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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The real winners and losers in the Republican "health care" plan

   

     It is easy to see the winners in the Senate Republican health care legislation.   Those couples making more than $250,000 or a single person making more than $200,000 will have a repeal of the 0.9% additional Medicare tax and 3.8% tax on investment income put in place with Obamacare legislation.   For someone with a million dollars in investment income that would be an additional $38,000 in taxes.   These taxes are to pay for the dollars to fund the subsidies given to lower and moderate income persons purchasing health care through the exchanges.
     While there are a variety of losers with the Republican health care bills there is one group that will probably be the biggest losers.    The Republican plan would have the amount spent on Medicaid over the next ten years at the amount spent in 2016.  Obamacare would have the amount spent growing by a little over 200 billion dollars in the ten years.    Before Obamacare Medicaid paid for medical care for elderly poor (mainly in nursing home care), the disabled, pregnant women and children.  Obamacare through expanded eligibility gave Medicaid to those making 138% the federal poverty level or $21,000 for a single person, $28,000 for a couple or $42,000 for a family of four.   Most of this expansion went to what we would call "the working poor."    Someone making minimum wage would make $15,000 a year and someone making $10 an hour would make $20,000.   With the Republican plan of no growth in Medicaid funding this group of working poor is where the cuts would be most dramatic.  The groups funded by Medicaid before the Obamacare will continue to have priority on the Medicaid dollars and it will be the working poor that will be most impacted by the reduction in funding.
       So there you have it.   People making over $250,000 get a tax break and the working poor lose their Medicaid coverage.  Sure these working poor can buy insurance in the health care pools but they will probably only afford the lowest level of coverage which has a $6,000 deductible every year.   This deductible will mean that most will go without any health insurance coverage.   Hospitals are against the legislation because they know that these working poor will be back using the emergency rooms for routine care that will be uncompensated care.

P.S.
     Amazingly Trumps promises during the campaign seem to have fallen flat.  Here are some examples:
       1) You will get so tired of winning you will say stop I can't take anymore winning.   Here is his "winning" record.
        2)  If you elected Hillary Clinton you will have one investigation after another.  Now who should you have voted for if you were afraid of having a president under investigation?
        3)  What type of health care program does Trump want?  What plan does he deliver?  Obamacare still around over 100 days into the Trump Administration
        4) Trump accused Hillary Clinton of having too many Wall Street ties.
         5) Trump on destroying ISIS.  Has ISSI been destroyed yet?  Just like Nixon's secret plan to end the Vietnam War that lasted longer than his presidency.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Columbia turns 50 today






     50 years ago today the first residents of Columbia moved in.  While we have many examples of beautiful buildings and amenities in Columbia the fact that Jim Rouse gave us a great deal of natural beauty is what still defines Columbia at 50.

P.S.
      As a 40 year resident of Columbia I can only image how the next 50 years will play out in Columbia but my hope is that our community will retain its unique qualities that adhere to the principles that Jim Rouse espoused so well at our founding.   It is a legacy worth passing on to our children and grandchildren.

#hocoblogs

Why Obamacare is not working well

 

    Contrary to what Republican opponents of the Affordable Health Care Act want you to believe the program is working well in areas that have multiple insurers offering insurance.    So why is there a problem in other areas?  Two factors are significant in the program not working.  First, states that didn't expanded Medicaid eligibility have less success offering affordable insurance.  Those people eligible for expanded Medicaid tend to be less healthy and putting them in the market pools raises the costs of those pools.  States that expanded Medicaid mostly have more affordable private market pools.   Second, the lack of a mandate to purchase insurance has kept younger, healthier people out of the private market pools.  These young people are likely to purchase insurance only after they have an illness.  It is like being able to buy home insurance after you had a fire.  Think about how healthy the home insurance market would be if you could buy the insurance after you needed it.
      What will come out of the Republican controlled Congress soon will not address either of these issues because their intent is not to fix the issues with the program but to propose ways that will further weaken the program so that they can kill the program and return us to the old situation of having millions uninsured.   Their talk of improving the program is just a cruel smokescreen for their real intent.  It seems that the United States will continue to be the only major Western democracy that doesn't view healthcare as a right.  I guess we have to take "comfort" in the fact that our budget priorities still give us the military capacity to "bomb the *hit" out of our perceived enemies.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

"The Keepers" on Netflix is riveting in its story of sexual abuse by priests

    

    Whenever I hear someone talk about the "good old days" as a simpler, gentler time I can't help but think of the many bad things that were a reality in those "good old days."   Sexism, racism and physical punishment were acceptable facts of daily life.  I was reminded of this recently watching the Netflix show "The Keepers" about sexual abuse by two priests in Baltimore in the not too distant past.  The series centers around the murder of a nun who was ready to blow the whistle on the abuse. The fact that one of the priest was responsible for an Elkridge church makes the show even more relevant.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The heART of Columbia exhibit has opened

   The heART of Columbia exhibit opens on Saturday, June 10 at The Rouse Company Foundation Gallery at Howard Community College. The opening reception is Sunday, June 18 from 4 to 6pm. It is free and open to the public. Gallery hours are 10am to 9:30pm daily.

Columbia Archives, in collaboration with Howard Community College, has gathered artifacts, photographs, documents and ephemera from a number of arts organizations and the Archives collection. Collectively, they tell the story of the importance of the arts to building the Columbia community. 

The exhibit begins with the commitment of The Rouse Company to providing a music venue and public art and how that continues to evolve, and it then highlights the growth of organizations such as the Howard County Poetry and Literature Society, Columbia Center of Theatrical Arts, Toby's Dinner Theatre, Columbia Orchestra, the African American Museum of Art, and the Faithful Quilters who created a Columbia quilt that Jim Rouse bought and was part of his personal collection.  

Jim Rouse believed in bringing art to the community and providing a platform for artists. The story of Merriweather Post Pavilion, public art, and the cultivation of arts organizations speaks to the achievement of Rouse's belief.

#hocoblogs

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Highlight of the 50th Birthday Celebration starting this Friday: The Architects of Air

From the 50th Columbia Birthday Celebration Committee:

Architects of Air: Katena Luminarium
June 16, 17 & 18 | On The Columbia Lakefront Presented in Partnership with Columbia’s 50th Birthday






     The highlight of this year’s Free Opening Weekend will be the Architects of Air: Katena Luminarium, presented in partnership with Columbia’s 50th Birthday. Katena is a soaring structure that has been seen across the globe and is now coming to Columbia. A luminarium is an inflatable multi-room lighted sculpture that people enter for an encounter with the phenomenon of light. Those who enter the structure experience a spectacular and surreal world, touring visually stunning interiors. The installation awakens all the senses, creating a sense of wonder and enchantment for all ages. Visitors are transported and immersed in an amazing world of architectural beauty with subtle and saturated hues, creating a unique visual arts sensory experience, in ways you wouldn’t expect.

   The inflatable walk-in sculpture from the United Kingdom will be free and open to all, June 16-18, 2017. It is part of this summer’s Columbia Festival of the Arts free weekend Your Summer Starts Here! and Columbia’s 50th Birthday Celebration at the Columbia Town Center Lakefront . The three-day event includes live music, kids’ entertainment and crafts, a fine arts and craft sale, festival food fare, a beer garden, wine tastings, and a variety of activities for all ages.

    How to Enter
Katena is free of charge to enter and is accessible to wheelchair users and individuals with mobility difficulties. Children under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult (maximum 4 children per adult). There may be a short wait time before entrance is possible. There is no time restriction on how long you stay inside Katena, though we suggest 20 minutes as the maximum time, allowing other visitors to enter the luminarium. For the safety of the structure, guests are required to remove their shoes to enter Katena (with rare exceptions for medical reasons). For more information on the luminarium, visit architects-of-air.com

Hours of Operation:
Friday, June 16, 5pm-10:10pm
Saturday, June 17, Noon-10:10pm
Sunday, June 18, Noon-6:40pm

Parking and Shuttle Service
Free parking (including Handicap Parking) is available nearby at the Wincopin Circle and Sheraton parking garages. Visitors can also park at the Sterrett Place lot located at 5575 Sterrett Place.

Take the Shuttle to the Festival!
On Saturday, June 17, and Sunday, June 18, departing every 15 minutes, FREE shuttle service is being provided by Howard Transit between parking lots B and C at Howard Community College (located at 10901 Little Patuxent Parkway Columbia, Maryland 21044) and the Downtown Columbia Lakefront. For details visit columbiafestival.org

LakeFest Shuttle Schedule:

Saturday, June 17
Departures from Howard Community College: starting at 11:45 am; last departure at 11:00 pm.
Departures from Columbia LakeFront, Wincopin Circle: starting at 12:15 pm; last departure at 11:30 pm.

Sunday, June 18
Departures from Howard Community College: starting at 11:45 am; last departure at 7:00 pm.
Departures from Columbia LakeFront, Wincopin Circle: starting at 12:15 pm; last departure at 7:30 pm.

View this video to discover the experience of walking through an Architects of Air Luminarium

P.S. 1
     Video showing the exhibit going up.



#hocoblogs














Monday, June 12, 2017

A few Bill Mahr observations

   Bill Maher's Real Time HBO show is a must watch for any liberal these days.  Here is a little of his humor.

Is this just the way the World is rubbing our faces in the ground with their leaders?

French President Macron



Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau



Our gloriously Electoral College elected leader



Bill has pointed out traits of Trump that resemble those of a dictator

1)  appoint members of your family as close advisors
2)  you hate the press and talk about jailing reporters and your political opponents
3)  blur the line between public duties and personal financial gain
4)  repeatedly lie even when there is evidence to the contrary
5)  people have to constantly flatter you to keep their jobs
6)  put your name on everything you do
7)  you love missile parades
8)  you have better relationships with other dictators than democratically elected leaders
9)  your rallies are really scary

Thursday, June 8, 2017

First exclusive pickleball courts in Maryland at Atholton Park

 
Image may contain: 7 people, people smiling, tree, outdoor and nature



Image may contain: 1 person, outdoor

     Last week Howard County became the first place in Maryland to have pickleball designed courts. Located in Allview at 6875 Greenleigh Dr, Columbia, MD 21046.  These courts are available anytime the park is open.  The Howard County Pickleball Association will be hosting some instructional sessions at these courts in the near future.  Here is a link to their website.


P.S.
      Link to WBAL TV story on courts.

P.S. 1
      Pickleball play explained.

#hocoblogs

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Admiral Mike Rogers on cybersecurity


     Last week I had a chance to hear Admiral Mike Rogers, the head of the National Security Agency, at a United Way talk about the threats we all face living in the digital world.  With all the craziness going on today about hacking and other cyber issues I didn't want to miss an opportunity to hear how Admiral Rodgers views this reality.  Admiral Rodgers will be testifying today at a hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee on the Russian hacking.
     The heart of what Admiral Rodgers said was that smart technology has given us amazing capabilities that we now carry around in our pockets.   We have access to information that even 10-15 years ago was unimaginable.  However with this technology we have vulnerabilities to our personal data that has to be fully recognized.  One example of this that you have never thought of is that with our appliances becoming "smart" information about our daily interactions may become known to criminals who want to break into our homes or harm us.  Maybe our microwaves listening to our conversations, like Kelly Ann Conway said, isn't as crazy as we thought.
     Of even more concerning is the ability of a hackers to infiltrate and shut down important part of our infrastructure such as the energy grid.  The way our energy grid is now connected to share energy among many suppliers makes it vulnerable to "bot" attacks and other threats that could cause disruptions that have life threatening impacts.   You can be sure that as our utilities attempt to build in protections against cyber attacks the attackers will be constantly testing any system for vulnerabilities.  The "cat and mouse" game moves to the digital platform.

P.S.
      One humorous comment that Rogers made came when he was asked if NSA has difficulty recruiting talented cyber professionals when they will never be salary competitive with the private market.  He said "we tell recruits that working at the NSA will give them a chance to do things for which anywhere else they would get arrested."

P.S. 1
     And you thought they spent all their time laying eggs!

#hocoblogs

Monday, June 5, 2017

Summer nonfiction read

 


     I have just finished reading Steven Pinker's book "The Better Angels of our Nature: Why Violence has Declined."   If you asked people today if they think that violence has increased or decreased most people would say that it has increased and they would be wrong.  This book shows with statistics how we are living in a time with the least violence in history.   Do you know that school shootings are no more common today than they were in the past? The amount of attention given to violence by the media gives people the opposite impression.  Here is how the book describes the changes:

    "In this startling new book, the bestselling cognitive scientist Steven Pinker shows that the world of the past was much worse. With the help of more than a hundred graphs and maps, Pinker presents some astonishing numbers. Tribal warfare was nine times as deadly as war and genocide in the 20th century. The murder rate of Medieval Europe was more than thirty times what it is today. Slavery, sadistic punishments, and frivolous executions were unexceptionable features of life for millennia, then suddenly were targeted for abolition. Wars between developed countries have vanished, and even in the developing world, wars kill a fraction of the people they did a few decades ago. Rape, battering, hate crimes, deadly riots, child abuse, cruelty to animals—all substantially down."

    Interestingly the most important reason for the decline in violence is community lack of tolerance to violence against certain groups.  This applies to once societal accepted violence against women, children, minorities and animals.  The human and civil rights movements of the past 50 years have had an impact on the use of violence on these groups.  The use of derogatory words and descriptions of targeted groups gives those with a more violent tendency the license to act out violently.  Think about that the next time you hear someone deriding "political correctness."

P.S.

      Interesting quote from the book written in 2011, "While there is no such thing as the IQ of speech...political psychologists have identified a variable called integrative complexity that captures a sense of intellectual balance, nuance and sophistication.  A passage that is low in integrative complexity stakes out an opinion and relentlessly hammers it home without nuance or qualification.  It's minimal complexity can be quantified  by counting words like absolutely, always, certainty, definitely, entirely, forever, indisputable, irrefutable, undoubtedly and unquestionably."
     Now listen to this video.

Friday, June 2, 2017

How "Blue" is Maryland

    

    With Trump's decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Accords states and localities have to decide if they will position their jurisdictions to support the goals of the Accords.  A few states have already signaled that they will take the lead in following the goals of the Accords.  California, Washington and New York will work to reduce their carbon footprint in spite of what the Administration has decided.   The question is will Maryland, being a blue state, follow the lead of these states and join an alliance with other progressive states to counteract the stupidity coming from Washington these days.
      Our Republican governor has been caught in the middle between the Trump Administration and a progressive Maryland Legislature on a number of issues such as health care, sick leave and now climate issues.  Straddling that divide may provide politically tricky as his re-election comes up next year.  His popularity may take a hit if he is not seen as aligning himself with the progressive efforts that go against the current Republican Tea Party orthodoxy.  This is a tough time to be a "moderate" conservative in a blue state. 

P.S.
     Thanks Syria for joining us in not signing onto the Accords.  They must be distracted at the moment with bigger issues.   While Syria not signing the Accords isn't a big deal as they don't make the list as a CO2 polluter the US is safely in the number 2 position in the world.   Why does it seem that the US generally scores high in the world in areas that are negative?

P.S. 1 
   A little humor from the New Yorker.


     
     


Thursday, June 1, 2017

Our stupid obsession with lawns

  

     Recently the Freakonomics website had a podcast to listen to  about our obsession with lawns.  Here is a link to the site and the audio of podcast.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Graffiti Time!


     Happened to notice the new graffiti on the Quick Mart and pool building in Owen Brown this morning.  I have never understood the point of graffiti other than to express anger at something.  I can't also understand the symbolism of this graffiti other than the profanity. Anyone able to decipher these messages?  One explanation for graffiti is here.







Monday, May 29, 2017

Friday, May 26, 2017

Spring smells

   

    One of the enjoyable benefits of going out early in the morning in Spring for a run is that you get to experience the smells of Spring.   From the sweet smells of honeysuckle and other flowers to the earthy smells of fungus and rotting wood the Spring provides our sense of smell with a lesson on the diversity of nature.   With our heavy wooded areas in and around Columbia we have many places to experience these smells.  On this holiday weekend take time to enjoy this early morning experience that will all come to pass too soon.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

And you thought it couldn't get weirder



Where is Harry Potter??  I kept waiting for Trump's hair sprayed hair to stand up like at the Maryland Science Center exhibit on static electricity.


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Annual cicadas post



     We seem to have a new abundant crop of cicadas this past week as seen in the pictures above.  I counted a dozen on the tire of one of our vehicles.  It is fascinating to understand how they all know to come out of the ground at the same time.  Here is what I found out:

“The year of cicada emergence is cued by what I and others believe to be an internal molecular clock,” she said. “The clock is most likely calibrated by environmental cues that signify the passage of a year, such as the trees leafing out, changing the composition of the xylem fluid on which they feed. The molecular clock keeps track of the passage of years. The accumulation of 13 or 17 years triggers the emergence of fifth instar nymphs. The day of emergence is triggered by accumulated ground temperature. This was demonstrated by James Heath in a study published in 1968.”


My colleagues and I hypothesize a molecular clock in periodic cicadas that somehow keeps track of the years,” he said. “That is what we’re looking for now. We suspect it is tied to yearly cycles of the trees they are feeding upon.”

In 2007 in Cincinnati, it was warm in January but there was a hard freeze in February, and then a normal spring, which caused maple trees to produce two leaf sets that year. Hundreds of cicadas feeding on those trees emerged a year early, after the trees produced 17 leaf sets in 16 years.

During years when they are set to emerge, the time of year is determined by soil temperature.

“Emergence is temperature driven,” said Dr. Kritsky. “During the last emergence in our area, I planted temperature probes in the ground all over campus to track the emergence. The cicadas emerged over a period of two weeks after the soil temperature reached 65 °F (18 °C).”
P.S.

   Roasted cicadas anyone?  They are gluten free!





#hocoblogs








Monday, May 22, 2017

44 years ago in US history repeating itself?

 

     For those of you who are two young to remember 44 years ago this week the Senate Watergate Hearings were starting.  Testimony at this set of hearings revealed the taping system at the White House that ultimately led to the firing of special prosecutor Archibald Cox by President Nixon.  Those tapes eventually were turned over to the Committee and they provided the "smoking gun" that led to the Nixon resignation.
     I was working at a hospital in Washington DC at the time and I remember getting up after working the evening shift to having breakfast and watching the hearings that were being held live on TV.   PBS even ran the tape of the hearings every evening.  Everyday we waited to see what new revelations would come out of that day's hearings.  John Dean, Bob Ehrlichman, H.R. Haldeman and finally Alexander Butterfield's testimony started to fill in the pieces that led to Nixon's impeachment because of his obstruction of justice.
       I can't help but having a sense of deja vu when I watch the news this past week.  Another firing to stop an investigation, hints of a taping system, former National Security Chief claiming the 5th and Trump bragging about the firing to his Russian friends and thinking this might end the investigation.  At least Nixon never admitted his obstruction of justice.  Can't wait for the testimony of former FBI Chief Comey after Memorial Day.  You can bet I will be watching the TV that day.

P.S.
      We know that with the Republicans in control of Congress it will be difficult to move too far toward impeachment but the Republican dam might be cracking just a little bit.






Saturday, May 20, 2017

Cost of college explained

     The United States came out of World War II with the commitment to providing college educations to veterans and those unable to afford the cost.  This trend continued through most of the 1960's and 1970's.  Costs at public colleges was heavily subsidized.  I was a beneficiary of this reality when I only had to pay $500 a semester in both undergraduate and graduate college.  Easy to obtain scholarships allowed me to graduate with money in the bank from working summers and no debt.
   

     Just at a time when a higher education is needed more than ever the reality is that funding for college is falling behind the cost of college.  Student loan debt in the United States is now second to only mortgage debt.  Students now owe more than a trillion dollars in student loan debt.  Here is a link to explain why student debt is so high.   Some countries provide free college educations.  New York is now poised to be the only state to offer a free public college education
      This trend doesn't seem likely to change as long as our priorities for funding seem to be misdirected.  
 


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Armed robberies in Columbia

   

       I guess part of becoming a city is to have some of the criminal elements become a part of our town.  Armed robberies are rare in Columbia but certain businesses seem vulnerable from a recent story in the Columbia Patch.  Two Exxon stations were recently robbed in the early morning hours.  I have frequently used the Exxon station on Snowden River because they have a M&T ATM machine there.  I would never use this station after dark and that is a sad thing to say.  Being afraid to go to anywhere in Columbia after dark is not something I had ever thought about in the past.  Desperate people with drug dependencies have altered our habits.  Maybe we will see the type of arrangements at our local 24 hour gas stations that you see in Baltimore.   After dark you can't go into the gas station to pay or purchase something and the clerk takes your payment and passes your purchases through a bulletproof glass.

P.S.

     

     Years ago we saw all the 7-11's and High's stores leave Columbia because of the robbery threat.  Now our local convenience stores are privately owned and heavily reinforced with gates when they are closed.

#hocoblogs



Sunday, May 14, 2017

A thought on Mother's Day

    In providing healthcare and other socially beneficial programs the United States often finds itself as a Third World Country.   On Mother's Day it is good to remember how backward we are in recognizing the importance of a mother's role in child development.  Here is how Parents Magazine stated it:
   "For such a world leader, the United States is surprisingly far, far behind when it comes to providing maternity leave. In fact, it's only one of three nations in the whole world that doesn't mandate paid maternity leave benefits (the others are Papua New Guinea and Swaziland). Paid leaves in other countries vary from the highest: what averages out to about 82 percent of pay for sixteen months (well over a year!) in Sweden and 100 percent of pay for a full year in Slovenia; to the low end of 50 percent pay for 12 weeks in Niger, or 30 days at 67 percent pay in Tunisia. Still, the lowest of the low is a whole lot more than we've got going on here."
   "The average new mom in America is given just three months of leave (unpaid!) and only if she works for a large enough company. The passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in 1993 entitles many female workers up to 12 weeks of job-protected medical leave for birth or adoption, but this is without pay. In general, coverage for maternity leave varies state by state and can also depend on how large your company is (FMLA only applies to companies with more than 50 employees within a 75-mile radius), how long you've worked there, and how many hours you've worked in the past year (most policies require you to have worked at least 12 months and 1,250 hours)."

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The interrelationships of our ecology

    
   I have blogged often about how what we do on our own little properties impacts the larger ecosystems but recently I saw something that brought this point out in an amazing manner.  Watch this amazing video.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Howard County the healthiest county in Maryland

   


    As the Republican Congress debates how healthcare should be provided in the United States one reality of our private insurance system needs to be recognized.  That reality is that income is a direct connection with the health of any community.  Healthcare that is not a right will rely on one's ability to afford access to our healthcare system.   This reality was recently shown in some data from the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation.   Moving over this chart with your cursor you can see the number of deaths per 100,000 in any county in Maryland or the United States.   Howard County which is the wealthiest county in Maryland has the fewest deaths per 100,000 in Maryland at 579.  Wicomico and Allegany Counties have the highest rates in Maryland with over 900 deaths per 100,00.  Interestingly, close by Carroll County has a high rate of 807 deaths per 100,000.
     When you look at the Nation as a whole the relationship between income and health becomes even more apparent.  The county with  the most deaths is Buffalo County South Dakota with 1625 deaths per 100,000.  Here is some information on that county:
    
   "Buffalo County, S.D., is the nation's poorest county. The 2000 census says Buffalo County has more poor children than any other county in the nation. The latest round of census numbers show us how many homes don't have kitchens, plumbing and telephones. In Buffalo County the number of homes without those basic services is increasing.
    Most of Buffalo County is made up of the Crow Creek Indian reservation. It's one of the few rural South Dakota counties that has more children now than 10 years ago. "


    The county with the lowest death rate is Summit County Colorado with 323 deaths per 100,000.  Here is a description of the demographics of that county:

   "Summit County has very high education, high income, high access to medical care, the people are physically active, obesity is lower than anywhere else — so you're doing it right," said Dr. Ali Mokdad, one of the study's co-authors."
   
     The only proven way to increase positive health outcomes and lower cost is not through tweaking our private healthcare system but going to a universal healthcare system.  One recent study had this conclusion:

   "Achieving effective and equitable UHC (universal health care) has a strong potential to improve and extend people's lives, reduce inequality and potentially lead to economic growth. There is a positive association between UHC and health outcomes. Failing to do may lead to deteriorating population health outcomes."

#hocoblogs

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

What the heck is Pickleball?



    What's the fastest growing sport in America?  Try pickleball.  The sport with the funny name has caught fire in this Country, especially with the retired senior crowd.  Go to any senior community and you will find this game being played on underutilized tennis courts.  The sport has been brought back up north from those snowbirds who learned the game in Florida.  The epicenter of the pickleball world is definitely The Villages in Florida.  Having played there the past two years I can't begin to tell you how seriously pickleball is taken at this location.  Players line up at 8 am every morning and play throughout the day and evening.  They are now up to 180 courts.
    The  game is played with a plastic whiffle type ball like the one shown above.

   The paddle is larger than a ping pong paddle but smaller than a tennis racket.

   The court for pickleball is smaller than a tennis court which is one reason that the sport has become popular with the mature crowd.  You can find many former tennis, racquetball and ping pong players playing the sport.


   Here in Howard County you can find a large number of players, pictured above, at the tennis courts behind the Ice Rink in Oakland Mills Village Center most Tuesday and Saturday mornings depending on the weather.  This year we played throughout the Winter except when there was snow on the courts.
    If you or anyone you know would like to try this game come out to the tennis courts behind the Ice Rink this Thursday May 18th at 10 am.  Rackets and balls provided with some instruction.

P.S.
   The first pickleball courts in Howard County are almost ready for play at the Atholton Park in Allview.


P.S. 1
   Here is the link to a Howard County Recreation and Parks August pickleball tournament.

P.S. 2
     Here is a link to watch an instructional video.

#hocoblogs



Friday, May 5, 2017

Let's get to the heart of the healthcare debate

   

   As the Republican led Congress continues to struggle with the healthcare issue and the Obamacare program it is important to understand where each side stands on how healthcare is provided.  The progressive side wants to expand the number of people with health insurance coverage.  The conservative side wants to have the government get out of the business of trying to expand healthcare through subsidies and regulation.  For conservatives the private healthcare market should be in control and determine how many people have health insurance.  Conservatives of course lose if the argument is framed as I have just explained.   They use the argument that getting the government out of the health care business will provide people with more choices at lower cost.  How many times did we hear Trump say this exact thing without and concrete plan to back up his words.
    The Republican plan would give states the choice on what is mandated in health insurance in their state.  This would permit conservative states to have health insurance plans that would charge huge premiums with large deductibles to those with pre existing conditions.  One Representative even said people with pre existing conditions should move as a way of getting coverage for their preexisting condition.
     What are some of the possible improvements that could be made to Obamacare that would expand healthcare coverage in a way that could also be cost effective?   Here is an article in the American Prospect magazine that looks at lowering the age to be eligible for Medicare, bringing back the public option and increasing public subsidies to purchase insurance.  Allowing for the importation of drugs from Canada would also lower the exploding costs that Americans pay for their medicine.   I am not sure why the Democratic leaders in Congress are sitting back and waiting for the Republican plan to fail before they present any of the preceding ideas as a way to improve Obamacare for real.  It's one thing to put it in your party's platform but another thing to introduce the ideas as legislation.  Is Independent Bernie Sanders the only one up for the battle?

P.S.
      If it is going to be impossible to get anything progressive at the national level then maybe states like Maryland should look at developing our own public option plan here.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Long Reach Redevelopment plan released

   


    Orchard Development has released its plan for the redevelopment of the Long Reach Village Center.  Here is a summary of the plan:

   "At the heart of Orchard Development Corporation’s proposed development plan is the vision of a mixed-use center that can be both a focal point and anchor for the Long Reach neighborhood. It will offer live-work-play opportunities for existing residents as well as newcomers, and, it will have features that will make it a destination for greater Columbia and Howard County. The revitalized Village Center will also include multigenerational housing, with both for-sale and rental options. The center will feature attractive and well -landscaped recreational and community gathering spaces for neighborhood use that will be accessible by foot, bike, public transportation and car. In fact, the Long Reach Village Center will be a transportation hub with a sheltered transit stop for buses, Uber/Lyft, bike racks and a shared bike station. Attractive and easily discernible wayfinding signage will also be integral to the overall redevelopment. "
      " The proposed redevelopment will conform with the existing New Town Zoning requirements, although an amendment to the Preliminary Development Plan will be required to include the proposed residential uses. The Village Center Redevelopment, Major process will be required to implement the proposed plan. Our vision of the revitalized Long Reach Village Center begins with the demolition of the existing retail and office buildings, including the existing liquor store and deli, both of which are anticipated to re-locate into the a new retail building. The newly constructed buildings will have a mix of retail, office, for-sale townhomes, senior rental apartments, market-rate general occupancy rental apartments as well as new on-street and structured parking, in keeping with the principles of Traditional Neighborhood Development (TND). Also included in the development plan is a prominent plaza, an active vertical farm, and pedestrian links to the Long Reach neighborhood beyond."

#hocoblogs

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

8 things I don't understand

    OK so I may do things that others find unusual but recently I have been keeping a list of  things that remain a mystery to me.  Here are my list of my top 8 things.  Feel free to add to this list.

1) Men with male pattern balding who shave their heads bald.



2) Women who wear tops with their sleeves cut out.  Do they have a problem with overheating shoulders?



3)Ripped jeans.  Is this also a "ventilation" thing?
Denim & Supply Ralph Lauren Men's Prospect Slim Ripped Jeans


 4) Tongue rings.  Is this a rebellious act against parents? We used to just grow our hair long in my day. It doesn't hurt as much.


  5)Women with skull tattoos with flowers.  Of course any tattoo of a skull is weird but does it soften the effect to have flowers with the skull? P.S. I am not trying to pick on women.


  6) The growth of gluten free foods.  I know that for someone with Celiac Disease gluten is a problem but for Wegman's to have 3 whole aisles of gluten free products it seems to be a much larger market than those with the disease.


 7) Bottled water.  Why pay for something that is free out of our taps.  If you have a concern about impurities in our water add a water filter.  To say nothing of creating a ton of plastics used in many of these bottles.


8) Beef jerky.  Eating dried hard pieces of beef sounds too much like carrion that a vulture would be eating as roadkill.





Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Unicef report on the well being of children


    Unicef has just released its 2017 report on the well being of children around the World.  United States ranks 26th out of 29 developed countries surveyed.  Here is where we stand in five areas measured:

26th in maternal health
25th in health and safety
27 education
23 behaviors and risks
23 housing and environment

These countries rank above us:
Greece, Hungary, Poland and Slovenia

      That's right former Communist countries and debt ridden Greece are better places for children than wealthy United States.   What are the top countries in the report?  No surprise it is the social democracies of Scandinavia and the Netherlands.  Seems that putting you tax dollars into health care and social programs works better for children than building more weapons.