Monday, September 30, 2013

Plan Your Weekend!

Yes, it's Monday. What better time to look ahead to the weekend and make some fun plans?

I am inviting you to join me, my family, my friends and neighbors at the Oakland Mills Cultural Arts Festival on Saturday from 11 am to 4 pm. As such, I am just going to copy and paste all the information here to pique your interest.

Cultural Arts Festival

Saturday, October 5, 2013 - 11:00am - 4:00pm
Free, Rain or Shine

Bring your family, friends, and neighbors - rain or shine - to a festival where admission and fun is always free! Enjoy continuous family entertainment in the courtyard. Listen to the Oakland Mills High School Band open the festivities, experience some magic with “Turner, Dean of Magic,” enjoy the Irish rock sound of “Donegal XPress,” dance and move to the beats of “Mambo Combo,” and feel the rhythm of the “FunDrum Rhythm Circle” with Jonathan Murray. Purchase unique crafts from local artisans and enjoy delicious festival food; including gourmet hotdogs, grilled specialties and some sweet treats. Freebies include: health screenings, carnival popcorn, and kid’s crafts. For more details, call 410-730-4610 or visit


11:00am Oakland Mills High School Band
11:15am Turner, Dean of Magic
12:30pm Donegal XPress
1:45pm Mambo Combo
3:00pm FunDrum Rhythm Circle

Crafters, Community vendors, community resources, festival food, face painting, health screenings, and so much more. Come and enjoy a beautiful day in the Oakland Mills Village Center!


The last two years my family and I have provided free wagon rides for the little ones along the R.O.P.E. Walk. (Where my husband and I are standing in the photo above.) This year, I am trying something different. I'll by selling my handmade crafts to kids only at kids' prices at my 3-2-1 Fun! Table. That's right, all items will be three dollars and under. We always have vendors with beautifully made items at the fair, but their prices are out of the reach of most of our young people. I thought it might be fun to aim my wares at this particularly underserved market. We'll see how that goes...

Speaking of beautifully made items, make sure you stop by to see Alice who will be there selling handmade items from her gorgeousgoddesshair collection. Take a look at her Etsy shop, too, for an idea of what she has and her price range. (Shameless Mom plug.)

I hope I'll see you Saturday. Stop by and say hi, and buy a ticket for my amazing Craft Stash Raffle--more on that tomorrow!




Saturday, September 28, 2013

A Shocking Revelation

Last night was Future Scorpions Night at the Oakland Mills High School Football game. The bands from Oakland Mills Middle and Lake Elkhorn Middle joined the Oakland Mills High School band for the evening. Since Margo was there playing tuba, my husband and I attended our first OMHS football game.

I don't hang around with high school kids much. Preschoolers are my specialty, so I am sometimes apprehensive when approaching events with this age group.

What struck me about last night was how much it was like the small-town Indiana experience where my nephews went to school. Although their tiny town was almost exclusively white, and Oakland Mills is much more racially diverse, the experience was much the same: seeing friends on a Friday night, buying and eating snacks, calling out to passing aquaintances, even watching a bit of the game. So this is that Friday Night Lights experience people talk about.

The big difference between the Indiana crowd and the Oakland Mills crowd came at half time. In Indiana, the marching band experience is almost a religion. In Oakland Mills, the kids are rushing out to buy snacks and have a walk-around, not staying in the stands to enjoy the band. As a musician, I just can't figure this one out. Ah, well.

So you're waiting for the shocking revelation. Well, here goes: Every OMHS student I came in contact with last night used good manners. Every. Single. One. Passing, ooching, scooting by to get a seat, reaching around, going up and down the steps--good manners.

Please, thank you, excuse me, I'm sorry, pardon me. Genuine good manners.

You weren't expecting that, were you? I wasn't, either. I mean, I don't know what I was expecting, other than general rowdiness, but the overall tone was pretty impressive.

Oakland Mills takes a lot of abuse for being the wrong side of town in Columbia. It sometimes feels as though it would be a full time job to take it on, to beat back the detractors comment by comment. And it probably isn't worth it. But last night, when unsupervised by parents or teachers, a whole bunch of (racially and ethnically diverse) Oakland Mills students were just plain nice kids. As a community, we should be proud of that.

Oh, and we lost the game. But, since I came to see the band, I didn't feel too bad.




Thursday, September 26, 2013

Find Yourself

There will be signs. I am really excited to see this. There really will be signs. In fact, there are some already. In case you haven't been following my ongoing desire for better signage, the Columbia Patch article is a quick read and includes a photograph, as well.

This is a great example of ideas being submitted through Inspire Columbia and put into action, although I suspect this one has been in the works longer than that. It is heartening to see the two-way communication going on there. If you haven't made your ideas known there, you should. CA is truly listening.

I still hope to see invitational signs where the pathways begin at the street/sidewalk points. "To the Totlots" or "CA Pathway Entrance" would be good. The more we invite, encourage, and support community participation, the stronger our community will be.

Not everyone agrees. A comment on the Patch article states:

What a waste of money and time. Most people have smartphones that map these paths out just fine. And besides why do we want more people on these paths that should be just the domain of those of us who bike and run.

Well! Perhaps we need signs that say "CA Pathways--no walking, ambling, meandering or exploring."


We want more people on these paths because that is what they were intended for, and because it will make the pathways safer for everyone, that's why.

I would like to thank our commenter for one thing, however, because I am reminded that CA has released their own smartphone app for the Pathway System. You can download it here: I already have.

Although, if you see me out walking in the near future, I'll be having fun looking for signs.


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Price of Coolness

I have a confession to make. I was an underage drinker. In Connecticut, in the mid to late '70's, the drinking age was eighteen. As a high school student going to summer theater cast parties, I was offered liquor and I drank. That's what you do at cast parties, right?

But I never ordered a drink in a restaurant, even when surrounded by friends who did, in places that reliably served underage drinkers. Why? Because it was illegal.

Yes, in my muddle-headed teenaged brain, it was okay to drink in someone's home, but not to order liquor in a restaurant.

I raise this issue this morning because of a post by Dr. Clarence Lam on Facebook this morning.

"Great discussion tonight sponsored by HC DrugFree at Wilde Lake High School on how parents can take an active role in reducing teen alcohol and drug use here in Howard County! Of note to parents: parents can be fined up to $2500 for providing alcohol to teens."

Do you want to pay to be the cool parent?

Several years ago there was a tragedy right here in Howard County that involved underage drinking, driving, and death. It has weighed heavily on my mind ever since. A $2,500.00 fine is nothing compared to the burden that will be felt forever by the adults who must have somehow enabled the use of alcohol that evening.

Will a monetary fine be a deterrent? I truly hope so.

My daughter will turn thirteen in November. I worry about so many things: self-image and self-confidence, body image and eating disorders, the smart phone culture of selfies and texting, bullying through social media, dating and the possibilities of sexual harassment and date rape, teen drivers and driving safety.

Now just add alcohol to that mix. Do you see what I am seeing?

My parents never talked to me about alcohol. They decided to let me learn my own lessons. I got really sick a few times, but overall I was lucky. I wish my parents had talked to me. I wish they had shared their concerns and their values with me. As a teenager, I probably wouldn't have been remarkably receptive. But it would have added to my developing concepts of what is safe and what isn't.

I needed a compass. I didn't have one.

As a parent I am determined to be honest about my concerns and values with my daughter, and committed to keeping her, and her friends, safe. I'm glad that HC DrugFree is around to support and educate in our community.

Let's redefine "cool."



Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A Face in the Crowd

Saturday I attended the kick off event for Courtney Watson's campaign for the office of Howard County Executive. I was with the band.

The Lexington Brass Quintet

Truth be told, I would have been there even if my husband hadn't been playing tuba. I like Courtney. I've seen her reaching out to constituents through social media, most notably during storms and power outages. And I like the people I see working to support her.

Someone must do the work. Even before well-wishers walked in the door Saturday morning, people were busy. It's not just about wearing a "We're With Watson" t-shirt. The event itself had to be planned, the venue chosen and booked, tasks assigned, logos for signs and t-shirts created, food ordered, supplies purchased, speakers chosen and invited. In that room Saturday morning were people who care enough to get up early, stay up late, make lists, brainstorm, reach out and follow up.

You can tell a lot about a candidate by looking at who those people are. And when it comes to Courtney Watson, those people are ones I admire and respect. So I'm looking forward to great things from this team.

Let's not forget the guests. Some were clearly enthusiastic supporters, some were good democrats who root for the home team, some came to see and be seen. At every political function there will be people who view the event as an opportunity to forward their own interests. You can look at that as selfish, or simply as choosing to take advantage of fertile ground for networking.

I don't know what I think about this, probably because at heart I am not a politician. I was just happy to be a face in the crowd. I didn't need to be important. I saw friends, I learned more about what Courtney stands for, and I fulfilled a very necessary function: I was happy to be there.

We all choose, in one way or another, the degree to which we will be involved in our communities and in the workings of democratic self-government. There is room for many kinds of participation--from running for office to staying well-informed about the issues.

It is clearly campaign season in Howard County and it will be for the foreseeable future. How will you participate? What will you learn? What will you share?



Friday, September 20, 2013

What Money Says

Yesterday, before my daughter asked for a pass to the Health Room so she could go home (sick with a nasty cold) she endured a lecture from the 7th grade GT Social Studies teacher about poor handwriting. Apparently the teacher is "too old to be trying to read chicken scratches",and she will be taking off points for poor handwriting. The lecture was addressed to the entire class, but Margo thinks she has already had some points taken off.

There's just one problem here. With the exception of Kindergarten, where letter formation was taught, the students at Talbott Springs received no handwriting instruction. Nada, zilch, as they say. And don't get me started on not teaching cursive. That's another story altogether.

And yet, in my travels as an itinerant music teacher in the County, I have seen some schools using the Handwriting Without Tears method. And so I am beginning to wonder.

Are some elementary schools teaching handwriting? And, if so, are they the schools for whom aqequate tests scores are not an issue? I would love to see the data on this. My gut feeling is that schools in less affluent areas, where fear of doing badly on the MSA's is a driving force, don't get to devote time to handwriting instruction. It's all about the test for them.

Let me state again--I don't know this for a fact. But if handwriting instruction is inconsistent throughout the county, and if this is the reason, then the result will be that clear, legible handwriting will be a luxury that only the rich can afford. If we value only what can be tested, then handwriting is yet another fatality on the road.

As a child I had poor fine motor skills, and terrible handwriting. I hated the fact that I could receive an A on an assignment accompanied by a C for a handwriting grade. I'm thrilled they don't give handwriting grades anymore. But it seems that Margo's teacher is now dealing with a significant number of chicken scratchers, and she thinks that using a grade is the appropriate response.

Is it? If the county schools have not taught or valued handwriting throughout their childhoods, then isn't "good handwriting" at this point the result purely of innate ability? The rest can't simply be bad people or poor students. They are in need of handwriting guidance, if you will, not punishment.

I think that, as one travels around the schools in our county, one would see two things. First of all, the incredible dedication in every school towards the student population they teach. But secondly, and more worrisome to me today, is that having an affluent student population affords one the time and freedom of choice to do many things that others cannot.

Teachers, administrators, and parents all want what is best for the children. This is just another example of how placing power in highstakes testing fails to address the true needs of our students.


Thursday, September 19, 2013

What's the Point?

So, the State of Maryand has decided to go ahead and administer the MSA's this year. But this year is a little bit different. The state has changed over to teaching the new Common Core Curriculum. Exams for the new curriculum are not available yet. So using the old tests means we will not be assessing students on the material they have learned.

The recent (and misguided) trend to use standardized test scores to as a way to evaluate teachers is embedded in the the Common Core. So, what does it mean if the test administered doesn't match up with what the teachers are required to teach?

Don't worry, says the State of Maryand. We'll give the tests, but they just won't count. They won't count on teacher evaluation, they won't count on school evaluation. (And they never count on student evaluation--report cards or promotion from year to year.)

Well, I think we are going to need to send the State of Maryland, and any local Board of Education that complies, back to Teacher's College. And this is why:

Anyone involved in teaching knows that every lesson must have what is called an Educational Objective. Teachers must begin every lesson with one. In some schools, teachers must write the educational objective on the chalkboard, and administrators will reprimand them if they haven't.

"What are Learning Objectives?

Learning Objectives are statements that describe what a learner will be able to do as a result of learning. They are sometimes called learning outcomes. Learning Objectives are also statements that describe what a learner will be able to do as a result of teaching. Some definitions stress that a learning objective is a sort of contract that teachers make with learners that describes what they will be able to do after learning that they could not do before, the 'added value' of teaching."

Each objective begins, as it should, with the student. "The student will..." For the proper construction of an educational objective, look here. Let's look at the following: Who, Behavior, Content, Conditions, Standard of Performance.

So, what is our educational objective for administering the MSA'S this year?

"The student (W) will complete(B) a series of standardized tests (Ct) that do not correspond to current curriculum (Cs) that have no bearing on evaluation of student, teacher, or school competency (SoP).

Guess what? This is not a valid educational objective. A student in teacher training would be sent back to the drawing board with this one. Where is the "added value of teaching"? What is the point?

The State of Maryland is asking schools, administrators, teachers, students, and parents, to take part in a process which clearly betrays the essential promise of education. It is as though the state were requiring Maryland doctors to betray the Hippocratic Oath.

Imagine how much learning our children could be experiencing during the time which is slated to be wasted this year on the MSA's. How much "added value" will be subtracted from their lives this year? Are we willing, as parents, to participate in this process?

Silence is consent. Speak out.



Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Good News Wednesday

At the suggestion of Lisa B., Mrs. S. , I am forgoing today's critical blog post in favor of some good news.

Thank you, Baltimore Sun!


Critical blog post on deck for tomorrow. --jam



Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A Baker's Dozen

After the happenings of yesterday I have no answers. I am left with only questions. So, in no particular order...

What makes Miss Kansas more American than Miss New York?

Why is nobody making snarky comments about those white criminals in Clarksville and Glenelg?

Who are the people behind "Stop Traffic Calmings" on Thunder Hill Road, who appear to desire anonymity?

How many people have signed up so far for Excite Columbia?

Is the new-style Patch any more successful than the original?

What is causing the power outage at Worthington Elementary School?

Why is the State of Maryland going to make our children take the MSA's when they are irrelevant to their current learning experiences?

How can my husband leave the house with an old sofa and come home with a new car?

Is everyone as excited as I am about the return of HowChow?

Is nine-thirty am on a Saturday morning a good time to have a special event?

How many folks know that Saturday is a Ladies Night for shopping fun at The Second Chance Saloon? (6-9 pm, vendors galore!)

Does Kimco really plan to transform its Village Centers into higher density apartments?

Is the freedom to carry a gun worth more than the freedom to be alive in peace?


Monday, September 16, 2013

HoCo Holler: Cedar Lane Park West

On Saturday we had made plans to meet up with some friends for a picnic. We were running late, grabbed some sandwiches from Subway, arrived at Cedar Lane Park, and no one was there. Well, that's not quite right. There were plenty of people there enjoying the beautiful day, but our friends were nowhere to be found.

We sat down, I checked my email, and discovered we had come a whole week early. Well...

It was a beautiful day. We had our picnic anyway, and a little bit of unplanned family time, just the three of us.

The last time we went to Cedar Lane Park West, we were disappointed. The playground was GONE! It was one of our favorites. I suspect it had been built in conjunction with the needs of students of the old Cedar Lane School, as parts of it appeared to be disability-friendly. It was on two levels, with a wide variety of equipment. When we saw it had been removed, we were sad.

A quick tweet brought reassurances from HoCo Rec and Parks that a new one would be going in. But then time passed, Margo got older, and we really forgot all about it.

Well, the playground is complete and beautiful. In addition to all new play equipment for children, and a nice squishy surface underneath, there is an area for adults with exercise equipment. My husband was fascinated. He tried each one, so then Margo did, as well. Once they got started, all sorts of folks came over to try them. It seems they needed someone to break the ice.

This is an ideal location. There are playing fields nearby, which means that while older kids are playing in organized sports activities, mom or dad can bring the little ones over to play. There are benches, picnic tables, rest rooms, and a drink machine. (I didn't check to see if they offfered any unsweetened choices, though.)

A few suggestions:

1) I wish they could incorporate a small shade structure as a part of the playground. A respite from the sun would be lovely.

2) Put a labeled map of the park on that big bulletin board in front of the park buildings. It's crying out for one of the "You Are Here" variety.

3) Update your web page! It still states information that predates the playground rebuild. Toot your own horn--display up-to-date photos and describe the new equipment.

A big HoCo Holler to John Byrd and HoCo Rec and Parks for the update of this playground. We loved it and will be going back--next week, in fact, for the real picnic with our friends.



Friday, September 13, 2013

Heed the Call

The Columbia Association is going to be gathering information from older adults as a part of their Comprehensive Plan for Serving the Older Adult Community. For the purposes of their survey, "older" is defined as 45 years of age and older. From where I am sitting, 45 looks mighty young, but then, it's all in your perspective.

My gut feeling is that we are not nearly concerned enough about the needs and concerns of younger Columbians. I don't fault CA for doing this, but it does worry me a bit. The future of Columbia lies not just in those aged 45 and up.

I was asked at the Candidates' Forum in Oakland Mills if I had a "Senior Agenda."

No, I replied. I have a human agenda. Columbia is only going to work if people of all generations are reaching out a helping hand to each other. We're all in this together.

I worry that some of the proposed changes I see on the horizon are benefiting one demographic at the expense of others. That could be realistic, I suppose. Or it could be the beginning of the end. What do you think?

Now, here's the good thing: if you, like me, are in that 45 and up category, you can pick up that call when it comes. It may say "Mason-Dixon Polling & Research." If you choose to respond, you can choose a view of Columbia that cares about all ages. You can speak to issues of maintaining Open Space and Tot Lots for play and family activities. You can emphasize better transportation, bikeability, walkability, a vibrant downtown. You can be a part of the data that will guide CA as they plan for the future.

However you choose to respond, please make sure that CA hears this: it's not just about us. We care about our children, and our grandchildren, and the future.

So, if they call, pick up the phone, and give CA a piece of your mind. I certainly intend to.



Thursday, September 12, 2013

Plus Ça Change

This morning we experienced yet another skirmish in the Lunch Bag War. My daughter narrowly escaped a lunch-less school day. Why? Because she didn't return her lunch bag to the kitchen, so it could be washed and refilled. She brings her lunch every other day, and when she comes home, she flings it on the bench along side her book bag and promptly forgets all about it.

The expectation is that she will return it to the kitchen. It is not happening. Is that so much to ask? I think to myself.


My mother used to wash and fold my clothes and put them on the stairs for me to carry up and put away. I was a teenager, and just sailed on by those clothes. I don't know why. My mother would eventually bring them upstairs, grumbling mightily about the injustice of it all.

"I just want you to take them upstairs. Is that so much to ask?"

In his play Our Town, set before the First World War, Thornton Wilder paints a similar picture when George, a young man consumed by playing baseball, neglects to chop wood and fill the wood box for his mother. His father sits him down for an earnest 'talking-to'.

It's just a moment in the play, not a central issue. We don't actually learn whether George took this bit of fatherly advice to heart. I wonder.

Young people, notably adolescents, may seem curiously disconnected from what seem like perfectly sane requests from their parents. And those parents, in the face of continuing failure, may seem curiously devoted to approaching the problem in the same way again and again. Whether in the early 1900's, or the 1970's, or today, we engage in the same struggle.

Expectations and boundaries are good. Teaching reponsibility is good. But it is often a very slow process, and I wonder if we contribute to this as parents by persisting in trying to get what we want without examining why or how. I know I get so frustrated when I am in the middle of the thing that problem solving is the last thing on my mind. I get stuck.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Or, as my mother used to say, "Someday you'll have a teenage daughter and you'll know how I feel."


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Ready, Set: Swap!

So yesterday was Swap Ideas Day. If you don't believe me, check this out. (I, for one, am a little sorry that I missed Lumpy Rug Day and Nothing Day.) Anyway, I put out a call on Facebook, looking for ideas to swap.

No one had any they could spare. Or the time to swap, I guess.

Perhaps idea swapping just gets a bad rap as something one has to do in professional development sessions. Mandatory idea swapping, followed by a pre-determined, canned response from management.

"Let's all play a fun game with our Halloween candy! You can choose the values and the rules for swapping. Good. Now turn in all the candy and go clean your room."

Been there? Me, too.

It is far easier to collect pet peeves than get people to swap ideas. It's easy, it's one-way, no muss, no fuss, no uncomfortable interaction. But one local blogger has been quite successful using the Starbucks approach, with the occasional happy hour thrown in for good measure.

Bill Santos, of Columbia Compass, hosts the SantosSundaySixty at the Starbucks at the Mall in Columbia. It's Coffee Hour without the church. He wants hear what you think, tell you what he thinks, and maybe come up with something new. I challenge you to name anyone who understands what Columbia is and what makes it tick better than Bill does.

He and I don't always agree on local issues. That's not the point. The point is that he's not afraid to be out there, actively idea-swapping, and not just on September 10th. We all need to find a person like this, or be that person, if Columbia is to survive and thrive.

I highly recommend these two recent blog posts:


One more thing. You might want to try swapping some ideas at the Resident Speak-Out at the CA Board Meeting tomorrow night. It's possible that CA may be looking at new ways to use your Halloween candy.

It's not Starbucks or Frisco, but they do have a Keurig machine and snacks.




Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Parable of the Seed

Once there was a tree, a lovely decorative apple tree, that lived for many years outside a Columbia home, blooming nicely in the Spring and producing indelible, slippery little apples each year. It was a beautiful little tree, but as time went on it began to fail. As its branches reached closer and closer to the little house, the strength of the tree faded, and it became a hazard. One day it was cut down, and the stump ground down, leaving an open rectangle of mulch right in front of the house.

When Spring came, the owners of the little house cleared the patch of mulch and weeds, and turned the soil. They planted high quality grass seed, and watered faithfully. Nothing happened.

But they did not give up. They planted more high quality grass seed, watered faithfully, and were cheered when a bit of grass began to sprout. And yet, when summer came to an end, the little patch looked like this:

The open patch had been filled by an invasive and highly successful ground-cover. At the very center, a tiny tuft of "real" grass stood alone.

The meaning of the Parable is as follows:

Of course it isn't a parable. It is a true story, and I don't know what to make of it. Should I feel defeated that we could not grow "real" grass, or satisfied that most of the patch has filled in with something green and growing? Is that enough, or should I want more?

What is growth? What is success? And what is the best response?

Now if it were a would you interpret it? Is the "real" grass the Columbia Pioneer, trying to hold off the invasion of those who are not true to Rouse's vision? Or does the comparison between the two only highlight how much we need to understand people and opinions different from our own?

I drove by the Rouse building twice yesterday. It looks vulnerable somehow. And yet I don't feel sad because this is the work of restoration and improvement. What we think of as 'our old building' is a part of a new plan, not the victim of a wrecking ball.

There will be life there. It will be different, yes. But we can put ourselves into the parable as it evolves.

The story continues.



Monday, September 9, 2013

Cheap at Twice the Price

A quick note this morning. I spotted a publicity poster for this interesting event on Facebook. I bring your attention to the circled item.


I feel reasonably certain that Dennis would have pointed out that, as political events are coming thick and fast these days, any event with "no speeches" would be cheap at twice the price.



Friday, September 6, 2013

Monday Morning Quarterbacking

I don't follow football. In fact, I truly don't like football. But the enthusiasm with which Marshmallow Man of The 53 Blog prepares for this yearly set of rituals makes me smile. It just makes me happy to see someone so full of enjoyment. For me, the only equivalent I can think of is going to the closet under the stairs and getting out the Christmas boxes. What a joy it is to unpack, decorate, plan menus, and look forward to seeing friends.

So I don't pass judgement.

My daughter Alice, of HoCoHouseHon Blog, has come to the celebration of football as an adult. You can check out her take on the game here. Although there is little to no support for football on either side of her family, she has found her own way to enjoy it--at first through her husband's eyes--and found a way to just let go and have fun.

So I don't pass judgement.

At our house, we follow baseball. I follow the Orioles because my husband follows the Orioles. And he follows the Orioles because he is a good loyal sort of fellow who, after coming here from Belfast, N.I., realized he couldn't really follow cricket anymore. So, we go to the occasional home game, have a few team shirts, and watch many, many games at home on TV.

Yesterday was an uncomfortable day for local sports, in my opinion, because the Ravens and the Orioles were both playing, and well, you know the rest of that story. So George and Alice were at the Second Chance cheering on the Ravens and we were home watching the Orioles. And nobody passed judgement on anybody else, because that's how families are.

And I, for one, am grateful for that.

Can I get an Amen?



Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A Baaaaad Plaaannn

Back when all of our kids were young, my sister and brother-in-law had two ways to categorize behavior when it came to their two rambunctious boys. Was it an "accident"? Or was it a "bad plan"? I remember hearing my ever-patient brother-in-law call out, "Don't do it, Greg!" in a warning tone before one of these incidents would occur. And then, the aftermath.

"That was a baaaaad plaaannn, Greg."

This expression came to mind when I was discussing pet peeves with my local Facebook friends. I was stumped by the following:

"The general request for the need for "walkability" when no one wants to walk more than 50 feet to get into a store...or the gym."

She elaborated, "There are many, many people who like to walk, or bike around town. The people who annoy me are the ones who "claim" to want walkability and then complain when they can't get a close parking space."

Hmm...I had to think about that. It stayed in my head most of the day. It was a holiday, and there was a sale at Joann's, so I popped over to look for some bargains. I was not alone.

It was hot, and I was cranky and annoyed. And then I thought of what my friend said. "...the ones who "claim" to want walkability and then complain when they can't get a close parking space." And, right there in the hot and crowded parking lot, I had an epiphany.

This is not Walkability. This is a Baaad Plaaannn.

This particular parking lot, at Columbia Crossing on Dobbin, is a sea of concrete where walking isn't even on the menu. I believe Jessie Newburn has opined quite eloquently on this already.(  All one can hope for is the closest parking place. Everything else is Purgatory or Hell for pedestrians. The retail establishment and the automobile have been planned for, the walker is an afterthought.

Yes, I am certainly capable of walking this distance, even on a hot day. But that is not the point. Walkability is not simply about the ability and or desire to walk more. It is a quality of life issue. Let us improve the experience of walking as we go about our daily lives, shopping, going to work, school, community events. As long as our experience is improved only by snagging the close parking space, we continue to be mired in an outdated and moribund sea of concrete.

We are capable of making better choices. Will Columbia Crossing ever be transformed? Or will it slowly wither as newer ways to shop are planned and come to fruition--places where Walkability is central to The Plan.

Stay tuned, Columbia.



Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Pet Peeves and Pedestrians

Sunday morning I asked the following question on Facebook:

What's your (local) pet peeve?

I got a boat-load of responses. Here they are:

Street sweepers. Really? My money is paying for that 2 times per year???

Car drivers that ignore traffic coming from Sohap, at the stop sign at Oakland Mills Road and Sohap Lane.

Well we kinda covered it this morning, but people who loiter and hurl trash and beer bottles on the ground. They have no respect for how hard the rest of us have worked so that we all have a nice place to live. Then they wonder why businesses pack up move elsewhere.

Cigarette butts thrown out of car windows and on the ground...the world is my ashtray. We should implement that $1500 littering fine.

No bike rack at the elementary school.

The fine should be $1500 normally and $3000 if you have a "Choose Civility" sticker on your car.

Julia Jackson McCready Well, you got me going pondering a blog post. I know that X. has serious issues with people who let their dogs use the pathways as bathrooms...

I only get to pick one?

Julia Jackson McCready Oh, go to town! It just has to be local.

No bike rack at my apartment complex!

The general request for the need for "walkability" when no one wants to walk more than 50 feet to get into a store...or the gym.

Julia Jackson McCready I'll get right on that!

Julia Jackson McCready I mean, in reference to the bike rack.

Julia Jackson McCready As to walkability, I don't agree. It is people like my daughter (26) who want walkability, and they really do walk! Amazing, but they do and they think all this driving is lame.

I'd walk everywhere if I could. And had all the time in the world. (I know, it's apartment-specific, so I have to bug them. Re: bike rack.)

There are many, many people who like to walk, or bike around town. The people who annoy me are the ones who "claim" to want walkability and then complain when they can't get a close parking space.

Julia Jackson McCready Ah...

Don't know if its all schools but Bryant Woods doesn't have a bike rack.

I cannot stand when people blow through stop signs, Thunder Hill RD, especially when I am at the cross walk with the furries starting to cross! Someone is gonna die before action is taken!

Julia Jackson McCready The crosswalk at Thunder Hill and Whiteacre has been repainted several times, but the paint fades almost immediately, what is up with that?

Even fresh they do not see careful!

And walkability is why we chose Columbia over Ellicott city. It is a huge thing for us. HUGE.... As we just biked to Centennial safely. And walk to schools safely. And scenically.

Seriously, I cannot count how many almost accidents I have seen and how many people have nearly been hit there due to people not stopping! I have waited several minutes there to cross as people will not stop!!!!

Julia Jackson McCready I know. Do we need a light?

I do not know about a light, but the humps may help. I think that traffic calming like they have infront of Oakland Mills Middle or High would be AWESOME.

Oh and another thing, when they drive 60+ down the midde turn lane! So dangerous!!!!!

I hate it when people blow through the red lights. Happens on almost every light where I see 3-4 cars begin to turn AFTER the light has already turned red. Throws off the whole traffic pattern! Also, the fact that no one seems to understand that pedestrians have the right-of-way. I hate trying to cross in a parking lot and fearing having my toes run over. And if we're getting really local, though it isn't in Columbia, I HATE the intersection outside of my house. (Laurel) Too many accidents, way too many close calls. It also brings out the worst in people.

People taking a a right turn onto Tamar, doing a U-turn at full speed in the middle of Tamar, and then turning right back onto 175 just to avoid sitting at the red light a couple of minutes!

Julia Jackson McCready Yow!

All of the above and for speeding cars on Thunder Hill Road.

Julia Jackson McCready Lord, hear our prayer.

People who slow down for the speed humps on Elliot's Oak Rd. If you drive the speed limit, there is NO need to slow down. They are the best laid out speed humps in Columbia.

Ooh. I never thought about that.

Oh, those are also the people who slow way down for the speed humps and immediately speed up too fast only to slow waaay down again for the next one. I think unkind thoughts regularly.

That would make me carsick!

1- people not stopping at the crosswalk at Thunder Hill and Whiteacre to let these children cross the road 2- people not stopping at stop signs on Thunder Hill Rd. at Sohap and Oakland mills Rd at Sohap! It is unreal!

Re walkability: lack of sidewalks/bike lanes because it is assumed that people will drive from say, Hickory Ridge Rd to Stevens Forest Rd. Or along Oakland Mills & up Snowden River Parkway to do shopping.


Notice anything? A lot of them have to do with the pedestrian experience. I'm going to focus on the Walkability issue in tomorow's blog post.

I noticed something else, as well. When I asked folks to get excited about Columbia, I received zero responses. Pet peeves? Forty-one.