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Saturday, May 19, 2018

Only in Texas?

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    Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick said yesterday that maybe the State should look at schools having fewer doors to make it more difficult for someone to come into a school to do a school shooting.  Only in the United States (and more specifically Texas) would we try to ban doors before guns.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

What was once hip is now just a symbol of "hipness"

  Travelling recently I noticed how some car manufacturers are still putting a symbol of "hipness" on their current cars.

   Why are these decorative ornaments on modern Fords and Buick's?  At one time sporty roadster cars owned by the wealthy had air intakes on their sides.

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This functional feature was copied in a non functional way on car models that car manufacturers wanted to sell cars with this status symbol.  This has still been carried over to today's models even if a less notifiable way.  See how many cars you now notice with this past status symbol. 

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Outdated storm control measures lead to erosion

   When Columbia was being developed the rain runoff from parking lots was channeled into storm drains that feed into local streams.  Often the streams were not able to handle the amount of storm runoff water.  Below is a picture of how much the streams have had erosion of their banks.  This stream bank is off the path that runs parallel to Dobbin Road.  The stream bank is almost 5 feet high.  Placing large rocks in the stream path to slow down the speed of water have proven inadequate.

Below is of the storm drains that appears to be clogged and creating addition overflow problems.

One of the consequences of the erosion is that trees along the stream have their roots exposed and in some cases leads to the trees being blown over in wind storms.

Recently there has been an extensive remediation effort up stream to slow the speed of the storm runoff water before it reaches the area in the previous pictures.

Newer requirements for storm runoff with new commercial development require the use of rain gardens to reduce storm runoff from parking lots.  Below we see this in the parking area of the Whole Foods store in Town Center.


Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Get Ready for a Good Time with PFLAG Howard County!

You Are Cordially Invited To:
Queens & Cocktails 2018
Heavy Hors D'Oeuvres, Wine, our Signature Cocktail and a Drag Show!
Raffle and Silent Auction
Thursday, May 10, 6:30 - 9:30 p.m.
Dress Code: Tuxedo to Fig Leaf
Tickets $75 - $100
Kahler Hall
5440 Old Tucker Row, Columbia, MD 21044

Get Your Tickets or Donate Here


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

2018 Columbia Association Nature Walks

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"Explore Columbia's natural settings with CA's 2018 series of outdoor walks

Columbia Association’s (CA) series of outdoor walks returns in 2018 with 11 days of exploring the lakes, streams, woodlands and wildlife of Columbia.

“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 two Saturdays from April through November. All walks begin at 10am. Registration is not required.

The schedule of walks and meeting locations includes:


Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Betrucci's files for Chapter 11 bankrupcy

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  Sad to hear that Bertucci's filed for bankruptcy.  Not sure if our location is one that will be closed. Apparently diners are preferring restaurants like Panera's and Chipotle than more traditional sit down restaurants. 

     Note to Sean Hannity's wife:  Do you know why people hire Michael Cohen? Just saying.


Monday, April 16, 2018

Ellicott City Main st to open as restaurant and music venue


   According to the Baltimore Sun the former movie theater on Main Street Ellicott City that has been most recently a "Precious Gift" store is now going to be a restaurant and music venue.  Check out the article.  


Wednesday, April 11, 2018

A Hope More Powerful than the Sea

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I have another book recommendation.  We see news reports on the civil war going on in Syria many nights on the nightly news.  The recent gas attacks are just the latest tragedy.  This book give a first person story of what it is like to flee this conflict.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Magazine article featuring the urbanization of Downtown Columbia

      With Columbia largely developed with its 10 villages much of the growth still envisioned is taking place with the development of an expanded urban core downtown.  While we may never rival the urban core that enlivens many cities we may no longer be seen as just another suburban towns. Recently Urbanland Magazine had an article that highlighted many of the changes to Town Center planned by Howard Hughes.


   We now can suggest who Saturday Night Live should cast to play Michael Cohen on their show.


Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Nora's Kabobs

 Nora's Kabobs at 9338 Baltimore National Pike in Ellicott City (next to Shannon's) is the place to go for a great meal at a reasonable price. The kabobs pictured above and the gyros pictured below are both worth trying.

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Menu is below

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Thursday, March 29, 2018

Important meeting impacting the Patuxent Branch Trail tonight

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   Anyone who uses the Patuxent Branch Trail has noticed the change at the Iron Bridge section recently.  I was unaware of what was going on but apparently a public storage facility is planned where the old stone home once stood.  Traffic getting to the facility will use the road that is now shared by people using the Trail.  There is a meeting tonight to address how this will impact this section of the Trail.

Guilford Road Project and Patuxent Branch Trail Public Meeting

 · Hosted by Wayne Davis

Today at 7 PM - 8:30 PM

"The County Executive, Allan H. Kittleman, has agreed to a host public meeting on the development at 9201 Old Guilford Road considered a historic site and part of the Guilford Industrial Historic District. Mr. Kittleman arranged this time and location to discuss the issues regarding the site development and construction of a self-storage facility, with the entrance to the facility on the currently shared portion of the Patuxent Branch Trail and the abandoned Old Guilford Road. 

The public, as well as the Howard County Council and the CA, was not required to be notified of this development. We would like to understand the decision making and processes followed to date and ensure public notification for all developments - especially those in historic districts. Most importantly we would like the entrance to the facility to be on the mail Guilford Road to to preserve the integrity of the Patuxent Branch Trail. 

It is our understanding that the developer as well as representatives from CA and HoCo government will be present. Please attend this meeting and get your questions answered and let your voices be heard."


Monday, March 26, 2018

1969-2018: A 50 Year Timeline of Protest

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     Saturday I attended my second protest march in DC ---- almost a half a century after the first one----the Vietnam Moratorium March pictured above in 1969.  50 years is a long time to pass. I noticed some similarities and differences in the two marches.  The differences were apparent in who was marching.  In 1969 the march was mostly young men who were of draft age.  The smell of pot was very apparent in the air during the March.  The radical fringe of the protest movement was present and there was civil disobedience on the fringe of the march.  Trash cans were overturned.  Obscenities were yelled in many of the protest chants.   I passed a trash can fire into which many marchers threw their draft cards.  I wasn't quite that bold.  My radicalism was more in the direction of reading about how to become a conscientious objector after losing my student deferment.
      My Baby Boomer generation saw itself are a new activist generation.  We were rejecting the complacency of our World War II parents generation.  We rejected authority that we were supposed to blindly follow.  The civil rights and Vietnam War protests were the precursors to the women's and gay pride movements.  We may not have ended the Vietnam War soon enough but for many of us it did make us activists for social change that continues to this day.
     Fast forward to this past Saturday's march.  The crowd was very different.  The youth that were there in 1969 were also there at the 2018 march but at his march there were many parents their younger children.  It was a much tamer crowd.  How could it be any thing else with that many teachers marching!

   There were a number of my generation there too.  One even carried a sign that read "Grandpa's for gun control."  Not many like those in 1969!

       Lots of spill over to the past women's and gay pride marches.  A common seen sign  was "Why is my uterus more regulated than guns."  Obviously a very liberal crowd.

      While our recent past president wasn't there his presence was on the minds of many of us at the march.

Our current leader got some attention at his hotel too.

   I saw signs from past gun massacres like Las Vegas, St. Mary's County and Virginia Tech.  None were more powerful then to see the signs from the Sandy Hook school massacre.

     I happened to walk by when one young women was being interviewed as shown below.  As I listened she explained that she was a 1st grade student at Sandy Hook the day of the shooting and her teacher had all her classmates go into a closet.  She heard the shots and screams.  She still has flashbacks when she hears a loud noise.  She is now in 6th grade.

      I have thought that if Sandy Hook couldn't bring about changes in our guns laws that we might never have any change in the near future.  I think the movement of young people might make a difference.  The next phase of the movement is to get young people registered to vote.  They know that NRA voters are the reason politicians don't do anything with our gun laws.  These young people want to be the counter weight in terms of voters to change the political dynamics on guns.  They might be successful where others have failed.
     As I left the march one sign spoke to the emotions shown on Saturday.  It simply said "When you say 'I love you' to your child as they leave for school it should never be the last time you get to say that because of a gun."

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Long Reach redevelopment

      Apparently the redevelopment plans for Long Reach were delayed for a year.  Here is the story in the Baltimore Sun.   I saw some drawings of the proposed Long Reach redevelopment and thought I would pass on the drawings. 
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Saturday, March 17, 2018

Is anyone buying gas in Columbia?

        We are used to paying more for anything in Columbia and that includes gas.  Going to Laurel is one way to find cheaper gas but who wants to drive 10 miles out of your way to save 5-10 cents a gallon on gas?  Those that go to Virginia regularly notice how much cheaper gas is there because of lower state gas taxes.  At least those of us in Maryland get better roads for our higher gas taxes.
      This morning the High's gas at 2861 Jessup Road in Hanover had the cheapest gas at $2.39 a gallon according to the Gas Buddy app.  Those willing to go a little further to the Sam's gas on Route 198 can save even more but I have noticed recently that their price has been more than the local Costco gas.  For many of us buying gas at Costco is one way to save 15-20 cents a gallon over other gas in Columbia.  Waiting in line for 5-10 minutes is worth the savings.  Wait times from before 9 am is considerably less.  Soon we may have another choice as BJ's gas at Dobbin Center looks to be opening soon.

    I don't know how their price will compare to Costco's price but the BJ's gas price at their station near Bowie Baysox Park is generally lower than our Costco.
    Of course any discussion of saving on gas has to recognize the most important factor in how much we spend on gas comes down to the type of vehicle we choose to drive.  Anything with 6 or 8 cylinders shows that saving on gas is not your priority.  A hybrid or plug in can save enough to be the most cost effective if you keep your car long enough. Many newer cars have built in systems called Eco that smooths out acceleration gas usage.  Keeping cars tuned up and changing oil and filters can help you get the best possible gas mileage.
    There are a few credit cards that offer a discount of around 5% on gas purchases.  The gas company cards discount the price at the pump and the bank cards usually give cash back in other ways.  I personally use either my Sam's Club card that always gives 5% back or the Chase Bank card the months they give 5% back.  One nice feature of the Chase card is that you can use your cash back money for Amazon purchases.
    Ever notice that gas stations tend to increase costs after Wednesdays in anticipation of people filling up at the end of the week or on the weekend?  Mondays and Tuesdays tend to be better days to buy gas.  Buying gas in cooler temperatures in the early morning or at night is supposed to give you more gas for your money as gas expands during the day. 
     Finally just drive less.  Any trip under a mile or two can many times be done by walking or biking.  You may be healthier and lose a few easy pounds.
     Any other ways you save on gas costs?

    Couldn't imagine what type of person would drive this type of truck in Columbia?  Let's say I kept my distance even though the smiley face did seem to send a mixed message.


Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Seven years of blogging--what's next

      Seven years ago I attended a session on blogging and thought it might be a way to reconnect with Howard County after having spent the previous 10 years working as a consultant mostly outside the County.  I wasn't sure how well it would work or how long I would do it.  Surprisingly I still blog although not as frequently as I once did.  I no long feel the need to blog as much anymore.
      In the past year I recognize that I have become a little obsessed with the ridiculous Trump administration.  I didn't start my blog to be dealing with politics and have stayed away from local politics.  I have to admit I am tired of posting on Trump.  He is a bully, obscene, immoral and a buffoon.   He is a test for how strongly we as a Country value our democratic values.  Having said that I am done with posting on this topic.  Time to move on.
     The area that still interests me is how to live reasonably and frugally in our expensive community.  With Howard County's per capita income near the top nationally it is even more important that we evaluate the value of what we spend our money on.  We live in a commercial world that is always trying to get us to buy the newest and sexiest product.  We overspend on products that soon lose their value and our interest instead of saving and living a more moderate lifestyle.  Our hope is that our incomes will rise fast enough to cover the costs of our increasingly expensive consumer lifestyles.  The question I pose is "Can a person of modest income still live in Howard County?"
      You will notice the change in my future posts in the direction of living more frugally in Howard County.  While most of the posts will have application anywhere I am interested in focusing on applications targeted to Howard County.  I hope people reading this blog will provide me with their own areas of living frugally in our County.  My blog title will stay HoCo Connect but what I will be connecting on will change.  I also hope to get more comments on the posts.  Let's see where this goes.


Monday, March 12, 2018

Happy to live in Columbia?

  Once again our planned city scores on a national survey of good places to live.  I can't think of a better place to call home although coming in just ahead of San Francisco did surprise me.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Collusion book read: connecting the dots

     I have just finished a book that I highly recommend to anyone who wants to understand how the Russians have played the United States through Trump and his associates.  The book is called "Collusion: Secret meetings, dirty money, and how Russia helped Donald Trump win."  The book is by Luke Harding a reporter for the Guardian who has written often about how Russia has sought to regain its role as a major player on the world scene. 
     With information on Trump's financial ties to Russian dirty money and video of  Trump with Russian prostitutes Putin has blackmailed Trump into taking actions that could clearly be labeled as treasonous.  The Russians don't need a mole in the White House as long as they have Trump.  In my mind Trump is not the only person guilty of treason.   Republican members of Congress that have tried to make it seem as if American law enforcement agencies are the problem are also doing Russia bidding.  Selling out your country to protect your Republican Party leader is something that would have been unimaginable before Trump appeared on the scene.  The books that will come out later about the Trump administration will be hair raising.  This is only the first of many.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

New Elkridge Library opens Saturday March 10th

HCLS Elkridge Branch + DIY Education Center
Grand Opening
Saturday, March 10, 2018
Howard County Library System's Board of Trustees and Interim President & CEO Ann Gilligan cordially invite you to the Grand Opening of the new Elkridge Branch + DIY Education Center on Saturday, March 10.
Saturday, March 10
9:30 am          
  • Performance by Elkridge Elementary School Chorus
  • Presentation of Colors by Elkridge Cub Scout Pack 432
  • Remarks by County Executive Allan Kittleman, County Council Chair Mary Kay Sigaty, State Senator Guy Guzzone
  • Ribbon Cutting Ceremony
10 am - 4 pm (see for detailed schedule)
  • All Together Now classes for preschool children
  • Crafternoon for children (while supplies last) 
  • HiTech Robotics Challenge
  • 3D Printer demonstration
  • Scavenger hunts for all ages
  • Friends & Foundation of HCLS membership table
  • Tours by Grimm + Parker Architects
10 am - 6 pm
Branch open
Charles I. Ecker Campus
HCLS Elkridge Branch + DIY Education Center
and Elkridge 50+ Center
More than doubling in space, the new branch will feature six study rooms, three meeting rooms, a vending cafe, a business center, more computers, and an expanded collection. In addition, the DIY Institute will include a DIY collection (e.g., tools for household repair, gardening, bike maintenance) available for borrowing, a Design Institute with classes for all ages, and a DIY Ed Studio (a mess-friendly classroom and work space).


Sunday, March 4, 2018

California shows the nation how it is done

  Republicans talk a good game with "trickle down economics" but the Democrats in California show how it really works.  Of course they don't have an idiot for a leader as we have in DC.

  Maybe we now know where to get closer to that balanced budget.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Mental health and other gun rights false arguments

     Gun rights advocates have been searching for an argument that shifts the basis for gun massacres away from the reality that the availability of guns in our Country is why we have such a disproportionate amount of gun deaths.  If my Facebook friend posts are any indication such targets as violent online video games, taking God out of the classroom and mental health reforms are the only changes needed to reduce mass shootings.  If you just look at one other country you easily see the fallacy of any of these arguments.  Japan has more young people per capita playing violent video games than the US.  Japan has a serious national mental health problem with a high rate of depression and one of the World's highest rates of teenage suicide.  Japanese education is not centered on any specific religious teachings but teaches religion with  a global diverse perspective.  So how many gun deaths does Japan have given the realities just described?  Fewer than 10 for a population over 127 million.  The United States has more than that every 4 hours.  I realize that we may not share the same culture as Japan but ask the question of which culture is more sane?

     This is the Japanese gun requirements:

"Japan, which has strict laws for obtaining firearms, seldom has more than 10 shooting deaths a year in a population of 127 million people.  If Japanese people want to own a gun, they must attend an all-day class, pass a written test, and achieve at least 95% accuracy during a shooting-range test.  Then they have to pass a mental-health evaluation at a hospital, as well as a background check, in which the government digs into any criminal records or ties and interviews friends and family members.  Finally, they can buy only shotguns and air rifles — no handguns — and must retake the class and the initial exam every three years.  Unlike in the US, Japanese law has long outlawed guns. Still, the wisdom from Japan seems to be that tighter regulations keep guns confined only to those fit to use them."

    Now we know the "rest" of the story

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Sunday, February 25, 2018

Beyond Burger---Best vegan burger now at Wegmans-

Beyond Meat, The Beyond Burger, 0.5 lb
   Like a lot of people these days I have tried a variety of vegan alternative food choices.  Meat substitute products are a mixed bag.  The vegan hot dogs are OK when you put a lot of condiment choices on top.  I have one new vegan product that you should really try.  The Beyond Burger is the one vegan product that tasted almost like a regular burger.  It is not going to replace a regular burger for most meat eaters but for a vegetarian it comes close.  At a little over $5 for two burgers it is an affordable alternative to those of us trying to eat less meat.  It is now available at Wegman's in the vegetarian frozen section.  Here is the health report on the burgers.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Sanity test

    If child hits another child with a stick do you:

1) Give all the kids sticks
2) Give sticks to some kids who are skilled and trained with sticks to defend the other kids
3) Take away the stick

    Everyone who thinks that mass shootings are resolvable by mental health intervention should read this article.

P.S. 1
    The brutal truth about being shot with a bullet from an AR15 automatic weapon.

P.S. 2

     Picture of Trump signing the Executive Order that repealed the Obama Era gun checks for people with mental illnesses and making it easy for them to buy weapons of mass destruction.  Is this what he meant when he said mass killings are a "mental health" issue?

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    I know I have gotten away from posting on local topics recently.  The craziness of the news lately has been too much to ignore and I have needed to vent.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Mueller's chess game


     I can't help but think of chess strategy when we see the progression of the Robert Mueller investigation of Russian collusion.  Our "Baffoon in Chief" might be protesting about no collusion but you can see the developing Mueller strategy aimed in this direction.
    I maybe a novice chess player but I can see the same chess strategies playing out with the Mueller investigation.  In chess the game starts out with trying to capture a few pawns to get an advantage to get to your opponents rooks and bishops.  Once you have captured a rook or bishop your strategy is to try to get your opponent's queen.  When you get their queen the game is certainly headed to you getting checkmate on your opponent's king.
     So who are the chess pieces in the Mueller investigation?  George Papadopoulos and Carter Page are pawns.  Rick Gates and Michael Flynn are bishops and rooks.  Paul Manafort is the queen and of course Trump is the king.  Mueller has captured the pawns, bishops and rooks.  He is  now focused on getting the queen (i.e. Manafort) to go to checkmate on the king (Trump).  Only a matter of time before checkmate.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Blackmailing 101: Why security clearance is important

     Suddenly the issue of over 100 Trump officials having only interim security clearances for their jobs is an important security concern.   One of the main reasons for security clearances is to identify areas that officials might be susceptible to blackmail in their jobs. White House Chief of Staff  John Kelly has issued an order that starting this Friday White House staff without regular security clearances will no longer have access to highly classified information.  For many, like Jared Kushner Trump's son in law, this will prevent them from doing their job and may require that they resign.  This Friday should be another interesting news day.
     If you want to see how officials could be subject to blackmail you only have to look at our "Baffoon in Chief."  It is only too apparent that Russia has damaging material that they are holding on Trump.  Whether it is money laundering or his sexual escapades they have been successful in blackmailing him to cover their election tampering in our last election.  One example is that he has not implemented the Congress authorized sanctions against Russia.  He blames Obama, the FBI and CIA for not stopping the Russian interference.  The only one he seems to have a problem blaming is Russia.  While speaking admirably about Russian and Putin he denigrates our free press, his political opponents, our courts, the FBI and CIA.   If Trump wasn't President he would never get a security clearance.  Ever day with Trump we see the danger of having people with access to top secret information and how someone can use blackmail to control that person.

    It is not too early to begin to rank Trump as a President.  Apparently political scientists from all political perspectives have agreed that Trump has already earned his place at the bottom of the list.  Not bad for someone who has only been in office for a little over a year.  He won't like it that Obama is ranked near the top.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

A sad reality

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A country that loves its guns more than its children has lost its moral compass.  Is it too much to ask that we ask for a reasonable restrictions on some weapons so that children have the right to not fear for their safety at school?


    Is it still too soon to talk about Sandy Hook?

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Thursday, February 15, 2018

Sending Republicans our "thoughts and prayers" today

   The chart above is the reason that when these legislators are asked about yesterday's gun slaughter the will dodge they obvious solution to the problem which is banning assault weapons. They will say that they are sending their thoughts and prayers to the victims families, talk about the evil of the shooter, about it being a mental health problem and finally that it is too early to talk about legislative action while families are still grieving.  As long as their legislative career is tied to NRA money they are willing to turn a blind eye to the slaughter of innocent people.  I call that blood money.

      While listening to Sen. Marco Rubio say this morning that this type of incident can happen anywhere he should have qualified that statement to say "anywhere in the United States."  Our country is much more vulnerable to mass shootings than anywhere else in the World because we have a Second Amendment that arms the people who do our mass shootings. 

P.S. 1 
     While we see the destruction caused in our Country by the power of the NRA we should not forget that right now there is NRA sponsored legislation in Congress to allow anyone with a concealed carry permit to have that right even in states, like Maryland, that have tougher gun control rules

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

East Columbia Library reopens: Here is what you will see

    The ribbon was cut on the newly renovated East Columbia Library last Saturday.  We sometimes forget how fortunate we are to have a world class library in our County.  The new renovations are amazing.  Here is what you will see.

   If you want to know why Howard County gets recognized so often as a good place to live you only have to look at our library system.