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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Great Idea: Take a Book—Leave a Book

I came across an idea that struck me as a very doable project to share and recycle books that sit in our homes on bookshelves until we move and then we decide to give them away or worse throw them away.  The concept of “Leave a Book/Take a Book” is one that has caught on in many different venues.  Street corners, libraries, work places, schools and coffee shops are just some of the places that this concept has been used to share books.

Surely with the innovative people we have in this County we should be able to find a few places for this concept to take root.  Might be a good community service project for some students, religious congregations or book clubs.  With the kids out of school and the TV shows in reruns summer reading is a good time to explore share books in this way. Moms groups could exchange children’s books.  Grocery stores and restaurants could be locations for cookbook exchanges.  Feet First could be an exchange place for running books.  The possibilities are endless.  I would be interested in hearing some other ideas and if this strikes anyone as something to try.

If you would like to donate children’s books there is a great organization that I would like to mention.  Baltimore Reads provides donated books to teachers and other non profit organizations in Baltimore for young readers.  They have the donation location in the Baltimore Sun warehouse on Calvert Street in Baltimore.

Late post today as there was a problem with Blogger earlier today but good old Google told me how to fix the problem. If you ever have a computer issue usually all you have to do is google the problem and you will get the answer on how to fix it.  Try it.  I had an error message once that I had to close every time I rebooted till I googled it and learned how to not get the message.  Who needs technical support when we have Google?  Remember life before Google?  Or as I refer to it as "BG"

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Someone you should know--Kelly Lance and ScrewCancer

  Today's Guest Blog By Midnight Ryder

Brock Yetso, Executive Director of the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults (UCF), slid past the open door where Kelly Lance and I were deep in conversation. Yetso backed up to meet and greet me.

Imagine being on the receiving end of a handshake grip from a disarming Sumo Wrestler, except in this case it’s initiated by Brock Yetso: a formidable 6’3” Marathon Iron Man, and former member of the UVA Varsity Soccer Team, US Men’s National Soccer Team and minor league Maryland Mania soccer team. Brock is an indefatigable survivor advocate who lost his Mother to colon cancer a decade ago.

From the moment I walked into the welcoming UCF offices I felt part of the fold and the handshake secures it. Brock departs as swiftly as he appeared. Almost apologetically, Kelly Lance waves towards the interior, “It’s quiet today, folks are in the hospital doing outreach… usually it is frenetic in here,” expressing the office physicality through engaging body language and winning persona.

For Lance, an innovative bi-coastal living arrangement is underway with two weeks in CA and two in MD. Being married to The Director of Sales for The Wine Group has thrown Lance into the thick of career transitions: hers from dual roles as ED Special Assistant/Special Events and Services Coordinator to that of Scholarship Coordinator, and husband Fritz to Wine Group Sales Director out of  Livermore, CA. Lance shares playful glimpses on her enduring marriage, “…we hardly ever argue, unlike the transatlantic Matlin and Carvel…both with very political opposing viewpoints!” In Kelly’s case, opposition to viewpoints comes from Fritz’s basic request for “No more stories during dinner.” Then tosses a Seinfeld quip, “Imagine that!”

Today is a standard June, body-hugging MD afternoon. At the UCF the word standard relates to say chairs. Lance sits half on hers, half off as dedicated storyteller presents: “We get a lot of people in here and on Facebook.  Recently we had a gentleman who is 27 with testicular cancer and no insurance seeking follow up scans after treatment… contact was made with an incredible individual in AA County who networked and enabled him to get free physician scans… everything was fine.  It’s amazing the way this works. Imagine free scans…without intervention an essential piece of treatment would not have happened…” 

Lance is deeply affected by each story, each case and each individual. When asked to describe herself she says she is outgoing and compassionate. She worries about “…not touching enough lives by not being there.” Easy to see how the no story rule evolved at home. When asked if she has been changed by her work she leans in, lowers her voice and exhales “Changed to the soul. Every day someone walks in and puts life in a new perspective.”
For those working at the fund, the reasons why are clear. They have either been touched by the disease or dramatically moved in some way. Take Kelly Schwab, a 2011 graduate of Long Reach HS who demonstrates the spirit. As a teenager, during her mother’s treatment, she started an amazing family support group by teens for teens with Debra Marciniak and Cara Koontz at the Claudia Mayer Cancer Research Center. Getting to the heart of it, Lance moves her head from side to side as if chasing denial, “As a teenager you want to be as normal as everyone else and able to be in a room without the pity eyes.” The word pity is reinforced as she speaks, as if in 48-point type. Today, Schwab’s youth groups flourish statewide through a joint venture partnership between the Mayer Center and Ulman Cancer Fund.

The UCF National Scholarship Foundation is the heart of Lance’s work. The NSF is committed to awarding scholarships to individuals with either a parent affected by the disease or of their own diagnosis. Upwards of 300 ten-page scholarship submissions were received this year, 33 from Howard County. The decision making process is complex. As 750 volunteers review personal stories of impact and need, applications filter to the top. Each with a portrait more compelling than the last, each painting a reveal of the positive impact cancer has had on their lives. After three levels of readings and recommendations, final determinations are then left to the Marilyn Yetso family.

Brock Yetso’s history defines a family story about what moves us. Kelly Schwab is a 2011 scholarship recipient with her own parental story, one that has come full circle to entwine with Brock nearly a decade later:
As Schwab’s scholarship application traveled through the tiered submission process, along with dozens of others, it eventually navigated to the desk of Brock Yetso. At this final stage of determinations, the Yetso family named Kelly Schwab recipient of the Marilyn Yetso Memorial Scholarship Award, as clear testament to “what her family support group would have meant to the Yetso family (back) when Marilyn was sick.”

Financial award resources, to support fifteen $2500 scholarships, were drawn from a $37,500 funding pool banked in-part by Team Fight benefactors. A hard core team of champions embracing demanding triathlons and events on behalf of the cause. The Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults stands in recognition of Doug Ulman’s first (of three) very personal battles with cancer as a college sophomore; today the intrepid mother-son team of Diana and Doug Ulman serve as extraordinary Founding Directors.

The foundation is grounded in an inexhaustible supply of stories, education and revenue generating ventures. Parked atop Lance’s file cabinets is an array of wine bottles with screw tops touting Screw Cancer labels, clearly what’s hot in  non-profit décor. The vivid labels are a super savvy, cheeky branding mechanism promoting the recent Screw Cancer Brew Hope campaign. Given the clear lack of beer bottle presence, word has it they vanished during the Screw & Brew event J   And not so coincidentally, this piece of branding genius was fulfilled by Mr. Kelly Lance’s Wine Group, instigator of the family’s transatlantic career move and nouvelle décor.

The Fund’s benevolent ideals are deeply reflected on all matters of course and fields of business operations. In most basic terms, from soccer balls to kicking the odds, the mission of changing one life at a time begins with “…assisting those trying to process what happened.” In the words of Dilbert’s creator Scott Adams, "Remember there's no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end."

The only time frames to memories are those we create. Share your own one-of a kind and treasured moments as you may.

Consider being a Neighbor Ride volunteer.  It is a great way to give back to our community. Orientation Info

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Our Connections Define Us

I attended the conference of the National Foster Parent Association this past weekend and took the book “Dreams of My Father” by Barak Obama.  Little did I realize that there would be a common theme of how all of us use our connections with others to develop our identities and self-image.

The keynote speaker at the NFPA Conference was Derek Clark who eloquently spoke how an abusive childhood where he struggled to be validated by his parents shapes him to this date.  He felt he was a mistake and that the abuse he received was his fault as his Mother held his hand under hot water until the skin  peeled off.  Or when he wet his bed and his Mother’s boyfriend held his head under water in the toilet until his Mother grabbed Derek’s shoulder to keep his head above the water so hard that it dislocated his shoulder.  The result of this abuse made him an angry, defiant child that moved through many foster care placements until he finally arrived in the foster home of two people that today he calls his parents.  For the first time in his life he wasn’t the subject of the anger of adults and began to see that he was a child worthy of love.  The only way he was able to move past these experiences was by letting go of the past and forgiving the adults that had caused his pain.  Only then was he able to reconstruct his life as an adult.  His story is truly inspiring as one person’s efforts to release the negative connections of his childhood and creating the positive connections with his wife and children.  I have attached some links to his You Tube videos of his life.

         I have been meaning to read the President’s book because I have heard him say that who he is today was shaped by his experiences growing up.  It is a fascinating book to read as it shows how his search for identity many times placed him between two groups.  We all know that his racial identity was a challenge by having a white Midwestern mother and a foreign born African father. Even though he grew up in a multi-cultural state like Hawaii he never felt like he fit in with either racial group.  His Father disappeared from his life when he was a small child and his only memory of him was a one month visit as a 7 year old.  When he was 8 years old his Mother married an Indonesian man and the family lived to Indonesia for 2 years.  He was now looked at as the American in Asian country.  Additionally his father was Muslim and he had been raised Christian.  Again caught between two identities.  After 2 years his Mother decided he needed to be educated in the States so he went back to Hawaii to live with his grandparents.  His relationship with his grandparents takes on the tone of parents and again the identity issues arose in his teen years as he tried to fit in with different racial groups.  What came out of these experiences was the ability to relate to a variety of groups without ever having a well-developed sense of self.  The normal identity issues that all teenagers experience were much more profound in Obama’s life. If you want to understand how Obama governs as President spend some time this summer reading his book.  It explains his approach to politics.

Think your products are getting smaller? Check out this to find out how much they are shrinking.

Monday, June 27, 2011

No Impact Man Columbia Week Three-Energy Usage

      In writing about how to reduce my carbon footprint I was not planning on going to the extent that Colin did in his efforts but to try and determine how much impact you could have by more conservative measures.  Energy conservation week ideas proved to be an example of this approach.

     We had already signed up for the BG&E Energy Savers program in which they would install new programmable thermostats that permits BG&E to cycle your air conditioning at peak demand times during the summer.  That is when the power company has the most demand for power and we sometimes get the “brown outs”.  This program is an attempt to limit the use of brown outs.  We had already talked about getting digital thermostats to replace the old sliding lever type that came with our house 33 years ago so this way we got them free.  A yearly credit on your electric bill also comes with program. I also signed up for the new Howard County Energy Audit program that seems to be very popular.
The heating and cooling use is the biggest part of an energy bill.  Thankfully new heat pumps and furnaces are much more efficient that older models.  But you can save considerably by just learning to turn down your thermostat to 68 in the winter and no lower than 78 in the summer.  We take things a little more extreme and set our thermostat at 65 in the winter and 80 in the summer.

            A second attempt to save energy is just the old approach of turning off things that you are not currently using.  We all remember our parents telling us to turn off the lights when we leave a room.  Paying an electric bill helps us do this and most of us go around after kids turning off lights that they leave on.  What our parents didn’t have to pay for was all the things we use that are never really turned off when not in use.  The “ready on” feature of most of our appliances keeps them using electricity even when not on.  TV’s, portable phones, electric toothbrushes and computers are the best examples of these.  We have all become accustomed to having a TV come on instantly than in the past when it took time to “warm up” to come on.  Speaking of TV’s the new plasma TV’s use considerably more power than the older models we have used until recently.  I guess I am probably one of the few people who have not yet bought a plasma TV.

            With the power usage of computers I am very guilty of energy use waste.  I never turn my computer, printer or speakers off.  It just seems to take so long to boot everything up every time you use your computer.  My printer is also my fax machine so turning it off would cause me to not get a fax someone wanted to send me.  I have tried to turn my speakers off and printer off when I don’t need them.

            A few years ago I bought a new freezer and looked for the most energy efficient model.  I found one that had dramatically better energy efficiency than other models.  And the price was right too.  Feeling good about getting a good price on an energy efficient appliance I didn’t realize why I could get these two things together until I had it home and found out that it was a model that wasn’t an automatically defrosting model.  Remember the days of defrosting the freezer?  Well now I experience that every 3 or 4 months.  And since I bought the freezer I feel obligated to be the one to do it.

            In a couple of years we may not be able to find any of the old incandescent light bulbs and will only be able to buy the compact fluorescent light bulbs.  Most people think that the switch to florescent bulbs was the only type that will be allowed but that is not the case.  What is mandated is to only sell bulbs that meet stricter energy use standards and right now only the florescent bulbs meet those standards but there are companies working to see if other types similar to the incandescent bulbs might be able to be developed.  I have been making the shift to the new bulbs gradually over the past few years mostly because of the cost of the bulbs and the fact that you have to get used to the bulbs taking a fraction of a second before they come on.  This week I bought more bulbs to install and was pleased to see the prices have come down considerably, that the newer ones come on quickly and the light is more natural than the old fluorescent. 

       I made reference earlier to the electric toothbrush and this week I noticed how many contrivances we now have that use electricity that we didn’t have 40 or 50 years ago.  What did we do before having electric hair dryers, dishwashers, knives and can openers?  I am not sure our lives have been markedly improved by these contrivances but they all contribute to our use of power.

            The last way I want to mention is usually the second biggest energy user---hot water heaters.  Setting your hot water thermostat to 120 degrees rather than the 140 most are set at works just fine.  Putting an insulating blanket around the hot water heater also helps and when you need a new hot water heater think about installing an on demand” model.
       Next week----meatless week.

Friday, June 24, 2011

New information from Pinnacle Empowerment Center on Job Club

Job Club first Tuesday of the month at 10am – open to all adults. Pinnacle
Empowerment Center, a non-profit located in Elkridge provides women in
transition career and life management services. Fee: $10 donation. Contact
Cindy at 410-799-1097 to register and to learn more about upcoming
workshops/programs offered.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Someone you should know--Edwin Gould

      I hope to do a series of blogs on people in our community that I think you should know.  The first in this series is today's blog.

     On my Saturday runs through Allview I couldn't help but notice one yard that I passed.  It had no regular grass that I could see but did have an amazing assortment of plants and wild grasses.  I also noticed many pottery pieces and Tibetan prayer flags.  This was someone that I would have to meet.  There had to be an interesting story there.

     After going up to the door and knocking I spoke with a gentleman who seemed surprised that a stranger would be knocking on his door unannounced.  After quickly saying that I was not selling anything but was a blogger and was interested in writing a blog on him we made arrangements to come back to talk further.

   Coming back a few days ago I was introduced to Edwin Gould who described his interest in pottery and nature.  He retired in 1996 as the Curator of Mammals at the National Zoo in DC.  He related his background as having researched and taught on mammals of all types by especially on moles.  His interest in moles was obviously broader than most of us who view them as pests.

   When I asked him about how he came to grow so many plants in his yard he explained that a friend who was a naturalist helped him lay out the design and select the plants. The design is basically two islands of different grasses.  Many of the grasses we would probably call tall plants more than grass.  The grasses and plants were selected for different qualities.  Some attracted animals like hummingbirds, some because they keep some animals like deer away, some for their fragrance and some for the interesting vein structure on their leaves.

   Mr. Gould's pottery all had a interesting pattern that looked like they were made out of rope encased in clay. After inquiring on how they were made I was shown his technique that truned a strand of clay into something that looked like rope.  Each strand of clay was then layered on top of each other to be shaped as a large vase.  He finally fired the piece in his kiln for display.  He sells a few of the pieces and keeps many for his own enjoyment.
   Finally one of the amazing connections I found with Mr. Gould is that he is very involved with Our House, a non-profit on which I have blogged.  He has helped with their organic garden, planted trees and recently started helping them with a bee colony to make honey. Small world.

    I knew that architectural guidelines in Allview were probably non-existent and Mr. Gould said that he hadn't had complaints about his yard from neighbors but just curiosity.  I thought I would check out how my Owen Brown Village would look at a village resident doing something similar to what Mr. Gould did.  I was told that as long as the planting was an effort to create a garden of plants and not created by neglect then it would most likely be accepted as within the village guidelines.  It would probably be a good idea to let the village staff know about your plans in case anyone complained about your unusual yard.  I am not sure I want to go to all the work of a planned natural plant or animal preserve but it does appeal to me on one level.  I have always disliked the whole lawn grass with fertilizer and mowing thing.  I have thought of mulching and planting wild flowers like the State Highway Administration has done on the median areas of Route 70.  Adds beauty and eliminates mowing.  Maybe next Spring I will get motivated to try something similar.

    If you have anybody you think should be profiled as an interesting person in our community send me an email. 

   I will be out of town the next few days so I may take a short break with blogging unless I have something interesting to write about.  Have a good weekend and be sure to check out what is growing at Larriland.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

“Superconnect: Harnessing the Power of Networks and the Strength of Weak Links”

        I recently finished reading the book listed in the title of this blog.  Always looking at how to more effectively network and connect I was surprised by the main point of this book, which was that our “weak links” are the most valuable in developing new ideas, partnerships and even in job searches.  This goes against one’s initial belief that our “strong” links being family, close friends and associates would be the most beneficial to us in any effort we might pursue.  The old phrase of “its not ‘what’ you know but ‘who’ you know” would lead us to believe that our closest contacts are the most valuable.

        So what are weak links and why are they so valuable?  Weak links are those people that we know very casually or have very infrequently contact with.  Think of your Facebook friends or LinkedIn contacts.  Most of these individuals are probably weak links. Why are they so valuable? I would like to take a quote from the book to answer that question,
Our close friends tend to be similar to us and mainly move in the same social circles. Close friends operate in a dense network, what is called a 'closely knit clump of social structure', where most people know each other and share the same information. The individual also has a range of acquaintances, few of whom know each other. Each acquaintance is enmeshed in a clump of friends who share information. The weak tie between the individual and his acquaintance 'therefore, becomes not merely a trivial acquaintance tie but rather a crucial bridge between the two densely knit clumps of close friends ... It follows, then, that individuals with few weak ties will be deprived of information from distant parts of the social system and will be confined to the provincial news and views of their close friends.
If information is to move from one group to another that is far away, either socially or physically, then the only way is through bridges — links between two different people, two different worlds, links that, by definition, are weak rather than strong. This means that whatever is to be diffused can reach a larger number of people, and traverse greater social distance, when passed through weak ties rather than strong. If weak links are removed — the bridges, as it were, are blown up — then this would harm the spread of information more than if strong links were dissolved. If the bridges did not exist, new ideas would be stunted or spread slowly, science would be handi­capped, and social divisions \would be perpetuated.
To get useful new ideas or information, we must go beyond our immediate circle and make contact with distant parts of the social system. The only way to do that is through weak ties…”

 The most creative people tend to be the ones that have a large number of weak ties which give them a broader perspective to see more ways that things are connected.  People with few weak ties and only strong ties tend to be more closed to new ideas that are different from what they perceive as the norm. The strong ties to be self-reinforcing in your beliefs and perspectives.  Think of growing up in a small town with a homogeneous population as opposed to growing up in a cosmopolitan diverse community. Again the “cross fertilization” of weak ties are where innovation and progress come from.

This reality also applies to organizations. Organizations that are too inwardly directed can quickly run into problems when the external environment in which they operate changes.  Establishing many weak ties can lead organizations to new partnering opportunities that can strengthen organization’s operation.  Where are these opportunities in Howard County?  We have so many that it is hard to identify all of them but a short list would be something like this:
This list is just a start.  Civic organizations, PTA’s, fraternities, sororities and neighborhood associations are too numerous to list. Feel free to post a comment with other networks.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Pinnacle Empowerment Center---Helping Women Plan for Careers and Life

        The Pinnacle Empowerment Center was founded in 2009 at a time of unparalleled economic stress, especially for women who found themselves at a roadblock either in their career or personal life and had nowhere to turn. A small but committed group of individuals saw a desperate need for this organization to ensure that women and families in our area get the customized services they truly need for long term financial stability.

          With the economic downturn in the area, there’s been an increase in women falling into poverty or deeper into poverty by losing their jobs, incurring increased debt, losing their homes and being unable to meet basic needs for themselves and their families. Area social service providers have seen an increase in demand for services in the community. 

         The focus has traditionally been on short-term ad hoc crisis services, which are not comprehensive enough to help a woman who is about to fall into poverty or already in poverty and falling deeper into it.

          The Pinnacle Empowerment Center is offering intensive coaching; counseling and training to the most vulnerable women in the region in key areas to help women earn family-sustaining wages and provide the tools they need to attain economic security.
Overcoming barriers to success
Pathways to family-sustaining jobs and careers and entrepreneurship
Financial Education, Asset Building and Wealth Creation
Education and Training Options for long-term success
Resource Coordination to help with stabilization and prevention services.
Women and their families will know the resources that are available in the community in the event that a crisis occurs in their lives.

The Center will offer Career Workshops starting this Thursday that will focus on the following:
Do you know your top 5 career values?
Do you know what skills you have that are the most sought after by potential employers?
Do you know what it takes to be successful in landing your next job?
If not, join them for their upcoming career series:

· Exploring your top skills and career values for your next job: Thursday, June 23rd, 10am-12pm

· 1-2-3 of Job Searching: Monday, June 27th, 10am-12pm

· Latest trends in resume writing: Thursday, June 30th, 10am-12pm

FEE: $45 each. Discount available for series. Workshops will be held at Pinnacle Empowerment Center, 8180 Lark Brown Road, Ste. 301, Elkridge, MD 21075. For more information and to register contact Cindy at 410-799-1097 ext. 300.

 Job Club first Tuesday of the month at 10am – open to all adults. Pinnacle
Empowerment Center, a non-profit located in Elkridge provides women in
transition career and life management services. Fee: $10 donation. Contact
Cindy at 410-799-1097 to register and to learn more about upcoming
workshops/programs offered.
Save the Date  
Re--Start, Re--Charge, and Re--Invent
Your career, your finances, your life!

Friday, October 28th, 2011
9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Sheraton Hotel & Conference Center
Columbia, MD

· Draw inspiration from keynote speaker, Colonel Karen Gibson, Commander of the 704th Military Intelligence Brigade, as she shares her story of courage and determination.

· Discover your potential through break-out sessions focused on financial management, career advancement and professional development.

v Find out how to earn what you are worth
v Create a plan for financial freedom
v Learn the power of networking within your community
v Experience individual power coaching sessions
Whether you are starting over, want to change careers or just reach the next level in your life join us for a powerful day!
Tickets $75. Breakfast and lunch included.
Event sponsorships available.
For more information, call 443-832-3680 or visit
Presented by:

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Centennial Fun Run-Best Family Fun Event in Howard County for 33 years and running

Thirty-one years before Michelle Obama started her campaign to improve the fitness of our youth we had a Howard County resident starting her own effort to “get all of us moving.” Arleen Dinneen has been organizing the Centennial Fun Run for 32 years that has probably started more Howard County residents running than any other event.

Back in the mid 70’s before running was popular Arleen’s son Tim told her that he and some of his friends  had done a mile run on the track at Centennial High School.  Thinking that a mile was one lap of the track she decided to do it herself.  After completing one lap and stopping she was told that a mile was FOUR times around the track.  Not one to stop before doing the mile she pushed herself to do the other three laps and decided that she wanted to be able to do all four laps without stopping.  When she could do that she heard about the Howard County Striders weekly runs and thought she would go out with her son to do the 2-mile length run.  When someone suggested trying the 6-mile run she thought that would be too far but eventually they were able to do it.

Again this was before the running craze (and triathlons) and Arleen just ran in cutoffs and tennis shoes. But because the Striders were so friendly and encouraging to the beginning runners she stuck with it.  Along the way she started hosting some informal runs for kids in her neighborhood around a one-mile course.  Each week it seemed to have more kids and then even some parents joined in the runs and the Centennial Fun Run was born.  One thing led to another and she decided to give the kids a trophy if they did the run 5 times and started sending the run results to the local newspaper to have them posted. Each year it has grown and is now an official event sponsored by the Howard County Striders. Many of the youth that have gone on to join the Junior Striders started out at Arleen’s Fun Run. Along the way her neighbors like Dave and Peggy Fitzpatrick and Alice and Bill Barrows became race volunteers. After starting to run the Fun Run with my children when they were young I am now bringing out my grandchildren.  And that story is repeated by a number of other families. And Arleen’s kids are now grown with families of their own and help her run the events each week.

Even though Arleen gets the young high school track runners who can do the Fun Run in less than 5 minutes she has always thought of this as an event for kids.  With this in mind she has a different theme night. I have posted some of these events like caulk night, Scales and Tales, Banjo Buddies and one really special time years ago when a neighbor and I ran as the crash test dummies, Vince and Larry.  While those suits didn’t breath and were very hot we had fun coming up behind runners and yelling out “Your being passed by a crash dummy.”

Tuesday night starts its 33rd year at 7:30 on 10114 Colonial Drive in Ellicott City near Centennial High School. Think about coming out or emailing this blog to friends, family and neighbors who may be interested in starting a new healthy family tradition. You never know where it will lead.

 Yours truly at the right at the Fun Run with my Son in 1997

For me this blog also has a personal impact. Twenty-six years ago I was one of those non-runners who thought that getting out to run in all kinds of weather was crazy. Arleen was a co-worker of my at the time and she said “don’t knock it till you try it.”  And she invited me to try her Fun Run since it was only a one mile run.  As someone who played racquetball 5 or 6 times a week I thought that doing this shouldn’t be a problem.  However when I saw kids 7 and 8 years old passing me (to say nothing about the women) on the run I decided come back out the next week after building my endurance up during the following week.  After pushing myself to do first one mile then 2 miles and finally 3 miles I began to see how your body could really adjust to aerobic exercise. Suddenly I saw myself as a runner and set goals of doing a 10K race and then training for a marathon, something I had never imaged myself doing in the recent past. Fast forward 26 years and running, like blogging, has become a part of who I am. By my estimation I have run far enough in those years to run around the earth twice having run over 50,000 miles in those 26 years. While 10K races every weekend, the Bagel Run and marathons (having completed 11 including Chicago last year) are no longer something I do I still think of myself as a runner although these days it might be more accurate to call myself a slow jogger. For this I salute you Arleen!

P.S. 2
The Sun had a story in its Sunday Business section about the increased use of social media to market businesses and non profits  

P.S. 3
You know you are getting older when the musicians you have listened to over the years start dying.  The E Street Band lost a great saxophonist this week in Clarence Clemons. If you haven’t heard him take a listen to what a great saxophonist sounds like.

Larriland Farm Pick your own raspberries

For all of us that remember Sewell's Orchards as the place where you could pick strawberries and peaches and not as the name of a housing development you now have to go out to Larriland Farms to have the same experience.  In the next week or so the raspberries are coming into season and there is nothing like the red and black raspberries for making a great dessert.  Probably the world's best treat in my mind is black raspberries, some half and half and sugar in a bowl.  When I was growing up we had black raspberries growing wild in the woods near our house and there were some days that this is all we ate.  You can even find some wild black raspberries growing wild along the bike paths in Columbia.  The path from Lake Elkhorn to Savage Park has many wild bushes of raspberries that in July will be ripe.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Crab Pizza? What could be more Maryland

While I have never been a fan of seafood pizzas which usually involve putting seafood, usually shrimp, on a white pizza I have begun to think differently with the following recipe for a Maryland crab pizza.  The difference in my thinking is the ingredient that replaces the tomato sauce.  Somehow the loss of tomatoes and sauce made seafood pizzas bland.  So what is the great ingredient that makes this pizza different?  Crab dip.  I used the crab dip they sell at the seafood counter at Giant and it made the pizza.  So here is my recipe.

Homemade pizza dough or good quality dough
1 cup crab dip
1 cup lump crab meat
Mixture of mozzarella and sharp cheddar cheese (Colby jack works well too)
1 tsp of Old Bay seasoning

Toppings suggestions (optional)
Sweet corn kernels (I sauté in a little butter to make them better)
Diced tomato
Bacon bits
Jalapeno pepper if you like that kick
Red onion

Spread crab dip on pizza dough
Spread cheese on top
Spread lump crab meat on top
Put on toppings (Have to use the sweet corn at least)
Sprinkle on the Old Bay

Bake at preheated oven at highest temperature (550 degrees for me) on the lowest rack you have.  Preferably on a pizza brick.


Friday, June 17, 2011

No Impact Man Columbia Week Two----Water, Water, Nowhere?

       While the world struggles to overcome its addiction to oil, the next great resource shortage may make the oil shortage look mild by comparison.  As we go through the 21st century the world’s need for drinkable water may create shortages that impact us in ways that oil never could.  We all take for granted that when we turn on the faucet clean drinkable water is instantly provided to us.  Is it possible that a wealthy country like the US could have its population join the one billion people in the world who right now don’t have access to clean water? Will our use of products that are made with toxic chemicals lead us in this direction?

       I would like to examine one example of how this could happen in the US.  Most of us have some awareness of the use of “fracking” that is going in Pennsylvania that raises questions of our future ability to take drinkable water for granted.  Fracking is seen as the best way to increase our supply of natural gas, which will reduce our reliance on foreign oil and is seen as a cleaner substitute for oil and coal to power our need for energy. As quoted in the blog Words for a Better World and widely reported in the media, “In 2005, the Bush/Cheney Energy Bill exempted natural gas drilling from the Safe Drinking Water Act. This lobbying effort was led by none other than Halliburton and aided by the former CEO of Halliburton, then-Vice President Dick Cheney. The bill exempts companies from disclosing the chemicals used during fracking, as the chemicals are considered “trade secrets.” Given this legal exemption, the EPA was taken out of the picture, even though EPA environmental engineers reported in 2004 that the chemicals being used in fracking were not safe and were in fact toxic at the point of injection.”

      So how do most of us contribute to this problem? A few ways I would like to highlight.  First by the use of chemical fertilizers that we use on our yards that flow off our yards and into the tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay.  Is having a green lawn really worth killing the Bay? Is the wasted water that we put on our dormant brown lawns every summer a good use of this precious resource?

How about the other common uses of water that we hardly think about each day.  Every toilet flush uses about 3 gallons of water.  Every shower uses 2.5 gallons a minute. The average bath uses 50 gallons. Dishwashers use an average of 20 gallons a load. The average load of laundry uses 10 gallons.  I doubt we would use anywhere near these amounts if we had to haul every gallon like many people in underdeveloped countries. We can still use these conveniences and save water by adding flow restrictors to our shower heads and having water saving toilets installed.  You can even make you existing toilet use less water with each flush by putting a brick in your tank. Or how about not always flushing the toilet as often? Or not washing all your clothes after wearing once?

I found these suggested ways to reduce your water:
In the Bathroom
1. Make sure your toilet is an ultra-low flush model, which uses only one and a half gallons per flush.
2. If you're taking a shower, don't waste cold water while waiting for hot water to reach the shower head. Catch that water in a container to use on your outside plants or to flush your toilet. Saves 200 to 300 gallons a month.
3. Check toilet for leaks. Put dye tablets or food coloring into the tank. If color appears in the bowl without flushing, there's a leak that should be repaired. Saves 400 gallons a month.
4. Turn off the water while brushing your teeth. Saves three gallons each day.
5. Turn off the water while shaving. Fill the bottom of the sink with a few inches of water to rinse your razor. Saves three gallons each day.
In the Kitchen
1. If you wash dishes by hand—and that's the best way—don't leave the water running for rinsing. If you have two sinks, fill one with rinse water. If you only have one sink, use a spray device or short blasts instead of letting the water run. Saves 200 to 500 gallons a month.
2. When washing dishes by hand, use the least amount of detergent possible. This minimizes rinse water needed. Saves 50 to 150 gallons a month.
3. Keep a bottle of drinking water in the refrigerator. This beats the wasteful habit of running tap water to cool it for drinking. Saves 200 to 300 gallons a month.
4. Don't defrost frozen foods with running water. Either plan ahead by placing frozen items in the refrigerator overnight or defrost them in the microwave. Saves 50 to 150 gallons a month.
5. Don't let the faucet run while you clean vegetables. Rinse them in a filled sink or pan. Saves 150 to 250 gallons a month.
6. Use the garbage disposal less and the garbage more (even better—compost!). Saves 50 to 150 gallons a month.
1. Put a layer of mulch around trees and plants. Chunks of bark, peat moss or gravel slows down evaporation. Saves 750 to 1,500 gallons a month.
2. If you have a pool, use a pool cover to cut down on evaporation. It will also keep your pool cleaner and reduce the need to add chemicals. Saves 1,000 gallons a month.
3. Water during the cool parts of the day. Early morning is better than dusk since it helps prevent the growth of fungus. Saves 300 gallons.
4. Don't water the lawn on windy days. There's too much evaporation. Can waste up to 300 gallons in one watering.
5. Cut down watering on cool and overcast days and don't water in the rain. Adjust or deactivate automatic sprinklers. Can save up to 300 gallons each time.
6. Set lawn mower blades one notch higher. Longer grass means less evaporation. Saves 500 to 1,500 gallons each month.
7. Have an evaporative air conditioner? Direct the water drain line to a flower bed, tree base, or lawn.
8. Drive your car onto a lawn to wash it. Rinse water can help water the grass. Or don’t wash your car at all!
9. Tell your children not to play with the garden hose. Saves 10 gallons a minute.
10. If you allow your children to play in the sprinklers, make sure it's only when you're watering the yard—-if it's not too cool at that time of day.
11. Replace your lawn and high-water-using trees and plants with less thirsty ones. But do this only in wet years. Even drought resistant plantings take extra water to get them going. That'll save 750 to 1,500 gallons a month.
12. When taking your car to a car wash—a good idea for saving water—be sure it's one of the many that recycles its wash water.
13. Dispose of hazardous materials properly! One quart of oil can contaminate 250,000 gallons of water, effectively eliminating that much water from our water supply. Contact your city or county for proper waste disposal options. And don't flush prescription medications!

      OK so what did I do in this No Impact Man-Columbia week to conserve water? I did as I suggested and put bricks in the toilets.  And tried to limit the times the toilet was flushed to just a couple times a day.  Not getting into the times when I did flush but you can probably guess. I timed my showers to be no more than 2 minutes (I already have low flow shower heads).  I have to admit that I wore two shirts for 2 days each this week.  Not sure this would work as well on our humid summer days.

The project that I did that was the most fun was to construct a rain barrel system for one of my gutters.  For about $35 in materials at Home Depot I built it after following the instructions on a You Tube video.  Not being a great handyman (as my family will quickly tell you) I had some mistakes to overcome in building the rain barrel.  The biggest one was not closing the valve on the faucet I put on the barrel.  I found this out going out after a heavy shower and anxiously looking to see how much of the barrel filled up and noticing the ground around the barrel had a big puddle.  Oh well, live and learn.  Now I anxious await the next heavy rain.

Next week 3 will be reduced electrical use.  This should be one of the harder weeks.

Howard County is offering free energy audits to over 1400 county residents.  Sounds like a good idea for my next week efforts.

P.S. 2
You may have noticed that I have added a new blog to the ones I follow.  It is a blog by Beth Kantor on how networked organizations are using social media to power their growth.  A blog that all organizations should read.  Her book on the networked organization is the best book I have read on the subject.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Guest Blogger today! Bernice and the House Named Slayton

Last week I put out a help wanted blog inviting anyone to do a guest blog and got two responses.  Today I am posting the first guest blog. My hope is that I might be able to entice some blog readers to try out blogging.

Bernice and The House Named Slayton
by Midnight Rider

She sat on the bench with Jane, across from the entrance reception desk. I spotted her from the lobby just sitting there. Relaxed smiling. Looking guilty, but not. As I approached the bench she sighed, “I’m tired,” laughing half apologetically. “Your entitled,” I quipped. She laughed again. Sweet, her belly rising and falling as if the laugh was less like topical ointment and more like hello my feet are smiling with my face. This is Bernice Kish. The Beacon of Wilde Lake at rest on the slatted wooden bench like a woman waiting for a ride. One half hour remains to the gallery reception. Her close friend Nat has left. She sits with Jane bent slightly into her. The moment is sad, the moment is poignant, the moment is filled with a swirling cacophony of silent memories between us; for each of us. The woman who has come to be The Symbol of Slayton House is parked on the bench outside her office, on her own sidelines, ticking down a personal best of twenty-five years as Village Manager, Slayton House Manager; Gallery Director. A mere foot from the goal, the hushed “crowd” gathers as final witness to the closing endgame transitioning into yet another chapter.  Kindle not. Earmarked, well lived and very personal, yes.

The afternoon’s artist reception numbered 208, give or take, in a setting passionately cultivated by Bernice The Originator. A community gallery with the warmhearted patina of an intimate salon. The guests are mostly gone now. Classical guitarist Don Miller plays to framed fields of lavender in oil and crusted bread sticks spackled on canvas. He plays lost to himself as if alone on his own front porch serenading the cul-de-sac. Don’s lilting chords permeate the after air of the day’s reception and drift down the hall to the bench.

Jane is charming a yes out of Bernice. “Maybe I’ll come back for one or two,” she softly responds looking away. As if looking back in the day when the classic film series spun reel to reel real vintage movies and served up silent films with Ray Brubaker on the piano, Marvelous Movies & More circa ‘91. Today the DVD swallows a disk, up roars the golden lion and says there’s Loretta Young, sashaying across a lavish drawing room,
in a bias cut cream gown ooshing of satin. Loretta is gone and the movie faithful have dwindled with the times. Cut to Bernice, originator and series host to critic-guided discussions, door prizes and slices of Bun Penny cheesecake, the likes of chocolate with raspberry mouse, all for a $7.00 feel-good ticket. Kish has played moderator to change management for over two decades; including the lesser-known management of schlepping frozen cheesecakes from her storage freezer, to car trunk, to Slayton House and back again depending on audience turnout. If you asked she would tell you she was never cheesecake tempted, nor did she partake. And you can believe it. Just ask Bill Clinton. He did not partake either.
Pick any morning at Slayton House and a peak behind the curtain might reveal corporate breakfast training for 200, kitchen buzzing with caterers for senior lunch and early bird staff yoga in the dance studio. On any given day, set-up changes in room usage turn with the precision of Special Forces, in a rhythm that speaks volumes for Bernice’s demand for doing what you are hired to do and hello doing it well. We are talking non-profit wages, rare raises, irregular long hours, nights, weekends, events, meetings, full audits and all the resident inquiries and board navigated needs one can imagine and then not. 

With each change of season, renovation and unanticipated village lock down, at the center of village leadership is Bernice Kish: 4' 5" of a low profile, irrepressibly loving being with an impish genetic makeup, fluffy pale coif to match and lapels of ersatzes jewelry by starving artists. A one of a kind blend of a watercolorist herself, she is Mother Teresa and Senator Mikulski. She is herself, imbued with unbound integrity, fortitude, patience, tenacity, wit and creative resolve. With a running style that incorporates philosophies like its okay to complain but come back with a solution; she’ll toss a few as you walk out the door. Accompanied by a fiercely long term loyal staff of 13, Kish is first up to give credit in the daily grind. And with an ego parked on a spiritual plain, she is the day’s nonprofit version of the GM style of management. Open and accessible, teaming and sharing, believing in you even when you do not in yourself, mentoring and guiding seekers and the informed alike. One has to go far to find a staff who honor the core who groom the grounds, prep the rooms, empty the trash and clean the johns. In turn, one has to go far to find a maintenance employee who shovels your driveway, out of concern, when you are away. 

Shades of the dutiful wife, of a high-ranking Navy Officer, entertaining with exacting detail, requisite glass service for 18 and crisp linens in tow (don’t we all) often moving from base to base, remain. While living in posh locations like Guam in a Quonset hut, she made certain her three charges knew how to swim although she was scared to death of the water. The woman we have come to trust, love and know, once stood poolside shouting encouragement as Johnnie, Michelle and Ann Marie learned to swim, although she could not herself. On her watch she has been Wilde Lake’s Lifeguard of the sane, inane, straight and narrow. She has been our liaison impresario and feel good ambassador. So she sat down on the bench, giggled and sighed. Let it be known “the sit” was an unlikely first in twenty-five years. This Friday, a reception will be held in Bernice Kish’s Honor where, without doubt, The Beacon will be standing tall giving us yet another classy lesson in how to move on :]

The only time frames to memories are those we create. Share your own one-of a kind and treasured moments as you may.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Are you an early adopter?

In 1962 Everett Rodgers developed a theory of how new ideas and technology become mainstream.  He coined the term “early adopter” to label individuals who quickly adapt to change.  With the rapid acceleration in change in our lives over the last 30 years brought on by the computer and the Internet many people have had trouble adjusting to a constantly changing world.  Many individuals are uncomfortable with having to change, re-learning and re-examining how they view the world.  They long for the “good ol’days” when everyone stopped learning when they left school and everyone liked things “just the way they were.”  They frequently stated their beliefs with “If God would have wanted us to…………” or “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”

Rodgers laid out the process of change this way:

“Innovators are the first individuals to adopt an innovation. Innovators are willing to take risks, youngest in age, have the highest social class, have great financial lucidity, very social and have closest contact to scientific sources and interaction with other innovators. Risk tolerance has them adopting technologies which may ultimately fail. Financial resources help absorb these failures. (Rogers 1962 5th ed, p. 282)

Early Adopters is the second fastest category of individuals who adopt an innovation. These individuals have the highest degree of opinion leadership among the other adopter categories. Early adopters are typically younger in age, have a higher social status, have more financial lucidity, advanced education, and are more socially forward than late adopters. More discrete in adoption choices than innovators. Realize judicious choice of adoption will help them maintain central communication position (Rogers 1962 5th ed, p. 283).

Early Majority Individuals adopt an innovation after a varying degree of time. This time of adoption is significantly longer than the innovators and early adopters. Early Majority tend to be slower in the adoption process, have above average social status, contact with early adopters, and seldom hold positions of opinion leadership in a system (Rogers 1962 5th ed, p. 283)

Late Majority Individuals will adopt an innovation after the average member of the society. These individuals approach an innovation with a high degree of skepticism and after the majority of society has adopted the innovation. Late Majority are typically skeptical about an innovation, have below average social status, very little financial lucidity, in contact with others in late majority and early majority, very little opinion leadership.

Laggards Individuals are the last to adopt an innovation. Unlike some of the previous categories, individuals in this category show little to no opinion leadership. These individuals typically have an aversion to change-agents and tend to be advanced in age. Laggards typically tend to be focused on “traditions”, likely to have lowest social status, lowest financial fluidity, be oldest of all other adopters, in contact with only family and close friends, very little to no opinion leadership.”

This process applies to business as well as people.  We see this in terms of how the American car industry was caught off guard with the gas shortages and their inventories full of low mileage cars. Foreign competitors grew their market share as a result and Toyota overtook GM as the world’s leader in car sales.

Organizations can also fail to recognize new realities by operating as if the world will always work as if has.  The reality for organizations is to recognize change and move in directions that position themselves to take advantage of the new realities.  The hockey player Wayne Gretzky best sums this up.  Wayne was so much better than the other professional hockey players that he was frequently asked why he was so much better.  His answer is just as valid for business and organizations as it is for hockey players.  Gretsky said “ Most hockey skaters react to where the puck is ---I determine where the puck is going and move to position myself so that the puck comes to me.”  Of course his skill was to know where the puck is going.  Just like the “early adopters.”

The adoption of new ideas is even geographical in our country.  It has been noted that new ideas and products start on the West Coast and then go to the East Coast and then to the Midwest. I noticed this years ago when I was in the Midwest and went out to Rollerblade and noticed people stopping to watch me.  Then I realized that they had never seen roller blades before. What had become common in California and the East Coast had not yet hit the Chicago area.

I want to repost a video that I posted late on yesterday’s blog on how social media has changed our world and I wanted everyone to get a chance to see it today also.