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Monday, July 31, 2017

One Hour to understand the Russian hacking scandal

Richard Engle's show On Assignment Friday night aired a one hour report that shows how the Russian hacking impacted the United States.  A must view.   The starting link will continue on to other segments of the show on Russia.  Watch each to hear the entire show.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

How your own mortality focuses the mind

   One has to wonder how John McCain's illness and impending mortality impacted his decision to have a "profile in courage" moment in voting against the Republican health care legislation.   John McCain returning to his "maverick" past was timed bad for the Republicans but good for our nation.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Howard County Food Bank needs your donations now!

From the Howard County Food Bank:

"The images you've seen on social media are accurate. The shelves at the #HowardCountyFoodBank are looking a little bare. It's not an uncommon phenomenon for food banks during this time of year. Demand often increases in the summer when kids aren't getting breakfast and lunch at school. And donations drop off during the summer. If you want to help us out, you can drop off food at 9385 Gerwig Lane or you can click on this handy little link and make a monetary donation."

Friday, July 28, 2017

Hail to the "Bully" in Chief

      OK I have held off for a while but it is getting to the point that yelling at the TV when Trumpy comes on is not enough anymore.  Trump's speech to the Boy Scouts pushed me over the edge.  So today is blowing off a little steam.  Pardon my need to do this.
      I have always been unsure how citizens of country with an authoritarian leader could blindly follow this type of leader.  Of course with control of political opposition and any media there is limited or non existent counter information available to the citizens of these countries.  Citizens of a country that has always been ruled by authoritarian rulers have no experience with hearing a wide range of information.  We are not surprised that citizens of countries like Russia and North Korea blindly follow their rulers.  I guess what surprises me a little is that we have 30-40% of our citizens who could blindly follow our own homegrown authoritarian bully.   His cabinet having to proclaim their honor of serving him is truly scary. Trump's attempts to discredit and belittle the judiciary, political opposition and media because they will not blindly follow his interests shows his true authoritarian nature.  His willingness to lie and his obsession with Hillary Clinton and Obama show some character flaws that leave many to question his delusional mental health.  His willingness to throw even a supporter like Attorney General Sessions under the bus for his independence should make anyone in his administration wonder about their job security.  Apparently loyalty only goes one way.  Imagine trying to recruit people to join the present administration.
    So where does this leave those of us that are appalled by Trump?  The Democrats can try to win back the House of Representatives in 2018 so that they can start impeachment hearings but to get 67 senators to convict him could be next to impossible.  Maybe to only way to get rid of him is for him to realize that to get a pardon he has to resign with the understanding that Pense will pardon him the way Ford pardoned Nixon.  Of course Trump might test out the constitutional question of him being able to pardon himself.  When you think that the Supreme Court would have to rule on the ability of a criminal president to be totally above the law you realize how dangerous a situation we find ourselves in as democratic republic.  Is it any wonder that Western Democracies are shaking their heads at our country right now?

     Know what Trump was referring to when he was talking about William Levitt's yacht? Here it is.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

6 new stores at the Columbia Mall and Village Center redevelopment

From Columbia Patch:
     "Downtown Columbia revitalization is getting another boost from The Mall in Columbia, which has announced new retailers and restaurants. Sub Zero Ice Cream and Z Galleriehome décor opened last month. The Walrus Oyster & Ale House will replace departed Uno’s Pizzeria & Grill. Shake Shack will open in a portion of the space previously leased by Champps Americana. Main Event Entertainment, Barnes & Noble and Uncle Julio’s Rio Grande Café will take over space on the upper level previously occupied by Sears. All are expected to open in the Fall of 2018. The Sears Auto Center and drive-through will be eliminated to make way for an outdoors plaza and seating area, similar to the existing adjacent plaza area. Sears will consolidate its business into its existing lower level space. Completion is projected for late 2018."

On the Village Center front here is information from the Columbia Association:

"Columbia Association (CA) and the Howard County Economic Development Authority (HCEDA) are collaborating on a new initiative to support retailers in Columbia’s nine village centers.

The Columbia Village Centers Retail Development Program is being implemented to strengthen the village centers as retailing and community gathering destinations, and will assist small business retailers with technical resources to help ensure their success.

The program will focus on three components:
Retail Retention: Identifying and coordinating technical resources that will help existing village center retailers be more successful in their operations.
Retailer Recruitment: Locating and suggesting potential retailers to the village centers owners that would complement the existing tenants.
Branding, Promotion and Events: Identifying village center promotion opportunities.

“Columbia’s village centers are a signature element of our community, but they have been affected by the changing retail marketplace over the past couple decades,” said Milton W. Matthews, president/CEO of Columbia Association. “A goal of this program is to have fewer vacant spaces in the village centers and to attract more people into the centers for shopping and social gatherings.”

“This partnership with Columbia Association will allow us to leverage our small business services with their intimate focus on the village centers to make sure that they can be enjoyed by families for decades to come,” said Lawrence Twele, CEO of the Howard County Economic Development Authority.

Columbia founder James Rouse conceived and built village centers at a time when limited retail competition existed. This allowed The Rouse Company to place village centers in the center of the neighborhoods rather than along major roadways and to use limited retailer signage and an insular shopping center design. Today, there are many more competing retail outlets — both brick and mortar stores and online options. In addition, retailing and consumer preferences have changed significantly since the village centers were developed, with a preference today for locations with expanded merchandise or restaurant choices in one place and greater vehicular access/visibility. Many of the village centers are at a disadvantage in today’s marketplace by not being located on major roadways.

The Columbia Village Centers Retail Development Program will focus on providing county and other technical support resources to existing retailers to help improve their operations, recruiting potential new tenants and promoting events for retailers to engage with new customers.

This initiative builds upon recommendations made in the Columbia Market Study. The consultant study, sponsored by Columbia Association, Howard County Economic Development Authority and Howard County Department of Planning and Zoning, examined existing market conditions and future potential opportunities for Columbia’s village centers. It recommended the consideration of a retail recruitment and retention program for Columbia’s village centers."


Thursday, July 20, 2017

A day without an Amazon delivery is like a day without sunshine

     Remember how as a kid getting a letter in the mail was enough to make your day?  Well our grown up equivalency is getting a delivery from Amazon.  I admit it ----- I am a "hooked" Amazon Prime subscriber.  I find myself checking my phone frequently to see if I have a notification of another delivery.
  A part of me is concerned about the number of trees that go into making all these boxes.  And what do you do with the boxes that I have saved in all sizes?  I know that Goodwill has a program to donate clothes in these boxes.  And why do they send a box that is 5 or 6 times the size of my item?  What to do with all the bubble packing?  Why do they bubble wrap an order of bubble wrap?

Bought some bubble wrap on Amazon. This is how they shipped it

     I love not having to go to stores.  My store trips are limited pretty much to Home Depot and grocery stores.  Why shop for an item where my store choices are so limited and more expensive than going on Amazon at home and get a hundred choices that can be delivered in one or two days at a cheaper price.  While Walmart killed budget stores, Amazon is killing off most of the remaining retail stores.  Sears, Kmart, Macy's are all on their "last legs."  Without these anchor stores malls are dying.  It is becoming more difficult for smaller retailers to find a viable "niche." Welcome to the digital world of Amazon.

     I just placed my first order with Alibaba the Chinese giant that is bigger than Amazon.  I just hope that everything from them doesn't ship from China.


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Story Corps


    I blogged before on Story Corps but there is something new that I wanted to share.  Story Corps records two people talking with each other.  These conversations are fascinating and often heartwarming.  Here is one example with Sarah and Joshua Littman pictured above.  You can listen to these conversations on their website, Facebook page or their podcast on ITunes.
     Now everyone can record a conversation that they will archive with the Library of Congress with their smartphone app.

Monday, July 17, 2017

The savior of Medicare you probably have never heard about


      When I hear the proposed cuts to Medicaid being discussed in the Republican health care bills it makes me remember something I heard from someone who was directly involved in the crafting of the Medicare and Medicaid legislation.

     In graduate school I had a professor, William Bechill, who was the first Commissioner on Aging with the Administration on Aging in 1965.   He was recommended for that post by Wilbur Cohen who had been involved with the creation of the Social Security program back in the 1930's.


                                                                      Wilbur Cohen

       The Johnson Administration brought in Mr. Cohen to help with the drafting of the Medicare and Medicaid legislation.  Bill Bechill remembered meeting with Mr. Cohen and administration officers in the White House while the legislation was being drafted.  From the start there was always an income based eligibility for Medicaid but there were some administration officials and Congressional legislators who wanted to have some income requirements in the Medicare program.  Medicare would be more generous for low income seniors and would reduce benefits for higher income seniors.  Mr. Cohen argued that this would make Medicare vulnerable to cuts and possible elimination from conservative administrations.  He spoke about how Social Security was more secure from cuts because it was universal in its eligibility.  Sure, millionaires didn't need the Social Security payment but if it was a benefit that only went to low income retired persons Social Security would have always been under attack.  Fortunately for today's Medicare recipients Mr. Cohen's arguments won the day in the final Medicare legislation.  We have Mr. Cohen to thank that the present Congressional proposed healthcare legislation is not taking a "meat axe" to the Medicare program as it is proposed doing to the income based Medicaid program.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Annual Rain Gardens blog

   If you have followed this blog you know that I have a hatred (too strong a word?) with lawns and grass (the legal kind) and have been an advocate for rain gardens.  Our home has become a rain garden haven with rain gardens on both sides of our home.

     To find out a little more about the Columbia Association rain garden program watch this You Tube video.

   Greening your roof?


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Prepare for Success provides backpacks to low income Howard County students


 Do you know that 12,177 children in Howard County Schools receive federally funded school meals?  Last year over 2,300 students were served by the Prepare for Success program in providing backpacks and school supplies.  Since its inception over 26,000 backpacks have been distributed. The current year drive is now on for the upcoming school year.  Here is some information on the program administered through the Community Action Council:


To get the most supplies for the lowest prices, PFS makes wholesale purchases from a national education supplier. Our price of a backpack filled with required supplies average out to about $25 per student. That’s far less than the cost of buying retail at local stores.
ANYTIME is a great time to contribute. Our major drive is during the summer. BUT since PFS has a year-round cycle we can use support anytime.
Great!! You can donate supplies at any number of locations throughout Howard County. You or your group can start collecting now and then make a drop off at your local library, county recreation center, Columbia village center, or CA sports facility between July 10th and August 18th. Many businesses elect to run their own collection program and then turn to PFS to assist with the distribution. We welcome these partnerships. Contributions are tax deductible. Community Action Council is a 501 (c)(3) organization."

 There are two ways to send contributions for this program:

1)  Send check payable to “Community Action Council/PFS” to:
Community Action Council / PFS
6751 Columbia Gateway Drive
Columbia, MD 21046

2) Donate online at:
Select "Prepare for Success" under the donation restriction box.


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The loss of a dream for Columbia moving into the future

      A recent discussion at the "Longest Table" I brought up a concern I had for Columbia and Howard County moving into our second 50 years of Columbia's existence.   Has the Columbia goal of diversity and integration of groups across the economic scale been lost in Columbia and Howard County.  Has affordable and subsidized housing been limited to only certain areas in both Columbia and Howard County?  Why was River Hill Village designed for mostly single family homes unlike the diversity of housing, both subsidized and unsubsidized,  in our earliest villages?  The lower density zoning of Western Howard prevented diversity of housing in half of Howard County.  Is this the new reality as we move farer from Rouse's vision of what makes a community exceptional?
     This new possible reality is seen in our school system.  While our school system is still seen as a valuable asset to our County we see signs of a "de facto redlining" in Howard County.   This reality is known to any realtor in our County.  The first statement for many home buyers in Howard County is "here are the school districts I will only look at homes in."   This reality is based on the school test scores.   I experienced this reality when I tried to sell our home a few years ago.   After being on the market for almost a year we finally had an offer that we were ready to accept.  The couple was from out of state with school age kids.  On the way to our realtor's office to sign the contract the husband received a cell phone call from his wife telling him not to sign the contract because she had looked up the test scores on the internet and our school fairer poorly in comparison to other schools in Howard County.  As they were looking at Howard County because of the schools this was enough to not sign a contract.
     For most of us who have lived in Howard County we know that any school in Howard County will give a good education to any student regardless of academic ability.   Teachers in schools with lower test scores are just as good as teachers in schools that score higher.  I am sure that our school administrators work to minimize the impact of our the housing reality.  But if we are honest with ourselves the school system's job of providing an excellent education to every student in Howard County is made more difficult if our housing patterns move farther and farther from Rouse's vision of our community.  Is the 1960's goal of "fair housing" no longer relevant in the 21st Century Howard County?

      I really struggled with not bringing into this discussion the new reality brought in at the Federal level the past 6 months.  I will just post this link.


Monday, July 10, 2017

How Chow now back on Twitter

   For those of us who have missed the HowChow blog I have good news.  They are back on Twitter.  Like them at


Saturday, July 8, 2017

Tomato Palace is closing

  One of my favorite outdoor dining options will soon be closing.

The Tomato Place had a nice location near the Lake and summer evenings were a great place to take out of town guests.  Moving over to the stage for some music or a movie made for a nice way to show off what Columbia had to offer.  Unfortunately it will be closing to allow Clyde's to open a music and dining venue.

No more take out pizza from their brick oven

Or the chicken rigatoni


Thursday, July 6, 2017

Longest Table

      Last week I had a chance to participate in an event that is so Howard County.  The event was called "The Longest Table" and it brought together Howard County residents from all walks of life to discuss how living in Howard County has impacted us and how we want Howard County to improve moving forward.

    Interestingly the people near me were asked what we missed in Columbia or Howard County and the one thing that got the most vigorous response was the Visitors Center that many of us remember as the place we learned about what made Columbia special.  It gave us a common vision for the community we were moving to.
     This event was co sponsored by Howard County Library, United Way of Howard County, the Columbia 50th Birthday Celebration, #OneHowardand the Howard County Community College .  I hope that events like this will continue.


Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens

    This week I once again took the Anacostia Bike Trail down from College Park to Bladensburg.  Just past Bladensburg is the sign for the dirt trail that leads a third of a mile to the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens.  The water lilies are in full bloom now.

    The trail is easily accessed in the parking lot near Lake Artemesia in College Park.  Here is a link to the parking lot for the trail.,-76.9208288,170m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m13!1m7!3m6!1s0x89b7c6ad95f76fdf:0x2b9e880bc48532d1!2sLake+Artemesia!3b1!8m2!3d38.9876488!4d-76.9220875!3m4!1s0x0:0xa559604fd0995b3a!8m2!3d38.9933!4d-76.9205967

    Down from College Park to the Aquatic Gardens and back is about a 16 mile ride.  Here is a map showing the trail.  The Aquatic Gardens is at the bottom of the picture.