1
The Columbia Patch had a good story about bike lanes being built into Great Star Drive in River Hill.  I would hope that this is something that is looked at with every repaving project in the County.


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Supporting a Library is not just with your tax dollars

       We all know that we have a first rate Library here in Howard County.  I really doubt that any of you reading this blog (and live in HoCo) have not visited one of the Library branches.  For most of us it is a frequent stop.  Our Library has been rated as a "five star" library in national rankings of libraries.  In a survey of 9200 libraries nationally "Howard County Library System (HCLS) ranked in the top ten for borrowing per capita (24.03 items), according to the July/August 2011 issue of American Libraries".
        When the question is asked "How do you support this great library?" most people would answer by saying they pay taxes to support the Library.  While some of our tax dollars go to support our Library it only explains part of what makes the Library so great.  Have your children participated in one of the Library's A+ programs (Summer Reading program, Spelling Bee, Rube Goldberg, etc.)? Have you borrowed a Nook reader from the Library? Enjoyed the Enchanted Gardens at the new Miller Library? Have participated in the Choose Civility program?  Attended a "Evening in the Stacks"event? Attended one of the "Meet the Author" events? If you have answered yes to any of these questions then you have benefited from the work of the "Friends of the Howard County Library."
      The next time you go into the Library and check out books add up the cost of those books if you had to have purchased those books.  Then project that cost over a year's time of borrowing.  I know for me that would quickly add up to hundreds of dollars.  What I would like for you to consider is to join the Friends of the Library at a level that is 10% of the money you have saved.  Think of it as "tithing" to the Library.  You can do this in a way that is automatic and you will hardly even notice it. The Friends have a system that allows you to have an automatic charge to your credit card each month.  Painless way to support this great institution.  On the donation page under amount use the "other amount" category to put in your monthly charge amount and under the additional information section enter monthly.

P.S.
  I happen to have gone out to Antwerpen Toyota this week for a factory recall on our Toyota van.  Not having been there since we bought the van in 2001 I couldn't believe the change in that area.  This auto park has grown tremendously.  I couldn't also help but notice the row after row of Toyota Prius' on the lot. This community certainly loves Toyota and Prius'. Smart community!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

"Male" Book Clubs: A true definition of a oximoron

      A couple of weeks ago I was doing my usual Thursday night Dobbin Road Starbucks visit with my wife when I noticed that there was a large crowd of women taking up both large tables.  Their discussion seemed animated and at times the laughter couldn't help but catch your attention.  It didn't take long to ease drop on their conversation to pick up that this was a woman's book club meeting.  It did get me to thinking about the reasons why book clubs are almost universally a female activity.  It is not surprising that Oprah was so successful with her book club when you realize how female dominated her audience was. But don't men read?  Couldn't some male show host start a book club?  Oh wait men don't watch talk shows. It has even been said that if women stopped reading the novel book industry would die.  Being a life long male reader (although I hardly ever read fiction) I couldn't point to that being why this situation exists.  It has to be more related to the sociability of  women.  It sometimes seems as if women get more enjoy out of retelling a story than they do experiencing the original activity.  I have found myself in trouble with my wife and daughters when I have jumped into their conversation to tell the ending of a story before they have reached that point themselves.  Listening to a woman tell a story many times is punctuated with many "and then she says" and "and then I said."   At this point I usually get up from the conversation and see what is happening in the Oriole game.

P.S.
In Googling about male book clubs I came across a very funny article from the Washington Post.  You might never have another colonoscopy after reading this article. 

P.S. 1
Speaking of watching an Oriole game it was really nice to watch last night's drubbing of the Boston Red Sox and see the stands had very few Red Sox fans.  The past few years when the Red Sox played at Camden Yards it was like a Red Sox home game with many more Red Sox fans in attendance than Oriole fans.  Camden Yards was becoming "Fenway South" when the Red Sox were in town.  I guess the slumping Red Sox have changed that.  Now if we can just not make Camden Yards "Yankee Stadium South" when the Yankees are in town.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Horizon Foundation tackles obesity

   As you can see above and any parent can readily tell you most of the cereals aimed at children are loaded with sugar.  This trend has moved into some of the old "adult" cereals like Cheerios, shredded wheat and Special K which have added sugary brands such euphemistic names as Honey Nut Cheerios and Frosted Mini Wheats.  It should then be no surprise that obesity is now the biggest problem being addressed in public health.

   It is not unusual for public health efforts to be labeled part of the "nanny state" or "big brother."  Look at the ridicule of the effort of New York Mayor Bloomberg to limit the size of sugery soda sold in fast food establishments in New York City.  Sugary drinks are now pointed to as the largest contributor to the obesity problem in children.

    This effort to limit sugary drinks is now being played out in schools.  Selling snacks and drinks high in sugar have been a source of revenue for schools and booster clubs for a long time.  Recently a report on a study on the impacts of these items in schools point to its role in children obesity.  According to Time Magazine:

Laws strictly curbing school sales of junk food and sweetened drinks may play a role in slowing childhood obesity, according to a study that seems to offer the first evidence such efforts could pay off. The results come from the first large national look at the effectiveness of the state laws over time. They are not a slam-dunk, and even obesity experts who praised the study acknowledge the measures are a political hot potato, smacking of a “nanny state” and opposed by industry and cash-strapped schools relying on food processors’ money. But if the laws have even a tiny effect, “what are the downsides of improving the food environment for children today?” asked Dr. David Ludwig, an obesity specialist at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital. “You can’t get much worse than it already is.”

Children in the study gained less weight from fifth through eighth grades if they lived in states with strong, consistent laws versus no laws governing snacks available in schools. For example, kids who were 5 feet tall and 100 pounds gained on average 2.2 fewer pounds if they lived in states with strong laws in the three years studied. Also, children who were overweight or obese in fifth grade were more likely to reach a healthy weight by eighth grade if they lived in states with the strongest laws.

     In Howard County this played out in 2005 when the School System considered removing sugary drinks and snacks from schools.  Booster clubs appeared at a Board of Education meeting to oppose this as it would take away there primary source of income.

The Horizon Foundation has made reducing obesity in the County as its highest priority.  As their website explains:

"Obesity has reached a crisis level; this nation-wide epidemic that is at the root of many chronic diseases later in life, many that are leading causes of death.  In response, the Horizon Foundation has embarked on a Healthy Lifestyle initiative – a community-wide, comprehensive effort to support lasting, positive changes that include healthy choices around eating and drinking, as well as physical activity. With partners in the community, the Foundation aims to be bold in trying to reverse the trends that have had a negative impact on health. 

The Foundation has adopted this approach to supporting healthy lifestyles in Howard County, and has focused efforts on the following activities:
  1. Local policy campaign: The Foundation is reaching out to Howard County organizations and medical professionals asking that they take specific steps to educate their members, clients, patients, etc. about the health effects of sugary drink consumption and make their sugary drink organizational policies more reflective of best practices.  Partners in this effort include the Howard County Health Department, Howard County government, Howard County Public School System, health care institutions, faith communities and many other community groups, large and small.
  2. Targeted Media Campaign: Helping parents and teens make smart, informed choices about sugary sweetened beverages is the goal of a targeted campaign the Foundation will launch in the Fall of 2012.
  3. Evaluation: The Foundation and its strategic partner, The Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale will compile, analyze, and issue reports on evaluation data collected as part of the Initiative.   This data will be shared with partners in order to contribute to the body of best practices around the prevention of childhood obesity. 
Sustainability factors prominently in the plan – healthy lifestyle change is a process that takes place over a period of time. The Foundation is committed to this issue; it occupies an important place in the strategic plan of the organization. Foundation Trustees and staff believe that addressing this issue is vital as it is one of the critical precursors to community health and wellness."

P.S.
From the Columbia Association:
Columbia YouthFit program takes team approach to family fitness
Getting in shape isn’t just about diet and exercise; having motivation and support matter, too. That’s why Columbia Association’s (CA) new Columbia YouthFit program accentuates working together to create healthy families.
        The program, which is launching with its inaugural session this fall, focuses on families with children between the ages of 10 and 13 who receive a medical referral. Columbia YouthFit helps families become healthy through motivation, physical activity and healthy eating. In addition, a team of medical, fitness, nutrition and behavioral health professionals work closely with all family members to create a family plan to improve their overall wellness.
        The first eight-week session begins on Wednesday, Oct. 3, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Columbia Gym, which is located at 6151 Day Long Lane in Clarksville. With 75 percent of obese adolescents growing up to become obese adults, Columbia YouthFit provides a solution.
        "Being overweight as a child can lead to serious health problems, problems that can be life-long such as diabetes,” said Shawni Paraska, CA’s director of community health sustainability. “Columbia YouthFit helps your family overcome these problems. It provides nutrition education, lifestyle awareness and changes, and physical activity for all family members."
        Columbia YouthFit’s program includes fun and informative get-togethers; healthy lifestyle-coaching — both one-on-one with the kids, as well as with the whole family; physical activities for the children; discounts to community events and health-related businesses that partner with Columbia YouthFit; and full access for the entire family to CA’s facilities, programs and services.
        Questions for parents and guardians to consider include whether their child spends too much time on his or her cell phone or iPod or in front of the television; feels self-conscious about his or her body weight; eats meals consisting of fast food, high calorie or fattening foods; has unsupervised time before or after school; or has a family with a busy schedule that does not include time for exercise. Those that do should ask their child’s doctor if Columbia YouthFit would be beneficial to the child, and then have the doctor complete this physician referral form and fax it to Columbia Association at 443-283-4247.
        The program costs $550 for CA members and $650 for non-members. Fee covers the entire family. Register by calling 410-715-3128.
        For more information, go to columbiaassociationnewu.com/YouthFit/index.html.

 P.S.1
Amazing pictures of Mars from the Curiosity mission before the landing

Monday, August 13, 2012

Howard County MSA scores pose some questions

     I have recently finished a book by Charles Murray called "Real Education."  I generally consider myself a very liberal in my thoughts on most social issues but I do like to challenge my views by reading material with a different perspective. This book is a controversial book in that it postulates that intelligence is relatively fixed for most people and many efforts to significantly change the educational outcomes of students across the intelligence spectrum have largely failed.  "No Child Left Behind," the latest effort to attempt educational reform, has not shown the results that the proponents of the law had hoped.  The failure of this program has led to more than half the states to get waivers from the federal government. 
       Dr. Murray doesn't say that educational efforts don't have significant benefits for society in the broadest sense but have limited benefit for any particular student.  He states that increases of even 3 points (from 100 to 103) in the mean national IQ could result in significant social good.  He implies that this 3 point increase would result in a 25% reduction in the poverty rate, a 18% reduction in welfare recipients and a 15% reduction in unmarried births.  Dr. Murray points to the largest and most important education study of the 20th Century called the Coleman Report that studied educational outcomes of 645,000 students.  It was a response to the 1964 Civil Rights Act to assess the effects of inequality of educational opportunity on student achievement.  The results of the study were somewhat surprising in that "using data from over 600,000 students and teachers across the country, the researchers found that academic achievement was less related to the quality of a student's school, and more related to the social composition of the school, the student's sense of control of his environment and future, the verbal skills of teachers, and the student's family background."
       I have spent a few days looking at the Maryland School Achievement scores for Howard County Schools and I noticed some results which I couldn't explain.  Of course the Howard County schools in the aggregate do well in comparison to the overall Maryland scores.  That would only be expected.  It doesn't mean that we still don't have some significant variations in scores from school to school in our County.  Fortunately with the same quality of instruction at our schools housing, income and educational backgrounds of families in each school district explain the variations.  Scores are broken down into 3 categories---Basic, Proficient and Advanced.  In looking at the scores the results that I couldn't fully understand fell into these categories (I have rounded the percentages):

1) The reading level of elementary student from 3rd grade to 5 grade improved with the percentage of students testing at the advanced level increasing from 31% to 74%.  This shift was mostly from students moving from the proficient level to the advanced level.  The basic level was small and consistent from 8% to 5%.
2) The math level of elementary students from 3rd to 5th grade went in the opposite direction.  In 3rd grade the advanced level had 49% of the students and by 5th grade the percentage had dropped to 38%.  Most of this drop was students moving from the advanced level to the proficient level. The percentage for the basic level increased from 7% to 10%.
3) In middle school the changes seem to slow down.  The change from 6th to 8th grade in the advanced level of reading is an increase from 60% to 67%.  Again shift is mostly from the proficient level.  But notice that even this means a drop from the 74% advanced level in 5th grade.
4) The math level in middle school shows most of the drop in the proficient level with a drop from 42% in 6th grade to 32% in 8th grade.  The change in the proficient level was almost evenly split with half the decrease was the movement to the basic level(10% to 16%) and half going to the advanced level (48% to53%).

   First question: Why is the change in reading scores from 3rd to 5th grade significantly go almost in one direction (from proficient to advanced)  but the math scores go in the opposite direction?

   Second question: Why in middle school is the decline in the percentage of students in the proficient level so great?  If it was because of students mostly moving to the advanced level that would be good but half of the decline is because of students moving to the lower basic level.

    I ask these questions as a non-educator and not because they are a reflection of the quality of instruction students receive in our schools.  Maybe it makes sense that the elementary level is where there will be the biggest improvement in reading test scores and middle school is where students start to separate themselves into two very different math levels.  I would hope that some educators out there with some experience teaching these levels might be able to share some insight into these results.

P.S.
Wanted to read the story behind the photo?