Friday, November 30, 2018

It’s Here!

Advent hasn’t event started yet, but the local Christmas season is in full swing. Somehow one of my favorite annual events has snuck up on me.

The WBAL Concert for Kids is this weekend in Oakland Mills. This year you have your choice of two days and events. Saturday afternoon is the Family Matinee of the Pops Concert, with full Pops Concert in the evening. Then, on Sunday evening at the Owen Brown Interfaith Center there’s the Classical Concert for Kids.

These concerts showcase the work and gifts of our local young people and are a great way to kick off your holiday season. You can get tickets here.

The Howard County Conservancy is having their annual NaturalHolidaySale Saturday from ten am to 3 pm.

Come enjoy our annual Holiday Sale- fun for the whole family! Browse locally crafted natural gifts while enjoying music and refreshments. Children will enjoy creating whimsical critters from cones, pods and seed heads with the help of our naturalists! Vendors include Caldron Crafts, Chesapeake Sea Glass Mosaics, Cross County Garden Club, Dea’s Masks and More, Dorsey Hall Garden Club, Druzy Daze, Ellicott City Sauce Co and Vill’s Dills, Flowers by Eden, Forever Favorites, Greenbridge Pottery, Howard County BeeKeepers, Magnor Natural Beauty Products, Maloney Photography, Mindte’s Meadows, Mossaholic, Neat Nick Preserves, Pocket Pets, Sunroom Studios and Wolf Den Crafts.
I’m intrigued by the new event at the Chrysalis and I’m going to try to stop by this Saturday. Celebration in the Woods features:

artist-decorated trees, live performances, a “snow” ball pit, seasonal crafts, and winter treats such as hot chocolate, apple cider, mulled wine, and more! Also, as a special treat for the kids, Santa will be visiting the Chrysalis at 3 pm each day.

The annual lighting of the Bollman Bridge at Historic Savage Mill is this Saturday at 6 pm.

Holy mackerel! The Mall is hosting a Winter Wonderland Festival Saturday from 1-5pm. (Nordstrom Court)

Join us for a free, family-friendly event featuring a silent disco, crafts, entertainment, giveaways and more! Plus, special appearances by a few of your favorite characters!

What’s a silent disco?

Sunday it’s Jazz in the Mills in Oakland Mills!  Holiday Extravaganza featuring Steve Washington at the Other Barn on Sunday, Dec. 2 at 5:00 pm. Dinner buffet included. Best to purchase tickets in advance! More info on the OM Website.

And, last but not least, the perennial favorite Symphony of Lights is open for drive throughs and
this Sunday for the Festive Families Walk from 5-8 p.m.

We’re just hoping to get our outdoor lights up this weekend. What about you?

Thursday, November 29, 2018

A Job Well Done

Howard County Board of Education members may not approve of Cindy Vaillancourt, but Howard County voters do. -  - Blair Aimes, HoCo Times (November 5, 2014)

Today will be Cindy Vaillancourt ‘s last meeting as a member of the Board of Education.  Over her years of service she has moved from being a much-maligned voice of dissent on the board into solid leadership. If there were a special gift for the number of times one has been falsely accused she would win it, hands down. Ms.Vaillancourt’s resolve has been tested, and tested again, by people who wanted to get her out of the way and silence her voice. 

To lean a bit biblical here, the fiery furnace was no match for Ms. Vaillancourt. She has shown herself to be to be the embodiment of the now familiar quote:

She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.

None of us will ever fully know the extent of the work Ms. Vaillancourt did while on the Board because she was never an aggressive self-promoter. She made few attempts to put herself in the spotlight at public events. She wasn’t in it for that. She was in it to serve the students, parents, faculty and staff of the Howard County Schools.

More than anything else, Ms.Vaillancourt has listened. She listened when no one else would. She used all the methods at her disposal to help when others didn’t even bother to respond. She stood up for special needs parents, children sickened by mold, elementary school music programs, victims of bullying and sexual assault, LGBTQ students, faculty and staff who were being unfairly treated in the workplace, and more. 

She did all this while being the recipient of one false accusation after another. She was often excluded from the inner workings of the Board as a way to circumvent 
her involvement. She never quit.

She never gave up on the people of Howard County who needed her.

In recent years she balanced two open heart surgeries with Board responsibilities. Even when slowed by health issues her priorities have always been responsiveness, transparency, and accountability. Oh, and a deep and respectful sense of human kindness. On good days and bad, that has been Cindy Vaillancourt.

I hear she is looking forward to retirement where she will enjoy being a first-time grandmother and have the time to cook more. She will also now have to ability to speak on local issue as a private citizen.

I am looking forward to that.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Listening to Other Voices

Serious case of the. I-don’t-wanna’s over here this morning.

Today I recommend to you “Home for the Holidays”  by AnnieRie and The Invisible Woman
 by HoCoHouseHon.

We have some wonderful women’s voices in Columbia/HoCo. It’s never a bad idea to stop for a moment and lift them up.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Regret Wednesday

Black Friday and Cyber Monday don’t phase me. All the adverts roll off me like water droplets on a raincoat. But Giving Tuesday, well, that’s different.

There are so many good causes. I probably can only chose one or two. And I feel real sadness that I can’t do more. Giving Tuesday is painful for me and downright overwhelming. There gets to be a point when you have so many supplicants coming at you from all directions that it seems easier to close it all down and give nothing. Their long, thin arms reach out on Facebook and Twitter. In emails and through mass mailings.

There are too many needs. Nothing can ever fill that enormous void. Why even try?

I remember reading somewhere that people are more likely to give if the approach feels small and personalized. You must paint the need in such a way that the potential donor feels that their single donation has meaning, If the suffering and/or need feels too huge, people are more likely to feel that nothing they can do will help.

So they walk away.

I hope that all these very deserving non-profits do well on Giving Tuesday. But I wonder if the over-the-top pitches for donations has the potential to drive people away rather than producing the desired effect. Selling product is not the same as soliciting charitable donations. A different mindset and different emotions are at play. I’m not sure the concept translates.

There is Giving Tuesday, and then, for me, there is Regret Wednesday. Regret for all the good causes I can’t afford to support. Regret that casts a pall over the rest of the season. I just can’t help it. It is as though all those organizations are gathered outside my house, peering though the windows at my celebrations.

I don’t have room to let them all in. And I can’t get them out of my head.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Old Dog New Tricks

Tickets for three to “A Charlie Brown Christmas” with The Eric Byrd Trio: approximately $70 (with fees.) Food and drinks at the Soundry (including a generous tip): approximately $70. Let’s say: $150, all told. The experience of seeing a childhood classic on a big screen and then hearing the jazz score live? (You know what I’m going to say, right?)


It was our first visit to the Soundry, and it was a big gift from me to me, although I dragged two teens along for company. I’m happy to report that they enjoyed it. 

If you’ve already been to the Soundry then you already know what they have done with the space. The old brightly-painted walls of the Tomato Palace are gone. Replacing them is a vibe that is both comfortable and elegant. The overall color scheme is red and black and, while we were there, the lights were low so it felt warm and cozy.  There’s a bit of an ombré pink glow from the backlit bar area. I liked it.

No, they do not have Garlic Knots on the menu. If you want a surge of nostalgia you should visit the restrooms, where you’ll be treated to the familiar walk down the circus hallway. That should help restore any old Columbia Lakefront feelings you might be yearning for.

As to the menu, it’s a tad precious for me. Perhaps it will evolve. I will say that the service was flawless from the moment we sat down at the table. They’ve worked out a visual cue system that allows you to signal for assistance and it really works. Our server also stopped by periodically just to check in and see if we needed anything. But it was all done quietly so as not to interfere with the performance experience.

Many of us own the major holiday movies on DVD or can easily stream them so you may wonder why anyone would pay good money to see one. I’m admittedly deeply prejudiced in its favor, but, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” is truly enhanced by the full screen, movie theatre experience. Plus, it’s fun to hear people around you enjoying all the good bits that you’ve loved for years.

Shared experiences. You just can’t beat them.

In presenting the (now clearly proven to be ) timeless jazz score of the film, The Eric Byrd Trio did not disappoint. This was a true live jazz performance, not merely a studied recreation of a prerecorded score. The players were each brilliant unto themselves, with a gift for working together and riffing off eachother in a way that just makes you shake your head in wonder. Or gasp. Or laugh out loud. They rocked it. 

There was additionally the delicious treat of hearing Mr. Byrd’s two sons join him on “Christmas Time is Here.” At ten and twelve most of us weren’t playing jazz clubs. These two young men did their father proud. Their demeanor was rather serious, though. I do hope they were enjoying the song as much as the audience was.

I do have one complaint. And, as a musician, I can’t let this one pass by. At no time did Mr. Byrd utter these two words:

Vince Guaraldi

Without Vince Guardaldi’s tradition-shattering jazz score, and without Charles Schulz’s commitment to pair his animation and message with Mr. Guaraldi’s work, none of us would have been there last night. “A Charlie Brown Christmas” continues to be enjoyable and relevant because it contains a variety of choices that make the whole bigger than the sum of its parts. Vince Guaraldi’s name is worth mentioning from the stage: last night and every time that music is played.

Sermon complete.

Overall I have nothing but praise for last night’s experience. We’d definitely go again. I hope that the Soundry folks will throw in a few other family-friendly events here and there throughout the year. 

Oh, and the teens want Dodie Clark. Please get on that ASAP.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Life in the Shop Window

By now most of us are familiar with the case in which Governor Larry Hogan was cited for blocking constituents on his social media accounts. If not, you can learn more here. Something I read online yesterday got me to thinking.

What about candidates? Are candidates obliged to allow continued trolling by bad actors on their social media platforms? By law they are not. But of course there is a judgement call between those who are expressing opposing points of view, even vehemently, and those who would be labeled as trolls and bad actors. That’s why candidates have social media teams. How much do you leave up? How much do you engage? What crosses the line?

Once the candidate is elected, how does that social media policy evolve? Perhaps it was focused primarily on selling; now it needs to be about communication and interaction. Our elected official wants to be hard at work, sleeves rolled up, doing the things that create good policy. But someone else, or a group of someones, are tasked with informing the public, responding to constituent inquiries, and keeping a watchful eye over situations on social media that may need further attention.

Social media then moves from selling a product to providing good constituent service. I would argue that clear communication and responsiveness to constituent needs are also the best “selling”  towards re-election, whether on social media or not. These are pillars of public service which existed long before Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Social media is new, connecting with the public is not.

Oh. Now here’s another conundrum. What responsibility does an elected official have in dealing with anonymous social media accounts? I would argue that legally, there is none. If you do not vote as, say, “Colonel Gateway”, the owner of that social media account cannot claim to be a constituent of whatever public servant represents the Columbia Gateway area. It’s just dirty pool to hide behind an alias while slinging zingers and then claim ill treatment from someone who is required to attach their face, identity, and opinions to everything they do. (Truth In advertising: our esteemed Col Gateway has nothing to do with this story, I’m just using him as a well-known local example of an anonymous account.)

There’s quite a bit to navigate when moving from a political campaign to public service. Social media is only a part of that. But it’s right there in the shop window, so to speak, for passers-by to gawk at.

Gosh, I’m glad I’m only a lowly blogger.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Beware the Scythe

Facebook reminded me today of some friends who appear to be the kiss of death for local restaurants. It seems that all they have to do is be frequent visitors or, in some cases, merely drive by, to cause a restaurant’s demise. The restaurant in question was Chicken Out in the Columbia Crossing Shopping Center. (Mission Barbecue is there now.) As I recall, there were others. Mamma Lucia, maybe? Cosi? I can’t remember.

In the thread (from 2013) helpful friends make suggestions of mediocre restaurants they’d be happy to see removed from the local scene. I notice that Mimi’s at Gateway Overlook was one of them, and it appears they were successful on that front. Someone suggested that my friends were the restaurant Grim Reapers.

The lists of restaurants my friends were begged to stay away from included: Stanford Grill, On the Border, Houlihan’s, Royal Taj, and Tigi’s Ethiopian. All are still in operation so they have clearly been spared.

So, in a spirit of fun, can you think of any local restaurants that you think we’d be better off without? If we could send out a Grim Reaper of Restaurants, where would you send them?

Conversely, what restaurants would you want shielded from the kiss of death? I’m going to put in my request to spare Maiwand Kebab.

If we want to go full-on nostalgia here, let me know about the best now-departed restaurants that you really miss. That topic usually brings out the best in HoCoLocal reminiscing.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

A Glimpse Of Hope

Concord, Concord is here, Concord is here / Our days to bless / And this our land, our land to endue / With plenty, peace and happiness. / Concord, Concord and Time, Concord and Time / Each needeth each: / The ripest fruit hangs where / Not one, not one, but only two, only two can reach.

Choral Dance Number 2, Gloriana 
Benjamin Britten

As I began to think about Thanksgiving this morning, the sounds of this piece stirred in my memory.

Concord, Concord is here, Concord is here
Our days to bless

It brought to mind lovely images of American autumn landscapes, plentiful harvest, families gathered around a food-laden Thanksgiving table. Generic American feel-good Thanksgiving where everything is fine and nothing is complicated.

What is concord? defines it as:

Agreement or harmony between people or groups

Concord is precisely what is not here.  The oppostive of concord is discord. That is where we are in America today.

But we yearn for concord. For a soothing sense of harmony in our lives. But not all of us. Some of our friends and neighbors are waking up on this morning and every morning yearning for justice. There’s a reason for that, and it goes back to the first appearance of Europeans in North America. 

I cannot celebrate Thanksgiving anymore without facing the truth of that. 

Here is my thanksgiving this year. Here is my glimpse of hope. Two things have happened over the last week that have nourished my soul. The first is from a parent at Oakland Mills High School:

A wonderful thank you to all from OMHS;
THANK YOU!!!  We are pleased to say that due to the generous donations of our fellow community members, and surrounding schools, we are bursting at the seams with donations for the OM food pantry! At this time we are unable to house any additional donations. We will send out future communication when our pantry is low and needs re-stocking. We cannot thank you enough for the incredible support, it has been so humbling seeing our entire community come together to support this endeavor. Your donations prove that we truly are strongest together!

The second is from newly-elected State’s Attorney Richard Gibson’s remarks this week on Elevate Maryland. He talks about our responsibility to make the way open, clear the path for others to be able to fully come into their own and manifest the gifts that are within them. (Listen for yourself.)

So, some of us are hungry for concord. Some of us thirst for justice. If I have any message at all to share today it is this:

The ripest fruit hangs where / Not one, not one, but only two, only two can reach.

Keep reaching. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

A Special Treat

Let me bring to your attention this comprehensive and insightful post by Elizabeth Brunetti on her blog, Take on E.

Friendsgiving at the Turn House

She begins,

A few weeks ago, The Turn House contacted me and asked if I’d like to attend the annual Friendsgiving dinner they host for their social media influencers. 

Two things that struck me while reading this piece.

First, it is unbelievably thorough. She has quite a bit of information to convey here, along with plentiful photographs of the food she sampled. This kind of piece takes a lot of work. Ms. Brunetti makes it look easy. I’m not at all surprised the folks at the Turn House invited her. As I read I had memories of delightful longer-form pieces from the dearly departed Gourmet Magazine.

Second, Ms. Brunetti’s take on the evolution from bloggers to social media influencers is spot on. I noticed the change when I attended such an event at Cured/18th & 21st. The team across the room came with special lighting to photograph the food. When I attempted to make small talk one woman was puzzled that I had a blog, not an Instagram.

But Instagram is never going to be a home for writing like this, sparkling like a Swarovski crystal on an evening dress:

At this point, I was perfectly happy letting the paparazzi worry about their perfect pictures. I was in heaven. I talked to Molly about the food. We pondered pimiento cheese. We marveled about mushrooms.

There’s one particular photo that illustrates this concept so beautifully. It also made me laugh a little.

Oh, for Heaven’s sake, read this piece. Enjoy it. Savor it. If we’re all going to be flattened down to Instagram snaps and hashtags, you may not have a lot longer to appreciate this kind of local writing.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Rockin’ Around the Old and New

If I’m going to go to the Mall, I should do it soon, because I generally try to avoid any trip after Thanksgiving. Dealing with crowds of people in our local cathedral of retail has been known to knock all sense of the Christmas Spirit right out of me. I lose all sense of Peace on Earth, Goodwill to  fellow creatures.

As we watch all the usual signs of the holiday season being rolled out locally, I’ve been wondering. Has anyone seen anythng about the Poinsettia Tree? You may recall there was one year that Mall management thought they’d do away with this local tradition. Dennis Lane wrote about it on Tales of Two Cities blog.

I’d like to share the actual blog posts with  you but it looks as though they are no longer accessible. If true, that’s a great loss to anyone looking for his insight on local affairs.

At any rate, what of the famed Poinsettia Tree? Is it going forward as usual? Is Mall management quietly going in a different direction? What difference would 11 years make in how the community feels about this?

For my part, I find the Poinsettia Tree to be lovely but it doesn’t make or break my holiday experience. Of course, I didn’t grow up here. Your opinion may be wildly different. Feel free to share it in the comments on Facebook. 

I don’t mean to start unnecessary rumors. Just because I haven’t seen anything about the Tree doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. Please don’t plan any protests without verification. Also, maybe there are more worthwhile things to come out for?

UPDATE: readers Jolene Moseley and Joan Lancos report that the Poinsettia Tree lives on. I find it interesting that there’s no mention of it in the Mall’s social media feed.

We love our old traditions in the VG/T². I’m looking forward to making a new family tradition by going to Celebration in the Woods. You can learn more here. In keeping with the Inner Arbor Trust’s commitment to presenting affordable and family-friendly events, tickets are five dollars and children under two are free. From the Inner Arbor Trust website:

Join the Inner Arbor Trust, Inc. and Downtown Columbia Partnership, Inc. for a new Celebration in Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods! On Saturdays from November 24th to December 22nd from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., the Chrysalis transforms into a winter wonderland, complete with artist-decorated trees, live performances, a “snow” ball pit, seasonal crafts, and winter treats such as hot chocolate, apple cider, mulled wine, and more! Santa will visit the Chrysalis at 3 p.m. Come join us for the magic of the season!

And then you could finish off your day with a trip through the Symphony of Lights. This feels like a win-win to me. And, who knows? The sight of the Chrysalis in the snow might become a new local holiday tradition.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Bit of a Day

It’s  going to be a bit of a day (see Lin-Manuel Miranda for context)  for the folks at the Elevate Maryland podcast. Tonight at Lupa hosts Candace Dodson Reed and Tom Coale will be doing a live taping with guests Calvin Ball, Rich Gibson, and Marcus Harris. (Newly-elected County Executive, State’s Attorney, and Sherriff, respectively) Billed as a Special Thanksgiving Show with Howard County Historymakers, it’s the closest thing a podcast can do to giving front-page status to the first African Americans elected to these posts in Howard County.

Three things I’m thinking about tonight’s podcast:

1. We are at the very beginning of an entirely new era of leadership in Howard County. Will we learn anything tonight that hints at either the style or substance of how these men will serve?

2. The vile KKK flyers dumped off over the weekend in Old Ellicott City. The language they contained seemed awfully reminiscent of the folks who tuned out en masse to oppose CB-9. Does the KKK See Howard County as fertile ground for organizing? What’s the best way for us as a community to stand against their hatred and racism?

3. On this International Men’s Day I hope Candace and Tom will make time to ask their guests how they balance their careers with fatherhood and/or home responsibilities. A few questions about clothing choices and or recipe recommendations for those busy committee-meeting nights would not be amiss, either.

Will any of the above come up at tonight’s event? Turn up at 7 pm to find out! If you can, visit the event page to let them know you’re coming.

Of course, if you can’t make it, you’ll be able to check out the podcast later. But I think this just might be one you’ll want to be able to say you were there for.

Can’t make it tonight but your heart is full of HoCo goodwill and community spirit? Make a donation to the Community Action Council to help families in need have a Thanksgiving meal this year.

Sunday, November 18, 2018


Being white brings privilege.
Add to that:
White male.
White cisgender male
White straight cisgender male

Bubble upon bubble of  protection encircles this segment of our society. 

Other are not so lucky.

If you are transgender (and especially a trans person of color) it seems that instead of a bubble you carry a target. Already in 2018 there have been at least 22 murders of trans individuals in the US. There are likely more we do not know about.

To mark the Transgender Day of Remembrance, The Rev’d Paige Getty will be leading a vespers service tonight, November 18th, to “honor the memory of those whose lives have been lost in acts of anti-transgender violence.” The service begins at 7:30 pm at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation Of Columbia, which is located in the Owen Brown Interfath Center. The address is: 7246 Cradlerock Way, Columbia, MD 21045.

You can learn more about TDOR here, and Trans week of Awareness (November 12-19th) here.

Saturday, November 17, 2018


Once upon a time the Baltimore Sun sponsored a celebration of local blogs and social media called the Mobbies. Remember them? Then, for one year they were called The Crabbies. This year they appear to be no more. I’ve been digging around on Twitter for info and, although the Crabbies account is still there, it hasn’t been updated for a year and no one responds to inquiries.

Farewell, Mobbies. You were nice while you lasted. And yet, looking at a picture of the final year’s winners, a Howard County reader noted:

 I find myself wondering if this is reflective of the diversity of internet voices in Baltimore...

She’s got a good point. The photo shows an all-white crowd. Predominantly male.

But this is where things go downhill in a hurry.

Hmm. These offensive tweets appear to be from a writer of one of the winners of the Crabbies. They reference MSB, Maryland Sports Blog.

This man decided to target and harass a woman on Twitter who dared to question the outcome of a local blog popularity contest whose winners are determined by clicks.  I won’t presume to know his motive. I will say without reservation that his behavior is unacceptable. I reported these tweets. Strangely enough, nothing happened.

Since Mr.Hradsky is so quick to mention his professional association with the Maryland Sports Blog I feel comfortable sharing this page from their website.

These are their sponsors. I wonder what they would think of a representative of MSB carrying on like this on social media? Do we think that Sonoma’s would be happy to have him associated with their brand?

I sincerely hope not.

Friday, November 16, 2018


I did. Laugh out loud, that is, when I saw this announcement from the Rotary Club of Columbia/Patuxent:

Support group?

I have thought of the Friends and Foundation of Howard County Library in many different ways but I must admit I have never thought of it as a “support group.”

Who should use support groups? (From Mental Health America)

Support groups are offered as a space where individuals can come together to share their stories, experiences, and lives in a way that helps reduce isolation and loneliness. Oftentimes, we think we are struggling alone, but support groups help us see that there are others who may dealing with similar situations and who in turn can help us get better. 
My imagination ran wild with the thought of an assortment of bibliophiles meeting together in a circle of folding chairs, each revealing a confessional truth in turn.
“I have twenty-seven overdue books.”
“I’m forty-five and I still love picture books.”
“I sneak in and clean the study tables with wet wipes.”
“I love the smell of new books.”
“I’m very competitive with my number on the waiting list for best sellers.”
Lest someone suggest that I am making fun of the Rotary, I most certainly am not. I am keenly aware that I have an odd sense of humor and an overactive imagination. This is probably why I am such a big fan of Mickey Gomez, who, along with Phillip Dodge, will be giving a presentation at The Rotary this morning about the Friends and Foundation organization. Mickey brings imagination, humor, and enthusiasm to anything she puts her hand to on the local scene.
I touched base with Mickey last night to ask for her informal description of the Friends and Foundation of the Howard County Library. (Truth in advertising - - I didn’t tell her about the “support group” moniker.) She began like this:
I'd say it's a group of people who value our library system, and who recognize that their contributions go towards strengthening the library's ability to offer new and innovative opportunities.
Her next sentence captured my imagination.
It's a group I love, filled with people who celebrate my very favorite library system.
Well, that’s definitely a support group I can see myself being a part of. And that is how I came to click on over to the website, renew my membership in the Friends organization, and make a donation in honor of Mickey Gomez.
Maybe LOL should stand for Love Our Library, too.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

The Top Story

Yesterday was Union Day. The journalists of the Capital Gazette, the Carroll County Times and the Baltimore Sun Media Group have united to form a union. Want to learn more? Visit the Chesapeake News Guild website. And here’s their promotional video

Taken from their mission statement:

We are tired of bearing a workload that requires a newsroom four times the size. We are tired of not receiving reasonable cost of living raises, despite the fact we bear the additional responsibilities of our former co-workers. We are tired of having staffs too small to cover all the stories our readers care about.

It seems as though we were just talking about this, doesn’t it?

BaltSun reporter Pamela Wood tweeted this morning:

Speaking to a political club in Columbia (the Columbia Democratic Club) tonight, I heard concerns from members that they want a strong @HoCoTimes/Columbia Flier. I urged them to show support for @ChesapeakeGuild in order to support the dedicated journalists who cover their community.

If you want to support stronger local journalism and fair working conditions for local journalists, here’s what you can do:


I subscribe to the Baltimore Sun purely to have access to local coverage. I also subscribe to the Capital Gazette to support the paper. Considering a subscription? These are the publications represented by the Chesapeake News Guild:

The Capital Gazette, Caroll County Times, plus all the local publications under the Baltimore Sun Media Group, such as The Aegis Of Harford County, Howard County Times, Towson Times, and Soundoff of Ft. Meade.

Another way you can support local journalism while you are out and about in the world and on social media is to kindly explain why those articles people want to read are behind that troublesome paywall. Remind them that nobody works for free and that journalists have to eat. For more ways to support, go here.

Something to ponder, from Capital Gazette’s Joshua McKerrow:

The BSMG papers are paid DRASTICALLY lower wages than union-protected Sun journalists. And they use our work to fill their paper...They get my 18 years of photojournalism experience at a third of what they pay Sun photogs.

On Tuesday evening the live recording of local podcast Elevate Maryland concluded in its usual fashion, with this question:

What do we all need to do to Elevate Maryland?

Guest Alec MacGillis: I would say top of the list would be to do everything we possibly can to support Maryland media. It matters so much to have people covering stuff. To do everything you can, subscribing, donating...

Subscribe. Spread the word in support of the Chesapeake News Guild. Let your friends, neighbors, and coworkers know you are proud to pay for local journalism. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2018


Arizona’s Martha McSally charmed the Internet with her video concession to Krysten Sinema. It was gracious and it had a Golden Retriever. What’s not to like?

Compare that to this Facebook post by HoCo Republican Lisa Kim.

Even a strategically placed Golden Retriever couldn’t save this post. It’s a hot mess of insults, accusations, and conservative conspiracy-theory gobbledegook. Holy Mackerel, am I glad that she did not win a Council Seat.

Enough said.

Tomorrow the latest issue of the Howard County Times comes out. Can’t wait to see how they treat last week’s election results. I sure hope it’s worth the wait.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018


The new hot spot in town, Cured/18th and 21st, is having a big to-do on December 5th. A shindig. A soirée. Take your pick.

Here are the details:

Join us for a Repeal Party. 

December 5th 5:30 - 11:00pm

We are celebrating the repeal of Prohibition on December 5th!

Classic Cocktails | Food | Live Music | Fun | Champagne Toast

Two Ticket Options

VIP Ticket ($100) Includes: 

Special 5:30 early access (general tickets cannot enter till 7:00pm)

Open Bar* from 5:30 - 7:00pm includes choice of five Classic cocktails, select beer and wine. 

Champagne Toast at 7:30pm 

Food Buffet 

General Admission Ticket ($50) includes:

Entry to the party at 7:00pm

One Classic Cocktail of your choice. Cash bar available

Food Buffet

Champagne Toast at 7:30 pm.

Sounds fancy.

There’s just one thing. I realized while reading it that I was looking for information to tell me what it’s in aid of. Surely people aren’t spending $100 a head just If I spend that kind of money (and rarely, I might add) it’s for a charitable cause. Or a political fundraiser. It boggles my mind that Howard County has enough people who will lay down that kind of cash for no good reason.

But that’s just me. Cured/18th & 21st is a business, after all. They are entitled to have fancy events that are purely commercial ventures, even if I can’t wrap my brain around it.

Here’s a thought. Since this is meant to celebrate the repeal of Prohibition, couldn’t they donate a portion on the proceeds to some local group that assists those struggling with alcohol addiction? The Serenity Center comes to mind, but I’m sure there are others. Have a big party with all of the trappings but share the wealth with folks for whom alcohol is not just a big party.

And that’s your unsolicited opinion for the day.

Monday, November 12, 2018

A Parade by the Pictures

My plans to attend yesterday’s Veterans Day Parade were derailed by a trip to urgent care with a sick kid. I am indebted to Scott Ewart of ScottE Blog for the photos he took of the event. Were you there? What did you think? I don’t know the last time an actual parade traversed down Columbia’s main street but it was most assuredly a long, long time ago.

Last year I wrote a piece about the Veterans Day Parade in Old Ellicott City. It seemed to me that the parade didn’t reflect the diversity of the Howard County citizens who have served. As I looked at the photos from yesterday’s parade, it was clearly a much more diverse turnout. Does having the parade in Columbia make a difference? Or did parade organizers make a concerted effort to include more folks?

Our Veterans Day Parade hasn’t been around that long so perhaps it has just taken some time to build momentum. I wonder what will happen when the parade returns to Old Ellicott City. One thing I’m sure of is that this year’s parade looked more like the Howard County I know and that makes me happy.

Kudos to the parade organizers and everyone who participated. Our community is grateful to all who have served.

Sunday, November 11, 2018


Almost as soon as I posted yesterday’s blog I began to have second thoughts. So, here I am.

I was looking at the election news as a sort of last minute crisis that couldn’t be accommodated by the skeleton crew that our local paper has become. But the election wasn’t unexpected. The candidates were known well in advance. Along with that should have come the understanding of how historic it would be in our community should Calvin Ball win the election.

A cover story for each candidate should have been at the ready. It certainly could have been done in advance. The fact that the powers that be knew an election was coming and invested their efforts in a retirement piece for Dario Broccolino shows an incredible lack of foresight. They actually decided that an election was no reason to turn their attention from “business as usual.”

Somebody, somewhere in the BaltSun/HoCoTimes management made that judgement call. That the County Executive election was not worth preparing for and that the possible election of the first African American County Executive was not worth any extra thought.

That’s what I missed when I wrote yesterday’s post.

I have such a strong feeling of empathy for our local reporters and such concern for how our local news is being cannibalized by owner-corporations that I missed the point.

My apologies.

I’d like to thank the folks who patiently walked me through this without biting my head off.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Front Page News

While Howard County made history this week by electing our first African American County Executive on Tuesday night, the front page of Wednesday’s Howard County Times didn’t seem to acknowledge that. Instead, the week’s cover story is about the career and retirement of longtime prosecutor Dario Broccolino. The information about Dr. Ball’s victory has been added in on the lower left corner of the front page photo.

I have read some rather blunt quotes on social media questioning the wisdom of this choice. I haven’t had time to touch base with folks and get approval to run those comments here, so I’m going to err on the side of caution and ask you to take my word for it.

A few thoughts on this:

The Howard County Times is not a daily publication. It’s a weekly, and as such it probably has a different timeline for preparing longer pieces. At what point in the week do they “put the paper to bed”, so to speak? Modern technology allows them to work like mad and slot in election results but the longer stories may not be movable pieces. When you think about it, the fact that the election results are coming in on a Tuesday night and they somehow manage to get any of them in at all by Wednesday is kind of amazing.


It’s a weekly. It’s a free weekly and they have a staff of about two and a half people who are worked like dogs until they burn out and they make a shockingly low income. I’ve heard many locals explain why they just can’t afford to pay for a subscription to the Baltimore Sun/Howard County Times and yet they somehow expect that it will keep operating like newspapers you see in the old Hollywood movies.

It just doesn’t work that way. As important as this election is to us, we are not a major market that supports an in-depth daily paper like The NY Times or the Washington Post. And so the decisions that get made about what runs, and when, are different for us. Fewer options, smaller scope. You know how I rant about supporting local journalism? This is why. (Support local journalism.)

My guess it that the folks at the Howard County Times are spending this week preparing that front page feature on Calvin Ball. My gut tells me that those pieces take longer and have to be done farther in advance.

If they don’t lead off with the County Exec upset next week you’ll see me here joining the rest of the critics.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Common Yet Uncommon

I attended an event celebrating the Grand Opening of The Common Kitchen last night. A shoutout to Anastasia MacDonald and Roger Caplan for giving me such a warm welcome when I arrived.

So many different flavors and cuisines to explore! If you want to know what all the buzz is about, they are holding a big celebratory event for the community on Saturday.

My daughter’s school choir will be performing, so I’ll be back for that, too. Maybe I’ll see you there.