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Saturday, September 29, 2012

Sunday Brunch at the Cheesecake Factory

    The Cheesecake Factory may not be the first place you think of for a Sunday brunch but it does have some interesting brunch choices.  Last Sunday I tasted a few of the interesting offerings.
   The best by far was the bruleed french toast.  Unfortunately when we were there at 11 am they only had one order left and our group wanted three orders.  Apparently this dish has to be made up ahead of time and they didn't have time to make up more orders.  We decided to do some group sharing that gave me the opportunity to try more than one of the choices.
   The french toast napoleon gave us more opportunity to taste the bruleed french toast with strawberries and pecans.
    The lemon ricotta pancakes, as big as the plate, were good but too light on the lemon flavor.
    The Baja chicken hash consisted of two  tortillas topped with chicken chorizo, poblano chiles, potatoes, corn, peppers, onions and cheese topped with eggs and hollandaise sauce.
The Monti Cristo sandwich was made of bacon, grilled ham, scrambled eggs and melted Swiss cheese, powdered sugar and served with strawberry preserves.

Anyone guess what this is?   Find out here.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Ellicott City Fall Festival tomorrow

Historic Ellicott City Fall Fest 2012
& Main Street Music Festival by the Ellicott City Business Association
Blacksmith Day
September 29, 2012 - 9:30am - 4pm
Watch blacksmiths ply their trade on the B&O Plaza. $6 Adults, $5. Seniors, $4 Children. 11am - 4pm / B&O Railroad Museum: Ellicott City Station. 2711 Maryland Ave. 410-752-2490 /

Ellicott Mills Stage
Upper Main Street Lot D

4:30-5 p.m. Jedi and Sith Light Saber Duels. View their Facebook Page
Food and Drink:
Ellicott Mills Brewing Company
Pure Wine Cafe
River Houe Pizza Company
12:00 pm - 12:30 pm - Kelsey Abbott. Visit YouTube
12:45 pm- 2:30 pm - Bendt Fendyr. Visit their Facebook Page
2:45 pm- 4:30 pm - Chris Wojtal and the Hilltown Getdown
5:00 pm- 7:00 pm - Soul Island Rebels. Visit their Website

Clayground Studio. View their Website
Flower Child Tie Dye Company. View their Facebook Page View their Website
Nick's Backfire Seasonings. View their Facebook Page
Out of the Box Guitars
Ooh La La Hair Ties

Heavy Seas Stage
The Wine Bin - 8390 Main Street

Food and Drink:
Heavy Seas Brewery. View their Website
The Wine Bin
12:00 pm - 1:45 pm - Root Three. View their Website
2:15 pm -4 pm Federal Hillbillies. View their Website
4:30 pm - 6:30 pm Dirty Secret

A Journey From Junk
B&O Railroad Stage:
Lower Main Street

12-1:45 p.m. Brian Kelm
2:15-4 p.m. Mark Whiskey
4:30-6:30 p.m. The Soundchecks
CSX Information with free coloring books and a kids safety quiz
Tiber Park Stage:
12:30 pm - 1:30 pm Tom Swiss
2:00 - 3:45 pm - The Roadside Show
4:15 - 6:00 pm - Tillers Prospect
Tongue Row:
3-5 p.m. Star Wars Character Meet and Greet. View their Facebook Page
12-6 p.m. Free Kids Activities--Hula Hooping, Mural Painting, Ceramic Magnets

Thomas Isaac Cabin:
Free Kids Activities--Moon Bounce, Face Painting, Pumpkin Decorating View G
This year The Fall Festival features Music Fest, and Historic Ellicott City will host an unprecedented 53 bands!

A little nostalgia  with this week's music video from Nat King Cole and his daughter Natalie.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Who are the undecided voters?

     I had been thinking about doing a blog on who are these undecided voters on whom both presidential campaigns seem so focused.  My sense is that with such a clear choice between candidates who have such different positions only the uninformed voter would be undecided at this point.  Saturday Night Live expressed this so much better than anything I could write.  Here is that segment.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Testosterone and the Ravens Fans

        I have only been to one Ravens game in person but that experience was one that I will never forget for one reason---seeing men in our most basic masculine form.  Oh, I have been at Oriole games where some guy who had too much to drink would make a fool of themselves but this is an isolated fan at most baseball games.  At a NFL football game this is a large part of the crowd.  My daughter (a non-football fan) and I were castigated by the Ravens fans around us for not cheering loud enough.  One fan even asked us if we were Kansas City Chief fans because we didn't join in their rowdiness.
      I was reminded of this watching the Ravens game Sunday night and hearing the crowd chant "Bullshit!" when they thought the replacement refs had made a bad call.  What a "great" way to show your displeasure!  As a man who has been in plenty of situations where men were course in their language and actions (women will seldom see this "maleness" in its full expression) I couldn't help but think that this isn't something that I would want my kids to experience.
     Watching commercials on TV you can't help but notice the commercials aimed at the declining male "prowess" as men age.  Of course we are all familiar with the Viagra commercials where viral looking men doing manly activities like ranching and driving 60's muscle cars need a little help "performing."  The men all seem to have two day old facial hair and a young looking wife. Never mentioned in the commercials is that the "problem" these men are experiencing is arteriosclerosis caused by a lifetime of poor eating habits.
   We are now seeing the ads for Androgel 1.62% for testosterone replacement to restore your testosterone level.  I hadn't been aware that a lower testosterone level was a medical problem to be treated but it is now that a drug manufacturer has a new drug to push to insure that we have an adequate number of rabid aging football fans.  I don't know why these football fans don't understand that replacement refs are perfect for them to release all their pent up levels of testosterone.

From the HoCo Library:
 Teen Read Week ! Do you like scary stories? Scare us in 1,000 words or fewer. Write a short and scary story to enter our contest during Teen Read Week 2012. Write an original mystery, thriller, supernatural romance, or funny but spooky tale. Rules and entry forms available in branches. Submit your story (of 1,000) words or fewer), on the entry form, we'll read them, then post winning entries online. Follow the link for dates, times and locations of Teen Read Week events.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Do you really understand what is going on in Baltimore?

     Today I am moving the discussion up the road 15 miles from Howard County to Baltimore.   Most of us know so little about this place beyond the Inner Harbor, the Stadiums, Fells Point and Federal Hill.  And then there are the murders we read about in the Sun or on one of the TV news stations.   Our understanding of the breakdown in family structure and destruction of so many neighborhoods remain a mystery to those of us in our planned community.  Some of us have watched this reality on the HBO series "The Wire" as if it was another world from Columbia.
     For eight years I worked in Baltimore with grandparents who were raising their grandchildren because their children had struggles with the pervasive drug problem in the City.  These grandparents lived in some of the most blighted neighborhoods of Baltimore.  Boarded up row homes and trash gave a surface reality to how dangerous these neighborhoods had become. I became familiar with the hand signals used by the drug dealers who brazenly signaled passing motorists as you traveled on Martin Luther King Blvd., North Ave. and Greenmount Ave.
      The past weekend I watched the PBS Frontline show that showed the reality of the struggles of families living in many of our inner cities.  The show is called "The Interrupters" and is almost two hours but well worth your time to click on the link and watch this show.

Monday, September 24, 2012

A little perspective on life from Columbian Randy Pausch

       A few years ago the video of Randy Pausch's "Last Lecture" given at Carnegie Mellon University became a You Tube phenomenon.  Most our you have probably watched it at least once.  You probably know that Randy grew up in Columbia and graduated from Oakland Mills High School.  I have bookmarked Randy talking about the lecture and have watched it probably 20 times to put a little perspective on life.  It always makes me think what would I would say in my "last lecture." 

It is a little long but here is the full lecture.
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Back story to the lecture.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Nazar Middle Eastern Market

   Having read a few blogs from HowChow on the Nazar Market  and always open to visiting ethnic markets I tried it this week.  Located across from Bon Fresco and Lidos Pizza off Oakland Mills Road it isn't the most visible location.  I have to admit that my knowledge of much of Middle Eastern food it fairly limited to lamb dishes, gyros, naan and yogurt.
    The yogurt drink that is shown above is very salty and I couldn't drink it.  Not all what I expected.
  The dry apricot candies from Syria shown above were mildly sweet and more like hard candy than dried fruit.  Still trying to figure out how to use this item.
      The last item I purchased was a package of frozen gyros slices that had 50 slices in the box.  I tried to thaw some of these in the microwave but they turned tough like leather.  I finally had success by just putting them in very hot water to thaw.  I had a person tell me how to make naan bread and I never thought it was so easy to make.  Take a bread or pizza dough and roll it out and put in a hot pan or griddle and turn when one side is done.  It was great.  I made some gyros with the naan, gyro meat, some cucumber yogurt I buy at Costco, tomato slices and shredded onion and lettuce.  Rolled it together like a burrito and it was worth the trip to Nazar.

     Definitely worth a return shopping trip to Nazar.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Today in History : 150 years after the Emancipation Proclamation

      In my Tuesday blog on the battle of Antietam I mentioned that the battle gave Lincoln the rationale to issue the Emancipation Proclamation 150 years ago today.  Lincoln had been waiting for a Union victory and even though Antietam was fairly much a draw it did push Lee's Confederate Army back across the Potomac into Virginia.  The Civil War now took on the moral cause of the abolition of slavery in the rebelling Confederate states in addition to saving the United States.  However in Lincoln's own words to Horace Greenly in August of 1862:

 ""My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause."

      In talking about this week's events someone posed the question to me of "I wonder how long slavery would have lasted if the South had won the Civil War?"  Interesting question that led me to do a little research.  I came across a summary of the book "If the South had Won the Civil War?"  The general conclusion was that slavery would had greatly diminished by the end of the 19th Century because of the steam and electric engines that replaced the need for slaves to produce the agricultural crops of the South.  The Industrial Revolution would have eliminated most field slave jobs and only some domestic household slaves would have probably lingered into the 20th Century.  The cost of feeding and clothing slaves was very expensive which was shown by Thomas Jefferson and other well known slave holders dying in debt.  Economic reasons would have eliminated slavery faster than moral reasons.

Robinson Nature Center One-Year Anniversary Open House Event
All ages / Free
Celebrate Robinson Nature Center’s first birthday through this special open house event. Come out and experience live animal presentations, nature crafts and shows in our planetarium. Walk the trails, explore the exhibits and play in the Discovery Room. Children must be accompanied by an adult at all times. No registration necessary. Click here for activity and parking information.
Robinson Nature Center | Noon-5 PM

Friday, September 21, 2012

Wegmans/Apple Ford Join Forces Tomorrow

Wegmans / Apple Ford Community Blood Drive Offers a Pint of Ice Cream and a Free Oil Change for a donation of life-saving blood

Date                 Saturday, September 22, 2012
                        9 am – 3 pm
Location           Wegmans / Apple Ford
8800 Stanford Boulevard
Columbia, MD  21045

Please Note      Donation times may be scheduled by calling 1-800-REDCROSS or at Walk in donations are also welcome.
The American Red Cross Bloodmobile will be located at 8800 Stanhope Boulevard in Columbia on Saturday, September 22, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., in the parking lot at Apple Ford, just across McGaw Road from Wegmans Columbia.

Music video today is for all those "old" baby boomers from Jerry Lee Lewis.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Can Columbia ever become an "urban" center?

       On Tuesday evening I attended a session at the East Columbia Library on the film "Urbanized."  At first the issues addressed in the film may seem unrelated to a suburban community like Columbia.  As a community that has an enclosed 1970's Mall at its center surrounded by acres of parking and a very modest public transportation system we have a long ways to go to have the characteristics of an urban community.  While the film sticks to the traditional definition of an urban community-- high density population-- the film did get me to think about how Columbia might be able to become more "urbanized."  What qualities of an urban area besides high density population could Columbia develop?
       Certainly one of the most desirable qualities of an urban area is a center city area that attracts not only persons living in the community but draws persons from surrounding areas. 
 Baltimore has the Inner Harbor, 
 New York has its Central Park, 
San Antonio has its Riverwalk
 Copenhagen has its Tivoli Gardens
We have the Columbia Mall
     In Columbia we have a Mall, Symphony Woods and the Lakefront.  Each probably fails as a significant area to define our community.  Except for the Wine in Woods, Symphony Woods serves mostly as a buffer between Merriweather Post Pavilion and the surrounding community.  Can you remember the last time you ever used this space with your family?  The Lakefront serves as a venue for occasional community fairs and activities but lacks a draw that keeps people coming there.  The Mall is a dinosaur of 1970's retailing that will probably be significantly changed over the next 10 to 20 years as the newest model of suburban retailing moves to a more open model.
      I am not implying that we could have the significant features of the other communities---at least not on their scale but that doesn't mean that we could develop features of our community through the use of public art and other venues that had educational and entertainment value to our downtown.  Wouldn't the Robinson Nature Center have been a nice feature of the renovated Rouse Building?  Or a downtown ice rink?  I would look forward to the day when the Mall comes down and the area can be developed into a much more interesting "urban core."
      The other prominent feature of an urban community is an extensive public transportation system.  This is something that Columbia will always struggle with because of our lower density.  Having a system that provides fast and convenient public transportation is not going to be a reality with the public transportation systems that exist today.  Having buses that are lightly used and travel times that are slower than riding a bike are never going to be the mode of transportation for most people in our community.  In the early planning of Columbia there was the thought that the village centers could be accessed often by walkers and bikers.  A visit to any of our village centers shows how that reality has never been achieved.
    So does that mean that Columbia will always have to resemble a suburb rather than an urban area? Will the Downtown development ever be more than adding upscale housing and retail merchants?  I am not very optimistic that we will see many "out of the box" features as this area is developed.

Choose Civility Symposium:
Would It Kill You to Be More Civil?

October 11, 2012
Join NPR journalist Korva Coleman for a lively and timely dialogue about civility in public discourse, featuring The Baltimore Sun 's Editorial Editor Andrew Green; David Frum , a contributing editor at Newsweek and The Daily Beast, CNN contributor, and author of the new novel, Patriots; and bestselling author Henry Alford, whose book Would It Kill You to Stop Doing That?: A Modern Guide to Manners , uncovers the purpose and principles of manners — and what's happened to them in our fast-moving, increasingly interconnected culture.

With the election campaign in full swing, panelists will address the declining civility in America in recent years in both the public arena and personal interactions.

Books available for purchase and signing.
Presented by Howard County Library System in partnership with Howard County Public School System and Voices for Change. Opening musical selection by the Young Columbians.
Thursday, October 11, 2012
6:15 - 9:30 pm
Howard County Library System, Miller Branch
9421 Frederick Road in Ellicott City
The Business Monthly; Friends of Howard County Library; Howard County General Hospital: A Member of Johns Hopkins Medicine; M&T Bank; Nicodemus Communications Group; Sylvan Learning Center of Ellicott City


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Howard County Bicycle Master Plan

      The Howard County Department of Planning and Zoning is developing a Howard County Bicycle Master Plan.  The plan will attempt to:
  • Identify and develop countywide system of bicycle facilities to foster connectivity within and between the following: villages, communities and neighborhoods throughout the County, as well as neighboring cities and counties, parks and recreation centers, schools and educational institutions, commercial and employment centers, and regional and local transit facilities.
  • Facilitate recreational and transportation trips by bicycle in the County and improve safety for all types of bicyclists.
  • Recommend County policies that will support bicycling, including bikeway facility design.
  • Build public support for implementation of the Plan.
        The public input period has officially opened and the county wants your ideas and participation. There is an as well as several public meetings. Click here for the survey.  The first public meeting is this Saturday, September 22 at the Miller Branch Library from 10:00am-1:00pm. Click here for more dates and locations for public meetings around the county.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

150 years ago yesterday

     I mentioned last Friday that this past weekend was the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War battle of Antietam.  On Sunday I along with thousands of others from around the United States joined in this event.  Parking for the event, which was being covered by the national media, meant that you had a mile walk to get to the visitor's center at the park.
     Many Civil War re-in actors were in attendance for the weekend which added to the experience
   For those not familiar with the Antietam battle is was the deadliest day in American history for the number of killed soldiers.  While the exact count is unknown it is estimated that there was 23,000 causalities on that day September 17, 1862.  Below is the picture today of what the most famous site on the battlefield known as Bloody Lane looks like today.
And this is what it looked like 2 days after the battle when it was photographed by Matthew Brady
   Wikipedia describes the day's action as follows:
"After pursuing Confederate General Robert E. Lee into Maryland, Union Army Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan launched attacks against Lee's army, in defensive positions behind Antietam Creek. At dawn on September 17, Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker's corps mounted a powerful assault on Lee's left flank. "
"Attacks and counterattacks swept across Miller's cornfield and fighting swirled around the Dunker Church. Union assaults against the Sunken Road eventually pierced the Confederate center, but the Federal advantage was not followed up. In the afternoon, Union Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside's corps entered the action, capturing a stone bridge over Antietam Creek and advancing against the Confederate right. At a crucial moment, Confederate Maj. Gen. A.P. Hill's division arrived from Harpers Ferry and launched a surprise counterattack, driving back Burnside and ending the battle. Although outnumbered two-to-one, Lee committed his entire force, while McClellan sent in less than three-quarters of his army, enabling Lee to fight the Federals to a standstill. During the night, both armies consolidated their lines. In spite of crippling casualties, Lee continued to skirmish with McClellan throughout September 18, while removing his battered army south of the Potomac River."

    Even though the battle was close to a draw the battle provided President Lincoln with the opportunity to issue the Emancipation Proclamation 5 days later on Sept. 22, 1863.  This turned the Civil War into more than just a battle for preserving the Union and made the issue of slavery front and center.   Leaving the battlefield on Sunday you can't help but wonder about the level of brutality that we humans use to resolve our disputes.  Most of the killing that day was at close quarters and you saw the person you were killing.  Far different from the drone pilot sitting in Nevada killing enemy combatants in Iraq and Afghanistan.            

Very good You Tube video on the battle.

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From the Columbia Patch:
     The Columbia Association in partnership with HoCo Library is sponsoring the film "Urbanized"  will be shown Tuesday, Sept. 18, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the East Columbia 50+ Center, located at the East Columbia library branch at 6600 Cradlerock Way, Columbia. The running time for “Urbanized” is 85 minutes. Following the screening, there will be a group discussion about the future of cities.
“The challenges of balancing housing, mobility, public space, civic engagement, economic development and environmental policy are fast becoming universal concerns,” reads the film’s website. “Yet much of the dialogue on these issues is disconnected from the public domain.”
Seating for the screening is limited — registration is desired, though not required. Register online at

P.S. 2
For football fans at the Central Library tonight:

Baltimore Ravens: The Inside Scoop From Monique Jones

Bird wing Learn the insider's scoop on the NFL today from Monique Jones, Baltimore Sun's sports content editor and former Patriot's reporter for the Boston Globe, who has covered most professional sports.

Date Time Branch Register
Tuesday, September 18 7:00 PM Central Branch Register for this event

Living in DC in the 1970's this event was always a rite of Spring.  Glad to see it has finally happened. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Don Bard's Legacy--Refurbishing computers to lessen the digital divide

     Two weeks ago we lost a member of our community who made a contribution with the Lazarus Foundation that touched the lives of many persons in Howard County and beyond.  Don Bard passed away after a two year battle with cancer.  During this time Don stayed actively involved in directing the Foundation he set up to insure that people who couldn't afford new computers could receive the refurbished ones from the Lazarus Foundation.
    In the early 1990's Don was a member of the Howard County Computer Users Group that met at the Bain Center in Columbia.  From involvement in that group came the idea to refurbish computers for distribution in our community.  Don took the lead in the effort and after retiring from the National Endowment for the Arts worked to set up the Foundation.  Lazarus has been located in many locations over the years from space in Gateway to Atholton High School to their current location in 2005 at the Applied Research Laboratory on Route 108.
    Many of the volunteers with Lazarus came from the Elder Hostel sessions on computer refurbishing that Don conducted over the years.  Those session had up to 36 participants and often had waiting lists of 80-90 persons. The picture above is of one of those sessions.
   Computers have gone to many different groups but the largest has always been the Bright Minds Foundation for Howard County Schools.  Other groups included grandparents raising grandchildren, foster children and veterans.
      The family has identified the following areas for donations in Don's name:
Information on donating to the Gilchrist Hospice
 Memorial gifts in honor of Donald Bard can be directed to support the brain cancer research of Dr. Matthias Holdhoff at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center. Checks can be made payable to: Johns Hopkins Medicine and mailed to: The Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, 100 North Charles Street, Suite 234, Baltimore, MD 21201.

If you know of a person in our community who I should highlight email me about that person.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Yogurt as a new food trend in Howard County

      I have always been fascinated how food marketers have tried to package foods in a way that entice consumers to purchase their foods.   Yogurt is one of those products that now is being marketed in some new directions.  Where has this craze for Greek yogurt come from?  Started by the Greek yogurt maker Chobani it now seems to have been picked up by most major yogurt makers.  While the original Greek yogurt was made with goat milk most of the Greek yogurts we buy are made from cow's milk.  The main difference with this yogurt is that Greek yogurt is strained to reduce the liquid and whey in regular yogurt.  This also means that the amount of milk used to make Greek yogurt is up to 4 times as much as other yogurt.  While this makes Greek yogurt thicker and creamier it also means that the same quantity of Greek yogurt probably has more calories and may make the yogurt more expensive.

     The other new marketing trend with yogurt is the new soft yogurt retailers that are moving to the self serve model.  I have blogged on this once before.   It is hard not to notice this trend in our area with Yogi Castle,  Yogi Cup and Tutti Fruitti.  I have to admit that this self serve trend has me back eating soft yogurt more than in the past when TCBY seemed out of date. 

 I have had fun mixing the flavor choices at Yogi Castle to create some interesting combinations.  My new mixing is to simulate a turtle pie.  I started with the coffee flavor selection, then added a layer of Dulce de leche and finally a layer chocolate.  
This combination was topped with the peanut sauce and chopped peanuts.  

    I blog on some other new food trends in future weeks.

Friday, September 14, 2012

For Civil War buffs this weekend: Antietam National Battlefield celebrates the 150th anniversary of the battle

   The Sun had a great story today about this weekend's activities celebrating the 150th anniversary of this bloody battle but for those of you who didn't see the story this is the link to the activities.  I am thinking of going on Sunday.

To familiarize yourself with this famous battle check out the Wikipedia page on the battle.

Grilled Pizzas

  I have blogged before on an unsuccessful attempt to grill a pizza.  Somehow my attempts to duplicate the taste of wood-fired pizza at home have been a mixed result.  I have long used a pizza brick in the oven to get the crispy crust of a brick oven pizza but still attempt to get a wood fired pizza.  I saw the book above at the HoCo Library and thought I would try the methods described in the book.  I learned that to do a pizza on a Weber grill the coals should be on one side of the grill and the pizza on the other side.  Indirect heat.
      Do you know that you can make a pizza crust in a George Forman grill?  Or a cast iron skillet?  I tried with the George Forman grill and after a few poor results I found out that the dough has to be very thin and the grill has to be coated well with an oil (olive oil mixed with ground garlic worked well.)  While this will never be the way I make pizza it was a quick way to make pizza in a hurry.  After taking the finished cooked crust out of the grill you top the pizza with any topping you want and then add your cheese and put it under the broiler to melt the cheese.
  I tried the recipe for the pizza above (on a grill) that included a plum chutney (1/2 cup prune juice, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 1/4 cup raisins) that you dollop around the pizza, 1 teaspoon cornstarch and 1/4 teaspoon chilli flakes), smoked pork, mango and chopped tomatoes.  I used some feta cheese. I added some chopped fresh basil after coming out of the oven.  My grilled pizza below didn't look as good as the one from the book above.

Last night Marylanders for Marriage Equality held a lighted sign above Route 95 to encourage people to vote for Question 6 for marriage equality in Maryland in November.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Advocates for Marriage Equality form a "Light Brigade" tonight

        PFLAG and other groups advocating for marriage equality in Maryland are holding a lighted sign on Vollmerhausen Road over I-95 tonight at 7:45.  Parking for this event is at the Patuxent Valley Middle School parking lot at 9151 Vollmerhausen Road. The event has a Facebook page.

Today is the last day to pre-register for Saturday's Bike About sponsored by the Columbia Archives.
 Registration can be done online at   Paper registration forms will be available at the check-in table.
For more information, go to, send an email to or call 410-715-6781.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

What immigration reform means to Howard County


     We all saw the pictures like the one above in Chicago of young people lining up on August 15th to sign up for the temporary differed action for childhood arrivals of illegal immigrants.  There are an estimated 800,000 to 1.2 million youth impacted by President Obama's policy action. It is also estimated that 25% of the illegal aliens in the United States are youth that were brought to this Country by their parents. Young persons between 15 and 30 years of age are eligible for the amnesty if they can show that they have been in the country for 5 years, are attending school and have no criminal record.  The criminal record part is a little complicated where it is difficult to determine what would a DUI disqualifies a person but a speeding ticket doesn't.  Shoplifting may not disqualify a person but breaking and entering would.  These are just some of the details that have to be worked out in the implementation of the President's executive order.
      I talked with Hector Garcia, Executive Director of the Howard County Foreign born and ImmigrantReferral Network (FIRN), recently about youth in Howard County impacted by this Executive Order.  FIRN is only agency in Howard County that is accredited by the Board of Immigration and Appeals to assist immigrants in the citizenship process.  For many immigrants FIRN is a more credible path to gain citizenship than going to a private immigration attorney.  FIRN has held information sessions for youth and families and has assisted some youth in the application process.  For youth applying for the amnesty their are some important questions for them to consider.  The first is that it is only a 2 year temporary amnesty and with the election this year and the possibility of a new Presidential administration in 2 years their is uncertainty about what will happen then to youth who have identified themselves as being in the Country illegally.   The second question is how youth applying for this amnesty could place their parents at risk for deportation by identifying their household and parents.  This may not be as great a concern in Howard County or Maryland as in states such as Arizona and Texas will their aggressive anti immigration laws where this could pose a more serious risk to parents of youth applying for amnesty.
     This is all happening at a time when Maryland will have a parallel issue on our November ballot of granting children of illegal immigrants in state tuition for attending one of the University of Maryland's campuses.  I had the information on my blog a few days ago but here it is again:

"Question 4
Referendum Petition
Public Institutions of Higher Education – Tuition Rates (Ch. 191 of the 2011 Legislative Session)

Establishes that individuals, including undocumented immigrants, are eligible to pay in-state tuition rates at community colleges in Maryland, provided the student meets certain conditions relating to attendance and graduation from a Maryland high school, filing of income taxes, intent to apply for permanent residency, and registration with the selective service system (if required); makes such students eligible to pay in-state tuition rates at a four-year public college or university if the student has first completed 60 credit hours or graduated from a community college in Maryland; provides that students qualifying for in-state tuition rates by this method will not be counted as in-state students for purposes of counting undergraduate enrollment; and extends the time in which honorably discharged veterans may qualify for in-state tuition rates."

       Failure to develop a coherent immigration policy that addresses the illegal immigrant population in the United States is an ongoing issue that has been stymied but anti immigrant rhetoric.  We don't have the ability to identify and deport the estimated 8 million illegal immigrants in our Country and have to develop a means to provide citizenship to those immigrants who have been productive workers and tax payers.

From the Howard County Legacy Leadership Institute:
 Information Night -  Tues., Oct. 9, 2012, 7 p.m.
 Miller Library, 9421 Frederick Rd., Ellicott City
September 11, 2012
  • The Howard County Legacy Leadership Institute for the Environment (HoLLIE) is recruiting for the 2013 Class of Legacy Leaders.  The environmental education and volunteer leadership program is designed for people age 50 plus who want to gain skills and knowledge about the environment and create a legacy through volunteer work with one of seven Howard County Partner Organizations. Field trips and leadership training are part of the curriculum.
  • Classes meet at the Robinson Nature Center in Columbia, the University of Maryland Extension Howard County in Ellicott City, the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt and the Howard County Conservancy in Woodstock. A $75 fee is required at enrollment.  Classes begin Thursday, January 31, 2013 from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.  After the last class on March 14, Legacy Leaders begin 100 hours of mentored field placements. 
  • A sample curriculum is on the website  Email to apply. Contact Dr. Barbara Schmeckpeper, 410-381-5279 or Cathy Hudson, 410-796-7232 for more information. 
  • Partners are the Department of Recreation and Parks’ Robinson Nature Center, the Howard County Public School System, the Climate Change Initiative of Howard County, The James and Anne Robinson Foundation, the Howard County Conservancy, the Patapsco Heritage Greenway and the University of Maryland Extension, Howard County.
P.S. 1
From the HoCo Library:
Rube Goldberg Challenge @ HCLS NEW! Information Session for Teachers and Advisors
Date: Thursday, September 20; 4:15 pm
Place: Central Branch
Registration required; register by contacting Amy Reese at (HCPSS teachers) or Kelli Shimabukuro at
*Limit: 2 teachers per school. Follow the link for more information.
 P.S. 2
Great new link to Columbia news from the Baltimore Sun.

So you think you can sing? Howard County Teen Idol auditions

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Not your usual 9-11 story

     I received this story last week and thought I would pass it on today the 11th anniversary of 9-11.  I checked it out on and it is a true story told by one of the passengers on a flight from Europe on that fateful day.  It is a little long but worth the read.

"On the morning of Tuesday,  September 11, we were about 5 hours out of Frankfurt, flying  over the North Atlantic . All of a sudden the curtains parted  and I was told to go to the cockpit, immediately, to see the  captain. As soon as I got there I noticed that the crew had  that “All Business” look on their faces. The captain handed me  a printed message. It was from Delta’s  main office in Atlanta and simply read, “All airways over  the Continental United States are closed to commercial air  traffic. Land ASAP at the nearest airport. Advise your  destination.”
“No one said a word about what this could  mean. We knew it was a serious situation and we needed to find  terra firma quickly. The captain determined that the nearest  airport was 400 miles behind us in Gander, Newfoundland. He  requested approval for a route change from the Canadian  traffic controller and approval was granted immediately–no  questions asked. We found out later, of course, why there was  no hesitation in approving our request. 

“While  the flight crew prepared the airplane for landing, another  message arrived from Atlanta telling us about some terrorist  activity in the New York area. A few minutes later word came  in about the hijackings.

“We decided to LIE  to the passengers while we were still in the air. We told them  the plane had a simple instrument problem and that we needed  to land at the nearest airport in Gander, Newfoundland to  have it checked out. 

“We promised to give more  information after landing in Gander . There was much grumbling  among the passengers, but that’s nothing new! Forty minutes  later, we landed in Gander. Local time at Gander was 12:30  PM! …. that’s 11:00 AM EST. 

“There were already  about 20 other airplanes on the ground from all over the world  that had taken this detour on their way to the U.S.     After we parked on the ramp, the captain made the  following announcement: “Ladies and gentlemen, you must  be wondering if all these airplanes around us have the same  instrument problem as we have. The reality is that we are here  for another reason.” Then he went on to explain the little bit  we knew about the situation in the U.S. There were loud gasps  and stares of disbelief. The captain informed passengers that  Ground control in Gander told us to stay  put. 

“The Canadian Government was in charge of  our situation and no one was allowed to get off the aircraft.  No one on the ground was allowed to come near any of the air  crafts. Only airport police would come around periodically,  look us over and go on to the next airplane. In the next hour  or so more planes landed and Gander ended up with 53 airplanes  from all over the world, 27 of which were U.S. commercial  jets. 

“Meanwhile, bits of news started to come in  over the aircraft radio and for the first time we learned that  airplanes were flown into the World Trade Center in New York  and into the Pentagon in DC. People were trying to use their  cell phones, but were unable to connect due to a different  cell system in Canada . Some did get through, but were only  able to get to the Canadian operator who would tell them that  the lines to the U.S. were either blocked or  jammed. 

“Sometime in the evening the news  filtered to us that the World Trade Center buildings had  collapsed and that a fourth hijacking had resulted in a crash.  By now the passengers were emotionally and  physically exhausted, not to mention frightened, but  everyone stayed amazingly calm. We had only to look out the  window at the 52 other stranded aircraft to realize that we  were not the only ones in this predicament. 

“We  had been told earlier that they would be allowing people off  the planes one plane at a time. At 6 PM, Gander airport told  us that our turn to deplane would be 11 am the next morning.  Passengers were not happy, but they simply resigned  themselves to this news without much noise and started to  prepare themselves to spend the night on the  airplane. 

” Gander had promised us medical  attention, if needed, water, and lavatory servicing. And they  were true to their word. Fortunately we had no medical  situations to worry about. We did have a young lady  who was 33 weeks into her pregnancy. We took REALLY good  care of her. The night passed without incident despite the  uncomfortable sleeping arrangements. 

“About 10:30  on the morning of the 12th a convoy of school buses showed up.  We got off the plane and were taken to the terminal where we  went through Immigration and Customs and then had to register  with the Red Cross. 

“After that we (the crew)  were separated from the passengers and were taken in vans to a  small hotel. We had no idea where our passengers were going.  We learned from the Red Cross that the town of Gander has a  population of 10,400 people and they had about 10,500  passengers to take care of from all the airplanes that were  forced into Gander ! We were told to just relax at the hotel  and we would be contacted when the U.S. airports opened again,  but not to expect that call for a while. 

“We  found out the total scope of the terror back home only after  getting to our hotel and turning on the TV, 24 hours after it  all started. 

“Meanwhile, we had lots of time on  our hands and found that the people of Gander were extremely  friendly. They started calling us the “plane people.” We  enjoyed their hospitality, explored the town of Gander and  ended up having a pretty good time. 

“Two days  later, we got that call and were taken back to the Gander  airport. Back on the plane, we were reunited with the  passengers and found out what they had been doing for the past  two days. What we found out was incredible. 

“  Gander and all the surrounding communities (within about a 75  Kilometer radius) had closed all high schools, meeting halls,  lodges, and any other large gathering places. They converted  all these facilities to mass lodging areas for all the  stranded travelers. Some had cots set up, some had mats with  sleeping bags and pillows set up.

“ALL the high school  students were required to volunteer their time to take care of  the “guests.” Our 218 passengers ended up in a town called  Lewisporte, about 45 kilometers from Gander where they were  put up in a high school. If any women wanted to be in a  women-only facility, that was arranged. Families were kept  together. All the elderly passengers were taken to private  homes. 

“Remember that young pregnant lady? She  was put up in a private home right across the street from a  24-hour Urgent Care facility. There was a dentist on call and  both male and female nurses remained with the crowd for the  duration. 

“Phone calls and e-mails to the U.S.  and around the world were available to everyone once a day.  During the day, passengers were offered “Excursion” trips.  Some people went on boat cruises of the lakes  and harbors. Some went for hikes in the local forests.  Local bakeries stayed open to make fresh bread for the guests.  Food was prepared by all the residents and brought to the  schools. People were driven to restaurants of their  choice and offered wonderful meals. Everyone was given tokens  for local laundry mats to wash their clothes, since luggage  was still on the aircraft. In other words, every single  need was met for those stranded  travelers.

    “Passengers  were crying while telling us these stories. Finally, when they  were told that U.S. airports had reopened, they were delivered  to the airport right on time and without a single passenger  missing or late. The local Red Cross had all the  information about the whereabouts of each and every passenger  and knew which plane they needed to be on and when all the  planes were leaving. They coordinated everything beautifully.  It was absolutely incredible. 
“When passengers  came on board, it was like they had been on a cruise. Everyone  knew each other by name. They were swapping stories of their  stay, impressing each other with who had the better time. Our  flight back to Atlanta looked li ke a chartered party flight.  The crew just stayed out of their way. It was mind-boggling.  Passengers had totally bonded and were calling each other by  their first names, exchanging phone numbers, addresses,  and email addresses. 

“And then a very unusual  thing happened. One of our passengers approached me and asked  if he could make an announcement over the PA system. We never,  ever allow that.  But this time was different. I said “of  course” and handed him the mike. He picked up the PA and  reminded everyone about what they had just gone through in the  last few days. He reminded them of the hospitality they had  received at the hands of total strangers. He continued by  saying that he would like to do something in return for the  good folks of Lewisporte. 

“He said he was going  to set up a Trust Fund under the name of DELTA 15 (our flight  number). The purpose of the trust fund is to provide college  scholarships for the high school students of Lewisporte.  He asked for donations of any amount from his fellow  travelers. When the paper with donations got back to us with  the amounts, names, phone numbers and addresses, the total was  for more than $14,000! 

“The gentleman, a MD from  Virginia , promised to match the donations and to start the  administrative work on the scholarship. He also said that he  would forward this proposal to Delta Corporate and ask them to  donate as well.  As I write this account, the trust fund  is at more than $1.5 million and has assisted 134 students in  college education.

From David Greisman at the Columbia Association:

Columbia Art Center’s Empty Bowls fundraiser returns to help Howard County residents in need
Empty bowls will help lead to full plates — and financial assistance and other help for Howard County residents in need.
Columbia Association’s (CA) Columbia Art Center will again be hosting its “Empty Bowls” fundraiser on Saturday, Oct. 6, from 3 to 5:30 p.m. The Art Center is located at 6100 Foreland Garth in the Long Reach Village Center.
Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at the Art Center or over the telephone. Guests receive their pick of one of 300 beautiful, one-of-a-kind handmade bowls made by Art Center students and faculty, and will also be entertained by live music, a studio demonstration, a silent art auction, raffles and light fare.
The proceeds of the event will be donated to FISH of Howard County Inc. For more than three decades, the agency has provided food, financial assistance, referral information and other aid to county residents with legitimate emergency needs, according to its website.
This is the fourth Empty Bowls event hosted at the Columbia Art Center. The first was held in 2008.
“We believe it is important to do our part in giving back to the community in whatever ways we can,” said Liz Henzey, director of the Columbia Art Center. “There is something really amazing about artists and community members coming together for a wonderful cause and sharing their talents and creativity to impact change.”
According to the FISH of Howard County website, the agency received more than 2,250 requests for assistance in a recent 12-month period.
“Those 2,000-plus calls translated into food supplies for approximately 29,000 nutritionally balanced meals delivered to the homes of hungry families, more than $40,000 in assistance for evictions, utility turnoffs or other crisis needs, and nearly $39,000 for prescription assistance,” the website said.
        For more information, contact the Columbia Art Center at 410-730-0075.