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Friday, November 30, 2012

Half price burger night at Coho's

    Florida is famous for its "early senior buffets" that draw in the senior citizens.  Columbia has its own version of the phenomena with Coho's half price burger night on Tuesday. While the Tuesday night crowd may have a few younger folks it is hard not to see that most of the people there are retired or approaching it.  It is hard not to run into someone you know if you are in this age cohort.  Lots of "orginal Columbians" in the the crowd. OK so by now you have probably guessed that I am a regular in this Tuesday crowd.  Good burgers at a good price are too hard to pass up.  And no buffet line to wait in. #HoCoFood

This Charlie Brown classic is a great way to start off the holiday season.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Marriage Equality advocates move on to the Defense of Marriage Act repeal

     With more states like Maryland approving same sex marriage many marriage equality advocates are  beginning to organize to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). This Act was passed by Congress in 1996 with strong support in both houses of Congress.  At the time voting in favor of gay rights was seen as a losing position politically.  Support for same sex marriage in the general public was only at 28% in 1996.  This percentage has changed significantly and is quickly approaching 50%.
    Like many civil rights issues this question is more likely to be settled by the courts before Congress repeals DOMA.  The Obama administration has decided not to defend the act in court so it has fallen to the House Republicans to support this act when it comes to the Supreme Court.  The Supreme Court is has six different appeals of DOMA before it now.  The most prominent appeal is from California and the attorneys in this case are the odd couple of David Boies and Ted Olsen.  If these two names sound familiar they were on opposite sides in the Bush v. Gore case in 2000.
    Many advocates of gay rights and marriage are of mixed feelings about having the present Supreme Court ruling on challenges to marriage equality.  The four conservative justices are sure to vote to vote against any attempt to overturn bans on same sex marriage.  As usual the key justice in this decision would come from Justice Anthony Kennedy.   As the last election showed, time is on the side of advocates for marriage equality.  Public opinion is quickly moving to an acceptance of marriage equality, especially among the young who will make up more of the electorate in the next few years.  This civil rights issue will soon be seen in the same light as the civil rights efforts of the 1960's for racial equality.

  You may have noticed that I have had a link to a White House petition for repeal of DOMA on my blog page.   While the President can't repeal DOMA unilaterally it will be sign that their is a growing opposition to the law.

P.S. 1
Speaking of White House petitions the one gaining the most attention is the one for Texas to leave the United States.  It is interesting that 150 years after the Civil War many of the old Confederate States still have a desired to leave the Union.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Columbia's story began 50 years ago

      While we will officially celebrate the 50th anniversary of Columbia in 2017 the story of Columbia began in 1962 when Jim Rouse and the Rouse Company began to acquire the land for the new town.  There was much speculation about who was buying the land.  One of the most amazing speculations had to do with the Russians buying the land.  I guess we were still very much in the Cold War and when the movie "The Russians are coming, the Russians are coming" was popular.
      To highlight this anniversary the Columbia Archives is chronicling that story with a new series of exhibits and programs. According to a press release from the Archives:
“Creating Columbia — The Idea and The Gamble” will be introduced at an open house on Tuesday, Dec. 11, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Archives, located at 10227 Wincopin Circle in Downtown Columbia. Photographs, maps, news coverage and correspondence from the time period of 1962 to 1963 trace the progression of Rouse’s thought process, analysis of the Baltimore-Washington area, his first forays into town planning and the first land purchases.
The open house is free and open to the public. Registration is encouraged but not required.  The exhibit will continue until June 2013 and is open during regular hours (Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.).

  Check out the HoCo Library's winter offerings at this link

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

"Giving Tuesday" gives true meaning to the holidays

      We have "Gray Thursday", "Black Friday" and "Cyber Monday."   For those of us that find the shopping blitz at this time of the year revolting, we now have a more important day in "Giving Tuesday."  This year many non profits and foundations are using today to remind us that this is a season of giving as much as a season of getting.  I know I am already tired of the advertising for the Holidays.  We have just gotten past the commercial blitz for gambling in Maryland!
     "Giving Tuesday" comes at a time when many charities are struggling to meet their needs in this difficult economy.  Unfortunately charitable giving is seen as a discretionary expense and is one of the first things to go in a down economy.  The discussions in Congress these days of eliminating or capping deductions for charitable giving would only make this situation worse.  Charitable giving has been something that has defined the American culture and now more than ever there should be an emphasis on the importance of giving to others.
    Giving Tuesday is more than just writing a check but an encouragement to volunteer your time or becoming directly involved in helping someone at this time of the year.  Many organizations give you an opportunity to give directly to a family.  Toys for Tots  is one of those organizations that makes it easy to give to make a better Christmas for kids in our area.  Toys for Tots used to supply toys for an organization I worked with in Baltimore City and I saw how some years the toys were fewer because of the economy.            Howard County Children's Services at 410-313-1940 accept toys for children.  Community Action Council at 410-313-6440 can connect you with a family in need.  The Salvation Army of Howard County at 443-656-3376 works with many needy family year around.  Finally Grassroots can identify a family to help.

From the HoCo Library:

In the spirit of #GivingTuesday, don't forget to donate to the Friends! 
As a member of the Friends, you'll help support meaningful educational opportunities that HCLS would not otherwise be able to offer. This innovative curriculum contributes to our top national ranking. The Friends of Howard County Library supports the three pillars of HCLS's educational mission - Self-Directed Education, Research Assistance & Instruction, and Instructive & Enlightening Experiences through powerful advocacy and financial support.

P.S. 1
From the Columbia Association:
  The Teen Outreach Committee is extending its clothing drive. The deadline for drop-off to the village association buildings, Supreme Sports Club and Art Center is still Friday, Nov 30 — but YTC@TheBarn will be accepting donations through Friday, Dec 14. 

P.S. 2
Girls on the Run is sponsoring a 5K run with a sign up deadline of Nov. 28th.  To learn more about this great organization click here

Monday, November 26, 2012

Ravens Play of the Season

When the Ravens season is over this is the play that will be remembered.  Raven fans smiling today.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Homemade yogurt in a crockpot

    Having a four day weekend gives you some time to do things that you never do most times.  Making yogurt is one of those things.  It really is easy and is fun to do in a crock pot in this recipe I found:

  • 1/2 gallon milk (Whole milk will make the yogurt thicker, but any milk will work.)
  • 1/2 cup plain unflavored yogurt (Any kind with live active cultures will work. Be sure to save a half cup of this batch of homemade yogurt to use as a starter next time!)
Pour the half gallon of milk into your crock pot and turn it on low. Cook it for 2 hours and 45 minutes (set the timer to remember to turn it off!)
After 2 hours and 45 minutes, turn the crock pot off and let it sit down 3 hours.
Spoon a small amount of the milk into a small bowl and add the half cup of yogurt to it. Mix together thoroughly.
Dump this mixture back into the milk in the crock pot and mix it around well.
Put the lid back on your crock pot and wrap the crock pot with a large beach towel or blanket (make sure the crock pot is unplugged and turned off!). Yes, I know, it sounds a little ridiculous to wrap a crock pot with a beach towel, but I did some research online and it seems that the experts recommend this step as it helps keep the heat in the crock pot and allows it to cool more slowly.
Let the beach-towel-wrapped crock pot sit for 8-12 hours (or overnight). After 8-12 hours, it should be thickened.
Spoon yogurt into jars or plastic containers and refrigerate a few hours before eating.
This will keep for one to two weeks in the refrigerator. Be sure to save a half cup to use as a starter for your next batch of homemade yogurt.
You can make Greek yogurt out of our homemade yogurt by straining it through a cheese cloth for 4 hours or using a clean old T-shirt like I do.

Friday, November 23, 2012

The changing face of the Thanksgiving holiday

  When most employers started giving employees the day after Thanksgiving as a holiday and making a four day holiday period merchants went into high drive in their Black Friday promotions and we saw the shopping frenzy that followed.  But this change has also been picked up by the travel industry as a time to do some traveling and not just to visit the family.  Resorts have become packed during this period of time.  Ocean City and Rehoboth are popular places to spend Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years.  Following this trend we decided to spend the holiday in Williamsburg, Virginia at a Wyndham resort.  From the picture above you can see that we are not the only ones here.  In fact they are full during the next three days.  Beats dealing with the crowds in stores and getting bored watching football games.

Thought we were putting the stores behind but the concierge at the resort was pushing all the shopping opportunities at the outlet malls in the area when we checked in.  Seems to me to be sacrilegious to come to the area of Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown just to shop.  What would our Founding Fathers think??

Thursday, November 22, 2012

What have we done to turkeys??

      Like a lot of our food today turkeys have been significantly modified to meet consumer expectations.  Here are a few things that you may want to know about turkeys today:
1) The average weight of a turkey raised today is 29 pounds--about 121% of what they weighed 75 years ago.
2) Breeders have to clip the beaks of turkeys so they don't injure other turkeys in their confined surroundings
3) Because they grow so large so quickly that don't have lungs and hearts that can adequately support their weight and suffer from lung and heart problems.  They also suffer from leg and feet problems because of their weight.
4) Most male turkeys are too large to breed so artificial insemination is used to breed turkeys. This is because the breasts of a farm raised turkeys are 2-3 times the size of a wild turkey.
5) The life span of a wild turkey is 10 years but factory raised turkeys are killed at 5 months.

To listen to how we got to our situation today listen to this podcast from Freakonomics.

Anyone for a tofu turkey??

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Monte Cristo French Toast for Thanksgiving

     Last year I posted a special  Thanksgiving pancake made with sweet potato and pumpkin.    Somehow Thanksgiving with its mid afternoon dinner of turkey calls for a special breakfast.  This year I am posting a twist on a Monte Cristo sandwich.  Having had many different Monte Cristo sandwiches I began playing around with the concept to make a breakfast dish that brought out the normal elements with a twist.
     Having tried different stuffed french toast recipes I combined the ingredients this way:

1) Take two pieces of bread and cut off the crusts.  Use large pieces of bread to be able to pinch the edges later.
2) Scramble some eggs
3) Take the scrambled eggs and place one of the pieces of bread along with a slice of ham, a sharp cheese and raspberry jam.  Place mixture in the center of bread away from the edges.
4) Place the second piece of bread over the mixture and seal the edges of two bread slices together with a  fork
5) Dip the sandwich in beaten egg
6) Grill each side as you would with regular french toast.  I have a sandwich maker that works well for this.
7)  Sprinkle each with powdered sugar after grilling

I like to serve this with warm real maple syrup on the side in which to dip each bite.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Suggestion for the County Executive

   With all the talk of how difficult it is for our federal elected officials to agree on averting the "fiscal cliff" we can see how partisan politics can frustrate any rational effort to solve our Country's financial dilemma.  It seems as if the officials are deaf to the public's frustration with their inaction.
    Into this situation online "crowdsourcing" sites have sprung up to allow anyone to participate in an online survey to identify their budget priorities.  One of the most popular site is hosted by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.  Their simulator allows anyone to make decisions on producing a federal budget.   Try it to see if you can produce a balanced budget.  Some local governments have experimented with allowing their citizens to give input in the budget process.  The island of Kauai in Hawaii is an example of this.
      As we approach the new year Howard County will be preparing to produce its FY14 (July 1, 2013-June 30, 2014) County budget.  It is hard enough to think of 2014 when we haven't yet entered 2013.  For many years I was involved in the budget preparation for a County agency and it was definitely the busiest time of the year.  Many long days and weeks went into preparing a budget, especially in the days before spreadsheets when you worked with a calculator, pencil and paper.  Making all the numbers add up right was a challenge.  Every year the message put out by the Budget Office was that it was going to be a tight budget year and new efforts would be very limited.  After a while you realized this is just the standard message that budget offices routinely put out.  Fortunately for Howard County the revenues most years were sufficient to grow with our growing population.  We had a healthy business sector and a strong upper income population.  This allowed the County to develop services that were the envy of most jurisdictions in Maryland.  Move to another jurisdiction and you will realize how excellent Howard County's public sector services are compared to other jurisdictions.
    This gets me to an idea for the County Executive and Budget Office to consider.  Every year the County Exec and Budget Officer hold public hearings around the County to get citizen input on the budget they are beginning to put together.  Having attended some of those sessions you get the usual advocates for schools and non profit organizations requesting dollars for their programs.  Once and a while you will get a citizen who will complain that taxes are too high.  The input at these sessions will come from less 1% of the residents of the County.  Unless you are strongly engaged with some county organization you will probably never participate in one of these sessions.  So maybe the County could look at developing an online survey that identified the budget priorities of a larger segment of the County residents. This would be an example of crowdsourcing our budget.  I am suggesting that the results be just another wider input in putting the budget together.  The Budget Office and the County Exec are still the best ones to weigh all the inputs in putting the budget together but this method might give a broader input into the priorities of County residents.
    This approach could also serve as a tool to educate HoCo residents on what the Howard County budget looks like and what it funds.  I am willing to bet that most residents know very little about where their County tax dollars go.

  I have heard this amazing story and registered for this presentation.  Hope you would consider attending too.
"Meet the Author: William Kamkwamba, November 29th at 7 pm at the Miller Library in Ellicott City

When William Kamkwamba was 14 years old, his native country of Malawi was stricken by a terrible famine. Using his curiosity and ingenuity, he cobbled together a working windmill to provide crucial electricity to his family's farm. In his New York Times bestseller The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, Kamkwamba tells the story of how he achieved his dream of bringing electricity, light, and the promise of a better life to his home and community.

Currently a student at Dartmouth College, Kamkwamba was featured in the Wall Street Journal and has appeared on Comedy Central's The Daily Show, ABC's Good Morning America, C-SPAN Book-TV, and NPR. A 2007 TED Global Fellow, he was a student in the inaugural class of the Pan-African Leadership Academy in South Africa. An accomplished speaker, Kamkwamba has addressed audiences at the 2008 World Economic Forum, multiple times at TED, and at schools and universities across the globe. Register here

Monday, November 19, 2012

Google's self driving cars

        Today a little diversion into another way Google is looking to change our world.

     First Google changed our lives with its innovative search engine.  Then they captured us with their email program,images and maps.  They bought You Tube.  They are scanning in books from major university libraries.  Whew!  Just when you thought they couldn't come up with the next revolutionary advancement comes the story about their work on self driving cars.  Google representatives have even demonstrated the cars in DCCNN Money shows the technology in work with self driving cars.    So what are the benefits besides the obvious one of allowing us to just sit back and be a passenger on long trips?  The three big ones are safety, highway congestion and fuel economy.

    How many of the 30,000 lives lost each year by computer controlled cars is uncertain.  While most fatal crashes involve some element of driver error, there are still times when humans can make judgements better than a computer.  We are already seeing the beginnings of some of this safety technology on today's cars.  Anti-lock braking is now almost universal on new cars.  Again CNN Money reports on these new technologies:
"GM's new Cadillac XTS, for instance, will brake automatically if a driver fails to respond to an imminent collision. Nissan's  Infiniti division has a several models that provide slight braking to nudge a vehicle back into its lane if it begins to drift out. Many luxury cars are now also available with "active cruise control" that allows a car driving at highway cruising speeds to automatically maintain a safe following distance behind the car ahead. In some models, these systems can work even in stop-and-go city traffic."

  When it comes to traffic congestion the self driven car holds tremendous potential to greatly reduce our current traffic congestion and need to constantly expand road capacity.  By reducing the distance between cars congestion could be significantly reduced.  We have all been in miles long traffic jams that were simply caused by the uneven braking of cars to a car along the shoulder of the road.  Given the billions spent every year on highway expansion this is a huge budget savings for every level of government.  I once heard that if we wanted to see what a 5% reduction in traffic congestion during rush hour would be like just think what commuting in August is like. 

    Finally the potential fuel economy by self driven cars with its potential to reduce the stopping and starting of traffic congestion and the uneven driving habits of drivers could provide significant gas savings.  Given that cruise control increases gas mileage by 10-15 % the amount saved by a self driven car on congested roads should at a minimum match this amount of savings.

    While a fully self driven car maybe still be many years in the future (to say nothing of the cost) but lessons learn from these cars have the potential for developing new features we could more commonly see on our cars in the near future.
Watch a video on the self driven cars.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Lincoln at the Central Library

   Lincoln is back in the movie theaters with Steven Spielberg's movie "Lincoln" which opened in the theaters yesterday.  President Obama even got a first look at the movie at the White House on Thursday with Spielberg and many of the cast members in attendance.  The movie follows Lincoln the last four months of his life as he tries to get the 14th amendment to the Constitution passed.  This amendment was the first to pass after the Civil War and gave citizenship to members of all races.  Lincoln of course didn't live to see it passed.
   At the Central Library is a traveling display on Lincoln and the Civil War.  This paneled display give a background to the issues being addressed in the United States that led to the Civil War and Lincoln's efforts to keep the Union together.
   As we enter the 150th anniversary of many of the significant battles of that was this exhibit at Central is a great way to bring this history to life for young people.
   The library also has many books on Lincoln and the Civil War to check out.

From the Columbia Association:

Volunteers and donations needed as Howard County helps those still in need after Hurricane Sandy
Columbia Association (CA), Food on the 15th and the Young Women’s Giving Circle of Howard County will be joining together to assist those still in need after Hurricane Sandy — and help from local residents is key.
The organizations will be collecting donations on Saturday, Nov. 17, from noon to 3 p.m. at Clarksville Middle School, located at 6535 Trotter Road. In addition, volunteers will be needed to help load the donations into the truck (which is being provided and driven by CA’s Open Space Division staff), to direct traffic at the site and then to help unload the truck once it arrives at the Civil Air Patrol, Maryland Wing in Glen Burnie. Those able to assist should contact Julie Rosenthal of Food on the 15th at Students can receive community service hours for volunteering.
The items needed are: bottled water, easy-to-open non-perishable food (please make sure any cans have pop-top lids), plastic dining utensils, paper plates, trash bags, warm clothing of all sizes (including coats, hats, scarves, gloves and shoes), blankets, sleeping bags, diapers, baby food, toothpaste, toothbrushes, cat and dog food, buckets, brooms, work gloves, face masks, shovels, trash bins, 5-gallon totes, tool belts, tape measures, large heavy-duty contractor trash bags, work boots, new heavy work socks and safety goggles. Donations will not be accepted before noon or after 3 p.m.
Please bring items in boxes, not bags. Also needed are empty boxes to help the volunteers sort donations, particularly the large, flat boxes that vegetables come in and that can be picked up from stores such as BJ’s and Costco.

Friday, November 16, 2012

States Health Care Exchange deadline is today

        One of the most significant parts of the Affordable Health Care Act, better known as Obamacare, is the establishment of health care exchanges in each State.  Today is the deadline for States to declare if they will set up the exchange or default to the Federal Government to set up the exchange. The consumer benefits provided by exchanges are:

  • Guaranteed issue: insurers will not be permitted to refuse to insure any individuals
  • Limit to price variations: prices will vary based on four factors and not beyond a total factor of approximately 10
  • Plans will be offered in four comparable tiers ranging from bronze to platinum with limited out of pocket expenses
  • Strict regulations on rescission (dropping insured after issuing coverage)
  • Lifetime and annual limits eliminated

         A number of States were waiting to see the outcome of the Presidential election before making a final decision. A Romney election may have meant that the exchanges in the Act may have been put in limbo.  Now with the President's re-election a reality is that those States will have to scramble if they want to set up the Exchanges in their State.  Some States have already said that they don't plan on setting up the exchanges themselves.  Ironically, but probably not surprisingly, many States with the highest number of uninsured residents have decided not to take on this responsibility.  Texas and Florida, both with Republican Governors, with the number one and number two rankings in the percentage of uninsured residents have both opted out of setting up exchanges.  Other top 10 States in uninsured residents present a mixed picture.  California and Nevada are setting up exchanges.  Montana, Mississippi, New Mexico are studying the issue.  Alaska, Oklahoma and Georgia have not had any activity and will probably opt out.  Generally if the State has a Republican Governor it is far more likely that the State has opted out or has taken no action to set up an exchange.  Making this choice even more stark is the fact that the top eight states with the highest percentage of uninsured residents (Texas, Florida, Nevada, New Mexico, Georgia, Oklahoma, Alaska and Mississippi)  have Republican Governors. The 10 States with the lowest rate of uninsured residents (Massachusetts, Vermont, Hawaii, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Maryland and Maine) all went for President Obama in 2012.  Notice the irony that Massachusetts has the fewest uninsured residents with only 4% of its residents, and no child, uninsured because of Romneycare?
     Maryland has been a leading State in moving ahead to set up a health care exchange.  As the Kaiser Foundation explains,
"On April 12, 2011, Governor Martin O’Malley (D) signed SB 182/HB 166 into law establishing the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange. In May of the following year, Governor O’Malley signed additional exchange legislation (SB 372/HB 433) which addressed multiple exchange implementation and operational issues and was based on recommendations by the Exchange’s Board of Directors and advisory groups from 2011. In August 2012, the state announced that the Exchange would be called the Maryland Health Connection."

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Great American Smokeout today

     Today is the 37th annual "Great American Smokeout" sponsored by the American Cancer Society.  The cost of health care costs related to smoking is an estimated $96 billion dollars.  This past year I have seen this reality in the premature deaths of 3 of my high school classmates from smoking related health problems.  I remember each of them as being smokers in high school.
     The good news on the smoking front is that over the past 50 years the percentage of smokers has declined from 45% of the adult population in 1965 to just over 20% today.  Most of us can remember a time where offices and restaurants had the haze of smoke hanging in the air that we all were breathing.  Fortunately those days are gone.  Now even outdoor venues such as Howard County Parks and Rec fields are entirely smoke free.  Designated smoking areas are now common in airports and even Camden Yards.
    Of course even with the decline in the smoking among adults 600,000 middle school students and 3 million high school students smoke cigarettes.  Young people are still drawn to smoking as being "cool."  Hollywood movies are still too often portraying smoking in this light.  It still is too often the venue that cigarette manufacturers are using to reach the young.  Additionally the promotion and use of smokeless tobacco products has been an area of growth for tobacco.  This is an area that major league baseball has recently recognized that it has to control and finally decided to ban players from using chewing tobacco when they are in contact with fans.
    No one should think that tobacco manufacturers are going to be content to see their product decline in use.  They are simply shifting their marketing strategy to the Third World where the annual rate of growth of smoking has reached 3%.   Just like drug dealers being pushed from one street corner tobacco manufacturers simply move to a new corner.  Of course this new "corner" happens to be around the globe.

The local chapter of the Cancer Society and Howard County General will celebrate this day with local resources to quit smoking at  its Wellness Center today from 11 am to 2pm.  The Wellness Center is at 10710 Charter Drive, Suite 100,Columbia, MD 21044

P.S. 1
From the picture above land has been cleared for the next phase of the South portion of the Blandair Park in Oakland Mills.  This year the soccer fields opened and this new area will include 2 softball/baseball fields.
Looks like the possibility of those fields opening next year sometime.

Tonight at the Central Library:
The Life And Mysterious Death Of John Wilkes Booth
America remains fascinated with the assassin of Abraham Lincoln. Join SLRC Manager Jeff Korman for an examination of the Maryland native's life, his fateful plot, and the mysteries and conspiracies surrounding the death of John Wilkes Booth.

*Registration is required. Register online or by calling 410.313.7800.

P.S. 3

The Columbia tradition of the Poinsetta Tree at the Columbia Mall continues this year with the tree being built  today.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Howard County Bike Master Plan Workshops

        Howard County Government is currently in the process of developing a Bicycle Master Plan to make Howard County more "bike friendly."  Currently most road planning or repaving doesn't take into account how the roads can be more accommodating for bike traffic.  Roads with no shoulders or clearly marked bike lanes on busy roads can deter bikers from using this mode of transportation for commuting or recreation. Tonight at the North Laurel Community Center from 6:30 to 9 p.m. a workshop will be held to receive community input into the Plan.  On November 27th a workshop will be held at the Elkridge Landing Middle School from 6:30 to 9 pm.  Below are the goals and objectives of the Plan and activity timeline for the Plan.

  • 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.
Timeline for Master Plan activity:
  • Developing a proposed network of on-road and off-road bikeways (October 2012-January 2013)
  • Prioritizing Bikeway Improvement Projects (January-February 2013)
  • Updating Bike Route sign protocols, facility design guidelines, and zoning and development policies as related to bicycle access (January – February 2013)
  • Developing policy and program recommendations in the areas of encouragement, bicycle safety education, enforcement, and evaluation (September 2012-February 2013)
  • Developing funding and implementation strategies (March 2013)
  • Drafting a plan document and network maps (February-March 2013
  • Conducting final public meeting (April 2013)
Am I the only one who feels they are watching a new show called "Real Housewives of Tampa" when you watch the news this week?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Generational tipping point in 2012 election

       The 2012 election saw the impact of a few different demographic changes.  The increasing number of Hispanic and Asian voters made the difference in many states.  We also saw the generational shift with more younger voters playing a significant impact on the election outcomes.  This was clearly seen in the referendum questions here in Maryland and in other states.
      The scales finally tipped in favor of marriage equality in Maryland, Washington State and Maine with the approval of gay marriage in each state.  In Minnesota the voters turned back a referendum question defining marriage as only between a man and a woman.  This 4 for 4 win for marriage equality came after losing 31 straight times in elections up to this year.  We all knew that eventually the younger vote would mean the approval of gay marriage by the voters but it turned dramatically this year.  The trend is definitely headed toward more states approving gay marriage at the ballot box.  Look for California and moderate political states to follow shortly.  The next big battle will be at the federal level with the Defense of Marriage Act coming under attack.  With so many marriage issues with the IRS and Social Security the energy will quickly move in this direction.  Republican opposition to marriage equality will only serve to cement the young vote to the Democrats the way that civil rights issues have cemented the African American vote to the Democrats.
    The Dream Act in Maryland passing by a comfortable margin was somewhat of a surprise.  The increasing number of Hispanic and other immigrant populations, along with younger voters pushed this referendum question to be approved.  The increasing diversity of our population is widely accepted by younger voters.  Again the Republicans will pay the cost of continuing to run campaigns with the call to "Take our Country back."  Most voters know that is code language for when the country was whiter and less diverse.
    The final area that the election showed the increasing voter strength of the younger population was the approval of recreational use of marijuana in Colorado and Washington State. The vote in Colorado gives new meaning to the John Denver song "Rocky Mountain High." The hypocritical nature of having alcohol legal and criminalizing marijuana has finally been shown at the ballot box. Our prison population for possession of marijuana is a black mark on our Country. The "War on Drugs" has been extremely costly to our justice system and has been as unsuccessful as Prohibition was. Our inner cities have been decimated by the imprisoning of men on drug charges. The reality is that the last three Presidents have admitted to using marijuana even if Clinton implied he "didn't inhale." The new conflict between the Federal Government and the states will be played out in the near future with more states moving in this direction to reduce the money they currently spend to catch, prosecute and imprison people for possession of marijuana.  I say all of this as someone who only tried marijuana once in college and don't recommend the use of any "mind altering" substance, including alcohol.
"The times they are a changin"

From the Columbia Association:
Fourth Annual Clothing Drive ongoing at several CA, village facilities
Less than three weeks remain for people to donate to the fourth annual clothing drive organized by Columbia Association’s (CA) Youth and Teen Center and its Teen Outreach Committee.
Collection boxes have been stationed at all 10 village community association buildings, Columbia Art Center, Youth and Teen Center @ The Barn and Supreme Sports Club. Those donating can bring in new and gently used clothes, shoes and accessories (including but not limited to ties, belts, hosiery, hats, gloves, pocketbooks and jewelry). The collection boxes will remain at these facilities through Friday, Nov. 30.
These donated items will then be distributed to community members in need on Saturday, Jan. 19, from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Sunday, Jan. 20, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Both distribution days will be held at The Barn, located at 5853 Robert Oliver Place in the Oakland Mills Village Center.
Youth who are interested in earning community service hours by assisting with the collection, sorting, set-up and distribution should contact Safire Windley at or 410-992-3726.
The Youth and Teen Center (YTC) at The Barn is a fun, safe way for teens and pre-teens to socialize and participate in recreational and educational programs. Columbia and Howard County kids ages 9 to 18 are welcomed year round with after-school, summer time and some weekend activities and programs that are designed to promote self-esteem and to develop life skills.
For more information on the YTC, go to or call 410-992-3726.

Monday, November 12, 2012

New potential organization to help senior citizens in Howard County

        Last Thursday I attended a meeting sponsored by the Senior Advisory Counsel of the Columbia Association to present the potential of creating a "village" to support senior citizens in Columbia.  I had blogged about this meeting last week. This meeting was well attended with over 50 people, mostly seniors, to hear how a group on Capitol Hill in DC formed this type of program in 2006.  This Capitol Hill Village is a membership organization of seniors which provides supportive services needed by older persons as they age.  They have both individual and couples memberships. They now have 260 members and over 400 people enrolled.  The annual membership is $500 for an individual and $800 for a couple.  This seems to be an expensive membership fee but they wanted to charge enough to make it feasible to have staff to make this concept work.  They wanted to generate enough members to meet an $80,000 annual budget and they exceeded this amount the first year.  Today the budget is $255,000 and they generated a $50,000 surplus last year.
       The range of services they provide are transportation, chore, homemaking, grocery and medication pick up, tech support for electronics, pet care and assistance with vet visits and finally case work services.  They have recently started to develop social activities such as affinity groups with shared interests, a travel group and a restaurant group.
     At first they were unsure of the number of people who would be willing to pay this amount of annual membership dues but they were surprised to find out that they received enough in dues to surpass there goal of $80,000 in dues to be able to hire their first staff person.  They stressed how important this was to be able to develop the program.  They didn't feel that it could have gotten off the ground with just volunteers.  Most of the services are provided by over 270 volunteers and are supplemented by some limited services which require a fee.  When they started and surveyed their members for services they would need and also to determine how many would be willing to volunteer they were surprised that most people indicated an interest in volunteering more than needing a service.  One would have thought that most people joining at $500 a year would only be those seniors with needs.  They don't have an age restriction, some other groups, but do find the average age of a member is 71 years old.
     Does this work everywhere?  Apparently not.  They mentioned a group that tried to start this type of program in Fairfax County Virginia and it had difficulties with the large size of Fairfax.  Having a small enough geographical area with a high enough concentration of people seems to be necessary for this to work. With the two successful programs being in Capitol Hill and Beacon Hill in Boston it would seem to need to be located in an area with a reasonably affluent senior population.  Does Columbia meet these criteria?  Only time will tell.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Black Friday Online Shopping

          I received an email this week from Amazon giving me a preview of their Black Friday sales.  The sales will start on Thanksgiving for folks getting the email.  I understand that Wal Mart is also sending out emails on their sales too.  The last few years merchants have been jumping the gun on Chistmas sales more and more.  They have already made Thanksgiving just a pre Christmas holiday.  When will they make Halloween the same thing?  I know it sounds "Grinchish", if that is even a word, but I tend to avoid stores after Thanksgiving and have only shopped online or from Craigslist for gifts.  Interestingly the growth of online sales for Black Friday have continued to grow even though predictions from past years thought it would be tapering off by now.  In an article on MSNBC in 2007 the thought was that online sales in 2011 would make up 9 % of Christmas sales and yet the reality last year was 35% of the sales on that day were online.  14% were even on smart phones that didn't even exist in 2007.

Photo above from the Columbia Archives taken in 1960 of the land that became Columbia.  Looks like the area of Town Center and Wilde Lake

Friday, November 9, 2012

Understanding the 2012 election by looking around Howard County

     Probably the most obvious reality to come out of the 2012 election is the growing diversity of our population and hence our voting population.  As explained in the blog The Hill:

"In 1980, only 2 percent of all voters were Hispanic. That number jumped to 9 percent in 2008 and could hit 10 percent in 2012. That’s a large increase among a bloc that generally supports the Democratic candidate at rates of 60 percent or better. In 1980, approximately 10 percent of all voters were African-American, while in 2008, that number grew to 13 percent. To tie all the demographic changes together, in 1980, 88 percent of all voters were white; in 2008, that number fell to 74 percent. That means one thing — the electorate is far friendlier to a Democratic candidate in 2012 than in 1980. "

    This diversity is clearly seen in our own County.  I remember what Howard County was like when I moved here in 1977.  At that time there was two Democrat groups in Howard County.  The Ellicott City Democrats were the older conservative group and the Columbia Democrats were the new more liberal Democrats.  This division soon had many of the conservative Democrats moving over to the Republican Party in the 1980's.  This was most clearly seen with our County Executive Hugh Nichols being elected to his first term as a Democrat and in his second term becoming a Republican.  Howard County was a swing County politically well into the 1990's.

     If you went along Route 40 in Ellicott City you had traditional rural establishments like Buell's  and Forest Diner and the Enchanted Forest.  The Forest Diner lasted until recently but Buell's and the Enchanted Forest disappeared long ago.  What has replaced these types of establishments?  Many Korean merchants like Lotto Plaza, Bon Appetit Bakery and Shin Chon Garden.   

    If you go to the North Laurel and Savage area you can find many new Hispanic residents.  This area in 1980 was almost all non Hispanic whites.  The long time Ma Kettle Restaurant in Savage now has competition from the Hispanic vendors selling food from roadside smokers along Route 1.  Our present population reflects these numbers:

    This political reality will have to be addressed by the National Republican Party by 2016 or they may go the way of Whig Party of the 19th Century.

   If you look around Howard County you can't help but notice how many of the small business are now run by recent immigrants.  Restaurants, ethnic markets, convenient stores, bagel stores and nail places are just a few examples.  Republicans keep promoting small businesses as the job creators.  I wonder why they overlook that the immigrant population is a significant part of the small business sector?

If you have been following this blog you know that today's topic on the growth of our immigrant population is one of the demographic changes on which I have blogged frequently.  The other demographic change, the growing older population, is one that I will blog on Monday with a new concept in supporting senior citizens in Columbia.

P.S. 2
Video of the week is one of Diana Krall and friends

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Life in the bubble

    I have been watching the Fox News channel the past few days to see how they report on the election.   It is fun to hear them explain how things went wrong for the Republicans.  As Bill Maher likes to view it the commentators on Fox live in a "conservative bubble."  They have been reporting on the "voter fraud" like it was a pervasive problem in the election.  They all talk about how the election was won because so many Americans are "takers" and needed to have the President elected to keep getting their government benefits.  Sound familiar?  Does the number 47% ring a bell? Listen to the predictions from Dick Morris.  It was fun to watch him explain his errors when the results came in.  First his predictions for the election and then listen to his explanation of where he was wrong. 

Best quote on the election came from Alec Baldwin: You know your party is in trouble when someone asks how the rape comment candidate did and you have to answer "which one?"

P.S. 1

TOPIC: "Facial Aesthetics and Anti-Aging"
EVENT: Health and Wellness Talk
SPONSOR:  American Association of University Women of  Howard County
LOCATION: Ellicott City Senior Center, Old Frederick Road, Ellicott City (Next to Miller Library)
DATE: Tuesday, November 13
TIME: 7:00 - 9:00 p.m.
DETAILS: Join AAUW's November meeting to hear Dr. Leslie Apgar, M.D., speak on the topic of "Facial Aesthetics and Anti-Aging." Dr. Apgar, a board certified physician, has practiced in the area for over 10 years. Her special interests are health and wellness promotion. Her practice at Pura Vida Spa specializes in advanced aesthetics and anti-aging. Dr. Apgar brings her sugical and medical expertise to help listeners better understand how to maximize age prevention and skin rejuventation. Public invited.  Free.  Refreshments served.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Howard County Election Results

From the Board of Elections website:

Obama-Biden 84017  59.28%
Romney-Ryan 54094  38.17%
Johnson-Gray 2063     1.46%
Stein-Honkala 993      0.70%

Cardin, Ben 73524                53.03%
Bongino, Daniel John 39961  28.82%
Ahmad, Dean 2244               1.62%
Sobhani, Rob 22783             16.43%

Congress District 2
Ruppersberger, C. A 10162   65.06%
Jacobs, Nancy C.4836           30.96%

Congress District 3
Sarbanes, John P 28860          67.28%
Knowles, Eric Delano 12583   29.33%

Congress District 7
Cummings, Elijah 44055    56.80%
Mirabile, Frank C.31049   40.03%

Board of Education
Ballinger, Bob 44571       15.35%
DeLacy, Ann  48308       16.64% Elected
Gertler, David 43403       14.95%
Giles, Ellen Flynn 47704   16.43% Elected
Scott, Jackie 41334         14.23%
Siddiqui, Janet 63949       22.02% Elected

Question 4 In State Tuition Initiative
For the Referred Law 83659    60.70%
Against the Referred  54164     39.30%

Question 5 Congressional Redistricting
 For the Referred Law 82993     64.64%
Against the Referred  45393       35.36%

Question 6 Marriage Equality
For the Referred Law 81583    58.63%
Against the Referred   57570    41.37%

Question 7 Expanded gambling
For the Additional  66629      47.50%
Against the Addition 73644    52.50%

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

How does Maryland stack up as a Blue state?

    With the election today it seems that only the swing states have much to go to the polls about in the Presidential race.  Of course the referendum questions on the Maryland ballot do give importance to the election this year.  But with the perceived "blueness" of Maryland I was wondering how we stacked up against other "blue" states.  Nationally if you took a poll most people would identify either Massachusetts, New York or California as the bluest of the blue states.  Maryland might come in a right behind those states. If you eliminate DC as not being a state (it would be the bluest if it was a state and that is one of the reasons they have trouble getting statehood) you might be surprised to find out that the bluest state is actually Hawaii. In Hawaii the Democrats hold a 24-point over Republicans among registered voters.  The Democrats have controlled state government in Hawaii for the 50 years of their statehood.   The only Republican governor was the first one from 1959 to 1962.   Every governor since has been a Democrat and they have only had one Republican senator Hiriam Fong.

     So where does Maryland stack up as a blue state.  We are number 2 after Hawaii with our 22 point lead of registered Democrats over Republicans.  Before 2010 we were actually ahead of Hawaii.  The Maryland State Senate has 34 Democrats and only 13 Republicans (72% Democrat) and the House has 98 Democrats and 43 Republicans (70% Democrat).  Since 1969 when Spiro Agnew left office we have only had one Republican governor for 4 years. For the past 25 years both US Senators have been Democrats and have generally held from 6 to 7 of the 8 House seats.
     So what state is the "reddest?" Utah.  In Utah, Republicans hold a 32-point advantage over Democrats to make it the most Republican state in the country. Idaho ranks second with a 29-point gap. Wyoming, which held a 1-percentage-point edge over Utah in 2010, ranks third this year with a 27-point Republican advantage.
  Wikapedia has the following chart to show the Republican and Democrat make up of each state.

State2008 Presidential ElectionGovernorUpper House MajorityLower House MajoritySenior U.S. SenatorJunior U.S. SenatorU.S. House DelegationDemographics
AlabamaRepublicanRepublicanRepublican 22-12-1(a)Republican 66-39RepublicanRepublicanRepublican 6-1Republican
AlaskaRepublicanRepublicanCoalition(d) 16-4Republican 24-16RepublicanDemocratRepublican 1-0Republican
ArizonaRepublicanRepublicanRepublican 21-9Republican 40-20RepublicanRepublicanRepublican 5-3Republican
ArkansasRepublicanDemocratDemocrat 20-15Democrat 54-46DemocratRepublicanRepublican 3-1Democrat
CaliforniaDemocratDemocratDemocrat 25-15Democrat 52-28DemocratDemocratDemocrat 34-19Democrat
ColoradoDemocratDemocratDemocrat 20-15Republican 33-32DemocratDemocratRepublican 4-3Republican
ConnecticutDemocratDemocratDemocrat 22-14Democrat 99-52Independent(a)DemocratDemocrat 5-0Democrat
DelawareDemocratDemocratDemocrat 14-7Democrat 26-15DemocratDemocratDemocrat 1-0Democrat
FloridaDemocratRepublicanRepublican 28-12Republican 81-39DemocratRepublicanRepublican 19-6Democrat
GeorgiaRepublicanRepublicanRepublican 36-20Republican 116-63-1(a)RepublicanRepublicanRepublican 8-5Republican
HawaiiDemocratDemocratDemocrat 24-1Democrat 43-8DemocratDemocratDemocrat 2-0Democrat
IdahoRepublicanRepublicanRepublican 28-7Republican 57-13RepublicanRepublicanRepublican 2-0Republican
IllinoisDemocratDemocratDemocrat 35-24Democrat 64-54DemocratRepublicanRepublican 11-8Democrat
IndianaDemocratRepublicanRepublican 37-13Republican 60-40RepublicanRepublicanRepublican 6-3Republican
IowaDemocratRepublicanDemocrat 26-23(b)Republican 60-40RepublicanDemocratDemocrat 3-2Republican
KansasRepublicanRepublicanRepublican 32-8Republican 92-33RepublicanRepublicanRepublican 4-0Republican
KentuckyRepublicanDemocratRepublican 23-15Democrat 59-41RepublicanRepublicanRepublican 4-2Democrat
LouisianaRepublicanRepublicanRepublican 24-15Republican 58-45-2(a)DemocratRepublicanRepublican 6-1Democrat
MaineDemocratRepublicanRepublican 19-15-1(a)Republican 77-72-1(a)-1(b)RepublicanRepublicanDemocrat 2-0Democrat
MarylandDemocratDemocratDemocrat 35-12Democrat 98-43DemocratDemocratDemocrat 6-2Democrat
MassachusettsDemocratDemocratDemocrat 36-4Democrat 126-33-1(b)DemocratRepublicanDemocrat 10-0Democrat
MichiganDemocratRepublicanRepublican 26-12Republican 63-47DemocratDemocratRepublican 9-6Democrat
MinnesotaDemocratDemocratRepublican 37-30Republican 72-62DemocratDemocratSplit 4-4Democrat
MississippiRepublicanRepublicanRepublican 30-22Republican 64-58RepublicanRepublicanRepublican 3-1Republican
MissouriRepublicanDemocratRepublican 26-8Republican 106-57DemocratRepublicanRepublican 6-3Republican
MontanaRepublicanDemocratRepublican 28-22Republican 68-32DemocratDemocratRepublican 1-0Republican
NebraskaRepublican 4RepublicanUnicameral legislature(c):
Non-partisan (official)
Republican 32-17 (unofficial)
DemocratRepublicanRepublican 3-0Republican
Democrat 1(f)
NevadaDemocratRepublicanDemocrat 11-10Democrat 26-16DemocratRepublicanRepublican 2-1Democrat
New HampshireDemocratDemocratRepublican 19-5Republican 293-105-2(b)DemocratRepublicanRepublican
New JerseyDemocratRepublicanDemocrat 24-16Democrat 48-32DemocratDemocratDemocrat 7-6Democrat
New MexicoDemocratRepublicanDemocrat 27-15Democrat 36-33-1DemocratDemocratDemocrat 2-1Democrat
New YorkDemocratDemocratRepublican 32-29-1(b)Democrat 100-49-1(b)DemocratDemocratDemocrat 20-8Democrat
North CarolinaDemocratDemocratRepublican 31-19Republican 68-52RepublicanDemocratDemocrat 7-6Democrat
North DakotaRepublicanRepublicanRepublican 35-12Republican 69-25DemocratRepublicanRepublican 1-0Republican
OhioDemocratRepublicanRepublican 23-10Republican 59-40DemocratRepublicanRepublican 13-5Republican
OklahomaRepublicanRepublicanRepublican 31-16-1(b)Republican 68-31-2(b)RepublicanRepublicanRepublican 4-1Democrat
OregonDemocratDemocratDemocrat 16-14Split 30-30(e)DemocratDemocratDemocrat 4-1Democrat
PennsylvaniaDemocratRepublicanRepublican 30-20Republican 110-87-6(b)DemocratRepublicanRepublican 12-7Democrat
Rhode IslandDemocratIndependentDemocrat 29-8-1(a)Democrat 65-10DemocratDemocratDemocrat 2-0Democrat
South CarolinaRepublicanRepublicanRepublican 26-19-1(b)Republican 76-48RepublicanRepublicanRepublican 5-1Republican
South DakotaRepublicanRepublicanRepublican 30-5Republican 51-19DemocratRepublicanRepublican 1-0Republican
TennesseeRepublicanRepublicanRepublican 20-13Republican 65-34RepublicanRepublicanRepublican 7-2Republican
TexasRepublicanRepublicanRepublican 19-12Republican 102-48RepublicanRepublicanRepublican 23-9Republican
UtahRepublicanRepublicanRepublican 22-7Republican 58-17RepublicanRepublicanRepublican 2-1Republican
VermontDemocratDemocratDemocrat 22-8Democrat 102-47(b)DemocratIndependent(a)Democrat 1-0Democrat
VirginiaDemocratRepublicanRepublican 20-20(h)Republican 68-32DemocratDemocratRepublican 8-3Republican
WashingtonDemocratDemocratDemocrat 27-22Democrat 55-42DemocratDemocratDemocrat 5-4Democrat
West VirginiaRepublicanDemocratDemocrat 28-6Democrat 65-35DemocratDemocratRepublican 2-1Democrat
WisconsinDemocratRepublicanDemocrat 17-16(i)Republican 59-39-1(a)DemocratRepublicanRepublican 5-3Democrat
WyomingRepublicanRepublicanRepublican 26-4Republican 50-10RepublicanRepublicanRepublican 1-0Republican