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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Clue 3 Columbia Cash

Cash attached to a tree of the same type as the one that was famous in Wye, Maryland before it was destroyed by lightening in 2002.


Saturday, August 30, 2014

Clue 2 for Columbia cash

Clue two:  70 adult strides from the bridge near a sign with the name of the Columbia elementary school that opened in 1968.

   See yesterday's blog for the first clue.


Friday, August 29, 2014

Find Columbia cash

    A couple of months ago a person stared leaving cash in various locations in San Francisco and then tweeting clues to the location.  The response was overwhelming and the person moved on to leaving cash in Los Angeles.   The person moved to New York and even Baltimore.  I doubted that Columbia would be a location for this type of search.  I sounded like fun so I thought "why don't I try it in Columbia."  I thought it might be a way to encourage folks to get out this nice holiday weekend and enjoy the weather.  I am not willing to put out a couple hundred of dollars as was the case in the above mentioned examples but I could probably start the fun with $40.

   Above  is the container you are looking for.  If you find it take a picture and email it to me at my email address listed above.  Tell me what you will use the money for.  I will also be tweeting clues to #hococonnect
    Here are the first clues.   The container is around the path of the lake that Jim Rouse's house is on. Head west from the bench honoring Jim Rouse.  The container is 4 feet above the ground attached to a tree.  Look all around the tree.  Next clues tomorrow.


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Highland Inn

     Just when it seems like we have tried every new chain restaurant in Columbia the urge to try something different comes along.   A Groupon coupon was just what was needed to try the Highland Inn.  Self described as "casual fine dining" and "using the freshest ingredients available and utilizing sustainable foods from local farmers whenever possible."  Most of the patrons the evening we were there seemed to be 50+. Even thought Highland is just around the corner from Maple Lawn and River Hill it still seems like a taste of Howard County past.

     I had thought that the restaurant was right at the intersection of Route 108 and 216 but it is located a little way North of Route 108 on Highland Road.  The renovated home offers a number of different styled rooms.  The room we were in had a horse country theme.

     Food wise it is hard to get out without a $100+ tab for 2 people.  This probably makes it a choice for an occasional splurge.   The lobster bacon mac and cheese appetizer shown above was definitely the hit of the night.

   The seafood chowder shown above was disappointing as it was overwhelmed with beans and little seafood flavor.

   My choice shown above was the Murrays Farm Chicken with asparagus, Chicken Fried Soft Boiled Egg, Roasted Potatoes and Chicken Jus.  Very good with the chicken flavorful and moist.

   My dining partner chose the Crispy Skin Ocean Trout, Spring Vegetable Ragout, Baby Carrots, English Pea Emulsion and 60 Degree Egg.   The egg was hard to describe as it was not exactly like a poached egg but not hard boiled.
    Overall an enjoyable evening in a relaxed atmosphere, attentive wait staff and good food.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Lessons from ice bucket campaign on use of social media

     The ALS Foundation hit a home run---no a grand slam-- with the campaign around the ice bucket challenge.  I use the word "campaign" loosely because this was started not by the Foundation but one individual who posted the challenge to Facebook.  As we have seen before when something goes viral on social media the results can far surpassing anything that can be done using more conventional means.  How many people knew there was an ALS Foundation a month ago?  Watch how the research dollars rapidly increase from many private and public sources in the future.  It now has the visibility that generates more support.   We have seen the same thing happen before with Alzheimers Disease, AIDS and breast cancer.
      So why are so few organizations using social media in an interactive manner more?   This question doesn't ignore the tentative uses that organizations use like Facebook and Twitter.  The problem is that most organizations only use these social media platforms in the same non interactive ways for which they have been using print media.   Developing a website or Facebook page that is as static as an organizational brochure is a shortsighted use of social media.  Tweeting only to inform people about upcoming or past events also doesn't qualify as interactive.  Social media is designed to be a two way communication to fully utilize its power.
     So why are organizations reluctant to use the powerful interactive capabilities of social media?  As I have blogged before it is their fear of losing control of the content.  Negative examples of the problematic use of social media are often repeated in the news.  Someone losing their job for an inappropriate Facebook post or tweet are things that do point out some dangers.  These examples are usually done by a young person who has grown up in a time when sharing information and comments to a wide, diverse audience is done causally.  The opposite seems to be the case with many organizational leaders who have grown up with a much different orientation to how online interactions should occur.  When their job is at risk they naturally become very conservative.  But like the old saying "nothing ventured, nothing gained" this conservative perspective can have some negative impacts on an organization in a time of changing organizational dynamics.
    So how do you better use the power of social media to maximize its power?   Just like the ALS challenge developed.  You reach out to supporters or users of your product or service and engage them by asking them to give you feedback.  Pose a question that you would like to start a dialogue.  Ask them to post the interaction on their social media.  The key in any engagement to ask for information and not to give information and then to LISTEN.   Don't be afraid of negative feedback as it often is more useful than positive praise.  Even outside critics can be useful in understanding the challenges your organization has to overcome.  Viewing an organization from the inside can often overestimate your strengths and underestimate your challenges.
     It is a new world out there today.  Those who embrace it thrive, those who resist it struggle.

     This Friday I have something I would like to try in Columbia for the Labor Day holiday to generate a little social media buzz.  Check back on Friday.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Transgender issues are more than a so-called "bathroom issue"

    In 2011 a transgender woman was attacked in a McDonalds in Rosedale.   The video of that attack went viral on You Tube.  The attack brought to the attention of legislators in Maryland that transgender individuals were in danger of attack as other populations had been attacked in the past.  That year the Howard County Council voted to make it illegal to discriminate against a transgender individual.  The Maryland Legislature this last session passed a bill to protect the rights of transgender persons in Maryland.  This law was challenged by Maryland Delegate Parrott, a Washington County delegate, who started a petition drive to repeal his self proclaimed "bathroom bill."   Fortunately this petition drive was unsuccessful in getting the signatures that it needed.  Delegate Parrott seemed to base his argument against this bill on the possibility that a transgender male would try to use a woman's bathroom.  I have blogged before on the transgender issue before and thought I would want to update some of the reasons why this is an important civil rights issue.
     Sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression.  For many these are new terms that make something complicated that once seemed so simple.  You were born male or female. You were attracted to persons of the opposite sex. Everything was so simple.  Now we are becoming aware how varied and fluid these matters can be.  Our gender identity and sexual orientation can be on a scale that goes from one extreme to another.  Unfortunately prejudice on matters of sex can make these differences more problematic then our other human differences.  Here are some definitions of the different terms:

"Gender Identity - How one sees oneself as a gendered being. Gender identity is one of our innermost concepts of self and is frequently described using terms like “male” or “female”--though this binary view of gender is troublesome, as it is often credited for much of the oppression experienced by the LGBT community. It is important to note that gender identity is what we perceive and call ourselves, though most people develop a gender identity that matches their birth-assigned sex. Others, however, experience their gender identity as different or separate from their birth-assigned sex. Gender identity may be fluid or not, depending on the individual and their experiences."

Gender Expression - Everything we do that communicates our sex/gender to others: clothing, hair styles, mannerisms, way of speaking, roles we take in interactions, etc. Gender expression is separate and distinct from both gender identity and sexual orientation, but it often leads people to make false assumptions about the gender identities and sexual orientations of others. Gender expression is a continuum, with feminine at one end and masculine at the other. In between are gender expressions that are androgynous (neither masculine nor feminine) and those that combine elements of the two (sometimes called gender bending). Gender expression can vary for an individual from day to day or in different situations, but most people can identify a range on the scale where they feel the most comfortable. Some people are comfortable with a wider range of gender expression than others. (Excerpt from Center for Gender Sanity:

In a report called "Injustice at Every Turn" by the Gay and Lesbian Task Force the impacts of gender discrimination are clearly shown. Here are some of the findings:

• Discrimination was pervasive throughout the entire sample, yet the combination of anti-transgender bias and persistent, structural racism was especially devastating. People of color in general are worse than white participants across the board, with African American transgender respondents faring far worse than all others in most areas examined.

• Respondents lived in extreme poverty. Our sample was nearly four times more likely to have a household income of less than $10,000/year compared to the general population.

• A staggering 41% of respondents reported attempting suicide compared to 1.6% of the general population,ii with rates rising for those who lost a job due to bias (55%), were harassed/bullied in

school (51%), had low household income, or were the victim of physical assault (61%) or sexual assault (64%).

Those who expressed a transgender identity or gender non-conformity while in grades K-12 reported alarming rates of harassment (78%), physical assault (35%) and sexual violence (12%); harassment was so severe that it led almost one-sixth (15%) to leave a school in K-12 settings or in higher education.

• Respondents who have been harassed and abused by teachers in K-12 settings showed dramatically worse health and other outcomes than those who did not experience such abuse. Peer harassment and abuse also had highly damaging effects.

• Widespread mistreatment at work: Ninety percent (90%) of those surveyed reported experiencing harassment, mistreatment or discrimination on the job or took actions like hiding who they are to avoid it.

• Forty-seven percent (47%) said they had experienced an adverse job outcome, such as being fired, not hired or denied a promotion because of being transgender or gender non-conforming. Double the rate of unemployment. Survey respondents experienced unemployment at twice the rate of the general population at the time of the survey, with rates for people of color up to four times the national unemployment rate.

• Over one-quarter (26%) reported that they had lost a job due to being transgender or gender non-conforming and 50% were harassed.

• Large majorities attempted to avoid discrimination by hiding their gender or gender transition (71%) or delaying their gender transition (57%).

• The vast majority (78%) of those who transitioned from one gender to the other reported that they felt more comfortable at work and their job performance improved, despite high levels of mistreatment.

• Overall, 16% said they had been compelled to work in the underground economy for income (such as doing sex work or selling drugs).

• Respondents who were currently unemployed experienced debilitating negative outcomes, including nearly double the rate of working in the underground economy (such as doing sex work or selling drugs), twice the homelessness, 85% more incarceration, and more negative health outcomes, such as more than double the

HIV infection rate and nearly double the rate of current drinking or drug misuse to cope with mistreatment, compared to those who were employed.

• Respondents who had lost a job due to bias also experienced ruinous consequences such as four times the rate of homelessness, 70% more current drinking or misuse of drugs to cope with mistreatment, 85% more incarceration, more than double the rate working in the underground economy, and more than double the HIV infection rate, compared to those who did not lose a job due to bias.

     Like so many things in life we as a society have to decide to accept that humans have many differences and not fall into the trap of shaming and discriminating against people who are different.

     I am reluctant to draw a comparison to the prejudice shown to an individual with a different gender identity but I have seen a small example of this in my own life.  I am ambidextrous.  When I try a new sport I find that either hand works just as well for me.  This came in handy when I played tennis or racquetball as I could switch hands and never use a backhand.  This advantage was seen as a problem when I was in school and teachers told me I had to write with one hand or the other.  I would use my left hand some days and my right hand other days.   Finally in third grade in a sign of defiance I started only using my left hand to write because my teacher wanted me to only use my right hand. That is why I write with my left hand today.

Monday, August 25, 2014

School schedules still set the rhythm of our lives


     Today another school year starts and the pace of life resumes normal activity levels after a summer slow down. I remember how complicated our lives were when the school calendar ruled our lives.  Summer vacations had to be planned between camp schedules, work schedules and fall sport practice schedules.  As our children aged this frequently meant that one or more of our children would be leaving our planned beach week to return to Columbia at different times during the week for the fore mentioned commitments.  I dreamed of the day when we would be free from the confines that the calendar with its arbitrary time schedules.  I also looked at the reduced price of beach houses in September and October and thought how much I could save by renting one of those weeks or the beach house I could afford if I could wait till those months.
    The past few years after our kids moved out we now longer were ruled by the school schedule.  Those beautiful October weeks at the beach became a wonderful luxury for our family.  We could rent those nice ocean block homes that were out of our price range in August.  The beaches were less crowded, especially during the week days.  Restaurants that had hour long waits in July and August were available with no waits.   The water was often warmer than in August.  The summer thunder storms that ended many of our summer days were infrequent in October.  The cooler air in the evenings meant beautiful walks along the beach with a light jacket.
     I am sad to say that this is the last of our October beach weeks.  Our grandchildren are now starting school and we find ourselves looking at a return to those August beach weeks next year.  The only advantage now is that we will be sharing the cost of those August prices with multiple families.  But somehow I will miss the more leisurely pace of October beach weeks as we once again return to the hot, sticky, crowded August times.  Once again the school schedule will rule our vacation calendar.

     I used to think that the school schedule impact only affected persons with children in school.  I now know that because someone will always have school age children we will never be free of its restrictions.  Ever try to schedule a meeting in July or August?  Work productivity during those months has to be greatly reduced.  Workers spend lots more time checking personal emails and checking Facebook.  To say nothing about returning workers spending their first day back recounting their wonderful vacations to their co-workers.

P.S. 1
    Remember when schools started after Labor Day?  Remember when Summer break was 3 months long? Now some schools start in the middle of August and Summer break is 8 or 9 weeks long.  Extra holiday breaks and teacher days seem to have added days to the school calendar.  If this continues in this direction maybe we will eventually get to that year around school that has been talked about for years.


Friday, August 22, 2014

Authority without "positive capital" is problematic

      The news of this past week has been focused on the disturbances in Ferguson, Missouri.  Opinions on the causes of the events are as varied as the number of different commentators reporting on the situation.  I make no claim to know or understand the reality of what happened in this situation.  But I think I do know how these situations develop and escalate.  It reminds me of one the best foster care conference presentations that I heard a number of years ago.  This presentation has also resonated with me in many non foster care relationships and I thought I would pass along its message.
      Good relationships require the "banking" of "positive capital."  Simply put relationships are only as productive as the number of positive, honest and open interactions experienced in the relationship.  Without this positive capital persons in positions of authority can only maintain their authority through coercion and retribution.  For foster parents this meant that listening to the issues of the foster children in your care and understanding their needs before defining rules was imperative.  Establishing trust, as difficult at that was, was essential to having a successful placement.  Telling the foster child house rules on day one was the first step in insuring a problematic placement.  House rules were important but only after that trust had been created.  It was a delicate balance but doable.  For many foster youth who had experienced the trauma of abuse building this trust was an especially difficult process and always an ongoing process.
       In watching the confrontations in Ferguson it seems clear that the relationship between the residents and the authorities had very little positive capital. It is very difficult to build capital once the conflicts occur. The comments and actions from both sides have a "we" versus "them" tone.  Let's hope that what has occurred in Missouri brings on a national discussion in communities on how this situation can be avoided by creating pre-conflict dialogue and creating positive capital.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Columbia Whole Foods: A first look

      Yesterday saw the long awaited opening of the Whole Foods store in Columbia.  The parking for store opening was like trying to park at the Mall in December or on any weekend night.

     The crowd was large and Whole Foods was ready to put on a show.

Vendors provided food before you even got into the door

Naturally the first area you encounter are the fresh fruits and vegetables

For those looking for a quick carry out lunch the counters were full of selections.  Not sure how the marinated lemons work.

Fresh hand made pasta of all types was available

For meat lovers the selection of beef, pork and chicken was plentiful.  Much of it was advertised as organic.

The seafood selection was extensive but on the high price side.

 What would an upscale market be without a large selection of vinegar and olive oils?

Bulk selection of grains were plentiful

For those who have not tried Whole Food selections of coffee you are in for a treat.  Almost as good as Bun Penny used to be.

Whole Foods is sure to be the choice for those looking to pick up a quick lunch with many choices available. 

How about a soda fountain with all types of drinks.

Never go by the pastry area on an empty stomach.

Again, you knew there would be a large selection of high end cheeses.

My personal choice for a favorite Whole Foods item is the Senor Fields salsa.  I have gone out of my way to visit the Whole Foods stores in Annapolis and Silver Spring to get this salsa.  A quart jar for $5 is a steal. 

Now for the cost disclaimer on the prices at Whole Foods or as it is mockingly called "whole check."  Cento San Marzano tomatoes are much cheaper at Costco.  This is the only type I use on my pizzas.

The lunch time entertainment at the Lake Front was nice.  

Seemed appropriate that all of yesterday's activities were close to the statues of Jim Rouse and his brother.  He would have enjoyed yesterday's development.

    I could eat pizza everyday.  Last week I posted a blog on the Chicago Pizza tour.  A couple of readers indicated they would be interested in visiting some of our local pizza establishments to explore which are the best.  If anyone might be interested in trying out some pizza, once in a while, around our area email at the address at the top of the blog.  Something like a Howard County Pizza Club.


Friday, August 15, 2014

Howard County pizza tour??

Last weekend while I was in Chicago for a relative's wedding I decided to do a tour of Chicago that would be a little different. The Chicago Pizza Tour sounded like the right combination of touring Chicago and sampling the regional pizzas at the same time.

    The Tour included four different pizza stops.

   This tour included both thin crust and the more traditional thick crust Chicago style pizza.

    The one shown above that used San Marzano tomatoes as its base was voted the best by the folks on our tour. The other thick crust pizzas were just OK.  I am not a big fan of a lot of meat on a pizza. I like pizzas that have just a good sauce (or just crushed tomatoes) and cheese.   Unfortunately they like pepperoni and sausage in Chicago.  That usually just left me with the veggie choice at each of the four stops.

The pepperoni and sausage pizza at Coal Fire was very good.

   My favorite was the garlic white pizza shown below with the whipped ricotta at Coal Fire. 

   That's right the Coal Fire Pizza that we have in Shipley's Grant in Ellicott City was the best one I had in Chicago.  I looked on the local menu but didn't see the whipped ricotta on their menu.  I went to Coal Fire Pizza soon after they opened and was disappointed in the pizza I had.  Maybe it is time for a return visit.
     This got me to thinking if I planned a Howard County Pizza tour which places would I include?  Here is my list:
1) Trattoria E Pizzeria Da Enrico
2) Bertucci's
3) Facci's
4) Tomato Palace
5) Roma's
6) Tino's Bistro

   So which places have I missed?  What are your favorites?

     Notice that I didn't include the regional favorite Ledo's.  Their sauce is much too sweet.  My all time favorite is still Grotto's and now that they have opened in Gambrills I don't have to travel to Delaware to eat their pizza.

   My new favorite at Grotto's is their Buffalo Chicken Pizza shown above.


   While waiting for the Pizza Tour to begin I went over to Chicago's Grant Park and found these interesting features.

Chicagoan's call this "the bean."

   This is the view from under the sculpture.

  I don't know what they call this head!

I thought it would be fun to look at some of the pre-season predictions for the American League East standings. Here is what I found:
AL East: 1. Red Sox, 2. Rays, 3. Yankees, 4. Orioles, 5. Blue Jays
AL East: 1. Rays, 2. Red Sox, 3. Yankees, 4. Blue Jays, 5. Orioles
AL East: 1. Red Sox, 2. Yankees, 3. Rays, 4. Orioles, 5. Blue Jays

Seems most predictions were based on the final standings of the previous year and not how teams are playing this year.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Government that works

   Remember when I posted a few weeks ago about a dangerous curve for users of a path maintained by Howard County Parks and Rec that is shown above?

Pedestrians and runners were at danger of being run over by bikers coming around the blind curve.

     I am happy to report that after a discussion with Neal Hollingshead with Howard County Government the picture below shows how this issue has been addressed. The brush that obscured the view coming around the corner has been corrected so that it is now safer for users of the trail.

   Other corner areas have also had brush cleared out to make them safer too.

       We too often hear complaints about government and their inaction.  I thought it was good to show that in Howard County you can get a response to an area of concern.  Kudos to our local government employees.


   It looks like the recent dry weather allowed the ground to absorb much of our 6" rainfall on Tuesday.  I had expected to see a lot more water damage along the trail on Wednesday.

    For the most part this damage was from previous storms this Spring.