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Sunday, January 31, 2016

Is it just me??

Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly waits to begin the Republican presidential candidate debate Thursday.

     Is it just me or did Megyn Kelly, during last weeks Republican debate, remind anyone else of Claire Underwood from House of Cards??  If Megyn Kelly is as tough as Claire Underwood I guess I know why Donald Trump opted out of the debate!

     Season 4 of House of Cards available March 4th.  Can't wait.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

I know where all the rodents have gone &*#%*!

     Is it me or does it seem that all the small rodents taken up residence inside since the snow storm??  We have something (squirrels??) chewing behind our built in bookcase.  The crawl space behind may be a safe place from the snow.  This morning a mole ran through our house.  I don't mind sharing our warmth for a little while but I do hope they don't expect to be permanent guests.
    Now where are those traps??

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Snow plow tracker site taken down

   The inaccuracy of the tracker site has forced the County to take the site down.  The size of the storm and the drifting has made the site unreliable for determining streets that are plowed.  The County hopes to have the cul-de-sacs plowed by end of tomorrow.  Here is the information on the tracker:


Due to a large number of calls and emails regarding the inaccuracy of the snow plow tracker service, I have decided to take down the service to eliminate further confusion. Howard County’s snow plow tracker, which has been used by the county for many years, is a service provided and maintained by a third-party vendor. Because of the severity of the storm, including high winds, drifting snow and an historic record snowfall, the service was not providing accurate information. Although we had contacted the vendor, we did not see an improvement. They advised us that they cannot guarantee the accuracy of the site because of the duration and severity of the storm. In order to avoid further confusion and misinformation moving forward, I believe it is best to discontinue this service.

Please be assured we use several processes and applications internally to manage our storm recovery and track streets that need to be cleared. We appreciate your patience and apologize for any inconvenience this service has caused.

A reminder that to report snow removal problems, call our Citizen Information Hotline at 410-313-2900."


Monday, January 25, 2016

Collapsed warehouse in Jessup

  This is the collapsed roof at the warehouse in the produce center at 175 and Route 1

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Sunday, January 24, 2016

Do a good deed today and get a reward

       If the snow plows come up your street give the person in a truck a treat of hot chocolate to show your appreciation for their work.  They might remember your cul-de-sac earlier next storm!!

Centennial Lake from the air


Saturday, January 23, 2016

Don't forget our feathered friends during the snow storm

    Our neighborhood birds are going to have a tough time with food the next few days.  I am sure they would appreciate some help from all of us.

    Pandas seem to be OK with the snow.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Help for the snow storm

    This weekend's storm is an inconvenience for most of us but it can be more serious for those who are physically unable to shovel snow.  Many elderly and disabled persons have special challenges with major snow storms.  If you know someone who is in this category it might be good to reach out to them this weekend to see if they are OK.  Here is the information on clearing snow from our sidewalks.

     "If a property owner has not removed the snow within 48 hours, you may want to contact the property owner and advise him or her of the County code. If you are unsure who owns a property, contact our Real Estate Services Division at 410-313-2330. If you have an exact address, they can look up the property owner and may be able to give you a contact name and number.
Another idea is to reach out and ask the property owner if he or she needs assistance. Although the property owner would like to comply with the law, many residents are physically unable to shovel snow and ice and are hesitant to request help from neighbors or friends. Your thoughtfulness can make a big difference to someone who might otherwise be unable to cope.

     Years ago as a Howard County employee I was brought in to man the phones in the County Emergency Response Center during a major snow storm.    Calls were varied but calls for people needing prescription refills and "when will my street be plowed" were the most numerous.  The pharmacies were heroic in trying to meet the need for medicine (especially Feldman's).   The biggest complainers on snow plowing were from residents who somehow thought their streets were being neglected. We often heard them say "for what I pay in taxes I should have my street plowed."  Fortunately we now have an easy way to see the street plows.  Here is the link.   And yes it may always seem that your street is the only one the plows haven't reached.  The real heroes in times like this are the County (and State) employees who are out there working hard to meet the needs of our County residents in difficult conditions like this weekend.  Government is often criticized as being unresponsive but we are fortunate to have some of the most dedicated elected officials and employees anywhere.
     I haven't yet seen a phone number posted for snow related needs but the County Police non emergency number is what is usually used.  That number is 410-313-2200.


Monday, January 18, 2016

Cycling is for more than the "jocks"

    First a confession.  I used to be one of those cycling jocks mentioned in the subject of this post.  A ride of less than 20 miles just wasn't worth the time to dress and get ready to bike.  Bike paths were for kids.  Somehow as I have grown older and slower (in many ways!) I have come to look at cycling as both a nice way to get a little exercise and sometimes just a way not to drive my car somewhere.
    As Howard County moves ahead in becoming a more bike friendly community a report from VanCity Buzz seems to me to be a way to measure our progress in achieving that goal.  Here is the report.


Friday, January 15, 2016

New breakfast place: The Corner Bakery

   Looking for a new breakfast place I recently tried the Corner Bakery Cafe in the new Metropolitan apartment building in Town Center.  Even though it was a rainy Thursday before Thanksgiving the Cafe seemed to be doing a good business. 

     I tried the Farmers Scrambler pictured above and it was very good.  With a drink you should plan on spending about $10 a person for breakfast.

Smoked Bacon & Cheddar Panini

   The panini sandwiches looked good also.

Chilled Berry Almond Swiss Oats

   For those looking for a healthy breakfast they offer oatmeal and fruit.

   However the Pecan Raisin Crisps were the stars of what they have to offer.  They are just in front of where you order.  Trust me if you eat one you will not be able to stop.  I forced myself to stop at 3 or I would have eaten the whole package for lunch.
    It is nice to have another breakfast place in Columbia and I will definitely return but my first go to place for breakfast will still be La Madeline.


Thursday, January 14, 2016

No way to operate a health care system

     So the Republican Congress finally passed a bill trying to dismantle the Affordable Health Care Act.  While the Act is far from perfect, as it has no public option or single payer system, it still is a beginning effort to address our dysfunctional health care system.  I was reminded of this dysfunction when I received a Go Fund Me appeal for the grandchild of someone with whom I graduated from school.  It seems that the child's parents had a health insurance coverage with a very high deductible that they couldn't pay.  This is the second Go Fund Me appeal I have received within the past year.  We are the only developed nation that places its citizens in this situation that they have to make this kind of appeal or declare bankruptcy.   Republicans say they stand for life but apparently not the estimated 45,000 Americans who died each year because they lack health insurance before the Affordable Health Care Act.  Americans who live in states with Republican Governors who refuse to expand Medicaid will have more deaths from the uninsured.
    It is hard to accept that Americans will have to continue to wait to have a health care system that produces better health outcomes at far lower costs as most other developed countries now have.  We will get there eventually but only with Republicans dragging their feet the whole way. We are still waiting to hear the Republican answer to this situation that doesn't just think that turning over more of our health care system to the insurers and providers will magically give us a better system then they are presently privately providing.

     So what are the Republicans and insurers afraid of with the public option?  Maybe its that a public option might be too popular and threaten their business.  A public option like a "Medicare for All" program would be the next big game changer and correct many of the problems with the current Obamacare program.  Of course that will have to wait for a Democrat landslide like 1964 that brought us the current Medicare program.

    Don't hold your breath for a Republican alternative to Obamacare ever being proposed.  Republicans are not into policy making for change except to roll back to a previous time. They never seem to have a policy that moves anything forward.  Not surprising that you never hear a Republican slogan "Take our Country forward."  For them yesterday is always better than a better tomorrow.

P.S. 2
    My apologies to those Republicans with real policy agendas (Libertarians?) but your party has let itself get hijacked.  


Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Is it possible to create an "age friendly" community in Howard County?

   A couple of weeks ago I blogged on the demographic changes that were reported in a report released by the County.  Here is a summary of that information:

  "In 2010, 10.12% of Howard County residents were aged 65 or
older. By 2025, this figure will rise to 17.49%. By 2035, it will reach 21.63%,
based on calculations using data from Maryland State Department of Planning
population projections. Not only will there be considerably greater numbers
of older adults, there will also be more older adults in sheer numbers with at
least one chronic health issue to address and, perhaps, the financial stress of
fixed-income living. Such a societal transformation will affect everyone living in
Howard County. Community leaders in all sectors must consider the changes
required to ensure that Howard County is prepared to meet the needs of this
growing population and the people who care for them."

    I probably don't have another topic on which I blog that has more relevance for me.  I spent most of my work years involved in addressing the needs of senior citizens in Howard County and developing programs to address those needs.  Getting attention for the needs of senior citizens wasn't always easy.  For many years seniors were seen as an inconsequential part of community.  Of course that was never said out loud but our community was more focused on the needs of young families who had been attracted to our new communities.  My own family fit within that group.  The needs of older persons were directed at seniors who were brought here by there children.  Often this was an older, frailer, and poorer group than the seniors we now see in our communities.
    What is creating the rapid growth in senior population is the aging of those adults who moved here to raise their children.  We are healthier, wealthier, more educated and more active than our cohorts who lived here 20 years ago.  The roots we have established in our communities are deeper and more permanent than seniors living here in the past.  Many may never utilize a senior center. Many will not move to a 55+ community.  Most likely we plan to live here the rest of their lives.  Howard County is home even if many of us spend some time in warmer climates part of the year.  Typically we Baby Boomers will hate to be thought of as "senior citizens" even as we reluctantly deal with the health challenges that we are beginning to experience.  Denial will give way to an acceptance that we are moving into a new phase of our life that will require some accommodations to aging.
     So how does the report define an age friendly community?  Here are some areas:

    1) Access to Service and Resource Information Older adults and their caregivers
must be able to find helpful services within their own communities. Especially
important are organizations skilled at guiding older adults through service
systems and making information such as eligibility criteria easy to understand.
    2) Basic Needs Age-friendly communities must offer a safety net to ensure that
no one goes hungry, is homeless or is subject to abuse or exploitation.
    3) Housing Age-friendly communities must offer housing that is affordable
and accessible for residents with disabilities, including those who use
wheelchairs. Home repair and modification services need to be readily
available for older homeowners and the community must include a
sufficient supply of housing with support services, such as assisted living,
for older adults who cannot live alone. Affordable housing for caregivers
and service providers is also a major concern.
    4) Zoning and Land Use Planning Many age-friendly community design concepts
are linked to the new urbanism, which emphasizes walkable, pedestrianfriendly
environments, public spaces that promote social connection, etc.,
attributes with obvious value for older adults. Aging advocates also suggest
zoning that permits accessory housing, such as added apartments or small
houses, to accommodate older family members.
     5) Transportation Age-friendly communities must offer multimodal transportation
options, including public transit that is convenient and affordable, paratransit
or door-to-door dispatched service and service provided by volunteers. An agefriendly
transit service includes lift- or ramp-equipped vehicles that comply with
Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility requirements.
     6) Health and Supportive Services In order to serve aging populations well,
communities must provide sufficient primary care practitioners; health
and supportive services for in-home care; preventative health programs for
screening, exercise and wellness; and innovative technology, particularly for
in-home health care.
     7) Culture and Lifelong Learning In age-friendly communities, lifelong learning
and cultural activities are affordable and accessible.
    8) Public Safety Police, fire and emergency responder personnel must be
trained in older adult issues and coordinate services with health care and
community organizations.
    9) Civic Engagement and Volunteer Opportunities Age-friendly communities offer
a wide range of meaningful volunteer opportunities, encouraging older adults including service on government advisory boards
and committees.
    10) Employment In age-friendly communities, employers provide employment
opportunities for older workers who wish to remain in the workforce and
support family caregivers with flexible work and leave policies

   When asked what would be important to them here is what seniors told the surveyors of the report:

     The report indicated that the need for more health services, transportation and minor home repair as the areas that are most inadequate in meeting seniors needs.  Educational and volunteering opportunities were the areas that were mentioned as being the most available to seniors.
      The word that was used frequently in the report was collaboration.  Indeed the success of making Howard County age friendly cannot be the work of any one entity but a shared responsibility.  In developing Columbia the Rouse Company had the advantage of one entity having the vision and means to solely develop our community.  With the effort to develop an age friendly community we will not be so lucky.  Collective leadership is much more difficult to achieve.

Finally the report had these observations for moving forward:

"• First, an undertaking of this magnitude requires systems-level change to achieve the desired outcomes in the community. 
• Second, community leaders will need flexibility to respond to environmental changes and opportunities, rather than adhering to a fixed, step-by-step action plan. 
• Third, the community must understand that the scope of the demographic shift now underway makes it essential to accelerate progress toward the larger goal of maintaining a high quality of life for all county residents across the lifespan."

     County Government is not the only entity in our community to recognize the growing boomer population.  Here is what the Columbia Association report stated.

     Link to new senior fitness center program started by Howard County Government.

     Seniors in Howard County have come together to create a supportive community with the development of the Village in Howard.

P.S. 3
     Looking for a fun sport designed for the 50+ crowd?  Try pickleball.


Monday, January 11, 2016

Dark side of the Moon

     Not much to blog on today.  NASA has given us some of the most "out of this world" images.  This is one of the best.  I could help but be amazed at the video taken by the NASA Deep Space Observatory showing the Moon passing in front of the Earth.  This also shows us the backside of the Moon that we never get to see from Earth.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Local business on Shark Tank tonight


     Local social entrepreneur who formed Hungry Harvest is on Shark Tank tonight.  This locally developed business sells produce that is still good but past the point that most grocery stores will sell it.  Blemishes and other imperfections cause stores to throw it out. Over one third of all food purchased by stores is thrown out.  I will certainly be looking to join this effort.

     Hungry Harvest got a deal from the sharks for twice what they were asking!


Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Missing in the road improvement for Route 29

    The picture above  shows some of the road work that has been going on in adding a lane to northbound Route 29.  The congestion on 29 at rush hour makes this addition lane something that commuters will appreciate.  However I have always wished that biking commuters could have been considered during this road improvement.  I doubt that anyone involved in the planning of this road improvement gave any consideration to the possibility of creating a bike path in the middle of the lanes.   Highway planning is simply car focused in the United States.  While we have seen a beginning awareness of the needs for cyclists in our community with bike lanes showing up on some of our roads right now the planning seems more for recreational cycling than commuting by bike.  While riding down the median grass area of Route 29 may not be the most scenic it would provide a safe way for cyclists to commute in our area.   The use of major roads like 29 and 175 that provide a great deal of our local transportation ways for car traffic maybe at some point cyclists needs need to be in the planning equation.

      As usual Europe is light years ahead of us in the recognition of cycling commuters.

Friday, January 1, 2016

New Year's Resolution

     Once again it is time to do the annual task of making a New Year's resolution.  Not everyone seems to use this opportunity to set a goal for personal growth but it has always provided me with a way to improve in one specific area each year.  My goals are not large in most years but I do take some satisfaction with improving in one specific area each year.
      So this year's resolution is to learn how to speed read.  Reading is one of the things I most enjoy to do.   I learned how to "skim read" in college but this time I want to want to increase the number of books I can read.  It is frustrating to have more books that I want to read than I have time.  Often I can't finish a book in the time I have for a book on reserve from the library.   I frequently have 2 or 3 books to read at the same time.  I will be using You Tube videos and other online sources to develop this skill.
     I am always amazed at how few people are readers.  One survey in 2003 had these results:

• One-third of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives.
• 42 percent of college graduates never read another book after college.
• 80 percent of U.S. families did not buy or read a book last year.
• 70 percent of U.S. adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years.
• 57 percent of new books are not read to completion.

    I am not sure of these figures but I am confident that with today's media distractions reading time has diminished once schooling ends.  

    Losing weight and exercising more always seem to be the most common resolutions and the most frequently broken.  Here is a list of the top ones

P.S. 1
    Yesterday's winter sun and clouds stopped me on a drive home and I tried to capture some photos of the lighting with my smartphone.