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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Columbia Archives celebrates 50th anniversary of land purchases for Columbia

      In the early 1960's Howard County was mostly a rural area that had remained relatively unchanged since it was founded over 100 years before.  The fact that it was between two metropolitan areas seemed to have little impact on life in Howard County.  This rural pastoral life was about to change.
      Starting in the Fall of 1962 and extending into the Summer of 1963 the Rouse Company in partnership with Connecticut General began to acquire property through the Community Research and Development Corporation, a precursor to Howard Research and Development, to begin the development of Columbia.   Since these purchases had to be done in a manner that didn't make apparent what was happening and raise the price of the land the purchases were made by different people. The map above shows some of those acquired tracts.

   The pictures above show a large tract of land purchased from Robert Moxley and others off of what today is Cedar Lane.
    Jim Rouse had concerns that American cities of the 1950's and early 1960's would be deteriorating as the development of suburbs drew people away for the cities.  He saw the suburban development as sterile.  In this letter to the CEO of the Federated Department Stores he expressed these thoughts.  
    The Columbia Archives will have an exhibit of this story of land acquisition at the Howard County Fair on August 7th from 10 am to 4 pm.  This will be part of the "Hands on History Day" at the Fair.  Others exhibiting that day are Weavers Guild of Greater Baltimore, Historic Ellicott City, Inc., Preservation Howard County, Chesapeake Region Lace Guild, Howard County Historic Society, Friends of the Patapsco Female Institute, Inc., B & O Railroad Museum: Ellicott City Station, Friends of Whipps Cemetery, Maryland National Road Association, Howard County Living Farm Heritage Museum, Howard County Recreation and Parks Heritage Sites and Preservation and Conservation Programs, Coalition to Protect Maryland Burial Sites, and Benjamin Banneker Historical Park and Museum.

   Willie Nelson sums up the controversy with Lance Armstrong the best.  Here is his quote:
"I think it is just terrible how everyone has treated Lance Armstrong, especially after what he achieved--winning seven Tour de France races while on drugs. When I was on drugs, I couldn't even find my bike."

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Cicadas are finally back!

      After all the warnings about this year's Cicadas this past weekend finally brought the sounds of the male Cicadas in search of females.  While the sound was not at the unbearable levels of previous years it was enough to make talking on the deck a little more difficult.
     Not all of the signs of summer in our area were unpleasant as the pictures below on a walk yesterday show.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Howard County crime reports


    Like most County residents I read the Howard County crime reports in the local newspapers.  What I look for is how close crime happens to areas I frequent and the descriptions of the crime victims.  Somehow this is a process of determining my risk of being a crime victim.  Having said this I have always felt safe in our community and have rarely changed any of my plans to reflect information learned in the crime reports.  But reports like the following one in the news lately does cause me to reflect on the safety of one particular group in our community---young persons.  The following reports were posted in the Columbia Patch last week:

      "According to police, a boy was walking along a bike path near the 5400 block of Wild Turkey Lane toward Harpers Choice Village Center around 1 p.m., when he was held up by two young men.  One of the men pulled out a revolver, pointed it at the boy and demanded his iPhone and sunglasses. The boy was able to push the suspect's arm away and flee to an open garage nearby, police said, where he called 911.  He told police he knew the suspects and after an investigation, police were able to arrest and charge the suspects with armed robbery and weapons charges. Desmond Aaron Moore, 20, of Baltimore and a 17-year-old Columbia boy were arrested and charged."

    "In the second robbery, two teens—ages 13 and 15—reportedly punched a girl in the face as she walked along the 9700 block of Broken Land Parkway around 8:30 p.m. and stole her cell phone.  After being punched, police said, the girl yelled for help and the two boys dropped the cell phone and fled, said police. Another girl was with the two boys at the time of the incident and police were able to locate her. She was able to identify the two boys who were arrested.  The teens' names were not released due to their age."

    My quick assessment of these reports was that since both the victims were young persons and in the first case the attackers seemed to select a victim they knew.  From this information I would not have probably been a victim if I had been in those situations at the time the crimes happened.  It does seem that the more characteristics crime victims share with perpetrators of crime the more likely it is that you will be a crime victim.  On this basis my being an older man who doesn't know anyone who is a likely violent attacker provides me with the security of not being a probable crime victim.
     All of this reminds me of my experience working with grandmothers raising their grandchildren in Baltimore.   These families lived in some of the most crime ridden neighborhoods in Baltimore.  These environments couldn't be more dissimilar from our suburban neighborhoods.  When I talked with these grandmothers about their sense of personal safety they expressed little fear for themselves but expressed real concern for the safety of their grandchildren, especially their grandsons.  They tried to keep a close watch on the daily activities of their younger grandchildren but acknowledged their fears of losing control of their grandchildren's activities as they grew older.  Discussions frequently lead in the direction of how the influence of gang culture was harder to combat without the counterbalance of a strong positive male role model.
     Bringing it back to Howard County we can be proud of the efforts of a variety of organizations and individuals who are working to address the need for positive programs for our youth.  Some of these efforts were highlighted in a news release from Howard County government.  Take some time to look at these efforts and consider engaging in some of these programs.

   One additional mentoring resource to consider is the A-OK program which is always looking for volunteers.

P.S. 1
   We all probably cringe when we hear someone use a double negative in a sentence or hear someone end a sentence in a preposition (I have to self correct this all the time writing this blog) but you probably didn't know you were using these words wrong.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Never lose anything important again

    It was only a matter of time until we would be able to track any of our personal objects on our smartphones.  It is finally here.  It is called "Tile" and at $25 it will be something that we will be purchasing for multiple personal possessions that we frequently misplace.  Will this replace the $695 LoJack tracking devices to locate stolen cars? Put on a dog or cat collar for locating lost animal.  Or a person with dementia.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Great bike ride just 30 miles away

    Yesterday's weather was just too good to pass up for finally doing a bike ride that we have been talking about doing for a couple of months.  The Mount Vernon bike trail goes along the Potomac River from Roosevelt Island near Arlington Cemetery all the way to Mount Vernon.  That is about 18 miles.  We decided to go from the Dyke Marsh Preserve to Mount Vernon for about 16 miles round trip.

   We decided to go in this direction as the trail from Mount Vernon back would be more downhill.  We found this trail surprisingly rolling in some spots even though it follows the river.

     The trail has a few elevated wooden bridges as the trail goes through some marshy areas.

     The river at some points runs almost up to the trail.

Arriving at Mount Vernon gives you an opportunity to grab a bite to eat even if it is just cafeteria food.

The best thing about the trail is the shade along a good deal of the trail

And the frequent places to stop and enjoy the scenery


Lake Elkhorn beaver seems to be enjoying the nice weather too.

P.S. 1
    I haven't been doing a video of the week recently but it is time for this classic from Booker T and MG's, an oldie but goodie with its distinctive sound.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Facebook typing

       Facebook---love it and hate it.  Most of us have this love/hate relationship with Facebook.  I hate how they are trying to "monitize" Facebook by showing ads from companies I didn't "like."  Much of the disappointment with the price of the Facebook stock has been their inability to generate online revenue.  The part of Facebook that I like is that I find out what is happening in our community by the number of organizations that I have "liked."  Many of these events show up in this blog.
        So what is Facebook "typing?"  You can recognize the following users of Facebook.
1) "Voyeurs"--- This group makes up a large part of Facebook users.  They look at and follow many other Facebook users but never post anything themselves.  They like to remain anonymous while they follow what is happening to others.  This group is probably made up of the older aged users who are not as open about their livers.
2) "Look at me"--- As opposed to the older users described in the first group this group is mostly younger users who have grown up with social media and our lack of privacy.  They post frequently about the most mundane  aspects of their lives.  You know, the ones that tell you what their boring lives are like, what they had for lunch and where they are going tomorrow.  I have most of these folks hidden.
3) "Pinterest"---- These are some of the most annoying Facebook users.  They are always women who post recipes of some of the most unhealthful foods possible and craft projects in which only other women would have in interest.  Heart attacks and strokes have to be in this groups future.
4) "Political opinion"--- My Facebook friends are a very diverse group politically.  My high school friends and people from other sections of the Country tend to be politically conservative.  Don't even get me started on my Facebook friends from Texas!  My more recent friends and Howard County friends tend to be more liberal.
5) "Game Players"--- You know they folks.  They were all playing "FarmVille" and "CoasterVille."  I really could care less how many points they made in these games.  Do the makers of these games force you to post your results to all your Facebook friends?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Netflix and House of Cards

     Remember the days of just 3 networks producing television content?  Then Fox entered the scene to make it four.  In the past 10 years the premium channels like HBO and Showtime provided a venue for more adult content and themes.  Recently Netflix has entered the field of television content.  Having heard so much about their first entry into originally produced shows, House of Cards, I decided to breakdown and get my Netflix subscription upgraded to get streaming movies to be able to watch House of Cards.  I also purchased a DVD player with wifi and blu-ray.  Somehow having to watch blu-ray movies on a computer screen instead of a large LCD screen didn't make sense.
    I watched the entire 13 episodes of House of Card in two days.  Nothing I have viewed has been this good since Homeland.  Twelve Emmy nominations for House of Cards seem to confirm the success of this show. Being familiar with much of Baltimore it was fun to see different locations in Baltimore were used as locations in DC.  Townhomes in Bolton Hill were used for homes in Georgetown or homes in Guilford representing homes in Chevy Chase.  The JHU campus was even used to represent a military school.  If you like politics in its rawest form this show can't be beat.  Don't be surprised if you end up spending hours watching a number of shows in a row.
    I am just now beginning to watch Netflix's second produced show, Orange is the New Black.  Seems like another successful series.

  Speaking of networks which network was recently the most watched.  Click here to learn the answer.

P.S. 1
   These shows may have temporarily cut into my book reading but not entirely.  "The New Digital Age" by Google Exec Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen is fascinating in how the future is being reshaped.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

5 things you learn taking grandkids to the beach

     Last week we took four of our grandsons to the beach.  We survived!  Last fall on a trip to the beach (sans children) we noticed how many grandparents were there with their pre-school grandchildren.  This got us thinking that maybe we should try this with our grandkids.  A trip to the beach without kids is all about having a leisurely stroll on the boardwalk, coffee in our favorite shop and a nice dinner in a restaurant with white tablecloths.  None of these are experienced with kids.  Here are 5 things we relearned (from when our kids were young) on this vacation.

1) Somehow the child that wasn't hungry for the tuna fish sandwich on the beach is suddenly starving when you pass an ice cream shop.

2) This one is related to the first one.  Never expect a kid to eat an ice cream cone fast enough in 98 degree weather.
3) No matter how diligently you apply sunscreen you will always miss one spot that will turn very red back at the hotel.  This trip it was ears.
4) Cold ocean water makes it difficult for kids to pee in the ocean.  Of course this was after one of the kids didn't realize you didn't have to pull down your swim trunks to do this.
5) Boardwalk arcades are worse than casinos for taking your money quickly. How do you tell a child that the games are designed to not give them the big stuffed animal they want?

Monday, July 22, 2013

The challenge of finding an organic tomato in Columbia

     I learned that the tomatoes we eat have some of the highest levels of pesticides. Here is a list of the levels of pesticides used on some of the foods we eat. The higher the score below the more pesticide usage.

Peaches                      100
Strawberries                 89
Apples                         88
Spinach                        85
Nectarines                    85              
Celery                          83
Pears                           80
Cherries                       76
Potatoes                      67
Sweet Bell Peppers      66
Raspberries                  66
Grapes - Imported        64
Carrots                         57
Green Beans                 57
Hot Peppers                 55
Oranges                       53
Apricots                       51
Cucumbers                   51

Tomatoes            48

Collard Greens             48                
Grapes - Domestic       47
Turnip Greens              41
Honeydew Melons       40
Lettuce                        40
Kale                            39
Mushrooms                 36
Cantaloupe                  36
Sweet Potatoes           36
Grapefruit                   32                                                                            
Blueberries                 30
Bananas                     19
Broccoli                      18
Onions                        17
Sweet Peas                 13
Mango                       12
Cauliflower                 10
Pineapple                     6
Sweet Corn                1

    The use of pesticides was brought home to me yesterday driving on the Eastern Shore.  We passed a dust cropping plane spraying pesticide on a field along the road.  After passing the field we noticed a chemical smell coming into our van.
    Since my homegrown tomatoes are just now beginning to ripen I went to some of our local grocery stores to see if I could find some organic tomatoes.  Sure I know I can find organic at MOMS and Davids but I wanted to just try some of the local grocery stores.  I know that most stores are beginning to offer organic choices.  After all isn't organic the new marketing trend? Starting at Giant I wasn't surprised to see that none of the tomatoes were organic.  In fact the only fruit or vegetable that was labeled organic was some nectarines.  Giant has made a big deal of offering healthy food choices by placing this selection of foods in the front of the stores.  Apparently this doesn't apply to fruits and vegetables. Next I went to Wegman's and had more hope to find organic tomatoes.  Wegman's has a section for organic vegetables but none of their tomatoes were organic.  This section held mostly leafy vegetables.  Safeway was also a disappointment with their organic selection.

    Finally I found success at Trader Joe's as the picture above shows.
     Maybe Whole Foods will make a difference as a competitor for the organic shopper in Columbia.  But somehow I hope it doesn't impact a local business like Davids.  Trader Joe's  arrival did seem to have an impact on Produce Galore.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Grocery store must haves

    The reason I shop for groceries at so many different stores is that I have so many favorites at each store.  I thought I would share some of my favorites from some of the stores at which I shop.

   I was never a fan of Red Lobster the couple of times I have been there but I do remember the cheddar bay biscuits.  These were almost worth a visit to the place inspite of the mediocre seafood.  Now thanks to Sam's Club you can taste these biscuits without having to make a trip to the restaurant.  Beware they are addictive and you will probably find people asking if there are anymore after the last one goes at dinner.  Be sure not to make too few as no one eats just one.

   These Spanish tortas from Wegman's have become my favorite sweet treat with coffee every morning.

   I have replaced the use of sour cream with the Skotidakis Greek Jalapeno Yogurt Dip from Costco.

      Lychees are Asian fruit that has fast become my favorite fruit.  Occasionally you can find the fruit in the fresh fruit sections of Asian markets like Lotto in Catonsville but the canned fruit above are just as good and no need to peel the skin off the fruit.  I usually rinse the fruit since it is packed in syrup to obtain a more natural fruit flavor.

Question of the day:

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

2013 BikeAbout September 21


    Having volunteered for this biking event I highly recommend it to enjoy the sights of different areas of Columbia on our beautiful paths.  This year the BikeAbout starts at Lake Elkhorn and goes down one of the nicest paths along the Patuxent River.  Here is the info from the Columbia Archives:

"Columbia Association’s (CA) annual BikeAbout will be held on Saturday, September 21, with riders setting off from Lake Elkhorn in the village of Owen Brown. The free, 11-mile, history-filled tour through Columbia is a self-paced ride that utilizes Columbia’s paths and (when necessary) street connections. 
The annual event highlights the history, art and culture, and environmental features found in Columbia while introducing new ways to make the connections between villages.

This year’s BikeAbout route will take riders through parts of Owen Brown and Kings Contrivance, featuring the beautiful but somewhat hilly paths that wind through Kings Contrivance and offering views of the Middle Patuxent River.
Features on the BikeAbout will include Kings Contrivance Restaurant; neighborhood and road name derivations including the neighborhoods of Atholton and MacGill’s Common, and Kindler Road; and the Guilford Pratt Truss Bridge that now serves as a connection for pedestrians and bicyclists between Columbia and Savage. A shorter route is being offered as an option to accommodate those who wish to do an easier ride.
Pre-registration for the BikeAbout is encouraged. Registration can be done online at Forms are also available at Columbia Archives, located at 10227 Wincopin Circle in the American City Building, or at the front desk of the Columbia Association headquarters, located at 10221 Wincopin Circle.
For more information, go to, email, or call 410.715.6781."

   Not sure of my posting schedule for the next couple of days.  I will be trying to survive taking 4 of my grandsons (ages 1 year to 8 years old) to Rehoboth Beach.  A second generation gets to enjoy Thrashers fries and Grottos pizza.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Local farm fresh harvest is the theme this week

    This Wednesday, July 17th, begins the Farm2Table weeks in Howard County.  Restaurant weeks have become popular the past few years as a nice change of pace from usual dining experience.   Usually the typical week is centered around fixed price menu choices.  This restaurant period is themed to highlight local buying for the food offerings.
     Tomorrow, July 16th, from 6 to 9 pm the Elioak Farm presents a "Film Feastival" which the Sun describes as "a sampling of farm-fresh dishes prepared by several Howard County restaurants. Local farmers, restaurateurs, chefs, business owners and agricultural experts will be on hand to talk about farming, healthy lifestyles and environmental stewardship. Additionally, guests will have an opportunity to watch several short films that emphasize the importance of local agriculture and food."  The event is free, but advance registration is required at, and guests are welcome to make donations. Any money collected will support the Howard County Food Bank. Call 410-313-6500 with any questions.
This farm harvest theme is finally followed by the film "Maryland Harvest," will be shown on Wednesday, July 17, 3 p.m., at Howard County Library's Miller Branch, where a panel of chefs and farmers will discuss their working relationships. Registration is required for this event; go to
or call 410-313-1950.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Royal Taj---again the best in Indian food

     We in Howard County have become spoiled by our choices in ethnic food restaurants.  Where once we had a limited selection of the old stand bys of Chinese, Italian and Mexican we know have a rich diversity of choices that include Vietnamese, Thai, Indian, Ethiopian, British (does this count as 'ethnic?'), Korean and many more.  Where we once had to travel to Baltimore or DC we know can drive a few miles locally and park for free to enjoy great ethnic food.  We know longer ask "Which restaurant do you want to go to" but "Which ethnic cuisine shall we try?"  I haven't been to an "American" restaurant in some time.  Just too many alternative choices.
    We seem to be on an Indian kick lately.  Mango Grove, House of India and Royal Taj keep coming up when we go out.  While all are good and the buffets that each offer are enough to have you gain 10 or 15 pounds we rate the Royal Taj slightly ahead of the others.  The service at "the Taj" is outstanding and often appetizer and dessert samples are given free of charge.  This is smart management because we often order these on our next visit.  Just a heads up on a visit to the Royal Taj, especially on a weekend, there are often lines outside waiting to get in.  We go early (they open for dinner at 5 pm) and never try on a weekend. We were fortunate to go on the recent Fourth of July and there were only 2 other tables full.
     Suggestions for food choices?

   Chicken Tikka Masala is not to be missed.  Order the naan bread to dip in the sauce of this dish and you will not be disappointed.   Chicken Korma is a good second choice as is any Tandoor choices. Any of the appetizer choices are great but I usually stay away from the samosas as they are a little too greasy for me.  I can't leave without order a Mango Lassi drink.  I usually end up drinking a little then adding some water from my water glass to make the drink last a little longer.  I also like the drink a little thinner than the thickness of the drink.  Desserts are Gulab Jamun and Kheer.

TripAdvisor seems to agree with me on this restaurant choice.

Friday, July 12, 2013

How healthy is Howard County?

      We think of Howard County as a healthy place to live.  Clean environment with no polluting industries, lots of green spaces and a high income, well educated population.  By the size of the CA, Lifetime and YMCA facilities and the number of folks running and biking on our paths we should have better than average  health outcomes.  With an average life expectancy of 81 we are ahead the United States average of 79.  If we were a country we would rank just after these countries:

1 Japan83

1  Switzerland83

1 San Marino83

4 Italy82

4 Singapore82

4 Iceland82

4 Andorra82

4 Australia82

4 Spain82

4 Qatar82

4 Israel82

4 Monaco82

4 France82

4 Sweden82

4 Canada82

4 Luxembourg82

      At 79 years the US ranks after 16 countries including some that you might not expect.  Here is that list:
17 Cyprus81

17 Norway81

17 New Zealand81

17 Netherlands81

17 Austria81

17 Greece81

17 Ireland81

17 South Korea81

17 Finland81

17 Germany81

27 United Kingdom80

27 Belgium80

27 Malta80

27 Slovenia80

27 Portugal80

27 Kuwait80

   So how does Howard County stack up on a number of health areas?  This link from the State Department of Health and Mental Hygiene shows us the numbers.

   One surprise in the health numbers for our County was that a higher percentage of high schools students in Howard County smoke than the Maryland average (8.1% to 7 %).  The percentage of smokers in our total County population is less than half the Maryland average (6.5% to 14.9).  Another surprise was that we have a higher percentage of children with asthma than the Maryland average (18.8% to 14.3%)