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Monday, February 29, 2016

Leaping into blogging

     Happy Leap Day!  Howard County has had one of the most active blogging communities thanks in large part to HoCo Blogs website.  Bloggers get exposure through this website that would be hard to achieve without this site.  As I approach my 5th year of blogging I have noticed that many of the bloggers that I follow have started blogging less frequently.  I know that things tend to run in cycles and blogging maybe something that has run its course for bloggers who have blogged for a few years.  I know sometimes I wonder how long I would actively blog but it always seems that I hear about something that brings me back to blogging.
     I have always been an anomaly among bloggers in that I don't have a singular focus for my blog. Anyone who has followed this blog knows that I jump around on topics more than almost all other bloggers.  Whatever I learn about this community can become a topic for the blog.  I have of course alienated some readers with my political posts who feel I should stay away from political posts.  I have tried to limit my political posts to those topics of which I feel strongly.  I have strong political beliefs on most topics but generally I stay on the topic of universal health coverage and issues of equality.   Both issues have relevance for today's political discourse.
    Finally I have found that blogging is something I do for myself as much as for sharing information with the community.  It keeps me engaged with the community and leads me to meet a large group of community members that I would not have met if I didn't blog.  I don't know how long I will continue to blog but it has become a habit that will be hard to brake.  And that is not a bad thing.

     Blog party tonight at Nalley Fresh in Dobbin Center.  Here is the registration information.  Who can turn down free food!  Columbia always seems to attract cutting edge retailers.

    In 1582 Pope Gregory created the Gregorian calendar to fix the calendar that had a 10 day error because the Earth's rotation around the Sun is not exactly 365 days but is 365 and 1/4 days.  To keep the calendar accurate the Pope created an extra day every 4 years.  Well not exactly since the rotation is not exactly 365 and 1/4th days.  This inaccuracy is solved by not having a leap day every 100 years (1700, 1800, 1900) except in a year that is dividable by 400.  So using this rule we had a leap day back in 2000.


Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Want to attract blue birds to your home?

       Ellen Blackwell will be hosting a virtual meeting tomorrow Thursday, February 25 at 7 PM on how to help Howard County’s bluebird population.
     Here is the information she sent me:

     "Last year, the state reported a more than 60 percent decrease in bluebird nesting activity. Bluebirds can thrive in rural, suburban, and urban areas of our community. Males start scouting for boxes in March (I have a pair that has already claimed a box) so now is the time. Providing a home for bluebirds assists a species that needs our assistance. If you put some time, effort, and minor expense into putting up a bluebird box and monitoring it properly - you and the bluebirds will experience mutual happiness and satisfaction for many years. Bluebirds beautify and delight others in our community. Please send an e-mail to and I will provide you with the PowerPoint and other materials and resources. If you cannot call in, I am happy to furnish and answer questions about the materials. The presentation will be followed by a question and answer session. I hope you will tune in and soon be enjoying the joy of bluebirds! Thursday, February 25 at 7 o’clock PM. Call (877) 267-1577, enter code 995 565 981, then immediately press the # sign."


Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Today's athletic footwear????

     Remember when these were the choice for athletic footwear?  One style for all at a reasonable price.  Fashion was certainly not an issue when choosing these shoes.  Those are the old days.  Now I have noticed, especially with women's brands, that color and fashion have definitely arrived in a big way.

   These are the shoes of today!  What once would have only made sense on a circus clown now seem to have captured a good deal of the athletic footwear market.

     Even the soles of the shoes that no one really sees have to have the color of the rest of the shoe.

     How about a "split-toe" shoe?  I have never met a woman with a hooved foot that needed a shoe like this.

   Need more spring in your step?  Maybe these will help.

   Are you a runner at night?  These might work.

  And finally for those who want the minimalist shoe that comes closes to running barefoot.

Monday, February 22, 2016

So what did YOU do at work today?

     So last week I noticed a lot of activity on Lake Elkhorn and a number of people sliding along on the frozen lake.  Being nosy I decided to see what was going on in the above picture.  I figured that it was a training exercise that the Howard County Fire and Rescue people were doing.  

     I was right that it was a training exercise on how to rescue someone who had fallen through the ice.  It made me cold just watching them.  But it also made me think first of all how dedicated you have to be to have a job like this and second that they probably had an interesting answer when their spouse asked them how their day went.


Saturday, February 20, 2016

Weekend music

    I am not much of a Country and Western fan but Willie Nelson is someone I do like.

     The only President to ever visit Merriweather Post Pavilion came to hear Willie.  Can you guess who that was?

Friday, February 19, 2016

County Executive's State of the County Address live streamed


       The use of live streaming by County Executive Kittleman is a great way for receiving information on Howard County issues.  Here is the link to his address yesterday.


Thursday, February 18, 2016

School 2016 returns to school B.C.?

   I recently had an opportunity to spend some time in a classroom of 1st graders and was pleased to see how far we have come in our methods to teach students.  Many of us have a memory of our school days as shown in the picture below.

   You may not have noticed the holes for bottles of ink in the desks shown above.  I remember desks with these ink wells.  Hard to imagine that they existed only 50 years ago.
     Passive learning with a teacher talking in front of 25 to 30 students was the norm.  The only active interaction a student had was when the teacher would call on you for an answer.  For me it led to being a student who often daydreamed.  Paying attention was a problem that many of us had.
    This form of education was surprising given that over 2000 years ago the philosopher Socrates developed a teaching model that emphasized the teachers asking questions of their students than giving out information.  Critical thinking rather than passively taking in information was stressed.  Where did we move so far from this model?

    What I saw last week was students interacted with each other to learn more than interacting with a teacher.  The role of the teacher was more of a facilitator than a lecturer.  Students moved from station to station frequently before boredom set in.  The transition seemed flawless as one station dealt with math and the next one would deal with reading.  I think this is especially importance for boys who may not advance as well as girls with passive learning.  Attention spans of today's digital kids will hopefully be recognized by schools moving forward.

    Leaning often took place by playing a game.

     The students interacted with different classmates regularly.  A student better at math would play a different role in that workstation than they might in a different station.  I saw better students directly helping a slower student.  Maybe learning from a fellow student is better than from an adult teacher.
     I don't want want to diminish the importance of the teacher in this new model.  They played an important role in the classroom but it was closer to the Socratic model than the old lecturing model.  The teacher's role was supplemented by a number of parent volunteers who worked with the students in the workstations where the teacher wasn't.  You could tell they had been trained to ask questions of the students rather than give our answers.
      This video has gone viral so you may have already seen it but if you haven't here is one Maryland crustacean's response to being someone's dinner.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

First photos from newly opened Columbia Grottos

     I stopped by the newly opened Grottos in Columbia and was impressed with the way the new restaurant is laid out.  Lots of rooms and big screen TVs.

   I stopped in just before the official opening at 11 am.

     In addition to the great pizza they have some of the best gelotto anywhere.

   They have a couple of places that can be divided for groups.  They are located in the Minstrel Crossing shopping center off of Snowden River Parkway.  Heading east on the parkway turn right on Minstrel Way.


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Black and white Lake Elkhorn

      Last March I did a post on Lake Elkhorn in the snow.  Yesterday seemed like a good time for a return visit. 
     I used to do a lot of black and white photography years ago.  Today you can't really buy black and white film.  Fortunately with our software today and digital photography we can turn our photos to black and white. 

   The tree below at Lake Elkhorn is a favorite of mine.  I have photographed it in different seasons

   Like the other photo above the way this tree bends in a sweeping manner makes it another favorite of mine in different seasons.

   With the sameness of the black and white is was nice to see a little color with a runner.


    Seeing this blue bird on Sunday was a treat while I was out looking for an eagle.


Monday, February 15, 2016

Grottos Columbia opens Tuesday

Grottos in Columbia on Minstrel Way opens this Tuesday at 11 am.


    This might be a soft opening as I have not seen any advertising of the opening.  They have posted a sign on the door of this opening.  Grottos usually does a soft opening a week or so before their grand opening,


Saturday, February 13, 2016

Feeling sorry for these this weekend

     Maybe the old phrase "the early bird gets the worm" doesn't apply to flowers.  I hope these early daffodils in our yard survive the cold this weekend.  At least they are a sign that March is just around the corner.

Friday, February 12, 2016

New Meetup group for active Howard Countians over 50

    One sign that growing older in Howard doesn't mean an inactive life of bingo at the senior center is the new group that has been recently setup.  The group is called Fit-Fun and Over 50.  This new group is picking up the folks who have been in an old Meetup group.  Even though this is a new group it has a number of activities each week.   Above is a picture of the group that went hiking on a windy and cold day yesterday at the Middle Patuxent Environmental Area near Clarksville.

    Some of the activities listed are bowling, hiking, kayaking and ice skating.


Thursday, February 11, 2016

Could tiny homes ever come to Howard County?

      Recently I came across another story about the tiny home movement that is gaining momentum around the United States and the World.  Homes like the one pictured above seem to adequately meet the needs of more and more people.  The idea of a "McMansion" just seems so ostentatious to more and more people.
     I am not sure where this trend fits into the future for Howard County.  The McMansions seem to have a stronghold on new construction here.  Are the construction costs and opportunity for developer profits too attractive to ever see tiny homes in our County?  Have you seen any housing being built these days for under $500,000?  The days of Ryland and Ryan building starter homes of 1500 square feet seem long gone.  This maybe one reason why we seem to have trouble keeping young people who grew up in Howard County but now find they are priced out of much of the housing in the County as they begin their careers.  Many find more affordable housing just over the Howard County lines.
     So I am not sure if this type of housing would ever be viable in Howard County but I would like to see land somewhere in Howard County where a tiny home community could be established.  Maybe marketed to singles and retired people.  Dream on, dream on!


   Along the same lines I wonder if the Granny Flat concept would ever catch on here.  From what I understand granny flats could be constructed in Howard County.  Zoning laws apparently don't outlaw them outright.  I wonder if any have ever been constructed in Howard County.


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Homeless in Howard County?

   It is becoming increasing common in Columbia to see people panhandling.  What used to only be a sight in Baltimore City has long since moved to suburban communities such as Columbia.  Most of us non panhandlers are unsure how to respond to the panhandlers showing up at our local shopping centers.  Surprisingly many of the panhandlers we see locally are women and often young.  Not exactly what you see in Baltimore.  The young man shown above uses a dog with a bandanna around his head to motivate the animal lovers to give.  We may not be as concerned about the motives of the young man but how could we overlook a dog?

   So the questions of giving to any of the panhandlers are they homeless and do they use the money given to feed an addiction?  According to a U. S. Department of Justice study " most panhandlers have places to live, and most homeless people do not panhandle."  
        But what about a truly needy panhandler?  “Every study around says that cash handouts don’t help, says Linda Kaufman, Field Organizer of 100,000 Homes. A better way of responding to this issue in Howard County is to give a donation to Grassroots or Bridges to Housing Stability rather than giving to our local panhandlers.


Saturday, February 6, 2016

One drug commercial I would like to see


       Many of us boomers are saturated with commercials asking us to "ask your doctor about .........  drug."    The side effects of these medications makes one wonder if the condition they suffer is worse than the side effects of the proposed medication.   The United States is one of only two countries that even allows the advertising of prescription drugs.  Never doubt the power of the American drug companies.
     Here is one commercial you will probably never see but might be a better health choice.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Pictures of Snow Storm Jonas in HoCo


   The storm of the past week will soon be forgotten as the warmer temps this week melts much of the snow from this historic storm.  A photo story was created by Seth Hoffman at Howard County Recreation and Parks  

Monday, February 1, 2016

Case for Maryland being the first state primary


       As we wait tonight to hear how the caucus vote goes in Iowa after the candidates have been spending thousands of hours of campaigning in that state it always brings up a question.  How did Iowa get to be first for picking a president?  A state that doesn't come close to representing the Country as a whole.  A state that chose Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee in its last two caucuses.   A state that is 97% white and mostly rural where supporting the production of ethanol seems to be the major economic issue.
    I know that some of the rationale for having Iowa and New Hampshire as the first two tests for candidates running for president is that they are small states that force candidates to meet the voters on a one to one basis and not rely on political ads in choosing a candidate.  So I get that you might not want to have the first tests in California or New York but how about Maryland? With just around 6 million population we rank around the middle of the pack in state population or about twice what Iowa has.  We are a manageable size state geographically coming in 42nd on geographic size or 16 places smaller than Iowa.  We have a nice mix of urban, suburban and rural sections.  Racially we are a better representation of the Country with about 25% African American, 4.5% Asian and 4.0 Hispanic.  We also have milder climate (this past week the exception) than either Iowa or New Hampshire in which to campaign in January.  I haven't even got to the better restaurant choices in our State!  In Iowa fine dining involves anything you can put on a stick.  I'll take blue crabs and Smith Island cake any day.
      OK so I will get to why Maryland will never be allowed to replace Iowa or New Hampshire.   We are seen as a deep blue state with a lot of federal employees. What maybe lost is that a fair number of those employees are military personnel and not liberal bureaucrats.  Heaven forbid that having a highly educated population with an intimate knowledge of government should ever been seen as a positive quality.  On the question of being too "blue" in our voting pattern I would point to the fact that two of the last three governors have been Republican and liberal Howard County has two of our last four county executives as Republicans.   Having Republican candidates run in Maryland would probably be a boon to the more moderate candidates than you get in Iowa and that might be more beneficial to the Republicans than what we have seen lately.
      So I will sit back tonight and enjoy the circus that the Iowa caucuses have become and wait again to see Maryland discounted as a place in which candidates should ever step foot except to raise campaign money.  The only consolation we have is that once one of them is elected president we are always a convenient place to visit to highlight one of their programs because we are close enough to DC that they can visit and still be home for dinner.

   Maryland should be an interesting test in the Democrat primary this year as my sense is that we are an even split between Clinton and Sanders.  Our former governor doesn't seem to be getting much love from his former constituents.

P.S. 1
     Another question is how is South Carolina the 3rd state to vote?  If you want to get a real test of the new South voters it would make more sense to have North Carolina be that test for candidates.