Saturday, January 18, 2020

A Terrific Takeover

Starting a five pm today, Howard County Pride takes over Historic Savage Mill for Gay Day @ the Mill.

All the weather excitement will be over and you will be ready to get out of the house.

If you’re hungry, be sure to stop by Ram’s Head.

Feeling creative? Sign up for the Pride Paint and Take.

And go here to learn more about Howard County Pride.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Beyond the Gate

Something I have never written about over the years is the concept of gated communities. Until last night, I didn’t know that Columbia/HoCo had any.

We do.

What do you think about gated communities? Is that something that would appeal to you when looking for a home? Or would it be a deal breaker?

I find it interesting that the Wikipedia article on gated communities states:

The purpose of gates is not to deter or prevent crime but to provide the perception of security and exclusivity.

I think that another Rouse community, The Village of Cross Keys in Baltimore, was once or perhaps still is a gated community. What did Rouse think of gated communities, I wonder?

I must admit that something about the concept troubles me. Once you put up walls and fences and a gatehouse, do you lose a sense of connection with the greater community? Do you think of yourself and your concerns as somehow separate from those of folks outside the walls?

I don’t know. I guess I’m just on the outside looking in.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Shouted Down

I first met Board of Education member Sabina Taj when she was running for office. Her background in arts education was something I thought the Board would benefit from, and her commitment to equity gave me a lot to think about. She was setting a high bar for herself as she contemplated public service.

Yesterday Ms. Taj announced that she will not run for re-election to the Board. In her statement she referenced the negativity of local discourse and it seems likely that personal attacks and vitriol played a role her her decision. This is a loss for the community, whether one has been pleased with her tenure on the board or not.

The current local climate, especially when it comes to education, has become so toxic that very few want to risk subjecting themselves to its poison. When members of the Board of Education are hounded, smeared, shouted down, even threatened - - how can our true focus be the well-being of our children? Who on earth would do that for a job that pays almost nothing and expands far beyond the time allotted?

What we need are highly qualified candidates who are, at their core, really good people. The current environment isn’t bringing them forward. It’s weeding them out. If you think our BOE has problems now, just wait until we have a board of people whose major qualification is that the meanest and angriest members of the community didn’t yell at them.

We wouldn’t want this kind of environment for our children. Why allow it for the adults who will make decisions on their behalf?

From the looks of it, some community members on social media are keeping up their attacks even now. I’d like to remind them that it costs nothing to be gracious and to thank Ms, Taj for her service and to wish her well in her future endeavors.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Coming Soon?

The best restaurant in Columbia, Maryland is one that doesn’t exist: The Magical Soup Company. My friends know I have been pining for such a restaurant for quite some time. Here’s the concept: amazingly good soup, excellent bread. Must have a drive-through or take out option. Soup comes in cups, bowls, or enough to feed your whole family. (Bucket o’ soup?)

Cold weather, rainy weather, gray days, or days when you just need comforting: all are good days for soup. And not soup out of a tin, but delicious, life-changing soup. What Grilled Cheese & Co. has done for the humble grilled cheese sandwich, someone should do for soup. It’s a miracle waiting to happen.

I do see some drawbacks. What about summer, for instance? Who would want hot soup then? Cold soups exist but may have limited appeal. Also, restaurants with too limited a menu range can doom themselves from the start. I’m thinking of a place I read about that just served breakfast cereal. And, of course, not everyone likes soup.

“Let’s go to The Magical Soup Company!”
“I don’t like soup.”

Hmm. Well, if there ever is a Magical Soup Company, HoCoNomNom will let you know what’s up with that. Unless I beat him to it.

I’m eager to hear your pitches for restaurant concepts you’d love to have in Columbia/HoCo. What have you always yearned for? Share your ideas here.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

The Big Change

Three years ago I disabled comments on the blog and directed people to make their comments on Facebook. It was a risk. There was a possibility that I’d lose reader responses with the change. But my motivation stemmed from a particular kind of commenter: the anonymous troll. I’d had enough.

After three years I can say it has been a success. Comments are now limited to people who are willing to “put their name on their work.” Yes, it is possible to create false identities on Facebook but in three years I haven’t been plagued too much by that. It was so much simpler for them to click “submit” when they could make their mark while still hiding in the darkness.

That’s just cowardice, and I am not obliged to enable it.

Anonymity is important for whistleblowers. And restaurant critics. On social media you should be willing to stand by what you say. If you wouldn’t want your family or employer to know you said it, that should be a big clue that it’s not appropriate to put out there in public. As far as anonymous social media accounts and blogs are concerned, I think you lose credibility by refusing to take ownership of your work. There's no law to prevent it. Just don’t expect people to trust you or what you have to say.

I put my name on my work every day and I’m grateful for all my readers who do the same by engaging via their thoughtful responses. It takes guts to stand by your word. You should be proud of that.

Monday, January 13, 2020

New Year, New Goals

Some people make New Year’s resolutions. I agonize every year over choosing a calendar. When will  I find the perfect planner that is just the right size, that is easy to use, appealing,  and helps me transform how I keep track of my life? It’s downright silly when you think about it, because it isn’t the planner that is lacking.

It’s me.

You have to use something consistently for it to work. And, like most New Years resolutions, I start out with good intentions and then gradually stop trying. And then I decide I have failed so I don’t go back to try again. It doesn't matter if the planner had the most perfect layout or the most appealing stickers. I need to change something about myself: Create a habit that I am willing to practice faithfully.

It won’t work unless I do. I need to be willing to keep at it.

I laughed a bit when I saw an ad for Michael’s which invited customers to “Join Our Planner Community.” Apparently there’s a whole industry now for decorating your planner with beautiful color coding and embellishing it with eye catching stickers. And Michael’s wants to give you the social experience of doing this with like minded plan-o-philes. This reminds me of scrapbooking in its heyday. I guess there’s a group for everything.

Speaking of things that won’t work unless we do, here’s an event you’ll want to add to your planner:

Saturday 1/18 10am Savage Branch, Become an engaged citizen in your local community! Learn how you can make a real impact in our democracy with the League of Women Voters of Howard County and Candace Dodson-Reed, activist, co-host of podcast Elevate Maryland, and chief of staff to UMBC's President Hrabowski. Register here.

Getting involved in the community is a habit one has to commit to. It takes practice, just like sticking with any new initiative one takes on. In this case, having a community of like minded citizens is absolutely a plus. And no one wants to sell you stickers or highlighters in order to be a part of it. You just need to bring yourself, and start where ever you are.

Find what motivates you to make a difference, and keep at it.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Getting a Ride

I’m having some very strong feelings about football this morning and something tells me this is not the day to share them. Perhaps some other day.


The other day my car was in the shop. I needed to get home from work and I attempted to use the Uber app. I failed. I ended up texting my daughter and she bailed me out. I was lucky. As I stood outside waiting for my ride I thought about how rarely I need to do this. Having a car in our car-centered culture is the key that unlocks personal independence. No waiting.

On the other hand, we are so dependent on our cars. I have a car because I need to work. But I must work in order to pay for the expenses that having a car entails. It’s a vicious circle. What if one can’t afford that unexpected $900.00 repair bill?

It was snowing as I stood scanning the road for my daughter’s car. I put on my hat and made sure my coat was zipped all the way up. I put my hands in my pockets. I thought of all the people who wait for rides. Waiting for a bus, or a cab or an Uber, waiting for a friend or a family member. Waiting. As a young person fresh out of college, even as a young married with an infant, I was that person. I was always grateful for the rides but embarrassed to need the assistance.

Our culture is so centered on the self-determination of having one’s own automobile that anything that deviates from this feels like failure. And communities which are built with only that one person, one car mindset make breaking that mold well nigh unto impossible. If Columbia were being built today I wonder if its goals would include a layout which promoted multiple ways of getting where its residents need to go.

Pools, parks, and pathways are awesome but they do not get you to work, the grocery, or doctor’s appointments.

Our obsession with cars is so complete that reaching an age where it is no longer safe to drive is seen as shameful, a defeat of sorts. The loss of independence is so limiting and isolating that many older drivers persist in driving long after it is no longer safe for them to do so. While Columbia/HoCo has a wonderful nonprofit called Neighbor Ride which works to fill the need of seniors who can no longer drive, it cannot change a cultural mindset that many folks have that driving oneself is a kind of  validation and that we are less valuable as humans without it.

Changing that needs to begin long before the point at which one gives up one’s car keys. It’s an enormous cultural shift that is long overdue.