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Monday, May 17, 2021

Howard County leads the state in getting our residents vaccinated

    So 62% of residents of Howard County 16+ fully vaccinated and 77% have at least one shot we lead the state of Maryland in getting our residents vaccinated.  We have a shot at getting to the 70% level with fully vaccinated by July 4th, especially now that kids as young as 12 can get vaccinated.  Being a liberal community that recognizes a social responsibility to others in our community again works to our benefit.  Our situation is contrasted with rural, conservative areas of our state like Somerset and Cecil that have the lowest rate of residents fully vaccinated.   Trumpism and a lack of social responsibility continue to put people at risk of illness and death.  Can you imagine where this country would be today with Trump still as our President and his attitude of "everyone is on your own" philosophy?


     Once again we have Jim Rouse to thank for creating the great community that we have.  We would not be where we are without the qualities that attracted socially responsible liberals to our County.


Friday, May 14, 2021

Here is one Republican who couldn't get nominated today


    As the Republican Party has evolved from a normal conservative political party into nothing more than a Trump cult, it has only to look at its political leader from 60 years ago to see how far it has dissolved as a political party.  Here are two Republican President Eisenhower quotes from the 1950s to show what a rational party leader looks like.

      "If a political party does not have its foundation in the determination to advance a cause that is right and that is moral, then it is not a political party; it is merely a conspiracy to seize power."

      "To remain secure and prosperous themselves, wealthy nations must extend the kind of cooperation to the less fortunate members that will inspire hope, confidence, and progress. A rich nation can for a time, without noticeable damage to itself, pursue a course of self-indulgence, making its single goal the material ease and comfort of its own citizens-thus repudiating its own spiritual and material stake in a peaceful and prosperous society of nations. But the enmities it will incur, the isolation into which it will descend, and the internal moral and physical softness that will be engendered, will, in the long term, bring it to disaster."

Monday, May 10, 2021

NPR celebrated its 50th year anniversary last week

    In 1971 I was finishing up my junior year at American University and couldn't help but notice what was being built on campus.  The old small radio tower that had been used by WAMU was being replaced by a much bigger radio tower.  WAMU moved from being a student-run campus radio station and became the Washington DC station for the newly created National Public Radio Network.  With its presence in the nation's capital, it hosted many of the early public policy shows.  The Diane Rehm show is the longest-running one.  With many elected officials and celebrities brought to the campus to appear on one of the station's shows, often the individuals were available to appear at student sessions on campus.  I remember being able to listen to Charlton Heston talk for 2 hours on his movie life at one student session.  His storytelling of behind the scenes of filming Ben Hur was memorable. 
    For many years of traveling it was always important to find the local NPR station to tune to so that you could listen to your favorite shows.  Fortunately, the NPR network station was by design almost always found at the beginning of the FM dial.  Somehow being away from home and being able to listen to NPR shows was like bringing your home with you.  Now I can Bluetooth NPR on the TuneIn app on my phone so I no longer have to search for a radio station.
    We now have a number of ways of listening to the news or current event shows on many different platforms.  The range of podcasts on any topic has made me a less frequent listener but the NPR shows like Fresh Air, Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me, All Things Considered, and Morning Edition are old friends that still draw me in.  I am afraid that both NPR and PBS may struggle in the future with the Baby Boomer generation aging and dying.  We are the generation that still is the strongest supporter of both of these institutions.  If you don't believe me just listen to the music shows when PBS does its pledge weeks. Times have changed with both as we now have to listen to corporate sponsors of our public shows.  That sponsorship has been necessary as public dollars have been reduced and Republicans try to kill off both institutions.

     If NPR is 50 years old I must no longer be a kid.  Time passes too quick.

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Weekend funny that hit home with me


This is why I started putting my grocery list on my phone.  Problem solved thanks to a smartphone.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Will Howard County ever get a homegrown Congressperson?

      Maryland has one of the most gerrymandered congressional maps in the United States.  Being centrally located in the state we are used to be pulled into many directions to keep elected officials from other counties elected.  We have always been represented by Baltimore-based officials.  When we moved to Howard County we were in the district with western Maryland.  Now we get divided among Baltimore districts.  Wouldn't it be nice to have Howard County with over 300,000 residents according to the latest Census figures kept whole one day and have a chance to have a locate official become our congressperson?


Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Maybe saving Earth is better than the alternative

     When I saw the pictures from Mars taken by the Perseverance rover and learned that the temperature was minus 40 degrees with an atmosphere that was 1 % of Earth's it reminded me of how we should appreciate what we have on Earth.  Messing with our climate may mean that future generations won't have the environment that I saw on a recent morning in Columbia. The contrast is stark.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Stages of life in "Cicada time"?


   The return of the cicadas reminds me how fast time passes.  Has it really been 17 years since the last time this group came alive?  The last time they were here we were middle-aged parents with kids in college and the time before that we were working parents with young children.  Now we are living this experience as aged retirees.  We have to build a lot of living in before they return again as it will be the last time we will experience this invasion.  We are all living our lives in "cicada time".


    These are the holes we will start to see in the ground around our trees.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Saturday brain teaser--Who was our least experienced presidential candidate?

    I know that question might lead us to a recent president but the one I remember goes in a very different direction.  I was recently reminded of something I had forgotten.  In 1968 the Yippies nominated a pig named Pigasus for their presidential candidate. 

    This farcical effort to ridicule the two major-party nominees (Humphrey and Nixon) ended with the pig confiscated and some of the Yippies jailed.  One policeman even told one of the Yippies they would have to stay in jail because the pig had "squealed on them."  Who said the police don't have a sense of humor?

Maybe our nasty politics today could use a Yippie intervention today.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Something strange happened when I got my vaccine shot

 I got a vaccine shot and no one asked me about payment. Wouldn't that be a nice way to get all our health care? Why does it take a pandemic for that to happen in the United States?

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Why is Howard County doing so much better with the COVID-19 virus?


      If you haven't been noticing, Howard County has one of the lowest (if not the lowest) positivity rates for the virus (one of the few counties under 5%) and one of the highest vaccination rates in Maryland (3rd highest rate and the only non-rural county scoring so high).  We are used to having Howard County recognized as one of the best places to live in America for so long maybe we have just become accustomed to being good at most community aspects.   Is the high vaccination rate the reason we have a low positivity rate?  Is that we have many white-collar workers who have been working from home? Is our highly educated population more willing to socially distance and wear masks? Is our liberal political population less influenced by the distorted messaging from the right-wing political world that discredits the harm of the virus?  Is our affluent population more health conscience and more likely to have access to good health care?  The answer probably involves a little of each of these factors.  Another reason to feel fortunate to live in a Rouse-designed community.


Thursday, April 8, 2021

The back and forth of politics


     Watching the first 100 days of the Biden administration reminds one of how we seem to swing from one extreme to another in politics.  With the Biden administration, we see one of the most competent administrations following one of the most incompetent administrations--the Trump administration.  After having an administration that regularly appointed persons with no background for the jobs they were appointed to, the Biden administration has appointed very competent persons to hold those positions.  Remember Ben Carson, a surgeon, being appointed to be HUD Secretary because he grew up in public housing?  With majorities in both houses of Congress, the Trump administration had almost no legislative victories of any significance.  Biden has accomplished one of the biggest legislative victories in the COVID Relief package with the narrowest of political majorities.

     This reminds one of the swings such as the oldest president, Eisenhower, followed by the youngest elected president in Kennedy.  We saw the generational change again moving from George H.W. Bush to Bill Clinton.  The corrupt Nixon administration followed by the "I will never tell a lie" administration of Jimmy Carter.  The Carter administration was tagged as the "malaise administration" that was followed the "morning in America" optimistic Reagan administration.

      If the Biden administration can continue with retaining the image of a competent administration I can't wait to see what type of candidate the Republicans can come up with in a few years.  We can apparently write off Matt Gaetz from that possibility but the Republicans have a whole bunch of other strange possibilities.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Trying to "dress up" racism


      The effort today to mislabel suppressing votes from minorities, which has turned states like Georgia and Arizona into Democrat states, as "voter integrity laws" is no more valid than the argument that the Civil War was about "states rights" and not about protecting slavery as an institution. 


     New York Times article on the history of restricting voting methods.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

A sign of the times at the Columbia Mall


    The Columbia Mall (OK, I know technically it is the Mall in Columbia) has gone through a number of changes since it first opened.  More of its features are outside of the main mall building.  With a movie complex and restaurants behind the Mall, many of the people parked in the parking lot are not in the Mall.   Some of the anchor department stores are no more.  Now the Lidl grocery store will be an anchor where the Sears store once was.  It remains to be seen if this type of change will make the Mall more viable in a time of online shopping.


      The Mall will soon be a mass vaccination center. 


Friday, April 2, 2021

Digital passports: latest cultural dividing issue

      As we move to reopen our country the possibility of issuing vaccination passports is following the pattern of a cultural divide just as mask-wearing has been.  Those conservatives that have been reluctant to mandate masks are now opposing issuing of passports to persons who are fully vaccinated.  Government control is seen as too much "big government" even as it provides a means of opening up our economy.   Other countries like South Korea don't seem to have the same hesitancy to developing the passports as they once developed a national testing program that has reduced the impact of the virus in their country.

    While the Biden administration has not indicated planning a national passport program it seems as if the private business community will develop their own systems.  Our country hasn't apparently learned the lesson that uncoordinated systems have a poor chance of addressing the spread of the virus.  Our fear of "big government" in a pandemic has resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths in the United States.  The role of government in placing the needs of our broader society above our individual freedoms is at the heart of our political divisions today.  Vaccine passports are only the latest example of that cultural and political division. 

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Texas leads the way!


      Texas Association of Funeral Directors has recently come out with strong support of Texas Gov.  Greg Abbott's action lifting of the mask mandate and opening up Texas.  Concern within the Association that there would be a drop in business with the development of the vaccines was lessened as Abbott's pro-business philosophy extended to funeral homes.  Some Texas funeral homes are running a limited-time sale (until the end of the pandemic) of 50% off for all preplanned funeral contracts. As one funeral director said, "Act now before Texas starts electing those damn pro-life Democrats!"


    Not to be outdone the Texas branch of the National Rifle Association has been urging Gov. Abbott to sign legislation requiring every Texas resident over the age of 12 to be the owner of at least one gun.  Anyone refusing to obey the gun law will be required to relocate to that liberal haven of Austin, which isn't part of the real Texas.

P.S. 1

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

The year of lines--is it a sign of failure of planning?

    The lines to get the vaccine is only the latest in 2020 being the year in lines.  We have seen the long voting lines and lines for food banks.  When a system is set up to receive applications online, like unemployment, we heard the frustration of not being able to login or get someone to answer the phone call-in number.  System design always seems to be a couple of steps behind the need for access.  The problem with the rollout of Obamacare at the federal level and statewide program in Maryland was similarly inefficient in enrolling new applicants.  States that centralized intake and decentralized distribution seem to have vaccinated more people quickly.  With the possible need for booster shots and the development of new viruses, the lessons learned with rolling out vaccines quickly hopefully we will have better systems developed to prevent the chaos we have all just lived through.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Cold hard facts on mass shootings

      Americans makeup 4.2 % of the world's population but account for 42% of the guns owned in the world.  Americans make up 32% of the mass shootings in the world.

      Every time there is another mass shooting the opponents of gun control talk about the problem being related to mental health, video games, or our multi-cultural population. While these issues may be a factor in some cases of mass shootings in the United States the reality is that other countries have the same issues and have far fewer incidents of mass shootings.  The only relevant difference is the number of guns, especially assault weapons, with high-capacity magazines owned by Americans. 

       Background checks and more mental health services may help in a few cases but outlawing AR-15 and other semi-automatic guns with high-capacity magazines will make it harder to kill multiple people.  


      With each mass shooting, it brings back my memories of landing in Las Vegas in 2017 just 10 hours after a mass shooter killed 59 people and wounded hundreds of others at a concert the night before.  Even though the airport was a mile from the stage it was hit with two of the bullets.  The stage where the concert was held the night before was still there 10 hours later.  The area around the stage still had sheets up as some of the bodies had not been removed from the crime scene.

                   The window the shooter had used was just boarded up the next morning.

                                  A memorial had already grown in memory of those killed.

P. S. 1

           Yesterday was also the 3 year anniversary of attending the March of Our Lives march in DC led by the students from Marjorie Stollman Douglas High School.

P.S 2

Monday, March 22, 2021

Have we already moved to a cashless society?


     I recently heard of a study that showed that 30% of people surveyed said they hadn't used cash in the past 30 days.  Some businesses have already gone cashlessSome countries are moving in this direction.  This reality made me stop and think of the last time I used cash to pay for something.  I couldn't remember the last time.   I have been carrying the same $35 in my wallet since I don't remember when.  I have carried the same amount of coins in my pocket since last year without using the coins once.  

     The primary reason I don't use cash is that using a credit card for all purchases is an easy way to track our monthly expenses.  I remember when I started doing this years ago and writing down my expenses on a piece of paper when I paid in cash.  At the end of the month, I would total the expenses up and enter them in a spreadsheet.  I would add the expenses from checks and credit cards and then arrive at our monthly expenses.  I finally realized that I could make the process much easier by just using a credit card for the expenses when I was using cash or a check. Having monthly bills automatically paid by a credit card also makes bill paying easier and rarely having to write a check.  PayPal makes it easier to send money to people than sending cash or a check through the mail.

    It will be a challenge to see if I can go the rest of the year without needing to touch that $35

Saturday, March 20, 2021

The United States is a leader in vaccinating its citizens when you have a competent government

         For the last year, the United States which should have better prepared to handle a health crisis has been a disaster in addressing the pandemic.  We were in the top 10 countries in how poorly we controlled the virus.  No other country has approached the 500,000 deaths of the United States.  Trump probably wasn't thinking of this when he said we would get tired of winning during his administration.

     Now with a different administration in charge, the United States ranks 8th out of 115 countries with the percentage of its population vaccinated. The United States is in the enviable position of being able to offer vaccines to other countries.  I think we can all now thank Georgia for giving us back a competent government.


Thursday, March 18, 2021

The "personless" March 2020 with social distancing in Amazon photos

    With an Amazon Photos account each day you receive an email link that shows your photos from that day over the years.  In the past couple of weeks, I have noticed something different in my photos from 2020 than my photos from past years.  That difference was that the photos from 2020 were just pictures of sunrises, Spring flowers, and blossoms from my morning runs and nothing with people in the photos.  This contrasted with photos of other years that had many pictures that included people.  March 2020 was a month without "people" photos.  It made me reflect on how socially isolated we were in March 2020.  We thought we would only have to do this for a month and then our world would open up again.  If we knew that we were in for another year of social distancing I think we would have had a collective national case of depression.  Here are just a few photos showing the contrast in years.

                                                Pre-pandemic years photos of March

                                                         2020 photos of March