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Thursday, April 27, 2017

LGBT Bain Center Film event May 4th

      "Thursday, May 4, 2017 Film & Discussion 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm Doors open/Refreshments: 6:00 pm The Bain Center 5470 Ruth Keeton Way Columbia, MD 21044 A free event but registration is required Social Work CEUs available About the Film: Directed by Andrea Meyerson and narrated by Meredith Baxter, LETTER TO ANITA is the story of Anita Bryant's infamous anti-gay campaign and its effect on the life of Ronni Sanlo. From having her children taken away after coming out as a lesbian, to becoming an activist for the LGBT community, Ronni's journey finally leads her to resolve and peace in the simple act of writing a letter. Discussion following the film will address the effects of anti-gay discrimination on individuals and families and the role of social activism as a tool for social change and personal resilience. "
     "Registration required by April 27; call Bain Center at 410-313-7213 About the Program: Cosponsored by the LGBT Older Adults Task Force of Howard County, the 50+ Bain Center, and the LGBT Health Resource Center of Chase Brexton Health Care. Refreshments provided by Somerford Place Columbia. Jessica Rowe ElderCare Consulting, LLC, is authorized by the Board of Social Work Examiners in Maryland to sponsor social work continuing education programs and maintains full responsibility for this program. This program qualifies for 1.5 Category II continuing education units."


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

If I had a hammer


    We have all heard the phrase "if you have a hammer every problem looks like a nail."  I am reminded of this when I see the Trump Administration's approach to any foreign problem.  From its "hard" budget with large increases in defense spending and its shortchanging the diplomatic resources by slashing the State Department's budget to its deploying a "naval armada" to the waters off of North Korea to trying to back out of negotiated agreements with Iran and most of the developed world on climate change this Administration seems to represent a leader who has issues with the "adequacy" of his manhood.  Diplomacy seems like surrender to a bully.
     Just look at the issue of bombing a military base in Syria to show that "there is a new sheriff in town" as the only response to the horrific chemical attack on innocent civilians.  I am not judging the wisdom of that military action to lessen the chance of chemical weapons being used again.  Maybe it will and maybe it won't.  But there is one action that will definitely improve the plight of Syrian civilians that apparently is never an option for this Administration.  That option it to increase our aid to refugees who have fled the country to escape the destruction of their country and to agree to accept more vetted refugees into the United States.  Apparently that is too "soft" an approach to an Administration that only has a hammer.   We seem to have become a Country that has a foreign policy that is to "bomb the sh** out of them" then to remember that we once were the Country that had a leader with a different approach.


Related image

    Maybe we should consider what the United States represents to the World when an "America First" agenda means more coal production and weaponizing the world instead of a "Earth First" agenda of improving our fragile environment and developing the resources for peaceful resolutions to conflict.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Gas prices in Columbia

     Occasionally a topic strikes a cord on Next Door Neighbor with many replies to a post.   This week that topic was why the gas prices in Columbia are so much higher than in surrounding areas.  Are we being gouged in Columbia because of our high median income?  What are the factors that are reflected in the price of gas?  State taxes are part of the issue as anyone who buys gas in another state. Last week I noticed a 20 cent drop in the price when I drove to Harpers Ferry and went from Maryland to Virginia with gas stations only a mile apart in the different states.   Of course this doesn't explain the difference between the prices in Columbia and Laurel.  There is something called zone pricing that wholesalers charge dealers.  Wholesalers undoubtedly factor income into this zone pricing and that could have a significant impact on pricing in Columbia.   Retailers in Columbia may have to pay more than retailers in Laurel.   Finally like everything else competition impacts price.  In Columbia you will never see two stations across the street from each other as happens in many other towns.  So blame the planners of Columbia for restricting the number and location of gas stations that lessens competitive pricing of gas.

     A few people who posted mentioned that they only buy gas at Costco or when they are out of town.  A few others mentioned buying a fuel efficient car and not worrying about the price as much.  It has always made me wonder when you see someone who buys a large SUV and then go to Costco to save money to fuel their gas guzzling vehicle.  Ever notice that most of the time these gas guzzlers only have one person, the driver, in the vehicle.


Saturday, April 22, 2017

Suggested read for a rainy weekend

   I know that there are many different types of readers of this blog.  For those who read it for current information on our politics this blog might appeal to you.  Even if you have different political beliefs than the ones I express I would urge you to take an hour or two and read this article from the New Yorker magazine on the Russian hacking of our political institutions.  It is comprehensive and provides a good background to understand how world affairs with Russia and the West are being played out.  The 21st Century Cold War will be fought as much with digital weapons as with the nuclear weapons of the previous Cold War.   Here is a link to the article:

     For those who want to get just a taste of the article here is just some of the interesting parts:

"The American political landscape also offered a particularly soft target for dezinformatsiya, false information intended to discredit the official version of events, or the very notion of reliable truth. Americans were more divided along ideological lines than at any point in two decades, according to the Pew Research Center. American trust in the mainstream media had fallen to a historic low. The fractured media environment seemed to spawn conspiracy theories about everything from Barack Obama’s place of birth (supposedly Kenya) to the origins of climate change (a Chinese hoax). Trump, in building his political identity, promoted such theories.

“Free societies are often split because people have their own views, and that’s what former Soviet and current Russian intelligence tries to take advantage of,” Oleg Kalugin, a former K.G.B. general, who has lived in the United States since 1995, said. “The goal is to deepen the splits.” Such a strategy is especially valuable when a country like Russia, which is considerably weaker than it was at the height of the Soviet era, is waging a geopolitical struggle with a stronger entity.

Even with the rise of new technologies, the underlying truth about such operations hasn’t changed. They are less a way to conjure up something out of nothing than to stir a pot that is already bubbling. In the U.S., a strategy like the alleged hacking of the Democrats was merely an effort to deepen an existing state of disarray and distrust. “For something to happen, many factors have to come together at once,” said Alexander Sharavin, the head of a military research institute and a member of the Academy of Military Sciences, in Moscow, where Gerasimov often speaks. “If you go to Great Britain, for example, and tell them the Queen is bad, nothing will happen, there will be no revolution, because the necessary conditions are absent—there is no existing background for this operation.” But, Sharavin said, “in America those preconditions existed.”

Andrei Kozyrev, who served as foreign minister in the Yeltsin government, now lives in Washington, D.C. He left Russia as it became increasingly authoritarian; he now sees a disturbingly similar pattern in his adopted country. “I am very concerned,” he said. “My fear is that this is probably the first time in my memory that it seems we have the same kind of people on both sides—in the Kremlin and in the White House. The same people. It’s probably why they like each other. It’s not a matter of policy, but it’s that they feel that they are alike. They care less for democracy and values, and more for personal success, however that is defined.”

Putin’s Russia has to come up with ways to make up for its economic and geopolitical weakness; its traditional levers of influence are limited, and, were it not for a formidable nuclear arsenal, it’s unclear how important a world power it would be. “So, well then, we have to create turbulence inside America itself,” Venediktov said. “A country that is beset by turbulence closes up on itself—and Russia’s hands are freed.”

New suggested mottos for United Airlines

A little weekend humor:

New United Airlines Mottos:

“Drag and Drop.”
“We put the hospital in hospitality.”
“Board as a doctor, leave as a patient.”
“Our prices can’t be beaten, but our passengers can.”
“We have First Class, Business Class and No Class.”
“Not enough seating? Prepare for a beating.”
“We treat you like we treat your luggage.”
“We beat the customer, not the competition.”
“And you thought leg room was an issue.”
"Where voluntary is mandatory.”
“Fight or flight. We decide.”
“Now offering one free carry off”
“Beating random customers since 2017.”
“If our staff needs a seat, we’ll drag you out by your feet.”
“A bloody good airline!”

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Time to think "Green" this Spring

    Howard County GreenFest - Saturday, April 22
Howard Community College, Burrill Galleria and Quad, 10-4

Join us for the 10th annual GreenFest as we celebrate Earth Day Every Day.. GreenFest has lots of free and fun activities.
  • Over 75 tables with local green businesses and environmental non-profits
  • Native plant sale
  • Photo booth
  • Door prize raffle
  • Columbia Families in Nature play space
  • Children's activities with Robinson Nature Center
  • Compost bin giveaway
  • Rain barrel giveaway
  • Workshops and speakers
  • Kid's craft table
  • Live birds and reptiles on display with local experts
  • Local food vendors
  • Paper shredding
  • Chain saw sculpture demonstrations
  • Repair Cafe
  • Donation oppotunities
Please visit for more details and the schedule of events.

      A reminder that getting that green lawn with chemicals only washes off into our streams and creates an environmental problem.   This Spring let your grass green on its own.  Or better yet consider a more natural habitat than a green lawn.   

       Also consider how to eliminate much of the storm runoff with a rain garden.

P.S. 1
    Question of the Day

Q: Women are twice as likely as men to lay in bed worrying about this… A: Whether they locked the door


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Chrysalis dedication April 22nd

      We have been watching the construction of the Chrysalis in Symphony Woods all Winter from Little Patuxent Parkway.  Now the green enclosure will be dedicated soon.  The Chrysalis dedication will be from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 22, at Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods, 10431 Little Patuxent Parkway, Columbia, MD 21044.  Read how it will be used.

RSVP here on Eventbrite.

    Blogger Frank Hecker has a blog on what comes next in Symphony Woods.

P.S. 1
    Does anyone else have a problem with pronouncing and spelling the name??  Maybe it will be know as "that green thing in Symphony Woods."


Monday, April 17, 2017

Save thousands on the purchase of a late model used car

      It isn't often that I give you an offer to save thousands of dollars on a purchase but I am doing that today.   We all know what it is like to go to a car dealer looking to purchase a late model used car.  Negotiating is never fun and you know that the dealer purchased the cars for a lot less than they are offering them to you.  They have a lot of overhead for which to pay.  What if you could purchase the same cars from someone who buys at the same car auctions and doesn't have the overhead?  I know of someone who has a dealer licence who goes to these auctions and will find you the car you want and sell it to you at a price thousands less than a dealer.  He buys the car and gets it inspected before you pay him for it.  The deals have to be paid by cashier's check.   I have purchased three cars from this gentleman and have nothing but praise for the quality of cars he has purchased for me.  I know I saved $3000-$4000 over what I would have spent buying the same car from CarMax.
     If you or someone you know will be in the market for a late model used car and want to get the information on how to contact this gentleman email me and I will send you the contact information.

    While he can get just about any model of car he specializes in Toyotas and Hondas.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Exploring Columbia on Foot


     Here is the schedule of the Exploring Columbia on Foot" walks for this year.  Try to do a few of the walks as they are a great way to get some exercise and learn more about our town.  This is from the Columbia Patch:

“Exploring Columbia on Foot” will once again be led by award-winning environmental author Ned Tillman, who will guide discussions on the nature, history and future of these wonderful outdoor settings, including the plans for them and challenges they may face in the near future. Each walk will be about two miles long, with four to five stops along the way.

The walks will be held on nine Thursdays and one Saturday from March through October. Most walks will begin at 10am; the walk at The Mall in Columbia begins at 8:30am. Registration is not required. The schedule of walks and meeting locations includes:

Thursday, April 20, Wilde Lake – meet at the Wilde Lake Barn (10027 Hyla Brook Road)
Thursday, May 4, Owen Brown, meet at Lake Elkhorn (Dockside parking lot)
Thursday, May 18, Oakland Mills – meet at Thunder Hill Neighborhood Center (5134 Thunder Hill Road)
Thursday, June 1, River Hill – meet at Claret Hall (6020 Daybreak Circle)
Saturday, June 24, The Mall in Columbia (8:30am) – meet at the Plaza in front of Seasons 52 (10300 Little Patuxent Parkway)
Thursday, July 15, Long Reach – meet at Jeffers Hill Neighborhood Center (6030 Tamar Drive)
Thursday, Aug. 30, Kings Contrivance – meet at Huntington Pool (7625 Murray Hill Road)
Thursday, Sept. 14, Harper’s Choice – meet at Hobbits Glen Pool (11130 Willow Bottom Drive)
Thursday, Oct. 12, Downtown Columbia – meet at Lakefront Plaza (10275 Little Patuxent Parkway)
Thursday, Oct. 26, Hickory Ridge – meet at Hawthorn Center (6175 Sunny Spring)

For more information, contact CA’s Open Space Management Division at or 410-312-6330."


Monday, April 10, 2017

Can you name the second most valued American car company?

      If you guessed Ford you are wrong.  The big three American car companies have long been General Motors, Ford and Chrysler.  Now a company that is only 14 years old has replaced Ford as the second highest valued American car company.  The Tesla Motors is now the second highest valued American car company based on the value of all its stock.  However just as this has happened Tesla has dropped the word "motors" from its name because it plans to move beyond just being an electric car company.

        Its expanding business will now be to produce batteries in its Gigafactory , shown above in the Nevada desert, at such a low cost that battery powered cars will be price competitive with gas models.  Tesla is thinking bigger than just car batteries.  Batteries have the potential to produce energy cleaner and cheaper then what is being produced with fossil fuels.  Not only is he planning on building the batteries he has a plan that is a "vertically integrated company that builds electric vehicles, batteries to store the power to propel them, and the solar panels to generate that power. He also wants to electrify everything from pickups to busses to 18-wheelers."  This model of vertical integration is similar to what Rockefeller did to control the oil market over a hundred years ago.  This promise of unlimited potential vertical growth (think the 21 Century Standard Oil) is what is driving the valuation of Tesla not what it is presently producing.  Investors have driven the price of Tesla stock up wanting to get in on the ground floor.
      So while Trump is promising to produce more coal, yesterday's energy, and bringing back blue collar jobs, yesterday's jobs, investors are putting their money on Elon Musk and Tesla as to where the future energy and jobs markets will be.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Columbia Mall as a relic of the 1960's

    I recently wrote about Sears facing possible bankruptcy.  Now we learn that the Sears store that has anchored one wing of the Columbia Mall is going from two floors to one floor.  While this may be more telling about Sears future than the future of the Columbia Mall it does make one to wonder how long the concept of an enclosed mall will work in Columbia's downtown.  The latest additions to the Mall have been to a more open concept. By the way, Champps and Unos in the newer section have closed.
      How is the Columbia Mall relevant as the focus of downtown Columbia?  As we hear talk about changes in the downtown area of Columbia the fact is that the original concept of Columbia came from a company that existed primarily by building enclosed malls.  Hundreds of square feet of enclosed retail shopping surrounded by acres of parking was relevant in the 1960's suburban development but how does it translate to the development of today's online retail world?
      Is it too early to talk about life after the Columbia Mall?  Maybe Columbia will always be nothing more than a nice suburb as long as it is tied to the suburban enclosed mall concept.  If we were to look at the space being occupied by the Mall becoming a "downtown entertainment area" that would give us a more urban feel.   What would this downtown entertainment area look like?  I found this article that gave 12 ways to make a downtown more vibrant.  Some of the points may not apply to Columbia but some are worth looking at and some might have to wait for the land to be remade that now is occupied by our 1960's relic.

     For a good read on Rouse's ideas for Columbia the book "Jim Rouse: Capitalist/Idealist by Paul Marx is a good place to start.  It can be read online at Google books.


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Job requirements for the United States Foreign Service


    With the Trump administration relying on Jared Kushner to handle foreign policy for the United States (what ever happened to the Secretary of State Tillerson?) we can only guess that marrying into the Trump family is the only experience you need to negotiate diplomatically on behalf of the United States.  If you are looking for a cushy government job I hear that Tiffany Trump is still single.  Oh, knowing a few well connected Russians probably helps too.

    Can't help thinking that naming a male baby Jared was already out of favor because of the "other" Jared.  Now with Jared Kushner it may sink again.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

#One Howard Meeting tonight

  Tonight at the North Laurel Community Center the second meeting of the #OneHoward group will meet.  Here is the information from the group:

"#OneHoward Community Dialogues are small group facilitated conversations designed to help us better communicate with one another. To be a community known for civility and inclusiveness, we must first seek to understand and empathize with one another. We are often hindered because we make assumptions based on our own beliefs.

What experiences shape our feelings and thoughts?

How can we examine our values and beliefs?

Where did we learn our assumptions?

These questions are important to ask, but they often go unexplored, creating a foundation for fear or misunderstanding. Engaging in small group facilitated dialogues can begin the process of building meaningful relationships and an inclusive community.

#OneHoward is partnering with the Columbia Association and the Howard County Library System to organize dialogues throughout our County in different formats. Columbia Dialogues, hosted by the Columbia Association, are a 9-hour commitment (three sessions, three hours in duration each). For more information, click here: The Howard County Library System hosts Community Dialogue Circles that are one-hour commitments. For more information, click here:

How do the #OneHoward dialogues work?

Groups will be comprised of no more than 15 participants from diverse backgrounds and 2 trained facilitators.

Groups will generally run for 2-3 hours.

Group topics can touch upon difficult or divisive subjects such as race, religion, immigration, gender/power dynamics, sexuality, and other current issues.

Participants must register for dialogues, and will receive confirmation by email or phone.

Because we are trying to ensure groups are as diverse as possible and have a small group feel, participants will be placed into groups based on demographics and capacity (no more than 15 people per dialogue group). Registrants may be asked to participate in future dialogues, but will be assigned on a first-come, first-served basis to the extent possible."


Saturday, April 1, 2017

Streets in Columbia's Villages named after quotes of Yogi Berra!


      We all know that Columbia neighborhood streets have names taken from the literature of famous authors.   Longfellow, Dickens, Hawthorne, Sandburg and Emerson are some of the authors that we recognize in our street names.  What is not as well know is that each Village has one street named after famous quotes of former New York Yankee baseball player Yogi Berra.  Who can forget these memorable quotes from Yogi:

You can observe a lot by just watching.
Always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise they won’t come to yours.
We made too many wrong mistakes.
You can observe a lot by just watching.

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

To find the street in your Village taken from a Yogi Berra quote click here.


Friday, March 31, 2017

Newtown documentary on PBS


   This Monday April 3rd on PBS at 9 pm "The Independent Lens" program will be a film of the killing of kindergarten children in Newtown and the impact on the families and the town.  The remark of one parent was that the right to own a semi automatic gun should not be more important than the right of children to be safe in a school.  I have blogged before on my never understanding the "gun culture" in our Country and the insanity of the need to own a semi automatic weapon.  I have little faith that we will ever be able to be a sane Country when it comes to guns.
    Set your DVR to record or watch this show.

    Every time I hear the name of "Newtown" I think how this should have been been the name of Columbia.  Having said that I do like the name Columbia.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

This year's walking tours of Columbia

This past Sunday I went on one of the walks sponsored by the Columbia Association and led by Ned Tillman and Sean Harbaugh.

 We saw some of the 50,000 daffodils that CA planted to celebrate the 50th birthday of Columbia.

Our walk went around the backside of  Lake Kittamaqundi and passed the Yoshino cherry trees that are saplings from the original Japanese cherry trees planted around the Tidal Basin in DC.

       Here is a list of some of this year's walks:

  • Thursday, April 20, Wilde Lake – meet at the Wilde Lake Barn (10027 Hyla Brook Road)
  • Thursday, May 4, Owen Brown, meet at Lake Elkhorn (Dockside parking lot)
  • Thursday, May 18, Oakland Mills – meet at Thunder Hill Neighborhood Center (5134 Thunder Hill Road)
  • Thursday, June 1, River Hill – meet at Claret Hall (6020 Daybreak Circle)
  • Saturday, June 24, The Mall in Columbia (8:30am) – meet at the Plaza in front of Season’s 52 (10300 Little Patuxent Parkway)
  • Thursday, July 13, Long Reach – meet at Jeffers Hill Neighborhood Center (6030 Tamar Drive)
  • Thursday, Aug. 31, Kings Contrivance – meet at Huntington Pool (7625 Murray Hill Road)
  • Thursday, Sept. 14, Harper’s Choice – meet at Hobbits Glen Pool (11130 Willow Bottom Drive)
  • Thursday, Oct. 12, Downtown Columbia – meet at Lakefront Plaza (10275 Little Patuxent Parkway)
  • Thursday, Oct. 26, Hickory Ridge – meet at Hawthorn Center (6175 Sunny Spring)

  • #hocoblogs

    Monday, March 27, 2017

    Advocate this week for the Howard County Bikeway Plan

        The County Executive is putting together his budget for the upcoming budget year right now.  I am encouraging everyone who bikes in our County to advocate with the County Executive this week to fully fund the Bikeway Master Plan which will establish a biking network of paths in the County. His email is


    Another retail merchant may be history


         Well it looks like another big traditional retailer might be biting the dust soon.  Sears, once the largest consumer goods retailer, has to face the possibility of bankruptcy.   The Sears Tower in Chicago was the tallest building West of New York.  I remember a time when Sears catalogs were the main source of many clothing and household purchases for people living far away from the larger department stores.  The Mid Western Montgomery Wards has disappeared and K Mart had to merge with Sears to survive. Even retail giant Wal Mart maybe facing difficult times ahead with the growth of e-commerce.  Just as Amazon killed much of the book store business it looks ahead to the next conquest in the grocery business.  While its online grocery business maybe growing slowly it has turned 180 degrees and is looking to open Amazon Go stores.  Just don't expect Amazon to create a traditional grocery store.
         Recently I had a personal experience with how much e-commerce has changed our shopping habits.  Looking to buy some new running shoes I went to the outlet store that I have used to buy shoes in the past.  They always have a buy one pair and get the second pair at 50% off.  The two pairs last me for the upcoming year.  This year the Reebok store to which I usually went was closed.  I went into the Nike store but could only find overpriced shoes.  I tried to look up prices online for the Reebok shoes I liked while in the Nike store.  Not surprisingly the store blocked the internet in their store.  Going outside to get a signal I searched again and found the Reebok shoes I liked for 50% off for each pair!  Guess who the online retailer was that had them at 50% off?!  Maybe a little late to save their retail stores but it maybe the only part of Sears remaining in the near future.

    Friday, March 24, 2017

    Chuck Berry for this weekend music


         Growing up in the age of Elvis and rock and roll I remember that the first 45 record I ever bought was Chuck Berry singing Johnny B Goode.  Performing his famous "duck walk" shown above was a highlight of any of his performances.  So with his death this week I thought I would add some links to two of his most famous songs.

    Johnny B Goode 

        My early record collection was mostly Elvis, Chuck Berry, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis and the Beach Boys.  Never got into the Beatles that much even though they had some great music.

    Thursday, March 23, 2017

    Clearing up a question

         I didn't want to give away the topic of today's post too quickly.  There is an old saying, "Tell me who your friends are and I will tell you who you are."  You can also add that you can know a lot about someone by their enemies.  The question to which I referred in the subject of this post is "Why is Trump so unwilling to criticize the Russians, at times even being complementary and seem to be so critical of our Western allies?"  One obvious answer could be his known financial ties to Russians but I would pose something more fundamental.  His authoritarian tendencies may make it easier for him to deal with others who share his authoritarian tendencies then with those who value more democratic beliefs like our Western allies.  Listen to this CNN exchange.  And this how Trump praised the Philippine President who has conducted a bloodbath in his country.  Here is how Trump speaks about the leader of the largest Western European democracy.
           Some may be surprised that a capitalist business man could be so complimentary of a Communist leader.  Trump and Putin's authoritarian beliefs are a stronger tie than their different economic beliefs.  The strong leadership shown by authoritarian dictators, even those who kill their opponents, seems to  be something that Trump admires.  Extremists from both the Right and the Left seem to have strong authoritarian tendencies.  The violent means are always justified to reach their ends.  Being able to reach compromise and seeing other people's needs seems to be foreign to Trump and Putin.  When Trump calls any media that disagrees with him as "fake news" that should raise concerns about his belief in our democratic ideals.  We already know he would prefer to do business in the undemocratic Russia than deal with those who oppose him in a Western democracy.

    Tuesday, March 21, 2017

    Oakland Mills Village Redevelopment Feasibility Study presentation

       Oakland Mills is in the process of determining how it can be revitalized as a Village.  Tomorrow evening there is a meeting to discuss a feasibility study that has been recently done.  Here is the information from a committee involved in that process.

       "We need your participation and feedback on the final report for our Oakland Mills Village Center Area Redevelopment Feasibility Study.

    Brief presentation of Oakland Mills feasibility study conclusions and implementation considerations followed by an opportunity to ask questions and engage consultants. Howard County staff and Columbia Association representatives will be present.

    Wednesday, March 22, 2017 at 7pm
    Doors open at 6:30 pm

    Oakland Mills Middle School Cafeteria
    9540 Kilimanjaro Road, Columbia, MD 21045

    Bolan Smart Associates will present the final report of the feasibility study of the Oakland Mills Village Center and surrounding area at a community meeting.

    The Reinvention of Oakland Mills is vital to all of us. In 2014, the County and CA commissioned a study of the village centers and the Gateway area. This report, titled The Columbia Market Study, focused on economic development conditions. We continued the process with the creation of the Oakland Mills Village Center Community Plan (VCCP) which provides our community's vision for the future of Oakland Mills. The feasibility study focuses exclusively on our village center and surrounding area with an analysis of short and long- term redevelopment possibilities. This report along with the Columbia Market Study and VCCP will serve as a guide to property owners, developers, the county, CA and all other stakeholders in the redevelopment of Oakland Mills.

    You can read these reports at:

    Columbia Market Study

    Oakland Mills Village Center Community Plan (VCCP)

    We will contact you as soon as the final report is available. We didn't want to wait to notify you of this important meeting.

    Please read the final report and come to the meeting. We hope to see you there.

    Contact us if you have any questions or comments.

    Virginia M. Thomas, Co-Chair Bill McCormack, Co-Chair "


    Monday, March 20, 2017

    A budget is a moral document

          Like a lot of liberals these days I am re-reading George Orwell's book "1984."  While this 1946 book is interesting in the ways it saw the government controlling the thoughts of its citizens with pre digital technology such at television and vacuum tubes it has given us a vernacular that describes our "alternative facts" world today.   Orwell's book uses words like "doublespeak" and "realspeak" to show how to distort reality and facts.
          Trump's budget requests need to be looked at with some reality.   What is being proposed is a 10% increase in defense and homeland security spending and a matching reduction in non military spending.  As Trump states, " We will be substantially upgrading all of our military, all of our military, offensive, defensive, everything. Bigger and better and stronger than ever before..."  We are presently spending the same amount as the next largest 8 countries military budgets.  We need more to be safe?
          By cutting the rest of the non military budget we should look at where we stand in this Country in relation to other countries in non military areas.  In the area of health care for our citizens we consistently rank below other developed countries for health outcomes despite spending double what other countries spend.  In a report by the Commonwealth Fund we came in 11th out of 11.

    "11 nations studied in this report—Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States—the U.S. ranks last, as it did in the 2010, 2007, 2006, and 2004 editions of Mirror, Mirror..."

        We rank seventh in literacy, 27th in math, 22nd in science.  So the budget calls for a 14% reduction in the Department of Education.  We're 49th in life expectancy and 178th in infant mortality.  So the proposed budget calls for an 18% cut in the Health and Human Services budget.  Add to this an almost 6 billion dollar cut to NIH and you see how growing our military industrial complex impacts our quality of life.
         Elections do have consequences.  Even ones that ignore the popular vote. Now you know the winners ( military/industrial complex) and the losers (the rest of us).

         If you want to see the biggest losers just look at the 31% decrease to the EPA and the 29% decrease to the State Department.  I would guess those cuts will be reduced if there is any sanity in Congress.

        Petition to cut off health insurance to members of Congress.

    Sunday, March 19, 2017

    Life directions

       Every Sunday I look at the best selling nonfiction books in the Baltimore Sun to see where the latest trends in pop psychology are going.  After weeding through the books addressing weight issues (The Lose Your Belly Fat Diet) and the how to become more financially secure (Unshakeable: Your Financial Freedom) I see that two pop psychology books point us in opposite directions.  The first is a book called "The Little Things: Why You Should Really Sweat the Small Stuff" and a second one called "The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life."  Now I am confused on the direction in life I should take!  Maybe I will just try to make it through today and see how that works.

    Saturday, March 18, 2017

    That look says it all

        If we could read Angela Merkel mind I bet this is what we would hear, "You traded Barack Obama for this guy??"

        Priorities, priorities!
    "As Quartz reported on Friday, after this weekend, Trump will have already spent about $16.5 million on trips to Mar-a-Lago. For that amount, Meals on Wheels could feed 5,967 seniors for a year and after school programs could feed 114,583 children for a year."

          Let them eat cake!   Talk about inefficiency.

    Friday, March 17, 2017

    Riced vegetables?

       The latest trend to get us to eat more vegetables seems to have been directed to "ricing" our vegetables.  


    Thursday, March 16, 2017

    "Something happened here" Storytelling program with the 50th Columbia Birthday Celebration

       Storytelling is an excellent way to share and pass on oral history.  In fact this might be the oldest way that history was shared.  In this regard the Howard County Conservancy is sponsoring this storytelling program in connection with Columbia's 50th Birthday Celebration.  Should be worth checking out.


    Wednesday, March 15, 2017

    Trumpcare (Obamacare 0.5?) vs. Obamacare

         Remember Colin Powell's saying that "If you break it, you own it."   Somehow it wouldn't surprise me that any alternative to Obamacare will only spell trouble for Republican elected officials.  Anyone who thinks that the Republican replacement for Obamacare will actually be a rational alternative health care proposal would be disappointed.  The fact that this is the political reality is that many of the proposed changes will only happen after the 2018 and 2020 elections.  What is being proposed is simply a way to insure that health care will be less available and at a possibly greater cost than what we presently have with Obamacare.  What may seem like an alternative health care bill is really only another Republican attempt to limit government and do a tax cut for the wealthy.  Health care reform is only a smoke screen.
         Where to start to explain the differences between Obamacare and Trumpcare?  The starting point should be a look at 3 factors that drive the healthcare discussion.  Those 3 factors are 1) how many people get healthcare coverage, 2) how does it impact the rising cost of health insurance and 3) what is the cost to the government to subsidy the cost of healthcare insurance.   Here is how each plan addresses those 3 areas of healthcare.
           Obamacare has given approximately 20 million more people health insurance coverage than before the program.  The percentage of people uninsured before Obamacare was 15% and after it has fallen to 9.7%.  The number would have been substantially higher if the Supreme Court had not ruled that states don't have to take federal funds to increase the number of persons eligible for Medicaid.  An additional 5 million people could gain coverage if those states expanded Medicaid coverage. While it is hard to do an unbiased look at the costs of Obamacare but there is substantial healthcare  tax revenue generated to provide money to subsidize the cost for low and moderate income persons to purchase health insurance without substantially increasing the deficit.   The third area of controlling the rise in cost of health insurance.  While the cost of health insurance has increased for those that had low cost catastrophic coverage on average the rise in cost for insurance on average under Obamacare was less than before the legislation.

         So with Obamacare you get additional people covered with health insurance without a big impact on the federal deficit but without substantial measures to control the rising cost of healthcare.
          In examining the House proposed healthcare legislation supported by Trump its impact in the 3 areas is harder to examine as it is proposed but here is a best guess.  In the first area of how many people will have insurance coverage it is estimated by the Congressional Budget Office that  24 million people will lose their health insurance under the Trumpcare plan.   Expanding coverage will never be a realistic goal of any plan coming out from Republicans.   In the second area of impact on the federal deficit the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the federal will decrease by   337 billion under Trumpcare because of reduced Medicaid and federal subsidy funds to make insurance more affordable.  In the third area of controlling the rise in healthcare costs the Washington Post said this:
      "The CBO report predicted that premiums would be 15 percent to 20 percent higher in the first year compared with those under the Affordable Care Act but 10 percent lower on average after 2026. By and large, older Americans would pay 'substantially' more and younger Americans less."
         So where are the most problematic area of Trumpcare?  Start with doing away with the individual mandate that everyone has to have health insurance or pay a tax penalty.  This is the most hated part of the Obamacare program and yet it makes the other parts of the bill, like not penalizing people with pre-conditions and not allowing lifetime maximum limits, work.  I am not sure why this component is considered so bad when it is similar to requiring everyone who drives a car to have car insurance.  Can you imagine how many drivers would go uninsured if they didn't have to have insurance? Insurance only works if the risk is spread over enough people not using the insurance to subsidize the people who need the insurance.  That is the reason for insurance.

         So if you wanted to address the problem areas to reform Obamacare to make it work better here is what you would want to do:
    1.Regulate insurers so they can’t refuse or charge high premiums to people with preexisting conditions
    2.Impose some substantial penalty on people who don’t buy insurance, to induce healthy people to sign up and provide a workable risk pool.  The penalty should be higher than the cost of buying insurance.
    3.Subsidize premiums so that lower-income households can afford insurance.

    P.S. 1
        If we as a country wanted to provide health care with the best outcomes in a cost effective manner we wouldn't be developing systems like Obamacare or Trumpcare we would have a single payer like our friends up north and every other advanced country in the world.

    P.S. 2

         Looking at my microwave this morning I saw that Kelly Anne Conway may have been right after all!

    Tuesday, March 14, 2017

    Howard County snow plow tracker

       Yesterday I got over 120 hits on a post I did on December 16, 2016.  Wonder what the blog post was on?  The Howard County Snowplow Tracker! So I thought I would post it again today.


    Monday, March 13, 2017

    Columbia Association Dialogues on Diversity in Columbia

       Information from the Columbia Association:

    "Interested in fostering a more inclusive Columbia? Want to find common ground and learn from community members who are different from you? 

    Please consider participating in facilitated, small group discussions on the intersections of race, class and culture. The goal of ColumbiaDialogues is to create a personal and collective commitment among participants to help make the community more inclusive. Each group will reflect the diversity of our community so that we can learn from each other.

    If interested, please use this link to learn more on how you can participate. The deadline to apply is Tuesday, March 28. Sessions will begin this spring. If interest exceeds capacity, CA may hold additional sessions in the future and/or work with other organizations to sponsor similar sessions.

    ColumbiaDialogues is a community service provided through a partnership of representatives of faith-based, educational and civic organizations and sponsored in part by Columbia 50th Birthday Celebration, Inc. We thank the HCPSS Office of Cultural Proficiency for providing the trained facilitators for these dialogues.

    To request disability-related accommodation or ask questions, please email: "


    Friday, March 10, 2017

    Don't throw away all the items from your Spring cleaning


       This week I made one of my infrequent trips to the Howard County landfill.  This type of trip is less frequent than it used to be because I use Columbia Freecycle to get rid of anything that might be of use to someone else.  Trust me, it is amazing how things that I think no one would want get freecycled.  If you have never joined the thousands of others who belong to the Columbia Freecycle do it now and make less trips to the landfill after your Spring cleaning.

         What I took to the landfill this year was a baby high chair and crib.  With the new safety regulations you are not suppose to sell or freecycle old ones that don't meet these standards.  I guess the safety guidelines are good but it sure seemed like a waste to fill up the landfill with these items that had been used without any problems for our family.


    Thursday, March 9, 2017

    Traffic headaches in Columbia

         Just a heads up that there are two traffic bottlenecks the next few weeks in Columbia.  As if the work on the sewer lines on Little Patuxent Parkway by the Columbia Mall wasn't enough, delivery of bridge trusses for the construction of a portion of Merriweather Drive in Symphony Woods the next few days will interrupt the traffic flow on the Parkway anywhere near the Mall.  Yesterday there were major traffic jams in Town Center on the Parkway.
        The second bottleneck is the repaving of Brokenland Parkway.


    Wednesday, March 8, 2017

    Nora's Kabob

            Afghan food seems to be one of those food tends that is showing up in more restaurants in our area.  While the traditional Afghan food choices are varied we seem to generally only see a limited amount of choices in our American Afghan restaurants.
          We have had Maiwand Kabob in Columbia for a long time but now another place has opened that is worth a try.  Nora's Kabob in the Valley Green Shopping Center in Ellicott City provides a tasty menu at reasonable prices.
         The menu selections that range from chicken and lamb kabobs

       To the best Gyro that I have ever had.

       The baklava unfortunately was appealing to look at but not as light and flaky as I would have liked.

         The espresso creme brulee was a better dessert choice. 


    Monday, March 6, 2017

    Living books at the Howard County Library

        Next Saturday at the Miller Branch from 1-5 pm the Library's Choose Civility program is presenting a program called The Human Library. From their website:
      "The Human Library™ is an international initiative designed to build a positive framework for conversations that can challenge stereotypes and prejudices through dialogue. It’s a place where real people are on loan to readers, and a place where difficult questions are expected, appreciated, and answered. As in a traditional library, visitors to the Human Library can choose Books from a range of titles. But at the Human Library, Books are people, and the reading is a conversation! Read a Living Book and learn about a different culture or community through questions and conversations.

    Howard County Library System’s Human Library will feature a diverse array of Human Books, including:

    Immigrants from many different countries
    Members of the Muslim faith
    A member of the Sikh faith
    A person of the Christian faith and survivor of suicide loss
    People who have been targeted by racism
    A Parsee person of the Zoroastrian faith
    A person who is transgender
    A veteran who has PTSD
    A person who has an invisible illness
    A survivor of genocide
    A person with bipolar 1 disorder

    The event runs from 1 to 5 pm. Sign up on a first come, first served basis beginning at 1 pm on Saturday, March 11.

    The Human Library is designed to be a welcoming, inclusive, non-partisan space with no political agenda."

    Friday, March 3, 2017

    Howard County Property Tax rebate for seniors

       The Howard County Office of Finance are now taking applications for the Senior Tax Credit program for 2017.  Here is the info on this program and a link to the application.  

       "To be eligible for the Senior Tax Credit for Tax Year 2017, you must be at least 65 years of age as of June 30, 2017, have combined gross household income that does not exceed $81,200, and have net worth that does not exceed $500,000. The property on which you seek the credit must be your principal residence. The credit is granted against County residential real property tax. Application must be submitted by September 1, 2017. The amount of credit is 25% of the County property tax due in the current year after applying the Homestead Credit. The amount of the credit is calculated after all other credits granted for the property have been applied."

        Fact of the day:
     60% of lawyers in the world live in the United States


    Thursday, March 2, 2017

    Cars defaced in Howard County

          What we have seen in the past 18 months from Donald Trump has been one form of hate and anger directed at immigrants, a disabled reporter, the news media, our intelligence community and women has unleashed actions of hate and vandalism that has even reached into our local community.  While actions from both the extreme right and left has its troublemakers the words and actions of a person like the President bring a level of discourse that reaches new limits.   To speak out after the fact to decry the actions that you indirectly encouraged with your words is disingenuous.

        It is especially troubling to see that the labeling of immigrants as criminals by the President has encouraged local vandals to deface cars around our County.  Actions like this are terrorism in that they are designed to create fear in our community.  The tone, words and actions of the current Administration are the precursor to the more extreme actions of the vandals.  Your code words are understood for what they represent to those who want to use intimidation and violence against the people and groups you degrade.  Degrading a group is the first step in bringing on violence against that group.  President Obama was mocked as being "politically correct" for not falsely labeling groups and carefully choosing his words.  There is no virtue in being politically incorrect when you degrade and mock individuals, groups and the media falsely.


    Tuesday, February 28, 2017

    5 year blogging retrospective

         With the end of February I have been blogging for 5 years.  That makes me one of the most senior bloggers in Howard County.  I have posted close to 1700 times.  When I started blogging I wanted to re-engage with Howard County after having worked outside of Howard County for 11 years.  The blog has certainly done that more than I could have known.  It has connected me with so many interesting residents of our County.  Howard County is such a dynamic and thriving community.  I hope I have shared information in ways that informed readers about our community and the broader world in which we live.
         I started this blog to have a non political focus but that has been a challenge over the past year or two.  The current Administration and the Republican Congress have taken positions that I find reprehensible to my beliefs of what this Country should represent to the world.  This Administration's drift in an authoritarian direction horrifies me. Trump has so many disgusting qualities that it is hard to believe he could ever be seen a choice to lead this County.  Having said this I will try to keep a local focus to my posts (if I can do that!)
         You may have noticed that I post less frequently than I have in past years.   Last year I posted 127 less times than I did in 2012.  I wouldn't be surprised that the trend will continue.  It seems that every year of my retirement gets busier and I find less time to blog.  Plus every year I resolve to read more and this year is no exception.
         I really do enjoy and appreciate comments to my posts.  Even the negative comments!  So I encourage readers to post comments.

    Monday, February 27, 2017

    What happens in Maryland if the Affordable Health Care program is killed?

          While the Affordable Care Act has many flaws that have reduced its effectiveness in ensuring that everyone in Maryland has health care insurance the legislation has provided insurance for over 350,000 Marylanders, many of whom were uninsured before the ACA.  Who can forget the botched roll out in Maryland the first year.   Each year since fortunately has operated smoothly in expanding the health care safety net in Maryland.
          The Trump administration's agenda includes a repeal of the ACA and a replacement program that remains unclear.  Many officials in the Maryland Legislature are interested in setting up a Commission to study what repeal and reduction in the program's benefits would mean for Maryland residents.  The Senate Bill 571, with Sen. Guzzone and Sen. Kasemeyer as a co-sponsors, would establish a  Maryland Health Insurance Coverage Protection Commission that would :
         "(i) conduct a study to assess the impact of potential federal changes 13 to the ACA, Medicaid, and Medicare;  
        ( ii) provide recommendations for State and local action to protect 15 access of residents of the State to affordable health coverage.  The study conducted under paragraph (1) of this subsection shall include: an assessment of the current and potential adverse effects of the loss of health coverage on the residents, public health, and economy of the State resulting from a repeal or weakening of the ACA, Medicaid, or Medicare;  an estimate of the costs to the State and State residents of adverse effects from a repeal or weakening of the ACA, Medicaid, or Medicare and the resulting loss of health coverage; 
         (iii) an examination of measures that may prevent or mitigate the adverse effects of a repeal or weakening of the ACA, Medicaid, or Medicare and the resulting loss of health coverage on the residents, public health, and economy of the State; and 
         (iv) recommendations for laws that: 1. may be warranted to minimize the adverse effects 30 associated with a repeal or weakening of the ACA, Medicaid, or Medicare; and 2. will assist residents in obtaining and maintaining affordable health coverage. "

       The Commission could hold public hearings around the State before submitting their report to the Governor and the General Assembly by the end of this year.
        Time will tell what type of health insurance coverage will be available in the upcoming years.  The dynamic between a Republican Governor and a Democrat controlled General Assembly will show how progressive Maryland really is.

         The local Indivisible group in Columbia is holding a town hall at the Owen Brown Interfaith Center on the future of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) this Sunday at 5 pm.


    Friday, February 24, 2017

    Obama just missed making the top 10 Presidents

       C-Span has been doing a survey of historians since around 2000 on how they would rank our presidents.  While there is a positive bias toward more recent presidents it is interesting to see where the recently retired Barack Obama came in the most recent poll.  Obama came in at number 12 out of 44 past presidents isn't a bad place in your first poll.  When you look at how many of the past presidents who left office unpopular and are now ranked high it wouldn't be surprising to have Obama move into the top 10 in a few years.  An example of this is Harry Truman.  He left office with a 22% approval rating and is now ranked as the 6 best president.  Lyndon Johnson was so unpopular that he chose to not run for reelection but is now ranked at number 10.   In fact the period from Franklin Roosevelt to Lyndon Johnson has been called the "golden age of the American presidency" with all five presidents in the top 10--- FDR (3), Harry Truman (6), Dwight Eisenhower (5), John F. Kennedy (8) and Lyndon Johnson (10).

    Wednesday, February 22, 2017

    World-renowned luminarium attraction set to light up Columbia during 50th Birthday Celebration

        As the Columbia 50th birthday celebration get closer the Columbia Association had this information about one way we will celebrate.

    "The famed Katena Luminarium has thrilled audiences in Europe and will be part of the festivities during the Columbia Festival of the Arts from June 16th to 18th at the Downtown Columbia Lakefront. Luminaria are monumental inflatable structures designed to generate a sense of wonder at the beauty of light and radiant colors, all within a dazzling maze of winding paths and soaring domes. It was designed by the Architects of Air’s founder and creative director, Alan Parkinson."

    "The weatherproof luminarium will be situated in the open space adjacent to Whole Foods Market off Little Patuxent Parkway. The experience will be free of charge to enter. The luminarium is accessible to wheelchairs and people with mobility difficulties. Children under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult (maximum of four children per adult)."

         Link to the articles that Len Lazarick has written on Columbia's history.


    Friday, February 17, 2017

    Gun advocates in their alternative world

          Yes, we live a liberal bubble in Columbia.  A trip to many other parts of our Country shows how different we are.  The picture above was taken in Florida, a gun loving, stand your ground kinda place.  That is a non functional weapon on top of this Jeep.  It was proudly parked outside a guns and ammo store.  I kinda expected a bumper sticker on the Jeep that said "My other vehicle is a tank."
          I have long recognized that I will never fully comprehend the mentality of people living in the 21 Century thinking that carrying guns for personal protection, like it was the 19th Century in the Wild West, makes sense.   I can understand hunters and other recreational users of guns.  As a former hunter/gun owner who grew up in a rural area I knew many people who owned guns for those purposes.  I can't imagine any of them ever thought of packing a sidearm when they went to town. It's the concealed weapons, stand your ground advocates that I don't understand.
           The latest example of distorted thinking was the recent House Republicans voting to give people the Social Security Administration has determined to be mentally incompetent to handle their own affairs the right to own a weapon.   I know that the NRA feels that any, and I do mean any, restrictions on owning a weapon is a slippery slope they will fight us going down.


    This is who supposedly need extreme vetting

    But not this person

        Proud to be a Marylander!