Thursday, February 28, 2019

Follow the Links

This link takes you to Ovetta Wiggins, the Washington Post reporter who exposed the story of Maryland Delegate Mary Ann Lisanti using a racial slur to refer to residents of Prince George’s County. Perhaps you’ll want to give her a follow on Twitter.

This link takes you to an article by Luke Broadwater and Pamela Wood in the Baltimore Sun about where things stand on this issue right now.

This link takes you to a petition calling for Lisanti to resign.

Using the word that she used disqualifies her from public service. Regardless of her stage of inebriation, that word would not come out of her mouth if it hadn’t already been in her head and in relatively common usage. It shows that she does not view all constituents equally. Period.

And now her constituents know it. And the citizens of the State of Maryland know it. And if we do nothing we might as well endorse racial slurs ourselves. We must not be silent.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019


I read the news a bit wistfully: the old Durgin-Park Restaurant was no more. Back when I was in high school and our class visited Boston on the American History trip, a visit to Durgin-Park was a must. They were known for classic New England dishes and for their waitresses who were, to be blunt, rude.

That’s right, people flocked to Durgin-Park to be insulted by the waitresses. They wouldn’t bring you dessert unless you cleaned your plate and, even then, might give you the once-over and ask if you really needed it. And people just adored it.

Somehow there was a market for humiliating people in a social setting. Durgin-Park was the best of the best. Now it’s gone. So, too, is the humor of comedian Don Rickles who made quite a successful career out of insulting people. Whatever will we do without them?

Don’t fret, though. I’ve found a local joint where you can go to get insulted and it won’t cost you a cent. No cover charge, no tipping a surly waitress.  Just pure, unadulterated disrespect.

Here’s what you need to do. Just go to the Facebook page for the Comptroller of the State of Maryland and disagree with one of his views. It’s that simple. One differing opinion is all it takes and you will receive prompt attention. The Comptroller’s social media staff will spring into action and put you in your place. Even better, they’ll even throw in a patronizing tone, gaslighting, and general, all-purpose sexism absolutely free!

If you want the deluxe, VIP (Very Insulting Package) just persist in defending your point of view beyond a sentence or two. As if by magic, two of  the Comptroller’s staff will appear and play with you like a cat plays with a small rodent. They certainly spare no expense at demeaning the taxpayer over there. If you stick around you can see the two of them practically high-five eachother after each cringe-worthy encounter.

Ordinary social media accounts for ordinary elected officials have it all wrong. They try to be respectful, entertain the views of supporters and detractors alike, and take the high road when things get unpleasant. But what kind of fun is that? Don’t you just get a rush seeing guys tell it like it is with no filter and no consequences? Isn’t it exhilarating?

If I were you I’d pay a visit to this establishment before it goes the way of the old Durgin-Park. This kind of good, old-fashioned fun just can’t last forever.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Fix It

I have a drying rack that I use for those items that  shouldn’t go in the clothes dryer. The last time I took it out I noticed that one of the joints/hinges is just not right. It won’t open all the way, so the entire rack doesn’t open and sit properly anymore. My husband and I both fooled with it to see what the matter was but: no dice.

Then I saw this announcement about the free repair event at The Barn (not The Other Barn) in Oakland Mills this Saturday: 

What great timing! I wonder if they can fix my poor drying rack? 

Dubbed  “SkillShareFair & Repair Cafe”, the event is a joint venture between the folks at Columbia Time Banking and Transition Howard County. In addition to individual repairs, there will be mini- workshops presented by area Time Bankers on topics such as:

  • Patch a Hole in a Wall 

  • Hang a Heavy Picture

  • Homemade T-Shirt Bags 

  • Sock Darning 

  • Bugs that Bite 

  • Screen Repair 

This all takes place at the Other Barn in Oakland Mills this Saturday from 1-4 pm. Not only does it sound like there’s lots to learn, but I think it would be a great opportunity to learn more about Time Banking and Transition Howard County. And you might discover that you have a skill that can help somebody else.

FYI: If you have something you’d like to have repaired, pre-register it here.

Monday, February 25, 2019

CA Goes To Annapolis

You may have seen that the Columbia Association is proposing a change in status, through state legislation, from an HOA to a Community Benefit Association. What does that mean, exactly?

Old Columbia, circa 1979

I haven’t had the time to get into this in detail yet, but I will tell you what I do know. The HOA act doesn’t adequately apply to the Columbia Association. It’s never been a good fit. For instance, there are lienpayers of CA who are businesses, and constituents who are not lot owners. One of my knowledgeable sources put it this way:

CA should never have been a homeowners association. It is so much more than a homeowners association and quite frankly a lot of the random bills regarding homeowners associations really shouldn't apply to CA or, for that matter, the villages. CA spends a fortune in lobbyist fees to exempt CA from these regulations.

It seems to me that, in this context, CA is moving to correct its status to one that fits better with who they are. An important note: this legislation applies to CA itself. The Villages will need to make their own decisions on this change.

If you want to learn more you are invited to the following events:

The Columbia community is invited to learn more about the proposal at an information session on Tuesday, March 5 from 7-8:30pm at Wilde Lake Interfaith Center, 10431 Twin Rivers Road. There will also be a CA Board of Directors meeting on Thursday, February 28and a CA Board of Directors work session on Thursday, March 14.

In the mean time, I have some work to do in learning about Community Benefit Associations. 

CA appears to want to get this accomplished during the current legislative session, so I guess we need to put this one on the front burner. MDGA2019 has already passed the halfway point. All in all, I don’t find this announcement something to fear or get angry about. I do think it’s important to learn more and get a good handle on what this would mean going forward.

In the mean time, I have some work to do in learning about Community Benefit Associations. 

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Physician, Heal Thyself II

One of the local notables I follow on Twitter is Matthew Winner, a librarian/media specialist in the Howard County Public Schools. In addition to his day job, Mr. Winner hosts a podcast about children’s books and maintains an active social media presence. Yesterday I noticed a discussion in his feed about Dr, Seuss. It starts here.

You will see a discussion between Mr. Winner and an account called  @TheTinyDiplomat about Dr. Seuss and Read Across America. It contains a link to this piece:

A Critical Race Reading Of Dr. Seuss

Now, you may have already known about this; I hadn’t. But as I read it I knew it to be true. Dr. Seuss books are completely centered in whiteness and view anything that differs from this norm as exotic, humorous, less competent, sometimes malevolent. He has a history of wearing blackface in minstrel show activities, and, try this on for size: there are absolutely no girls of color in any of his books.

@TheTinyDiplomat is the Twitter account of student Havana Chapman-Edwards. (I’m guessing she has some adult guidance/support here.) Take a look at her video:

The Power of a Girl with a Book.

I was happy to hear from reader Sarah Russo, herself a school librarian/media specialist, that Read Across America has moved away from centering the works of Dr. Seuss in their literacy celebrations. But individual school systems may still be using that old tried and true Dr. Seuss framework. Havana Chapman-Edwards’ school in Virginia is. She’s trying to get them to make a better choice that takes into account all of their students.

I highly recommend that you read A Critical Race Reading of Dr. Seuss and watch The Power Of a Girl with a Book. Once you do I think you’ll understand why Ms. Chapman-Edwards is advocating for a whole lot less Dr. Seuss and an intentional increase of Black Girl Magic.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Physician, Heal Thyself

I came across something on Twitter this morning that stunned me yet somehow didn’t surprise me. It’s about Dr. Seuss. You may think that Dr. Seuss doesn’t have a local connection, but if you’ve ever had a child in a local school you know that Dr. Seuss is on the menu annually.

More about that tomorrow. Here’s a piece I wrote for Columbia Patch in 2013. I was surprised to see you can still find it. I suppose this qualifies as my very first Benign Unpopular Opinion.

Cat in the Hat? No, Thanks!

I hate Dr. Seuss. No, I don't. I dislike the work of Dr. Seuss. I hate the Cat in the Hat. It is easy to get confused since Dr. Seuss' birthday, Read across America Day, and the Cat in the Hat character have been fused into one giant educommercial-edutainment complex.

I taught Preschool, I taught Kindergarten, I have two children, and I hate the Cat in the Hat. I hated it when I was little, and I still do.

Let's look at it from a child's point of view: a smiling stranger gets into your house, takes complete control and you are helpless. Powerless. And you are supposed to like it. Although it doesn't really matter if you do or not.

Great fun, right? 

And, from an adult's point of view: two parents leave their children unsupervised for an indefinite amount of time. The children allow a stranger to come in the house, who smilingly, charmingly, takes complete control. In the process he very nearly kills the only character who passes for parental stability--the fish. In fact, the fish really stands for the voice of their Better Judgement, doesn't he?

And then it builds to a chaotic frenzy where it's all about getting everything cleaned up before the parents come home--you don't want to tell your parents, do you children? Really, they'd never believe you...

Am I the only one who sees child abuse written all over this?

Horton Hears A Who is a vivid and painful account of torment, mockery, bullying. Of hearing and believing an inner truth but being disbelieved. Horton is good, kind, helpful. And helpless. As a child I cried when the tiny Who folk cried out, "We are here! We are here!" I still do. 

The happy ending in no way makes up for the abuse, to my mind.

Now, it is true that I was very shy as a child, and that I was seeking a safe, comforting world view. The illustrations of Eloise Wilkin in My Little Golden Books were restful to me. The Doctor Seuss books always felt ugly and threatening.  The additional insult was that everyone said that children just *loved* them. 

Theodore Geisel had a great facility for word play. He was given the task of writing vocabulary-controlled readers. He did what he did very well. But let us not confuse that with a deep love for or compassionate understanding of children. Let us not make of his work our only blueprint for a religion of childhood reading.

If you like Dr. Seuss, if his stories ring true
If the Cat in the Hat makes you laugh til you're blue
Then I'm glad that you like it. Insult you? I won't.
Just don't make me read it or like it,
Just don't.

Friday, February 22, 2019

It Takes Two

No, absolutely not. There’s no way I’d drink two gin and tonics on a school night.

Well, alright. Yes, yes I did. And before all that lovely joie de vivre wears off I’m going to write a blog post. Motivation tomorrow morning may be nil.

If you know me well, you’ll know I was there for this week’s taping of Elevate Maryland. This particular episode was the second in what I hope will be an ongoing History Makers series. I do think we are making a lot of history these days in Columbia/HoCo, and not just of the political variety. So, stay tuned.

The evening’s guests were the newly appointed Chief of Police and Fire Chief, Lisa Myers and Christine Ulhorn, respectively. I’m not going to get into the nitty gritty of what they said but I do think that we’re all in good hands with these two capable women in public safety leadership roles. The combination of their deep knowledge of their departments combined with a sincere desire to build bridges in all areas of the community impressed me.

Tonight’s Three Things I’m Thinking About included BOE Member Chao Wu’s blog post which looked very much like an apologia of school segregation, the formation of an Office Of Human Rights Review Board, and a look at Delegate Jessica Feldmark’s defense of taxes as supporting the
public good, in particular, the public schools.

I discovered this evening that smart phones can have powerful flashes. If you see a picture of me online I will probably look startled.

I finally found a good choice on the Lupa menu that suited my appetite and wallet. They have a lovely burger which, when paired with a side arugula salad, hits all the right notes. The salad has a lemony yet sweet dressing which is a lovely contrast to the heartiness of the burger.

Now as to the aforementioned gin and tonics. I must relate to you an experience which has happened to me twice recently in two separate establishments. The first drink is fine if a bit weak. I decide I can  swing another one and then the second is knock down, drag-out strong. Is this a thing? Is this a ploy to get me to order the second drink? I don’t recall this ever happening before.

I’d definitely recommend that you give this particular episode a listen once it’s up and available. Some words to be on the lookout for: cruise, pancake batter, fire helmet, fish tacos, and sixth grade.

Thursday, February 21, 2019


Yesterday my daughter was facing down an assignment for an English essay. “I just can’t do it! It doesn’t make sense and I can’t do it.”

I stepped in with a bit of Mom Wisdom.

“I write about 365 blog posts a year,” I told her. “About how many of those days do you suppose I wake up and think, ‘I can’t do this!’”

She gave me the look of a teenager enduring adult advice.

“About 300,”  I concluded. “I know I can’t do it and then I do it anyway. And you can, too.”

And, eventually, she did.

But, guess what, devoted readers? Karma is a comin’ in for Mom this morning. I woke up with that old familiar feeling: I can’t do this.

Funny how that works.

This is the time of year when I usually write my obligatory Why You Should Run post about CA and Columbia Village board positions. It appears that Jason Booms of Spartan Considerations has already done it. His goes into more detail about his own personal experiences than mine usually do. He suggests:

You have to have at least some commitment to the concept of community service.  Liking your neighbors helps.  If you are getting into it as part of some personal/political advancement scheme (I have seen this and it is painful to witness), people are going to figure that out quickly.

Take a look and see if you feel motivated.

Oh, if you do? Send some of that extra motivation my way. I might need it tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Oh the Humanities

Newly elected Board of Education member Dr. Chao Wu made no secret of his support for STEM education during the election campaign.  (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math.)  Yesterday Dr. Wu unwittingly became a prime example of why Humanities education is so important when he chose to share an anonymous post which essentially justified segregation in Howard County Schools.

It has since been taken down and replaced with this. Here is the original. 

I should add that this post is a response to the information in this blog post by Dr. Richard Kohn, entitled “How Did Howard County Schools Become the Most Segregated in Maryland?”

What Dr. Wu shared with his readers is essentially a piece that attempts to justify segregation. It provoked concern, anger, and a deep sense of hurt from members of the Howard County Schools community. Only after the damage had been done did Dr. Wu retract the post and state that he had only been trying to start a discussion on the topic.

Well, he did start a discussion. Let’s have it.

Let’s talk about why Humanities education is crucial. From an article by Curt Rice in 2014 come some reasons why:

  1. 1. The humanities help us understand others through their languages, histories and cultures.
  2. 2. They foster social justice and equality.
  3. 3. And they reveal how people have tried to make moral, spiritual and intellectual sense of the world.
  4. 4.  The humanities teach empathy.
  5. 5..They teach us to deal critically and logically with subjective, complex, imperfect information.
  6. 6..And they teach us to weigh evidence skeptically and consider more than one side of every question.
  7. 7.  Humanities students build skills in writing and critical reading.
  8. 8. The humanities encourage us to think creatively. They teach us to reason about being human and to ask questions about our world.
  9. 9. The humanities develop informed and critical citizens. Without the humanities, democracy could not flourish.
So, looking at this list, let’s see where Dr. Wu went wrong. When Dr.Wu published his piece he did so without paying attention to any of this:
  • He published the author’s work anonymously so they wouldn’t have to bear responsibility. 
  • He published information that conflicts with HCPSS policy 6010 without acknowledging that.
  • He did not perform the due diligence of checking their “facts” to see if they held up. 
  • He didn’t make his intent in sharing it completely clear.
  • He showed absolutely no awareness of how such a post would negatively impact the community and actively damage hcpss relationships with people of color.
Dr. Wu is a member of the Howard County Board of Education. I think it is fair to expect him to interact with the community in a way that shows empathy, weighs evidence skeptically, and helps develop informed and critical citizens. He didn’t do that.

While STEM education is a valuable course of study it shouldn’t be seen as more practical and, therefore, more valuable than the Humanities. A quick look at what happened here proves how wrong- headed that would be. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Off the Beaten Path

Having a bad case of the Mondays. On a Tuesday. Plenty of ideas swirling but none of them will hold still long enough to be written about.

Let’s try this on for size: does anyone know the history of the Lark Brown Restaurant Park? It exists in that mythical place I like to call “the other side of town”, so we don’t go there often. At the entrance there is a cluster of permanent “flags” that have such a decidedly dated feel that I have often thought one risks going back in time merely by turning down that road. I Googled them to find a photo, but no luck so far.

Unpopular benign opinion: the Lark Brown Flags are a local landmark.

We found ourselves looking for a place to eat dinner last night while “on the other side of town” and ended up at TGI Friday’s. It’s at the end of the road. We passed a now-deduct Exxon station, a McDonalds, Olive Garden, Bob Evans, and the ever-popular Royal Taj to get there. It is kind of wonderfully subversive to have a true local mom and pop restaurant in there amongst all the chains.

There’s also some kind of apartments or perhaps an extended stay hotel? Back when my daughter was little I used to wish that they’d build a playground in that space, because nothing screams playground more than antsy young children in restaurants. However, playgrounds do not generate revenue so something else was built there instead.


This was my first visit to this particular TGI Friday’s and I was stuck by how huge this space is and how few people were there. Of course, Monday night isn’t exactly prime dining-out time, but this place seems to have been built with the idea that it was going to be the only restaurant in town. It’s enormous. You could have a blog party and a political announcement event there and still have space for walk-in dining.

It made me feel a bit sad. It was like being in a church with declining attendance. I wondered if there was such as thing as Friday’s in its heyday when every room was buzzing with activity. Or maybe it’s still like that on Friday nights and I was just there on the wrong night. But, all in all, it felt like a
cathedral to something that didn’t exist anymore. Just like the ever-perky “flags” at the Lark Brown Restaurant Park entrance.

Dear readers who have lived here longer than I, please share your knowledge of the Lark Brown Restaurant Park. I’d love to know more.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Spicy Sunday

I should’ve taken more pictures. Well, if I had gone with the intent of writing about it, I probably would have. But my motivation for attending the Clarksville Commons Great Chili Cookoff was to support the charity, Grassroots, and to support the folks at Clarksville Commons. They are working really hard to be a community hub and I like that.

Anyway, here’s my artsy photographic pastiche of the event:

First off, the event was held in the Porch Room of Food Plenty, which is the Farm to Table/local foods restaurant located upstairs at Clarksville Commons. I had never been there so I enjoyed getting a chance to explore the space. I don’t have a lot of adjectives at my disposal right now to describe it but how about: fresh, calming, simple.

Now for the chili. Five of the merchants from the Common Kitchen participated: Great Harvest Bread, Koshary, Namaste Foodie, Scoop & Paddle, and Trifecto. The sixth entrant was event host Food Plenty. My tasting experience was enhanced by the fact that I just happened to be sitting at a table alongside celebrity chili judges Tonya Kennon of the Howard County Library System, and Timothy Banks, Chair of the Culinary and Hospitality Department at Howard Community College. I did not get to meet Ms. Kennon’s lovely dining companion but I can tell you she was rocking an impressive hair bow.

My personal favorite was the lentil chili from Koshary. A close second was the Italian Firehouse Chili by Nadine Crisitello of Scoop & Paddle. (Did you know she used to be a personal chef?) The Food Plenty chili was quite fancy with numerous components, different flavor notes and textures. All of the chilis were very tasty and came with special toppings to enhance your tasting pleasure. The Indian-influenced “chili” from Namaste Foodie came with its own adorable individual-sized naan bread. Nice touch.

The Duckpin pale ale from Union Brewing Company which I picked up at the bar (along with a large glass of iced water) got me through my spicy samplings.

I saw later that the Scoop & Paddle Chili was awarded Best Overall by the judges, and also as the People’s Choice by those in attendance. Namaste Foodie won for Most Unique. (It was that cute little naan bread, I tell you.)

If you are wondering why there’s a picture of ice cream in my collage, that’s because I made a bee-line to the Scoop & Paddle stand downstairs at the Common Kitchen to cool off my mouth with some Chocolate Covered Strawberry. A thought: their smallest portion is really too big for me. I wonder if they have a Kid Size that’s available to anyone. I’d be willing to pay more than half price for a half- sized serving,

A special treat for me at the event was getting to have a few words with Clarksville Commons developer George Stone, and Anastasia MacDonald, Director of Community Relations for Clarksville Commons. They’re both such welcoming people. (A good sign for a place that wants to connect with its local community in more than the usual ways.)

If this post has put you in the mood for 1) community involvement 2) charitable giving or 3) chili, I’d like to invite you to the Great Chili Cookoff at Abiding Savior Lutheran Church. It’s on Saturday, March 2nd and the proceeds will benefit Bridges to Housing Stability. You probably won’t get fancy toppings and I know you won’t be able to buy a beer, but the chili is always great and the Lutherans are welcoming and full of fun.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Human, Civil, Literate

This week County Executive Calvin Ball signed an Executive Order to create an Office of Human Rights Review Committee. 

One of the recommendations made from my Transition Team is to thoroughly review the operation of the Office of Human Rights and review the existing investigation process. OHR is responsible for administering and enforcing provisions of the Howard County Human Rights Law, investigate complaints and attempts to eliminate violations by conference, conciliation, and persuasion. 

Therefore, I signed an Executive Order this morning creating an Office of Human Rights Review Committee. This is an opportunity to identify ways we can strengthen the office, so it becomes the gold standard for all local Civil Rights Agencies. 

The usual naysayers that congregate on the County Executive’s  Facebook page had a field day with that.. The responses seems equally divided between:

1. Anything Calvin Ball does must be bad, so let me condemn this.

2. omg he used the term Civil Rights.

This sentence in particular seemed to be the stumbling block:

This is an opportunity to identify ways we can strengthen the office, so it becomes the gold standard for all local Civil Rights Agencies. 

It is clear to me from reading the comments that many folks read this entire statement and came out thinking that  the County Executive is changing the Office of Human Rights to the Office Of Civil Rights.

I am disheartened that reading comprehension is so poor in Howard County. No such change has been made. A review committee has been appointed to examine the Office Of Human Rights and see if and how we can make it better. That’s it.

I am also disheartened by the immediate jump that some people have taken that, once you see the term “Civil Rights”, it means someone is talking about African Americans and racism. Typical responses go something like this:

1. Racism is a problem that doesn’t exist in Howard County. Therefore any focus on it is a waste of resources. (From a white person.)
2.  Human Rights are for everyone and Civil Rights are just for Black people so this move is exclusionary.

Aside from the fact that the Executive Order has nothing to do with this, perhaps a bit of Googling is in order here. 

Civil rights, guarantees of equal social opportunities and equal protection under the law, regardless of race, religion, or other personal characteristics.

Unlike other rights concepts, such as human rights or natural 
rights, in which people acquire rights inherently, perhaps from God or nature, civil rights must be given and guaranteed by the power of the state.

Human rights, rights that belong to an individual or group of individuals simply for being human, or as a consequence of inherent human vulnerability, or because they are requisite to the possibility of a just society. 


Here is where it gets interesting. In Maryland the state and county agencies are called Human Rights agencies, but they are partner agencies of the EEOC to enforce civil rights. At the Federal level they are called Civil Rights offices.  So, no matter what our friends the commenters think, in Maryland the two terms mean the same thing. 

I’m not quite sure how to respond to people who are angry about something the County Executive said that he didn’t actually say, something he did that he didn’t actually do, compounded by not understanding the definitions of human rights and civil rights. I mean, where do you start? 

Do me a favor. If you hear any of this sort of talk around the proverbial water cooler, set folks straight, won’t you? 

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Minors Go Major, Part II

As promised, I’m returning to the subject of teens and voting. I got some thought-provoking feedback after “Minors Go Major?” last week.

More than one respondent pointed to the activism of young people following the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkand, Florida. It is certainly true that we saw teens motivated, educated, active, and involved in the election process over the last year. Some pointed out that many folks over the age of 18 are woefully uninformed about candidates and issues yet we do not use this as a reason to prevent them from voting.

Everyone agreed that America could do a much better job educating children, teens, and adults about the political process, how our government works, and a citizen’s  responsibility to vote.

Several people tactfully pointed out that the areas of concern I raised about sixteen year olds voting have been used in the past a barriers for the right to vote for the disabled, African Americans, and women. That certainly gives me pause.

Let’s look at some of the age demarcations that bestow certain rights and/or responsibilities.

16, 17: Get married with parental consent
17: Join military with parental consent
18: Marry without parental consent
      Join military without parental consent
21: Purchase, consume alcohol

Now it’s getting sticky for me. I have been following Delegate Vanessa Atterbeary’s work to make child marriage illegal in the State of Maryland. There are many reasons why marrying under the age of 18 is problematic, especially for young women.  But...

If we say a young woman of 16 is not able to freely consent to get married, then must we also say that she is not able to make her own decision about birth control and whether or not to terminate a pregnancy? You may say that those two are not comparable, but it’s that tricky concept of capability and consent. How old is old enough? Who gets to be empowered? Who is protected?

And why do we make the decisions we do about who gets to be empowered or protected? It’s complicated.

And you thought we were talking about sixteen year olds getting to vote.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Not Fully Cooked

I seem to have a lot of things on the back burner right now. Maybe they’ll all come to fruition over the weekend.
  • A follow-up to my post about teens getting the vote  
  • An introduction to Free State Justice
  •  Can competition lower gas prices in Columbia?
  •  Is a bag tax the end of the world in Howard County? 
  •  Everyone I know is in the news. What’s up with that?
If you’d like to read something more coherent today I recommend this Valentine’s Day post by HoCoBlogger Mike in ThrewMikesEyEz.

A Thinking Thursday

Lots to think about and his photos always make me smile.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

On the Sunny Side


From the Howard County Times:

The weather pattern that brought snow and ice across Maryland this week is forecast to resume this weekend, bringing light snow and likely some slush around the region.

Me: Why don’t we talk about Summer Reading?

I asked Christie Lassen from the Howard County Library about the annual summer reading program.

Summer Reading helps stop "summer slide," the tendency for students, especially those from low-income families, to lose some of the achievement gains they made during the previous school year. Howard County Library System's free summer reading program encourages kids, teens, and adults to read over the summer by offering prizes for reading any types of materials (e.g., books, magazines, news articles) and/or completing various types of activities. 

This year's theme relates to space (an especially great tie-in to this year's Evening in the Stacks Otherworldly theme), and our staff is planning a fun and educational space-related line up of classes and events throughout the summer. Watch later in the spring for news about the summer reading kickoff on June 1.

As I recall there’s a grownup component as well. Why should kids have all the fun?

Right now seems like a good time to imagine warm weather, trips to the pool, hearing the sound of the ice cream truck, and delving into a pile of great books. 

Want to support Summer Reading? Buy tickets to Evening in the Stacks, buy raffle tickets, or join the Library’s Friends organization. Plus, if you join the Friends and make a donation before February 15th, you’ll be entered to win two tickets to Evening in the Stacks!

More Winter weather may be on the way but we can still think Summer if we want to. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Officially Done

It looks like the Maryland General Assembly just may return the control of school calendars to local jurisdictions. I am in favor of this move, to put it mildly. I will not go over my reasoning point by point today. We’ve been there, and done that.

There is just one thing. (Cue Columbo in the doorway.) The biggest reason I have seen for starting school after Labor Day is “We did it that way when I was young.” I have now officially reached my limit with that argument.

Here, for your edification, are a random assortment of things that “we did when I was young.”

  • Girls were required to wear skirts or dresses to school regardless of the weather.
  • Airplanes caused “sonic booms” over residential areas.
  • Women smoked cigarettes and drank alcohol while pregnant.
  • Women could get fired for being pregnant.
  • One could be fired/arrested for being gay.
  • Air pollution was widespread.
  • Women couldn’t get credit in their own names.
  • Lead paint was legal and widely used.
  • The Buddy Deane Show was segregated.
  • Fatalities from car crashes were increasing towards an all-time high.

Please, oh please do not tell me that starting school after Labor Day is the right choice because “those were the days.” Some of those days were not as sunny as they seem to be in the nostalgic haze people keep them in. Or maybe they were sunny for you, but not for others.

Did you ever think about that?

If you want to sell me on a change that will have an impact on students, parents, and teachers statewide then tell me this: how does this change enhance student learning and well-being? How does it show understanding of parent/family needs? How does it support teachers as they strive to do their best for their students?

Your childhood and mine, for that matter, aren’t all that relevant here. It’s 2019 and we need to be making 21st century choices that put today’s children at the center.

Rant over. And tomorrow’s post will be cheerier, I promise. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Let’s Talk about BoB

As promised, here’s some info on where that money from Evening in the Stacks is heading every year. I asked Christie Lassen, Director of Communications and Partnerships, to point me in the right direction on this. Here’s what she said about Battle of the Books:

Proceeds from Evening in the Stacks benefit educational initiatives such as Battle of the Books, an academic competition for fifth graders who read 13 assigned books then answer questions about them. More than 300 teams (1500 students - or about one-third of Howard County fifth graders) will compete in April at this event, which has become a rite of passage. It's grown so much that it now takes place simultaneously at six high school gyms. To give everyone an even starting point, we provide each team with a set of books -- something we are able to do thanks to generous support from our community.

A piece of Battle of the Books trivia for you: Sara Toth, former education reporter for the Howard County Times, loved covering this event so much that,when she moved on to work for the Chatauqua Institution, she started one in her new community. Pretty cool. I got to know the excitement of HCLSBOB through reading Ms.Toth’s live-tweeting coverage each year. It was easy to see that the enthusiasm of the participants was contagious.

The Howard County Library System is well known for fostering community partnerships. Battle of the Books is an event which fosters a love of reading, sure, but it is a lot more than that. There’s team spirit, wacky costumes, local “celebrities” pitching in to help, and an enormous sense of community. It’s a prime example of how libraries are far more than just checking out books. 

So, whether you buy tickets to Evening in the Stacks, or try your luck by purchasing raffle tickets, here’s a good example of where your money is going. Big or small, it’s an investment worth making.

Monday, February 11, 2019


My beloved father-in-law, Sam McCready, slipped away from us late last night. In his last days his son Richard played music for him and his wife Joan read to him the poetry of William Butler Yeats. He was surrounded by family. We held his hand, we embraced him, we offered up the kinds of prayers and love and good thoughts that open the way for a safe journey.

He was a storyteller, as I have said, but he was also an actor. And for him this little theatre that is my blog will remain dark today in his memory.

Sunday, February 10, 2019


I tried something new this week. I needed some books for my classroom so I went online and ordered them. Half of them came by the next day! The rest, the day after that. It was amazing.

No, I’m not talking about Amazon Prime. I’m talking about the Howard County Library. I needed some children’s books to supplement my science unit on animal patterns. I sat in my comfy chair at home, went through the online catalog, made a list of what I wanted, and then clicked “Request”. The folks at the library did the rest.

Think Amazon Prime, think Instacart, think absolute convenience, but think something else: absolutely free. My students are going to love these books and the Howard County Library made it as easy as possible for me to bring them into my classroom.

While I was at the East Columbia Branch picking up my books, I bought a raffle ticket for this year’s Evening in the Stacks fundraiser. It was the least I could do, after benefiting from all that Library goodness.

The theme of this year’s even is “An Otherworldly Evening in the Stacks”. It will be held at my favorite branch, the East Columbia Branch, on Saturday, February 23rd from seven to eleven pm. You can learn more here Tickets to the event itself are available here

I’ve written about this event in the past. In general I’m not attracted to “charity ball” sorts of things but this is different. It’s for books! Books are cool. What can I say. The themes are always cool and I’m a library geek.

My readers may not all be able to spring for a $150.00 event ticket. But you can stop by your local branch and buy a five dollar raffle ticket to support the cause. Each branch has a special prize basket they’ll be awarding to a lucky winner. And if you really, really want to be a part of this otherworldly  event, you can try your luck by entering the Friends of the Howard County Library contest . (Ooh! I recently rejoined the Friends. Maybe I’m eligible.)

This year, at the suggestion of a reader, I’m going to focus less on the fancy event itself and more on the amazing library programs that this event supports:

  • Author Events
  • Battle of the Books
  • Project Literacy
  • Summer Reading

So, along with my regular blog posts,  I’ll be taking some time every day this week to highlight these library programs and how they contribute to our community.

See you tomorrow.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

That Old Time Religion

I didn’t grow up in a church. The hymnody of my youth was a combination of Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals and the songs of the Beatles. When I got to high school, the songs of the early Beatles were having a resurgence. I bought a newly released collection of their music and played through the volume on my trusty Yamaha guitar.

For me, every situation probably has a corresponding Beatles song. Your own particular generational allegiance will, of course, vary.

When I saw a “Beatles love songs” event advertised at the Soundry, I immediately asked my husband if he wanted to go. He was noncommittal. I was sad. For about two seconds. Then I bought two tickets anyway. A while later I told him that I had bought two tickets and, if he wanted to come, great. If not, I’d take someone else.

Worked like a charm.

Last night at ten to seven we were part of a very healthy line waiting to get into the Soundry. I snapped photos of the Lakefront at night. My husband noted the age of the crowd - - people nearby were discussing knee replacement surgery. All around us people were chatting about different concerts they’d been to, different venues. My husband and I haven’t done a lot of this together. With our empty nest in the offing, perhaps we will.

The show was great. The players were on the older side. They knew their stuff, they had fun, they didn’t take themselves too seriously. There was a great sense of camaraderie. There were a few musically questionable moments but, really, those are the kind of things that happen in live performance. Hearing this music live was thrilling for me. Some of the tempi seemed slow. Of course, everything gets slower as you age. Perhaps even old man cover bands slow down a bit.

The food and drinks and service at the Soundry were again top notch. They handled the sold out crowd with grace. There’s something so quintessentially Columbia to walk out of the elegantly styled Soundry space and find yourself traversing the long walk through the Tiger Hallway to the bathroom. If there is a Guinness World Record for the most inexplicably long walk to the rest rooms, Clyde’s/The Soundry has it won in a heartbeat.

If there is such a thing as a church of the Beatles I was there last night. I tapped my foot, I clapped, I sang, I mouthed the words, I danced in my seat. I remembered how we used to pretend play guitars in Kindergarten and sing “She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah...”

Beatles not your thing? I hear they’re hosting an 80’s Dance Party in the spring.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Minors Go Major?

I’m way behind in listening to my favorite local podcast, “Elevate Maryland”. I’m only about a third of the way in to the episode featuring my new Council representative Opel Jones. And there’s still this week’s episode with Council member Christiana Rigby to delve into. Ah, weekend. I intend to do some catching up in the listening department.

An issue that Jones raised that surprised me was a goal to lower the voting age to 16. He cited the interest and activism of local teens in his reasoning to change the law. Maybe I’m just an old fogey, but I don’t agree. I think sixteen year olds are still in a position to be so heavily influenced by their parents vote as to compromise the independence of their choices.

When we think about how minors are in a position to be abused by those in a greater position of power, it is the difference in age and status that puts the young person at risk. I’m inclined to believe that this puts a teen voter at risk, as well. Does granting sixteen year olds the vote essentially give their parents/guardians an additional vote? Perhaps not always. But, in many cases, I think it would.

Of course I believe that teens have their own ideas and are capable of doing research and getting involved in the political process. I’d love to see Council Member Jones push for expanded civics education in our schools from middle school onwards. There’s a good deal more we could be doing to prepare our young people to be involved and educated voters. Honoring them by making voter education a priority would have a more comprehensive long term effect than granting teens the vote.

What do you think?

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Don’t Snooze on This One

I just want to sleep. My alarm went off at five am, as it always does, and I just want to sleep. I’m already pausing between sentences to close my eyes. “I don’t really have to write,” that little voice inside my head tells me. I could take a day off. I could run an old post. My eyes close again.

What’s on my mind this morning? This:

On January 31st, five members of Start School Later Howard County testified at the Budget Hearing to ask for the necessary transportation money to ensure healthy, safe, and age-appropriate school hours for ALL Howard County Students.

If the BOE doesn't ask for transportation money, neither the County executive, nor the County Council can fund improving school hours.  Please email the board at BOE@HCPSS.ORG to add your voice to the discussion.

 If you agree that our students deserve safe and humane school hours, you can write them and urge them to include funding for the necessary transportation in their budget.

From Start School Later Howard County:

The public is able to submit written testimony until 4:30 p.m. on Friday, February 8, 2019, at BOE@HCPSS.ORG. 

I wrote about this two years ago in “Minutiae”.

Early school start times and the resulting sleep deprivation are linked to chronic tardiness, discipline problems, more motor vehicle crashes, obesity, depression, illicit drug use, lower academic outcomes, and a lower over-all quality of life. Study after study shows that no one should be starting school before 8:00, and that most teens do better with an 8:30 start time. 

We say we would do anything for our kids. We love them. But then we wonder if getting up at an ungodly hour is just one of the rite-of-passage things we need to let them go through.

The science on this issue is clear. We need to align our priorities with the needs of our kids. If you agree, send the BOE a note. 

And now I’m going to close my eyes for two  minutes before I I have to wake my family.