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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Smithsonian Folklife Festival


   With the Fourth of July approaching it is once again time for the Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the Washington Mall.   Every year the Folklife Festival highlights one country and one state.  This year the Basque region of Spain and the state of California are highlighted.

    The Basque region of Spain has been know for civil unrest as the Basque people have a strong nationalistic movement for separation from Spain.
    If you go to the Festival and think that the beaches and scenery of California will be highlighted you would be wrong.  No Beach Boy music this year.  The California highlighted will be as described on the website:
    "....... artists who contribute to the soundscapes of California, who demonstrate the social power of music and cultural heritage. While rooted in the terrain of their communities, these artists work across borders—in many senses. They sustain traditions to bridge distant homelands to their present homes. They remix traditions to forge new variations and collaborations. They deploy traditions to engage and invite others to action."

   The diversity of California will be featured in a presentation highlighting the WPA California Folk Music Project back in the Depression.  The WPA developed many public works projects but also employed a number of musicians, artists and writers.

   Probably the best know of these artists was photographer Dorthea Lange photo for the Farm Security Administration called Migrant Mother.  As Lange described the photo:

   "I saw and approached the hungry and desperate mother, as if drawn by a magnet. I do not remember how I explained my presence or my camera to her, but I do remember she asked me no questions. I made five exposures, working closer and closer from the same direction. I did not ask her name or her history. She told me her age, that she was thirty-two. She said that they had been living on frozen vegetables from the surrounding fields, and birds that the children killed. She had just sold the tires from her car to buy food. There she sat in that lean- to tent with her children huddled around her, and seemed to know that my pictures might help her, and so she helped me. There was a sort of equality about it."

    Interestingly you can get a reproduction of this photo from the original negative from the Library of Congress as she was a federal employee at the time she took this and the negative is owned by the Government.  I have a print from this negative.   Notice the small child on her lap with its face partly hidden.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

England vs. Europe explained by dining habits

     The recent UK vote on leaving the European Union reminded me of the real cultural differences between the European countries and England.  No where is this difference seen more than in the differences when it comes to meals.  When traveling through Europe breakfast is like what is pictured above.  Fruit, yogurt and a croissant.  I remember the steaming milk that frequently replaced my usual morning coffee.
     Arriving in England after a couple of weeks in Europe brought back the breakfast with which we Americans were familiar.  Pancakes, fried potatoes, eggs and bacon.  Yes, much of what we consider American is really English.  American culture has deep roots from England.  Our language isn't the only thing we got from England.
      Even more than the food influences is the meal times we share with England.  American visitors to Europe have a hard time adjusting to the European meal times.  Who ever heard of lunch at 2 pm and dinner starting at 8 pm?  In Italy many employees go home for a late lunch which creates lunch time traffic jams.  England has what we would consider normal meal times and no one goes home for lunch.
      England and the Continent may only be separated by a narrow Channel but as customs go the Channel is as wide as an ocean.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Storm damage in Howard County

    Yesterday I had a chance to travel on Tridelphia Road in western Howard County to see the damage that Tuesday's storm caused.

     As tornadoes go this was a small EF-0 storm with winds of up to 80 miles an hour.  Nothing like the 200+ winds of Midwestern tornadoes.

   Much of the damage seemed to be mostly Pine trees whose branches are more likely to break in a storm.  We see this type of damage in the winter with heavy snows or ice storms.

   The pine trees shown above were cut down by BG&E after they had taken down power lines in this area.  The work crews had just repaired the downed lines.

  It was not hard to find homes like those pictured above and below that had damage to roofs that now had blue tarps covering the damaged areas.


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Story of new development in Columbia's Town Center

    If you have been in Town Center of Columbia this year you have noticed the building boom going on right now. Last week I had a chance to learn more about this development on a Columbia Association sponsored tour with Ned Tillman.

   We started out on the newly paved path from Lake Kittaqundi to Symphony Woods

   One of the most amazing aspect of Columbia is the woods and greenery that is still part of our "downtown."

   Most of use remember when you could come into Columbia over this old bridge now abandoned.  Who knew the name of the bridge was the Push Pin bridge.

   We have all watched this office building going up so quickly on the corner of Brokenland Parkway and Rouse Parkway in Town Center.  The building will be the new headquarters for Medstar.  It is the first building of the Crescent Office Park that will transform downtown Columbia in the next few years.

    Over on the other side of Town Center the new 9 story condo building is going up where the old Magic Pan and movie theater used to be.  

     The Wilde Lake Village Center is now the site of a new housing to be opened later this year.

     Along with the housing and office development the Symphony Woods will be transformed with the development pictured above of the Chrysalis which will bring people to Symphony Woods for local productions.

     The Merriweather Post Pavilion is in for a large makeover with a new stage area shown below

    Ian Kennedy the Executive Director of the Downtown Columbia Arts and Cultural Commission talked about the developments with the Pavilion. 

     Greg Fritchitt from Howard Hughes talked to the group about the development of the Crescent Park development that is just beginning.  Soon the buildings will start to go up on the parking area for the Pavilion.  The new parking for the Pavilion will be new multilevel parking garages.

 Moving over to the Columbia Mall area new residential buildings are beginning to go up next to the Metropolitan Building that is already open with new residents moving in each week.

 The new business in the first floor of the Metropolitan building have brought a cosmopolitan feel to the area.

     With the new storm water runoff requirements approved in Maryland in 2007 new developments going up in Town Center have to use new methods to have storm water channeled back into the ground and not running off into the storm system used by development that was built before 2007.

  Pictured above is one way that runoff from a building is channeled into a rain garden.

  Pictured above is a rain garden in a new section of the Mall opened in the past couple of years.

   Pictured above is how storm runoff is channeled the pre 2007 way with runoff flowing down a sidewalk and then creating a trench down the hill to a storm drain along Rouse Parkway.   One of the challenges we have today is how to provide incentives to owners of pre 2007 buildings and parking lots to refit their storm water management systems.


Saturday, June 18, 2016

Friday, June 17, 2016

The sky is literally falling!

    We all know that our chances of dying from being hit by a meteorite, asteroid or comet is 1 in 1,600,000.  I am actually surprised it is that high as I don't ever remember reading about anyone being killed by a meteorite.   We should all be more concerned about dying in a car accident which has odds of 1 in 90.  Most of us can remember someone who has died in a car accident.
    For one resident of Savage here in Howard County his chances became a little too close as he found five pieces of a meteorite embedded in his driveway.  One of them is pictured above.  He noticed them but wasn't sure what they were until his son said he should see if they were magnetic.  To his surprise the rock is magnetic.  While this is not an absolute proof that it is a meteorite it makes it very likely by the way it was embedded in the driveway at an angle.


Thursday, June 16, 2016

More Summer reads

   I am not sure why Summer seems like a better time to read than the rest of the year but maybe it is the opportunity to read leisurely on vacation.   While most vacation reads are fiction books I have always looked for non fiction.  Earlier this week I recommended one Summer read and today I can recommend another book.
    The book is "American Nations: A History of the Eleven Regional Cultures of North America."  We see the political and cultural differences being played out in our Country on a daily basis.  If you think these differences are new you are wrong.  Most of our differences go back to the early settlers of our Country.  The English settled both New England and the South but why they came to our Country was very different.   The English that settled the Deep South came from the Caribbean and were slave holders and came from an autocratic culture.  The English that came to New England were mostly religious settlers like the Puritans that held strict religious codes that stressed individual rights (at least for white men).
     The middle states like Maryland were caught between the two cultures as was shown when Maryland had soldiers fighting for both the North and South in the Civil War.  The Eastern Shore, Southern Maryland and Baltimore were Confederate strongholds and the Western Maryland soldiers fought for the Union.  Maryland also had strong religious influences from Catholics, Amish and Quakers that had pacifist leanings.  The Ellicott family for whom Ellicott City is named were Quakers from the Philadelphia area.
    Most of western United States is referred to as "El Norte" as being a nation of mostly Spanish settled states that belonged to Mexico until after the Mexican-American War in 1848.  This area of the U.S. has a rapidly growing Hispanic population and turning many of the states in this area from conservative Republican to "purple" swing states that could eventually turn "blue" in voting in the coming years.  This is especially happening in Colorado, Nevada and Arizona.  Even Texas is moving in this direction.
    The West Coast of the U.S. is also listed as its own "nation" for its diverse liberal leaning populations in California, Oregon and Washington State.  The diversity and openness to new ideas of this region is the prime reason for its liberal political leanings.
    I have only covered some of the 11 nations identified in the book.  For a good description of the 11 nations here is a good link.  Understanding the differences in who settled each of these regions helps explain the political differences we see in our current electorate.  With today's frequent migration of citizens these regional differences may change dramatically in the future.

     I have deliberately held back in this blog to frequently commenting about this crazy Presidential season.   There is one aspect of the campaigns that I want to throw out there.   I can't help but think that Trump is "punking" the Republicans.  Not sure what I mean by "punking?" The Urban Dictionary defines punking as "ripping you off, teasing or tricking you."   Here is how I came to that conclusion.   Trump by his past statements (some of which are very recent) come off as a moderate Republican/Democrat aligned with the traditional Republican business class.  Generally conservative on fiscal issues but willing to be moderate to liberal on most social issues.  The guiding principle seems to be what is good for my business is good politically.  Trump has shown this by giving to both political parties to stay in the good graces of whomever is elected.
      So following this train of thought Trump like many other moderate businessman have grown concerned about where the Tea Party has taken the Republican Party in a very conservative direction.  The influence of the more moderate business wing of the Republican Party has been greatly lessened as more moderate Republicans are afraid of being "primaried" out of office.  I don't think it is unreasonable to think that Trump entered the primaries and took the extreme positions of the Tea Party to insure that only a very conservative candidate would get the nomination and hurt the Republican Party in the general election.  He would say publicly what many Republicans would only say privately.   Romney knew enough to only refer to the "47% of takers" in a private meeting.  Trump will say those kind of things publicly.
      The true test of my theory will be if Trump doesn't moderate his tone as we move to the general election.  Any serious candidate of either party moderates their views from the primaries to the general election in recognition of the broader electorate in a general election.  So far Trump seems to be following my theory by doubling down on his extreme positions and trying to alienate as many people as possible.  By suffering a significant election loss in November the Republican Party will have to address how to move away from the Tea Party supporters and move back to the more traditional business friendly segment of the Republican Party.  With that Trump will have succeeded in "punking" the Republican Party.  Just a theory so watch how this plays out.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Leola Dorsey Community Resource Center

   Last week I attended the groundbreaking for the Leola Dorsey Community Resource Center in Jessup.  This facility will provide housing and a community resource center for homeless individuals in Howard County.   It's location near Route 1 will be just down the road from the present Day Resource Center that has been serving the homeless population for the past few years in a facility that is inadequate to meet the needs of this population.  

    The new facility opening next year will not only provide needed community resources and supports to the homeless population but needed housing for many individuals who today live out in the elements around Route 1.

     This facility was made possible by a partnership from many groups and funding sources.   County, State and Federal funding was used in developing this facility.  The Volunteers of America of Chesapeake, Inc will manage the facility along with staff from Grassroots and its Day Resource Center.

   The location above is where the facility will be built.

   The naming of this facility after Leola Dorsey, pictured above, has special significance for me.  I got to know Leola when she came to work in the Office on Aging in the late 1970's.  As an Outreach Worker for the Office Leola was often the first person to visit a senior citizen in need in Howard County.  Later she managed the Guilford Nutrition Center after her Sister Mildred Green became too frail to be the manager.  Her  loving spirit and energy was contagious.  When Leola was around you knew there would be laughter.   Her cooking was legendary and I will always remember the meals at her home in Guilford.  Especially her peach cobbler!  Over the years as she aged I became a close friend who learned a great deal about her life and work with the NAACP in Howard County.  I remember sitting in the old Buell's Restaurant on Route 40 and hearing her talk about how she and Bob Kittleman would visit restaurants along Route 40 for the NAACP to see if they would serve her after the civil rights legislation in the 1960's required previously segregated restaurants to serve African Americans.  She talked about the first time she got served in Buell's.  Even 15 years later she still felt uncomfortable in the restaurant.  The bad memories of a segregated Howard County were still too fresh in her mind.
     Over the years Leola became frailer and stopped driving after her very first accident near her home.  Stopping in at her home was a regular stop of mine as I would head to Laurel to do grocery shopping.  I would see if she needed anything or needed a ride somewhere in the upcoming week.  She usually said she was OK as her beloved Son Charles was taking care of things for her.  The last year and a half was spent in Lorien Nursing Home in Columbia.  What started out as a temporary rehab stay extended into her last residence as her health deteriorate.  I was fortunate to attend her last birthday party at Lorien as she turned 90 with all her family around her.
     Some people leave and indelible mark on who we are as a person.  For me Leola was one of those people.

     Recently I had a chance to talk with Jack Santori from the Bethany United Methodist Church about their involvement in the Cold Weather Shelter program.  This program is operated by Grassroots for homeless residents during the cold weather months.  Jack indicated that Bethany has participated in the program from the beginning by providing a location for the shelter 1 or 2 weeks in the Winter.  This engagement has led some members of the congregation to volunteer at the Day Resource Center in Jessup.  This the facility that will be replaced by the Dorsey Community Resource Center next year.  Jack mentioned that the members of Bethany sometimes meet the same homeless individuals at the Resource Center that they housed the previous Winter at their church.


Monday, June 13, 2016

Timely Summer read


    This past week I finished the book " A Mother's Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of a Tradgedy."  The author is Sue Klebold the Mother of Dylan Klebold one of the two shooters in the Columbine High School killing in 1999.  It is hard to remember that the Columbine shooting seemed so unusual and tragic at the time.  Sue writes how one morning in May 1999 her biggest concern was the failing health of a family pet and 24 hours later she and her husband were in hiding at a relative's house after Dylan had been involved in the Columbine shooting.  They were receiving death threats and the news media had made it impossible to stay at their home.  For both she and her husband their life would never be the same.  A intimate look at their life with Dylan would be examined publicly and they would be condemned as a dysfunctional family that could raise a mass killer.  What comes out in the book is how her family in Colorado could be the story of any middle upper class suburban community.  Kinda reminded me of our community in Howard County.
       Now it seems that every week brings another mass shooting at a school or movie house.  Even in our utopia of Columbia we have seen the killing of 3 people at the Columbia Mall.  This weekend's killings in Orlando, as large as it was, seems to be just another sign of the acceptance of mass killings as inevitable and something we just accept.  I could relate all this to the politically charged discussion of gun control, mental health or terrorism but all those arguments, both pro and con gun control, are well known.
     Recently Politifact posted this startling fact:

"So many people die annually from gunfire in the US that the death toll between 1968 and 2011 eclipses all wars ever fought by the country. According to research by Politifact, there were about 1.4 million firearm deaths in that period, compared with 1.2 million US deaths in every conflict from the War of Independence to Iraq."

      When you look at the fact that we spend close to a trillion dollars a year fighting terrorism that killed just 17 American citizens in 2011 and almost nothing combating the almost 12,000 people killed in the United States every year by gun violence we seem to be spending money more by fear than rational thought.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Saving the World with $100 million dollars


    Recently the MacArthur Foundation announced a competition to award $100 million dollars to any organization coming up with a solution to a critical world problem.   We all know the MacArthur Foundation from their "Genius Awards."   The new award program believes that there are individuals and organizations with the know how and skills necessary to tackle critical problems but only lack the financial means to address the critical problem.
      In discussing this competition with some of my daughters I think one of them identified one of the best solutions to propose that would have the greatest impact on changing the world.  The idea is to fund an international effort to have more women elected to office in every country in the World.  Her reasoning was that women bring a more peaceful, constructive perspective to government than men.  Often solutions are possible with people willing to work together and women are more geared to this type of problem solving than men.  I have to say I agree with her that it could be a world changing plan.  Kinda like a worldwide Emily's List.

Monday, June 6, 2016

One group of homeless youth in Howard County

       I have been addressing the issue homelessness in Howard County for the past few weeks.  Today I wanted to focus on one group of this population--youth who have aged out of foster care.  I recently had a chance to talk with Pam Grady and Erica Byrne from Voices for Children, the local CASA program.  Erica and Pam have been heading up a program in Howard County called Fostering Futures.   I have been serving on the program's advisory board and have seen the program grow to be a valuable community resource for youth aging out of foster care in Howard County. Fostering Futures has created greater community engagement with local residents providing assistance in many ways to assist the youth with transitioning.  Recently a job fair was held for transitioning youth to help them explore job opportunities.  Unfortunately this type of community engagement doesn't exist in all jurisdictions of Maryland.
      This year we have had eight youth age out of foster care in our County.  The case plans for each youth are designed to assist each youth to successfully transition to independence as they leave foster care.  It has become apparent that for older youth in foster care these plans need to begin years before they will age out.  Unfortunately that transition can be a bumpy one for many of these youth.  Many of these youth have become disconnected from family and community supports while they have been in foster care.   For many youth foster care has been their life for a decade or more.  The abuse they have experienced often leads to developmental delays that results in emotional levels of youth much younger than what you would expect from a youth at age 21.   I experienced this reality in visiting a Maryland group home called San Mar.  This is a residential program that is often used by our local foster care program.  What I saw on my visits were girls in their late teens and early 20's that emotionally appeared to be much younger.  I often left San Mar wondering how these emotionally immature young women would not face exploitation when the they left San Mar.
     One of the biggest challenges faced by youth aging out is that the abuse they have experienced and the impermanence of  their life in foster care has led them to be "short term" focused.  This short term focus often makes it difficult for these youth to have plans that realistically that have a good chance of success.  Many times their plans of staying with a family member or friend will only be a short term housing solution.  After a month or two in transition they may find themselves "bed hopping" from one place to another or homeless.  This is how Human Rights Watch described this situation:
   "For some youth leaving foster care, homelessness comes the day they emancipate from the foster care system; others move from a foster home into a bad housing situation only to find themselves without shelter shortly thereafter. They may feel lucky to crash on a friend’s couch, or they find themselves sleeping in a car, at an emergency shelter, or in the park. Some are without a steady roof over their heads for days that turn into weeks or even years. Those leaving foster care with special needs often face a particularly rough road: mental health problems or cognitive limitations can bar entry to a transitional living program. So can being a parent. Youth who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender often have even fewer community resources and support to avoid homelessness."

   "Too many foster children face poverty, early pregnancy, educational failure, criminal victimization, or incarceration in early adulthood. Homelessness, with its attendant dangers—including exposure to predatory crime, drugs, HIV/AIDS, and violence—is probably the worst outcome for a young person. Yet homelessness is a predictable future for many foster youth. Social workers know it. Many policymakers know it. Research confirms it. California’s own Department of Social Services concluded that 65 percent of emancipating youth lack safe and affordable housing at the time of emancipation. Although conclusions as to the rate vary, homelessness is a certainty for too many youth leaving foster care."

     The chart below is another graphic of the outcomes of transitioning foster youth in a Midwest Study of Transitioning Youth.  The graph shows that over one third of the youth had experienced homelessness at some point since leaving foster care.

     So where do we still lack resources needed by fostering youth?  The biggest area in Howard County still remains with providing affordable housing and job opportunities.   The Housing Voucher program in Howard County is closed to new applicants.  Those on the list now may have to wait up to eight years before a voucher becomes available.  For youth aging out of foster care this system is unworkable because foster youth are ineligible to get on the list until they are out of care.  The answer might be a certain number of vouchers that are designated for foster youth as a few locations have developed.
     Finally our community, as any community, needs to recognize a responsibility for youth we remove from families and place in foster care beyond the age of 21.  Without available safe housing options and other support resources we may be as neglectful of the needs of these youth as the families from which they were removed.  It is probably an uncomfortable reality but without these supports in some ongoing manner the reality of homelessness for transitioning foster youth should not be an unexpected result.


Saturday, June 4, 2016

My one encounter with Muhammad Ali RIP

    In 1976 Mohammad Ali was going to fight Jimmy Young at the Capital Centre in Landover.  He was the heavyweight champion and was supposed to use this fight as a warm up for a bigger fight with Ken Norton.   He held his sparring matches, open to the public, at the Sheraton Hotel in New Carrollton only 2 miles from where I was living.  I figured for $10 this would probably be the only time I would have a chance to see Ali.

    Ali the performer was in the ring that day.  He carried on a running commentary with the crowd while he sparred.  Often it seemed as if he was only half sparring and half having fun with the crowd. Especially when he noticed an attractive woman in the crowd!

  After he had ended his sparring as I was getting ready to take this picture he turned toward me and said "Wait till they make me pretty before taking your picture!"  His stern look quickly turned into a smile as the crowd broke into laughter.  When you have a great athlete combined with a world class showman you can understand why he will always be a legend.

Is the fracking boom dead?


    For anyone who thought that fracking was a bridge to the time when renewable energy was used for our energy needs should watch this video.  I have a cousin who lives in the town in the video.  A few years ago I visited Towanda and saw the boom.  Water tankers were constantly on the road 24 hours a day.  Money flowed to landowners at a rate that made them instantly wealthy.  Checks of tens of thousands of dollars a month were not uncommon.   Banks had signs telling the newly wealthy to stop in so they could tell them how they could invest their riches. Now the checks only amount to hundreds a month if they are coming at all.   We also learn how the fracking companies cheated people out of royalties. The sudden riches was like a drug that now is leaving the community damaged.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Preservation Maryland is focusing on Columbia this Saturday


   Preservation Maryland is hosting an event called "The Next America: Columbia Maryland" this Saturday June 4th that requires a registration.  Only a few tickets remain.
Photo courtesy of Columbia Association Archive.

   Here is how they describe the day:

"Columbia, Maryland is a prime example of the New Town Movement in the United States, but it stands apart due to its approach to planning and its emphasis on diversity. Next year Columbia will be celebrating its 50th anniversary. Join Preservation Maryland and the Columbia Archives on a bus tour to take a special look at the “Columbia Story.”

Our day will begin at the Slayton House in the Wilde Lake Village, where we will hear about the original vision developer James Rouse had for Columbia. We will then board the bus and see first hand the original village centers and have a special look inside one of the original mid-century homes and an interfaith center. We will then have lunch by the original Rouse Company headquarters, which was designed by Frank Gehry, and we will then be given a behind the scenes tour of the Gehry designed Merriweather Post Pavilion.

Ticket Price includes lunch. Preservation Maryland Members and Columbia Residents: $45; Non-Members: $60.- See more at:


Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Suggested program for the Robinson Nature Center

    Two of my grandsons have had the experience of attending the Irvine Nature Center preschool in Owings Mills.  Recently this school was nationally recognized for its program.

The program is described this way:

Provide a supportive, safe learning environment to encourage discovery, question-asking and experimentation.

Provide sensory experiences with live animals, natural objects, artifacts, trail activities and art materials for students to utilize all five senses.

Develop cognitive growth and motor skills

Develop problem-solving skills through hands-on games and activities

Introduce language through songs, stories and dramatic play

Cultivate social skills and positive self-image through group play and cooperative learning across ages

Encourage family involvement to help students appreciate the wisdom of their first teachers —their parents/guardians

Appreciate diversity of living things and celebrate individuality of children and families.


Our emergent curriculum is a holistic approach to learning. We embrace your child’s ideas and celebrate seasonal outdoor discoveries. With comparable attributes of Reggio Emilia, Montessori and Waldorf approaches, we address the physical, social and emotional skill development of every child.
Activities include:
Up-close encounters with live animals
Science experiments and use of manipulatives
Language, literacy and writing activities
Creative arts and music time
Interactive puppet play and story time
Healthy cooking and food tasting experiences
Hands-on math activities
Movement and games to promote physical fitness
Imagination Stations for self-guided learning

   Given what a wonderful resource the Robinson Nature Center is to our community I have just wondered if there has ever been any consideration of developing a program like this here.  Howard County would seem like a natural place for this type of program.