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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Storm damage around Columbia

   With storms like the one we had last night with winds near hurricane force of 60 to 70 miles an hour it is nice to know with our underground power lines we won't have the power outages that other communities will have today.   With temperatures near 100 today that is another advantage of living in Columbia.
   These are some of the pictures I took on my morning run this morning.
  Lots of small branches mostly
CA will be busy for the next few days
The volume of rain has brought up the water level moderately


Smithsonian Folklife Festival

        The Folklife on the Mall in DC is on this weekend and from July 4th to the 8th from 11 am to 5:30.  One of the most interesting parts of the Festival is to visit some of the Smithsonian workers to have them explain some of the projects on which they are working.  I have to say these people have what I would describe as a dream job.  Exploring the world with the Smithsonian sounds like that type of job.

Enjoy the culture of another country and some good ethnic food.

 This year there is a special there is a special exhibit on the unfolding of the AIDS quilt and its story.  The quilt will not be laid out on the Mall as it was 25 years ago but there will be sections to view.  Its story is one of the most powerful ways to graphically show the human stories behind this tragic disease.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Annual Battle with Poison Ivy

  The ivy you see above on the poplar tree is poison ivy.  Poison ivy seems to love poplar trees. I made the mistake years ago when I tried to pull it off of a tree with my bare hands.  For two weeks I had a blistering rash on both arms.  Since then I have been careful to only cut it off where it attaches to the ground and let it die on the tree. And even doing this I wear gloves and a long sleeve shirt. This is a better method to deal with the problem because pulling off the ivy can damage the bark.
  Above you can see that the stem of the ivy can be thick.
The above picture shows the dead ivy on the tree.

In photographing the trees I happen to look up and something caught my eye!
It certainly looked like a deer head caught in the tree.  Just a tree branch from the beech tree growing next to the poplar tree.  It does make you do a double take.  If anyone is interested I would be glad to tell you where to see this interesting sight.

Cornell University is trying to map habitat for wildlife across the United States.  If you would like to help them and make your property more habitat friendly you can go to their website for the effort.

P.S. 1
Sarah Says blog had some interesting information on CA helping her put in a rain garden.   Check it out.  I am thinking of doing this too.

P.S. 2

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Two good ways to make a direct impact in our community

     Last year Tom Coale, the blogger of HoCo Rising, raised over $3,000 to help establish the first "sober house" in Howard County.  Four recovering substance abusers are now living in the sober house.  The need is greater so the Day Resource Center is planning on opening a second house and the donations now being sought is for the security deposit for the second home.

    So why are sober houses important?  In talking with Joe Willmott of the Day Resource Center he has always talked about how difficult it is to help homeless persons who are struggling with addictions if they don't have stable housing.  Once you have established a stable home you can then get much better results with the addressing the substance abuse issue and hopefully their homelessness.

   To make a difference in someone's life here in Howard County go to Tom's donation page.

      The second way to make a difference is to respond to a request from Fostering Futures, a part of the Voices for Children program, which is a program that helps local foster youth.  This month's request is for the following items:
A 5 year old boy needs summer clothing (size 6) and shoes (sneakers and summer sandals, size 1.5/2)
The 14 month old boy needs summer clothing (size 12-18 months) and shoes (sneakers and summer sandals, size 5 infant)
They also need a toy box.

      The boys are living with their grandmother, who is taking wonderful care of them while their mother works hard to be reunified with her sons.  The grandmother has a limited income and works full time.  The 5 year old loves Cars and Avengers and will be starting kindergarten in the fall.

      If you would like to become a partner in this program and get monthly emails or you can provide the requested items above call the  Voices for Children office at (410) 740-0933.

    On July 28, American Association of University Women of Howard County will host a practice SAT exam for middle and high school students at Vantage House auditorium, 5400 Vantage Point road, Columbia, MD 21044.  The Princeton Review will administer the practice exam and lead a Scores Back Session on August 18 at Vantage House.  The practice SAT is held from 10:30 AM to 4 PM and the Scores Back Session is from 2:30 PM – 4 PM.  Total cost is $15 for this fundraiser, with proceeds going to the AAUW Howard County scholarship fund.  Send cash or a check made out to AAUW Howard County to Jennifer Ingram, 5570 Vantage Point Road, Unit 1, Columbia, MD 21044.  Pre-registration and payment are required.  To register, go to
.  Contact The Princeton Review for questions about the test and Scores Back Session.  For other questions, contact Ms. Ingram at

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Do Individual Mandates Unreasonably Restrict Personal Freedom?

      Tomorrow we supposedly learn what the Supreme Court will rule on the Affordable Health Care legislation and the individual mandate.   Where does personal responsibility end when there are societal impacts?  Nothing probably separates liberals from conservatives than this issue.  It doesn't help when politicians flip flop on this issue when the politics of the day require it.  Romney was for the individual mandate until a Democrat President was for it.  Newt Gingrich could flip flop on the issue in the same way.  Individual mandates were once the Republican answer to universal care.   
    The strangest part of this whole question comes down to the Court's interpretation of the commerce clause! The delivery of health care is a business that crosses state lines and that has been enough in the past to give the feds the right to regulate it. As strange as that seems the power to regulate interstate commerce has been the basis of other progressive legislation such as workplace safety legislation, minimum wage laws and even civil rights legislation.
      This debate being decided on the strange basis of a commerce clause would be just an academic legal debate if it wouldn't mean that 30 million uninsured in this country and those with pre-existing conditions may not be able to get insurance and then lead them to personal bankruptcy.


       This issue is also played out with motorcycle helmet laws.  According to the Insurance Institute:
 "in 1967, the federal government began requiring states to enact motorcycle helmet laws to qualify for certain federal safety and highway construction funds. By the end of 1969, 39 states had universal helmet laws.. By 1975, all but three states mandated helmets for all motorcyclists....In the fall of 1995, Congress lifted federal sanctions against states without helmet use laws, paving the way for state legislatures to repeal helmet laws. Now only 19 states and the District of Columbia have helmet laws covering all riders, and 28 states have laws covering some riders, usually people younger than 18. Illinois, Iowa and New Hampshire do not have any helmet requirements."
     So what has been the impact of the lack of the helmet laws?  Motorcycle deaths have more than doubled since the 1990's.  While it is true that motorcycle ridership has increased in that time we have seen a dramatic decline in automobile deaths and injuries during that time because of safety measures enacted over this same time.  Just like the individual mandate for health care the cost of treating people injured in motorcycle accidents there is a societal health care cost either to the government or insurance companies.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Lake Elkhorn dredging

      The Columbia Association is about to resume the dredging of Lake Elkhorn after dredging stopped a year ago in a dispute with a contractor.  The dredging is expected to cost $4.5 million dollars.  All of our Columbia lakes have seen recent dredging as the result of silt buildup.  This is a common occurrence for man made like what we have in Columbia.  If nothing was done eventually the lakes would turn into their natural marsh state. CA has been trying to slow the buildup with work on the streams that feed our lakes.
        Marshes like this one in Long Reach are useful in capturing some of the silt before it gets to the lakes. Another way way that I have blogged on in the past is the building of rain gardens.  These are improvements that homeowners can also create.
     With the lower water levels we also see the increase in the algae blooms that come every summer with the warmer weather.  These rob the water of the oxygen needed for fish to survive.  As I have blogged also on this before putting nitrogen fertilizers on your yard greatly increase this problem.

Make a contribution to Tom Coale's (HoCo Rising) effort to set up another sober house here in Howard County.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Why are gas prices so high in Columbia?

   I guess the simple answer to my question on gas prices is that we should expect prices to be high in our County with our high income levels.  Gas sellers will talk about the higher costs to operate in Columbia but that logic doesn't always work.  Is it really higher to operate in Columbia than Elkridge, Clarksville or North Laurel?  I always use Gas Buddy to survey gas prices in our area.  I consider where I might be driving in the week to plan when and where I will buy gas.  No sense in driving too far to save a few pennies.  I almost never buy gas in Columbia as it is always higher than a few miles outside town.  The only exception is at Costco and judging by the usual long lines there most of Columbia residents do the same thing.  I can't help but notice how many big SUV's are at this station.  I almost never see more than one person in these SUV's.  If you can afford $40,000 for a vehicle why worry about the price of gas?

    As usual when I checked recently the 7-11 on Route 1 in N. Laurel ( just below the CarMax) was the cheapest at $3.23.  Remember when $3 dollar gas wasn't considered cheap??  This follows the trend of the cheapest gas being near Laurel. Costco came in next at $3.29. Freestate in Clarksville (which only accepts cash) came in at $3.29 also.  Exxon at Stevens Forest Road and Broken Land came in the highest at $3.63.

The only exception to my rule on where to buy gas is that I will buy gas at the BP on Harper's Farm road because of my experience years ago with getting my cars repaired there.  The past 10 years I have been going to Foreign Auto Experts in Elkridge off Route 1 in Elkridge.  A little out of our way but worth it.  We usually take our car their and leave it overnight and pick up the next evening. Try them for the best and most honest car repairs.  They specialize in Hondas and Toyotas. Tell Steve or Brian I recommended them.  Any other recommendations for car repairs in our area?

P.S. 1
Interesting promo by David Attenborough for a BBC show

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Good Food Blog : Annie Rie blog

     As a food blogger I am definitely a second class amateur.  If you have been a past reader of this blog you know that on weekends I tend to do food related blogs.  But I have never been a single focused blog as much as I try.  My varied interest keep me blogging a wide range of topics. As much as I like talking food and sharing recipes I will leave it to bloggers like HowChow on others for more indepth and focused blogs for we foodies to follow.
    At a recent HoCo Blog party I met a fellow blogger by the name of Annie Rie and since then I have been following her food blog.  All I can say is don't read her blog hungry.  Her use of fresh foods and interesting recipes make me think of spending more time in food preparation.  If I could afford to hire a cook I think I know where I would look.  Take a look at her blog and be forwarned if you haven't eaten yet.  You can also find her on HoCo Connect as a blog I follow.

Maiwand Kabob is now open in Columbia Crossing

P.S. 1
Picked 16 pounds of blueberries yesterday at Larriland.   I have never picked blueberries before.  Picking all those blueberries only took about 45 minutes because they are so plentiful right now.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Sushi at Wegman's

  One of the first things I tried at Wegman's this week was the sushi.   Seeing the sushi made in the store you would expect the sushi to be fresh and it generally was.  Prices are about what you would expect.  I generally try mostly the cooked sushi but have also tried the raw.
 The Coconut Shrimp roll at $9.99 was average and not the one I would probably go for again.
 The Brown Rice Spicy Shrimp roll at $7.99 was good and I would definitely get it again
The Volcano Spicy Scallop roll above at $9.99 has been heavily promoted in Wegman advertising and there is even a picture of this as you enter the parking lot.  It was the best of my selected items but also the priciest.

I think the sushi selections are  a good choice for a quick lunch (if getting into and out of Wegman's will ever be quick!).

Friday, June 22, 2012

Columbia's 45th Birthday Celebration at Lakefront Tomorrow

    Time flies as I remember going to Columbia's 10th Birthday Celebration having moved to Columbia 2 months before. 
Jim Rouse cut the birthday cake for that celebration just like the photo above from the Columbia Archives.  Tomorrow Columbia celebrates its 45th birthday with entertainment, food and other activities. The events go from 3 to 10 pm at the lakefront at Lake Kittamaquandi and are sponsored by the Columbia Association.

    CA is also hosting a pool party at the Hopewell pool.  CA describes it this way:

"KidsDay, an event for the young and young at heart, returns this summer on Saturday, June 23, from noon to 3 p.m. at Hopewell Mini-WaterPark. All are invited to an afternoon of family fun, including a live disc jockey, face painters, a balloon sculptor, a moon bounce, games, raffles, arts and crafts and more. New activities this year will include a penny dive and a Zumba® Atomic demo. The Mini-WaterPark features a giant 18-foot-high water slide; a unique splash pad with dumping buckets, squirting features and interactive spray equipment; a wading pool; and an eight-lane swimming pool with diving board. Food and beverages will also be available for purchase."

This week's music video comes from Dennis Lane at Tale of Two Cities.  Dennis reminded me how the best part of the HBO show the Wire was the opening song as the credits rolled.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

UFO sighted on a road in our area??

  OK so the heading on today's blog was a little dramatic but it did get you to open the blog post!  If you have been a regular reader of this blog you know that I have frequently blogged on how the digital revolution has changed so much of how we do many things.  Last week I happen to notice an article in the Washington Post that made me think about how the digital revolution has changed warfare.  The article was about how a new large drone being transported on Route 270 in Montgomery County looked like a UFO to many people in the area and the police were flooded with calls about the sight.  Called the X-47B it will be flying over the area near the Patuxent Naval Air Station. This is after a drone crashed recently on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

     The recent military conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan evolved into warfare by remote control.  Pilots thousands of miles away from the conflict can pilot a drone without any danger to their life and safety.  Warfare in the future will be waged with minimal causalities to those countries like ours that has this technology.  The question is will this make the United States and other advanced countries more likely to use military intervention when there is little danger to our combatants?  We have certainly seen how warfare has been impacted by advancements in technology but this is very different by removing the combatants from the location of the conflict.

     The use of drones for civilian purposes has raised concern in some quarters.

    The other area of this digital advance is the planting a "virus" in the computers that controlled the Iranian nuclear reactor.  This method of damaging a vital plant was certainly safer than the Israelis using jets to take out the nuclear reactor in Iraq in 1981.  This safer method can also give the perpetrator "deniability." The only problem with this advancement is how long will it be before an enemy force has the capability to damage vital systems in the US like our electric grid or impact one of our nuclear reactors.

     Rachael Maddow has written a book well worth reading regardless of you political orientation called "Drift."  It shows the dangerous progression over recent years to make military intervention more politically "sellable" as the roles traditionally played by soldiers has been contracted out.  That and the use of unmanned weapons of destruction using digital technology will make military action seem less risky.  The question is that a good thing for our country and the rest of the world.

  Speaking of things being transported on our local roads, I have noticed over the years trucks transporting loads on Route 70 going west with Maryland State Police escorts.  The materials being transmitted are encased in containers that look like they are impenetrable.  Nuclear waste?  Highly toxic materials?  The State Police escorts make you wonder.

P.S. 1
The Parks and Rec Summer Concerts at Centennial Lake started this week.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Iron ore discovery in Howard County in 1700's

      In doing the research on the Underground Railroad in Howard County I came across some other information on how slaves were used in the production of iron in the County.  Slaves in Maryland and Howard County had been used mostly in the growing and harvesting of tobacco. As mentioned in yesterday's blog the discovery of iron ore in the County caused slaves to be used in the mining of the iron ore.  The ore was melted into iron in the Elkridge Furnace run by the Dorsey family.  The iron was used mostly by the railroads for rails and bridges.  We have two examples of bridges that still exist in the County.
This bridge is presently used on the trail from Columbia to Savage.
 Near this bridge the story of the iron ore mining in told with pictures from that time.
This is the Bollman bridge in Savage built by the B&O Railroad

The areas of the iron ore mining can also be still seen in the County.  Below is an area near the trail bridge that was one site.
A short distance away is the quarry that was mined.  It is now filled with water near a modern office building (Quarry Tech Building) that can be seen from Route 32.
Supposedly the water is hundreds of feet deep in this quarry pond.

In researching the past couple of blogs I also learned of the wheat grinding mill that still exists under a Route 32 bridge at Cedar Lane.
I also saw a picture of a log cabin house that still exists on Route 97 in Glenwood that was built for the daughter of a Howard County slave by the name of Sarah Dorsey.
I happened to have some history with this house.  I knew the owner of the home in the 1980's, Albet France, who was Sarah Dorsey's grandson.  He had contacted the Howard County Office on Aging about putting some storm windows on the house.  I supervised the Office home repair program and sent out our person to see what could be done.  There was only one small problem---the window frames were so out of square, as you can see in the picture, that he could only install plastic coverings to the window.  From the picture above that appears to still be the way the windows are still being insulated.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Juneteenth and the Underground Railroad in Howard County

       Today is Juneteenth which is a celebration of freedom from slavery celebrated every June 19th. It officially recognizes the freeing of slaves in Texas in 1865.  According to Wikapedia:

"   On June 19, 1865, legend has it while standing on the balcony of Galveston’s Ashton Villa, Union General Gordon Granger read the contents of “General Order No. 3”: The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere."

       From a close friendship with lifelong Howard County resident Leola Dorsey a few years ago I learned a great deal about the history of African Americans in Howard County and its segregated past.  Today being Junetenth, the celebration of the end of slavery, I thought I would relate some of the stories I learned.

    In the 1950's and 1960's Howard County reflected its southern heritage and remained segregated in many ways.  Leola related how she and Bob Kittleman (father of present day Howard County Senator Allan Kittleman) traveled along Route 40 in the 1960's to test out the new Public Accommodation laws that were being passed.  Leola was the first woman president of the Howard County chapter of the NAACP and Bob was the first white to serve as president of the Howard County NAACP. Some of the merchants still refused service to minorities.  I always found it unusual that Leola, a civil rights champion in the County, was a lifelong Republican when it seemed as if the party had long since become a party of the conservative South.  She often reminded me that she thought of the party as the party of Lincoln.

    One of the stories that Leola told was about how Harriet Tubman was thought to have led runaway slaves through Simpsonville following the Patapsco and Patuxent rivers.  The rivers were used because of their access to Baltimore and Ellicott City and the B&O railroad.
The Orchard Street Church in Baltimore above was a stop on the Underground Railroad in Baltimore that was used to hide slaves to be transported by boat to Philadelphia or train to points north.  The tunnel in the basement of the Church shown below was used to hide runaway slaves.
Another supposed route for runaway slaves was alone Route 144 called the Baltimore-Frederick Pike and its many ways to get to Pennsylvania.  Many of the runaway slaves were trying to get to Philadelphia.
 There is even one story that Tubman spent a night in the cemetery of  the Locust United Methodist Church shown above.
 A cave in the bank of the Middle Patuxent Creek is said to be a hiding place for runaway slaves.

    Simpsonville was a logical community for runaway slaves because the slaveholder Nicholas Worthington freed his 17 slaves and gave them each land in this community.  It was called Freetown because of this act.  Freetown Road in this community still exists.  Another factor in the County being used by runaway slaves was the population of Quakers that lived in the County.
     The Quakers were actively involved in the Underground Railroad and there still exists a Quaker safe house pictured above in the Simpsonville area. There are still many descendents of these freed slaves living in the County and the names of these descendents are familiar to many of us---Dorsey, Gaither, Brooks, Holland, Henson and Warfield.
     Like most of Maryland in the 19th century Howard County was a community of both slaveholders and abolitionists. In the 1860 Census 21% of the population of Howard County was listed as slave and another 10% as free blacks.  That is double the percentage of the rest of Maryland. Originally brought to Maryland to work in the tobacco fields the discovery of iron ore in the County caused Caleb Dorsey to use slaves in his ironworks in the quarry off of Route 32. Below is a poster for the capture of a runaway slave in Elkridge.
          Caught between the South and the North there were many politicians in the Maryland Legislature that wanted Maryland to join with the Confederacy and secede from the Union. Lincoln stationed many Union troops in Maryland and held Maryland under military rule during the Civil War to insure that Maryland didn't join the Confederacy and force the move of the Capitol from Washington.  There was a major upheaval in Baltimore in April 1861 between Union forces and pro Confederate sympathizers. It wasn't until 1864 that Maryland outlawed slavery.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Wegman's-First impressions

     Apparently there were almost 2,000 people waiting for the opening of the Wegman's at 7 am.  The first person in line got there at midnight. When I drove by around noon there was heavy traffic and most people were being directed to other parking lots than the Wegman's lot.  I decided to wait till later in the afternoon to try again and maybe make it in time for dinner at the buffet choices.
   Going back around 4 pm was a good choice.  I got parking in a lot next to the store and the crowds were large but manageable.  Wegman's had a ton of people to help customers and restock merchandise.  I have waited longer to check out at Giant at dinnertime.
   In the hour and a half I wandered around the store I would make an assessment that I would definitely come back for the fresh seafood, the cheeses and baked goods.
 The grocery sections were not much different than a Giant or Safeway.  Prices were about what you would expect at a local Giant.  There are many Wegman brand items and store brands had a good number of organic products.  The organic items were priced about where you would expect.
 The club packs of meats were a good deal.  Meat selections were much larger than a Giant.
People wanting to find gluten free foods will find a large section of these types of foods
   After buying a few grocery items I decided to try the buffet for dinner.  There was a decent variety of items from which to select but it was typical buffet quality.  I think I would try their subs or pizza the next time I go there to eat.
  I chose to eat out on the patio in the nice weather and enjoy watching the police directing traffic on McGraw Road.

    So I will plan on coming back again sometime this week to do a slower and hopefully less crowded shopping trip.  I am not sure if I will make this a weekly trip but time will tell.  I still think I will have more fun shopping at the Family Market in Long Reach.

"I don't believe there's a challenge anywhere in the world that's more important to people everywhere than finding solutions to the problems of our cities. But where do we begin... how do we start answering this great challenge? Well, we're convinced we must start answering the public need. And the need is for starting from scratch on virgin land and building a special kind of new community that will always be in a state of becoming. I twill never cease to be a living blueprint of the future, where people actually live a life they can't find anywhere else in the world." Walt Disney