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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Trump isn't the only one you should listen to on immigration


   Immigration has been introduced to our political discussions this year, mostly because of Donald Trump.  While most Trump supporters have a superficial understanding of the issue it would be good to hear a more rational and nuanced discussion of the issue.  Freakonomics has a discussion of the issue worth listening to even if it takes about an hour.  It provides some light to the discussion of a complex issue.  Here is that discussion.


Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Paying for the Columbia Flyer?

   If you live in Columbia and have always received your Columbia Flyer delivered free that is about to change.  You have probably received the mailing like the one above.  It looks like a bill but reading it indicates that the bill is voluntary.  Not sure how long the free deliveries will stay in place.  I have noticed that I have been getting a digital copy of the paper each Thursday by email.  It isn't surprising that the paper and delivery is not able to be sustained by the revenue streams they have.  I remember when their classifieds were much more extensive than they are now.  I used to buy classified ads in the past but haven't for many years now.  Craigslist and other online sources are what I use now.  The digital world that we live in has caused many papers to go out of business.  I would hate to see the Flyer go this way but most of the information in the Flyer is just a repeat of what I get in the Baltimore Sun's Howard edition.


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Stormwater runoff

   I know I have blogged before on storm water runoff but the heavy rain recently had me seeing how quickly soil can be washed off into our storm drains and then into our lakes.  Here are some pictures I took last week.  Homeowners seem to ignore how this impacts our lakes.  Below is the result.


   Fortunately we have a great solution to this problem.


Monday, December 28, 2015

East Columbia Library closing for renovations later this year


     Starting this July the East Columbia Library Branch will be closed for about 9 months for renovations.  Here is the information from the Library:

    " The East Columbia Branch will be completed in two phases, with demolition of the previous administrative office area already underway while the branch continues to be open. The next phase will involve closing the branch to the public (see below). The East Columbia Branch renovations will double the space for quiet study areas (3 rooms to 6), and triple the meeting room capacity. The new teen center (TeenUp!) will include a Teen Time Classroom, HiTech Classroom, Homework Club Classroom, and Student Design Center (dedicated space, complete with work counters and readily available project supplies where students can create and collaborate on assignments and projects). East Columbia’s lobby and entryway will be completely transformed, offering a new and welcoming experience for branch visitors. A design highlight will be a gathering area, replete with a focal piece of unique artwork, in the space currently occupied by the research desk.
Anticipated closing : July 2016 – Feb. 2017 (reopen March 2017)"

   Anticipate even tighter parking at Central Branch.


Friday, December 25, 2015

Eggnog French Toast

    Christmas morning tradition--Eggnog french toast with raspberries.  Nothing better to start the holiday morning.


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Star Wars vs. Downton Abbey


     While a good deal of the Country is now caught up in the frenzy for the new Star Wars movie another huge audience is counting down the days till the start of the final season of Downton Abbey. I really wonder if there is anyone who is a fan of both these events.  Somehow the audiences seem far apart.  But having said that the battle of good vs. evil is played out in the story lines of each one although from a different time period.  Who won't be disappointed to see the end of the battle between Thomas Barrow and Bates.

    For those who aren't familiar with the world of Downton Abbey here is an explanation.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

When is debating not really debating?


      Answer to the question posted in the subject line----when it is a Presidential "debate."  After listening to the debates of both parties this year we should label these exercises for what they are--"getting my talking points out no matter the question asked."   Ignore the question if your answer isn't what you want to address and give the answer you want.   Often the person asking the question doesn't follow up and make the candidate answer the question asked instead of their talking point.  Even worse is when the moderators stop the other candidates when they challenge the answer given.  Often that is the only time stupid answers are ever challenged.
       Having done debates in high school and college I know what a real debate looks like.  First, you better come prepared to back up your statements with facts that you can reference from a credible source.  Just saying something as a fact doesn't proven it just because you said it.  Donald Trump is the best example of this point.  Second, equally important in any debate, is being prepared to counter the arguments of your opponents.  Points scored in your counter arguments count as much as the points you score in making your own arguments.  This requires you to examine the weak points in your arguments and be prepared for your opponents counter arguments.  A technique that is useful in any debate preparation is to argue both sides argument to refine your points and counter points.  Lastly, a moderator isn't there to ask the questions but to moderate the back and forth between two debaters.  I realize this is difficult with the large number of candidates in these debates (especially with the Republicans) so let's just call them something else than a debate.

     Anyway, most people watch these debates to see how their candidate looks and reacts than what they have to say.


Monday, December 21, 2015

Beaver return to Lake Elkhorn

   There are no more interesting animals to inhabit our area than beavers.  Busy as a beaver is not just a saying.  The beaver shown below has taken up residence at one end of Lake Elkhorn.  I am not sure if this is a new beaver or just one that has relocated from the other end of the lake.

     Below is a picture of this beaver's den.

The beaver enters the den from underwater and then travels up into the higher portion of the den where it can breath air.  Below is a drawing of a den's struture.

    Before I noticed the den I had noticed the effects of a beaver dam on the stream leading into the lake.  What is usually a small stream that has just little flowing water in it is now full of standing water.  This is a sure sign of a dam.

     The area has the signs of the beaver chewing down small trees in the area.

    I found a couple of explanations for why beavers build dams.  Here are links to two.

     When I visited the Maryland Book Bank last week I learned that they had their laptop stolen.  This organization operates on a shoestring and provides thousands of books to children in our area.  If you happen to have a laptop you are not using and would like to donate it to this organization contact me and I will get it to them.  My email is at the top of the blog.


Sunday, December 20, 2015

Grottos Pizza moving closer to opening in Columbia

      I don't know if their is anyone following the opening of a Grotto's Pizza restaurant in Columbia than me.  I never fail to notice the renovation of the building space on Snowden River Parkway just before Brokenland.   Yesterday I noticed they finally put up a sign announcing their opening in early 2016.  No more waiting to go to Rehoboth for this pizza anymore.


Friday, December 18, 2015

Best "bacon" you will ever taste

      Portobello Mushroom Bacon

    OK-- now that I have your attention what is pictured above is a vegan BLT made with portobello mushrooms.  I have to say that it was one of the best all time sandwiches I have ever had.  I have never been a fan of bacon because even though it tastes good it has to be one of the most unhealthy foods you can eat.  I have learned from my vegan Daughter how good vegan food can taste if you know how to prepare it.

    The sliced mushrooms are marinated in a combination of liquid smoke and maple syrup and then baked in the oven.   For crispy strips put them under the broiler for just a minute (watch them closely so they don't burn).

     To keep the sandwich vegan use a vegan mayo by Hampton Creek sold at Giant. The taste of these strips is better than maple flavored bacon. For a burger you can just use the whole portobello mushroom cap.  You can also crumble the mushroom for using in place of bacon in any recipe.

     I also like to add a little balsamic vinegar reduction to my marinade for a little more bite to the mushrooms.

    My daughter's vegan brownies are also the best I have ever had.  Here is the recipe for those:

Chocolate Brownies photo
Ingredients for vegan brownies:
1 1/2 C. granulated sugar
3/4 C. unsweetened applesauce
2 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons ground flaxseed
1/2 C. water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/3 C. unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 C. unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 C semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 C. chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

1 Preheat oven to 350 F. With canola oil, grease an 8x8 baking pan.
2 In a medium bowl, stir together the sugar, applesauce, and 2 tablespoons water.
3 In a small bowl or food processor, combine the ground flaxseed with 1/2 water (until thick & frothy). Add this to the applesauce mixture, along with the vanilla and stir to combine.
4 In a separate bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, salt, chocolate chips and nuts (if using). Add to the applesauce mixture and stir just to combine.
5 Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 40 minutes. The finished product should be moist. Bake longer if you like a cakier result. Remove from oven and let cool before cutting.


Thursday, December 17, 2015

Remember the old downtown stores at Christmas?

      One of the things lost with the moving of department stores to suburban malls is the way the old downtown stores used to decorate for Christmas.  Above is the old Wanamakers store in Philadelphia.  Gimbals and Strawbridge and Clothiers were the other big department stores.

     I remember my Grandmother and Mother going to Philadelphia the day after Thanksgiving to Christmas shop.  As I got older I would go along and remember the smell of roasting chesnuts and soft pretzels sold by street vendors.

   Somehow sitting at a computer and ordering from Amazon just isn't the same.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The return of the Dixiecrats

    For those readers who are younger than 50 you will not remember the Southern Democrats of the US Congress in the 1950's and 60's.   These Dixiecrats were always opposed to any socially progressive legislation during this time in our history.  Civil rights legislation was always going to be filibustered when it was brought up in the Senate.
    The readers of this blog maybe surprised that I once was a Republican.  A liberal Republican.  In the 1960's and 70's liberal Republicans existed in substantial numbers.  In the Senate there were Senators like Mark Hatfield, Chuck Percy, Ed Brook, Mac Mathias, Jacob Javits, Bob Packwood and Hugh Scott who joined with liberal Democrat Senators to pass much of the progressive agenda of that era.   What changed that reality was the civil rights legislation of the 1960's promoted by a Democrat, Lyndon Johnson.   The progressive Republican Party of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and at that time Nelson Rockefeller was transformed when the Dixiecrats found a new home in the Republican Party. They not only joined the Republican Party but slowly their ideology pushed out the moderate and liberal Republicans.  Nixon's Southern Strategy was only one of the first one to take advantage of this transformation.  With this reality many liberal Republicans shifted to the Democrat Party (as I did) and conservatives followed the Dixiecrats to the Republican Party.  The culmination of this shift is what we see in the two parties today--parties divided along clear ideological lines.
      For those Republicans who are horrified to hear Donald Trump talk about preventing Muslims from entering the Country you are 45 years late in being disappointed in hearing this rhetoric from the leading candidate in your party.  The rhetoric we hear today came with the baggage you inherited when you welcomed the Dixiecrats into your party.  The Tea Party and today's Republican ideology is simply a throwback to the xenophobic ideology of the old Dixiecrats.  Muslims and immigrants have simply replaced African Americans as the target for their fears.  Donald Trump is just the reincarnation of George Wallace.
     So as I listened to the Republican candidates for President debate last night I couldn't help but think that "the chickens have come home to roost" for the choices the Republican Party made 45 years ago.  The bigotry (immigrants are rapists), fear (America is at war) and anger (take my Country back) that defined the Dixiecrats of the past has metastasized in the current Republican Party.  When these candidates talk about taking our Country back and restoring our Country to its past I can't help but think that the time they are talking about is when the Dixiecrats existed in the Democrat Party.  Testosterone fueled bravado seems like a poor substitute for a rational foreign policy that will leave our Country in a continue state of war and conflict.

    William Grieder of the Nation has this take on the battle in today's Republican Party.

P.S. 1
    This could have also been mentioned at the debate last night.  Obama got blamed for everything else. I guess he was still growing up in Kenya.


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Serial podcast returns minus Mail Chimp!


    Suddenly last week a new episode of the Serial podcast showed up on my ITunes podcast list.  I followed the Serial podcast last year and found the in depth look at one story, played out over a series of weeks, an enjoyable way to look at one story.  That podcast created a new form of journalism.
     This Serial podcast follows the story of Bowe Bergdahl who was captured by the Taliban 5 years ago and released earlier this year.  The question about why he left his platoon has had many theories.  In the podcast Bergdahl gives his own explanation.

     As the title of this podcast indicates this series doesn't have the Mail Chimp sponsorship.  With the number of downloads of the last Serial story being so successful I am sure they had many new sponsors wanting to sponsor the new series.  CVS apparently won out.

P.S. 1
    One way to get a Wikipedia page.

P.S. 2
   Update! Mail Chimp was back on episode 2.

Monday, December 14, 2015

New York City's High Line Trail

   There is never a bad time to walk along New York City's High Line.  This elevated linear park walkway was created from an old elevated train line on the West Side of New York.

Even as we approached Winter last week the plants made this a place to see the Winter color.

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And even the occasional flowers like the Asters below that grow into late Fall.

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   Even some of the more familiar NYC landmarks could be seen from the High Line.

Artist have used the sides of some of the buildings along the way for artwork.

   The development of housing along the High Line has led to some interesting architectural styles

   One of the more notable changes that is happening along the Line is the construction boom going on in this part of NYC's Chelsea area.  Many times a feature like a park, in this case a linear park, can have on housing and commercial development.  Many of the rental housing alone the Line advertised on their buildings the advantages of living near this park.

Restaurants like the one below are easy to access from the walkway.

At one end of the Line the walkway goes along the area of the train station.

The trains actually go under the walkway.


What visit to NYC would be complete with out trying a new pizza?  Here is a pic of the lemon smoked mozzarella pizza at Don Antonio's

P.S. 1
        Some photos of the plantings from Google images at other times of the year.

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