Wednesday, October 31, 2018

One More Voice Silenced

Yes, I have thoughts on the Weinstein email. They can wait until tomorrow.

For today, stop what you are doing and read this.

RIP ECT By Marge Neal

The East County Times was an independent, family owned newspaper. Its founder, George Wilbanks, died in February of this year and that put the paper in the precarious position which led to its ultimate demise

Please read Ms. Neal’s post. And then, for Heaven’s sake, support whatever local journalism you can.

We need it.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

A New Kind Of Party

Back in the day there was such a thing as a HoCo Blog Party. Well, orginally I believe they were called BlogTale parties. They started out small, a chance for local bloggers to get together and chat. Then they evolved to include bloggers and their readers. At some point they morphed into unwieldy events peopled with those who wished perhaps to influence local bloggers, those who wished to see and be seen, and those who were hoping for a free drink ticket.

It became customary to measure the success of the party by the size of the turnout, rather than the content  of the conversation. That’s when they became less interesting to me. I’m not a big crowd person, if you hadn’t guessed already.

Last night I found myself at a different sort of event, one that I hope there will be more of. The hosts of the “Elevate Maryland” podcast have rebranded their venture and they’re going live. Live shows, that is. They began with a show at Cured with Goucher Poll Director Mileah Kromer. The guest for their second show was Josh Kurtz of Maryland Matters. The setting: La Palapa, on Main Street in Old Ellicott City.

Hosts Candace Dodson Reed and Tom Coale with Josh Kurtz:

Some of the watchers:

We were set up in a lovely private room at La Palapa so that extraneous sound wasn’t an issue. Staff moved in and out taking and delivering orders almost silently. The service and food were excellent, and, had it not been a school night, I would have indulged in more than one margarita.

They were there to talk politics, especially early voting and various races in Maryland. And the people who showed up were the kind of folks who wanted to hear that kind of talk. After the show was finished there was time for conversation and socializing.

It occured to me that the next thing on the local scene might be the HoCoPodParty, and that I was lucky to be around for the beginning of it. If you want a taste, the next episode will be on the
Thursday after Election Day, with Guest Bryan Sears of the Maryland Daily Record to sort out election results.

I’m proud to say that I (and Village Green/Town²) are founding sponsors of Elevate Maryland. I think
that Candace and Tom are making a valuable contribution to local discourse and I hope you’ll give them a listen. You can find Elevate Maryland on iTunes if you can’t make it to a live taping. Strawberry margaritas are an added bonus to being there live, but they’re not a requirement for enjoying the show.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Thoughts in the Checkout

Yesterday I made a quick trip to get a few things at the Owen Brown Giant. The cashier who checked me out was an older woman whose height was on the shorter side. She moved slowly but steadily to perform her tasks. It struck me yet again that US groceries are lacking in the most basic and valuable piece of equipment.

Here is a photograph from a Tesco, probably in England. (They do business in Northern Ireland as well.)

Notice anything?

The checkout clerk is seated in a swivel chair with a back. And all the items she needs are located around her at an appropriate height and within easy reach.

Why on earth do we not have this in the US?  It’s exhausting to stand on one’s feet for hour after hour and there is no good reason that this particular job requires it. This could make a big difference in allowing older employees or differently-abled ones to succeed. It would, of course, make anyone more productive if combined with setting up all the equipment in an ergonomically correct fashion, as Tesco seems to have done.

In doing research for this piece I came across one young man’s hilariously detailed account of working as a clerk in a Tesco. I don’t think he meant it to be hilarious. I was just stunned by his thoroughness. There’s even a few naughty bits.

What did the job entail?
For 90% of the time I was sat on a swivel chair on the tills, scanning groceries and charging people for them. It’s fair to say it got fairly boring at times so I used to just chat a lot of crap to my customers making them laugh.
The writer’s name is Jonny Blair and he’s now a professional travel blogger. And it all started as he sat at the till in the Tesco planning world adventures on the back of old receipts, or so he says. (And that’s what a Google search for grocery clerks in chairs will get you, friends.)
It seems to me to be remarkably humane to allow grocery clerks to sit down while they work. What do you think? Could it ever happen here? 

Sunday, October 28, 2018

The Dealers of Darkness

In order to take the country in a direction that any reasonable person would recognize to be wrong, it is necessary to take away their ability to see the truth. Our vision relies heavily on an access to light. And so light is what is systematically being taken away from our national discourse.

Like advance men for a traveling show, the dealers of darkness come in and post big swaths of darkness in our communities. It’s gradual. But it is a steady, ongoing loss of light. We move from walking confidently to crawling along, feeling our way. Any noise in the darkness is something to be feared.

Normalizing racist and others forms of hate speech = darkness
Demeaning women = darkness
Stirring up fear about migrants = darkness
Promoting a culture of guns = darkness
Closing polling places = darkness
Reviling a free press = darkness

The mailing of explosive devices to people/institutions that have been criticized by the current president is a direct result of this ongoing process to spread darkness: the darkness of ignorance, conspiracy theories, and anger. So, too, is the slaughter at the Tree of Life Synagogue. When your goal is to keep people in the dark and take away their choices, it is important to convince them that someone else is to blame.

We must be as aggressive in spreading light in our communities as these dealers are in destroying it. Moreso, actually. As hokey as this may sound, the survival of our democracy depends upon it.

We must:

Speak and act with respect to those who are different
Respect and empower women
Advocate for fair and compassionate immigration policies
Elect candidates who will vote for common sense gun legislation
Protect the right to vote
Lift up and defend a free press

We must vote. Of course we must vote. Voting alone is not enough. We must also live in a way that shines light in the darkness.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Growing Up

She has always favored her dad. There’s no argument about it. My older daughter looks just like me so it’s only fair. Through the years I’ve occasionally sat across from them in restaurants and marveled. Not only at the physical resemblance but at the body language, the tilt of the head. The twinkle in the eye.

It’s uncanny.

Last night was one of those nights where I sat across from them at Mission Barbecue and saw it again. And thought about how she will be eighteen in less than a month. I watched as they discussed a music composition she is working on for school. I smiled as he asked her how something on his phone works and the two of them bent their heads over it as she explained the finer points.

And then, over their shoulders, a television on the wall caught my eye. It was showing this ad:

It’s a Travelers Insurance spot called “Growing Up”.

She has always been her father’s daughter. Neither one of them are big criers. They keep a lot on the inside but, boy, is there a lot going on in there. But something about this ad, and at that particular moment...

I got teary. I had to look away.

My two don’t have a Travelers Insurance, “I’ll always dry your tears” relationship. But the bond they have is deep, and every bit as beautiful. He bought her very first train set when I said she was too young for trains because it had a voice activation component that would encourage her to talk.

He just knew.

He has been encouraging her to do for herself from her earliest years. And he has sometimes had to remind me that she really can do it, and that I need to let her.

Let her try. Let her fly.

All you fathers of daughters out there, I see you. You don’t have to be like the dad in the ad but for heaven’s sake, just keep doing what you do.

Friday, October 26, 2018

For All Students

I’m grateful to be a part of this amazing community:

Message from Head of School Tom Gibian to our SSFS families: In light of the current administration's proposal to change guidelines regarding how gender is defined—thereby rolling back civil rights that recognize and protect transgender people—the Sandy Spring Friends School community affirms our shared commitment to protecting civil rights for all individuals. As a diverse community inspired by and dedicated to Quaker values of equality and inclusion, we stand in support of transgender people and their right to be accepted and respected in public life. We will continue to be a safe and welcoming space for transgender and gender-nonconforming people, as well as the LGBTQ community as a whole.

For a learning community to be safe, it must be safe for everyone. This isn’t a “sex” issue, a religious issue or an issue of morals. It is a civil rights issue. When you cast your vote for members of the Howard County Board of Education, make sure that the candidates you choose support all students.

My top three are Vicky Cutroneo, Jen Mallo, and Sabina Taj. You may have different selections. All of the candidates who made it through the primary have earned your consideration. Do yourself a favor. Don’t throw away the rights of Howard County trans students on a write-in candidate. You can do better.

And Howard County must do better.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

More Than Yourself

My Midterm election mood, direct from Twitter, is as follows:

You can't say you "love" someone and then vote in such a way that you place their lives and the lives of people like them in real danger. Y'all better start going to the polls with more than yourself on your mind. @word_made_fresh

And this response:

I told someone that voting for Trump while claiming to care about your minority neighbor is like voting for someone whose supporters think they should be able to burn your neighbor's house down to run the HOA. Your neighbor won't care how much you say you love them after that. @upsidedwnworld

This is every bit as much a local issue as a national one.

Lately I have noticed how many trolls have filled up the comments of campaign posts for County Executive Candidate Calvin Ball with sneers like,

He loves those illegals more than he loves us.

Comments like these show fear and a mindset of scarcity.  This is a small-minded “othering” of those who look different, worship differently, or sound different when they speak. When Dr. Ball articulates his vision for a more inclusive Howard County, these people hear an entirely different message.  The diversity of his campaign video says to me, “we the people” but to them it says, “those people are going to take my stuff.”

There are many fancy ways of justifying it but in the end it is as base and as coarse as that: Those people. Those people. Sure, I believe in “we the people”. But not those people. Those people are going to take my stuff.

There are some folks whose idea of democracy is voting to protect a Howard County where they can exert influence over who gets in, how many, where they live, and where their kids go to school. Some of these people are very nice people. But this worldview presents a major stumbling block if we ever mean to address systemic injustices.


You can't say you "love" someone and then vote in such a way that you place their lives and the lives of people like them in real danger.

An amazing thing about love, and justice, and generosity, and respect: they don’t run out because they are shared. There is no finite “pot of good stuff” which will be diluted or drained when we decide to place value on the lives of the undocumented, or people of color, or Muslims, or the poor. In fact, our democracy can only be made stronger by welcoming diversity, by including our neighbors.

All of them.

In truth, the election in Howard County comes down to this:


You think building a bigger table is too expensive? The cost of a higher fence far outweighs it: a democracy that is not truly a democracy, a land of plenty destroyed by a fearful grasping for resources, a community where “those people” lead parallel but lesser lives. 

That’s truly a price we cannot afford.

Calvin Ball and Allan Kittleman have much of the same professional experience. Both, it can be argued, know how to do the job of County Executive, But, of the two, only one has shown he understands the responsibilities that “we the people” requires. Calvin Ball has proven he is willing to take the risks and make the decisions to make Howard County better for all of us.

And that’s why he has my vote.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

The Lonely Hour, Revisited.

Approximately one year ago today:

The Lonely Hour

Dear Bloggers who used to blog,

I miss you.

I wake up at five am and face the darkness in a lonely little world that doesn’t have your voices in it anymore: Sarah Says, Annathema, Lisa B Mrs. S, Life’s Little Comedies, HoCoRising, Tales of Two Cities, HoCo Hayduke, Do I Amuse You?, Rocket Powered Butterfly, HowChow, Dinosaur Mom...

Boo hoo, you say. Sad trombone, or the world’s tiniest violin.

Blogging is a hobby largely of the privileged. Most likely one isn’t doing it without some other resources that make the time to write available. So forgive my tiny little pity party over here.

I suppose this post is to say that I am happiest as a blogger when I’m in a bustling community of ideas. I miss that. Howard County still has some excellent community and/or political bloggers, for instance: HoCo House Hon, Is This Thing On?, Spartan Considerations, HoCoMDcc, Civility and Truth but they don’t post regularly. (I don’t want to overlook Scott E’s Blog but in truth it’s sort of a commercial venture so I’m not sure how to categorize it.)

So most days you are stuck with the tenacity of me and the esteemed 53 Blog. Not chopped liver, but still...can two opinionated people from Oakland Mills contain all the knowledge you need about Columbia and Howard County? I doubt it.

They say that fewer people read blogs on Fridays so I’ll just tuck this little lament right

I miss you guys,

Village Green/Town²


Looking back, I’m not sure why I didn’t include Lisa Markovitz of the People’s Voice or Susan Garber of How Come?  Spartan Considerations has certainly upped its output although I understand that the focus of the blog is soon going to change, The 53 reportedly will cease publication after the midterm elections. Why on earth did I not include AnnieRie? She hasn’t been posting as much of late but her most recent is notable.

Scott E’s blog continues to be a commercial venture which puts it in a separate category from the others. It’s got to be quite the juggling act to perform professional services for candidates, sell ads to candidates, and then blog about candidates. I wouldn’t touch that with a ten-foot pole.

My friend Mary Kate posted the following yesterday:

Here’s to those who inspire us and don’t even know it.

I responded:

Hey, lady. We had coffee at a bakery in Savage Mill and you told me I should write a blog...remember that?

So, if this blog has a first cause, it’s Mary Kate. And if it has a reason for persisting through the lonely hours, well, you probably already know why.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Back Burner

I’m working on a longer piece about the election. It’s not ready yet. Still cooking.

I’ll be buying a Mega Millions ticket at some point today. Will you? I have some big dreams for that amount of money. Yes, I’d do some fun things for myself and my family but wouldn’t it be fun to have money to throw at one’s favorite causes? I can’t think of anything better.

The folks at Choose Civility have shared a video called “Why ‘I’m not racist’  is only half the story”. It’s definitely worth your time. It is hard for those of us so deeply rooted in the privilege we have been raised with to get beyond our own bubbles. This is a great primer for understanding why.

I went to the BOE Forum hosted by OMCA at The Other Barn but I was only able to stay for the first hour, where candidates made their direct pitches. I missed the portion where questions are taken from the audience. Were you there? Did I miss anything major? I was encouraged by the high turnout although high turnout in Oakland Mills generally continues to be only a certain portion of our community. I’d love to see that change.

What I saw of the forum served to reinforce what I already felt about the candidates, so I’m not sure a complete write up is necessary. I did think a lot about whether having a really polished stump speech and being good at making presentations at Candidate events are necessarily qualifications for being a good Board member. Having a bright and shiny public persona is useful, to be sure, but it doesn’t necessarily indicate background knowledge, willingness to work, ability to work with others, flexibility, and so on. Just a thought.

I’ll keep plugging on that other piece and see you tomorrow.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Living Local

Two cool stories for you this morning:

Columbia fashion designer channels her native Ghana with Ohemaa Couture by John-John Williams IV, Howard County Times

Sandra Takyi is a graduate of Wilde Lake High School and a hocolocal fashion designer. The only thing wrong with this article is that I wished it had been longer. Where did she learn to design clothing? When did she first want to follow this career path? Why has she chosen to stay in this area?I would love to know more.

The second story is actually a song:

Colors in a Dream by Alan Scott, performed by Alan Scott Band

Alan Scott is a local musician whose earlier video, “You Only See Me When I’m Gone” went viral on YouTube in 2016. It was inspired by the pain Scott felt after the shooting at Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. 

Of “Colors in a Dream”, Scott writes:

My vision for this song developed a more timely resonance when children, many of them non verbal infants and toddlers, were separated from their parents. The pictures of children in internment camps and appearing in court rooms with no representation chilled me to the bone. 

I wanted to send a message to the world that we do not accept the destruction of children’s lives and separation of families. Whether it is a Detention Center for children, a DACA recipient living in fear of deportation or, most tragically, a loss of life in a culture of gun violence, I do not accept it. So I want to foster another culture -- one that uses votes to change the world, to spare children and their families from destruction and separation. A culture of family voting as family empowerment. 

Both of these local stories gave me a lift this morning, so I am sharing them with you. A small request: listen to the song. If you like it, share it. Sharing a song on YouTube both prolongs its life and extends its reach. And, right before an important election, a song about the empowerment of voting could use an extra boost.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

The Lights Are Much Brighter

Somehow Saturday night found us back at Shake Shack. We had intended to go to Mod Pizza but one of us is lactose intolerant and had forgotten the all important “dairy pill”, so Shake Shack was our next choice. And on October 21st it was still warm enough to eat outside.

My daughter chose a table right on the corner. We could see straight across the parking lot to Barnes and Noble, which was the true reason for our coming to the Mall. We wanted to explore the new bookstore. Yes, an exciting night for us is dinner and a bookstore.

I continue to be impressed by the atmosphere along that walkway that runs from the movie theater on down towards the Barnes and Noble. It’s alive and bustling with all sorts of people and all different age groups. If you enjoy people watching, then this is the place for you.

With dinner finished, we headed across the now-darkened parking lot. It just made sense to do a straight shot to the bookstore, although I’m sure you are supposed to follow the sidewalk. But we took the shorter route and I promise we looked both ways and were responsible and respectful pedestrians. As we walked across the parking lot I got the sensation of being inside an enormous circle of twinkling lights in the darkness. The buildings on the opposite side of the parking lot
complete this sense of being inside a ring of restaurants and retail.

Now, for the Barnes and Noble. It feels really bright and antiseptic to me. I guess I have an attraction to cozy bookstores. I’m sure I will get used to it over time. Everything new feels a bit strange. My teen daughter found two books she wanted that she was willing to spend her own money on, so I’d say that the trip was a success. And I want to go back to have coffee there. It looks like a good place to meet someone and chat.

As we were leaving I asked my husband, “So how do you like the new Mall?” He laughed. “Well, I don’t know where it is, actually. We never saw it.”

Ahh. To him the Mall is the “inside” part and our trip last night never put us in contact with that. Hmm. I guess it all depends on why you are going to the Mall.

*A side note: traffic was quite heavy in the parking lot, my husband wondered aloud what it would be like in December. I reminded him that we never go to the Mall after mid-November anyway.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

A Trip on the Trolley

Let’s pay a little visit to Mr. Rogers this morning as he talks with the children about political campaigns.

“Let’s pretend that they’re almost ready to have the Board of Education election in the Neighborhood of Make Believe...” (Can you hear the Trolley?)

Yes, let’s pretend.

Let’s pretend that I have decided that I want to be on the board of education. I mean, why not? My blog has always had a strong education focus. I’ve done some of that PTA, PTACHC and supporting school events stuff, arts education advocacy. I know all the major issues and I’m acquainted with all the major players.

Look! I even have priorities: Equity and inclusion
                                               Special Education
                                               Arts Education
                                               Support for LGBTQ students

So, it’s October 20th and early voting is soon and I’d like you to write my name in on the ballot for BOE. I mean, we’re friends, right? I have pretty good local name recognition and I’ve been open with my opinions on social media. And- - shocker! - - apparently the law will allow you to just write me in.

What’s that? You don’t think that’s exactly fair? I didn’t win a spot in the Primary? I didn’t have to go through weeks and weeks of Candidate Forums where people could hear me articulate my qualifications and educational philosophy and ask me questions?

But, gosh. I want to be on the Board of Ed and a last minute move like this might actually get me some media coverage. I might even have an impact on the outcome of the race. Hmm...I wonder if there’s anybody I could manage to knock out of contention...

Okay folks, we’re going back to reality now. We are going to leave the Land of Make Believe behind.

If you would have some serious questions if I decided to pull a last-minute stunt like this then I think you’re on the right track. The BOE is not for folks who want to circumvent the transparency of a public campaign. Imagine how that kind of behavior would look if that person were elected.

“Accepting the boundaries of the process is for others, not for me.”

Oh my goodness. We once had a Superintendent who operated like that and we are still recovering.

You have eight candidates who moved on from the primary and you’ve had many opportunities to learn what they are about. I feel confident that these eight give you enough of a choice to make your decision.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Tea Break

The invitation opens with this quote:

"Where are the quiet gays supposed to go?… The pressure on my people to express our identity and pride through the metaphor of party is very intense. Don’t get me wrong, I love the spectacle, I really do, but I’ve never felt compelled to get amongst it... I’m a quiet soul. My favorite sound in the whole world is the sound of a teacup finding its place on a saucer." ~Hannah Gadsby, Nanette

HoCoPride is hosting an afternoon tea tomorrow and we’re all invited. You don’t need to be a member of the LGBTQ community to attend. You can register (for free) at Eventbrite  . A suggested donation of $10.00 at the door will help to raise funds for Howard County’s first Pride event in 2019. From the event announcement:

Come enjoy a quiet fall afternoon with HoCo Pride, as we join with friends and community for tea and conversation in a relaxed, casual atmosphere. We'll provide the tea, small bites, and facilitated conversations for those who are interested. There will be poetry and spoken word presentations from queer artists, and a (quiet) raffle for those who like prizes.
This event is open to all. There is a $10 suggested donation* to cover costs and to help raise funds for our 2019 Pride Celebration (*no one will be turned away). Please sign up using our EventBrite link - it will help us make sure we have enough tea!
In recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness month, we are proud to partner with with Hopeworks of Howard County on this event.
Who will be there? Members of the LGBTQ community, their friends, family, allies, and, since its election season, you can count on some folks who are running for public office showing up as well. I’m hoping that Robert and Colleen Morgenthau will be on hand to document this event. It seems to be right up their alley. In all likelihood SteveCharing will have this covered at well.

What: Tea Time with HoCo Pride
When: Saturday, October 20th, from 1 to 3 pm
Where: River Hill High School
Cost: Suggested donation of ten dollars at the door
Register: at Eventbrite

Thursday, October 18, 2018


Just what you always wanted: more meetings. But, seriously folks. This one caught my eye.

Why? Well, because the Downtown Columbia page posted it on Facebook to amplify those required-by-law but zipped-past-on-the-road notification signs. On social media you can actually stop and take the time to read them. Good move.

Will this result in more people being informed? I think so. Will more people show up at the meeting? I don’t know. Do you make a habit of going to Downtown presubmission meetings? If so, why?

Another thing caught my eye. These particular words:

Lakefront Core Neighborhood - Public Square

They couldn’t have called it Town Square? Town², even?

A missed opportunity, in my humble opinion.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Field Trip

Yesterday my class took a field trip to Sharp’s at Waterford Farm. It was the perfect day for it. It was just the right amount of education and hands-on experience. We learned about bees, explored a corn maze, picked an ear of popcorn to take home, fed the animals, went on a hay ride, and picked a pumpkin in the pumpkin patch.

The world is so crazy right now. What a relief it was to get outside and experience the joy of finding the perfect pumpkin.

What’s your family’s favorite Fall farm trip in Howard County?

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Broken Pieces

I’ve been following the story of a campaign mailer sent by County Council Candidate David Yungmann. If you haven’t, you can bring yourself up to speed here, here, and here. Blogger Scott Ewart has assembled pertinent posts as the situation has been evolving.

In short, Mr. Yungmann included the following as one of his main accomplishments on a recent campaign mailer:

Led opposition to huge school/mosque in the rural west

There’s been much discussion as to Mr. Yungmann’s motivation in wording this item as he did. Some have suggested it was a sign of an outright anti-Muslim mindset. Others suggested it was a carefully calculated “dog-whistle” to appeal to anti-Muslim voters. Still others maintained it was merely a statement of fact and that anyone who called it out was actually the one guilty of “playing the race card.”

Mr. Yungmann himself went through a process as he responded to this public pushback. He went from appearing somewhat stunned to being ardently on the defensive to walking that back and showing some thoughtful remorse. I’m not sure that the angry folks who defended his actions on his campaign’s Facebook page are willing to follow him through to that last step. And that concerns me.

Here’s my takeaway from this entire event. Yet again we see people saying “it isn’t racism if I didn’t mean for it to be racist.” This is implicit bias in a nutshell. There is no such thing as benign racism, or benign religious intolerance. Or benign homophobia. There is always a victim. Someone is always harmed.

Why did Mr. Yungmann send out a mailer with these words? Unless we know him personally, we can’t really know for sure. My opinion? He just didn’t think. He didn’t think about how those words would affect people different than himself. He didn’t think about what that statement would mean to Muslims in Howard County. Why? Perhaps because he doesn’t know many, or work with many, or consider them an important voter group?

When someone is important to you, you think about how your words and actions will affect them. When it is possible for you to make your decisions without considering others it betrays a kind of privilege: I don’t know you, I don’t think about you, I don’t need you.

This will never be benign.

I’m glad that the Howard County Muslim Council called him on this. I’m glad Mr. Yungmann took this to heart. But I’m still saddened by the damage that has been done here. There are consequences to “othering” a group of one’s fellow humans, whether you meant to do it or not. Our Muslim neighbors have still experienced a feeling of public vilification and shaming that was completely unnecessary.

And those supporters who were foaming at the mouth to defend Mr. Yungmann? Do we think they learned anything from this? No, more likely this entire episode has left them more entrenched in their views.

It may seem as though this was merely an unpleasant blip in the campaign season and that it has been wrapped up in a neat and tidy way. “Nothing to see here, move along.” But, if you go down the street and see someone sweeping up broken glass, the message is not simply that clean-up is in progress.

It’s also a sign that something has been broken.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Losing Myself

I put out a rather strange request on the Internet over the weekend.

Are there any good places in OM to collect buckeyes aka horse chestnuts?

HoCo local (and sometime blogger) Ian Kennedy made this suggestion:

I don't know of any in Oakland Mills, but there are several trees along Wilde Lake near the boat house and barn.

So I went over there yesterday afternoon and I didn’t get very far because the lay of the land looked different to me. I think I located what Ian referenced as the boathouse, but where was the barn? I’ve certainly seen it before but suddenly I felt like something had changed and I didn’t  know where I was going.

Alas, I was not feeling the joy of discovery at that very moment and I gave up and went home. It had already been a long day for me.

So here’s my question. Has anything changed over there in the last several years that would make that left hand side of the road look different to me? Construction? Landscaping? Or have I just forgotten?
I haven’t driven by in quite a while.

Very likely I would have found what I was looking for had I gone a bit further down the road. But I just couldn’t shake the feeling that I was in unfamiliar territory. If I’d had my wits about me I would have popped over to take a look at that McMansionesque house I wrote about recently.

Has this ever happened to you? When you go to a place that you feel should be familiar but for some reason it has a feeling of the unknown?

While I have you here—do you know of any good places I can find buckeyes?

Sunday, October 14, 2018

He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not

I’ve been wondering if any folks from Maple Lawn were startled to hear the current County Executive make this statement in the HoCoBiz debate:

When I was on the zoning board, I voted against Maple Lawn. We have to increase our commercial tax base, not more residential density. 

Upon reading the tweet one respondent suggested that Kittleman might have alienated numerous voters from the Maple Lawn community.

Not sure this was a good choice of tweets to “promote.” Odd to be bragging about voting against a couple hundred more high six figure and millionaire families in your county. I’d delete this if I were you.

It does feel a bit like Dad getting up at a big family event and revealing he never really wanted you.

But wait, Maple Lawn. Lest you feel unwanted and unloved, it turns out there’s more to this story. Here’s Mr. Kittleman from 2014:

I was on the County Council when Maple Lawn was first planned. We had the longest Zoning Board hearing in the history of Howard County when it was approved. It’s become such a great project because it has tremendous location, but it also has tremendous residential. It’s clearly a place that’s a mixed use development in Maryland that you can see works. It’s got everything going for it. - - Allan Kittleman

Let me get this straight. He was against it before he was for it before he was against it again. Okay. We all change our minds, right? But why publicize it in this way as a talking point in a campaign debate?

That part is easy. The current tide of public opinion has turned against development. It looks good to be able to say it. 

But that’s not exactly the same thing as telling the whole truth, now is it? 

Friday, October 12, 2018

Loose Ends

A bit of this and that this morning.

Here’s a great article about the importance of pronouncing students’ names correctly. I’ll be writing more about this soon. H/T to BOE candidate Robert Miller for noticing the hcpss mention in this piece.

Interesting conversation on Twitter which begins with County Executive Allan Kittleman saying this:

Kittleman: when I was on the zoning board, I voted against Maple Lawn. We have to increase our commercial tax base, not more residential density. #HoCoBiz Debate

Up this weekend:

Opus, in Merriweather Park in Symphony Woods. I did decide to get a ticket to see what all the buzz is about. Free tickets (and more information) available here.

Blogger Harry Schwarz writes about the North side of Blandair Park. It looks like there will be a children’s garden and a nature park after all.

Local podcast Elevate Maryland is taking a bit of a break but intend to be back soon. If you’ve missed any back episodes, now would be the ideal time to catch up.

And now, on to Friday. I’ll see you all tomorrow after a good night’s sleep.

Thursday, October 11, 2018


In one of my favorite Phineas and Ferb moments, Mom Lindana walks by one of their unusual creations and says, “I’ll never understand public art.”

Do you understand public art? Is it meant to be “understood”? Do you know that Howard County hosts a County-side display of public art each year?

For public ARTsites in Howard, all the pieces are in place  Katie V, Jones, HoCo Times

There are twelve ARTsites around the county. I wonder if anyone will take it upon themselves to see them all? I’ve already seen the one at Clarksville Commons. It is entitled Cube in Motion by Hanna Jubran. As I left the Maker Faire at Merriweather Park in Symphony Woods I thought I caught sight of another.

I’m a firm believer that the arts enrich our communities. There are probably folks who think they are a complete waste of time. Or perhaps that the arts are fine as long as someone else pays for them. But to me the arts are an expression of the human spirit,  an essential part of who we are.

Although I was raised in a family that made regular trips to art museums, I’ve always been more of a performing arts person. I think that is possibly because visual art is so difficult for me. I am the art class equivalent of the kids who felt they were never any good at singing. It is only through my education and work as an early childhood teacher that I have come to realize that art is for everyone, and that the process of creation is open to all. We are all artists. 

I encourage you to go around town and see all twelve of this year’s sculptures. Look at them in a spirit if creation and play. Or use the engineering part of your brain to consider how they were constructed and/or what you might have done differently. If you like to take photographs, add yourself to the art by creating your own interpretation of the piece through photography. If you lean towards the verbal, write a poem about one. 

Busy? Snap a pic, compose a tweet.

I’ll bet there are more ways to interact with public art that I just haven’t thought of yet. If anyone decides to go on a quest to see all twelve this year, let me know.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

The Parade is Coming!

I rarely print press releases “as is” but this is just too cool not to share. Thanks, as always, to CA’s David Greisman for keeping me in the loop.

Veterans Day parade and ceremony in Downtown Columbia on November 11

The Howard County community is invited to honor those actively serving in the U.S. armed forces and the more than 20,000 veterans who call Howard County home at a Veterans Day parade and ceremony on Sunday, November 11 in Downtown Columbia.

The parade will begin at 9:30am, starting at Merriweather Drive and continuing along Little Patuxent Parkway headed toward the Downtown Columbia Lakefront.

A ceremony will follow at 10:45am at the Downtown Columbia Lakefront, featuring comments from Howard County Veterans Foundation President Robert Gillette, Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman, and Columbia Association President/CEO Milton W. Matthews.

There will also be music by a local high school band, performances by the Columbia Center for Theatrical Arts’ Young Columbians, and Color Guard provided by Atholton High School’s JROTC.

The event will feature family-friendly activities, including a card-making station for troops and the opportunity to explore vintage military vehicles.

Hot chocolate, coffee and bakery items will be provided for free by event sponsors Clyde’s of Columbia and Whole Foods Market. Additional food can be purchased from nearby food trucks. Flags will be provided to kids by Columbia Association.

The event is organized by the Veterans Day Parade Committee, the Howard County Veterans Foundation, the Howard County Office of Veterans and Military Families, the Howard County Government, the Howard Hughes Corporation, and Columbia Association.


Reading this put me in mind of a post of mine from 2016 about the Fourth of July, when social media brought out a conversation about flags and parades in Downtown Columbia.

I sure hope those folks will turn out for this Veterans Day parade.

My second thought was of last year’s Veterans Day Parade in Old Ellicott City and how perplexingly white it appeared to be, considering the statistics for military service.

I wrote:

So it’s a relatively new event and next year offers possibilities of improvement. That’s good to hear. Maybe our community can find a way for this parade to bring more people together so that we are honoring and supporting veterans in a way that shows the reality of who we are as a county.

It looks like that’s exactly what will be happening in Downtown Columbia this year.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Going Blue

Today the blog is going blue to honor the life of Grace McComas.

Learn more about Grace and Grace’s Law.

Spread kindness today.