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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Small Business Saturday

     Today we should all remember that small businesses are valuable to our community's well-being and diversity.  Avoid the chains today just for one day.  Eat at a locally owned restaurant.  Too often we complain about how we have been overtaken by the big box and chain stores.  Go to any mall anywhere in this Country and you see the same stores and restaurants.
      The struggles of being a small business is something I have seen with my brother.  He and my sister-in-law had always wanted to own a bookstore and they took the plunge 20 years ago in the small town where they lived.  They didn't have any competition and grew well the first few years and then Amazon happened and Wal Mart moved to town.  It was either diversify or close up shop.  They begin to look at new niche markets and sell few books today.  They don't tell their book customers but they get most of their books today from Amazon to resell!  Now you can buy ground coffee, jewelry, cosmetics, chocolates and a wide variety of other items at their store.  They have to attend a variety of merchandise shows each year to see what the next hot items are going to be.  Pictured above are some of the items in their store this year.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Remember when store displays brought us to shop?

     Its Black Friday.  So why are you reading this blog?  I am skipping the shopping trips too.  I will do most of my shopping online at Amazon.  Better prices and no hassle to have the gifts come to your door.  Next year we might even have same day delivery with the Amazon distribution center being built in Baltimore.
     Waiting in line for a doorbuster just doesn't seem as much fun as we used to have going Christmas shopping.  I remember what it was like to go to the downtown area of any large city and looking at the elaborate window displays that each store used to draw in customers.  For me it was going to the department stores in Philadelphia.

With department stores like Strawbridge and Clothiers these window displays were new every year.  I can only image their cost.  I remember these window displays like it was yesterday.

 Vendors would sell roasted peanuts and big fresh pretzels outside these department stores. 

 Nothing compared to the display at the Wanamaker Department Store shown above.  The front of the store had a huge pipe organ that played Christmas carols.

    Sadly just like in Baltimore these stores were purchased by other stores and many left the downtown areas for the suburban malls.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

What I am thankful for this Thanksgiving

    This past year has found me reading a variety of books about immigrants.  The question of immigration has been a highly charged issue in Congress and it is always good to remember that our ancestors were all immigrants to this Country at some time in the past.  Even the American Indians came to this continent from a land bridge in the distant past.

     Recently I have been reading the book "The Warmth of other Suns" about the migration of the African American population from the South to many northern cities from the early 1900's to the 1970's.   This migration was driven by the desire to have more opportunities in the North than in the South with its Jim Crow laws.  While the northern states were not completely welcoming to this migrating population the opportunities to advance economically were far greater in the North.

       In reading about the struggles of early Pilgrim settlers to this Country it is hard not to be moved by the harsh conditions they faced.  Death was a regular occurrence.  Most families experienced the death of some of their children.  Food sufficiency was not a given.  Starvation and disease were not unknown conditions.
     So what motivated people to give up their families and move to a new land?  The motivations were many but the common thread was the willingness to take a risk that the new land would provide new opportunities for advancement for themselves and their families.  The harsh reality they faced showed just how large a gamble they were taking. Too often this gamble on advancement ended in death and not a better life.  Only 53 of the original 132 Pilgrims survived the first winter.  At Jamestown in the winter of 1609-1610 only 60 of the 500 settlers survived the "winter of starvation."
     No matter when our ancestors came to this Country and migrated to uncharted areas of our Country the risks they took to better themselves and their future generations, including all of us today, is what I am thankful for this Thanksgiving.  Hopefully this also impacts our views on those still taking risks today to obtain citizenship in our Country.
     I came across this description written by a Pilgrim in a letter sent to his family back in England.  It  came from the website of he National Center for Public Policy Research:

 " This description of the life of the Pilgrims following the landing of the Mayflower was written as a letter by pilgrim Edward Winslow soon after the landing. During the first winter in New England, Winslow's wife died. Two months later, he married Susannah White, who had been widowed during the same period. White was distinguished as the first white woman to give birth in New England, and Winslow and White's wedding was the first in the region. Winslow, who was elected governor of the colony several times, is best known for negotiating a treaty with the Indian Chief Massasoit."
"Although I received no letter from you by this ship, yet for as much as I know you expect the performance of my promise, which was, to write unto you truly and faithfully of all things, I have therefore at this time sent unto you accordingly, referring you for further satisfaction to our more large relations.

You shall understand that in this little time a few of us have been here, we have built seven dwelling-houses and four for the use of the plantation, and have made preparation for divers others. We set last spring some twenty acres of Indian corn, and sowed some six acres of barley and peas; and according to the manner of the Indians, we manured our ground with herrings, or rather shads, which we have in great abundance, and take with great ease at our doors. Our corn did prove well; and, God be praised, we had a good increase of Indian corn, and our barley indifferent good, but our peas not worth the gathering, for we feared they were too late sown. They came up very well, and blossomed; but the sun parched them in the blossom.

Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might, after a special manner, rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, among other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming among us, and among the rest their greatest king, Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted; and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation, and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God we are so far from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.

We have found the Indians very faithful in their covenant of peace with us, very loving, and ready to pleasure us. We often go to them, and they come to us. Some of us have been fifty miles by land in the country with them, the occasions and relations whereof you shall understand by our general and more full declaration of such things as are worth the noting. Yea, it has pleased God so to possess the Indians with a fear of us and love unto us, that not only the greatest king among them, called Massasoit, but also all the princes and peoples round about us, have either made suit unto us, or been glad of any occasion to make peace with us; so that seven of them at once have sent their messengers to us to that end. Yea, an isle at sea, which we never saw, hath also, together with the former, yielded willingly to be under the protection and subject to our sovereign lord King James. So that there is now great peace amongst the Indians themselves, which was not formerly, neither would have been but for us; and we, for our parts, walk as peaceably and safely in the wood as in the highways in England. We entertain them familiarly in our houses, and they as friendly bestowing their venison on us. They are a people without any religion or knowledge of any God, yet very trusty, quick of apprehension, ripe-witted, just.

For the temper of the air here, it agrees well with that in England; and if there be any difference at all, this is somewhat hotter in summer. Some think it to be colder in winter; but I cannot out of experience so say. The air is very clear, and not foggy, as has been reported. I never in my life remember a more seasonable year than we have here enjoyed; and if we have once but kine, horses, and sheep, I make no question but men might live as contented here as in any part of the world. For fish and fowl, we have great abundance. Fresh cod in the summer is but coarse meat with us. Our bay is full of lobsters all the summer, and affords a variety of other fish. In September we can take a hogshead of eels in a night, with small labor, and can dig them out of their beds all the winter. We have muscles and othus [others?] at our doors. Oysters we have none near, but we can have them brought by the Indians when we will. All the spring-time the earth sends forth naturally very good salad herbs. Here are grapes, white and red, and very sweet and strong also; strawberries, gooseberries, raspberries, etc.; plums of three sorts, white, black, and red, being almost as good as a damson; abundance of roses, white, red and damask; single, but very sweet indeed. The country wants only industrious men to employ; for it would grieve your hearts if, as I, you had seen so many miles together by goodly rivers uninhabited; and withal, to consider those parts of the world wherein you live to be even greatly burdened with abundance of people. These things I thought good to let you understand, being the truth of things as near as I could experimentally take knowledge of, and that you might on our behalf give God thanks, who hath dealt so favorably with us.

Our supply of men from you came the 9th of November, 1621, putting in at Cape Cod, some eight or ten leagues from us. The Indians that dwell thereabout were they who were owners of the corn which we found in caves, for which we have given them full content, and are in great league with them. They sent us word there was a ship near unto them, but thought it to be a Frenchman; and indeed for ourselves we expected not a friend so soon. But when we perceived that she made for our bay, the governor commanded a great piece to be shot off, to call home such as were abroad at work. Whereupon every man, yea boy, that could handle a gun, were ready, with full resolution that, if she were an enemy, we would stand in our just defense, not fearing them. But God provided better for us than we supposed. These came all in health, not any being sick by the way, otherwise than by sea-sickness, and so continue at this time, by the blessing of God. . . .
When it pleased God we are settled and fitted for the fishing business and other trading, I doubt not but by the blessing of God the gain will give content to all. In the meantime, that we have gotten we have sent by this ship; and though it be not much, yet it will witness for us that we have not been idle, considering the smallness of our number all this summer. We hope the merchants will accept of it, and be encouraged to furnish us with things needful for further employment, which will also encourage us to put forth ourselves to the uttermost.

Now because I expect your coming unto us, with other of our friends, whose company we much desire, I thought good to advertise you of a few things needful. Be careful to have a very good bread-room to put your biscuits in. Let your cask for beer and water be iron-bound, for the first tire, if not more. Let not your meat be dry-salted; none can better do it than the sailors. Let your meal be so hard trod in your cask that you shall need an adz or hatchet to work it out with. Trust not too much on us for corn at this time, for by reason of this last company that came, depending wholly upon us, we shall have little enough till harvest. Be careful to come by some of your meal to spend by the way; it will much refresh you. Build your cabins as open as you can, and bring good store of clothes and bedding with you. Bring every man a musket or fowling-piece. Let your piece be long in the barrel, and fear not the weight of it, for most of our shooting is from stands. Bring juice of lemons, and take it fasting; it is of good use. For hot waters, aniseed water is the best; but use it sparingly. If you bring anything for comfort in the country, butter or salad oil, or both, is very good. Our Indian corn, even the coarsest, makes as pleasant meat as rice; therefore spare that, unless to spend by the way. Bring paper and linseed oil for your windows, with cotton yarn for your lamps. Let your shot be most for big fowls, and bring store of powder and shot. I forbear further to write for the present, hoping to see you by the next return. So I take my leave, commending you to the Lord for a safe conduct unto us, resting in him,
Your loving friend,
E. W."

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving anyone?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Cycle 2 Health finishes its first year

    We Baby Boomers have always redefined the aging process.  Remember the saying "Never trust anyone over 30?"  Guess what happened?  We aged into that population group and found out it had some advantages.  Now as many of us are in the 60+ age group we still have some issues with the aging process.  Bingo? Chair aerobics? Those were for our parents or grandparents.  Recognizing this reality the Howard County Office on Aging instituted a Cycle2Health program this past Spring to bring together those of us Baby Boomers who wanted to cycle around Howard County and enjoy meeting our fellow Boomers in a relaxed way and promote an active lifestyle.

    Most of the rides were on paths or roads in Howard County or surrounding areas.

   All rides had a short and a long ride.  Short rides were generally at a more leisurely pace and around 12-15 miles.  Long rides were usually for more experienced riders and were around 20 or more miles.

   Many of the riders who started these rides were returning to biking after many years and quickly became more comfortable with biking as the season wore on.  Whatever level bikers were at they could find other bikers at their level.

Some of the rides went to locations where bikers could gather to have some food or refreshments.

   Last week the first season was celebrated at Bertucci's with a wrap up luncheon and distribution of biking jerseys.  Plans are being made for next year's biking season.  Interested persons can learn more by contacting Jennifer Lee at the Office on Aging at 410-313-5980.


Some folks down under know how to put up a light display!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Symphony of Lights 2013

The Howard County General Hospital holiday fundraiser Symphony of Lights begins this week in Symphony Woods. The following was the media notice sent out this year

"20th Annual Symphony of Lights

Symphony of Lights, a 20-minute drive-through spectacle of more than 70 larger-than-life holiday light displays benefiting Howard County General Hospital, will open nightly this year from 6 to 10 p.m. starting Nov. 25 through Jan. 5, 2014, but is closed Dec. 31 for the Midnight at 7 event. The display, which is presented by Macy’s, is located in Symphony Woods off Broken Land Parkway in Columbia, Md.

Symphony of Lights, which attracts more than 100,000 visitors each year, offers a series of animated and stationary light displays illuminated by more than 250,000 bulbs on a 1.4-mile scenic drive set against a natural wooded backdrop. In addition, visitors can listen to seasonal music on the Symphony of Lights FM radio frequency.

For 19 years, Symphony of Lights has been a holiday tradition for residents of Howard and surrounding counties. Originally beginning as a small community fundraising event for Howard County General Hospital, Symphony of Lights has since grown to attract more than 1,500,000 visitors.

In addition to nightly drive throughs seven days a week, Symphony of Lights offers special events:

  • Military appreciation nights on Tuesday, Dec. 3, and Thursday, Dec. 12, offer members of the military with military ID $10 off the regular price of admission.

  • Blinkin’ Binkies is a walk through the lights for families with young children on Thursday, Dec. 5, from 4:30 to 5:45 p.m.Strollers and wagons are welcome.

  • Tail Lights is a walk through the lights for dogs and their owners on Tuesday, Dec. 10, from 4:30 to 5:45 p.m.

  • Midnight at 7 is a New Years Eve celebration for families Dec. 31 beginning at 5 p.m. and culminating with fireworks at 7 p.m. (weather permitting), early enough for children to join the festivities. The event offers a walk through the lights display and other activities as Symphony of Lights comes to a close.

Howard Hospital Foundation holds Symphony of Lights as a fundraising event for Howard County General Hospital with proceeds during the past 19 years totaling more than $1 million. In 2012, Symphony of Lights saw record fundraising and attendance numbers.

Admission to Symphony of Lights is $20 per car or van up to 8 passengers; $45 for commercial vans and minibuses seating 9 to 24 people; and $125 for buses exceeding 24 passengers. Tickets can be purchased at the main gate. Tour operators can purchase tickets in advance, and private walk-throughs are also available for groups.

Coupons for $5 off are available at and on Facebook ("

     Most interesting place to be for Thanksgiving dinner this year? Dick Cheney's house. And you thought your family was complicated!


Saturday, November 23, 2013

Potato latkes with a twist


    Recently on the NPR Facebook page they had information on celery root.  This root is one that may not be familiar to many people but it is worth a try.  The recipe using this root featured the following recipe for adding it to potato latkes.  With Hanukkah starting next week I think I will give it a try.  Now to find out where to get the celery root.

"Celery Root and Potato Latkes

These are adapted from the terrific Gourmet Today (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009). I usually start grating them by hand as the recipe suggests, and then get fed up and pull out the Cuisinart. It works either way. But the authors point out that the machine makes longer shreds than the grater, so you need a little more egg for binding. I usually run my kitchen scissors through the machine-grated mass of shreds a few times to shorten them, which seems to help.

T. Susan Chang for NPR

Makes 4 servings

1 (1 1/2-pound) celery root, peeled with a knife

1 1/2 pounds russet (baking) potatoes (about 3 large)

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 pound onions, quartered

2/3 cup all-purpose flour

4 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 3/4 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground celery seed

About 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil

Put racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 250 degrees. Set a wire rack on each of two baking sheets.

Using the wide holes of a box grater, coarsely grate celery root into a bowl. Peel potatoes and coarsely grate into another large bowl. Add lemon juice and toss. Coarsely grate onions into same bowl as potatoes. Transfer to a kitchen towel (not terry cloth), gather up corners to form a sack and twist tightly to wring out as much liquid as possible. Return potatoes and onions to cleaned bowl and stir in celery root, flour, eggs, salt, pepper and celery seed until well combined.

Heat 1/3 inch oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Fill a 1/4-cup measure with latke mixture (not tightly packed), carefully spoon it into skillet, and flatten to 3 inches in diameter with a slotted spatula. Form 3 more latkes and fry until undersides are deep golden, 1 1/2 to 3 minutes. Turn over using 2 spatulas and fry until deep golden on second side, 1 1/2 to 3 minutes more. (If latkes brown too quickly, lower heat to moderate.) Transfer to paper towels to drain briefly, then arrange (in a single layer) on rack on one baking sheet and keep warm in oven. Make more latkes in same manner, using second baking sheet for last batches."

   I have experimented with latke recipes for years.  I frequently have added shredded carrots and spinach to my latkes.  For those who are more adventurous try adding a few jalapenos!


Thursday, November 21, 2013


    With all the attention that has been given this week to the 50th anniversary tomorrow of the JFK assassination it is easy to miss how this event defined a generation. For most baby boomers the assassination was the seminal event of our youth.  Having grown up in the 1950's many realities of adult life seemed far away from us.  Death of someone we knew was almost unknown.  Those realities were abruptly broken on November 22, 1963.  After that day we were presented with the new realities of racial prejudice, a war in Vietnam with a draft and then the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy.  As we moved through adolescence and early adulthood our memories of the placid 1950's became a distant memory.  Turmoil, struggle and strife became the new reality.  For many of us these defining issues are ones that we still carry with us today.  Today's issues maybe different but the need to be engaged in the struggle has not diminished as we have grown older.
     I did a search of internet sites to try and find some facts of JFK's life and assassinate that are not widely known.  Here are ten that I came across:

1. JFK received last rites four times in his life: in 1947 after becoming gravely ill in England; in 1951 while stricken with a high fever in Japan; in 1954 following back surgery; on Nov. 22, 1963, in Dallas.

2. Kennedy was the only U.S. president whose grandmother lived longer than he did.

3. The public first saw the assassination footage 12 years after the shooting. In the 12 years that followed the assassination, the general public never saw the now-famous footage of JFK’s death shot by Abraham Zapruder. At most, they had seen only selected frames as published in Life magazine and republished elsewhere. Not until 1975 did the general public get to see the full footage, when it was broadcast during an ABC special. A wave of outrage ensued, leading to criticism of ABC for broadcasting something so graphic as well as widespread distrust of the Warren Commission that investigated the assassination.

4. TV news covered the story for four days straight, night and day, beginning Friday afternoon and not returning to other programming until Tuesday. In the end, the JFK assassination set off an unprecedented stretch of news coverage that remained unmatched for 38 years until 9/11

5.While JFK was the only mortality, Texas Governor John Connally was apparently not the only person wounded that day. James Tague was a bystander, standing atop the triple overpass, who allegedly sustained a hit to the cheek by the fragments of either a bullet or from concrete knocked loose from a bullet. At most, the impact opened a tiny wound on his cheek, sufficient to do little more than draw forth a drop of blood. No surprise, there is no consensus on which bullet could have directly or indirectly caused the scratch. In fact, Tague himself is certain he was hit from the second bullet which, according to most researchers, seems to be the least likely of the three fired.

6.One of the more pervasive myths surrounding the JFK assassination was the idea that no other shooter could replicate Oswald’s feat of shooting three times in 6.75 seconds. So another shooter must have been involved, right? Not necessarily. The Warren Commission reported that one marksman was able to pull off the feat in 4.6 seconds, and a later CBS investigation showed that 11 marksmen averaged 5.6 seconds. Also, Oswald’s shot was, for a trained shooter, relatively easy. Oswald and other military marksmen are trained to shoot anywhere from 200 to 500 yards. Kennedy was 88 yards from Oswald at his farthest point, and 59 yards away at the time of the last shot.

7. Lee Harvey Oswald was actually arrested for fatally shooting a police officer, Dallas patrolman J.D. Tippitt, 45 minutes after killing Kennedy.  He wasn't charged with killing the President until almost midnight on Nov. 22nd.

8. Despite the assassinations of three U.S. presidents -- Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield and William McKinley -- killing or attempting to harm a president wasn't a federal offense until 1965, two years after Kennedy's death. Oswald would have been tried in a Texas court for the murders.

9.  Federal Judge Sarah Hughes administered the oath to President Johnson, the only woman ever to swear in a President.

10. JFK wasn't the first person Oswald tried to kill. Eight months before Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated JFK, he tried to kill an outspoken anti-communist, former U.S. Army Gen. Edwin Walker. After his resignation from the U.S. Army in 1961, Walker became an outspoken critic of the Kennedy administration and actively opposed the move to racially integrate schools in the South. The Warren Commission, charged with investigating Kennedy's 1963 assassination, found that Oswald had tried to shoot and kill Walker while the retired general was inside his home. Walker sustained minor injuries from bullet fragments.

Hear about the events of November 22 from Walter Cronkite.

Scariest news of the day.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Learn about Pakistani culture this weekend

    We are probably all aware of how Columbia and Howard County have attracted many immigrants to our community.  The Korean and Hispanic population's growth in our County are very familiar to anyone who has followed the population growth in our County the past decade or two.  It is hard to miss the many Korean businesses along Route 40 or the Hispanic food trucks along Route 1. One population that may not be as familiar as these is our Pakistani population.  We have had the pleasure of having a Pakistani family as a neighbor of ours for the past 20 years.  We have watched as their children have gradually become first generation Americans.  Going from traditional Pakistani dress of their youth they now act and dress as any other Columbia youth.  Their connections to Pakistan are ones to a culture that is foreign to them in many ways.  I am sure that it can be confusing in some ways to be caught between the culture of your parents and the culture of your young peers. This is the pattern of all first generation immigrant populations.
    I received the following information from Pat Hatch that may allow us to learn more about our Pakistani neighbors:

"Becoming Neighbors: 

Sharing Our Stories

Our Pakistani Neighbors:
Hearing Their Stories
Saturday, November 23rd, 20137:00 PM – 9:00 PMFirst Presbyterian Church
of Howard County9325 Presbyterian Circle Columbia, MD 21045

Hosted by:
The Howard County Churches of the
West Side Story Ministry Group of the Presbytery of Baltimore
Christ Memorial Presbyterian Church
First Presbyterian Church of Howard County
Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church
St. John United Church

A display of Pakistani art and a sampling of Pakistani cuisine
Hearing our neighbors share the stories of their experiences

Contact: A. J. Bishop-Johnson 443-621-6979
B. Sitterley 410-833-3815

Hosted by:
The Howard County Churches of the
West Side Story Ministry Group of the Presbytery of Baltimore
Christ Memorial Presbyterian Church
First Presbyterian Church of Howard County
Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church
St. John United Church
A display of Pakistani art and a sampling of Pakistani cuisine
Hearing our neighbors share the stories of their experiences"


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Everything you can't do on Columbia path

   At the beginning of the Patuxent trail at Vollmerhausen Rd. is the above posted sign indicating everything that is prohibited along the trail.  From this sign it would seem that a great number of people are doing inappropriate things on the trail.  The one that really caught my attention was the ban on nudity.  Do you really need to have a sign to tell you that this might be inappropriate? I do like the bilingual messaging.

Thanks to the Columbia Patch for info on a new coffee and bread place on Route 40 in Ellicott City. Seems like a good place to try.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Friends and Farm: Local buying option

      I recently had a chance to talk with Collin Morstein at Friends & Farms which is a local provider of locally grown produce, meats and dairy.  Located at 9305 Gerwig Lane in Columbia this provider is similar to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) organization.  The thing that makes Friends and Farms different is that it also deals in local meats and dairy items.  It also is a year around operation as opposed to many CSA's that only operate during the local growing season.  Friends and Farms has to expand its purchases during the winter months to a wider range that may extend to the Carolinas.  They also work with greenhouses and hydroponic growers during these months.

    While they are not 100% organic they do try to work with suppliers to have an integrated pest management plan to minimize the use of pesticides.

   By purchasing locally the produce can be riper and fresher than produce in most grocery stores.  Often the time between picking and showing up in grocery stores can be more than a week.  This affects how the produce is grown and picked.  Friends and Farms turn around time is much shorter.
    Friends and Farms has been in existence for 16 months and now has 455 members from around the Baltimore/Washington area.  It has eight pick up locations with the pick up at its Columbia location on Wednesday and Thursday evenings and Saturday morning.
    The boxes of food come in three sizes.  One person for $44, small for $54 and large for $84.  There is also a vegetarian box.  You can cancel membership at anytime.  There is even a one time sample box that lets you try it before deciding if you want to join.  You can sign up at this link.


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Ghana Fest today at Slayton House

From the Columbia Association for today:

"Celebrate Columbia’s new sister city at Ghana Fest on Nov. 17 - 3:00 - 5:30 pm

Columbia Association (CA) and its Tema Sister City Committee will introduce Columbia's new Sister City in Ghana, Tema, by hosting “Ghana Fest” on Sunday, Nov. 17, from 3 to 5:30 p.m. The free cultural event will be held at Slayton House, which is located at 10400 Cross Fox Lane in the Wilde Lake Village Center, next to the Swim Center/Splashdown. The community of Columbia, Maryland now has a new sister city — Tema, a planned city of more than 160,000 people on the coast of Ghana that is located just east of the country’s capital, Accra.  The program includes Ghanaian music by DJ Dream, drumming and dance performances by BESA,Workshops (Kwame Ansah-Brew) and the Youth Fellowship of Calvary Redeeming Methodist Church, speakers including the former US. Ambassador to Ghana, art displays and a sampling of delicious Ghanaian finger foods provided by Okumkom Catering. The program will begin promptly at 3 p.m., and will run until 4:30 pm, followed by Ghanaian finger food and refreshments and dancing to Hip Life and Azonto music until 5:30 p.m."


Saturday, November 16, 2013

A sugar high for Christmas

      This year the Horizon Foundation has been promoting its efforts to ban sugary drinks.With the levels of obesity in most communities this is only part of the problem. The holiday food items that we have advertised from our local eateries this holiday season should give us pause.  I thought I would list just some of the holiday offerings from some of the places I have seen locally.  No one would ever associate Dunkin Donuts with healthy eating but this year they are promoting a red velvet donut and red velvet latte.  The cream cheese icing is literally "icing on the cake."  

    Starbucks may have started out as a coffee establishment but those days are long gone.  They sell more frappuccinos then coffee these days.  Many drinks come with whipped cream on top.  Their peppermint mocha is an annual offering.  I do have to say that I look forward to their Christmas blend coffee. 

       Even Panera Bread has gotten into the sugary offerings this year.  The Signature Hot Chocolate with Chocolate Chip Marshmallows, made from a syrup of chocolate and Madagascar Bourbon vanilla, is sure to raise your blood sugar a few notches.

      This Panera dessert is a caramel apple bread pudding.  

    With the average person putting on 5 pounds during the holidays sugary drinks maybe only a small part of the obesity problem.


Friday, November 15, 2013

You know you are not in Howard County when....

        On a recent trip to Illinois I happened to walk past a small town library and noticed the signage shown above.  What caught my attention was the sticker with the line through a gun.  My curiosity made me go into the library and inquire about why the gun sticker was on the door.  It seems that Illinois has recently passed a concealed gun law that gives residents, with a permit, to carry a concealed weapon. Twenty four states now have these laws.  The states tend to be in the West and South and be Red States.  Libraries, churches and other groups are starting to put up these stickers to encourage their patrons to not bring their weapons into the buildings.  The State of Illinois has always had a split between its middle to southern counties that tend to be very rural and conservative politically and the Chicago area. This dynamic played out in the this legislation with the rural legislators winning out over the Chicago area legislators.  Opponents of the law used examples of where this might be most problematic with bars and schools being locations where concealed weapons might lead to more shootings.
     In Maryland we have a legislature that has a small amount of legislators from the rural areas so we would not have much chance of one of these concealed weapons laws passing.  The impact of these laws is controversial. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

What's up with the pretzel roll craze?

         Seems like the newest food fad is the pretzel roll.  Wendi's has the burger pictured above and now Chili's and Ruby Tuesday's have joined the craze.  McDonald's apparently is introducing their version in Germany.  I would look to near future for them to bring it to the US. Suddenly the old plain burger bun is outdated.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

You won't see these parked at a local Giant

      Traveling through Nappanee, Indiana yesterday I saw these Amish buggies parked at the local grocery store.  Many of the stores in this Amish area have these types of parking stalls for the buggies and horses.  Gives new meaning to "green" transportation.  Or maybe I should say "brown" transportation.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Midwest toll blues


     OK, I've emptied my wallet of my cash.  I've been "tolled" out.  Have to visit the ATM machine again. Who has exact change in coins for a $1.50 toll gate with no attendants to make change?  Having spent the past few days traveling through Ohio, Indiana and Illinois I am sick of toll interstate highways.  Seems to me that these tolls are traps for out of state drivers. In our area we are generally free of these turnpikes that make you stop and pay tolls as small as 50 cents or as much as $10 for the Ohio Turnpike.  The tolls are everywhere around Chicago.  Most people in the Chicago area have an I-Pass which cuts the tolls in half.  Most of the people paying the cash tolls are out of state drivers like us. There is no monthly fee for the I-Pass unlike the EZ-Pass we have in our area. The I-Pass transponders are only $3 which encourages their almost universal usage.  I am not sure why our EZ pass transponders aren't this cheap and why they charge a monthly fee.  Seems like I remember a time when there wasn't a monthly fee.  The system of one universal system for all toll roads in the Country is still a work in progress. The EZ pass system is moving in the direction of being the universal system.  Is a system based on a smartphone app far behind?  Google knows everywhere I am at.  Couldn't Verizon hook up with Google and bill me for the toll on my next Verizon bill? This would simplify the present system.
      Are we looking at the end of the free interstate system?  Seems like the idea of tolling all the interstate roads is being championed as a way to maintain the roads because the federal gas tax hasn't been raised in so many years.  Now other ways to tax driving are being floated based on the miles you drive.  Enjoy our free interstates while they last as they may become a thing of the past.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Rice around the world at HCC today

    For most Americans, including yours truly, rice is a once in awhile dish but in many countries, especially in Asia, this food is the most important staple in their diet.  In a reflection of this fact tomorrow at the Howard Community College you are invited to sample rice dishes from a variety of countries.  I received the following information from the College:

     "You're invited to join us for a fun and informative cultural event! While tasting rice dishes at each country’s station, you will meet international students who are eager to share information about their home countries. The event is drop-in, so you can circulate as quickly or slowly as you like. There will also be music performances and assorted entertainment throughout the event. Parking is available in the West Parking Garage which is beside the Hickory Ridge Building and across from the Horowitz Visual and Performing Arts Center (HVPA) building. We have had about 400 people attend this popular event in previous years.

ELC’s Rice around the World | International Education Week 2013

Tuesday, November 12, 11:00am-1:00pm

HVPA Lobby

Join English Language Center students for a culinary celebration of this tiny (but mighty!) carbohydrate that accounts for 20% of the world’s caloric intake. Get your “passport” stamped at each country booth as you interact with international students from around the world, sample their rice dishes, and enjoy musical performances."


   The importance of rice to the diet of Asian countries is seen in the following info from the Patent Lens website

     "About 3 billion people, nearly half the world's population, depend on rice for survival. In Asia as a whole, much of the population consumes rice in every meal. In many countries, rice accounts for more than 70% of human caloric intake. As seen in Figure 1, the total consumption of rice (expressed as % of total calorie intake) varies widely between different regions. In Asia in total, just over 30% of all calories come from rice.

But within a region, rice intake varies even more widely. Figure 2 shows fifteen of the countries most reliant on rice for energy. The graphs show that although total Asian rice intake is around 30%, people in countries such as Cambodia, Bangladesh and Myanmar rely on rice for over 70% of their calories. Africans as a whole gain less than 10% of their calories from rice, but in countries such as Madagascar and Sierra Leone, people use rice for nearly 50% of their energy needs."

Figure 1: Rice as a percentage of total caloric intake by region (2000).*
Rice Calorie Supply by Country
Figure 2: Rice as a percentage of total caloric intake (top 15 countries)*

Thursday, November 7, 2013

It's November and that means deer

    Seems that deer like the suburbs as much as people do.  Every November we are vividly reminded of this reality.  The buck above seems to like to bed down in our yard at night.  A doe is not far away.  While I enjoy the visual sightings of these large "wild" animals I must admit that my plants have seen significant damage in the past few weeks.  Below are just some of the plants the deer have been eating.

   Contrast that to the earlier Summer picture of the plants in my yard shown below.

    At this time of year I guess this is the price we pay for deer trying to fatten up for Winter and raging hormones of male deer!  Just a word of caution on the roads these days, especially at night.

Lower your prescription drug cost

    One of our poodles has glaucoma and the vet has prescribed 3 different medications for treating this condition.  One of these prescriptions costs $140 to refill every 2 months.  I checked around at different pharmacies in our area but didn't find that were substantially lower on price.  Anyone who owns an older pet can testify that medical and prescription costs for their pets can be more than they pay for their own medical care.
     While listening to a News Hour podcast I learned of a website to find the cheapest price for any medication in your area.  The news report showed how arbitrary the pricing of drugs can be.  Interestingly some of the highest prices are with national chains like Target, CVS and Walgreens.  Even though they probably have low wholesale costs for drugs because of their size they seem to use this advantage to pad their bottom lines rather than passing on the savings to consumers.  It seems that the free marketplace that is supposed to keep costs low because of competition isn't working too well with drug costs in the United States.  We pay the highest costs in the world for our prescriptions.  We find ourselves in this situation because of the political lobbying power of the drug manufacturers. This system is explained in the Corporate Examiner in this way:

    "The pharmaceutical industry has long been a first-rate interest group. PhRMA employs one of the largest lobbying staffs on K Street, makes hefty political contributions, and funds extensive issue advertising campaigns; and the trend has been increasingly partisan. In 1990, for example, Bristol-Myers Squibb Company donated $150, 260 to political candidates, with 31% reaching Democrats and 69% reaching Republicans. By 2002, Bristol-Myers Squibb was donating $1,590,813 to politicians, and only 16% went to Democrats ( PhRMA's political power has set the stage for industry-wide business strategies. Political connections have helped drug companies to battle price restraints, stretch patent guidelines, and avoid litigation."
   The United States is only one of two countries in the world to allow advertising to the public of prescription drugs.  This advertising is directing consumers to request certain drugs from their doctors and almost always these drugs are new drugs that are the most costly.   It is hard not to watch the nightly national newscasts without watching one drug ad after another.  They always end with "Ask your doctor about......"

    Before my last medical appointment I couldn't help but notice the two young, attractive women who were taking with the receptionist.  Right away I knew these were drug salespersons.  Have you ever seen an older, male drug salesperson?  Are male doctors so gullible that they are influenced in their prescribing of drugs that they can be influenced by attractive young women?  Sadly, apparently they are or the drug manufacturers would not use this method.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

One nation divided by marriage equality

     This week's closure vote in the Senate for a bill that would ban discrimination of gays in the workplace is one more indication of our country's move to end discrimination against gays in our Country.  This progress will probably run into opposition in the House that is controlled by Republicans.  Republican opposition is just another sign that the Party is on the wrong side of the history of ending discrimination.
    The legislation now in Congress is indicative of the fact that our County is divided on the issues of marriage equality and discrimination against gays.  This division may have an economic impact that could pay out to the disadvantage of those states that reject marriage equality.  In a recent Bloomberg post this economic impact is explained in this way:
   "The Supreme Court ruling (striking down the Defense of Marriage Act) will force some states to examine whether it’s worth losing out on talent and businesses that are attracted to areas that allow same-sex marriages, said Richard Florida, a professor at the University of Toronto Rotman School of Management. Acceptance of gay communities signals cultural openness and attracts highly educated people and innovators, Florida “States that recognize the rights of gay and lesbian households, they provide a signal to other people that those are the kind of places that they want to be in,” Florida said. 'For many highly skilled, highly educated people, this is a nontrivial factor in decision making.' ”
     This reality caused the Governor of Rhode Island to sign a marriage equality bill.  Gov. Chafee put it this way:
"The point is not simply that we are welcoming to gay people, though we are. It is that we want to welcome everyone. The talented workers who are driving the new economy — young, educated and forward-looking — want to live in a place that reflects their values. They want diversity, not simply out of a sense of justice, but because diversity makes life more fun. Why would any state turn away the people who are most likely to create the economies of the 21st century?"
     I have seen this reality play out here in Maryland.  I was at a meeting recently when I met a medical resident at Johns Hopkins who was legally married to her partner in Massachusetts while she was a student at Harvard Medical School.  When she looked at which hospital to do her internship she only looked at states with marriage equality.  Johns Hopkins Hospital was fortunate to be in one of those states.  Baylor University Hospital in Texas was eliminated as a possible choice.  This was not an easy decision to eliminate Baylor as she hopes to be a heart surgeon and Baylor Hospital is a leader in this field.
     One other area this issue may play out is with our military.  Some state National Guard leaders are ignoring Secretary Hagel's order to recognize same sex unions among military personnel. This was written about that in the Daily Kos:
     "Last week, Hagel let the National Guards of nine states— Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, West Virginia, and Indiana—know that equality isn't optional, ordering them to recognize same-sex military spouses. So far, only Indiana has complied. South Carolina is taking the approach of making things harder for everyone, forcing all National Guard spouses to go to federal bases to get their IDs."
     Maryland is often in competition with Virginia as a location for business contractors of the Federal Government.  Marriage equality might become a factor in the decision of where to locate for some of these contractors with a young workforce.
      If you look at the economic health of a state by looking at the median home values you will see that most states that are solidly Democrat have median values above the national average and solidly Republican states have values mostly below the national average.   Maryland comes in at over $90,000 above the national average.  Howard County comes in at double the national average ($400,000 vs. $193,000).
     It is hard to predict where this division will lead our Country going into the near future.  While some conservative areas of our Country talk of secession  it is hard to see this realistically happening (even with Western Maryland!).  But it is not hard to see our Country in the future continuing to divide into regions that have characteristics of Western Europe or Canada and other parts of our County have cultures reflecting less developed areas of the world. The question does remain as to when this fragmenting of our Country leads to a more strident movement then even the present Tea Party.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A challenge to the men of our community

     In talking with Jean Moon for yesterday's profile blog I asked Jean about why she thought that the Women's Giving Circle of Howard County was so successful.  Her first response was related to the qualities of women that made them more sensitive to the needs of others and the desire of woman to bond in social groups. While these qualities also exist in men as seen in the Rotary, Kiwanis and other civic business groups the sensitivity to the broad issues of family and community in women give them some advantages in forming giving circles.
     This reality is seen in the campaigns to fund research into cancer.  Breast cancer research is funded at much higher levels than the deadly prostate cancer for men.  If only women had prostates too! There is no comparable funding campaigns for prostate cancer as there are for breast cancer.  No "blue ribbon campaigns" or walks for prostate cancer.  Even the National Football league has got on the bandwagon for breast cancer with NFL players and coaches wearing pink during games.  Just to be cynical this campaign is the reality that the NFL is probably more motivated by the their interest in marketing NFL apparel to women than for cancer research 
    We also see the reality of gender differences in what experiences men and women bring to elective office.  A study by Rutgers University looked at the backgrounds of both male and female elected officials and how it influenced their governing model.  Men tended to come from a business or law background that favored competition and confrontation as opposed to many women who came from much wider backgrounds--- many of which expose them to issues of the disadvantaged and the family.  Interestingly the differences between the genders become more pronounced as you move up the elective ladder.  The difference in the genders is smallest at the local level, increase at the state level and are most pronounced at the national level.  The difference in political orientation of female elected officials moves from more conservative to more liberal as you move up the elected official ladder.  This would seem to indicate that more liberal women see elected office as a career than conservative women. This reality is seen in a study by the Scholars Study Network that looked at the impact of women in elected office. The finding was described in this study like this:

"Female legislators have a stronger presence in states with more liberal electorates and more 
women in non-traditional social positions. Women are more likely to run for office in such 
settings and party leaders, voters, and interest groups are more willing to support them. "

      So my challenge to men in Howard County is to step forward and consider a Men's Giving Circle of Howard County.  Any one willing to step up to the plate on that one?

    Thanks to Ilana Bittner for this good advice from NPR:
Always go to the funeral.