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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Blogging reflections from my first year of blogging

     Yesterday was my one year anniversary of doing the HoCo Connect blog.  I have posted 347 times in that period and have had over 31,000 views.  Most days over 100 people view the blog. Not close to being in the newspaper but not too bad for the first year.  Getting mentioned in How Chow or in the Baltimore Sun's blog posts is good for an extra 100 people.

        Doing a daily blog is like keeping a daily journal and sharing it with the world. When I started the blog I talked with Tom Coale of HoCo Rising about what was important in doing a blog.  His suggestions were to post regularly and have a theme to your blog.  I have kept to the first suggestion better than the second.  Most bloggers who post infrequently wonder how it is possible to have something to blog on everyday.  This can be a problem and I admit that I simply “cut and paste” information some days from information I have learned from other organizations.  I have heard the complaint that I “cut and paste” too often.  I have also heard the complaint that my formatting is a problem some days with the cut and paste.  Cutting and pasting information does lead to some weird formatting issues that I can’t always straighten out.

         In doing this for a year I have found myself having too many potential blogs---- not too few.  I tend to think and observe my daily activities as “potential blogs.”  I have developed a blogger mentality.  This is not difficult as someone who is curious about the many things that I experience or observe during the day.
       Early on I decided that I had to have a change of pace for the weekend blogs.  I wanted them to be more fun and to explore my other interests of food and travel. I know some people ignore the weekend posts as off topic but I enjoy them greatly.  My experiments with food are fun to share even when they don’t work out (i.e. doing a pizza on a Weber grill).

       One of the unexpected benefits of doing this blog has been the opportunity to meet other bloggers.  We can all thank Jesse Newburn for organizing the blog parties where we can talk with each other about blogging. Jesse has been very helpful to me with her suggestions on how to make my blog better.  Thanks Jesse for all that you do for the blogging community.  Like some much of Howard County we have probably one of the best blogging communities in the country.  If you can’t find something to interest you in Howard County you aren't looking hard enough.
        I hope that the information I have tried to pass along and share in this blog has been useful to folks that have read the blog.  I know that I have probably gaimed more out of doing this blog than most readers.  I have met many interesting people like Barbara Kellner at the Columbia Archives, reporters from the Patch network and many others from agencies and organizations around the County.  

        A year ago I just wanted to reconnect with people and activities in Howard County after having been focused outside the County in my work for the previous 8 years.  I found that blogging gave me that opportunity in a very tangible way.  We are really fortunate to live in a vital community like Howard County.  I wish it was more affordable for people of more limited economic means and have blogged on that reality often.  You shouldn’t have to have a six figure income to enjoy the wonderful assets of our County.  And yes I have heard the complaints that Jim Rouse's vision (one that I share) for Columbia doesn’t have to forever define our community.  Times change and yes we need to recognize that fact.  But I will remain one of those “true believers” that communities can embrace diversity and strive to make our community as livable and “people friendly” as possible.  Jim Rouse was unique as a developer in recognizing that communities are people first and not just buildings and roads.  And yea I still do miss Mrs. Z’s!

        A recent article reported that home sales in the Baltimore metro region dropped in January. Sales in one county in the State, however, show a bright spot in the market. According to figures from market research firm Metropolitan Regional Information Systems Inc., Howard County had 154 home sales in January, an increase of 8 percent over last year. The average sold price was down 1 percent to $384,627. What does this mean? In a tough economy, homes in Howard County are becoming more abundant and more affordable.

       The Howard County Housing Fair on Saturday, April 14 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Long Reach High School, 6101 Old Dobbin Lane in Columbia will provide a one stop place to learn about the different housing in Howard County. The event is the only place where home buyers can get everything they need to know about buying and living in Howard County. It is completely free and open to the public, and features more than 45 real estate specialists, mortgage lenders, homebuilders & remodelers, as well as narrated bus tours and the popular Housing Lottery.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Howard County launches tax program for income eligible citizens

           Tax time doesn't have to be confusing with a new program launched in the County this year. Howard County’s first Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site will be open throughout the 2012 tax season. Like other VITA sites across the country, the Howard County site will offer free tax assistance preparation to most taxpayers who earned up to $49,000 in 2011.  In addition to free tax return preparation, the site will offer free electronic filing. Individuals taking advantage of the e-file program receive their refunds in half the time compared to returns filed on paper — even faster, when tax refunds are deposited directly into a bank account.
     Howard County VITA
     North Laurel Community Center
     9411 Whiskey Bottom Road
     Laurel, MD 20723
     January 18 to April 14, 2011
     Wednesdays and Thursdays from 4 to 8 pm
     Saturdays from 9am to 3 pm
  • Photo IDs for taxpayers
  • Social Security cards for taxpayers and all depdendants 
  • Last year’s Federal and State tax returns
  • All W2s, 1099s (interest, dividends, pensions, IRA disbursements, stock sales, etc.)
  • Social Security or Railroad Retirement statements
  • Alimony received or paid for the year
  • If Married Filing Separately, spouse’s SSN ( you must also know whether your spouse is itemizing deductions)
  • Concise list of expenses if you wish to itemize
  • Property tax records
  • Estimated tax payments (Federal and State)
  • If you were a 1st-time home buyer in 2010, you will need to know the purchase price and date of purchase.
Please note: Our tax counselors are volunteers who are trained only to do simple returns for those with low to moderate incomes.  We will not be able to prepare returns involving businesses with employees, complicated K-1s, rentals, or an extensive list of stock sales.
Appointments are encouraged!  Please call 410-313-0386 to make, change or cancel an appointment; or to learn more about VITA.

For seniors over the age of 60 most senior centers in Howard County offers tax preparation in partnership with AARP.  Contact your local senior center for more information.

P.S. 2
Celebrate with the film, Green Fire, and a walk at the Robinson Nature Center.
Sunday, March 4, at 1 pm.
Sponsored by the James and Anne Robinson Foundation.
Here’s your chance to see the award-winning first documentary film ever made about legendary conservationist Aldo Leopold. Green Fire features readings from Leopold’s masterpiece, A Sand County Almanac, and stunning historical photos dramatizing his pioneering career in the early Twentieth Century.
 Perhaps even more important, the film introduces viewers to Leopold’s children, grandchildren, researchers, and advocates, who are extending his legacy on behalf of the land and everyone who depends upon it. Leopold's vision of an ethic that respects people and wild nature informs and inspires a growing international community, innovators who are applying Leopold’s vision to environmental challenges we face today. 
Following the film, naturalist Jo Solem will lead interested participants on a walk along the wooded trails surrounding the Nature Center.  Please dress accordingly; the walk will be canceled in case of inclement weather. 
Refreshments will be provided by the Robinson Foundation. 
Pre-registration is strongly recommended. 
DATE: March 4, 2012
TIME:  Film at 1 pm; walk at 2:45 pm
LOCATION: James & Anne Robinson Nature Center
ADDRESS: 6692 Cedar Lane, Columbia, MD 21044
TICKETS: Film and walk free with paid admission to the Center or RNC Annual Pass
PREREGISTRATION: Please contact the Robinson Foundation or 240-755-0124

P.S. 3
According to HowChow 
"R&R Taqueria segments on "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives" airs tonight at 10 pm.  Check your listings for the Food Network. Guy Fieri and the Food Network came through town last fall to film at R&R Taqueria in the Shell Station on U.S. 1 in Elkridge. "

Monday, February 27, 2012

First Visit to the new International Market in Long Reach

   I finally got over to the new international supermarket in Long Reach yesterday.  I mistakenly started out with a hand basket which I had to switch after about 10 minutes to a regular grocery cart as I had already picked up too many items to carry in the hand basket.  The supermarket is heavily oriented to Asian food and carries many of the same items as the Korean supermarket on Route 40.

The other concentrated food items were Hispanic. The one difference and a bit of a disappointment was the produce section which carried the same produce that you would see in a Giant supermarket.  The Route 40 supermarket carries more Asian produce items.

   The diversity of people shopping there was amazing.  The variety of races and nationalities reflects the changing face of Howard County.  For those of us that have campaigned for a village center to embrace the international model Long Reach seems to be headed in that direction.  I have blogged on how the Safeway never seemed to have many people doing their weekly shopping when I had been there.  With the new market it was amazing how many cars were in the parking lot.  The supermarket was as busy as any Giant in town.  Bon Appetit, the Korean bakery, has a presence in the supermarket which gives me a closer location for all of their delicious red bean donuts that I craze.  I think I will be gaining weight from what I bought at the bakery yesterday.

   Now to the food.
 I have become addicted to the aloe drink that you see at many grocery stores these days.  But here they had the regular drink but also had the drink with mango and peach.  I bought the aloe mango and it is fantastic.  I even added half milk to the drink and a little sweetener and it made a good smoothie in a blender with some crushed ice.

They carried the Bulgogi sauce and Korean BBQ sauce that is used with many meat dishes in Korean restaurants.  Lime teriycki  made a great dipping sauce when mixed with a little balsamic vinegar.  Mango pickle relish had a somewhat bitter (tart?) taste and not what I expected.  I could see it going well when mixed with another condiment to temper the bitterness. Kiwi juice was another unusual item that could be a unique flavor when added to a Coke instead of a lime or lemon.  Custard dumplings and mocha peanut dough balls are addicting.

     Better work extra hard today during spinning class!


Sunday, February 26, 2012

From Trip Advisor: Things to do in Columbia

     I have always used Trip Advisor to guide me when I visit a new city.  It is generally a good guide to hotels, restaurants and things to do in the city. After looking for information on a recent trip I was curious to see what was on Trip Advisor about Columbia.  I was discouraged to see that there were only 3 things listed to do.  Merriweather Post Pavilion was rated as number 1, Earth Treks number 2 and Robinson Nature Center number 3.  I wonder why more wasn't listed.  Are we that limited? Maybe we do miss the old Visitor's Center to tell us about Columbia and its features.

    Homewood Suites by Hilton and Hilton Garden Inn were rated number 1 and number 2 for hotels.  The Sheraton came in number 6.  For restaurants the Royal Taj was rated number 1.  I have never been there and think it is relatively new.  Stanford Grill was ranked number 2, Bon Fresco number 3, Pho Dat Thanh number 4 and Sushi Sono number 5.  If you polled locals on the best restaurant the only one from this list mentioned would probably be Sushi Sono. I wonder if the selections are all from visitors and not locals.  On Yelp Sushi Sono was rated number 1, Hunan Manor number 2 and Red Pearl rated number 3.  Most out of towners would probably not be aware of HowChow for picking a restaurant but it is always my choice to learn about a restaurant.

P.S. Late Flu Season
Lately I have been wondering what has happened to our flu season this year.  By this time most years we are hearing reports about the prevalence of the flu and knowing people who have had the flu.  But this year seems to be different.  According to AccuWeather the flu season will still occur but later than normal and come with the Spring allergy season:
The flu season could be off to a slow start because people are more likely to spend time outdoors — instead of indoors sharing their viruses with each other. As a result, people have been healthier this winter. "Being outside more in the winter has two benefits," according to Alex Sosnowski, expert senior meteorologist for "The time in the sunlight can boost the level of vitamin D a person takes in and the fresh outdoor air is less likely to spread flu germs."

P.S. Maryland Public TV show of the week
MPT: Tuesday, Feb. 28, 8pm
also: February 29 at 12:01am,3am
MPT2: Sunday, Mar.11, 4pm
THE AMISH: American Experience
In an extraordinarily intimate portrait of contemporary Amish faith and life, American Experience questions why and how the insular religious community has thrived within open, individualistic American society. Discover how, despite their ingrained submissiveness, the Amish have successfully asserted themselves in resisting the encroachments of modern society and government. With unprecedented access to the Amish over the course of a year, the film deeply penetrates and explores this profoundly attention-averse communal culture 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Great Harvest Bread

I recently discovered the Great Harvest Bread store on Centre Park Drive near the Bangkok Delight restaurant.  Even though they specialize in whole grain breads that they make with flour they grind in the store I opted to the Challah bread that I like to use to make french toast.
They also make cookies, pies, muffins, scones and cakes.  The sour cream fruit pies are also great. 


Did you know that almost half of us will use a hospice service in our lives?

        Hospice services are a relatively new service that began to be developed in Europe in the 1950's and 1960's. The United States really began to look at this type of service with the "On Death and Dying" book by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross.  I was fortunate to have had an opportunity to attend an all day training given by Kubler-Ross in DC in 1973.  She spoke of her experiences working with dying patients and how that experience had changed her perspective on dying and how we treated dying patients so poorly.  Her tales of people who described experiencing another world resembled what people who have experienced a "near death" experience have described.

       The first hospice services developed in this country were generally not in medical settings but were trained volunteers providing emotional support to the dying individual and their family.  Health insurance didn't reimburse for this type on non medical service.  This was the way that hospice services started in Howard County in the 1980's.  Hospice Services of Howard County was an organization that used primarily volunteers supervised by Elaine Patico, the Executive Director.

      What changed this service was that Medicare starting to fund hospice services that were provided within a health care setting.  This has pushed private health insurers to also pay for hospice services and suddenly hospice services moved from trained volunteers to paid professionals.  While much of hospice services are still provided in home many hospice programs have affiliated with medical facilities to provide an  inpatient  component.

         I had a personal experience with hospice services this past December with my Father.  Entering the hospital with pneumonia after Thanksgiving and not responding to treatment the recommendation was to move him to hospice care.  Even though this was provided in a hospital setting it was the appropriate way for him to live his final few days.  While a difficult process to experience the way the hospice nurses, social workers and chaplain supported my family was wonderful.  I was glad that this was available to us at that time.
       Yesterday I had the opportunity to visit the Gilchrist Hospice Center in Columbia and talk with Cliff Hughes the Development Associate.  While we might not like to think of hospice services and the fact that most of us will need this type of service in our final days it is comforting to know that we have a hospice center that is everything you would want in this type of facility.
          What impressed me was that everything is designed to meet the needs of the dying individual and their family.  Each room opens to an outside area that permits the dying individual to be outside in good weather like yesterday.  The door leading to the outside from each room is wide enough to roll out the hospital bed if the person is bedridden.
        A family lounge and chapel room are available to the family.  Each room has a computer for use by the families and a private bathroom.  There is a stocked kitchen for family to use and the smell of chocolate chip cookies welcomed everyone to the facility yesterday. There is even one room designed for terminally ill children.

As they describe their services:
Gilchrist Center Howard County (GCHC), a much-needed and greatly-anticipated 10-bed acute care inpatient hospice center in Columbia, began accepting its first patients during the week of May 23, 2011.
Located in the Howard County Health Park off Cedar Lane, the 8,600 square-foot center, which provides care for both adult and pediatric patients, is the culmination of an intensive study of how best to meet the needs of our patients and families who reside in Howard County. It is Gilchrist's second hospice center dedicated to providing the highest quality acute inpatient care for terminally-ill patients in Central Maryland.
To date, Gilchrist has raised more than $1 million to benefit the new center; our goal is $2.5 million to help pay the $1.7 million in one-time construction and capital costs associated with GCHC, as well as the recurring costs of approx. $800,000 providing acute inpatient services that exceed insurance reimbursement.
Designed to mirror the warmth and comfort of the original Gilchrist Center in Towson, the rooms at GCHC, which look out on beautifully-landscaped gardens, have individual verandas with doors wide enough to push a hospital bed through. Much of the evidence of medical care is hidden within the room's design. And the hallways and doors to the rooms reflect warm colors, unlike those in many health care facilities.
The center itself is devoted to ensuring that its patients are able to approach the end of life in comfort and with dignity, surrounded by those they love. As such, families are encouraged to visit at all hours, to bring visitors of all ages, as well as beloved pets, and to use the community areas, including a chapel and family rooms, to gather and reflect.
In the nearly eight months since its opening, more than 250 patients have benefitted from the compassionate, specialized care that has quickly become a hallmark of GCHC. The vast majority resided in Howard County; others came from nearby communities in adjacent counties or sought out GCHC because their loved ones live close by.
Most of the patients spent a very short time at the new center - less than a week. But we know, anecdotally, that their time with us, though brief, was meaningful and that GCHC gave them and their families the chance to savor their last moments together in a center devoted to comfort and peace, located close to home."

This Sunday 2:30 p.m. the Howard County Historical Society  is hosting a program at the Miller Library "NEW THOUGHTS ON OLD THINGS: A Preliminary Reassessment of Howard County’s Historic Architecture PART 2 ”

 Join them for the second half of this very popular illustrated lecture and discussion about Howard County's historical architectural gems presented by Howard County's pre-eminent Architectural Historian, Ken Short. Free and open to the public but small donations are very much appreciated.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

How do you find out about childcare?

        Did you know that the capacity of the brain to absorb new learning peaks at age 3? Scientists have learned that a toddler’s brain develops over one hundred trillion brain synapses. A brain synapse is the "wiring" between two brain cells that grasps new learning. The more the synapses, the more your brain will learn. It is during this time that the human brain has the highest potential for new learning in its lifetime. 

      With the cost of child care often being the same as sending a child to college it is important to be knowledgeable about the your choices for childcare.  This task is made easier by the one stop shop event hosted by the Howard County Office of Children's Services.

          Howard County’s Department of Citizen Services, Office of Children’s Services has announced a new date for their annual Preschool/Child Care Information Fair, “Children On Board,” which was postponed earlier this month due to inclement weather.  The rescheduled event will be held on Sunday, March 4, 2012, from 1 to 4 p.m. at Ten Oaks Ballroom, 5000 Signal Bell Lane in Clarksville, Md.  Admission is free; however, attendees are asked to bring a nonperishable food item to donate to the Howard County Food Bank.

        “Children On Board” will provide parents, guardians, grandparents and child care personnel with “one stop shopping”  for information on child care and pre-school programs, as well as the opportunity for personal contact with teachers and program directors.  Representatives from community service organizations that offer programs and services to Howard County’s young children will also be on hand to provide information to interested parents.

        For more information about the Fair, contact the Office of Children’s Services at either 410-313-1940 or via e-mail at

The Office of Children's Services is also looking to honor people who have made a positive impact on the lives of children in Howard County.  Plan to nominate them for recognition at the 13th annual "Celebrating Successes for Children" ceremony hosted by County Executive Ken Ulman and the Howard County Office of Children's Services. The awards honor people, programs or businesses that make a difference and serve children in one of the following categories:
Categories include:
Infants and Toddlers (0-3 years) Preschool-Age Children (3-5 years) Elementary-Age Children (Kindergarten through 5th) Middle School-Age Children (6th through 8th) High School-Age Children (9th through 12th)
Mixed Aged Group (person or program that works with children of different ages) Outstanding Youth Award (an individual under age 18 who has made a difference for children)
•   Family-Friendly Business Award (a Howard County business - NOT child care - that stands out because of its policies or services to children and families)
While an individual nominee does not have to be a resident of Howard County, he or she must serve Howard County children; however, program or business nominees must be located in Howard County. To request a nomination form, contact the Office of Children's Services at 410-313-1940 or e-mail Priscilla Kung at   Nomination forms are also available on line at All nominations must be e-mailed, faxed (410-313-1430), delivered or postmarked by Friday, March 16.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Women's Giving Circle Announces Events for Girls in Howard County

   In yesterday's blog I highlighted the Women's Giving Circle on the "Gift of Giving."  Today I want to highlight some of the activities for girls that the Circle is currently hosting .

WGC Hosts 'Cover Girl Culture' Movie
The Women’s Giving Circle of Howard County and the Howard County Library present the film “Cover Girl Culture: Awakening the Media Generation” on Thursday, March 15, from 7-9 p.m., at the Miller Branch Library, 9421 Frederick Road in Ellicott City - Ellicott City Patch, January 30, 2012

STEM Careers Expo for Girls, March 11, 3-5 PM
The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, with support from the Women’s Giving Circle of Howard County, Maryland Space Business Roundtable and Multinational Development of Women in Technology, is holding “Girl Power: Reach For the Stars,” a free introduction to careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) for middle and high school girls - Columbia Patch, January 24, 2012

Journey 2012 Accepting Applications for Summer Program   
The Women’s Giving Circle of Howard County is accepting applications for its residential summer camp, Journey 2012. The camp will include 25 girls entering 8th -9th grade in the fall of 2012. Maryland Leadership Workshops, Inc. (MLW) will operate Journey, as it has since its inception. Applications must be postmarked by March 30, 2012. For further information, contact

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Gift of Giving

    When most of us think of philanthropy we think of wealthy individuals who donate large amounts of money to build a new wing on a hospital or college building.  But all of us could become philanthropists if we just donated whatever money we had after meeting our basic needs.  If we were to "network" our giving with others we too might be able to have a greater impact in our giving.  This is what "giving circles" are all about. 

      Here in Howard County we have some good examples of this. The Women's Giving Circle gives to women and girls in need in Howard County. Another giving circle is the Twentyfivefortyfive  which is a group of persons between the ages of 25 and 45 that use their joint funds in this community.

      An easy way to become a philanthropist is to establish a "fund" with the Columbia Foundation. There are many ways to set up these funds.  Some do a family fund that encourages family members to jointly contribute money to their charitable fund from which they can jointly give out grants.  Other funds allow the Foundation to use the money in the fund for designated purposes such as scholarships.

      Finally giving doesn't have to be through anything as formal as a fund.  I know of one person this past Christmas who gave each of his grown children the money he would have spent on their gifts to be given to someone they identified as having a need.  Each of his children on Christmas then shared who they had helped and what they had used the money for.  His said this was a more meaningful way to experience the holiday than to sit around opening gifts that they didn't really need. He told them he was planning on doing the same thing every year and they could be thinking of who they would give the money to during this year.  It was more meaningful than just giving to a charity.

Sometimes the gift of time is even more valuable than a monetary gift.  Becoming a Pets on Wheels volunteer, a Neighbor Ride volunteer or a volunteer with Voices for Children would be three ways that you might consider volunteering.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Cultural Connections--Upcoming Events

        I am back from vacation (hard to return from 80 degree temps to the 40's of Howard County) and wanted to highlight some events that show the diversity of our County.

              The Chinese Language School of Columbia is hosting a forum for Board of Education candidates on Sunday, March 18, from 1:45 pm to 3:45 pm.  This forum will be held at the cafeteria of Howard High School in Ellicott City.  If you would like to submit questions for the candidates in advance, please email them to

     The Latino Health Fair is being held on Saturday, March 10, from 12:00 pm to 4:00 pm, at the Wilde Lake Interfaith Center in Columbia.  A number of screenings will be offered, including blood pressure, colorectal cancer, glucose, and cholesterol.  There will be health information and educational materials in Spanish.

       The Columbia Association and the Howard County Library System is presenting the Asia Culture CafĂ©, which will be held on Sunday, March 25, from 1:30 pm to 4:30 pm, at the library’s Miller Branch, 9421 Frederick Road, Ellicott City.  This is a free event that will offer displays, performances, and activities.

           FIRN is hosting a Fabulous February Fundraising event at the Asian Palace Fusion restaurant on Tuesday, Feb. 28th any time between 11:30 am and 9:30 pm. Out of gratitude to FIRN, the restaurant's owners are donating 15% of all sales on that day to FIRN! No coupons will be honored that day.and see first-hand the success of one of FIRN's former clients.  A teen-age immigrant from Vietnam in the 1980's, the family found initial housing and employment through FIRN, that provided the foundation for future success.

Friday, February 17, 2012

What's on your IPod?

      This week I have had an opportunity to read the biography of Steve Jobs and all of its 571 pages.  Sometimes I wish books could be condensed to a more manageable length.  More than the Reader's Digest but a manageable 100-150 pages.

     The book highlights how the quality that set Steve Jobs apart from other techies was his appreciation of aesthetics in designing the Apple products.  This was contrasted with the other great tech creator Bill Gates.  This provided Jobs an ability to relate to other artists particularly in the music world.  He formed a bond with Bono and Dylan that was important in getting the rights to sell music on ITunes which sold the IPods.  Bill Gates would not have been able to move in that artist world.

   The other difference between Apple and Microsoft was Jobs being unwilling to have others, who didn't have his appreciation for quality, access to Apple codes.  Closed access was Jobs way to insure quality.  Microsoft followed the open access model that permitted others to develop software that worked with its operating system.  This has carried forward to apps sold on ITunes to be downloaded to IPhones which have to be approved by Apple first.  Google with its Android phones allow any app to be downloaded without any pre-authorization.

     So to the title of this blog.  Learning the songs on a person's IPod is the latest form of a Rhoshock test.  I was surprised how varied Jobs music taste was.  The music of Dylan and Bono are not surprising or the number of Beatles songs.  As a member of the Baby Boomer generation the transition from Rock and Roll to the Beatle invasion played a big role in his music selection.  Johnny Cash, Jefferson Airplane, Rolling Stones, the Doors and even the Monkees had a place on his IPod.  One genre that didn't make it was Hip Hop. Yo- Yo Ma was such a favorite that Jobs asked him to play at his funeral, which he did.

   Couldn't help but wonder what music Bill Gates listens to??

One quality that Bill Gates had that Jobs never had was an interest in philanthropy.  Might be the saving grace for Gates in any comparison with Jobs.

P.S. 2
Southeast Volunteers Sought for 2012 Community Leadership Academy

The Horizon Foundation has opened registration to the Community Leadership Academy to provide training for local volunteers and emerging leaders. Participants will be limited to residents in the Southeast area of Howard County who are 21 years or older. Academy attendees will meet March 10 and 31, April 21, May 12, June 2 and 16, from 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m., at the North Laurel Community Center. Breakfast will be provided.

The mission of the Community Leadership Academy is to empower individuals to create vibrant communities.  It is designed to provide current and aspiring leaders the opportunity to sharpen skills in facilitation, conflict resolution, consensus building, planning and evaluation.   The training will be led by Griff Hall, who led the first Community Leadership Academy last winter.  Seventeen Southeast area community leaders finished the program in 2011.

Focus on community leadership is one of the key elements in the Southeast 2015 initiative, a 5-year effort by the Horizon Foundation and other partners to enhance the health and wellbeing of the North Laurel-Savage community and its individual residents. 

Participants in the Community Leadership Academy will be selected on the basis of interest in community leadership and service.  Efforts will be made to include a diverse selection of residents with regard to age, gender, ethnicity, race and location of residence within Southeast Howard County.  Applicants selected to participate in the 2012 Community Leadership Academy will receive full scholarships from the Horizon Foundation. A maximum of 20 people will be selected.

To acquire an application, contact, 410-461-1035.
HC DrugFree Presents Programs for Parents and Teens

HC DrugFree, a nonprofit organization that seeks to empower the Howard County community to raise drug-free teens, will present a series of free programs to help parents and teens make healthy decisions about alcohol and drug use.
Parent 2 Parent will feature a panel of parents who will describe their experiences with children who abused substances and how they handled the challenges caused in their families. Following the panel discussion, a substance-abuse counselor will answer questions from the audience and discuss what parents should look for and do. Cheri Carroll, ordained minister, certified rape crisis counselor and support group facilitator, will be the guest speaker. Parents and teens with an adult may attend.

                When?                 Wednesday, Feb. 22, from 7 to 8 p.m.

                Where?                Centennial High School
                                                4300 Centennial Lane
                                                Ellicott City, Md.

Senior Week: Staying Safe in Ocean City will offer advice to parents and high school seniors considering visiting Ocean City, Md., during senior week, which attracts crowds of teenagers and can lead to risky and illegal behavior. The Ocean City Beach Patrol crew chief and a local police officer will offer their advice and expertise to help high school seniors stay safe.

                When?                 Tuesday, Feb. 28, at 7 p.m.

                Where?                River Hill High School
                                                12101 Clarksville Pike
Clarksville, Md.

                When?                 Tuesday, March 27, at 7 p.m.

                Where?                Wilde Lake High School
                                                5460 Trumpeter Road
                                                Columbia, Md.

                When?                 Wednesday, March 28, at 7 p.m.

                Where?                Mount Hebron High School
                                                9440 Route 99
Ellicott City, Md.

For more information, visit or call 443-325-0040.

HC DrugFree, a nonprofit organization based in Columbia, Md., seeks to empower the community to raise drug-free teens. The organization was formed in 1995 as a response to the alarming number of teens using illegal substances, like tobacco, alcohol and other drugs. Today, an active board of directors and Executive Director Joan Webb Scornaienchi lead HC DrugFree. (

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Social Media as the newest tool to do community organizing

  The old tool of community organizers to gather petition signatures is so out of date.  Today Facebook and Twitter are the new way to gather public support for change.  We have seen how this was used in the Arab countries in the Arab Spring movement.  In this country the $5 monthly charge that Bank of America tried to impose on debit card users was unchallenged until Molly Katchpole organized a Facebook campaign against the charge and quickly got over 300,000 friends and B of A backed off. This story was highlighted in last Sunday's Sunday Morning show.

A similar campaign was recently successful in getting the Komen For the Cure campaign to change their policy on not funding Planned Parenthood.  I have never seen so much traffic on my Facebook from people saying they would not contribute to Koman any longer. 

The final example is the campaign last month against the federal legislation called Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) that was pushed by corporate advocates of media content to protect their copyrights and other forms of ownership of media content.  It was flying through Congress until many websites such as Wikipedia and others shut down in protest and caused many of the sponsors of the legislation to back off under public pressure.

Feel like something needs to change?  Try a Facebook campaign and see if it can go viral.  Companies take notice.

I have heard that the best way to get a company to take notice of a complaint is to post it on their website.  They monitor their websites and try to resolve the issue.

Delegate Liz Bobo sent out the following notice on her community hearing:

" I will be holding my annual Legislative Community Meeting on February16th from 7:30 to 9 at Kahler Hall in the Village of Harper's Choice. We will discuss issues that are currently before the Maryland General Assembly.  More information will be available on the major issues by that time.
 As many of you know, we get a good turnout at this meeting each year and have a good discussion on a wide range of subjects."

Monday, February 13, 2012

Elite Education at a Community College Price--Rouse Scholars Program

   With the cost of tuition reaching levels that have priced many young people out of a college education or put them tens of thousands of dollars in debt, Howard County students have an opportunity to have an experience at the Howard Community College that compares to any educational experience at a college costing many times more.  The Rouse Scholars Program "the nationally-acclaimed James W. Rouse Scholars Program is a selective challenging honors and leadership program designed for transfer to distinguished four-year colleges and universities at the end of the sophomore year.  Rouse  Scholars participate in challenging honors course work, leadership development, projects involving community mentors, cultural and recreational activities, international travel opportunities and the many of benefits of an honors learning community."

    The program has four options of study: Liberal Arts, Business, Life Sciences, Mass Media and Production.
"Each Rouse scholar is assigned to an academic advisor who specializes in the program's requirements, requirements specific to each major and transfer preparation. Advisors work closely with each student to select coursework that fits their individual interests, requirements and transfer plans."

    Retreats are held twice a year "are an opportunity for Rouse freshmen and sophomores, faculty and staff to learn more about one another and form the friendships and associations unique to the Rouse Scholars Program."  Foreign travel and Summer Study programs are available through partnerships with a number of partner colleges. Tuition is about $3,600 a year with many types of financial aid available.

 P. S.
 Hard to say that any other female singer (OK maybe Madonna) has made more hit songs than Whitney Houston. Here is my favorite.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Eastern Shore in Winter

          Last weekend the Sun had an article on the charm of the Eastern Shore in the Winter.  We all appreciate our proximity to the attractions of DC and Baltimore but often underestimate all that the Eastern Shore has to offer just an hour away from us.  I have blogged on the beauty of Hoopers Island and Blackwater but the Sun article mentioned some places I had not been familiar with.
      The Elliott Island Drive was described as  a 19 mile journey from Vienna to Elliott Island.  The drive goes through pine stands and wild wetlands with marsh grass and waterfowl.  It has been described as "just 18 miles south of Vienna off Route 50. This quaint waterfront village on Fishing Bay is home to approximately 70 locals.
Great views of the wetlands, wildlife and waterfront wait as you take this beautiful scenic drive."
      The second location highlighted was the Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge near Rock Hall. All species of ducks such as the black, pintail and canvasback are plentiful this time of year.  From their website "Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge, a part of the Chesapeake Marshlands National Wildlife Refuge Complex, is a 2,286-acre island located at the confluence of the Chester River and the Chesapeake Bay. Established in 1962 as a sanctuary for migratory birds, Eastern Neck NWR provides natural habitat for over 240 bird species - including American bald eagles and transitory peregrine falcons - and is a major staging site for tundra swans."
                                             If you are lucky you might even see a bald eagle.

 New Release Cinema will commemorate Black History Month with the presentation of two outstanding African American documentaries on Thursday, February 16 at the East Columbia Library. The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 will be screened at 6pm . Doors open at 5:30pm. Next, at 7:30pm the uplifting and entertaining Thunder Soul. Free popcorn, candy and soda will be available. Admission is free. This event is sponsored by Friends of Howard County Library.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

R&R Taqueria on the Food Network Show Diners, Drive Ins and Dives

   I stopped into R&R Taqueria in Elkridge yesterday and learned that they will be on the Food Network show Diners, Drive Ins and Dives on February 27th at 10 pm.
   If you haven't tried this place for Mexican food you have missed some great food.  This is "real" Mexican food that has been a favorite of HowChow for quite awhile.  You might miss this place as it is part of the Shell station at the intersection of 175 and Route 1.  Pull into the Shell and you will see the entrance to the place.  There has been a rumor that the owner is looking for a larger place.

Speaking of the Food Network a recent show asked some of their show hosts to tell what the greatest thing they ever ate was.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Taking Domestic Abuse Seriously or Dealing with Tragedies

    The tragic deaths of two boys in Washington State this past week at the hands of their father shows how dangerous domestic abuse can be.  Josh Powell had been under investigation since 2009 in connection with his missing wife, Susan Powell. This week on a planned supervised visit the two boys were killed by their father when he locked out the social worker that accompanied the children on the visit.  My first reaction was why were the children being taken to the father's house for the supervised visit when he had been identified as a "person of interest?"  A person of interest is the description of a person under investigation for a crime but there is insufficient evidence to charge the person.

    When I heard about the tragedy I quickly remembered the situation as one that I had heard about when my wife and I attended a taping of the Dr. Phil Show in LA back in February 2010.  We heard the grandparents of the children describe the suspicious story of how the father had strangely decided to take the two boys camping  in the mountains in the middle of the night in cold winter temperatures, without his wife.  It seemed obvious that he may have used this story to explain why he went to this area to really bury his wife's body.  No body has ever been found but recently the boys have been telling relatives about their mother being in the trunk of the car that night.

    I also couldn't help but remember the grandparents saying that they feared for the safety of their grandchildren if the father was ever granted custody of the children at any point.  The story has even taken another twist when the tapes of the social worker's 911 call have been released and you hear how the situation wasn't taken seriously enough to immediately dispatch police to the scene.  How often we hear of a tragedy after a domestic violence situation is not taken seriously enough.

    Here in Howard County we have an agency that is designed to address the issue of domestic violence with a range of services targeted to victims of domestic violence.  The Domestic Violence Center provides counseling, education and community awareness programs.  On Feb. 21st the Center will be welcoming a new Executive Director, Jennifer Pollitt Hill, who brings a wealth of experience to the job.
    The Purple Ribbon Campaign is an international campaign against domestic violence.

On a lighter tone to end the work week is another good music video from You Tube.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Gold Rush Alaska on the Discovery Channel

         Some days I just don't have much to share so I thought I would just share a program that I have got hooked on on the Discovery Channel on Fridays at 9 pm.  Gold Rush Alaska is one of those reality shows that cable channels seem to have created in great numbers.  Most are fairly shallow or downright stupid but Gold Rush Alaska has a storyline that grabs your attention.  A group of mostly amateur gold miners make all types of mistakes in their pursuit of striking it rich. The season two will be ending soon but past episodes are online at their webpage and Discovery usually reruns the shows at some point.

Come on nighttime bikers!  As a biker myself I realize that we can ride in a way that can get us killed.  My wife came onto a biker on Oakland Mills Rd the other night with just a tiny flashing light.  He was wearing dark clothing and she came on to him on a turn so she didn't see him until it was almost too late.  I know that biking is good exercise and maybe a healthy way to get to work but it is just stupid to ride on the roads with no shoulders in the dark .  My wife was glad she didn't have to carry the memory of killing a biker the rest of her life.

P.S. 2

Columbia Town Center Apt. Homes
10360 Swift Stream Place | Columbia, MD 21044 |  

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Howard County Striders---Running is life

     I have blogged on a variety of events that the Howard County Striders hold during the year like the Penquin Pace, Centennial Fun Runs and the Bagel Runs but have never highlighted some of the other activities that show the full range of programs of the Striders.  The Junior Striders is a running program for youth from elementary through middle school.  Many of the cross country and track athletes in our high schools started out in the Junior Striders.  I have experienced seeing one of these young people that I saw at the 1 mile Centennial Fun Run eventually pass me as an aging runner.  Time marches on.

       Probably the event that gains the Striders the most attention every year is the Clydes 10K race.  This race has been an April fixture in Columbia for over 30 years.  Hundreds of runners of all levels start near the walkway over Little Patuxent Parkway in Town Center and wind their way through western Columbia and back to the starting line.  In the Fall the Metric Marathon is a leisurely 26.2K (16.3 mile) run from Columbia to Ellicott City and back that tests the more committed runners.  I am not sure if the course is the same but the one I remember had a number of hills in the first 8 miles and then it was mostly level and downhill the second 8 miles.
         Just to show that the Striders have a less serious side they hold an All Fruit Relay that has teams passing off a fruit on each leg of the race.  I can attest that a starfruit becomes mushy to hold after a lap or two!
          Finally for all of us who will never be the fastest to win a race there are two prediction runs on Thanksgiving and New Years that the winner is the person who runs the 8K course closest to their predicted time.  No watches allowed during these runs.  The goal of a prediction run is that you want to finish as close to 11 am as possible.  So if you think you will run a 50 minute 8K you start running when the clock shows 50 minutes at the start.  The unusual aspect of a prediction run is that you start running with a few people but the finish is usually crowded with runners---- just the opposite of most other races.  The winner is usually within a second or two of their predicted time.  I never came any closer than 40 seconds of my predicted time.