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Monday, April 30, 2012

Are we defined by the sports we play?

    I have become a Marylander in most ways but I still haven't found myself understanding the lacrosse craze of the state.  I love crabs, appreciate the beauty of the Chesapeake Bay and the Eastern Shore, root for the Orioles and the Ravens and even have sauerkraut with turkey.  But I don't understand the appeal of a game that was invented by American Indians.  The Sun's sport pages these days seems to have lots of space for lacrosse in comparison to other high school sports.

    Years ago when I coached my daughter's youth softball teams you could always identify the natural athletes among the young players.  When my daughters played on their high school softball teams I would ask whatever happened to one of the talented young softball players I remembered and I would always get the same response, "She plays lacrosse."  Lacrosse was seen as the sport that the "cool kids" played.  Softball didn't have the same status level.  Lacrosse certainly has an elite status when you see how the prep schools all have high level teams and the best college lacrosse teams seem to come from colleges with high academic standards like Johns Hopkins.  Cross country is also stereotyped as a sport for smart kids. Most high school cross country coaches don't have to check athlete report cards to see that the athletes are academically eligible.  This type of elitism seemed in past days to only be associated with golf and tennis.

   Watching how politicians pander to voting blocks by trying out sports of the "common folk" like Mitt Romney talking up NASCAR in North Carolina or Obama trying to bowl in Pennsylvania it is apparent that many times we are defined by our sports.  John Kerry was even mocked for participating in wind surfing as being elitist. Most voters don't identify with Harvard graduates. 

    Lacrosse seems like a fine sport and it certainly is good exercise for young people.  I just wish that baseball and softball still had appeal for young people as it did when I was young and it was "America's pastime."  Yea, I know as my kids remind me "Dad you are just so out of date."

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Soft Shell Crabs

    The crab harvest looks great this year.  For me that means more soft shell crabs.  While I can enjoy picking crab meat from a hard shell crab the ways you can enjoy a soft shell will always be the way I usually go.  For me my last meal would either be a Grottos pizza or a soft shell crab. I remember being able to buy soft shells at the Giant for $.50 many years ago.  Now it seems like $2.50 or $3 is the going rate.  I have found reasonable frozen soft shells at the Family Market in Long Reach.  They aren't the largest but at a little over $1.00 each you can enjoy 2 or 3 at a reasonable cost.

     Like all seafood frozen will never taste as good as fresh but with some interesting seasonings you can enjoy some tasty soft shells.  My favorite approach is to mix some Thai peanut sauce and curry into the egg wash and then to roll the crab in flour.  Back into the egg wash for a second coating of egg wash and then into some panko bread crumbs.  I use the lime soy sauce from the Family Market for a dipping sauce.

So the Secret Service will now have chaperones???  Might also be good for some of our elected officials!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Can Columbia ever become "bike friendly?"

       On Wednesday evening I attended a presentation sponsored by the Columbia Association and Bike Maryland on making Columbia more bike friendly.  We all know that we have a great bike path system in town but it was designed as a recreational system primarily to allow kids to walk safely to their school.  It can be used as a bike commuting system but many times it has some missing pieces to be a true commuting system.  There are still some areas that need curb cuts and areas where the path leaves you at a sidewalk or a busy street that is not designed for bikes to safely travel.

      Jennifer Toole, a Columbia resident and bike system consultant, spoke about how some other communities became bike friendly.  She explained that the miles driven in a car per capita in the US has actually peaked in 2006.  This was the first time this happened since the invention of the car.

      Jennifer highlighted Boulder Colorado because it has about the same population and demographics as Columbia.
      As you can see above the community has changed its road structure to include bike transportation in addition to auto transportation.  Not surprisingly 10% of commuting in Boulder is by bike. The city of Boulder website explains it this way:

"Bike paths criss-cross Boulder County like spiders’ webs. If you can’t find a road to get where you’re going now that has a big, fat shoulder — or if there isn’t a dedicated multi-use path to lead you where you want to go — there will probably be one in the near future. The Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan, which outlines the vision for how the county should be developed, calls for a network of regional trails connecting all the towns to one another. Check out more information on the regional trails at and check out a map of the city of Boulder’s bike paths here."

  Boulder has even closed off some of its streets downtown and made them walking mall areas.
   Wouldn't it be nice if this concept could come out of our Town Center redevelopment efforts?

Portland Oregon was the second city profiled as bike friendly.
As you can see above the bikers in a heavily traveled street have designated "green areas" that permit safe separation from the cars.  Bike safety can be designed into heavily traveled areas, such as our Town Center and Route 175.
       Above is  the Prospect Park West Bicycle Path in New York City.  One lane of the road was converted to a 2 directional bike path.  I bet most drivers in the cars were going slower than the bike traffic.

     One of the reasons many of us are afraid to ride on our roads is the closeness  of the cars passing us. Having a car pass you at 45 or 50 miles per hour with inches separation is a scary experience.  Some cities like San Francisco have created a buffered area for some separation.

  So how do you take our existing road layouts and create bike lanes?  One way is shown in the following picture.
   Taking a 4 lane road like the picture on the left and converting to a single left turn lane for each direction as in the picture on the right creates space for bike lanes in each direction.  We have many of these types of roads in Columbia.  Does Brokenland Parkway, Twin River Parkway, Dobbin Road and Oakland Mills Road need to be four lane just to accommodate left hand turns? The traffic volume on these roads could be handled by one lane traffic in each direction.

So where does this leave us in Columbia?  As you can see much of the changes need to be done to our road system.  Roads are the turf of Howard County government so that is where these changes need to be championed.  The County has plans this year to develop a Bike Master Plan in conjunction with the Columbia Association "to identify barriers and prioritize projects for implementation." Having our community develop what you have seen in the communities above would greatly enhance our community as "a great place to live."  Maybe we could give Eden Prairie Minnesota something to think about next year.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Plant invasion in Howard County

      I happened to be going around Lake Elkhorn and saw a sign posted by the Columbia Association that pointed out the plant called garlic mustard and indicated that we should pull the plant out where ever we saw it.  It is invasive and crowds out other plants.  My first thought was that garlic mustard sounds like a plant that would be interesting to cook with and it at least had some nice white flowers.  In searching the internet I found this info on eating the plant.

"Garlic mustard was introduced deliberately, so there must be something good about it. Here's some suggestions on how you can control its spread by eating it. Garlic mustard is not a delicately flavored herb, so in most cases you will look for a recipe where you can mix it in in smaller proportions with some other greens as part of a mix.Linda Diane Feldt's book Spinach and Beyond: Loving Life and Dark Green Leafy Vegetables (Moon Field Press) has some sample recipes for cooked greens that will work with garlic mustard. Use garlic mustard in a proportion of 1-to-4 in recipes like this; you don't want to eat it straight if you have a choice."

    After seeing the sign I noticed the plants around the border of my yard and around many paths in Columbia.  I have pulled out some of the plants but it would seem to require an army of people to even begin to address this issue.

       Maybe CA needs to organize a "attack garlic mustard day" of volunteers. Maybe even make a "Garlic Mustard Festival" with food tasting of recipes using garlic and mustard!

Found this recipe for garlic mustard pesto.
Thanks to the Columbia Patch for alerting us to how Columbia got some attention in the Wall Street Journal recently.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

East Side/ West Side--Can a bridge bring Columbia together?

       The proposed bridge over Route 29, shown above from the Bridge Columbia website, would be an improved connection between east and west Columbia and has been getting a lot of attention since the County Exec put money in his budget this year to do a preliminary study of the feasibility of the bridge.  The bridge would provide a new improved connection for public transportation,bikers and pedestrians.  The existing bridge has been underutilized for a variety of reasons and the new proposed bridge seems to offer a better connection.  This is especially true with the new housing development in Town Center.

      When I first moved to Columbia in the late 1970's the west side of Columbia seemed to have all the developed areas and the east side had many fewer amenities.  The Elkhorn neighborhood to which I moved was almost totally undeveloped.  There was no Village Center and few Columbia Association amenities. Now the reverse seems to be true. Lifetime Gym is just a mile from my house.  BJ's, Trader's Joes, Starbucks, Home Depot and Costco are just around the corner. With the opening of the Wegmans on the east side in June this trend continues. I do miss the Borders book store. The East Columbia library never has the parking problem of the Central Library.  I hardly ever visit the Columbia Mall.    I find myself going to the west side of Columbia less frequently ever year.

New type of red light camera at the entrance to Dobbin Center.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Connecting Columbia by bike

      One of the  features of Columbia that attracted and retains many of us in Columbia are the biking paths that provide biking enthusiasts with a traffic free way to enjoy this activity as recreation.  But what if the paths could be designed and utilized as an alternative means of local transportation?  Some communities, such as Seattle, have created these biking venues.  To make this a reality will take some new visions for our community.  Tomorrow night Jennifer Toole will be addressing these issues in a discussion at Slayton House.  The following is the description of that event:

Hear Jennifer Toole – a nationally-recognized expert in bicycle and pedestrian planning and design on April 25, 7:30PM, at Slayton House as part of Columbia’s Community Building Speakers' Series*

A revolution is occurring across the country and that is a good thing! Cycling is on the rise and more and more communities are making investments to make cycling easier and safer. 
Come hear Jennifer Toole describe innovative communities across the US and how they are making way for bicycling. Last year we heard from Gil Penalosa about what’s going on in European cities. Now – on April 25 - come learn about communities in the US and their successes creating greenways, safe bike lanes, and other changes that make these communities more livable, enjoyable, and more economically competitive.
Jennifer Toole is the lead consultant for the Connecting Columbia project and founder of Toole Design Group.
The Twitter hashtag for this event is #CASpeakersSeries.

More About Our Speaker

Jennifer Toole is a national leader in multi-modal planning and design. She established Toole Design Group –a planning and engineering firm that specializes in bicycle and pedestrian planning and design. The firm is nationally-recognized for this expertise and has worked on bicycle planning, design, and implementation projects throughout the United States. This national experience is complemented by substantial local knowledge and experience in the Baltimore-Washington region. The firm’s body of work also includes national guidelines for bicycle and pedestrian facilities.  The firm has offices in Silver Spring, Boston; Seattle, and Madison. 
Toole, a Columbia resident, has been involved in several national publications, including the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Guide to the Planning, Design and Operation of Pedestrian Facilities, and AASHTO Guide for Development of Bicycle Facilities. Jennifer has authored content for the Federal Highway Administrations Coursebook on Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation, and Safe Routes to School Programs. Toole has served on many boards and associations including three terms as the President of the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals. In addition, she has volunteered her time and expertise to organize Walk to School Day at her children’s elementary school in Columbia.
Jennifer Toole has a Bachelor degree (Cum Laude) in Environmental Design in Landscape Architecture from North Carolina State University (1990). She is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planner (AICP) and the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA).


Want to know what will happen if the Supreme Court strikes down the Affordable Health Care legislation?  This AP report has some information:

Business can't and won't take care of America's 50 million uninsured, but for the majority with coverage, here's what experts say to expect:
- Workers will bear more of their own medical costs as job coverage shifts to plans with higher deductibles, the amount you pay out of pocket each year before insurance kicks in. Traditional workplace insurance will lose ground to high-deductible plans with tax-free accounts for routine medical expenses, to which employers can contribute.

- Increasingly, smokers will face financial penalties if they don't at least seriously try to quit. Employees with a weight problem and high cholesterol are next. They may get tagged as health risks and nudged into diet programs. - Some companies will keep the health care law's most popular benefit so far, coverage for adult children until they turn 26. Others will cut it to save money.
- Workers and family members will be steered to hospitals and doctors that can prove to insurers and employers that they deliver quality care. These networks of medical providers would earn part of their fees for keeping patients as healthy as possible, similar to the "accountable care organizations" in the health care law.
- Some workers will pick their health plans from a private insurance exchange, another similarity to Obama's law. They'll get fixed payments from their employers to choose from four levels of coverage: platinum, gold, silver and bronze. Those who pick rich benefits would pay more. It's an approach that Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the GOP budget leader, also wants to try with Medicare.
"Employers had been the major force driving health care change in this country up until the passage of health reform," said Tom Billet, a senior benefits consultant with Towers Watson, which advises major companies. "If Obamacare disappears ... we go back to square one. We still have a major problem in this country with very expensive health care."

Monday, April 23, 2012

OK Guys it's time to wise up

   I have thought about this blog for a few months.  Are all scandals caused by men??  It is hard to pick up the paper without reading some story of misconduct by a man.  The latest GSA and Secret Service incidents have me embarrassed that many guys never seem to leave their teenage years.  Male religious leaders, politicians, businessmen and athletes---when was the last time you heard of a woman in any of these categories being a jerk?  How many guys leave their children without ever paying child support or even thinking about their responsibilities as a father? Should we have only  women in positions of responsibility?  I know that there are many great men who bring honor to our gender but there still seems to be enough of us that discredit our gender. The old saying that "women were put on earth to civilize men" seems to be too true today. Maybe it is time to vote by gender rather than by political party!

The Climate Change Initiative of Howard County has information on their latest discussion circles.

HUNGRY FOR CHANGE: Food, Ethics and Sustainability.
This discussion circle meets at Historic Oakland on Thursday evenings from 7:00 to 8:30 pm on April 5 through May 24. This is the newest guide from

What impact are our food choices having on our health, the health of our community, and the health of our planet? Circle members will explore the interconnections between Nature and our food systems in weekly focuses: “The First Bite,” “Politics of the Plate,” “A Healthy Appetite,” “Just Food,” “Eating for Earth,” and “Hungry for Change.”

Weekly meetings are led by the 8 to 12 circle members who share roles to facilitate, open discussion, close the session, record action plans sparked in  the exchange, communicate each week, and follow up on actions at each session.

On April 5 facilitator Laura Mueller Florence Miller from CCIHC will lead the opening discussion and distribute booklets of the circle’s timely and topical readings, web-links, and video sources. The cost for the booklets is $21.

To sign up for this HUNGRY FOR CHANGE discussion circle, please provide your email and phone number to Pat Loeber or Dawn Linthicum at 410-730-4744, or

A World of Health: Connecting People, Place and Planet– 7 sessions
Chicken Soup for the Planet!
What are the connections between human health and the environment, and how we can sustain both?
Topics: Redefining Health ~ Eating Well ~ Cleaning House ~ Building Healthy Communities ~ Curing Consumption ~                    Healthy Planet—Healthy People ~ Wrap‐Up

Starting April 30th - (Details To Be Announced)

To sign up, contact: Andy Monjan at

Resilience Circle/Common Security Club – 7 sessions
Mutual Support in Uncertain Times

How does the current economy create inequality and isolation? How can we provide mutual aid and build relationships while facing economic and ecological challenges? Topics: Our Resilience Circle ~ A New Vision ~ Breaking Isolation ~ Real Wealth & Security ~ Mutual Aid ~ Changing the Rules ~ What’s Next

Starting May/June (Details To Be Announced)

For more information, contact: Florence Miller at
P.S. 1
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, is proud to launch a new speaker series titled Equality Talks.  The inaugural event will feature a reading and discussion with renowned developmental and clinical psychologist Diane Ehrensaft, an expert in the field of gender-nonconforming and transgender children.  Dr. Ehrensaft is the author of Gender Born, Gender Made: Raising Healthy Gender-nonconforming Children. Dr. Edgardo Menvielle, a psychiatrist at the Children’s National Medical Center will also be on hand to answer questions.  The event will be moderated by HRC Family Project Director and professional social worker Ellen Kahn.  The event will be webcast live at Books will be available for sale onsite, through a partnership with Politics & Prose bookstore.

“We are proud to launch our new Equality Talks speaker series with a topic as important as gender-nonconforming and transgender children,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese.  “Equality Talks will take a critical thinking approach to issues important to the LGBT community”

The inaugural event will feature a reading and discussion with Diane Ehrensaft, Ph.D.  Dr. Ehrensaft is a developmental and clinical psychologist, and the Director of Mental Health of the newly formed Child and Adolescent Center in the San Francisco Bay Area.  For the past three decades, Dr. Ehrensaft has been working with and writing about gender-nonconforming children and their families.  In the midst of a sea change in attitudes toward gender and expanding options for gender identities and expression, but with ongoing harm still being done to children who transgress traditional gender norms, Dr. Ehrensaft will talk about the pressing need to re-learn gender and listen carefully to the children who live outside traditional binary gender boxes as they teach us about gender creativity and gender expansiveness and guide us toward the responsibilities we have to construct gender-affirmative environments for all our children--at home, at school, in the community, and in the halls of government.  Calling on both her clinical experiences and personal experiences as a mother of a gender-nonconforming child, Dr. Ehrensaft will present her model of the true gender self and the three-dimensional gender web, to be used as tools in building gender resilience in our children and buttressing gender supports in our communities.

WHAT:           Equality Talk Speaker Series Inaugural Event, featuring Dr. Diane Ehrensaft,  Author of Gender Born, Gender Made: Raising Healthy Gender-nonconforming Children.

WHEN:           Monday, April 23, 2012. Doors open at 6:00 p.m. Program begins at 6:30 p.m.

WHERE:         HRC, 1640 Rhode Island Ave. NW, Washington, DC and webcast live at

WHO:       Diane Ehrensaft, Developmental and Clinical Psychologist
              Edgardo Menvielle, Psychiatrist, Children’s National Medical Center
              HRC Family Project Director Ellen Kahn

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Discovery Shuttle

On Friday I had a chance to go out to Dulles to see the Discovery Shuttle that was just flown in on Tuesday.  I was out of town on Tuesday and missed the chance to see it fly over DC.  Discovery was different in condition from the Enterprise that was at the museum before.  The Enterprise had never been in space and looked in much better shape.  The Discovery had a great deal of wear and tear.
Looking at the heat tiles you can see this wear and tear.  The lighter color tiles are the oldest and the darker ones are newer.
The sides of the shuttle showed the effects of 39 space missions, the most of any shuttle.
In the distance you can see the Enterprise Shuttle on top of the plane waiting to go to NY next week.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Latest Food Finds at Family (International) Market in Long Reach

You may be tired of hearing about my food finds at the Family Market in Long Reach but it is my favorite weekly shopping trip until Wegman's opens.
The pastries above are called Mochi.  My favorite is the peanut mochi.  They are like a gummy donut with all types of fillings.
Above is granulated honey powder.  Sweet with a taste of honey.  Good in coffee or on cereal.
I have saved the best for last.  The custard filled pastry at the Bon Appetit counter in the back of the store is the treat I look forward to the most.  Trust me these are worth the visit to this market.

American Bandstand remembered.  I remember watching the show at my grandparents house near Philadelphia in the summer.  In that area they got an extra hour of Bandstand that was just a local show.  Many of the singers on the local show, like Chubby Checker, Frankie Avalon, and Bobby Rydell, became famous when they appeared on the national hour later.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Pink Slime in Columbia?!!

         Seeing the sight above made me think that I may have discovered where beef manufacturers had dumped their "pink slime."  After looking around I found the more benevolent cause of the "pink slime."
 Can anyone guess where I saw this "pink slime?"

I have always felt that getting your child to be a reader was all you had to do to guarantee their success in school.  One of the best ways to do this is to get them involved in the HoCo Library's "Battle of the Books."  Check out a Battle of the Books event April 20th 

P.S. 2
Volunteer and Free Movie! 
Earth Day 2012: Plant a tree and view a free movie at the Robinson Nature Center. Come plant 215 trees and shrubs this Sunday from 1-4 pm. Participants can take a break and watch one of the free screenings of the full dome film “Dynamic Earth” to relax after their hard work. Interested? Call Brian Campbell at 410-313-0406.  
P.S. 3
 The Opting for Independence program in Howard County is looking for adults over age 65, with an annual household income under $50,000, willing to give a confidential interview as part of an “Aging in Place” study. Participants will describe, in their own words, their experiences with the aging process and their thoughts about remaining in the home of their choice. 

The report will paint a picture of older adults that have chosen to remain at home and the supports they draw on to maintain the quality of life important to them. These stories will help Howard County and other Maryland communities understand ways to help older adult meet their goals to age in place.  All interviewees will receive a copy of the final report.  

This activity is part of a larger project, Opting for Independence, offered by The Coordinating Center and the Howard County Office on Aging.  

The interview will be: 
·         Done with adults over age 65 living in zip codes 21043, 21044, 21045 or along the Route 1 corridor between Elkridge and North Laurel
·         Confidential – all names and identifying information will be omitted in the final report 
·         Conducted by a trained community volunteer in the person’s home, taking about 75 minutes
·         Scheduled in May and June at the convenience of the interviewee

In order to help older adults to remain living at home, we need to better understand
“real stories” and “real situations”….from people like you

                                                            To find out more, contact:
Anne Arrington at 410-313-6006 and
Rusty Toler at 443-285-1460 and

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Shouldn't learning be free?

 Many years ago I volunteered with an "open university" in DC.   These "universities" sprung up all over the country in the 60's and 70's.  Their philosophy was that learning should be freely provided and everyone could be a teacher of something.  No formal application process or teaching credentials needed. Many of the courses taught were by professors from local universities who had wanted to teach these courses but couldn't get them approved by their universities.  Other courses were taught by individuals to share their hobbies.  Often the classes were "hands on learning."  I remember taking an astronomy class that was taught by an amateur astronomer who had built his own telescope and everyone in the class had to build their own cardboard telescopes by the end of the class. It was an amazing class and I still can pick out the planets and the constellations in the night sky.  An added bonus was the great coffee and pastries he made for us after an evening of sky watching.  Somehow this seemed to be a more effective way to learn then the dry lectures I attended at my formal university during the day.

Most of these open universities only lasted a few years because of the need to print and distribute class listings.  The listings were distributed at libraries, area colleges and local bookstores. The expense of doing this made it difficult to sustain even these volunteer lead efforts.

With the computer I have often wondered about how these efforts could be done so much better today with minimal expense.  A website similar to HoCo Blogs that listed course offerings and Event Bright for class registration would make the process easy.  Howard County would also seem like a natural place to develop this type of effort because of all the talented folks we have in the County.  Classes could meet at local coffee shops, restaurants or even the libraries. With online file sharing class information could easily be posted for each class. Wouldn't it be nice to browse a site like that to see what interesting offerings would be available locally?

If you think this would be an interested idea to talk about drop me an email.

Have a young person who can write about how they will reach their financial goals? Check out this information from Making Change and maybe win $150

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Glad to be back on the East Coast

Having spent the last few days in the Midwest I realize how much different that region of the country is. I have heard that new things start in California and then move to the East Coast and eventually work their way to the Midwest last.  Everyone in the Midwest seems to drive large trucks or American cars.  Fewer Starbucks. The radio stations on the lower end (80's) of the radio dial are religious stations instead of NPR channels.  Grocery stores have smaller chicken meat sections and forget about fresh fish.  Milk sections are mostly whole milk and skim milk only came in gallon size.  And why do you have to spend $40 in tolls going to Chicago??  Aren't interstate highways suppose to be free?  The road surface of I-80 was so bad from all the trucks so I am not sure where the toll money goes.The last exit for the PA turnpike was so confusing I got a violation by driving through the EZ Pass lane.

You couldn't help but notice that we are still a country where most everything is transported by truck. We have never been willing to develop a rail system for long distance delivery.  I can't imagine how much oil we need to continue this inefficient way to move our goods. To say nothing about the air pollution from the trucks.

Friday, April 13, 2012

GreenFest highlights a busy weekend

 This weekend seems to be one of those busy weekends with many events being held.

Howard County Government is sponsoring the 5th Annual Greenfest
April 14th, 2012 from 10am - 4pm
Howard Community College

Burrill Galleria and Quad
  GreenFest will include:
- Bikes for the World (used bike and sewing machine collection for developing countries)
- Nike ReUse-A-Shoe (worn out shoe collection for recycling)
- Aveda Salon Marielle Cut-A-Thon for a Cause  (get your hair cut and proceeds will be donated to a watershed organization)
- Habitat for Humanity of the Chesapeake Collection Truck for donation of new and reusable household items
- Goodwill Industries donation collection truck
- Children's nature play space
- Children's craft and nature activity
- Tree planting on-site
- Live reptiles and birds
- Mini farmers' market
- Solar telescopes for viewing on the Quad
- Rain barrel workshops (free barrel registration is now full, however the workshops are open to the public)
- Compost and gardening/landscaping workshops and speakers
- Free document shredding (up to 3 bags or boxes) and electronics recycling event from 10am until 2pm
- Free compost bin giveaway
- Local green businesses and information on sustainable products, including nearly two dozen new vendors in 2012!

Another activity for this weekend is:
It's Opening Day this Sat, April 14, from 1-4 pm! Visit the beautiful historic sites of Ellicott City this weekend! Stroll down Main Street and ascend the ruins of Patapsco Female Institute for a fun-filled and free afternoon featuring tours, a one-room school house, fire fighters, and yarn spinning at a log cabin. Contact Jacquelyn Galke at for additional information.

Finally over at the East Columbia Library:

 A celebration for young children and their families with free hands-on activities that teach developmentally appropriate educational concepts, including interactive games, crafts, and stories. Ages 3-5 with adult; drop-in activity.
Saturday, April 14
10 am - 1 pm

Information from the Columbia Archives on their walking tours on May 12th

Thursday, April 12, 2012

In-migration from the "Exburbs"

   During the past administration of Governor Parris Glendening the concept of "Smart Growth" became popular as a way of encouragement development in areas that already had the infrastructure to support growth as opposite to developing new infrastructure in rural areas of Maryland.  Much of this approach was opposed by developers interested in developing new housing in areas with undeveloped land.  Now it seems that the price of commuting from some of the areas like Carroll and Frederick Counties has caused increasing movement of people back closer to urban areas.  Added to this group are increasing numbers of retirees moving back to the urban areas as being more conducive to their retirement lifestyle.  Some of the housing being discussed for the Town Center development seems to be targeted to both of these groups.  I recently came across an AP article that highlighted this trend.

WASHINGTON (AP) - Stung by high gasoline costs, outlying suburbs that sprouted in the heady 2000s are now seeing their growth fizzle to historic lows, halting American city dwellers' decades-long exodus to sprawling homes in distant towns.

New census estimates as of July 2011 highlight a shift in population trends following an extended housing bust and renewed spike in oil prices. Two years after the recession technically ended, and despite faint signs of a rebound, Americans again are shunning moves at record levels and staying put in big cities. That is posing longer-term consequences for residential "exurbs" on the edge of metropolitan areas.
Construction of gleaming new schools and mega-malls built in anticipation of a continued population boom is cutting back. Spacious McMansions offering the promise of homeownership to middle-class families sit abandoned or half-built. Once an escape from urban problems, suburban regions hit by foreclosures are posting bigger jumps in poverty than cities.

 'The heyday of exurbs may well be behind us,' Yale University economist Robert J. Shiller said. Shiller, co-creator of a Standard & Poor's housing index, is perhaps best known for identifying the risks of a U.S. housing bubble before it actually burst in 2006-2007. Examining the current market, Shiller believes America is now at a turning point, shifting away from faraway suburbs in the long term amid persistently high gasoline prices.

Demographic changes also play a role: They include young singles increasingly delaying marriage and childbirth and thus more apt to rent and a graying population that in its golden years may prefer closer-in, walkable urban centers. 'Suburban housing prices may not recover in our lifetime,' Shiller said, calling the development of suburbs since 1950 "unusual" and enabled only by the rise of the automobile and the nation's highway system. "With the bursting of the bubble, we may be discovering the pleasures of the city and the advantages of renting, investing our money not in a single house but in a diversified portfolio.  In all, 99 of the 100 fastest-growing exurbs and outer suburbs saw slower or no growth in 2011 compared with the mid-decade housing peak ..."

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Self Service in the Digital Age

    We have all become used to self service gas and ATM machines.  This week I tried two new digital checkouts.  The first is the the new book self checkout at the East Columbia Library that worked great.
    The second was the self checkout devices at Giant that worked OK but there was a glitch with one of my items having to be rescanned at the regular checkouts.

      The next CA Community Building Speakers Series event "The Path Forward: Cycling Innovations Across the US" featuring Jennifer Toole will take place April 25th at 7:30pm at Slayton House. Jennifer will discuss innovative communities that are creating greenways, safe bike lanes, and other changes that make these communities more livable, enjoyable, and more economically competitive. For nearby trips, bicycling may help offset the cost of high gas prices

Registration is appreciated, but not required. Please visit to register for the event. It should not be missed.

P.S. 2
Tonight's Blog Party is at Second Chance Saloon in Oakland Mills Village Center.  Check it out.

P.S. 3
LGBT Winter/Spring Film & Discussion Series
Friday evening April 13th 7:15 to 9:30 PM
Cedar Lane UU Church Library

Film:  Two Spirits

Two Spirits is an award winning documentary film which interweaves the tragic story of a mother's loss of her son with a revealing look at the largely unknown history of a time when the world wasn't simply divided into male and female and many Native American cultures held places of honor for people of integrated genders.

Fred Martinez was nádleehí, a male-bodied person with a feminine nature, a special gift according to his ancient Navajo culture. He was one of the youngest hate-crime victims in modern history when he was brutally murdered at 16.
Two Spirits explores the life and death of this boy who was also a girl, and the essentially spiritual nature of gender.

Two Spirits mourns the young Fred Martinez and the threatened disappearance of the two-spirit tradition, but it also brims with hope and the belief that we all are enriched by multi-gendered people, and that all of us - regardless of ethnicity, gender, sexuality, or cultural heritage - benefit from being free to be our truest selves.

Film Discussion 
A facilitated, interactive discussion will follow the film showing. The discussant will be Sylvia Fisher, who is a 15-year federal employee and is currently Director of the Office of Research and Evaluation in the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).  Sylvia has worked tirelessly to improve the health and well-being of LGBT populations and tribal communities in the areas of bullying and suicide prevention, lesbian health, LGBT-headed families and behavioral health services for LGBT children and youth.  A member of the Healthy People 2020 Committee on LGBT populations and the National Action Alliance on Suicide Prevention LGBT Task Force, Sylvia was a founding member of the CLUUC LGBT Task Force and is lead editor of a book about behavioral health services for LGBT youth to be released in July 2012.

General Information
$5.00 (suggested contribution) at the door; refreshments will be served.

For further information contact Catherine Schuler (; Marge Dimond (; or Stephen Colgan (

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Quaker connection in Howard County

        One of the features I like best with the new Miller Library is that it is the new location for the Howard County Historical Society.  Having dropped by a couple of times I have found the folks there always willing to talk about Howard County's history.  One of the things I learned about on my last visit was the early connection with the Quakers and the Ellicott brothers.
       The Ellicotts moved to this area in the 1780's from Pennsylvania to develop a flour mill. The farmers of that time were mostly tobacco growers but the soil was becoming poor for this crop because of over-planting.  Some of the farmers had already left the area for better growing areas.  The Ellicotts convinced some of the growers to switch to growing wheat that they needed for their flour mill.  This convergence was advanced by the Carroll family converting to growing wheat.
       Like many Pennsylvanians of that time the Ellicotts were Quakers.  The local Quakers had been meeting in a Quaker Meeting House in Elkridge at the time the Ellicotts moved to the area.  Because of the difficulty with traveling to that meeting house the Ellicotts decided to build a meeting house on a hill near where they lived.  This building still exists but is now a private residence as shown above.   
                            The graves of the Ellicott brothers is in a nearby family cemetery.   
                           The one of the original Ellicott homes still exists as offices for local businesses.

         Did you know 2012 marks the 40th anniversary of Tropical Storm Agnes? Join the Friends of Patapsco tonight, April 10th, 7-9pm at the George Howard Building/Banneker Room (3430 Court House Drive) for an interesting evening of remembrance and videos.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Columbia Medical Plan Development

        This week I hope to share some local history of Howard County and Columbia.  I have been spending some time at the Columbia Archives and the Howard County Historical Society.  Today some background to the health care system that many of us joined when we moved to Columbia---the Columbia Medical Plan.

         In the 1960's, when the planning for Columbia was starting, a new health care delivery system called a Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) was beginning.  The earliest HMO systems had been developed in California with the Kaiser system and in Boston with the Harvard Community Health Plan.  HMO's stressed preventative health and hoped to move away from an illness based fee for service system.  Dental care, mental health and vision care were included in the HMO plans.  Columbia planners worked with Johns Hopkins Community Research and Development to do the planning for the development of a HMO group medical practice on a prepaid basis for Columbia residents.

       Mike Spear in a memo to Jim Rouse identified "the major problem in providing adequate health care in America is not so much a question of adequate medical resources as of accessibility to those resources.  The major challenge in providing adequate health care in America is devising systems that guarantees accessibility for individuals of all ages and incomes."

       The planners of Columbia were particularly focused on not having Columbia be segregated by race and income. The stated goal was "to encourage and promote arrangements for opening opportunities for low income groups to move into and become self-sustaining residents of the new town area including provision for education, training, career development, purchase of housing and sufficient low rental units."

      An early controversy arose in the planning of a hospital for Columbia that was to be only open to doctors with the Columbia Medical Plan.  This conflicted with the plans that a group in Ellicott City had with their efforts to have a hospital built on land that had been donated by Charles Miller.  Knowing that only one hospital would be approved for Howard County, having County residents that were not members of the Columbia Medical Plan excluded from being admitted to a local hospital was a problem.  This played into the resentments of many older Howard County residents that Columbia was exclusive.  Eventually both groups realized that they had to find a compromise to get a hospital in the County and the admitting privileges was expanded to non Medical Plan members.

New edition of the Homeless Gazette.  Interesting reading

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Gas Price Blues

   I find it mystifying how whenever the price of gas goes up the media has to go out to a gas station and interview the owner of the biggest SUV to get them to complain about how ridiculous the gas price is. 
      These owners seem to feel that their decision to buy a gas hog made sense in a world where the latest trouble in the Middle East would skyrocket the price of oil.  Guess they think they can "have their cake and eat it too."  I do think about the time in 1972 when I once paid 29 cents a gallon for gas and drove 250 miles to Pennsylvania for $2.50.  OK so the minimum wage was only $1.60 then too.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Robinson Nature Center: Return Visit

    I returned for a second visit to the Robinson Nature Center in Hickory Ridge and was once again amazed at this local resource.  It is truly a "green" building.
 I couldn't help but notice the difference in the parking lot with a different type of surface.  It is a porous material that allows the rain water to seep through to the ground rather than running off.  I wondered how often this could be used more often in our parking lots.
     Once inside the natural world is shown in many forms.  Above shows the beautiful drawings of the seasons of the year along with examples of many types of animals.
    This exhibit allows a person to use a helicopter simulator to visit and explore many of the natural wonders of Maryland.
   After the visit inside (don't miss the planetarium shows) the outside nature trail brings you up close to the beautiful woods that surround the Nature Center.  The Center is a great place to take anyone (especially kids) to learn about our natural wonders of Howard County and Maryland.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Orioles Baseball: Is it too early to buy World Series tickets?

   Another opening day game for the hopeless Orioles.  Angelos as an owner has led to one losing season after another but somehow opening day always seems special.  To get in the mood I suggest a couple of good You Tube videos.
Number One
Number Two

Thursday, April 5, 2012

What happened to the Tot Lot swings?

          I have been noticing some of the tot lots in my neighborhood have suddenly been missing their swing sets.  Is this just a conversion to different swings or have swings become an insurance liability issue?  Are swings going the way of diving boards and jungle gyms? With the memories of swinging with my kids and now my grandchildren in the tot lot behind our house I hope this development is just temporary.

     Tot lots are another one of those iconic Columbia features that have made us unique.  I remember our children confusing their relatives with the question, "Where are your tot lots?"  Somehow our kids couldn't imagine that all communities didn't have tot lots.  Another one of those "Columbia bubble" realities.

Anyone know of a way to donate used running shoes to a local group?  It seems a shame to throw out the shoes but they are taking up too much space in my closet.