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Thursday, April 27, 2017

LGBT Bain Center Film event May 4th

      "Thursday, May 4, 2017 Film & Discussion 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm Doors open/Refreshments: 6:00 pm The Bain Center 5470 Ruth Keeton Way Columbia, MD 21044 A free event but registration is required Social Work CEUs available About the Film: Directed by Andrea Meyerson and narrated by Meredith Baxter, LETTER TO ANITA is the story of Anita Bryant's infamous anti-gay campaign and its effect on the life of Ronni Sanlo. From having her children taken away after coming out as a lesbian, to becoming an activist for the LGBT community, Ronni's journey finally leads her to resolve and peace in the simple act of writing a letter. Discussion following the film will address the effects of anti-gay discrimination on individuals and families and the role of social activism as a tool for social change and personal resilience. "
     "Registration required by April 27; call Bain Center at 410-313-7213 About the Program: Cosponsored by the LGBT Older Adults Task Force of Howard County, the 50+ Bain Center, and the LGBT Health Resource Center of Chase Brexton Health Care. Refreshments provided by Somerford Place Columbia. Jessica Rowe ElderCare Consulting, LLC, is authorized by the Board of Social Work Examiners in Maryland to sponsor social work continuing education programs and maintains full responsibility for this program. This program qualifies for 1.5 Category II continuing education units."


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

If I had a hammer


    We have all heard the phrase "if you have a hammer every problem looks like a nail."  I am reminded of this when I see the Trump Administration's approach to any foreign problem.  From its "hard" budget with large increases in defense spending and its shortchanging the diplomatic resources by slashing the State Department's budget to its deploying a "naval armada" to the waters off of North Korea to trying to back out of negotiated agreements with Iran and most of the developed world on climate change this Administration seems to represent a leader who has issues with the "adequacy" of his manhood.  Diplomacy seems like surrender to a bully.
     Just look at the issue of bombing a military base in Syria to show that "there is a new sheriff in town" as the only response to the horrific chemical attack on innocent civilians.  I am not judging the wisdom of that military action to lessen the chance of chemical weapons being used again.  Maybe it will and maybe it won't.  But there is one action that will definitely improve the plight of Syrian civilians that apparently is never an option for this Administration.  That option it to increase our aid to refugees who have fled the country to escape the destruction of their country and to agree to accept more vetted refugees into the United States.  Apparently that is too "soft" an approach to an Administration that only has a hammer.   We seem to have become a Country that has a foreign policy that is to "bomb the sh** out of them" then to remember that we once were the Country that had a leader with a different approach.


Related image

    Maybe we should consider what the United States represents to the World when an "America First" agenda means more coal production and weaponizing the world instead of a "Earth First" agenda of improving our fragile environment and developing the resources for peaceful resolutions to conflict.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Gas prices in Columbia

     Occasionally a topic strikes a cord on Next Door Neighbor with many replies to a post.   This week that topic was why the gas prices in Columbia are so much higher than in surrounding areas.  Are we being gouged in Columbia because of our high median income?  What are the factors that are reflected in the price of gas?  State taxes are part of the issue as anyone who buys gas in another state. Last week I noticed a 20 cent drop in the price when I drove to Harpers Ferry and went from Maryland to Virginia with gas stations only a mile apart in the different states.   Of course this doesn't explain the difference between the prices in Columbia and Laurel.  There is something called zone pricing that wholesalers charge dealers.  Wholesalers undoubtedly factor income into this zone pricing and that could have a significant impact on pricing in Columbia.   Retailers in Columbia may have to pay more than retailers in Laurel.   Finally like everything else competition impacts price.  In Columbia you will never see two stations across the street from each other as happens in many other towns.  So blame the planners of Columbia for restricting the number and location of gas stations that lessens competitive pricing of gas.

     A few people who posted mentioned that they only buy gas at Costco or when they are out of town.  A few others mentioned buying a fuel efficient car and not worrying about the price as much.  It has always made me wonder when you see someone who buys a large SUV and then go to Costco to save money to fuel their gas guzzling vehicle.  Ever notice that most of the time these gas guzzlers only have one person, the driver, in the vehicle.


Saturday, April 22, 2017

Suggested read for a rainy weekend

   I know that there are many different types of readers of this blog.  For those who read it for current information on our politics this blog might appeal to you.  Even if you have different political beliefs than the ones I express I would urge you to take an hour or two and read this article from the New Yorker magazine on the Russian hacking of our political institutions.  It is comprehensive and provides a good background to understand how world affairs with Russia and the West are being played out.  The 21st Century Cold War will be fought as much with digital weapons as with the nuclear weapons of the previous Cold War.   Here is a link to the article:

     For those who want to get just a taste of the article here is just some of the interesting parts:

"The American political landscape also offered a particularly soft target for dezinformatsiya, false information intended to discredit the official version of events, or the very notion of reliable truth. Americans were more divided along ideological lines than at any point in two decades, according to the Pew Research Center. American trust in the mainstream media had fallen to a historic low. The fractured media environment seemed to spawn conspiracy theories about everything from Barack Obama’s place of birth (supposedly Kenya) to the origins of climate change (a Chinese hoax). Trump, in building his political identity, promoted such theories.

“Free societies are often split because people have their own views, and that’s what former Soviet and current Russian intelligence tries to take advantage of,” Oleg Kalugin, a former K.G.B. general, who has lived in the United States since 1995, said. “The goal is to deepen the splits.” Such a strategy is especially valuable when a country like Russia, which is considerably weaker than it was at the height of the Soviet era, is waging a geopolitical struggle with a stronger entity.

Even with the rise of new technologies, the underlying truth about such operations hasn’t changed. They are less a way to conjure up something out of nothing than to stir a pot that is already bubbling. In the U.S., a strategy like the alleged hacking of the Democrats was merely an effort to deepen an existing state of disarray and distrust. “For something to happen, many factors have to come together at once,” said Alexander Sharavin, the head of a military research institute and a member of the Academy of Military Sciences, in Moscow, where Gerasimov often speaks. “If you go to Great Britain, for example, and tell them the Queen is bad, nothing will happen, there will be no revolution, because the necessary conditions are absent—there is no existing background for this operation.” But, Sharavin said, “in America those preconditions existed.”

Andrei Kozyrev, who served as foreign minister in the Yeltsin government, now lives in Washington, D.C. He left Russia as it became increasingly authoritarian; he now sees a disturbingly similar pattern in his adopted country. “I am very concerned,” he said. “My fear is that this is probably the first time in my memory that it seems we have the same kind of people on both sides—in the Kremlin and in the White House. The same people. It’s probably why they like each other. It’s not a matter of policy, but it’s that they feel that they are alike. They care less for democracy and values, and more for personal success, however that is defined.”

Putin’s Russia has to come up with ways to make up for its economic and geopolitical weakness; its traditional levers of influence are limited, and, were it not for a formidable nuclear arsenal, it’s unclear how important a world power it would be. “So, well then, we have to create turbulence inside America itself,” Venediktov said. “A country that is beset by turbulence closes up on itself—and Russia’s hands are freed.”

New suggested mottos for United Airlines

A little weekend humor:

New United Airlines Mottos:

“Drag and Drop.”
“We put the hospital in hospitality.”
“Board as a doctor, leave as a patient.”
“Our prices can’t be beaten, but our passengers can.”
“We have First Class, Business Class and No Class.”
“Not enough seating? Prepare for a beating.”
“We treat you like we treat your luggage.”
“We beat the customer, not the competition.”
“And you thought leg room was an issue.”
"Where voluntary is mandatory.”
“Fight or flight. We decide.”
“Now offering one free carry off”
“Beating random customers since 2017.”
“If our staff needs a seat, we’ll drag you out by your feet.”
“A bloody good airline!”

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Time to think "Green" this Spring

    Howard County GreenFest - Saturday, April 22
Howard Community College, Burrill Galleria and Quad, 10-4

Join us for the 10th annual GreenFest as we celebrate Earth Day Every Day.. GreenFest has lots of free and fun activities.
  • Over 75 tables with local green businesses and environmental non-profits
  • Native plant sale
  • Photo booth
  • Door prize raffle
  • Columbia Families in Nature play space
  • Children's activities with Robinson Nature Center
  • Compost bin giveaway
  • Rain barrel giveaway
  • Workshops and speakers
  • Kid's craft table
  • Live birds and reptiles on display with local experts
  • Local food vendors
  • Paper shredding
  • Chain saw sculpture demonstrations
  • Repair Cafe
  • Donation oppotunities
Please visit for more details and the schedule of events.

      A reminder that getting that green lawn with chemicals only washes off into our streams and creates an environmental problem.   This Spring let your grass green on its own.  Or better yet consider a more natural habitat than a green lawn.   

       Also consider how to eliminate much of the storm runoff with a rain garden.

P.S. 1
    Question of the Day

Q: Women are twice as likely as men to lay in bed worrying about this… A: Whether they locked the door


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Chrysalis dedication April 22nd

      We have been watching the construction of the Chrysalis in Symphony Woods all Winter from Little Patuxent Parkway.  Now the green enclosure will be dedicated soon.  The Chrysalis dedication will be from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 22, at Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods, 10431 Little Patuxent Parkway, Columbia, MD 21044.  Read how it will be used.

RSVP here on Eventbrite.

    Blogger Frank Hecker has a blog on what comes next in Symphony Woods.

P.S. 1
    Does anyone else have a problem with pronouncing and spelling the name??  Maybe it will be know as "that green thing in Symphony Woods."


Monday, April 17, 2017

Save thousands on the purchase of a late model used car

      It isn't often that I give you an offer to save thousands of dollars on a purchase but I am doing that today.   We all know what it is like to go to a car dealer looking to purchase a late model used car.  Negotiating is never fun and you know that the dealer purchased the cars for a lot less than they are offering them to you.  They have a lot of overhead for which to pay.  What if you could purchase the same cars from someone who buys at the same car auctions and doesn't have the overhead?  I know of someone who has a dealer licence who goes to these auctions and will find you the car you want and sell it to you at a price thousands less than a dealer.  He buys the car and gets it inspected before you pay him for it.  The deals have to be paid by cashier's check.   I have purchased three cars from this gentleman and have nothing but praise for the quality of cars he has purchased for me.  I know I saved $3000-$4000 over what I would have spent buying the same car from CarMax.
     If you or someone you know will be in the market for a late model used car and want to get the information on how to contact this gentleman email me and I will send you the contact information.

    While he can get just about any model of car he specializes in Toyotas and Hondas.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Exploring Columbia on Foot


     Here is the schedule of the Exploring Columbia on Foot" walks for this year.  Try to do a few of the walks as they are a great way to get some exercise and learn more about our town.  This is from the Columbia Patch:

“Exploring Columbia on Foot” will once again be led by award-winning environmental author Ned Tillman, who will guide discussions on the nature, history and future of these wonderful outdoor settings, including the plans for them and challenges they may face in the near future. Each walk will be about two miles long, with four to five stops along the way.

The walks will be held on nine Thursdays and one Saturday from March through October. Most walks will begin at 10am; the walk at The Mall in Columbia begins at 8:30am. Registration is not required. The schedule of walks and meeting locations includes:

Thursday, April 20, Wilde Lake – meet at the Wilde Lake Barn (10027 Hyla Brook Road)
Thursday, May 4, Owen Brown, meet at Lake Elkhorn (Dockside parking lot)
Thursday, May 18, Oakland Mills – meet at Thunder Hill Neighborhood Center (5134 Thunder Hill Road)
Thursday, June 1, River Hill – meet at Claret Hall (6020 Daybreak Circle)
Saturday, June 24, The Mall in Columbia (8:30am) – meet at the Plaza in front of Seasons 52 (10300 Little Patuxent Parkway)
Thursday, July 15, Long Reach – meet at Jeffers Hill Neighborhood Center (6030 Tamar Drive)
Thursday, Aug. 30, Kings Contrivance – meet at Huntington Pool (7625 Murray Hill Road)
Thursday, Sept. 14, Harper’s Choice – meet at Hobbits Glen Pool (11130 Willow Bottom Drive)
Thursday, Oct. 12, Downtown Columbia – meet at Lakefront Plaza (10275 Little Patuxent Parkway)
Thursday, Oct. 26, Hickory Ridge – meet at Hawthorn Center (6175 Sunny Spring)

For more information, contact CA’s Open Space Management Division at or 410-312-6330."


Monday, April 10, 2017

Can you name the second most valued American car company?

      If you guessed Ford you are wrong.  The big three American car companies have long been General Motors, Ford and Chrysler.  Now a company that is only 14 years old has replaced Ford as the second highest valued American car company.  The Tesla Motors is now the second highest valued American car company based on the value of all its stock.  However just as this has happened Tesla has dropped the word "motors" from its name because it plans to move beyond just being an electric car company.

        Its expanding business will now be to produce batteries in its Gigafactory , shown above in the Nevada desert, at such a low cost that battery powered cars will be price competitive with gas models.  Tesla is thinking bigger than just car batteries.  Batteries have the potential to produce energy cleaner and cheaper then what is being produced with fossil fuels.  Not only is he planning on building the batteries he has a plan that is a "vertically integrated company that builds electric vehicles, batteries to store the power to propel them, and the solar panels to generate that power. He also wants to electrify everything from pickups to busses to 18-wheelers."  This model of vertical integration is similar to what Rockefeller did to control the oil market over a hundred years ago.  This promise of unlimited potential vertical growth (think the 21 Century Standard Oil) is what is driving the valuation of Tesla not what it is presently producing.  Investors have driven the price of Tesla stock up wanting to get in on the ground floor.
      So while Trump is promising to produce more coal, yesterday's energy, and bringing back blue collar jobs, yesterday's jobs, investors are putting their money on Elon Musk and Tesla as to where the future energy and jobs markets will be.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Columbia Mall as a relic of the 1960's

    I recently wrote about Sears facing possible bankruptcy.  Now we learn that the Sears store that has anchored one wing of the Columbia Mall is going from two floors to one floor.  While this may be more telling about Sears future than the future of the Columbia Mall it does make one to wonder how long the concept of an enclosed mall will work in Columbia's downtown.  The latest additions to the Mall have been to a more open concept. By the way, Champps and Unos in the newer section have closed.
      How is the Columbia Mall relevant as the focus of downtown Columbia?  As we hear talk about changes in the downtown area of Columbia the fact is that the original concept of Columbia came from a company that existed primarily by building enclosed malls.  Hundreds of square feet of enclosed retail shopping surrounded by acres of parking was relevant in the 1960's suburban development but how does it translate to the development of today's online retail world?
      Is it too early to talk about life after the Columbia Mall?  Maybe Columbia will always be nothing more than a nice suburb as long as it is tied to the suburban enclosed mall concept.  If we were to look at the space being occupied by the Mall becoming a "downtown entertainment area" that would give us a more urban feel.   What would this downtown entertainment area look like?  I found this article that gave 12 ways to make a downtown more vibrant.  Some of the points may not apply to Columbia but some are worth looking at and some might have to wait for the land to be remade that now is occupied by our 1960's relic.

     For a good read on Rouse's ideas for Columbia the book "Jim Rouse: Capitalist/Idealist by Paul Marx is a good place to start.  It can be read online at Google books.


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Job requirements for the United States Foreign Service


    With the Trump administration relying on Jared Kushner to handle foreign policy for the United States (what ever happened to the Secretary of State Tillerson?) we can only guess that marrying into the Trump family is the only experience you need to negotiate diplomatically on behalf of the United States.  If you are looking for a cushy government job I hear that Tiffany Trump is still single.  Oh, knowing a few well connected Russians probably helps too.

    Can't help thinking that naming a male baby Jared was already out of favor because of the "other" Jared.  Now with Jared Kushner it may sink again.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

#One Howard Meeting tonight

  Tonight at the North Laurel Community Center the second meeting of the #OneHoward group will meet.  Here is the information from the group:

"#OneHoward Community Dialogues are small group facilitated conversations designed to help us better communicate with one another. To be a community known for civility and inclusiveness, we must first seek to understand and empathize with one another. We are often hindered because we make assumptions based on our own beliefs.

What experiences shape our feelings and thoughts?

How can we examine our values and beliefs?

Where did we learn our assumptions?

These questions are important to ask, but they often go unexplored, creating a foundation for fear or misunderstanding. Engaging in small group facilitated dialogues can begin the process of building meaningful relationships and an inclusive community.

#OneHoward is partnering with the Columbia Association and the Howard County Library System to organize dialogues throughout our County in different formats. Columbia Dialogues, hosted by the Columbia Association, are a 9-hour commitment (three sessions, three hours in duration each). For more information, click here: The Howard County Library System hosts Community Dialogue Circles that are one-hour commitments. For more information, click here:

How do the #OneHoward dialogues work?

Groups will be comprised of no more than 15 participants from diverse backgrounds and 2 trained facilitators.

Groups will generally run for 2-3 hours.

Group topics can touch upon difficult or divisive subjects such as race, religion, immigration, gender/power dynamics, sexuality, and other current issues.

Participants must register for dialogues, and will receive confirmation by email or phone.

Because we are trying to ensure groups are as diverse as possible and have a small group feel, participants will be placed into groups based on demographics and capacity (no more than 15 people per dialogue group). Registrants may be asked to participate in future dialogues, but will be assigned on a first-come, first-served basis to the extent possible."


Saturday, April 1, 2017

Streets in Columbia's Villages named after quotes of Yogi Berra!


      We all know that Columbia neighborhood streets have names taken from the literature of famous authors.   Longfellow, Dickens, Hawthorne, Sandburg and Emerson are some of the authors that we recognize in our street names.  What is not as well know is that each Village has one street named after famous quotes of former New York Yankee baseball player Yogi Berra.  Who can forget these memorable quotes from Yogi:

You can observe a lot by just watching.
Always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise they won’t come to yours.
We made too many wrong mistakes.
You can observe a lot by just watching.

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

To find the street in your Village taken from a Yogi Berra quote click here.