Sunday, July 25, 2021

New Yet Familiar



The other day I stumbled upon the Twitter acount of the Columbia Housing Center. It’s fairly new. Something about the name rang a bell. I found a Facebook account.  I noodled around on their website, which is still a bit glitchy to navigate.


From the website:

The goal of the Columbia Housing Center is to sustain Columbia’s residential integration so that all of Columbia is attractive and welcoming to all ethnic and racial groups.

As a rental housing locator service, the Columbia Housing Center will help landlords find tenants and tenants find homes. It will also provide training and educational programming.

You can go to their FAQ page to learn more about how this will work. I was interested in the information about this particular model has been used successfully in Oak Park, Illinois.

This spring they hired their first Executive Director, Andy Masters. He comes to the Columbia Housing Center from Enterprise Community Partners, where he was the Strategic Partnerships Manager. You may recall that Enterprise was co-founded by Columbia’s own Jim Rouse.  I look a look at their Board of Directors and noticed some familiar faces. The more I read the more I was convinced that I had heard about this initiative before.

Yes. There it is:

The last time [Jane Dembner and I] spoke was at an event held on the Chrysalis stage. She was telling me about a venture she was involved in to actively promote and support racial integration in Columbia. 

In reading her obituary I noticed a request that, in lieu of flowers, people make donations to the Columbia Housing Center.  Here is their mission:

We aim to honor James Rouse’s legacy by enhancing racial integration so that all of Columbia is attractive and welcoming to all ethnic, racial and religious groups. The Columbia Housing Center will provide a one-stop locator service that helps landlords find tenants and tenants find homes that further racial integration in and around Columbia.

(“Challenges Accepted: Jane Dembner”, Village Green/Town², June 12, 2019)

I’m excited to follow the work of the Columbia Housing Center as they begin their work. To learn more you can check out their website and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.  







Saturday, July 24, 2021

Survey Results Say


 

At the moment I’m having my first cup of coffee of the day and enjoying birdsong and the cool morning air. The sky is blue and the clouds are thin little wisps as though they were put in place by a painter of happy little clouds. It’s seven am on a Saturday and this constitutes a very lazy morning for me indeed.

Since there’s always a story for everything, at least for me, I want to include you in this one. Yesterday I posed this question on Facebook because it was a real dilemma for me:

Suburban etiquette question: our back patio is completely fenced. Would it be permissible for me to have my coffee out there in the morning in my nightgown? I would be visible only to my next door neighbor if she looked out her second-story window. What say you all?

Columbia has rules, you know. We have rules about hanging out laundry, cutting your grass, changing your house and even when you can put out your trash. How was I to know whether there was a rule about having coffee in one’s nightclothes?

Okay, I didn’t think it was something in writing, necessarily. More like “what is within the bounds of good taste if one lives in houses that are close together?” How much personal freedom does one have? Do people who live in single family homes with more space between them and their neighbors feel an expanded sense of privacy? Or do they actually feel more exposed?

We have a variety of housing types in Columbia and that is by design. If you live in an apartment without any sort of outside access like a balcony, then this is not a question you are contemplating. But let’s consider quadroplexes, townhomes, single family homes of modest footprint and ones with more impressive square footage. Does the type of home you live in impact whether or not you would go outside to enjoy a cup of coffee in your nightclothes? 

I imagine in the more rural parts of the county one might be buffered by so much land that this isn’t even an issue. My daughter has a friend whose patio actually faces farm animals. I wonder what they’d think?

My own completely unscientific poll resulted in approximately 50 in favor of nightwear on the patio. None opposed.  One person suggested I might run it by my neighbor. Two people questioned what kind of a nightgown it was, and, my personal favorite was the person who felt I was being courteous by wearing anything at all!

Now that I have convinced myself that coffee outside in my nightgown is acceptable, I really hope that Columbia doesn’t have any such ordinances to the contrary.

What do you think?





Friday, July 23, 2021

Invisible Insurrectionists


 

Where are the mug shots? Where are the photos chosen to show the accused in a bad light?

I’m talking about Andrew Ryan Bennett, the Columbia resident who pled guilty to his actions in attacking the Capitol along with a mob of like-minded insurrectionists. First of all, how on earth do we have people in Columbia* who would do such a thing? I do tend to think of us as a hotbed of acceptance and open-mindedness, but that is clearly wishful thinking.

I do think it’s odd that we have not seen the typical “defendant in a sketchy pose suggesting guilt” photographs that we usually see in cases where the accused is not white. Mr. Bennett, of course, is white. The public has been given a screenshot from a video taken the day of the attack but that’s it. 

Now these investigations are being done by the FBI so perhaps that makes a difference. I don’t know. But I do know how often we are subjected to mug shots of Black and Brown people who have been accused of a crime and photos taken from their social media accounts which depict them in the worst possible way. It feels to me almost as though the prosecution of the January 6th insurrectionists is being done in such as way as to have as little impact on their public reputations as possible. 

Is it because they are white?

Where are the news articles delving into this man’s past, outlining his activities and asking, “where did he go wrong?” We see them all the time when the defendant is Black. A white man who enthusiastically participated in mob activity to take down the United States Government will have received so little public coverage that he will be able to slip back into ordinary existence in lovely Columbia, Maryland. He may have pled guilty to a misdemeanor but what he and others were there to do was far from misdemeanor material. 

And Mr. Bennett was there cheering it all on. 

Where are the mug shots? 



* Yes, I dug around on Facebook to see if I could find this particular person. I am neither a qualified investigator nor a journalist and so anything I found at this point would be tantamount to irresponsible gossip. So I’m not going to go there. 


Thursday, July 22, 2021

Guest Post: Bonnie Bricker on Talk With Me • Howard County



The recent groundbreaking for the Gateway United Way Family Center and the opening of the new Bauder Education Center in Long Reach have drawn the public’s attention to the shortage of affordable, high-quality childcare for young children in our community. Research has shown how important the early years are for physical, social-emotional, and cognitive development. I asked Bonnie Bricker, founder of Talk With Me • Howard County to write a guest post explaining another crucial way to support brain development in young children from the moment they are born. - - jam

*****

Every child deserves the opportunity to have a good life. While we know many factors will impact that outcome, solid brain development in the early years is critical.

 

Imagine this dream: Children growing up here go through their daily routine seeing and experiencing interactions everywhere. Mom and Dad put their phones down at mealtimes to chat. As each daily walk unfolds, common sights are described and compared. Children learn to notice and add details to conversations. They see parents comparing the fruit in the market, the cashier exchanging warm greetings; folks are unplugged and interacting. It’s an interactive style that may seem dated, but it’s actually essential to the development of the child and later, when that child becomes a parent.

 

80% of critical brain development happens in the first 3 years of life, and 90% by age 5. Decades ago, we learned that some 3-year-olds had heard as many as 30 million more words in their language-rich households than children in homes that were quieter and less interactive. Those children were far more prepared for kindergarten. In 2018, we learned that toddler chats were directly related to test scores of IQ and language TEN YEARS later. Building those critical brain structures early in life matters over the long span of our children’s lives. It matters for the child and their family; it matters for their ability to hold a joband have sustaining relationships. Our communities are successful when everyone can grow and thrive; it is in the best interests of all of us to spread this critical human story of development: 

 

Our brains grow with our positive interactions, craving the social-emotional hook of human connections in order to learn.

 

Recognizing that our brains are wired for connection and emotion is essential to understanding the foundations of development being built in the early years. Your warm gaze, your gentle words, your simple adjustments to your baby’s needs in that beautiful loop of responsiveness is key to learning. Humans are not computers; emotion and connectedness are keys to brain-building.

 

Brain-building moments occur through our days. Whether we’re singing Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star as we diaper our babies or reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar for the twentieth time to our preschooler, routines provide great opportunities over the span of our children’s developing years. Narrating what we do as we go through our routines helps our children hear new words and to understand how words fit into complex sentences. Whether we chat about the spices we use as we cook or narrate the sights and sounds of our daily walk, these moments are critical to hearing language and learning about our world. Over time, we add layers of knowledge to existing knowledge which helps our children to grow their intellectual capacity.

 

Repetition matters; multiplication is key. If you add reading a simple book for 5 minutes each day to your routine, you are adding 35 minutes of brain-building a week. In a year, you’ll be adding 12,775 minutes of this essential interaction. By age 5, you’d have spent 63,875 minutes of valuable interaction in that one activity. Adding interactions through mealtimes, playtimes, and daily routines makes a huge difference for every child.

 

And yet --- while some know this information quite well, many parents, caregivers, and professionals still need this message. So,here’s the good news storyfor the last 4 years, current and former HCPSS educators and Speech-Language Pathologists, county government employees, and various community members have joined me to volunteer for Talk With Me • Howard County to help all parents, caregivers, and professionals working with young families to understand that early interactions build brainsWe built the content, training program, workshop models, and a network of community members who share this information. Our partnership with HCPSS and the vision of Superintendent, Dr. Mike Martirano has been a huge help; along with the amazing collaboration of the Early Childhood Advisory Council, more than a thousand community members have interacted with the message of Talk With Me in some way, and many are in positions to spread the message further

 

Now established, we are transitioning the program to HCPSS. I have spent my entire retirement since 2015 to help spread this important information, and so my next chapter will begin. You can help to spread the message too!

 

Visit the Talk With Me webpage: https://www.hcpss.org/launch-into-learning/talk-with-me/

 

For more information, Howard County parents can explore the Howard Basics website and sign up for Basic Insights, offered free to families here: https://www.howardcountymd.gov/the-basics

 

Explore infant and child research more with great videos for both professionals and laypersons at Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child. Start with this link on Brain Architecture: https://devhcdc.wpengine.com/science/key-concepts/brain-architecture/

 

Contact: talkwithme@hcpss.org


*****


Bonnie Bricker founded Talk With Me • Howard County in 2015. She is a retired HCPSS  teacher, and the author of "Zoom Out Parenting: The Big Picture Approach to Raising Children" as well as numerous articles on social and public policy.


 

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Field Trips



In my experience the position of Columbia Association President and CEO is for special occasions only. That is to say, an ordinary resident of Columbia is not likely to meet or even simply see the CA President in the flesh except at ribbon cuttings or Columbia-centric celebrations. They are like the inherited silver or the good china. You know they are there but they are far too good for everyday use, if you get my analogy. Yes, one might see them regularly at CA Board meetings but for most of us those are special occasions, too: you have to make plans to attend and it’s usually for a very specific reason.

Last week I had an opportunity to meet the new president of CA, Lakey Boyd, and I suspect she may go about her tenure here a bit differently. As we spoke it became apparent that she is putting a high priority on getting out of her office and into the community. Ms. Boyd commented that she wants to put such “field trips” into her calendar so that she is committed from the outset to making time for them. 

I think that’s a good idea. It’s a lot easier to look at the Columbia Association as some kind of distant monolith when we don’t feel its leaders are truly engaged in the community. If the only times we see the high-ranking employees of CA are when they are carrying out ceremonial functions, we lack the opportunity to learn about them as fellow humans. Furthermore, they lose the opportunity to learn about us, too.

We talked for a while about the importance of making connections and I got the sense that Ms. Boyd places a high priority on activities and initiatives aimed at building community. When I asked about how she approaches learning about a new place, she spoke not only about those frequent field trips but also about asking around to learn who the people are who are doing interesting things. Who is engaged? Who is committed to trying new things, to service, to making their community a better place?



CA President and CEO Lakey Boyd speaks at this year’s Fourth of July festivities at the Lakefront. 

I wasn’t surprised that Ms. Boyd brought up her background in change management. She described having worked with organizations that had become disconnected from the people they serve. Right now, the Columbia Association is at a crossroads as they come out of the pandemic and assess where they want to focus their efforts and resources. This looks like the sort of challenge for which Ms. Boyd is is well prepared.

Something Ms. Boyd said struck me. She said that she had come to view change as an opportunity for her circumstances to improve. As someone who grips the steering wheel and white-knuckles it through change in my own life, I found this to be quite a concept. Of course it’s an opportunity, not a guarantee, but the hopefulness of that mindset may prove to be a helpful guiding force as CA moves forward under Ms.Boyd’s direction.

Of course Ms. Boyd brings with her an admirable educational background and employment history. That is to be expected. I will be far more impressed if her intentions to get out of the office and interact with people truly translates into a meaningful part of her leadership style and a change in how CA interacts in the community.

What if we came to believe that the head of CA was one of “us” and not one of “them”? I know this may have been true in Columbia’s distant past but not in recent memory as far as I can tell. That’s the kind of change that I would see as a significant opportunity to improve our circumstances. 

It’s a big challenge. I wish Ms. Boyd well as she begins her time with us. 


Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Eventful


Update: tonight’s Elevate Maryland event is being postponed in deference to the observance of Eid al-Adha. I’ll let you know when they have a new date. 

*****

Tonight, live and in person, the return of local podcast Elevate Maryland to their fashionable digs on Grantchester Way. Their guest is Brooke Leirman, who is, by far, the most promising and interesting candidate for Maryland State Comptroller. From the Elevate Maryland Twitter account:

First live show is 7/20 at 6:30pm with @BrookeELierman! 

Guests, please note: you must wear a mask while indoors unless you’re actively eating or drinking. (Elevate rules.) Thank you!

If you are interested in attending, Elevate does their live shows in Downtown Columbia in the Howard Hughes event space across from Cured/18th and 21st. Parking is right there and keep an eye out for signs guiding you to the exact location.

Alas, my doctor says no indoor events for me right now so I will be there in spirit only. I’ll just have to make do with hearing the show later. I have been very impressed by Ms. Leirman and look forward to seeing what she has to say.

An event that is near and dear to my heart is coming up Saturday night. The Inner Arbor Trust is holding a Fundraiser/Friendraiser for Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods at the Chrysalis. You can learn more at their website. Here are the basics:

WELCOME BACK FRIENDRAISER! (PAY WHAT YOU WISH)

Saturday, July 24, 2021

7:00 PM  11:00 PM

The Chrysalis at Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods 

Welcome back!!!

Help us fund free performances as we celebrate returning to the Chrysalis at our pay-what-you-wish Friendraiser.

The Board of Directors of the Inner Arbor Trust invites you to become our Friend as we celebrate the return of performances and raise money for our free-to-attend 2021 performances. 100% of these free performances are funded by generous donations, sponsorships, and grants.

Music by FireKite, cash bar, and food available for purchase.

100% OF YOUR DONATIONS WILL GO TO FUND FREE PERFORMANCES!

As with most events at the Park, you will need to reserve your tickets through eventbrite. I will definitely be there. I hope you will, too. As you know, I’ve been a friend of the park since it was but a twinkle in the eye of its proponents. Every new friend that the park makes is another person committed to a park for all in Columbia/HoCo. Come on out and meet other people who are excited about supporting Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods and who believe in its mission of bringing free arts performances to the community.

And for Heaven’s sake, let’s just kick up our heels a bit and have fun in the park!





 

Monday, July 19, 2021

Hellscape, USA


 

It’s true that I spend a lot of time scanning Twitter for local stories. As you know, sometimes I come away with what I call “Other People’s Tweets.” Today’s is a doozy.

Was in Columbia, MD yesterday and it was a total car-dependent hellscape, best place to live in America?  Totally nuts that people see that and like it

Bulldoze and start again

include beavers on the planning team

Give me a city or give me a cabin.

Tell us how you really feel, Mr. Out-of-Towner. Don’t hold back, now.

For some contrast, I hopped over to the Columbia Association website to see if I could find some descriptions of Columbia’s original intent and what we say we are proud of. Silly me. The website has changed. I knew where I was going on the old website. If you are interested in Columbia history you get one page with links to go somewhere else. (The Columbia Archives.) Well, heck.

I’ll just have to speak for myself for the moment. The truth is, I agree with what Mr. OOT writes, and yet I also love living here. It’s complicated. We absolutely are too car-dependent. Now, where I live, one can easily walk to the Village Center, the Walgreen’s, Blandair Park, the pool (when it’s open) and schools. Do I avail myself of these opportunities? Rarely. 

I’m pretty sedentary and driving is just easier. And, let’s face it, Columbia reinforces that frame of mind. Yes, we have the lovely pathways but they are largely for enjoyment, not to take you places you need to go. 

I find myself in the awkward situation of saying, yes, it’s a car-dependent hellscape and yet somehow I love it here. It’s quirky and earnest and comfortable. I do love all the grass and trees.

Do we need to bulldoze and start again? Sometimes I wonder. No matter what, I’m definitely intrigued by the prospect of including beavers on the planning team.


Sunday, July 18, 2021

The Pictures I’m Not Taking


I’m seeing lots of joyful photographs on social media these days of friends on long-postponed vacations, get-togethers with friends and family, celebrating at weddings. After more than a year of lying low it is only natural to mark the return to a more “normal” way of life with things we have missed the most: opportunities for human connection.

As for me, I’m getting there, albeit slowly. But, as anyone who has been reading current posts knows, I’ve been spending most of my time going around in circles in Columbia/HoCo’s parking lots and cul-de-sacs. One doesn’t exactly post photos on social media of that. Besides, I’m there to supervise a learning driver, not snap photos with my phone.

But if I were using these daily trips to be a “roving reporter” I’d probably be snapping photos of:

1. Those signs that appear at the ends of major roads or at intersections. You know, the ones that are about the size of the smaller political signs that one plants in the yard during campaign season. Signs touting real estate are permitted on weekends, I believe. At least in Columbia these kind of signs are heavily regulated but I am seeing plenty of “Suboxone treatment: call us” and a variety of other non-real estate signs. I have yet to see any such sign that gave me information I needed, but, perhaps they’re useful to somebody.

2. Siding. Old-school Columbia houses had vertical siding. Wood, I think. Through the years I gather this hasn’t held up well and owners have redone the houses with more durable siding products that are horizontal. Horrors! Has anyone ever written to the newspaper complaining that Columbia started to go downhill when people started using horizontal siding? I wonder if some day we’ll see a restoration program on HGTV where the host lovingly restores a Columbia home to the “original vertical wood exterior.” 

3. Tot Lots. Well, you can’t take pictures of them. They’re invisible to the ordinary driver. As thrilled as I was with the signage installed around town during the late Jane Dembner’s tenure with Columbia Association, absolutely none of those signs say “to the Tot Lots.” So, if you are entirely new to the area, you will have no idea that playgrounds are hidden along the pathways. Still bugs me.

I was fascinated by readers who pointed out that many cul-de-sacs have sidewalks only half of the way around. What could possibly be the point of that? To thwart door-to-door salesmen?

Advice for the day: if you see a sign that says Farmer’s Market, you just might be in Oakland Mills where the market is on Sundays from 9-1. That’s a sign worth heeding.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Saturday, Three Ways


I’m having way too much fun not making up my mind what to write about this morning. So let’s just do it all.

First off, thanks to all of the input about the location of the new courthouse. To all of those who are telling me that the location has always been in Ellicott City, I say: are you sure?


I’d love someone from the County to rise up out of the mist and explain this but I suppose it’s my responsibility to go and ask. We’ll see how that goes.

As to the new courthouse, I was out yesterday doing that practice-driving thing with my daughter and our route took us that way. It struck me as having a bit of that Columbia “joy of discovery” feeling. You wind around what feels like a rather unassuming stretch of road and then: boom. There it is in all its glory.

Over on Twitter today the term to search is Ellicott City. The pictures and videos that come up are of Germany. Why? Because recent flooding in Germany looks very much like the floods in Ellicott City. There’s quite the conversation going on about climate change and the generally slow response to it, even as we experience calamitous weather events around the world. Locally,  County Council member Liz Walsh and State Delegate Courtney Watson are celebrating the replacement of some impervious pavement with the environmentally-friendly pervious kind. Every little bit helps.

Finally, more musings from my recent driving adventures. We have graduated from parking lots to cul-de-sacs. Columbia has scads of them. If you think that living in a quiet cul-de-sac protects you from random, drive-by visits, I’ve got disappointing news for you: we’ll probably be driving by in the near future.

I’ve had plenty of time to observe those little islands that sometimes come with cul-de-sacs. Some are beautifully planted, some have park benches or even picnic tables. Some look overgrown and forbidding. I suppose it has to do with the people who live there and how much they want to make something of it. 

At some point there was a HoCoBlog called “Live from the Cul-de-Sac.” Does anyone remember? I think it’s a fabulous blog title.

There’s an entire entry on Wikipedia about cul-de-sacs, pros and cons. I found the section entitled “Suburban Use and Benefits” fascinating. But don’t stop there. Continue on to the Criticism and Discussion section. I found the suggestion that real estate delvelopers favor cul-de-sacs because they allow  them to fit more houses on oddly-shaped pieces of land an interesting one. Does this mean that if one opposes housing density one should oppose cul-de-sacs? Or, conversely, pro-density advocates support them? 

As always, I’m sure it’s far more complicated than that.

I guess I’ve always thought of cul-de-sacs as passé, an old-school suburban device that has passed its prime. They are hallmarks of a car-centric culture, although, in Columbia they are offset by pathways and tot lots which encourage walking, biking, and outdoor play. I’d love you know your opinion of cul-de-sacs. Are they great the way they are? Could we improve them?

Let me know.

*****


Out and About:  Chrysalis Kids: Marsha and the Positrons (Free) 

Sunday, July 18, 2021

4:00 PM - 5:00 PM

Chrysalis, 10431 Little Patuxent Parkway Columbia, MD 21044 

Event Description: Our FREE family concerts start with a fun mix of science and art!  Marsha and the Positrons are a DC-based kindie (kids + indie rock) band known for shows that are a ton of family-friendly fun! Both playful and educational, our original songs about science and how the world works are entertaining for adults as well as kids. Besides getting audiences singing along and dancing to songs that inspire curiosity about science, we play traditional favorites, kid-appropriate pop covers and parodies. Our goal is to send families home with smiles on their faces, plant the seeds for good conversations, and share our positive energy with the audience!

Gates open at 3:30 p.m. for playtime with Imagination Playground, and the performance starts at 4:00 p.m. Beverages will be available for sale, but feel free to bring a picnic (no glass or alcohol - alcohol available onsite).

Tickets available here.





Friday, July 16, 2021

Calling It Out


Print journalism is under attack from any number of sources these days. The survival of local journalism feels uncertain. Whether decimated by a succession of corporate owners or denigrated by the now-familiar  accusations of “Fake News!” our newspapers are struggling. Local journalists, overworked and paid a bare minimum, are, in my opinion, the most vulnerable and ill-treated.

On my mind this morning are the brutal murders at the Capital Gazette and the verdict yesterday that the killer is criminally responsible. My heart is with the family members, friends, and colleagues of the victims. Their names are worth mentioning here:

Gerald Fischman

Rob Hiaasen

John McNamara

Rebecca Smith

Wendi Winters

My mind is puzzling through some thoughts about the murderer. He was an abuser. Journalists covered a legal case that outlined his abuse. He didn’t want to be called out for his actions. He responded with violence.

I’m aware that my words are far from eloquent this morning. I’m trying to get at something that is a big concern for me. If you have suffered at the hands of an abuser, whether in a marriage or romantic relationship, a friendship, or in the workplace, you can easily recognize this man and his actions. It may make you wince, or shudder, or want to turn away. It may bring back memories you have tried to erase.

Abusers do not want to be called out for their abuse. They may completely deny any responsibility. They may place the blame on the victim. They may erupt, enraged at the prospect of facing the consequences of their actions. Or they may quietly, coolly plot what they believe to be a deserved scenario for revenge. In the case of the killer at the Capital Gazette, he had lethal weapons to carry out his plan.

Right here in Columbia/HoCo there are abusers. Some we will never know. Some are operating in public life and in community affairs. We don’t know which of these people have weapons and which do not. But we know they cause harm and they absolutely, positively do not want to be called out for their abuse. 

What do we do about that? Ignoring it and hoping it will go away is not the answer.



Thursday, July 15, 2021

Getting There


 

The new courthouse is finally open. The ribbon-cutting photos are all over social media. So is local commentary, both positive and negative. But this post isn’t about either. It’s about how to get there.

This tweet from Commute Howard was timely and helpful:


There you have it. Not everyone who needs to visit the new courthouse will own a car or have Uber money. For some reason I just adored this. I’m making up an imaginary narrative here:

Blah blah blah new courthouse blah blah blah important people blah blah blah expensive investment blah blah blah Need to get there? Take the bus.

Well done Commute Howard. Here’s the link to routes they mention: RTA Routes and Schedules. 

Two more things. First, the nearest places to grab something to eat if you are at the courthouse are now Wendy’s and Pizza Hut. Will we see any new restaurants pop up in the immediate vicinity? And what about a place to grab something for that pretrial headache or a new pair of stockings if yours run at the last minute? Hmm…that would be Walgreens in my direction or Target in the other direction. Will the new Courthouse become a financial boost to nearby businesses?

And the other thing. I expect that one of my readers will fill me in here. Doesn’t the courthouse have to be located in the County Seat, which is Ellicott City? Yet the new one is clearly in Columbia. Solutions might be to declare the new site as being in Ellicott City (complicated?) and changing the County Seat to Columbia (probably more complicated.) 

Does it matter?

Whether it’s in Ellicott City or Columbia, Commute Howard wants you to know that you can take public transit.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Reunions


We met when our daughters were in preschool. Now they’re in college. She grew up here, I always manage to feel like I’m from out of town. I’m East Columbia, she’s West Columbia. She’s vegan, I eat just about everything. We’ve been friends for sixteen years.

We got together last night for our first meal in a restaurant since the before times. I mean, the kind of restaurant where one can order grown-up drinks. The chosen location was the Ale House. We wanted to be able to sit outside. I must say we were in the minority on that front. They were doing a brisk business inside with what appeared to be a happy, relaxed, almost all unmasked crowd.

I haven’t been to the Ale House in years and in my opinion it is much improved. I never used to be able to find anything on the menu that was right for me; now there is much more of a variety of different kinds of food. On the other hand, it was nearly impossible for my vegan companion. Service was fabulous and our table was in the shade. There was even a bit of a breeze.

I was having so much fun that I forgot to photograph my first gin and tonic post-pandemic for posterity. That’s what having old friends is all about.

Table topics included local village board politics, the future of housing in Columbia, what local teachers went through during the pandemic, the women who are making change in our community, addressing racism…you know, just the average things you talk about after not seeing a friend for several years. Truth in advertising, we also talked about our hopes and dreams, and our kids. As you do.

One thing that came up in our conversation was that we were in complete agreement that all the people who are doing outstanding, transformative community work right now in Columbia/HoCo are women. I’d go into more detail but I think that’s a blog post unto itself.

The Ale House, with its casual outdoor eat-while-looking-at-the-parking-lot vibe was just the right location for a reunion of old friends. I’m really hoping it won’t be so long before we get together again.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

A Sporting Chance


 

For those of you who have been celebrating the return of sporting events, here’s good news: there’s still time to get your tickets for this year’s MLQ Championship. Even better, it’s being held in Howard County.

MLQ?


That’s right, it’s Quidditch. Major League Quidditch, no less. Three days of championship matches will take place in Troy Park beginning on Saturday, August 21st. You can purchase tickets here and,if you’re a true devotee, order a jersey in support of your favorite team. Alas, it appears that Gryffindor did not make the finals.

When I first learned about Quidditch coming to Howard County several years ago I was nonplussed. It didn’t much make sense to me as a game without the requisite magic and flight described in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. Despite my personal opinions, Major League Quidditch is clearly a thing, or, as it likes to call itself: MLQ. This strickes me as similar to Kentucky Fried Chicken rebranding as KFC, but, what do I know?

If you click on the MLQ website link their photo makes it abundantly clear that Quidditch is a contact sport. I wonder how it feels to turn up at an urgent care facility with Quidditch injuries? Can medical professionals restrain themselves from asking the obvious question, “What? Did you fall off your broom?”

All kidding aside, I’m completely behind the event on the third day of the event: Take Back the Pitch. I mentioned this in May if this year as you may recall. 

Take Back the Pitch is a showcase that challenges the current understanding of gender in quidditch and opens opportunities for gender diverse athletes to play quidditch out from under the scrutiny of misogyny, transmisogyny, and misdirected misogyny. Through The Gender Diversity Initiative, MLQ seeks to address the very real ramifications of sexism and transphobia for cis and trans women, non-binary folk, and trans men. Through the open-access Take Back the Pitch tournament, MLQ aims to highlight and lift up athletes that are overlooked by their teams and in the community on account of sex and gender, and give them the leadership opportunities, playing time and diverse skill training they deserve all the time. Registration is open to any quidditch player who is not a cis male. All skill levels welcome.

I think this is pretty darned cool, although I note that holding the event on a Monday means it is open only to those who can afford to take a day off from work. The same holds for spectators. Sigh. I hope that, despite this, Monday’s event draws a good crowd. I commend the intention to honor players who are often overlooked or excluded from “prime time” play, but I hope that in future years they’ll give them “prime time” exposure.

It’s a start.

Just for fun, I checked out ticket prices. I was pleasantly surprised. Presale: Ultimate Fan Weekend Pass is only $45.00.

Our premium ticket option! In addition to a weekend pass that allows you to enter and exit the event as you please Saturday, Sunday AND Monday, you'll receive the following:

- MLQ Championship t-shirt

- Front-row seating reserved for Ultimate Fans

- MLQ-branded bag

- Piece of MLQ swag

- Discounted hotel rates

Order before 11:59 pm ET on Sat., Aug. 7.

Who says everything in Columbia/HoCo is overpriced?

Monday, July 12, 2021

Still Looking

 


I was hunting through old posts for something else entirely and I found this:

Career Goals April 26, 2019

Now this is the job for me.

DPW creates a $100,000 job for outspoken critic Mark Reutter and Fern Shen for Baltimore Brew

I’ll let you read the piece and draw your own conclusions. It’s a fascinating story. I share it here today because, as the young folks say on Twitter,  “career goals.”

Dear employment universe,

I am uniquely qualified to be hired as an Outspoken Critic in the $100,000 range. Additional skills and qualifications: Ardent Supporter, Bemused Observer.

Strong writing skills, persistent, consistent work ethic.

Hobbies include anecdotes, vignettes, free-form poetry and doggerel verse.

Sincerely,

Village Green/Town²

I wonder if there’s anyone in Howard County who’s hiring?  It could be the opportunity of a lifetime.

*****

Friends, I am still looking for that job - - now more than ever. And I’d be really good at it.

It’s Monday, it’s hot and humid, and it seems like a good day to think up imaginary local jobs. What’s the job you’d want to have in Columbia/HoCo if it existed? Use your imagination. Be wild. Who knows? Like that 100,000.00 job, it just might happen.

Post them here, the more the merrier. Remember: they have to be Columbia/HoCo-specific.

Sunday, July 11, 2021

On the Road Again


  

Anyone who has learned how to drive or helped teach someone to drive has experienced the time-worn tradition of driving in parking lots. The emptier they are, the better. They provide a safe environment for the tentative efforts of the nervous beginner: maintaining a smooth, even speed, staying on the right hand side, signaling, turning, parking, and so on. 

Recently I’ve been a part of many parking lot driving sessions. We started with school parking lots, then graduated to Blandair and Centennial parks, which provided more varied topography. Then I began to get creative. I started seeking out entire communities of parking lots. Columbia/HoCo has plenty. Some examples:

  • Off of Broken Land past the Exxon where the Columbia Assocation Headquarters and Humanim are located.
  • Off of Thunder Hill Road behind the Walgreen’s where the DoubleTree Hotel is located.
Each of these areas present different challenges or hazards, if you will. In a park there may be children running out ahead of parents (who are looking at their phones.) In an empty suburban office park you may run into groundskeeping staff with mowers and leaf blowers. In Columbia the will of its founder means that you may be going up and down hills and around curves as you experience the joy of discovery.

We have the best parking lots. Varied. Some almost picturesque. What a convenience it is for students behind the wheel. One might even compose an entire driving challenge course comprised entirely of Columbia/HoCo parking lots. 

And then there’s the flip side. Parking lots bring with them environmental hazards. Run-off of pollutants conducts poisons into our waterways. Areas where parking lots are clustered together produce what is called the “heat island effect”, raising temperatures and thus increasing the demand for non-renewable resources such as air conditioning. The amount of space devoted to parking lots takes away from natural green spaces which contribute to our health and well-being.

Parking lots are rather like the Audrey 2 of our modern society. The more you feed them, the more they want and the bigger they get. 

Some informative (though not recent) pieces on the environmental impact of parking lots:

When a Parking Lot Is So Much More , (op-ed) New York Times

Locally the Robinson Nature Center is an example of combatting runoff with pervious pavement. In case you don’t know, pervious pavement allows rainwater to seep through into the ground rather than wash into storm drains. Would changing every parking lot in Columbia/HoCo to pervious pavement be helpful? Yes. Is it likely? Probably not without government guidance and/or financial incentives. And addressing the run-off issue is just one part of the environmental challenges parking lots present.

Do cars attract parking lots? Do parking lots attract cars? Are communities like ours, built with dependence on automobiles baked in to everything, doomed to continue in they way they began? The New York Times piece includes some creative suggestions for rethinking how we use the parking lots we have:

Better parking lots would embrace and expand this role. Already, many lots provide space for farmers’ markets, spontaneous games of street hockey, tailgating, even teenagers’ illicit nighttime parties. This range of activities suggests that parking lots are a “found” place: they satisfy needs that are not yet met by our designed surroundings. Planned with greater intent, parking lots could actually become significant public spaces, contributing as much to their communities as great boulevards, parks or plazas.

What do you think? Are you ever struck by how many parking lots we have here? Do you have ideas on how we can address this issue locally? I’m all ears.


Saturday, July 10, 2021

Skyline



Recently I saw someone ask online if they could bring visual aids to accompany their remarks in front in the Columbia Association board. It brought to mind the time I whipped out a rather large sign on which were written two words: I’m back.

I'm here tonight because on May 28, 2014 I stood in this very spot and said, "I have attended multiple CA Board meetings to speak in support of this park. I will keep coming back as often as necessary, and I am not alone."

And so I must begin with these words. I'm back.

What park? This park.  Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods: home to the Chrysalis, site of some very cool environmental projects this summer, host of happy hours and free yoga (this Thursday!) and where you can find some of the artsiest picnic tables in town. 

That park.

For many local folks it’s just the Chrysalis. It is a notable landmark, after all. At its opening cartoonist  Mike Ricigliano honored it with some humorous suggestions on how to mark the occasion.


If Columbia is known for having any kind of “skyline”, the Chrysalis has quickly become a part of it. A few seasons ago the Downtown Columbia Partnership created this image to promote Winter/holiday events around town


And just the other day the Columbia Association posted a promotional item on Instagram about its free yoga classes.


Through free and low-cost arts programming and a variety of community events, Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods is getting the word out that Columbia has a park for the people and all are welcome. The Chrysalis, once the target of outrage and derision by local armchair critics, is becoming more and more a part of the community landscape every year. 

It wasn’t meant to “blend in” in the way that our venerable tot lots disappear into the natural setting of Columbia’s pathways. But then Columbia itself wasn’t meant to blend in. At its creation it stood for something new and beautiful and, let’s face it, challenging. 

Rather like the park, I think.


Coming up this week:

Thursday, July 15th

Happy Hour, 5-7 pm, featuring Holly Montgomery plus yoga class at the Chrysalis, admission free. Learn more here.


Friday, July 9, 2021

The Sprout


 

Today the online group which in many ways got me through the pandemic and a year and a half of illness will be no more. Buy Nothing East Columbia will be archived. Its members have been posting gratitude and farewells for the last several days. A reminder to my readers about Buy Nothing:

We offer people a way to give and receive, share, lend, and express gratitude through a worldwide network of hyper-local gift economies in which the true wealth is the web of connections formed between people who are real-life neighbors.

Fear not, good friends, it is not dead. It is only sprouting.

Sprouting is the term for what happens when the membership of a Buy Nothing group becomes so large as to be unwieldy. Our group, which has grown to over 1700 members during the pandemic, will be sprouting into three new groups based on the geography of where people live. So, each new group will be smaller and also hyperlocal. The term “micro communities” was used by an admin.

I’ve been thinking a lot over the last several days about my experiences as a part of this community. These people have become my neighbors in ways that my actual, physical neighbors have never been. That made me think about some things I jotted down when I listened to the Elevate Maryland episode with Hahrie Han, “Belonging Before Belief.”

People tend to think that in movements belief comes before belonging. We find, actually, that belonging comes before belief. People have to feel connected to each other. They have to feel in relationship with other people in a community and then that becomes the base in which belief evolves. The relationship comes first.

This has certainly been true in my experience with Buy Nothing East Columbia. Members grow over time in ways to give freely and share creatively. It’s not merely a place to give and get stuff. Some examples:

Hilarity amongst members reached new heights as the use of bananas as a unit of measurement in photographs took on a life of its own. But when a member revealed a serious allergy to bananas, almost everyone switched over to other ways to indicate size - - television remotes, Sharpie markers, and even small children (if the item was large.) 

Members have created a collection of traveling birthday balloons, the Mylar kind that spell out things. There’s also a collection of jigsaw puzzles. When a member and her son were diagnosed with COVID they received contactless drop-offs of food and other necessary items. Buy Nothing folks helped organize drive-by birthday celebrations for the children of people they had never met. 

Of all the gifts that passed through our group, the one that moved me the most was when a distraught member, on the eve of a major holiday, revealed that she did not have the ingredients or even a recipe for a dish which she had only just discovered was esssential to her husband and in-laws. The way that group members stepped in and offered both material gifts as well as gifts of knowledge and emotional support was beautiful. 

This is community.

Our admin team has been consistently fabulous. This kind of group truly can’t run without caring, consistent, and creative administration. I ran afoul of the rules once by attempting to give away a bottle of wine we received with a meal from Nora’s. I received a very nice private message informing me that Facebook doesn’t permit gifts of alcohol. I never felt squashed or admonished. 

As for me, two top memories are the day when I thought my pizza dough purchased from Wegmans was going to explode and begged someone to come take it away (they did) and the incredibly sweet person who hand-delivered an adhesive hook to me so I could hang my daughter’s long-lost Christmas stocking. Our group has functioned with love and humor. I never lost the enjoyment of reading other people’s Gratitude Posts where they showed what they had done with a gifted item and how much it meant to them.

In Howard County we have a special leadership program which has become an almost essential rite of passage for those looking to take meaningful leadership roles. (Leadership Howard County) And in the state of Maryland there is a dedicated group for encouraging and preparing women for stepping into political life. (Emerge) I’d like to suggest that we also have a local group that fosters community in an an ongoing and meaningful way: Buy Nothing.

Back to Hahrie Han:

…the work that is most important is often the work that is invisible. It’s that invisible work where people develop the kind of habits and skills that it takes to work with eachother to solve problems that we can’t see.

In our modern world where we are so often disconnected from our neighbors, Buy Nothing brings us together in a rather revolutionary way: in giving. In this group we are not merely consumers targeted by purveyors of goods to convince us to part with our money. We are neighbors and friends who will find a way for eachother when finding a way may feel impossible.

So now we sprout. And new adventures await. 


Thursday, July 8, 2021

Late Links Are Great Links


This getting up at five am and then falling back asleep is getting to be annoying. I may need to rethink when I do the actual writing because my sleep patterns appear to be shifting and I am but the helpless victim of their whims. 

Enough of that. 

I present to you three excellent local pieces far more interesting than my personal struggles with waking up and staying awake.

The Wi Spa Controversy FAQ - - Suzi Chase (A fresh take on life, current events, and the world)

Howard County officials are committed to Asian American and Pacific Islander community (Commentary) - -  Angela Caballon, Howard County’s chief innovation officer and deputy chief administrative officer

Tale As Old As Time - - Howard County Progress Report, Jenny Solpietro

All of these pieces contain useful information and food for thought. Not a bad selection for eight in the morning.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, perhaps I’ll go and start working on tomorrow’s blog.

*****

Oh, by the way, Damon Foreman and Blue Funk will be playing down at the Lakefront this evening, weather permitting. Music begins at 7 pm.


Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Memories and Blessings


Last night I attended the Celebration of Life for Penny, whose passing I noted in April. And it was a celebration, albeit one with tears. It held both ceremony and a sense of the sacred while also including picnicking and play. We sat under the shade of tall trees, blessed by breezes and birdsong. There was incense, and there were bubbles.

There was an opportunity for anyone present to share a memories and thoughts about Penny. I had carried something in my heart but it just didn’t feel like the right time to share it. So I’ll share it here.

The most time I ever spent with Penny was at one of those Oakland Mills Village swim parties. I mentioned that, as I was getting older, I was losing confidence in walking up to the side of a pool, sitting down, and sliding in to the water. I had begun to have a bit of a fear of falling. 

“Core stability. Balance,” said Penny. She went on. “I have one of those Sonicare tooth brushes, and they tell you to spend 30 seconds a side going over your teeth. Well, I use that time practicing balance. I stand on one leg for 30 seconds, then the other. It really helps.”

Inwardly I winced because I have never, ever been good at standing on one leg. As a child I just about failed learning how to put on underwear due to my poor sense of balance.

But outwardly I took in everything she said in a positive manner and vowed to give it a try. And I did. Many, many times. And I never got any better and I began to wonder if I was simply incapable of brushing my teeth and doing anything else at the same time. 

I realized very recently that this experience did change me, but not in the way I had expected. Every time I brush my teeth I think of Penny. She has become incorporated into that ritual in a way that balance just wasn’t meant to be.

Since April I have treasured this unexpected gift more than ever. As silly as it sounds, toothbrush in mouth, I think of this warm, wise and playful woman and how she connected in such a genuine and magical way with the universe. 

Last night I had an opportunity hear from Penny’s family and friends and coworkers and learn so much more about her that I had not known. Today I am filled with their words and tears and songs and the laughter of their happy memories.

In recent years I have learned the custom in Jewish families to offer condolences by saying, “May their memory be a blessing.” I have thought it a lovely expression. Last night it came to mind in a deeper way as I experienced, palpably, what that blessing is. It is a living thing, not merely a nice thought.

This is not a local blog post in the truest sense, though Penny was for many years a valued part of the Columbia/HoCo community. But I came away from my experiences last night wondering how many people in our community she touched, and who then were able to be a part of their families or workplaces or communities more fully. She had exceptional gifts in this regard.

But what of the rest of us? Will the way we live and our interactions with others create those kinds of ripples that cannot help but make our community a better place? I wonder if we place too much importance on the smartest, the best educated, the ones with the best arguments, the ones who can get elected, the “influencers” and the “thought leaders.”  

Today I’m thinking on the connectors, the listeners, and those whose joy is in the gift of truly knowing people for who they are.

May her memory be a blessing.


Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Recycling Fail


 

Perhaps this one could be called “The Curious Case of the Complicated Clamshell.”

I got more excited than one might imagine by the news that Howard County Recycling could now accept clamshell containers. It’s been killing me to toss them into the trash. This was such exciting news that I decided to write a blog post about it. I staged an impromptu photo shoot with a few clamshells I had lying around the kitchen.


But…wait. Didn’t the announcement say “Number 5 plastic clamshells”? These were labeled Number 1. I went back to the handy-dandy email I had received from Howard County Recycling.

Well, phooey.




It turns out that there’s more than one kind of clamshell and the ones on my counter were the wrong kind and not recyclable. 

I understand the basic concept. There’s no point in attempting to recycle something if there’s no market for the post-recycled content. Someone has to want it when you are done with it. 

Back in my childhood, before plastic had taken over the world, we had two kinds of trash. At our house they were called “garbage” and “cans and bottles”. It wasn’t until far into adulthood that I realized that some kind of recyling must have been going on there. 

But now the world is awash in a variety of different plastics and not every kind is recyclable. To complicate matters further, it really depends on where you live and what kind of a recycling operation is going on in your community. If I moved from Howard County to some other place, I would very likely have to relearn what is recyclable (if anything) all over again.

I sadly took my Number 1 plastic clamshell-looking things and put them in the trash.

I have an app on my phone that lets me identify plants. You take a photograph and the app compares it to its own photographic database of plants. I’m pretty sure it uses your location to rule out, for instance, plants that aren’t native to your particular area. 

So here’s my pitch: make an app like that but for recycling. I hold my phone’s camera over the item, take a picture, the app knows my location and can tell me if that thing is recyclable where I live. Bingo.

“Congratulations! You have spotted a Number 1 plastic clamshell container. These containers are often used for fresh fruit and deli items. Unfortunately they are not recycled in Howard County, Maryland.”

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not angry that Howard County doesn’t recycle my particular kind of clamshell. As I said, I understand how that works. And, frankly, I wouldn’t be anywhere near as excited about recycling if it weren’t for the folks at Howard County Recycling and their helpful newsletters and social media presence. I just want an app that can settle for me without a doubt whether the thing I have goes in the recycling or in the trash.

Yes, I know it would take a ton of money and hours of work to create such an app. No, I don’t think it is at all likely that someone will create one. This has never stopped me from wishing for something. It’s simply fun to imagine it. 

In the meantime, summer is a great time to get fruit from your Howard County Farmers’ Markets and it doesn’t come in plastic. 




Monday, July 5, 2021

Letting Go


 

Truth in advertising: I love fireworks. When I was little I was terrified of the sound, but my delight at the visual experience eventually overcame my fears. Last night my daughter and I sat on the couch in our living room in Oakland Mills and were able to see a decent amount of the Lakefront show, at least, the ones that cleared the trees across the road from our house. 

Many people feel that it isn’t truly the Fourth of July in Columbia/HoCo without fireworks at Lake Kittamaqundi.

And yet.

Every year I learn more about how fireworks traumatize animals and other creatures in the natural world. The following is taken from a Facebook page called The Animal Place:

  • Fireworks traumatize ALL animals. They can have panic attacks, become disorientated, anxious, and scared. The booming noises can be terrifying and overwhelming for pets⁠/wildlife - and possibly hazardous or fatal.
  • We are in FIRE SEASON and seeing record-breaking heatwaves everywhere while experiencing a major drought. Firework sparks can and will result in fires.
  • People with past trauma related to sound like, people with Complex PTSD, people with autism, and people with other forms of sensitivity to noise are all impacted significantly by the explosions of fireworks. 
Let's create compassionate traditions.

Here’s more along the same lines in an image from Reddit.



As I said, I love fireworks. And I love the special joy that comes with sharing that experience with others - - the oohs and aahs and the delight in children’s faces. But do I love them so much that I am willing to sacrifice the well-being of others?

I’m beginning to think it’s time to let them go.

Sunday, July 4, 2021

Responsibility


 

My 4th of July gift to you today is truly a gift from The String Queens: Élise Sharp, cello, Kendall Isadore, violin, and Dawn Johnson, viola. If you are lucky you saw them when they played at the Chrysalis in 2018. I let a little rain keep me home and I am still kicking myself.

Their original piece, “From See to Shining Sea” was created through funding from American Music Abroad. From their description of the piece on YouTube:

Appropriately bookended with quotes from "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing," this medley tells a story of freedom, hope, heritage, culture, TENSION and triumph. Our medley, which also features "Battle Hymn of the Republic and America the Beautiful," was influenced by Negro spirituals, gospel, soul, classical, and even bluegrass genres.

The String Queens trio vowed to create a piece that represents US - our story, our history, our ancestors, and our sound - played OUR way. As you listen to each part of the medley, we pray that the rich harmonies, soulful sound, and heartfelt rhythms will bring peace and comfort to your spirit this holiday weekend and beyond.

The video begins with thoughts on what the day has meant to them in the past, and what it means to them today. These words from Kendall Isadore stood out:

…the first time in my life that I realized that what I thought I knew, what I thought was truth was - - I had been lied to all my life - - that the Fourth or July was not about independence or freedom for me, for my ancestors at all. And I’m still grateful for the lineage, and all my ancestors, and our forefathers, and the forefathers of our nation, but we have to do a better job of telling the truth And I think that now, as a musician, as an educator, as a daughter, as a black woman - - we have a responsibility to tell that truth. 

And that’s what history should truly be about. Telling the truth. Right now there’s a whole lot of people fired up with a notion that we should not dig deeper or use our brains to explore episodes and trends in history that we might not have known before. That is not, and never has been, telling the truth. 

I’ve raised my daughters firm in the belief that telling the truth is an essential value. And I believe that must carry over to our life as a nation. If we are not strong enough and brave enough to face the truth and tell the truth then we have nothing to stand on. And nothing to celebrate.

Learning from The String Queens this 4th of July was truly a gift to me. I hope it will be for you as well.

Here it is: From See to Shining Sea.  (Time of video: 5 minutes, 29 seconds)



Saturday, July 3, 2021

Best Of


 

I’m awake but all I want to do is sleep. No idea why. The alarm went off at the regular time and I didn’t stay up late last night. I’ve opened the curtains to let in more light but so far it hasn’t penetrated my brain.

You may have noticed that voting for the Best of Howard is up and going on. I was happy to see a generous number of blogs nominated this year.



Two nominations are for blogs I have never even heard of, so I need to get to work on bring myself up to speed on that.

It’s fun to win. I won’t deny that. And there was a time when I believed that winning was a huge validation. But in the end you have to remember that it’s a click fest. The winner will be someone who motivates people to show up and click every day for two weeks. I’m not sure that that’s the same as being the best writer or the most influential in terms of public opinion. It might be.

In some of the categories winning is a huge deal, most especially for businesses. So, if you have favorites you feel strongly loyal towards, you should definitely show them some click love. And, while I’d never tell you who to vote for in the best blog category, I have no qualms about recommending Bet Yeladim Preschool in the childcare category - - just in case you’re willing to make an extra click or two.

Best volunteer organization? Columbia Community Care. But you knew that.

I think the pandemic may have had some impact on the nomination process. Some local favorites are missing from some categories and I think that’s because people have had other things on their mindsjust plain forgot to nominate them. Ah, well. It’s not life or death.

It’s something fun we do in the summer and it helps boost ad revenue for the Howard County Times.

By the way, I see that the Best Restaurants issue has come out. What did you think of the results?