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Saturday, May 31, 2014

Biking the NCR Trail in Baltimore County

  Most of us still call this trail the North Central Rail Trail even though it has been renamed the Torrey C. Brown Trail.  This hard dirt and gravel trail follows the old North Central Rail Line that once went from Baltimore to Harrisburg, Pa.  The description of the trail comes from Trail Link:

    " The history of the rail-trail dates back to 1832, when the Northern Central Railroad carried passengers—people vacationing at Bentley Springs—and freight between Baltimore and York or Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The railroad ran for about 140 years, and you can still see part of the old bed, which was converted to a rail-tail in the early 1980s. Today, the Northern Central Railroad Trail is managed by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources as part of the Gunpowder Falls State Park.
      Amenities along the route include picnic and park benches, drinking fountains for hikers and bikers—dogs too—and portable restrooms. Just off the trail you can enjoy a small art gallery, an antique shop and several places to buy food and drinks. Hotels and motels can be found within a mile of the trail, and there is easy access to a bike shop that rents and repairs bikes. The trail cuts through several charming Maryland towns: Monkton (a major stop for hikers and bikers), Parkton, Falls Overlook and Bentley Springs. At the MD–PA border near New Freedom, PA, the trail continues as the Heritage Rail Trail County Park."

   The trail through Baltimore County follows the Gunpowder River and crosses the river at a number of points.

 The best feature of this trail is that it is mostly shaded so it is a great ride as the summer heats up.

  Another nice feature of the trail are the water fountains and porta johns and restrooms along the way.

There is even a sandwich and smoothie shop right next to the trail in Monkton.

   The trail has many interesting natural features like this rock wall along the trail.

   The road surface is hard enough to ride with a road bike but a hybrid or off road bike is better.

   The road bikes I saw on the trail didn't seem to have the really skinny tires.  There were a few muddy areas that road bikes would have to deal with.
    The fact that this trail is only about a 35-40 minute drive from Columbia and it is shaded I am sure I will be back soon this summer to do the next section of this trail.


   This year I bought a road bike from a friend so that I could put some different tires on my old road bike to be able to do some of the dirt rail trails that we have in our area. Pictured above are the tires that fit my road bike and use the same tubes as my road tire.  They are a little wider and have tread that works well on the hard dirt trails.  I learned the hard way by blowing out 2 tubes that you only pump these tires up to 65-70 psi instead of 110 psi of my road tires.  Maybe I should read the recommendations on the sides of the tires first!

P.S. 2
 As a cyclist I always appreciate the signs along our roads reminding car drivers to share the road with bikers.  Being defenseless against larger cars along our roads is something of which I always have to be aware.  Recently I saw a situation on one of our paths that concerned me that cyclists need to reciprocate and share our paths with walkers and runners.  I was close behind a woman pushing her young child in a stroller when a cyclist came around a blind corner and almost collided with the stroller.  The cyclist was going too fast to be going around a blind corner and was even taking the inside left track of the path.  Only the quick action of the mother prevented the collision.
     I have seen similar scenarios before on our paths.  Our paths are not off road bike tracks but multi-use paths that need to be ridden with caution and courtesy.  There is no reason not to let walkers and runners know that you will be passing them on their left.  To pass them with no warning puts them and you in danger of colliding. Bells on bikes are better than nothing but not as good a verbal warning of your passing.  The verbal warning should also be given far enough back to the walkers or runners that you don't startle them.
     If we bikers want drivers of cars to share the roads with us then we need to return the favor on our paths.

P.S. 3
  To see my other blogs on biking trails go to the right on the blog page where the search button is, delete the word "search" and type in "trail."


Friday, May 30, 2014

Summer Reading

   The impact of the summer break for most students has been well documented in the research literature.  This is especially true for children from disadvantaged homes.  To counteract this "summer slide" the Howard County Library holds a summer reading program.  The kick off to this year's program is tomorrow at the Miller Library.  This program is supported by the Friends of the Library.  Just another reminder of the importance of joining the Friends. This is a great way to keep the whole family reading this summer.  Here is the info on the program from the Library:

Summer Reading Kickoff 2014: Saturday, May 31, 10 am to 2 pm

Read and win prizes when you join a Howard County Library System (HCLS) summer reading club.  Enrollment begins May 19.

Summer Reading Kickoff

Saturday, May 31, 2014, 10 am - 2 pm, HCLS Miller Branch
Face painting and crafts for kids.  Wii games and scavenger hunt for teens; and instant prize drawings for adults.
Free Kona Ice for first 1,000 people. 

Schedule of Events
  • 9:45 Mount Hebron High School Pep Band (weather permitting)
  • 10:00 CHEMISTRY IN THE LIBRARY: Bubble Science
  • Join a chemist for demonstrations and hands-on activities.  Every 20 minutes, beginning at 10 am.  All Ages (ages 5 and younger must be accompanied by an adult).  Tickets available at children's desk.
  • 10:30 ERIC ENERGY - Cool Science
  • Using dry ice and air, see vortex fog rings and bubbling potions.  Families: 60 minutes
  • 11:30 Mount Hebron High School Pep Band (weather permitting)
  • 12:15 ERIC ENERGY - The Slime Show
  • With a focus on atoms, molecules, and polymers, watch long-chained molecules form, styrofoam melt, and slime made. Ages 4 and up; 60 minutes

Additional refreshments available for purchase from local food trucks:

     Summer is a great time for adults to do some reading. Nothing speaks of summer like sitting on the deck with ice tea and a good book.  Here are some suggested reads for the summer.
If you favor non-fiction here is a summer reading list.   My own recommendation for a book you can't put down is Flash Boys by Michael Lewis.  No one writes about what is happening on Wall Street like Lewis.

   National Spelling Bee had two winners this year.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Challenges as Columbia approaches 50

    Fifty years ago Columbia was being marketed at the "Next America." A new vision of a planned city based on the idealism of a diverse and harmonious community.  The concept of planned communities to revitalize older communities was a component of the 1960's Great Society called the "Model Cities" program.
      As we approach the 50th anniversary of Columbia it is exciting to see what new developments are happening in the Town Center area.  The potential addition of the Inner Arbor, a new Whole Foods, changes to the Mall, new housing and office space.  What will be as challenging for Columbia as we move into our second 50 years is the recognition that some of our neighborhoods are no longer shining and new. We have seen the struggles of some village centers like Oakland Mills and Long Reach.  Hopefully the consultants report that will be discussed at tonight's meeting at 7 pm in the Rouse Foundation Building at Howard Community College will identify how village centers can be refocused to remain viable.

     One challenge that maybe less talked about than our village centers is the aging of our 1960's and 1970's housing stock.  If you look around our older neighborhoods you can see housing that is not aging well.

     Some of the examples above are a result of foreclosed homes that have not been maintained by whomever holds the title to these properties.  The abandoned home just above has been the target of vandals who broke out the windows.  Holes have opened in the roof and the interior has water damage.  The foreclosure problem is hopefully a temporary problem but the maintenance issues on some of our older homes can't be ignored.  Unfortunately the affordable housing built in our town's early years wasn't built to last forever.   Additionally, the styles of housing popular in those early years is no longer desired by many younger families who are potential buyers for these affordable homes.  The "cookie cutter" homes that came in three basic models---split level, split foyer and small 2 story are no longer fashionable.  Remember the color choices of kitchen appliances of harvest gold, avocado or white?
      The question is what happens as this housing stock continues to age?  Will we see these older homes deteriorate and then torn down to be replaced with new homes?  While Columbia doesn't have an aging housing stock problem as severe as many other cities we shouldn't feel that we are immune to the impacts on the viability of some of our older neighborhoods by aging, less desirable housing stock.  This housing issue has impacts on the schools, business viability and even perceived safety of our older neighborhoods.
      We will have to face these challenges in our next 50 years so that the "Next America" doesn't become the "Past America."

    I would hope that my description of the challenges that we will face as a community doesn't paint a too pessimistic picture of our future.  Columbia still has many strengths that make us a vital place to live.  Many of us have had chances to move from Columbia as newer communities around Columbia developed.  The community attributes that attracted us to this community are still here and functional. Not the least of which are the people who make Columbia there home.  It's just that the "shine" has worn off.


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Howard County's aging population's needs addressed

    I have blogged frequently about the aging of our Howard County population. A recent study by the Howard County Commission on Aging shows this reality in dramatic fashion. To give just one projection to show this the report looked at the population growth by age from 2010 to 2040. The 0-4 year old group grows by 9%, the 5-19 age group decreases by 1% (underutilized school buildings in our future?), 20-39 increases by 17%, 40-64 increases 2% and the 65+ population increases by 165%.   Because of this reality the County Government is developing a Master Plan for the Aging Population.  Today is one of two community meetings to present the plans for the Master Plan.  Here is the information on the sessions:

    "Howard County Master Plan for the Aging Population, a comprehensive planning initiative to design the types of services, programs and facilities that will be needed to address the future needs of this growing segment of the County’s population. 
     The Master Plan will examine whether existing older adult services and senior centers will be 
adequate to support the increased demand for services. Also, due to the growing awareness of 
how aging is changing, the Master Plan will look at what services tomorrow’s older adults may 
need and want. The number of adults aged 65 and over is projected to more than double by 
     Two community meetings are scheduled for May 28 and June 3 to provide information about the planning process.

Wednesday, May 28 from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Miller Branch Library, 9421 Frederick Rd., Ellicott City, Md. 21042

Tuesday, June 3 from 7 to 8:30 p.m.
Bain Center, 5470 Ruth Keeton Way, Columbia, Md. 21044"


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Blog Party at Alexandra's

    Tomorrow night Howard County bloggers and blog readers will be meeting at Alexandra's at Turf Valley for our Spring blog party.  We have had one other blog party here and it is one of the best parties.  Here is the info on the party sent by Jessie:

    "Come on by to our next HoCoBlogs’ party on Wednesday, May 28th, from 5:30-7:30 pm. Each partyis a little different and this one coming up is perfect for the season. We’ll be at the outdoor patio for Alexandra’s Restaurant at Turf Valley, with a DJ, some complimentary hors d’houevres and happy-hour drink specials. Plus the good people at Shutterbooth will be bringing their rental photo booth for some fun photo opps.
      Mingle with fellow bloggers and many a blog reader, local politicians and foodies. Enjoy interesting conversation, tasty food and fun music at this party for HoCo bloggers and their readers. Alexandra’s Restaurant, the party’s co-host, was generous and awesome when we’re were their last and they’ve invited us back. Good news for wine — and bargain — lovers: Wednesday is also Alexandra’s Wine-down Wednesdays, half-price wine bottles night."

     Howard County trash and recycling schedule slides one day this week because of the Memorial Day holiday.


Monday, May 26, 2014

Outdoor dining in our area


     Sitting outside at one of our local restaurants this past weekend made me think it is a good day to remind everyone of some of the outdoor dining options we have in our area.  Nothing says summer like outdoor dining.  Here is the post from last year that had a list of outdoor dining mentioned by the Columbia Patch.


    Beautiful weather yesterday for an evening walk around Lake Elkhorn.


Sunday, May 25, 2014

Benefits of the "group" in PBS Nature show

    Readers of this blog know I am a big fan of the PBS show "Nature."   Last week's show on how animals "swarm" for survival had me thinking about its parallels with humans.  How and whether we should approach human problems in a collective manner is at the heart of many of our present day political debates.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Try some healthy "liquid gold"

     I can only image the marketing meeting for Velveeta cheese and they were trying to find some way to market probably one of the worst products you can put in your body.  Gold color, liquid product----let's put the two together.  I have also noticed that this marketing campaign seems to be directed to young men.  Probably mothers are too smart to be taken in with this campaign.  Here are the ingredients for Velveeta:
whey protein concentrate
sodium phosphate
milk protein concentrate
sodium citrate
apocarotenal (color)
annatto (color)
cheese culture

    I once had someone tell me the two products you will not want to eat after watching it made are hot dogs and Velveeta. But I have some good news for you if you want to make a healthy product that I guarantee you no one will know it is not Velveeta cheese.  The recipe is below.  I takes a little time to make but it keeps in the refrigerator for a long time.  Combine it with some chopped broccoli and add to a bakes potato or macaroni and indulge to your heart's content.

Real-Deal Nacho Cheeze

1/4 cup raw cashews
1 1/2 cups cold water
2 ounces pimientos (half of a 4 oz. jar)
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt
1 (4 ounce) can diced green chilies (optional but SO GOOD!)


Blend ingredients except for cashews

 Add cashews and blend for 1-2 minutes

 Done blending

 Heat and stir until thickened

 Add green chiles (if using)
Ready to serve! Tell me that doesn’t look like the real thing!?!


Friday, May 23, 2014

Biking the C&O Canal Trail

    This past week I finally got around to biking on the C&O Canal Trail along the Potomac River.  This trail is one of the longest bike trails in the United States.  Going 134.5 miles from Georgetown to Cumberland it provides bikers and hikers the opportunity to do a multi-day ride with a great shaded trail.

    The trail is easy to get to along the Clara Barton Parkway off the Capitol Beltway.  The exit is for Glen Echo just before going into Virginia.   I parked at the first parking area off the Parkway at Lock 7 shown above.   There are other parking areas at locks farther down the Parkway and at Fletcher's Boat House near Georgetown.

      Originally built to haul coal and other goods between Georgetown and Cumberland in the 1830's it was made obsolete by the B&O railroad just a few years after its completion.

 The effects of recent flooding of the Potomac can be seen below.

     The trail surface is hard dirt with gravel.  It is a good smooth surface for hybrid or off road bikes.  Road bikes could use the trail but it would not be ideal.

   You can combine a ride along the C&O trail with a ride on the Capitol Crescent Trail as it goes parallel for a short distance.

 From Lock 7 to Georgetown and back is about a 13.5 mile ride.

      It is easy to grab a sandwich at Gypsy Sallie's under the Whitehurst Freeway at the end of the bike trail and eat at one of the benches along the river.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Mr. Rouse's neighborhood on last weekend's Walk About

     Last Saturday's Columbia Archive's Walk About focused on Jim Rouse's world in Columbia in celebation of Rouse's 100th birthday this year.  This is part of the Archives year long celebration of this event.  I wanted to give you a sample of what was mentioned on the walk.

     Many of us have been aware of the Rouse house at 10450 Waterfowl Terrace on Wilde Lake with its distinctive yellow doors.  When Rouse originally painted the doors yellow he forgot to get the village architectural committee approval and he was notified of this fact by the committee.  An embarrassed Rouse apolitically wrote back to the committee showing his sense of humor that he was "red faced about not filling out the pink form to paint his doors yellow."   Originally built for Malcolm Sherman in the 1960's, Rouse bought it for under $100,000 in 1975.  It recently was sold to its latest owners for $650,000.

   It is not surprising that Rouse bought a house on the lake as growing up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland the water, fishing and hunting were boyhood memories he carried throughout his life.  Recently a bench was installed on Wilde Lake in his memory.

                      The view from the bench looks out at the back of his house across Wilde Lake.

   The Rouse Company used the townhouse shown above in the Cove for guests of the Company in the early days of Columbia's development.  It also served as a place to stay for entertainers performing at Merriweather Post Pavilion.  Tom Jones and Willie Nelson were just a couple of the performers who stayed here.  The Cove also was the residence of Oprah Winfry when she lived in Columbia.  Trivia fact for Oprah's stay in Columbia---her favorite meal--Chick-fil-a in the Columbia Mall.

    Wilde Lake was named for Frazar Wilde the CEO of Connecticut General who was a friend of Jim Rouse.  Connecticut General provided the financing for Columbia.  The dam above that created Wilde Lake has an interesting feature in the pouring of the dam walls.  As can be seen above the surface of the walls look like tree trunks.  This effect was created by using actual tree trunks in the forms used for pouring the concrete walls.  The tree trunks were removed when the concrete hardened.  The dam used to have lights on it and a fountain which created a visible feature when you drove by on Little Patuxent Parkway. 

  Want to know where the first Post Office in Columbia was located?  The picture above shows the stone building on Wilde Lake that housed the first Post Office.


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Trying out Google Glass

     I recently attended a conference where there was a Google exhibit and they offered me a chance to try out the Google Glass.  This latest offering from Google has created some controversy with privacy issues.  The controversy has focused on the ability of a user to take photos and videos of people without the other person's knowledge.  While this issue has also created controversy with smartphones the issue is more significant with Google Glass since it is very hard to determine when the wearer might be taking a photo.
    Google Glass is simply the latest advancement in computer technology from the early days when computers took up a whole room to this latest version small enough to wear on a pair of glasses.  With the pair I tried at the conference it seemed that you had to tap the glasses to turn on it's computer.  When on a small patch of a screen appeared in the upper right hand of your view.  While distracting at first it became less noticeable when you were talking with someone or focusing normally on what was directly in front of you.  The commands to operate the glasses were all verbal and limited to a few features on the glasses I tried.  An example was to command "Take photo" would activate the camera and a second command of "take photo" would actually take the photo.   The command "weather" brought up the weather for Washington D.C. where I was.  I assumed it has a built in GPS to identify my current location.
      It is probably still early to know if or how quickly this technology will catch on but I would assume that applications will be developed to popularize the glasses.  Who would have realized that the development of smartphones would have led to the development of apps.  I have to admit it was fun to try this technology and can't wait to see where this concept goes.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Whole Foods progress

     Driving by the Whole Foods store this week it is hard not to notice the progress on the renovation of the old Rouse Company building.  The job applicants for the store have been told to be ready to start in August which is slightly earlier the Fall 2014 date for which they had been shooting.

    Not far from the Whole Foods store the progress on the new bike path along Little Patuxent Parkway  to the Howard County General Hospital is progressing nicely.


Monday, May 19, 2014

Are we neglecting our boys?

      It is hard not to go a week without hearing about an effort to develop a new STEM program for girls.  Many groups seem to be focused on insuring that girls don't fall behind in the new digital world we are rapidly moving into.  This is a worthy effort that deserves attention and resources.  I am someone who feels that most of our institutions would be improved by increasing the number of women in those institutions.  But are these efforts directed at girls overlooking the real gender gap that seems to be growing wider every year?  Boys seem to be falling behind in educational achievement in significant ways.  Here are just a few:

    1) Almost 60% of entering college freshmen are girls
    2) 72% of girls entering high school will graduate compared to 65% of boys.  This is even worse for  African American boys with a graduation rate of 48%. 
    3)   70% of high school valedictorians are girls 
    4) Boys are twice as likely to have a learning disability as girls
    5) Boys are three times as likely to be diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder as girls
    6) Boys are twice as likely to be expelled from school as girls
    7) Boys are three times as likely to be arrested for drug abuse as girls
    8) The unemployment rate for male teens 16 to 19 is 4% higher for boys than girls
    9)  The suicide rate for teenage boys is 3 to 4 times greater than for girls.
   The theories for the causes of these differences are many and varied.  Many discuss the difference in maturity of girls and boys.  Girls do seem to show greater maturity and focus on achievement than boys at each age level.  Boys seem to have more difficulty achieving in a classroom that rewards quiet, focused attention.  Boys energy levels might be seen as being disruptive in the traditional classroom setting.  Boys may learn better in a hands on setting than in the didactic setting of a traditional classroom setting.  Some educators even advocate for single sex classrooms or schools.   Maybe schools structured by age should take gender into consideration also.  Boys and girls of the same age may not be at the same level educationally or maturity to learn at the same rate.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

CultureFEST at Miller Library Tomorrow Sunday May 18th

 From CA:
  " Culture Fest on North Africa & the Middle East on Sunday, May 18 at the Miller Library from 1:30 - 4:30 pm There will be Middle Eastern dance performances (belly dancing!) by Mianaja, Mhairi Basilah, and Bahiya, as well as a carpet-making demonstration, Persian instrumental music, country exhibits and foods to sample from the region. Fun for the whole family! Pick up a Cultural Passport and get stamps - then turn it in for a chance to win raffle prizes!"


Friday, May 16, 2014

Wine in the Woods

      Probably the biggest Columbia event of the year happens this weekend with the Wine in the Woods event in Symphony Woods.  This event sure beats going to Pimlico for the Preakness and not seeing the horse race. Plus you can sit under the trees at Symphony Woods and live stream the Preakness on your smartphone. This year the weather looks good for this event.  Purchase tickets to the event here.  Here is the list of wineries here this year.

The entertainment schedule looks like this:
Saturday, May 17, 2014
Purple Stage
Noon-1 PMJoker’s WildJazz/Swing Big Band
1:30-3 PMRisa BinderPop Rock with Country Soul
3:30-5:45 PMThe Reflex80s

Green Stage
11:30 AM-12:30 PMKristin CallahanJazz
1-2:30 PMAnthony “Swamp Dog” ClarkBlues
3-5:30 PMBad InfluenceChicago Blues/Roots/Rock
Sunday, May 18, 2014
Purple Stage
11:45 AM-12:45 PMUnified Jazz EnsembleJazz
1:15-2:45 PMOn the EdgeMotown
3:15-4:45 PMDamon Foreman & Blue FunkBlues and Rock Funk

Green Stage
11:30 AM-12:30 PMSecret SocietyJazz
1-2:30 PMIvy RoseAlternative/Pop/Rock
3-4:30 PMJah WorksReggae