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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Do we live in the most gerrymandered district in the country?

      Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens  has written a new book about some recommendations for new amendments to our Constitution.   One of his recommendations is to have a non partisan process in drawing election districts.  This is relevant for Maryland which has been called the most gerrymandered state in the United States.   This may seem to be at odds with the view of our State as being one of the most progressive states in the Country.  We have eliminated the death penalty, enacted our version of the Dream Act for immigrants, raised the minimum wage and was the first state to vote in marriage equality.  Maybe it is time to give another state the title of most gerrymandered state.

    An example of our crazy gerrymandered state is our very own Third Congressional District shown above. This Congressional District has been called the "ugliest drawn district in the Country."  This carefully drawn district makes sure that it remains a safely Democratic district.  Combining such diverse places as Gaithersburg, Annapolis and Columbia makes no sense in representing common communities.
We in Howard County are used to being carved out to continue to provide liberal voters to keep Baltimore based elected officials in office. Our central location between Washington and Baltimore makes us ripe for being pushed into providing a piece of districts of Montgomery, PG or Baltimore politicians. A piece but never enough of a piece to have one of our local officials elected to those districts.   If we had a strong conservative Republican voting base you can be sure the district lines would be drawn to push us into more conservative western Maryland districts.
     How large does Howard County need to become before a Howard County elected official can represent up in Congress?

    For all you app designers out there maybe you could come up with an app for elected officials to tell them where the street boundaries are for their districts.  You wouldn't want to be going door to door in areas outside of your district.  This app might be heavily downloaded in Maryland.

P.S. 1
    I am open to suggestions for describing the shape of this district.  Kind of a Congressional District Rorschach test.  My descriptions all go in the direction of a dog holding a gun.


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A different way to celebrate Jim Rouse's 100th birthday

      Many events are planned in connection with the celebration of Jim Rouse's 100th birthday this year.  Most of these events look back at the beginning of Columbia and Jim Rouse as a person.  While this is always an interesting endeavor I think it would be better to have a community wide event to look at how Columbia would be planned differently with today's realities.  What type of community would we be planning now that would define Columbia for the next 30, 40 or 50 years?  When you read the early planning documents of the groups that Rouse brought together to plan our new community you realize how different the world is today that in the early 1960's.  Rouse was interested in getting direct feedback from community members but the technology of the time had him thinking of having a Columbia public access cable show with polling on issues by community members calling in on the telephone.  One number would be for "yes" to a question and another number for a "no" answer.  The internet as we know it today was nonexistent.  No one could even image a community of bloggers.  Diversity today is more likely to be foreign born driven than racially as it was in the 1960's.  Who knew that the development of Columbia would attract a population that makes us one of the wealthiest communities in the United States.
     While the originator of this new planning process is unclear (GGP and Howard Hughes are no Rouse Company) it does seem to make sense to have the process one that would heavily rely on social media to gain the wide community participation.  Maybe a Facebook page called "Columbia 2050" or something along this line.  Maybe Meetups to examine the different aspects of our community. It would be interesting to have the planning of Columbia done using a crowdsourcing approach.
     Will any of this happen?  Probably not.  It is rare to have someone like Rouse who has the vision and the resources to make that vision a reality.  My own feeling is that the future of Columbia will look more like other suburban communities and less like a planned, unique community with a vision.  Maybe being unique is difficult to sustain when a community grows beyond a certain point.  And maybe we have long since reached that point.  Is that the reality we are seeing with the challenges faced by our village centers and interfaith centers?

    The PBS News Hour had a segment last night that looked at a different way to measure a community's prosperity.    

P.S. 1
  I loved this photo that Ellen Flynn Giles posted on Facebook of a student who had participated in the Battle of the Books.


Sunday, April 27, 2014

Spring finally comes to Lake Elkhorn

     Taking an early morning walk yesterday around Lake Elkhorn was much nicer than the ones I took this Winter.

     The sunrise and mild temperatures made for a very nice way to start my weekend.

I even got this one blurry shot of the Lake Elkhorn beaver.

    Given the Orioles seeming to have a well balanced team this year the 538 blog today is a good read.


Saturday, April 26, 2014

Leek rings??

    Always looking for some food twists I found a new one worth sharing.  One problem with onion rings is that the frying process makes the onion mushy and tasteless.  If you like to eat fried crust I guess this is fine but I have always wanted to taste the onion.  I have found a better way to make these rings.

     I have used leeks as a substitute of a long time.  With a stronger taste than onions it is worth using instead of an onion in any recipe.  Leek soup using chicken broth instead of beef broth is one of my favorites.  This week I thought I would try one more substitute---leek rings.


   These rings needed far less batter and the leeks held up much better than an onion in the frying process.


Friday, April 25, 2014

The "Reddit" bump

    All Howard County bloggers know about the "HowChow" bump.  Get mentioned in HowChow and your views go up fast.  Be selected as a Baltimore Sun mentioned blog and something similar happens.  Being the Sun's featured blog of the day and you will get hundreds of views.  Something happened this week that was unlike anything I have had before.  Over 750 views in one day and they were almost all first time views.  I quickly looked at where the views came from and found that a blog which I did on the names of Columbia streets was posted on Reddit by someone.  I had heard of Reddit by still don't understand how it works.  But for the number of views my blog received it must have a wide readership.


P.S. 1
     The Columbia Association and Columbia Archives have a number of events scheduled over the next few months to celebrate what would have been Jim Rouse's 100 birthday.  Here is their info:

"Celebrate James Rouse’s 100th birthday with a series of events from April through September

    James Rouse loved to celebrate Columbia’s birthday. This year brings a special milestone as we mark what would have been the 100th birthday of the man who founded this great community.

    The Life and Legacy of James Rouse, a celebration on the occasion of the centennial of his birth, begins on April 11 and is marked by a number of events, leading up to a symposium in the fall. The commemoration begins with a few free, public celebrations: an exhibit at Columbia Art Center from April 10 through April 27, with an opening reception on April 11; a tree planting at Wilde Lake on April 25; and a big birthday party at Merriweather Post Pavilion on May 4. More events will follow in May, June, July, August and September.

    “Jim Rouse had a profound influence on the built environment of the United States because of his dedication to making places for people, whether it was shopping centers, festival marketplaces, affordable housing or an entire city,” said Barbara Kellner, director of Columbia Association’s (CA) Columbia Archives. “Columbia Archives is creating this range of activities to honor Rouse’s legacy and to educate the residents of the community he created and loved.”

    The art show, titled “Visions of Hope,” is a partnership between Blossoms of Hope and CA’s Columbia Art Center.

    “We are truly honored to pay tribute to visionary James Rouse with an art show inspired by his quote, ‘Optimism stimulates energy, spirit, hope and action,’ ”said Liz Henzey, director of Columbia Art Center. “The response from the arts community has been overwhelmingly positive, with more than 35 artists participating in the show.”

    The planting of a Blossoms of Hope Cherokee Brave dogwood tree in Rouse’s honor will take place on Friday, April 25, at 5 p.m. at Wilde Lake Park.

    Rouse sowed the seeds for Columbia in the 1950s and watched the city grow from planning through its ongoing development. He passed away in 1996 in his home overlooking Wilde Lake. This tree planting will be on National Arbor Day, hosted by CA and Blossoms of Hope as part of the spring Cherrybration Days. The planting symbolizes the hopes Rouse had for a better city and his belief that Columbia would never be finished because the people of Columbia would continue to make it grow stronger and more beautiful.

    The celebration of Rouse’s birthday will be on Sunday, May 4, from 5 to 7 p.m. at Merriweather Post Pavilion. There will be a musical tribute starring the talented and energetic Young Columbians and special guests, with the show presented by Toby Orenstein, founder of Columbia Center for Theatrical Arts, the Young Columbians and Toby’s Dinner Theatre. Come listen, learn and participate in activities that will honor Rouse and the city he loved. The event is family friendly, with activities for children and adults.

    Other upcoming events celebrating Rouse's life and legacy will include a tour of Rouse's neighborhood as part of the Columbia WalkAlong on May 17; Columbia's 47th Birthday celebration on June 20; an exhibit at Columbia Archives, "Jim Rouse at Leisure," running in July; an exhibit at The Mall in Columbia in August; and the Columbia BikeAbout on Sept. 13.

    Columbia Archives holds the James Rouse Collection, a valuable resource chronicling Rouse’s career. It is rich with correspondence, speeches, photographs and memorabilia. The collection is open to the public for research. The Archives is located in the American City Building at 10227 Wincopin Circle in Downtown Columbia. For more information, please email or call 410-715-3103."


    Thursday, April 24, 2014

    Blog Party at Petit Louie Bistro


         What better way to swing into Spring than a French themed blog party by Lake Kittamaqundi.  Here is the info on tonight's party.

    "Ooh La La! Bloggers, their readers and local social media activist are invited to enjoy an evening of April in Paris, Thursday, April 24th, 4-6 pm, at Petit Louis Bistro. Complete with an Eiffel Tower, French cocktails, wine, and snacks, this new addition to Columbia brings a slice of Paris to the Lake.
    The event includes --
    A “Rite of Spring” Tasting with Will Napier, Sommelier;
    Select snacks from Chef James Lewandowski;
    An Ooh La La Costume Contest - don your most characteristically French ensemble with prizes awarded to the plus chic;
    Souvenir photos taken in front of the iconic Eiffel Tower;

    It’s Fun, It’s French favors to be handed out upon guests’ arrival; and, of course
    Ever-delightful and charming company and conversations.
    Perhaps you've already dined at Petit Louis Bistro -- for lunch, for dinner or to grab a quick sandwich at their Comptoir. Perhaps you've been wanting to check them out and see why culinary hearts across the county swelled with joy with news of a Foreman-Wolf restaurant coming to town. Perhaps you just like coming to the HoCoBlogs parties. In any case, you're in for a treat! And you'll literally be among the first to enjoy the outdoor patio (weather permitting).

    What a better place or reason to honor RSVPs than at a French-themed party at a French restaurant. Please RSVP if you are planning to attend and, equally, cancel your ticket if you've RSVPed and cannot make it. Dress for the weather. Dress for the event. And -- if you feel inspired -- dress for the theme!"


    Wednesday, April 23, 2014

    Keeping teens safe

        The suicide of Grace McComas, a sophomore at Glenelg High School, a few years ago brought home to all of us how the pressures faced by our teens today can end in tragedy. For most teens bullying, peer pressures, drugs, alcohol and dating are just some of the issues that can be challenging for families and teens to face today.  The world has become more complicated in the digital age.  With this in mind "the  Howard County Family Institute is presenting the upcoming free workshop, Having the Conversation: Keeping Our Teens Safe on Thursday, April 24 from 6:30 to 8:30 pm at the Ellicott City Senior Center, 9401 Frederick Road, Ellicott City, MD 21042. The need for communication and developing plans with our teens in case of family and community emergencies, and outside influences that affect our children’s safety is extremely important. Come hear a panel of experts and community members engage in conversation about keeping our adolescents safe. There will be an opportunity for Q&A throughout the session. Space is limited; please pre-register by calling 410-313-1940 or emailing "

    Reminder of tonight's meeting from CA:

    "Columbia Market Study 3rd Public Meeting
           Remember to join us on Wednesday, April 23 from 7:00 - 9:00pm at the Bain Center in the Harper’s Choice Village Center (5470 Ruth Keeton Way Columbia, MD 21044) for the third public meeting of the “Columbia Market Analysis and Economic Development Services” study. This is the third of four public meetings — an additional meeting was added for more community interaction and education. Pre-registration is encouraged, but not required. Please visit: The consultants will discuss their synthesized market findings and supportable programs for the eight village centers and the GE-Dobbin Road-Snowden River Parkway corridors.
          Mark your calendars for the final public meeting on May 29 from 7:00-9:00pm at Howard Community College’s Rouse Company Foundation Student Services Hall, Room 400, where the consultants will discuss their recommendations.
          Just in case you missed the March 25 public meeting (nearly 100 people attended) on the overall Columbia market context, we have posted the PowerPoint presentation, as well as a video of the meeting on the Market Study webpage.
          This study is a collaborative effort between Columbia Association, Howard County Economic Development Authority and Howard County Department of Planning and Zoning. The study will evaluate current and projected demand for development in Columbia’s village centers, and help us understand the relationship of the centers to other competing commercial areas."

    P.S. 1
       Today is the 9th anniversary of You Tube.  There have been over 120 million videos posted to You Tube.  here is a list of the most popular of all time.  Everyone knows which is the most watched. Here was the first You Tube video.

    Tuesday, April 22, 2014

    Tomato fantasies ??

         Happy Earth Day.  The Earth giveth and the Earth taketh away.  Another Spring and another attempt at growing tomatoes.   We unfortunately don't have a yard that lends itself to a garden.  Our backyard is wooded and our front yard gets very little sun until the afternoon.

         The builders of our house must have graded off all the top soil when they landscaped our lot.  Maybe they sell the top soil to make extra cash.  What they left us with is hard clay.  I have purchased a ton of top soil at Home Depot but to no avail. I have mulched leaves to improve the soil.  I have ended up trying different containers to grow tomatoes with limited success.

        I even got tricked into trying those hanging planters that have your tomatoes growing upside down.

           My tomato crop over the years would probably fill only one small crate.  I still buy most of my summer tomatoes at farmers market.  But just like baseball teams during Spring training I always think that this will be the year I have success.  So off to Home Depot to buy this years "tomato dreams."

    Interesting article on health outcomes related to income inequality.

    Monday, April 21, 2014

    Talking trash for Earth Day

        With Earth Day tomorrow I thought it would be a good time to talk trash.   I was reminded of this on Saturday when I took a load of old paint and cleaning fluids to the Saturday Howard County Landfill for their household waste disposal.   This is available every Saturday until November.

       Trash disposal has changed a great deal since the time you could just burn it in your back yard.  This is how I remember we got rid of our trash when I was growing up in Pennsylvania.  Now Howard County has a comprehensive disposal system at the landfill.

       Metal is separated from other trash.

    As is Styrofoam

    or yard waste.

    As you drive into the landfill you can see how you can compost your our yard waste.  

    Ever wonder what happens to the unsorted recycled material you put in your blue bins?

    It ends up in a recycled material warehouse in Elkridge where it is sorted by type of material.

            For those large items like furniture you can schedule a bulk pickup.
    Even better is to joint over 5,000 others in the  Columbia Freecycle and give the items you now longer want to someone else.  You will surprised at what other people want and will come and pick it up.

     From Josh Feldmark for Earth Day Tuesday April 22 at Howard Community College:
    "Join Josh Feldmark -- Howard County Office of Environmental Sustainability
    Josh will talk about what's involved in being an environmental advocate with examples from his past experiences.
    Topic: Environmental Advocacy, An interactive Discussion
    11:00 - 12:00, Kittleman Room, DH100
    Lunch & Learn

    Hear Master Gardeners describe gardening with water features including pictures, practical information, tips, and examples. Bring your lunch; soft drinks, water, and light munchies will be provided.
    Topic: Water Gardens
    12:00 - 1:30, Kittleman Room, DH100
    Dumpster Dive!

    How much of Howard Community College's typical office (not cafeteria) trash is really recyclable? Wear your old clothes, don (provided) disposable gloves, and join HCC's Environmental Club in separating trash from treasure. Will this year's trash include fewer recyclables than last year's? Come find out.
    On the Quad
    1:30 - 2:00

    Click here for more information about Earth Day at HCC. "


    Sunday, April 20, 2014

    The "end" of the printed book?

        I remember reading some predictions 20 years ago from some futurists.  The one that I remember is the one that predicted that in the future people would have phone numbers and not places.  We now know how accurate that prediction was.   The generation under 40 probably have never had their own land line telephone number.
        Recently I read the book "The Burning Page" that was written by the product manager for the development of the Kindle with Amazon.  By the time the Kindle was rolled out the digital revolution had dramatically altered the way newspapers and magazines were being read online but books were still being read in a printed form.  The development of the e-reader and the digital tablets have finally had the same impact on how books are now read.  As early as Christmas 2009 Amazon was selling more e-books than hard covers.  The author even speculates that the future historians will look at the period from the mid 15th Century to the end of the 20th Century as the "Gutenberg Period."
         This book explains some the the impacts of the e-readers and where the future goes with books.  Will publishers be diminished with authors self publishing books directly to readers? We have already seen the rapid decline of the large chain book stores.  What will libraries look like without shelves of books?  What will we do with our hardcover books?  Burn them?  Try to sell them? As someone who dreaded packing up books with every move the ability to store all those books on an e-reader just has more appeal.
        The first generation of e-books that we now have are just digital versions of the printed book.  The next generation of e-books will have interactive features that the printed book could never provide. The author of the "Burning Page" had a link at the end of each chapter to a Facebook page where readers could discuss the content of the chapter with the author and each other.  Authors could update books quickly with new information.  This would be especially helpful for textbooks.  Remember when encyclopedias sent out a year book with updates every year?  Links to videos and other publications could be embedded in the text.  No more need for footnotes.

         I have always thought that I have keep up with the changing times.  I have had a smart phone for years, I tweet, I blog, I have an e-reader.   But I recently was taken aback by something one of my children said.  She is looking for a house in Howard County and was looking at houses built in the 1950's and 1960's.  She was talking about how old the house designs were and mentioned that they even had soap dishes built into the tiles in the shower.  I asked her where she puts her soap and she told me that young people only use body wash.  Really?  I will feel old every time I now take a shower.

    Saturday, April 19, 2014

    Lessons from 100 years ago

          This weekend I thought I would recommend a couple of books which I have recently read. My first recommendation for a good book to read is "The Bully Pulpit" by Doris Kearns Goodwin.  The over 700 page book on the progressive agenda of Theodore Roosevelt and his relationship with William Howard Taft has many parallels to what we are seeing today in our political discourse.  A significant part of the book examines the relationship of the progressive media, especially McClure's magazine, of that time laying the groundwork for the progressive legislation promoted by Roosevelt.  Without the media's attention to the issues of political corruption, unsafe work conditions and unsafe food production the public sentiment for change would not have been possible.
          Up to the presidency of Roosevelt the moneyed interest of the "Gilded Age" had created a situation where political bosses had been able to thwart most progressive legislation.  This battle between the policies of the moneyed interests and their political counterparts with their progressive elements played out in the Republican Party of the early 20th Century.  Many progressives today see a similar Gilded Age developing with the increasing power of moneyed lobbyists now having reduced limits on campaign contributions.  The days of public financing seems to be a campaign reform that now longer controls our election.  It is only a matter of time before the next Watergate-type scandal is makes campaign reform possible again.  
         Ironically the book points out how a speech of Roosevelt's decrying the over reach of his named "muckrakers" provided a platform for conservatives in the Republican Party to fight back on some of his progressive legislation.  The book concludes by describing the disillusionment of of the progressives and Roosevelt with the administration of Taft and setting the scene for Roosevelt's presidential run in 1912 with the Bull Moose Party.

         I am not sure why authors of this type of political history feel the need to produce a 700 page book.   The story could have been told just as well in 250 pages.  Maybe after spending years researching a book like this the author has to justify the time commitment with a book of this length.  Maybe an editor should have recognized the need to condense this story for the readers.

        The partnership between Roosevelt and the progressive media does remind you of the partnership between Fox News and the Tea Party.  It is not hard to believe that the Tea Party is largely sustained, if not created by the Fox News Network.

    Friday, April 18, 2014

    Take a weekend hike on the Trolley Trail

       With this weekend giving us another nice Spring weekend we should put the memories of our brutal Winter behind us and take a hike along one of our rails to trails that is just over the Howard County line in Oella.

        Just around the corner from the Trolley Stop Restaurant in Oella is the Trolley Line Trail that follows the route of the old trolley line from Ellicott City to Catonsville.  This 1.1 mile trail was last in trolley service in 1955.  Now it provides a trail that passes some very nice scenery.

        One of the most interesting features of the trail is the place where the trail had to cut through a rock hill to keep the grade gradual enough for the trolleys.

         A nice feature of walking this trail is the selection of restaurants to have a breakfast or lunch after a walk.

       For a hearty breakfast try one of the omelettes at the Trolley Stop Restaurant.  It is almost enough for two people to share.

     Next Door is the Old Mill Bakery Cafe with a large selection of breakfast sandwiches. pastries, coffees and teas.

        Finally the Breadery is right along the trail and has a nice selection of pastries and other sweets.


    Thursday, April 17, 2014

    A divided nation on providing health care

         Probably no other area of policy divides the United States more than the attempt to provide health care to citizens of different states.  The chart above from the Health Reform Monitoring Survey shows the division among states on just one of the parts of the Affordable Health Care Act---the expansion of Medicaid.  The six percentage overall difference is made even more dramatic when you examine the difference from the state with the highest percentage of uninsured with the state with the lowest rate.  Texas has the highest rate of uninsured with 27% of the population uninsured and Massachusetts (RomneyCare) has the lowest at 4.9%.  Not surprisingly the states most unlikely to have expanded Medicaid are those with conservative governments and the highest percentage of uninsured.  Maryland is in the middle of the pack of states for uninsured at 12.9% with Baltimore City and the Eastern Shore counties driving the rate higher.  Not surprisingly income levels in the different jurisdictions were the main driver of how many persons were uninsured.
          Having our health care system an employer based system will always have this reality of who is uninsured.  As I have blogged before the greatest accomplishment of the Affordable Health Care Act was the small step to create an alternative to employer based health care insurance.  The poor roll out and the challenges of developing the alternative will continue to require refinements but it provides a platform to move toward a publicly provided option for health care coverage.  The next step in that process is to create the public option that was not provided in the AHCA.   In some ways having some time to develop and refine the platform before rolling out a public option may not have been a bad thing.

    Wednesday, April 16, 2014

    Giving young people a break

        Last week I talked with a parent of a high school senior who had just endured the long process of selecting a college for one of his children.  What was so telling about the process was the uncertainty of exactly what was the right fit for their 17 year old daughter.   He talked about how many family arguments they had endured with their daughter having to make a decision of which she was unsure.  I asked if they had ever considered not choosing a college just yet and looking at alternative choices for their 17 year old daughter.  He responded that the expectation of your children going to college was so strong that any other choice would seem to be reflection on qualities of their daughter and her parents.  How have we arrived at this point in our expectations for our children?  Do we really feel that we have failed as parents unless our children are accepted at a prestigious college?   What young person understands what they find fulfilling at 17 or 18?  Maybe their should be a different path.
         I can't see our Country instituting a 2 year service requirement for young people graduating from high school any time soon but I do think that we would do better for our children if we allowed them to spend sometime in a service capacity before making life decisions.  Exploring service or intern options might be a useful inclusion along with all those college visits.

        One other way to help young people make career decisions might be to strengthen the 25 hour community service requirement for students in grades 6-8.  Too often this is done in a "make work" fashion that sounds good but provides little benefit to the student.  Howard County Leaderships "Leadership U" and the Women's Giving Circle "Journey Program"  are two programs at which parents of high school students should look.

    P.S. 1
       Read how one community is making the cost of college more affordable.

        After enjoying the 80 degree weather this weekend and then seeing sleet in our rain last night I saw this.


    Tuesday, April 15, 2014

    CA looking for volunteers for pathway usage count


        When someone asks me if I will ever move from Columbia I usually answer by saying if I can find another community with 3 lakes and over 90 miles of trails then maybe I would consider a move.   I doubt that many other communities have these features that provide our residents with almost unlimited recreational uses.  I have run, biked and walked most of the paths in Columbia but sometimes I still come on a path section that I have never been on.  Maybe one of my bucket list goals should be to go on all 90+ miles of trails.  CA or someone might want to set up a route plan to do this.
         Maybe it is time to pay back CA for our wonderfully maintained trails. Below is information from the Columbia Association with one way to do this.

        "The Columbia Association is seeking enthusiastic volunteers to conduct counts for pedestrians, bicyclists and other users on CA’s pathways. By making a two-hour time commitment, you'll be helping to improve one of the things that makes Columbia special! We would appreciate your help.

    Bike and Pedestrian counts will be held on:
    May 24 (11:30am-1:30pm)
    May 27 (5:00-7:00pm)
    May 28 (5:00-7:00pm)
    May 29 (5:00-7:00pm)
    May 31 (11:30am -1:30pm)
    June 6 (11:30am-1:30pm)

    Please visit the volunteer registration page to select locations and times that are most convenient for you. We will be accepting volunteer registrations until Friday, May 2. Your confirmed time slot and more information on the counting process, including the date(s) and time(s) of the bicycle and pedestrian count training will be sent by email on Monday, May 5. In the interim, please contact Scott Templin at with any questions.

    Building on the Active Transportation Action Agenda, data gathered from these counts will be used to measure pathway usage and user demographics. This will be used as baseline data for future pathway counts and help measure and monitor usage trends. Pathway counts also can verify and validate future pathway investments.

    Also, mark your calendars for Bike to Work Day, scheduled for Friday, May 16. Pre-registration is encouraged, but not required."

         It may not be on the scale of an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico but it is still troubling to see this report today from the Columbia Patch:

        "The Maryland Department of the Environment was working on cleaning up a diesel spill Monday that affected Lake Kittamaqundi, according to the Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue Services. The spill was reported at 4 p.m. Monday, the department reported, and fire and rescue crews responded to the 5600 block of Vantage Point Road. 'It appears the origin of the leak was from a nearby holding tank that leaked into the storm drain system and into Lake Kittamaqundi,' the report stated. Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue Services began working to clean up the spill and minimize its impact, and the Maryland Department of the Environment was notified.  The Maryland Department of the Environment and a private contractor were working to clean up the spill, according to the report."


    Monday, April 14, 2014

    HoCo Recreation and Parks makes the Maryland Appalachian Trail doable

       I have wanted to hike the Maryland section of the Appalachian Trail for a couple of years but the logistics have always made it a challenge.  The Maryland section is only 41 miles so it would not be difficult to do in 5 or 6 walks of 7-8 miles. Having to drive two cars to park one at the beginning of the walk and one at the end was a hassle.  To have one car meant only walking half as far to double back to the car.  This year I learned that HoCo Recreation and Parks has scheduled walks that do each section of the trail over 6 walks.  They provide the van transportation for $17 a person.  Last Saturday I did my first walk of 7.4 miles.

       Starting at Gathland State Park the trail was mostly uphill for the first mile.

    The terrain was a real challenge with the very rocky ground that made footing in sections tough.  Not a trail walk for novices.

    The trail followed the path of a number of Civil War armies on their way to Antietam and Gettysburg.  The rock cliffs at the top provided cover for soldiers.

    The Trail has shelters along the way for over night lodging for long term hikers.  This shelter actually had two levels.  The Maryland section of the trail is very popular with hikers.

    The highlight of the hike was the Weverton Cliffs that rise 750 feet above the Potomac River.

       From the cliffs it was a one mile walk down to the river with 16 switch backs to where our van was parked