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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Ellicott City is number 6 trip advisor's spookiest American towns

      While this Halloween Ellicott City is recovering from storm damage it has been selected as the 6th spookiest places in the United States.  Some of the haunted sites listed are:

1) Lilbrun Mansion on College Avenue- From the Website ",
"In Ellicott City, Lilburn Mansion's ghosts have been made public knowledge since the 1920's, with new stories being added to town lore throughout the years. In a small town, news travels fast.
The mansion was ruined in a fire around Christmas of 1923, though the new owner, John McGinnis, and his family got out safely. The mansion was completely redone, with the only structural change being the steepled gothic tower. The gothic peaks were taken off and stone battlements, similar to the top of a castle were put there instead. This change didn't meet the approval of the discerning unseen presences, who before this took place were unnoticed residents. The active manifestations began in earnest during this time, as entities don't like change of any kind. Being rich in the 19th century didn't guarantee that family members wouldn't fall victim to circumstance or disease or dumb human accidents. The Hazelhurst family lost several children. One daughter died in childbirth in this home. Mrs. Hazelhurst died as well. In fact, most of the Hazelhurst family died before Henry Richard Hazelhurst finally received his eternal rest or is he still residing in this mansion? Perhaps members of his family stayed to keep him company."
2) Patapsco Female Institute- From the website,
"The Patapsco Female Institute is found high above Ellicott City on Church Road. The view from the front lawn of the ruins, once a girl's school, is a commanding one and looks out small town, the hills and the river beyond. It is hard to imagine the place as it once looked, although valiant efforts in recent years have erased the signs of time and vandals and have restored at least a portion of the old building. It is not hard to imagine that this scenic and beautiful spot may become a little bit spookier once darkness comes to Ellicott City.... or that it is home to at least one ghost!  Annie Van Derlot, the daughter of a rich southern planter. She died from pneumonia during her first winter at the school and her ghost is said to still linger there, roaming the ruins where her classrooms and dormitory used to be. Annie was said to have resented being sent to the small mill town of Ellicott City to attend school. She sent a number of letters home which protested her "incarceration" and spoke badly of the school. One has to wonder how happy her spirit must be when wandering the despised building under the light of the moon. Needless to say, much has changed at the Institute over the years... but the stories of Annie's ghost remains, through the years of the school, through the occupants after and even up until today. A few years ago, a girl who found herself separated from a group of visitors to the site saw something that she will never forget. She was alone near the front steps of the school when she saw a young woman in a long gown walk out of the front doors, down the stone steps and across the lawn.... where she abruptly vanished. Was it Annie.... or some other spirit lingering behind at the former institute?"

    HoCoMoJo and Howard County Tourism even have a YouTube video look at the Haunted Tour of Ellicott City.  To make a reservation click here.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Storm impacts in Howard County

Over 17,000 Howard County residents have lost power.  Link to the power outage map A power outage at the sewer treatment plant near Route 32 and 1 has been causing sewage to be dumped into the Patuxent River below Route 32.  Main Street in Ellicott City is open with some merchants without power. Water is receding and things seem to be getting back to normal.  Halloween seems to ready to happen tomorrow.  Trash and recycling schedules this week slide one day from normal pickups. Check with HoCo Schools website Wednesday morning after 5 am to see if your school is open.

Pictures and video from around the area.
Video of the Little Patuxent River below Brokenland on path to Savage.
Pictures of the area showing how wetlands absorb overflow and reduce flooding

Pictures of Lake Kittamaqundi and South Entrance Road.

P.S. 1
Inner Harbor flooding from WMAR

Monday, October 29, 2012

Response to Matt Birk on gay marriage in Maryland

       Yesterday Ravens Center, Matt Birk, wrote an Op-Ed opposing the Marriage Equality referendum question in Maryland.  Matt maybe someone to admire for his football exploits but his reasoning on marriage equality has some major weaknesses.  Below is his arguments and my comments in italics, bold and in parenthesize:

       The union of a man and a woman is privileged and recognized by society as "marriage" for a reason, and it's not because the government has a vested interest in celebrating the love between two people. With good reason, government recognizes marriages and gives them certain legal benefits so they can provide a stable, nurturing environment for the next generation of citizens: our kids.

      Children have a right to a mom and a dad (loving parents), and I realize that this doesn't always happen. Through the work my wife and I do at pregnancy resource centers and underprivileged schools, we have witnessed firsthand the many heroic efforts of single mothers and fathers -- many of whom work very hard to provide what's best for their kids. But recognizing the efforts of these parents and the resiliency of some (not all, unfortunately) of these kids, does not then give society the right to dismiss the potential long-term effects on a child of not knowing or being loved by his or her mother or father. Each plays a vital role in the raising of a child. (False comparison to use single parenthood to oppose gay marriage with two parents.)  

      Marriage is in trouble right now -- admittedly, for many reasons that have little to do with same-sex unions (Then why bring it up in this discuss of the evils of marriage equality?). In the last few years, political forces and a culture of relativism have replaced "I am my brother's keeper" (except if he is gay and wants to marry) and "love your neighbor as yourself" with "live and let live" and "if it feels good, go ahead and do it." (How is this an argument against permitting two gay adults from strengthening their relationship by legalizing their union? Doesn't sound like "live and let live" to me.)

     The effects of no-fault divorce, adultery, and the nonchalant attitude toward marriage by some have done great harm to this sacred institution ( then your argument should be on outlawing no-fault divorce and adultery, not marriage equality.) How much longer do we put the desires of adults before the needs of kids? (Like by preventing children being parented by gay parents from having their union legalized because of your "adult" religious beliefs?) Why are we not doing more to lift up and strengthen the institution of marriage? (Like promoting marriage equality?)

     Same-sex unions may not affect my marriage specifically (then what gives you the right to deny marriage equality unless you will be harmed?), but it will affect my children -- the next generation. Ideas have consequences, and laws shape culture (Like denying legal rights to those people who are different from us.) Marriage redefinition will affect the broader well-being of children and the welfare of society. As a Christian and a citizen, I am compelled to care about both (and impose your Christian beliefs on everyone? Fifty years ago the same cultural argument was made against inter-racial marriage.  Has inter-racial marriage damaged the "welfare of society?")

     I am speaking out on this issue because it is far too important to remain silent. People who are simply acknowledging the basic reality of marriage between one man and one woman are being labeled as "bigots" and "homophobic." Aren't we past that as a society? (Not when religious intolerance is the only real argument against marriage equality.)  Don't we all have family members and friends whom we love who have same-sex attraction? Attempting to silence those who may disagree with you is always un-American, (legislating religious beliefs is also un-American) but especially when it is through name-calling, it has no place in respectful conversation.

     A defense of marriage is not meant as an offense to any person or group. All people should be afforded their inalienable American freedoms (unless you are gay). There is no opposition between providing basic human rights to everyone and preserving marriage as the sacred union of one man and one woman. (I would argue that marriage is a human right in the 21st century that you want to deny one group of people.)

      I hope that in voicing my beliefs I encourage people on both sides to use reason (how about using facts and statistics and not just your religious beliefs) and charity as they enter this debate. I encourage all Americans to stand up to preserve and promote a healthy, authentic pro marriage culture in this upcoming election (by recognizing marriage equality as being the only pro marriage question being addressed).

Dam at Lake Elkhorn overflowing.  Low land area around dam ready to be flooded.

P.S. 1
4500 people in Howard County without power at 2 pm Monday according to BG&E

 State of Emergency Declared for Howard County; the following offices & services will be closed/cancelled on Tues., 10/30:
 County Government will be closed, including offices, county parks, senior centers, community centers, libraries, and the health department.
- Trash and recycling pickup is cancelled.
- Howard County Public School System is closed, including offices.
- Howard Transit service is cancelled.
- Howard County Community College – classes and events are cancelled.
- Howard County Circuit Court is closed.
- All Columbia Association facilities will be closed.

All speed limits in Maryland are now 45 MPH.
Picture taken today in DC.  Gives new definition to "essential personnel."

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Two contrasting views of storm preview

View today of Fall colors around Lake Elkhorn.  Very few folks out this afternoon around the lake.
Then I went to the Owen Brown Giant and found out where all the folks were!  Clerk was in the bottled water aisle continually restocking the shelves.  One woman said she came from Silver Spring because the stores there were out of water.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Notify Me Howard for update on storm impact on Howard County

With the approaching storm the next few days you can be notified about its impacts on Howard County by signing up for Notify Me Howard.  Now is a good time to sign up before our winter storms.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Early voting begins in Maryland tomorrow

    Early voting has transformed our elections in the past 10 years.  It estimated that 40% of the electorate will vote before the November 6th election day.  This percentage compares with 15% in 2000.  The lines of past presidential elections made early voting a logical way to provide easier access to voting without the election day problems.  I remember waiting for over two hours to vote in 1976.  Adding weekend days for voting also helps insure that people are not required to vote on a traditional workday.

     Maryland is also one of the 35 states that allows you to vote by absentee ballot without having to have a reason for voting this way.  Two states, Oregon and Washington State,  have only mailed voting. The convenience of not having to leave your home to vote is certainly for those without transportation or having health issues with mobility.  You can request an absentee ballot until Oct. 30th.  You can make an email request until 11:59 p.m. on the 30th at or faxing to 410-313-5833

    Here in Howard County there are three places to start voting tomorrow.  The Bain Senior Center in Columbia, the Ellicott City Senior Center and Ridgely's Run Community Center in Jessup are the locations for early voting.  If you are a registered voter in Howard County you can vote at any of the locations.  Starting tomorrow the 27th voting will continue through Thursday, November 1, 2012.
Early voting centers will be open from 10 am until 8 pm each day of early voting except on Sundays, when early voting centers will be open 12pm to 6pm.

This week's music video highlights Van Morrison an Irish musician/song writer who has been popular from the 1960's to the present.  Here are a couple examples of his songs--There Will Days Like This and Someone Like You.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Our neighbors to the north: Carroll County

        With the Carroll County Commissioners passing a bill to make English the official language in Carroll County you may not know that there was also a drive to make English the official language in Maryland.  That attempt failed.  So you could say that Carroll County is not a bell weather county for Maryland.  At the same time the Howard County Council has extended anti discrimination protection to transgendered individuals.  Even though we are neighbors it shows how different the cultures are in each county.
        The level of xenophobia in the Republican party has long been something to which they have appealed for the past 10 or 20 years.  Fear of "people not like us" has led the Republicans to labeling President Obama policies as "foreign" and to question his origin of birth to this country.   As this Country moves to being more diverse demographically the party that doesn't adjust its positions to this reality will diminish in its political strength.  This doesn't mean that it will not resist this decline by what ever means it can as shown by the Republican efforts this year to limit minority voter access to polls through voter suppression.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

And now its the Boy Scouts turn

     I have been thinking about how to write this blog since the news last week that the confidential files kept by the Boy Scouts on Scout personnel were made available online.  This is a hard blog to write.   I could be angry like everyone when Catholic priests and a coach at Penn State are involved abusing young boys and each institution covered up this abuse.  But when it was the Boy Scouts fingered it struck home because of the abuse I knew about that occurred in the Boy Scouts in my home town.
    I was a Boy Scout in a small town in Pennsylvania in the 1960's that had a pedophile as the Cub Scoutmaster.  He also taught Sunday School at one of the largest churches in town.  So how is that a pedophile is allowed to hold these roles and not get caught?  It might be necessary to relate more of the story to answer that question.
    I was attending a football game when the Cub Scoutmaster, who I knew, came over and sat beside me and chatted with me until the game was over and then offered me a ride home.  Thinking nothing more about this offer than it was nice of him, I accepted.  Instead of driving me right home we drove around talking for almost an hour.  He did nothing more than talk but I did think it was strange that he didn't seem interested in getting me home any time soon.  When I got home and my Mother asked why it had taken so long to get home after the game I told her about what happened.  You could imagine what her reaction was.  Her first reaction was to confront the Scoutmaster directly but then decided to check around town with people who knew the Scoutmaster to see if they could tell her more about him.  What she heard explains why pedophiles are not prosecuted quickly.  My Mother got the same message from everyone to whom she talked,  "he likes young boys so keep your son away from him."  They all knew about him and his preying on young Scouts but were only concerned about protecting their own children.  No one apparently thought it was an issue that needed intervention to protect other children who might innocently be exposed to this pedophile.   For years afterward I would see this man march with young Cub Scouts, past everyone in town, in the Memorial Day Parade.  He was never arrested or prosecuted during his lifetime.
     This was not the only example from my experience with Scouting that explains how these acts were allowed to continue.   While going to the week long summer Boy Scout camp an older Scout sexually abused a younger Scout.  Word of this spread thought our camp and our Scout Master called a meeting of all of the Scouts to tell us that the older Scout had been sent home, would be kicked out of the Scouts and that we didn't need to talk about the incident with anyone.  I never told my parents about it until I was an adult.  You did what an authority figure like the Scout Master told you.
     You might be tempted to think that these incidents are a thing of the past and that we now have an awareness that these are criminal acts that have to be reported to law authorities.  Community organizations now do criminal background checks and we have reporting requirements, right?  While this is true and pedophiles have to be much more careful in their abuse today, the number of pedophiles in our communities has not decreased.  Pedophiles are still on the lookout for vulnerable children and institutional self protection still exists in spite of the large monetary settlements in the recent legal actions.
     One of the reasons I thought so hard about writing this blog is that I had many good experiences with the Boy Scouts and there were so many wonderful adults who donated their time and energy to Scouting in our town.  The Boy Scouts are a wonderful program for young people but sometimes they too "drop the ball."  This has led me to have mixed feeling about the impending law suits that may mean the end of the Boy Scouts as we have know them.

   I did a search of the online files to see if the pedophile mentioned in this blog was in the files.  He was not there.  His years of abusing Scouts had slipped the notice of the national headquarters which makes me wonder how many others also slipped through the system.
    I searched the files listed from Maryland and did find one that referenced a person who listed Columbia as his home address.  I read the letter that he wrote to one of the boys he abused in another state.  The letter is shocking and disturbing in its contents.  With a warning of the about the explicit language in the letter I am posting a link to that letter.

P.S. 1
  I knew that partisan feelings around the Presidential election were high but a bumper sticker I saw this morning showed how far this has come.  "Defend God, Defeat Obama"

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Good news on young readers

     Today there is a lot written about how the younger generation is digitally connected and that reading books has diminished.  A new survey by Pew Research shows just the opposite.    What the researchers reported was that,

  " More than eight in ten Americans between the ages of 16 and 29 read a book in the past year, and six in ten used their local public library. At the youngest end of the spectrum, high schoolers in their late teens (ages 16-17) and college-aged young adults (ages 18-24) are especially likely to have read a book or used the library in the past 12 months. And although their library usage patterns may often be influenced by the requirements of school assignments, their interest in the possibilities of mobile technology may also point the way toward opportunities of further engagement with libraries later in life."

   As to the preference for e-readers and libraries the researchers reported,

"We found that [younger people are] very interested in the idea of preloaded e-readers — being able to check out an e-reader at a library that already has some popular titles on it. And a lot of libraries are really looking at how they can engage with this younger age group, especially with Americans in their teens and early 20s. And so a lot of libraries are looking at ways to sort of give them their own space in the libraries, have activities just for them. Some libraries even have diner-style booths for the teens where they can just socialize and hang out, and so that they can think of the library as a space of their own."

    You have to go no further than the new Miller Library to see how the HoCo Library has designed spaces for young people.

     I know I sound like a broken record sometimes on some programs in our area and have blogged before on the Library's A+ Partners in Education program.  Tonight at 5 pm at the Miller Library is the celebration of the success of the programs this year.  The program is a partnership is a comprehensive partnership between and among the Library, HoCo Schools, and HoCo Community College.  This once again shows that the HoCo Library is much more than just a place to browse for books.  The Library's website gives the following descriptions of the Partnership programs:

1) Battle of the Books gets fifth grade students excited about reading. A lively academic competition, Battle of the Books improves reading comprehension, builds vocabulary, and teaches teamwork and good sportsmanship.

Teams of five students and one adult coach each read the same 16 pre-determined books. Selected by HCLS instructors and HCPSS media specialists, titles include a wide range of reading levels and subjects. Thanks to generous sponsors, all teams receive a set of books. In addition, copies of each year's titles are available for borrowing at Howard County Library System.

2) Howard County Spelling Bee is a countywide bee for students in grades four through eight. The HCLS Spelling Bee is registered with Scripps National as an official regional bee. The winners of individual school bees held in the fall and winter compete in the HCLS Spelling Bee in March. The champion advances to the National Spelling Bee in Washington, DC.

The HCLS Spelling Bee is sponsored by BB&T and the Friends of Howard County Library, and organized under the rules of the
Scripps National Spelling Bee.

3) The Rube Goldberg Challenge. Named after the Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist, sculptor, and author, the contest is offered to school teams comprised of fourth and fifth grade Howard County students. The students transform everyday materials into a wacky innovative machine that accomplishes the given task. However, instead of just "solving" the problem, students are charged with making the solution as complicated and convoluted as possible. By designing and building the machine, students incorporate science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) concepts into their creations. Simple machine classes will be taught at HCLS branches during the school year.

4) Sherlock Holmes contest in partnership with Watson’s Tin Box of Ellicott City and Howard County Public Schools, conducts an annual Sherlock Holmes Essay Contest for all Howard County public, private, and home-schooled seventh grade students.

Students are asked to read the Sherlock Holmes short story, The Adventure of the Speckled Band, and write a five-paragraph analytical essay according to the rules and guidelines of the contest. Students may
download a booklet that includes the story, pre-reading activities, a glossary of British terms, specific essay questions, the rubric which will be used in judging the essays and a contest entry form.

5) The Summer Reading Club is a program to encourage summer reading for children and adults of all ages.  Interesting books for each age are selected for fun and prizes.

6) Teen Time  runs Monday – Thursday from 2:30-5:30 pm during the school year. The daily schedule includes a transition period, which allows students to unwind from school and talk about their day. HCLS instructors next assist students with their homework, which is followed by enrichment activities. While centering on academic enrichment, Teen Time focuses on a variety of additional components, which involves guest speakers, art contests, and poetry slams. 

From the Columbia Association:

"CA is continuing its efforts from the Aquatics Master Plan process to look into what changes should be made to CA's aquatics facilities and programming in order to best serve area residents into the future. The Oct. 24 meeting  covers two active feasibility studies, one looking at SplashDown, which is reaching the end of its useful life, and the other looking at the sizable demand from swimmers for more indoor pool space, which could be constructed on a current outdoor pool site.

The Oct. 24 meeting will include a presentation, discussion and explanatory displays that will focus on current conditions and an analysis of the findings. Public feedback is welcome via comment cards and in person with consultants and CA staff.

Wednesday, October 24, 7-9pm
Owen Brown Community Center, 6800 Cradlerock Way

A follow up meeting with more specific options and alternatives for both projects, based on feedback from the public at this meeting and from members of CA's steering committee,will be held on Nov. 27.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Ken Stevens: Someone you should know

      If you have ever read the letters to the editor of our local papers you have probably seen Ken Stevens letters.  That is how I first became familiar with his progressive opinions.  If there was a liberal, progressive view on one of our local, state or national issues you could count on Ken Stevens  to have a letter written.  After reading these letters I was interested in learning more about the person behind the letters.  I ran into Ken last week and asked him if I could talk with him a little to better understand his background and how he came to be a progressive.
      Ken was raised in New Hampshire, obtained a degree in government from the University of New Hampshire, enlisted in the Air Force and was stationed in Biloxi, Mississippi where he first saw how segregated the South was and became interested in the civil rights efforts.  After getting out of the Air Force he started to work for the Defense Department and moved to Howard County.  He continued his interest in civil rights by joining the local NAACP in the 1960's and serving as its political action chair.  When the Equal Rights for Women amendment was being proposed he joined the local NOW chapter and worked for the passage of that amendment.  Unfortunately the effort fell two states short of becoming part of the Constitution.  It is hard to believe but in the 25 years since that effort we are farther from having an amendment to the Constitution for equal rights for women.
      I caught up with Ken recently in our joint work for passage of the Marriage Equality referendum question on the Maryland ballot next month.  Ken and I have talked about jointly canvassing in the County this week.  When equal rights are being advanced you can count on Ken to be involved.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Ban the leafblowers!!

      As I sit here blogging I have been listening to the whine of my neighbor's leaf blower for the past 2 hours. The whine of the leaf blower is like that of a jet engine warming up before take off.  His lawn is not that big but he keeps blowing the same leaves around in an ineffectual attempt to get them into piles.  
     Modern inventions like digital technology and appliances have made our lives more productive and allow us to amazing things which advance our culture.  And then there are inventions like leaf blowers that show how lazy and environmental destructive we can become.  Instead of mulching leaves into fertilizer for our lawns and gardens we put them into plastic bags to be taken to a landfill to stay underground for who knows how long.
   We have traded the memories of Fall as being a time of raking leaves, pumpkin carving, trick or treating and apple cider for the whine of the leaf blower.  Enjoy those other things until someone invents something to make them annoying too.

The photo above is not of my neighbor.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Pumpkin Fritter Recipe

  This time of the year I am always looking for unusual recipes for pumpkin besides the standard pumpkin pie.   What follows is an interesting recipe I found for a pumpkin fritter that I am trying this weekend.  I usually like to add cooked sweet potato to my pumpkin recipes.  I like the combination of the two flavors.  The fritters can be used at breakfast with syrup or as a dessert with ice cream.


  • 1 cup cooked pumpkin, mashed and well-drained (or cup of canned pumpkin but not the pumpkin pie can)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • Oil for frying
  • Cinnamon sugar


  1. Ensure that the pumpkin is well drained. Beat eggs and add to pumpkin and mix.
  2. Add the rest of the of the ingredients, except for the oil and cinnamon sugar. Mix well into a thick batter.
  3. Heat a heavy pan, using medium to high heat to start with. Add a little oil.
  4. Scoop up heaped tablespoons of batter, and drop into pan, but not too close together.
  5. Fry until bubbles form on the top surface. They should now be firm and golden on the underside.
  6. Flip over and fry on other side.
  7. The fritters will puff up slightly while cooking. To test, press lightly on the fritters. When done, they will tend to spring back.
  8. Remove from pan and drain on kitchen paper.
  9. Serve warm with plenty of crunchy cinnamon-flavoured sugar.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Weekend Activities: Take a hike!

   Last weekend my wife and I headed up Route 70 to hike the Appalachian Trail near where it goes over Route 70.  Having driven under the walking bridge over Route 70 I thought it would be interesting to see it from the other perspective.   While we never made it to the overpass bridge it was a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon in October than sitting at home watching a football game.  After all that is why the DVR was invented.
   While you can see that the trail was fairly easy to hike in this area there were times when you had to be careful of rocks and tree roots.
     In Columbia we are fortunate to have our path system that usually means walking outside our door and doing whatever distance walk we want.
The scenery on many of our paths makes us think we are in a more rural area.
    My favorite area to hike in HoCo is the Savage Park trails off of Vollmerhausen Road.
   If you want to travel just a little farther in our County the Patapsco State Park runs for 32 miles along the Howard County/Baltimore County line.  A trail guide for the park can be purchased for $3 at this link.   For a very complete link of trails near us from the C&O Canal to Rock Creek Park to the B&A trail go to this link
   The weather this weekend looks great so don't spend it indoors and go take a hike!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

50+ Expo: The "Age Wave" reality in Howard County

     When I was the planner for the Office on Aging back in the 1980's I talked about the impending "Age Wave" that was going to happen in Howard County as the Baby Boomers hit retirement age in 2010.  At the time this message was not one that was heard commonly in HoCo.  We were still seen as a community of young growing families.   Seniors were larger seen as elderly relatives brought here by their children to be close to them.   The new reality of Columbia's aging population was shown to me this week as I canvassed for the Marriage Equality cause in west Columbia.  The area around West Running Brook and Ten Mills Road is an area of many people in their 50's and 60's.  Most moved here in the 1960's and 1970's.  Many must be retired by the fact that they were home at 1 and 2 pm when I knocked on their door.
     Once again Howard County's aging population has an opportunity to spend time tomorrow at the 50+ Expo at Wilde Lake High School.  Hearing the Capitol Steps alone is worth the trip there tomorrow.  Link to the schedule for the event

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Windpower in Maryland

      I have blogged before about the fracking in Northeastern Pennsylvania that has transformed the area into a boomtown area with gas companies drilling and water tanks many rural roads.  While this effort is controversial with environmentalist questioning the pollution of rural water supplies another energy production is occurring in the State that is less environmentally damaging.   Pennsylvania has been  aggressively pursuing wind energy all over the State on the top of its many mountains.  Called ChoosePAWind it has a goal of generating over 6% of its energy usage with wind energy from its present 1%.  Currently the energy produced by wind in PA is enough to power the needs of 240,000 homes with the eventual goal of over a million homes powered in the future.  The picture above are the windmills at the Bear Creek exit of Interstate 81 near Wilkes-Barre.
     An often overlooked advantage of generating energy with solar and wind are that the areas generating the power are more likely to be the ones to use the energy created than with oil or coal that enter the global marketplace.  The United States Energy Information Administration indicated that:
" The U.S. became a (slight) net exporter (exported more than we imported) of refined petroleum products in 2008. Refined petroleum products produced in the U.S. from both domestic and imported crude oil are exported to other countries."
      Also from the Energy Information Administration:
" Exports drove gains in production, as U.S. coal shipments to other countries climbed to their highest level in two decades, while domestic coal consumption for electricity generation fell."
       The next time you come out the Harbor Tunnel in Baltimore look at the huge piles of coal waiting to be placed on ships going overseas.  What you are looking at is CONSOL Energy's 150,000 ton mountains of coal ready for loading on ships for export.  This contrasts with the limited transmission lines for solar and wind directing almost all of that energy a short distance from its source.  There aren't any tranmission lines to China.
      The efforts to explore wind energy in Maryland have been mostly centered around the mountains in Western Maryland, the Chesapeake Bay and offshore near Ocean City.  The Maryland Reporter has reported that efforts to increase energy resources in the Maryland Legislature has broken down into the normal partisan divide with Democrats pushing wind energy and Republicans favoring fracking for natural gas.  This deadlock has been occurring at a time that Maryland imports over 30% of its energy usage from other states.  Only four other states import more of their energy usage.  Something to remember the next time you pay a premium on your energy bill for this out of state energy supply.

Upcoming Events Sponsored by Howard County Climate Change:
Sat, Oct. 20, 2 p.m.: Climate Reality Project Presentation at Miller Library. Learn the facts of the climate crisis and the links between climate change and the extreme weather. The Climate Reality Project focuses on engaging the public in conversation about how to solve the climate crisis. Presenter Florence Miller is a health educator/gerontologist involved in environmental advocacy and a member of CCIHC.
Sun, Oct. 21, 2 - 4:30 p.m.: Earth Forum of Howard County – “Water for Tomorrow” at First Presbyterian Church of Howard County, 9325 Presbyterian Circle, Columbia. How can we assure that we and future generations will have life-sustaining water? Howard County Storm Water Manager James Caldwell will discuss water challenges and detail the coming transformation in water use, conservation and cleanup in county neighborhoods and on your rooftop. For more information: 410-730-3545 or  


     Post debate comment.  I was disappointed but not surprised that each candidate avoid offending the NRA with their comments on an assault weapons ban.  The NRA has such a hold on every elected official and candidate that we will never have a sane policy on assault weapons in this country and mass shootings with assault weapons are the price we will continue to pay.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Howard County--The land of "blissful" living

  Just a short comment for today.  After reading the Baltimore Sun this morning about the teenage shootings in Baltimore and the City Comptroller taking legal action against the Mayor in a political feud it is blissful to read that the biggest news event in Howard County seems to be the controversy over charging for parking in downtown Ellicott City.  I know we have some problems in our County but sometimes we need reminding about perspective.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Howard County buildings must meet "green" standards

      Green Building is the practice of creating more resource efficient buildings and their sites through the use of materials, energy, and water, reducing building impacts on human health and the environment, through better design, siting, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation, and demolition - the complete building life cycle. Council Bill 47-2007 passed on July 30, 2007, establishes green building standards for public and private buildings in Howard County. Effective July 1, 2008:

      Most new publicly funded buildings (30% or more County funding), larger than 10,000 square feet must attain a LEED Silver rating.
     Most new private buildings larger than 50,000 square feet must attain a LEED Certified rating. 

In Howard County the following schools have reached "green" status: 

Atholton Elementary School
Centennial Lane Elementary School
 Dayton Oaks Elementary School
Deep Run Elementary School 
Forest Ridge Elementary School
Glenwood Middle School
Hollifield Station Elementary School 
Longfellow Elementary School 

       According to the ways you can make your home more "green" are:
1) Make your own environmentally safe cleaners.  Home cleaning products contain many toxic substances.
2) Replace regular shower heads with a low flow head
3) Stop buying plastic products
4) Turnoff appliances when not in use
5) Purchase a programmable thermostat or join BG&E's Peak Rewards program
6) Look for the Energy Star when purchasing new appliances   

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Nature on PBS

      If you have followed this blog for a while you know that I am a big fan of the PBS show "Nature."  With the recent controversy in the Presidential debate over the funding of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting I thought it was a good time to show what the funding buys.  The latest show on the tigers of Siberia is worth watching.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Amish Market in Laurel

   For a different shopping experience than shopping at the Giant try the Amish Market in Laurel on Route 198.  This is the market that used to be on Route 29 in Burtonsville.  It is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
   The primary reason I go there is for the baked goods.  The pie above is a Shoo Fly pie that I remember my Grandmother always buying from an Amish market near Philadelphia.  Made with molasses it is great.
The cheese selections are better than at Wegman's.
For lunch at the Market I usually have one of the rotisserie or smoked chickens.
The fruit tarts are another favorite
 The meat selection tend to be beef and pork.
Finally candies, fudge and nuts are there in many selections.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Choose Civility: Can't we all just get along?

  Last night I attended the Choose Civility Symposium at the Miller Library.  Choose Civility is so much more than the bumper stickers.
       With over 300 people register for the event the attendance was impressive when you realize that the event was up against an Oriole playoff game against the Yankees and the Vice Presidential debate.
   The evening began with a rousing patriotic presentation by the Young Columbians.  This was the first time I have heard them but they were impressive.
    NPR's Korva Coleman moderated an informative discussion on the civility issue with author Henry Alford, David Frum, conservative commentator and blogger and Andrew Green, the Opinion Editor of the Baltimore Sun.  The evening started with Ms. Coleman discussing Mr. Alford's most recent book, "Would it kill you to stop doing that?." Mr. Alford talked about how our rapidly changing society has struggled to identify the boundaries of civility and manners in the 21st century.  Emily Post and Miss Manners words of advise are from a much simpler time. 
    Andrew Green and David Frum joined the discussion and added to the discussion that with our 24 hour news cycle's need to fill large amounts of on air time the easiest way to do that is with shows hosting opposing "talking heads" which generate heat but little enlightenment on the issues.  Mr Frum had even mentioned that he had proposed that CNN use the 11 am to noon time to educate the viewers on frequently discussed but little understood issue like credit default swaps.  His thinking was that the 11 am time slot had so few viewers that it at least could be used to educate on these topics.  I have to admit that I have read articles and even one book on this topic and I still don't understand how the default swaps work other than they had a significant role in our financial troubles.  Kinda like my attempts to understand Einstein's Theory of Relativity.
    Finally I would be remiss as a Board member of the Friends of the Library if I didn't plug the Friends that support events like this one.  I encourage everyone to consider joining the Friends of the Library.

P. S.
From David Greisman at the Columbia Association:
Teens, parents invited to learn more about CA’s 2013 Sister Cities Exchange program
Parents and teens interested in learning about the annual summer Sister Cities High School Exchange program are invited to attend one of four informational sessions hosted by Columbia Association (CA).
The sessions will take place at CA Headquarters, located at 10221 Wincopin Circle in downtown Columbia, on Wednesday, Oct. 24; Wednesday, Nov. 7; Thursday, Dec. 6; and Wednesday, Jan. 9. All are scheduled to be held from 7 to 8 p.m. Each session will include teen and parent alumni of the program, as well as Laura Smit, program manager for CA’s international exchange and multicultural programs, all of whom will speak and answer questions about the month-long program.
Teen participants spend approximately two weeks of cultural and linguistic immersion during the summer in one of Columbia’s sister cities: Cergy-Pontoise in France or Tres Cantos in Spain. During this time, they are hosted by the family of a French or Spanish student. After returning to the United States, students will then host their French/Spanish counterparts for another two weeks. Throughout the trip, there are organized group activities for the participants, both abroad and in the U.S.
The program fee is $650 for Columbia residents and $790 for non-Columbia residents, excluding airline tickets. Airline tickets may range from $1,100 to $1,500 per participant. Applicants must be high school students residing in Howard County and must have completed high school level three of French or Spanish by the end of the current academic year or have the equivalent language fluency. The application deadline is Feb. 22.
For an application or more information, visit, or contact Laura Smit at 410-715-3162 or

Thursday, October 11, 2012

United Way's Harvest of Plenty feeds families for Thanksgiving

   The cooler weather recently reminds us that the holiday season is just around the corner.  This is the season when many organizations reach out for donations for needy families.  It is the time many of us want to share with others in our community that may not be as fortunate as us.  2012 is the 20th year that the United Way of Central Maryland is hosting the "Harvest of Plenty."  Here in Howard County 250 families will have their Thanksgiving meal delivered to them in this program.  We your support in this effort.  Working with the Maryland Food Bank a donation of only $12 will feed a family.  You can provide a dinner to 5 families for $60.  There are two ways to give:

1) Mail a check payable to the United Way of Central Maryland with HOP (Harvest of Plenty) in the note to P.O Box 64282, Baltimore MD 21264-4282
2) Make a secure online donation at

     If you would like to volunteer to help register families for this program you can call 211 or register at

    This is a great way for your family or organization to provide a Thanksgiving meal this holiday season.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Universal Design Tax Credit in Howard County

       Last week the Howard County Council passed a bill introduced by Jen Terrasa and co-sponsored by Calvin Ball  to authorize property tax credit for homeowners installing certain universal design. Universal design features, such as access ramps, widened doorways, grab bars in bathrooms and stair glides or elevators, are aimed at making homes more accessible.
    As the Sun reported,
"The bill puts an annual cap of $100,000 on the total amount of credits the county can award. Credits would be granted in the order in which applications are received by the Department of Finance, with any coming in after the annual cap has been reached being deferred until the next fiscal year." 
    Last year I participated in interviewing senior citizens in a study for the Opting for Independence program .  Our interviews were designed to determine the preparedness of seniors being able to stay in their homes as they age.  Many of the common barriers mentioned were related to the physical challenges of going up stairs and managing the normal daily activities as they become physically frailer. Design features of this tax credit legislation can be part of the solution for keeping the homes of seniors physically safe. However, the idea that universal design is just for older persons or those with physical handicaps is a mistake.
I have installed lever door openers like the one above rather than door knobs simply because they are easier to open when your hands are full.
 Grab bars can assist a person of any age to get into and out of a slippery bath tub.  Wouldn't is make sense to have electrical outlets higher up on the wall if you had trouble bending over?

Video to which every parent can relate    

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Domestic Violence: The silent epidemic in every community

      Ask any policeman in Howard County what type of call is the most dangerous and I will bet you that the majority will answer the domestic violence call.  The facts below show its impact on our Country:

  • More than 1.35 million people accessed domestic violence victim services in 2005.
  •  1 in 4 women report experiencing domestic violence in their lifetimes.
  • Over $5.8 billion each year is spent on health-related costs of domestic violence
  • Nearly 8 million days of paid work each year is lost due to domestic violence issues-the equivalent of more than 32,000 full-time jobs.
  • 96% of domestic violence victims who are employed experience problems at work due to abuse.
  • 33% of all police time is spent responding to domestic disturbance calls.
  • 57% of cities cite domestic violence against women and children as the top cause of homelessness.
  •  84% of spouse abuse victims are women.
 Here in Howard County the Sheriff's Office has a Domestic Violence Unit which is currently comprised of fourteen individuals - one Sergeant, ten deputies, two clerks, and one advocate. The Unit is dedicated to the enforcement of laws pertaining to family and domestic violence. Before 1999, these duties were shared with the Howard County Police Department, but in July 1999 the Sheriff’s Office took on sole responsibility for the enforcement of domestic violence orders in Howard County.

October is Domestic Violence Month
        The Domestic Violence Center of Howard County (DVC) will host a Candlelight Vigil on Wednesday, October 17, 2012 from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the North Laurel Community Center, 9411 Whiskey Bottom Road in Laurel, Maryland. Doors open at 6:45 for refreshments and registration.

      The DVC Candlelight Vigil will feature inspiration from author/survivor Kristina Gilchrist, poet 2Deep, and a performance by Ballet Mobile. Jennifer Pollitt Hill, Executive Director of the DVC and Detective Frank Moscoso of the Howard County Police Department, will also be on hand to shed light about the prevalence of domestic violence in the county and to honor those who have died because of it.

        Domestic violence is a pattern of damaging and intimidating behaviors including physical, psychological, emotional, verbal, and/or sexual assaults that individuals use against their intimate partners. Victims can be of any age, culture, education, employment, marital status, race, religion, or sexual orientation. Although both men and women can be abused, most victims are women.

      Founded in 1978, the DVC is a private nonprofit agency that provides comprehensive services to women, men and children impacted by intimate partner violence and sexual assault in Howard County. Services include 24-hour helplines, residential assistance, counseling, an abuser intervention program, legal assistance, and free prevention education and awareness programs. All DVC services are confidential and fees are based on income.

         For more information, call the Domestic Violence Center at (410) 997-0304 or visit