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Thursday, July 20, 2017

A day without an Amazon delivery is like a day without sunshine

     Remember how as a kid getting a letter in the mail was enough to make your day?  Well our grown up equivalency is getting a delivery from Amazon.  I admit it ----- I am a "hooked" Amazon Prime subscriber.  I find myself checking my phone frequently to see if I have a notification of another delivery.
  A part of me is concerned about the number of trees that go into making all these boxes.  And what do you do with the boxes that I have saved in all sizes?  I know that Goodwill has a program to donate clothes in these boxes.  And why do they send a box that is 5 or 6 times the size of my item?  What to do with all the bubble packing?  Why do they bubble wrap an order of bubble wrap?

Bought some bubble wrap on Amazon. This is how they shipped it

     I love not having to go to stores.  My store trips are limited pretty much to Home Depot and grocery stores.  Why shop for an item where my store choices are so limited and more expensive than going on Amazon at home and get a hundred choices that can be delivered in one or two days at a cheaper price.  While Walmart killed budget stores, Amazon is killing off most of the remaining retail stores.  Sears, Kmart, Macy's are all on their "last legs."  Without these anchor stores malls are dying.  It is becoming more difficult for smaller retailers to find a viable "niche." Welcome to the digital world of Amazon.

     I just placed my first order with Alibaba the Chinese giant that is bigger than Amazon.  I just hope that everything from them doesn't ship from China.


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Story Corps


    I blogged before on Story Corps but there is something new that I wanted to share.  Story Corps records two people talking with each other.  These conversations are fascinating and often heartwarming.  Here is one example with Sarah and Joshua Littman pictured above.  You can listen to these conversations on their website, Facebook page or their podcast on ITunes.
     Now everyone can record a conversation that they will archive with the Library of Congress with their smartphone app.

Monday, July 17, 2017

The savior of Medicare you probably have never heard about


      When I hear the proposed cuts to Medicaid being discussed in the Republican health care bills it makes me remember something I heard from someone who was directly involved in the crafting of the Medicare and Medicaid legislation.

     In graduate school I had a professor, William Bechill, who was the first Commissioner on Aging with the Administration on Aging in 1965.   He was recommended for that post by Wilbur Cohen who had been involved with the creation of the Social Security program back in the 1930's.


                                                                      Wilbur Cohen

       The Johnson Administration brought in Mr. Cohen to help with the drafting of the Medicare and Medicaid legislation.  Bill Bechill remembered meeting with Mr. Cohen and administration officers in the White House while the legislation was being drafted.  From the start there was always an income based eligibility for Medicaid but there were some administration officials and Congressional legislators who wanted to have some income requirements in the Medicare program.  Medicare would be more generous for low income seniors and would reduce benefits for higher income seniors.  Mr. Cohen argued that this would make Medicare vulnerable to cuts and possible elimination from conservative administrations.  He spoke about how Social Security was more secure from cuts because it was universal in its eligibility.  Sure, millionaires didn't need the Social Security payment but if it was a benefit that only went to low income retired persons Social Security would have always been under attack.  Fortunately for today's Medicare recipients Mr. Cohen's arguments won the day in the final Medicare legislation.  We have Mr. Cohen to thank that the present Congressional proposed healthcare legislation is not taking a "meat axe" to the Medicare program as it is proposed doing to the income based Medicaid program.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Annual Rain Gardens blog

   If you have followed this blog you know that I have a hatred (too strong a word?) with lawns and grass (the legal kind) and have been an advocate for rain gardens.  Our home has become a rain garden haven with rain gardens on both sides of our home.

     To find out a little more about the Columbia Association rain garden program watch this You Tube video.

   Greening your roof?


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Prepare for Success provides backpacks to low income Howard County students


 Do you know that 12,177 children in Howard County Schools receive federally funded school meals?  Last year over 2,300 students were served by the Prepare for Success program in providing backpacks and school supplies.  Since its inception over 26,000 backpacks have been distributed. The current year drive is now on for the upcoming school year.  Here is some information on the program administered through the Community Action Council:


To get the most supplies for the lowest prices, PFS makes wholesale purchases from a national education supplier. Our price of a backpack filled with required supplies average out to about $25 per student. That’s far less than the cost of buying retail at local stores.
ANYTIME is a great time to contribute. Our major drive is during the summer. BUT since PFS has a year-round cycle we can use support anytime.
Great!! You can donate supplies at any number of locations throughout Howard County. You or your group can start collecting now and then make a drop off at your local library, county recreation center, Columbia village center, or CA sports facility between July 10th and August 18th. Many businesses elect to run their own collection program and then turn to PFS to assist with the distribution. We welcome these partnerships. Contributions are tax deductible. Community Action Council is a 501 (c)(3) organization."

 There are two ways to send contributions for this program:

1)  Send check payable to “Community Action Council/PFS” to:
Community Action Council / PFS
6751 Columbia Gateway Drive
Columbia, MD 21046

2) Donate online at:
Select "Prepare for Success" under the donation restriction box.


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The loss of a dream for Columbia moving into the future

      A recent discussion at the "Longest Table" I brought up a concern I had for Columbia and Howard County moving into our second 50 years of Columbia's existence.   Has the Columbia goal of diversity and integration of groups across the economic scale been lost in Columbia and Howard County.  Has affordable and subsidized housing been limited to only certain areas in both Columbia and Howard County?  Why was River Hill Village designed for mostly single family homes unlike the diversity of housing, both subsidized and unsubsidized,  in our earliest villages?  The lower density zoning of Western Howard prevented diversity of housing in half of Howard County.  Is this the new reality as we move farer from Rouse's vision of what makes a community exceptional?
     This new possible reality is seen in our school system.  While our school system is still seen as a valuable asset to our County we see signs of a "de facto redlining" in Howard County.   This reality is known to any realtor in our County.  The first statement for many home buyers in Howard County is "here are the school districts I will only look at homes in."   This reality is based on the school test scores.   I experienced this reality when I tried to sell our home a few years ago.   After being on the market for almost a year we finally had an offer that we were ready to accept.  The couple was from out of state with school age kids.  On the way to our realtor's office to sign the contract the husband received a cell phone call from his wife telling him not to sign the contract because she had looked up the test scores on the internet and our school fairer poorly in comparison to other schools in Howard County.  As they were looking at Howard County because of the schools this was enough to not sign a contract.
     For most of us who have lived in Howard County we know that any school in Howard County will give a good education to any student regardless of academic ability.   Teachers in schools with lower test scores are just as good as teachers in schools that score higher.  I am sure that our school administrators work to minimize the impact of our the housing reality.  But if we are honest with ourselves the school system's job of providing an excellent education to every student in Howard County is made more difficult if our housing patterns move farther and farther from Rouse's vision of our community.  Is the 1960's goal of "fair housing" no longer relevant in the 21st Century Howard County?

      I really struggled with not bringing into this discussion the new reality brought in at the Federal level the past 6 months.  I will just post this link.


Monday, July 10, 2017

How Chow now back on Twitter

   For those of us who have missed the HowChow blog I have good news.  They are back on Twitter.  Like them at


Saturday, July 8, 2017

Tomato Palace is closing

  One of my favorite outdoor dining options will soon be closing.

The Tomato Place had a nice location near the Lake and summer evenings were a great place to take out of town guests.  Moving over to the stage for some music or a movie made for a nice way to show off what Columbia had to offer.  Unfortunately it will be closing to allow Clyde's to open a music and dining venue.

No more take out pizza from their brick oven

Or the chicken rigatoni


Thursday, July 6, 2017

Longest Table

      Last week I had a chance to participate in an event that is so Howard County.  The event was called "The Longest Table" and it brought together Howard County residents from all walks of life to discuss how living in Howard County has impacted us and how we want Howard County to improve moving forward.

    Interestingly the people near me were asked what we missed in Columbia or Howard County and the one thing that got the most vigorous response was the Visitors Center that many of us remember as the place we learned about what made Columbia special.  It gave us a common vision for the community we were moving to.
     This event was co sponsored by Howard County Library, United Way of Howard County, the Columbia 50th Birthday Celebration, #OneHowardand the Howard County Community College .  I hope that events like this will continue.


Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens

    This week I once again took the Anacostia Bike Trail down from College Park to Bladensburg.  Just past Bladensburg is the sign for the dirt trail that leads a third of a mile to the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens.  The water lilies are in full bloom now.

    The trail is easily accessed in the parking lot near Lake Artemesia in College Park.  Here is a link to the parking lot for the trail.,-76.9208288,170m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m13!1m7!3m6!1s0x89b7c6ad95f76fdf:0x2b9e880bc48532d1!2sLake+Artemesia!3b1!8m2!3d38.9876488!4d-76.9220875!3m4!1s0x0:0xa559604fd0995b3a!8m2!3d38.9933!4d-76.9205967

    Down from College Park to the Aquatic Gardens and back is about a 16 mile ride.  Here is a map showing the trail.  The Aquatic Gardens is at the bottom of the picture.