Monday, February 28, 2022

The Surplus Population


When my alarm went off this morning I hit it with a rather “not today, Satan!” kind of energy. I don’t know why. Perhaps that bit of extra sleep was needed. Or perhaps everyone has mornings where an inner adolescent shouts, “You can’t make me!”

The first thing that came to mind as a blog topic would have been hilarious, and delightful, and local. But it might have embarrassed someone. And I’m getting better at foreseeing that, I hope.

The second thing would have been scathing, and pointed, and very much well-deserved. But it would have been focused on one individual in the public eye and I’m trying not to do too much of that, either.

The third thing isn’t completely ready yet.

Well, phooey.

Did you read yesterday’s blog post yet? I’m rather proud of it.

I’m going to leave you with something I learned in a conversation with my doctor recently. We were talking about how “moving on from COVID” was revealing a big divide between “regular folks” and the medically vulnerable. 

“When I first heard about COVID I knew that the US was going to have a huge problem. Because of our affluence, we have a significant population who are able to live with serious medical issues. Other, less-affluent countries don’t have that. Those people just die.”

Those people just die. 

My doctor wasn’t saying what was right or wrong. She was commenting on the great disparity in available health care between nations. But for those of us to whom much has been given, we now see how easily it can be taken away. And all it takes is for people to simply not care.

As the school system (and the country, it would seem) careen determinedly towards something called “normalcy”, those people are still a part of our country. Honestly, I would be concerned about this even if I weren’t one of them.

Whether you disbelieve the science on masking, or you feel it’s your “right” not to mask, or you just don’t like it, one reason that I mask in public is out of #respect for others who may be immunocompromised, unvaccinated, or unaware of my vax status.

Compassion still matters. - - @JeromeAdamsMD

Sunday, February 27, 2022

Telling Tales


I’ve been listening to the most recent episode of local podcast Elevate Maryland. Their guest, Sheryll Cashin, is the author of  White Space, Black Hood: Opportunity Hoarding and Segregation in the Age of Inequality. Cashin is engaging and dynamic. The interview covers valuable information about housing and opportunity which is relevant nationwide but also specific to Maryland, notably Baltimore. The running time is about forty minutes, so it’s not a huge time commitment and the flow is good. You never feel bogged down or lose the thread of where they are going.

I had an epiphany this week about why it’s so important for me to recommend this particular episode, and why I need to read Ms. Cashin’s book, as well. It came when Maryland State Representative Jazz Lewis highlighted a moment on the floor in Annapolis in which Republican Susan McComas rose to speak on a bill about school behavior and student arrest. You can find the video here, which includes Delegate Lewis’ reponse.

I’m indebted to Josh Kurtz and Danielle Gaines of Maryland Matters for their transcript of this exchange.

Del. Susan McComas (R-Harford) stood to speak late in the debate.

“Over the years we’ve watched that society has changed, the family unit is different. And I’ve been accused of implicit bias because I said, you know, the Black fathers aren’t as prevalent as they were in the 40s and 50s,” she said, drawing ire from lawmakers in the chamber. “The bottom line is that we need to understand that the teachers are dealing now with a society now that has changed significantly.”

Lewis stood immediately after McComas finished her remarks.

“Colleagues, I know that passions are running high right now, but I ask all of you to be respectful in your language. Do not speak as to the passion or concern of Black fathers when you are not one,” Lewis, the father of a toddler, said, drawing applause. “I speak on behalf of all Black fathers in this room, tropes should not be used. Folks love their children. I think we should keep the conversation to education.

Here we see a member of the Maryland State Legislature walking right past language of “implicit bias” and wading into downright racist tropes which justify policing black students more (and differently)  than white students. 

In viewing that moment I immediately thought of Sheryll Cashin’s words in the Elevate episode where she talks the stories that white people make up and tell themselves about why things are the way they are today. Cashin posits that it’s important not only to comprehend how things like Red Lining codified a system of racial inequity in housing and opportunity but also how we allow that to become a foundation for self-justifying narratives that keep those things in place.

(I am going to go back over this episode with a fine-toothed comb to find that quote. But, in the meantime, listen for yourself.)

That is exactly what McComas is doing here. She is relying on generations of racial injustice to Black Americans to float criticism of the Black family. In her bland and even tones she becomes the story teller of white supremacy. “You know, they just aren’t like we are.”

The lack of investment in Black neighborhoods, combined with the punitive response to residents from law enforcement is an ongoing cycle which perpetuates itself as long as white people keep making up those stories and believing them. Cashin is blunt in her assessment that whites are active participants in this process as long as we look for ways to explain away the inequities that don’t tell the truth about how they got there and why they continue.

Delegate Lewis was absolutely right to rise and refute her remarks without letting one moment pass to normalize them.

I wonder when we will see white members of the House of Delegates start doing the same and challenging those toxic stories and reminding their membership that they have no place in the halls of governance in the State of Maryland. Lewis did the right thing but, frankly it shouldn’t have to be his job. 

When white people start rising to take on our self-justifying fables and tropes then maybe we will get somewhere.

Saturday, February 26, 2022

The Opposite of Appreciation

The Howard County Schools calendar tells me that Monday, February 28th is the start of Employee Appreciation Week. News from the Board of Education meeting last week tells me that Tuesday, March 1st, masks to help prevent the spread of COVID will become optional in our schools.

Well, dang. What a way to celebrate.

From a Howard County Schools Facebook post in 2019:

We're celebrating Employee Appreciation Week! A big thank you to the more than 8,300 HCPSS staff members who are part of our amazing HCPSS family, for your unwavering dedication to students and schools, and for all you do each and every day.

A recent survey by HCEA found that teachers strongly favored (forty-five per cent)  that “universal indoor masking should continue through the end of the school year, even if transmission rates decline,” followed by twenty nine per cent who believed that masking should be present “until the County's positivity rate has fallen below the CDC "Low Transmission" levels (below 5% positivity) AND at least 80 percent of the students and school staff of a school facility are fully vaccinated.” Only twenty two per cent believed “indoor masking should be discontinued effective immediately.”

Or, if you prefer a graphic representation:

I’m wondering how appreciated our school employees feel right now. That sentiment about “unwavering dedication” is sorely tested when it doesn’t go both ways.

Almost exactly a year ago I wrote the following piece in response to employees being sent back into school buildings before they all were able to be fully vaccinated. 

Education is based on uniquely human relationships between teachers and students. It cannot thrive in an environment where the very humanity of teachers is devalued and even under attack. 

Happy School Employee Appreciation Week, everyone.

Lessons Unlearned, February 24, 2021 

I have started and deleted this post about five times this morning. I hear the sounds of my husband getting ready to leave the house. It is not a happy day. 

Our community has broken faith with its teachers. We are sending them into schools which are not adequately prepared, we are making them walk into situations where disease can be spread without being fully vaccinated, and we haven’t been able to hire the required number of support staff to make any sort of reasonable plan viable.

None of this is safe. Asking teachers to risk their lives and their families’ lives when they are receiving so little support is unacceptable. 

Yet clearly our community is full of those who think nothing of that. They are fine with inflicting long-term damage as long as they get their short-term benefits.

There is a cost to breaking faith with people. My biggest fear right now is losing them to illness. But we will also lose the good people who will leave a system that has betrayed them. We are already losing them. And I suspect more will follow.

Teachers are not widgets. You cannot just pop in a new one when the old one breaks. Teaching is an art, a science, a gift. It takes specialized training, mentoring, valuable experience, and love. If we make decisions that discount this our schools will pay the price for a long time to come. 

Education is based on uniquely human relationships between teachers and students. It cannot thrive in an environment where the very humanity of teachers is devalued and even under attack. 

Folk tales from around the world tell of people who, having received an exceptional gift, destroy it and their own lives through their own selfishness. Think of the goose that laid the golden eggs or the man and the magic fish.  How easy it is for the characters in these stories to come face to face with an extraordinary blessing and be dissatisfied. How quickly their initial pleasure turns into demands for more.

The prevalence of stories like this in so many cultures should tell us something. If they are meant to educate us or serve as a warning I fear we have not been paying attention. You cannot smash the thing you want to have and still make use of its treasures.

I would think that’s a lesson most of us learned in school, but, apparently not.

Friday, February 25, 2022

Cute Things and Empty Promises


I knew a fellow whose childhood approach to not wanting to go to bed was to march up to his parents’ bedroom and give impromptu lectures. The most notable occasion was when he announced himself as follows:

I am here today to talk to you about Sharp Tools and Dangerous Weapons.

Well, friends, it’s Free Form Friday.

I am here today to talk to you about Things That Look Like Things.

This is not because I am putting off any imposed bedtime but because it is a topic truly bugs me and it was bound to come up sometime.

If you’ve ever sent a child to preschool, or  have friends or relatives who have, you will be familiar with the painfully adorable assortment of crafty things that children often bring home, especially around holidays, but often in conjunction with various preschool themes. 

  • Caterpillars from egg cartons
  • Pine cone turkeys
  • Toilet paper roll robots
  • Coffee filter butterflies
  • Paper plate pizzas
You get the point. Every child gets called to the table to make one and every child brings one home and adults say, “oh, that’s so cute.”

I am here to tell you today that those things are not art, in case you wondered, and they’re very often not the best use of your child’s time, either. A preschool program that relies heavily on requiring that students make things things look like things is often not investing time in what children really need: things that they think up and create themselves.

The odd shoebox with ominous purple markings, a bit of glitter at one end and three rocks from the playground is a precious place for self-directed learning. Children don’t need us to define what they create.  They have so many amazing ideas if we only invite them to pursue what they find important. It’s almost always in the weird things that adults can’t figure out that children are doing the most learning.

And it’s not just some amorphous “creativity” I’m talking about here. Young children visualize something in their heads, make decisions, gather materials, try things out, make corrections, talk about their work, make connections to things they care about. Purely through their own interest and motivation they are practicing valuable skills, including, but not limited to:

coordination and fine motor control
spacial reasoning
sensory exploration
cognitive development through planning, comparison and problem-solving
social and emotional maturation through increased focus, collaboration with others and feeling pride and success.

To contrast, preconceived projects where a child is “called to the table” are largely exercises in:

following directions
interacting with directive adults

As well as any focused skill-building embedded in the project.

This is not to say that all such projects are instruments of the Devil. A gifted teacher can enrich such moments of one-to-one or small group work with children in any number of positive ways. But an early childhood program which sacrifices child-directed activities for an emphasis of predigested “crafts” is short-changing their students: especially when every child is forced to complete them regardless of interest or ability.

The amount of brain activity which goes on when a student is making their own choices and pursuing their own plans is enormous and the quality of it is robust and complex. Making something your teacher tells you to make, no matter how “cute”, will never compare to the feeling of independence, agency, and self-esteem derived from an environment which supports child-directed activities.

Keep this in mind when a young friend brings you something you do not understand. Do not ask, “what is it?” Ask them to tell you about it. Then, listen. Listen and respond. Good follow ups are, “how did you make it?” “Was it fun to make?” “Tell me about your ideas.” 

It’s almost always appropriate to share an open-ended expression of appreciation, such as, “Woah! That’s so cool!” But your approval is truly less important than your genuine interest. As an important adult in a child’s life your interest and attention is gold. It shouldn’t be the reason they do The Thing, but it’s an extension of their learning, and contributes to your relationship with them and their sense of well-being.

In closing: beware of Things That Look Like Things. They may look cute but they’re full of empty promises.


Thursday, February 24, 2022

Be a Light


To the Superintendent of Schools Michael Martirano and to the members of the Board of Education: 

I am writing both to praise the inclusion of a full-time LGBTQIA+ initiatives specialist as part of the FY23 budget for HCPSS, and to strongly advocate for its funding as a part of the budget agreement to be voted on this week. I strongly agree with members of CARY:

Our school system’s budget is more than a document of financial planning, it is also a statement of our values and priorities. One of these priorities should be addressing the pressing needs of LGBTQIA+ students and staff. For LGBTQIA+ youth, this is sometimes a matter of life and death.

Parents and allies have been watching in horror as anti-LGBTQ+ initiatives have moved forward across the country. In Florida the “Don’t Say Gay” legislation threatens the well-being and safety of young people in their own schools and compromises the precious relationship of trust between teachers and students. The movement to suppress affirming materials from school library collections has made itself known even in our own county.

Yesterday in Texas Governor Abbott directed Texas Family and Childrens Protective Services to investigate all transgender children and to treat parents who affirm their care as abusers. In addition he has instructed all teachers and persons with a “duty to report” to report transgender students. This is the world our children are waking up to today in Howard County, Maryland.

We absolutely must be the community that stands with LGBTQ+ students and families and not against them. In a national environment of censure and suppression the Howard County Schools can be a light shining against the darkness that threatens our vulnerable young people. 

It is our school system’s responsibility to lift up all children. A full time LGBTQ+ initiatives specialist will continue, deepen, and expand the progress that HCPSS has made in supporting students whose well-being is often at risk and whose educational success is so often compromised by rejection. Funding this position is a logical next step in the school system’s commitment meeting its Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion goals:

HCPSS has worked to advance equity and embrace diversity and inclusion into every major undertaking.

It is committed to eliminating disparities in access, opportunity and inclusion as the key to closing achievement and opportunity gaps and providing the nurturing and supportive school environment that every student deserves.

Thank you for your hard work on behalf of our students and all members of our school communities. Please affirm the importance of our LGTBQ+ students by including this position in the budget.

Wednesday, February 23, 2022



These are the words:

Professional massage services in Ellicott City, MD. We provide massage spa services including Deep Tissue, Swedish, Shiatsu Asian Massage.

These are the images:

This does not look like a professional massage operation. This looks like someone is trafficking children. At the very least, they are making it a point to sell the fantasy of young, submissive Asian women ready and waiting to meet your needs.

Years ago I attended a hearing of some sort and ended up hearing testimony about human trafficking in Howard County. Until that evening, I hadn’t really known it was a problem. I learned about how certain massage parlors are known to employ workers from other countries and steal their passports, restrict their movements. Their language skills may make it difficult to get help.

It was chilling. I didn’t want to believe it happened here in beautiful Howard County. 

Last night this bright and shiny, just-created Twitter account couldn’t have been more obvious in its intent. I felt sick just looking at it. Not only do the photos look digitally enhanced to accentuate a look of “sexually attractive underage girl” but the facial expressions are deeply concerning. Subservient, bordering on anxious. Someone who wouldn’t dare say no.

This one in particular:

What are they selling here? It doesn’t appear to be legitimate massage services or highly-trained expertise. All these photographs scream “I have no choice.”

At the recommendation of a friend, I shared this account and tagged the Howard County Police Department and the County Executive. I don’t think this is a new business. I think it’s just a new account looking to lure the sort of customer who’d be attracted to whatever…fantasy they’re selling. 

My concern is that they appear to be trafficking children. Even if they are not, is their business model based on having the kind of control over workers which takes away their right of consent or to come and go freely? That’s not just immoral. It’s clearly illegal.

I don’t want a business which depends on the degradation of women and encourages boundary violations to be able to do business here. Massage is an actual discipline which requires training and study. This is…what would you call it?

All I’ve got right now is chilling.

Tuesday, February 22, 2022



Back in the spotlight in this ad campaign from Reebok is musician Brent Faiyaz.

Brent Faiyaz. Columbia, Maryland. Singer-songwriter. Individual. Made up of everything true. Navigates creativity imperfectly, distinguishing himself from what already exists. Life Is Not a Spectator Sport. 

Faiyaz is a graduate of Long Reach High School. He was known in those days as Christopher Brent Woods. He’s 26 years old and has been making music in Los Angeles since around 2015. He is now one of a small group of artists featured in Reebok’s Life is Not a Spectator Sport Campaign.

A fun fact: Faiyaz is listed as one one four notable alumni on the Long Reach High School Wikipedia entry. The others are Ron'Dell Carter, NFL player; Ian Jones-Quartey, animator; Darryl Webb, basketball player.

Since I’m such a big advocate for arts education, I’d love to know what kind of experiences Faiyaz had in our school system. Were music classes the highlight of his day? Or were his interests outside of the traditional band-chorus-orchestra curriculum focus? If I can figure out how one can successfully reach out to a well-known recording artist, I’ll ask. 

Interestingly enough, a quick scan of Twitter showed that fans weren’t particularly interested in the Reebok campaign. What they’re looking for? New music.

Mannnnnn Saw Brent Faiyaz trending & thought he was releasing music

Saw Brent Faiyaz trending and I thought he was releasing new music

So are we ever getting new @brentfaiyaz or nah?

@brentfaiyaz new music brother, drop it

@brentfaiyaz my Virgo brother, please I need a new album 

You can follow Faiyaz on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. He has a TikTok but it’s relatively recent.

Are you familiar with his music? Or did you perhaps know him back in his Columbia days? I’m always curious about the stories behind someone’s life choices, especially when it comes to the arts. 

Monday, February 21, 2022

Seven Days


I found myself face to face with an old friend last week, digitally speaking. 

Threw Mike’s Eyez is a local blog written by Woodbine resident Mike Hartley. I discovered it back in the day when HoCoBlogs had an aggregator page and one could browse through what was currently available in the local blogosphere.  I’ve pointed you in his direction several times before, most recently, in 2019:

I was inspired by this from Threw Mike’s Eyez blog:

*My goal for tomorrow is to fill a trashcan of old junk and get rid of it. Well, I do have a lot more goals than that, but that might be the hardest.*

A quick glance at Hartley’s LinkedIn page reveals a lifetime in the newspaper industry, including some treasured years working for Patuxent Publishing  in that building I love to write about. I also learned that he’s been writing his blog since 2014. 

That’s persistence.

It looks like he strives to write every day. Sounds familiar, huh?

Hartley brings his skills as a professional photographer to his blogging endeavors. He knows how to get just the right shot and just where to place it within his narrative posts. Like the yeast that leavens the bread, his photographs bring everything together and make it better, somehow. He has a light touch.

I love his thoughtfulness, his self-deprecating humor. I don’t think you can come away from his posts without thinking a little bit about life and how you want to spend it. And there’s definitely an undercurrent of gratitude in there as well.

Often his posts end with a collection of Random Thoughts of the Day. Those alone are often “worth the price of admission” as folks used to say. Here’s an example from 1/24/22.

Random Thoughts of the Day

  • Learning is fun. Wish I learned that lesson earlier on in life.
  • I feel a sense of urgency all the time now.
  • Sometimes there are treasures in old cardboard boxes.
  • I’m trying to will myself to feel better with mixed success.

I get the feeling that Hartley’s blog is a discipline, a practice of sorts. He’s on a journey and he’s deeply aware that he’s on a journey and he’s offering a neighborly invitation for you to be a welcome observer.

Every single day.

EMILY: "Does anyone ever realize life while they live it...every, every minute?"

STAGE MANAGER: "No. Saints and poets maybe...they do some.” 

― Thornton Wilder, Our Town

Sunday, February 20, 2022

Weekend Update

News and notes in HoCo-land:

Quidditch returns

Howard County, Md. (Feb. 16, 2022) —  Major League Quidditch (MLQ) has announced that the 2022 MLQ Championship will be hosted in Howard County, Md. on Aug. 20-22 in partnership with Visit Howard County.

This explanation helped me visualize what a non-flying Quidditch might look like:

Quidditch is a mixed-gender, full-contact sport played by over 600 teams in 40 countries. The rules, originally adapted from the Harry Potter book series in 2005, incorporate elements of basketball, rugby and dodgeball.

Cricket Expands in Columbia/HoCo

And, elsewhere in the world of sport, the Department of Recreation and Parks broke ground on the county’s sixth cricket pitch at the end of January. This will be the first such playing facility dedicated to youth play. It will be located at Lake Elkhorn Middle School. They expect it to be ready by the end of May this year. 

At some point recently I viewed a video montage of this event and was struck by its soundtrack, I can’t seem to put my hands on it at the moment. Did you catch it? I’d be interested in your impressions.

CB 10 Pros and Cons

Some good news: the County Council passed CB 10, which protects hospitality workers right to return to work. The bad news: some council members carved such deep exceptions into the bill that it seems that they were more concerned with accommodating employers than assuring justice for workers. I’m still trying to wrap my head around that.

HCPSS budget reminder

The folks at CARY report that the BOE will be addressing the superintendent’s budget proposal this week. The preliminary vote with be on Tuesday, 2/23 at 1 pm followed by adoption on the Fiscal Year ‘23 operating budget on Thursday, 2/24, at 3 pm.

If you have been meaning to write the Board in support of the LGBTQ+ Specialist position, please do that now if you are so inclined. Info here.

Newly-Discovered Ellicott City Black History

Last week the members of The Howard County Lynching Truth and Reconciliation group held an event at Busboys and Poets to present The Unveiling of Newly Discovered Ellicott City Black History. The event, entitled “ A Community Meets.: Early Ellicott City Black history, a Historic African American Church, a Log Cabin, and Lynching,” drew fifty-six in-person attendees, accompanied by another seventy-seven who participated virtually. Impressive for a Thursday night. I’ll be writing more about this soon.

Take a look here to examine some of their findings:

Ellicott City Black History Roundtable 

Monday event supports housing

You can support the programs of Bridges to Housing Stability tomorrow by visiting Tino’s on Centre Park Drive. Whether you eat in or carry out, ten per cent of food and alcoholic beverage sales will benefit Bridges.

In news of a more personal nature, a good friend provided me with home delivery of Taharka Brothers Ice Cream and most of my day will be spent mapping out the perfect order in which to sample all those delectable flavors.

Have a wonderful Sundae. Um, sorry. Sunday.

Saturday, February 19, 2022

More Choices, Please


It is February 19, 2022 and so far we have three candidates for two open seats on the Howard County Education. Have you by any chance considered:

Now, I read recently that the deadline to file has been moved forward to Tuesday, March 22nd. Does that apply to the Board of Education, or just statewide races where boundaries of certain districts may have been altered due to redistricting?

Three candidates for two seats is not much to choose from. I know that some people like to wait until the very last moment to file, so perhaps I shouldn’t give up hope just yet. But, deep down, I have a bad feeling about this.

There’s been a lot of talk over the last several years about how the loud angry voices have chosen to focus their dissatisfaction on individual board members who don’t hold the “right” point of view. Board members have received threats of harm to themselves and their families. One member had to contend with an angry mob assembled at their home. Even the Student Member of the Board has not escaped personal attack. 

So, who wants to run for Board of Ed? Come on now, don’t be shy! There’s tons of work for hardly any pay and the likelihood that you’ll be maligned and your good name smeared is quite good. 

Who could pass up that offer?

There are some huge issues at stake right now in our school system. I suspect that some folks have worked very hard to make the job of a BOE member so unpleasant because they want to see only members that espouse their points of view making the decisions.

What issues, you ask? Well, for starters:

  • Whether librarians will continue to exercise autonomy in choosing and maintaining school library collections.
  • What kind of public health protocols will be chosen for protecting students and their families.
  • Will we follow through for healthier start times recently approved by the current BOE?
  • Support for LGBTQ+ students
  • Addressing the negative impact of school policing.
  • Supporting programs for restorative justice and conflict resolution. 
  • Taking a stand to teach the truth about American History.
  • Teacher burnout and the decline of students entering the teaching field.

Oh. I didn’t even mention the upcoming redistricting. How silly of me. 

These are at-large seats, so you’ll need to be ready for a County wide campaign. It certainly looks like you’ll need to have plenty of spare time and disposable income.

If my intent was to encourage people to run for these seats, I don’t think I’ve done a very good job here. I do hope that there are more people out there who are willing and able to accept this challenge and who aren’t scared away by the Loud and Angry Bunch. 

We need you. Our schools need you.

Friday, February 18, 2022

Free Form Friday: Color Me Amused. Or Maybe Confused.


What? Is it Free Form Friday so soon?

A few silly things are on my mind this morning. This Tweet from a local business made me smile:

Chivalry Collection Carpet (color Respectful) with black cove base at a local business in Columbia, MD.

Yes, friends, you, too can have a Respectful carpet. From the Chivalry Collection. I wonder what other shades are in the Chivalry Collection? May I suggest: Courtly, Noble, Daring, Loyal, Virtuous, or Brave? Chaste?

Color names never cease to amaze and amuse me. The color we selected for our downstairs walls is called “Interactive Tan.” We like the color, but the truth is, it hasn’t ever tried to interact with us at all. That’s probably a good thing.

How does one get a job naming colors? Are colors named by committee? 

I know that there are special qualifications for wine tasters and fragrance-sniffers but is there such a thing as a color-see-er? To be clear, seeing varied shades of color or concocting new ones is not at all the same thing as coming up with a name to put on one - -  a name which must have a reasonable enough connection to the color plus an appealing enough connotation to make a potential buyer choose it.

It’s not likely that customers and decorators would commit to Depression (gray), Moody (Mauve) or Sneering (yellow-green).

It’s possible that the seeds of this piece may have been planted by a post from Sweet Elizabeth Jane. It’s a short video walking through the Pantone display at a recent trade show.

The Good Old Days

The Pantone Color of the year is Very Peri, which they describe as:

Displaying a carefree confidence and a daring curiosity that animates our creative spirit, inquisitive and intriguing PANTONE 17-3938 Very Peri helps us to embrace this altered landscape of possibilities, opening us up to a new vision as we rewrite our lives. Rekindling gratitude for some of the qualities that blue represents complemented by a new perspective that resonates today, PANTONE 17-3938 Very Peri places the future ahead in a new light.

Wow. This is more than fashion or interior decorating. This is…a religion.

Have you ever come across a color name that tickled your sensibilities or just plain made you scratch your head? Feel free to share them in the comments.

Since it’s Free Form Friday, and all that, I guess I should wish you a weekend that “helps you to embrace the altered landscape of possibilities.” 

Sounds promising. 

Ooh. How about “Promising Primrose”?*

*I can’t believe it!

Thursday, February 17, 2022

An Artful Change in Town Center


Did you know that’s Columbia’s Town Center has a new logo?

Photo Kerry G. Johnson

The Town Center Community Association Board of Directors is pleased to announce the winner of the Logo Contest that ended in late December. Mr. Kerry G. Johnson's entry was voted on by residents and selected as the winner across many excellent entrants.

Mr. Johnson is a resident of Howard County and is proud to have had his first home on Ring Dove Lane right in Town Center. (Town Center Facebook page)

I like it. I especially like this explanatory description shared by the artist:

I designed the contemporary logo to subtly showcase the metropolitan and suburban character of the Tower Center community of Columbia. The multicolored graphic tree symbolizes the broad and diverse people that live, work, shop, or visit the Tower Center. If you closely review the solid and sturdy tree "person," it's supporting a foundation that's holding up the residents and businesses of the Town Center Community Association. 

Kerry G. Johnson is a professional artist who lives in Columbia. From his website:

Kerry is an award-winning illustrator and art director whose work has been published in numerous newspapers, magazines, books and websites. He has illustrated several children's books along with a unique line of multicultural greeting cards. Kerry is a hands-on creative director with the vision to inspire, collaborate, and execute fun and illustrative solutions.

As I took a look around Mr. Johnson’s website, I thought about how many times students are steered away from studies and careers in the arts. 

“What are you going to do with that?”

“You’ll never make a living doing that.”

Johnson uses his artistic gifts and training to make connections in numerous ways: book illustrations, greeting cards, caricature events, school visits, digital artwork, teaching, and, of course logos and rebranding. As I scrolled through his Twitter feed I got a sense of someone who is always learning and finding new ways to connect his art with the world. 

Examining this topic made me wonder about all the other logos of the Columbia Villages in use today. I believe that some of the older Villages have updated/transformed or outright changed those images. Most of us are well aware of the iconic artwork featuring Columbia’s neighborhoods created by Gail Holliday in Columbia’s early years, many of which are now on display on the far side of Lake Kittamaqundi. 

They are beautiful. I love them. But it’s also true that each village has the responsibility of keeping their public branding image both recognizable and current in today’s world.

I’d love to do a post solely on the old and the new of all the Columbia Village logos. Now that I’m thinking of it which of the images below, if any, was the previous Town Center logo?*

In the meantime, congratulations to both Town Center and Mr. Johnson for a successful collaboration and a happy and prolonged life for their new image. 

You can find Kerry G. Johnson on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and on his website.

You can learn more about Town Center here.

*Those of you who have lived here longer than I are probably shaking your heads at me. I’d be sincerely grateful if you could share your wisdom on this.

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

A New Symbol


A new college president brings new ideas. Changes in leadership can be opportunities for new initiatives or a difference in focus. Perhaps that is why I took such an interest in this Tweet from Howard Community College’s new President, Dr. Daria J. Willis.

Hey, HCC! My pink sofa has arrived all the way from Washington! What do ya think?

Dr. Willis’s previous position was as the President of Everett Community College in Everett, Washington. That’s quite a long trip for that couch! There must be something special about it, I mused.

And indeed there is something special about it, and I didn’t have to wait long to find out. Over on Instagram:

Conversations from the Couch. Join us live on February 16th at 4:00 pm for a discussion on Black History Month.

In no time at all that pink sofa has gone from a piece of furniture to an icon. It’s central to this bit of social media marketing. 

HCC uses multiple social media accounts to get their message out: Facebook, Twitter, and this one, Instagram. They even have a TikTok account, though it looks to be quite new. Today they’ll be doing an Instagram Live to launch a Conversations from the Couch series with College President Daria J. Willis. This conversation will also feature one of HCC’s faculty, Dr. Alhaji Conteh.

Four o’clock today. Instagram Live. Their account name is howardcommcollege. I have a feeling it’s going to be an interesting conversation.

I have this vision of a brainstorming session where someone says, “The couch catches your eye, and the conversation keeps you coming back.”

Using social media to tell stories and build a feeling of relationship is just one of the ways that institutions of higher learning are reaching out to potential students and their families. (Possibly potential faculty and donors as well.) The advent of a new college President brings new possibilities for getting their story out.

I’m just fascinated by that couch. Even more, I’m interested in the person who’ll be sitting on that couch this afternoon at four o’clock, kicking off what may be a successful initiative to communicate with our community and far beyond. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Reston on my Mind

Apparently there’s a rather common misconception that Reston, Virginia was developed by Jim Rouse. Perhaps this is because Columbia and Reston are: planned communities, not all that geographically far apart, and came in to being during the 1960’s. I mention this because I came across a post from the admin of a Howard County, MD Facebook group gently correcting those who had been making this mistake. 

FUN FACT: This is Robert Simon, founding father of Reston, VA. Neither Jim Rouse nor The Rouse Company were professionally involved in development of Reston. Rouse and Simon were colleagues in the same business, and collaborated and consulted as colleagues do from time to time, as did Rouse with Walt Disney and many other pioneers in the field. But to say that Rouse designed Reston is akin to saying Rouse designed Disney World, which he didn’t. 

Simon poses on a park bench near Lake Anne, next to his likeness in bronze. The statue was installed in 2004 to celebrate Reston’s 40th birthday.

More on Reston from Wikipedia:

Reston is a census-designated place in Fairfax County, Virginia. Founded in 1964, Reston was influenced by the Garden City movement that emphasized planned, self-contained communities that intermingled green space, residential neighborhoods, and commercial development. The intent of Reston's founder, Robert E. Simon, was to build a town that would revolutionize post–World War II concepts of land use and residential/corporate development in suburban America. In 2018, Reston was ranked as the Best Place to Live in Virginia by Money magazine for its expanses of parks, lakes, golf courses, and bridle paths as well as the numerous shopping and dining opportunities in Reston Town Center.

Robert E. Simon. R E S - ton. Goodness, he certainly put his whole self into it, didn’t he?

I’ve often heard that both places were planned communities, and so similar in that regard. Other than that I really don’t know much about Reston at all. I’ve never been there. Have you?

After I read this one clarifying statement the universe decided I needed to educate myself. The next day I came across a thread on Twitter from an area journalist who had just happened to be visiting, you guessed it: Reston.

The thread begins here

Well, the weather outside is frightful, so enjoy this thread on urban/suburban planning & my recent visit to Reston, Virginia (one of the “planned communities” of the ‘60s)! I enjoyed the OG #reston, centered around Lake Anne. - - Bryna Zumer, Content Planner at WMAR 2 News

Be sure to click on the link above. There are some great photos and interesting insights.

Are you aware of the phenomenon where, once you learn a new word, it keeps appearing everywhere you look? That’s pretty much how I felt last night when I tuned in to one of my favorite shows on WETA, “If You Lived Here”. See for yourself:

WETA to feature Reston in Upcoming Show, Fatima’s Waseem for Reston Now (You get cool points if you recognize the name of the author.)

WETA’s latest season of “If You Live Here” will feature the community’s story, art and people on Feb. 14 at 8 p.m.. on WETA Metro and 9 p.m. on WETA PBS. Producers describe Reston as one of America’s most successful planned communities.

The show is a house-hunting series hosted by best friends Christine Louise and John Begeny. The hosts tour homes and communities with local realtors and explore neighborhoods in the DC Metro area.

It’s clear now that I have Reston on the brain and I should just succumb and enjoy the ride. Whether it’s fate or synchronicity, there’s something there that’s calling to me. To learn? To compare? To visit? I just don’t know. But my curiosity is definitely piqued at this point.

Wait. Didn’t the former President of CA, Milton Matthews, come to Columbia from Reston? So much to learn. Where to begin?

Feel free to add your impressions/knowledge/experience about Reston in the comments. I await further edification. 

Monday, February 14, 2022

A Perfect Dozen: Local Love


I cannot remember if this is a true story. I think it is. I’m rather on hazy on where I saw it. It’s about an advert for Valentines which reads:

“You Are My One and Only Love” beautiful Valentine cards. Set of 12, $4.95.


In the spirit of spreading one’s love around, here are one dozen things I love about Columbia/HoCo:

  • Hanging out at the Lakefront on a warm Spring day
  • Going to the library. Any branch, though I do love East Columbia most of all
  • Having a picnic by the playground at Lake Elkhorn in Owen Brown
  • Main Street, Old Ellicott City. Noodling around.
  • The Brighton Dam Azalea Garden when everything’s in bloom
  • Neighborhood Christmas lights
  • Concerts at the Chrysalis, Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods
  • The new playground, “Laura’s Place” at Blandair Park
  • Finding a favorite spot to watch July 4th fireworks
  • Summer Farmer’s Markets
  • The Oakland Mills Fall Festival
  • The pedestrian/bicycle bridge over Route 29 linking Oakland Mills to Downtown
And, a bonus: the first meal I had at the Food Court at The Mall in Columbia with my now-husband. The fortune cookie read:  

Look no further, happiness is seated next to you.  

Have a great day, and feel free to add some of your own local love in the comments.

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Try It, You’ll Like It!


Yes, straight from the pages of Facebook, it’s: my dinner.

Friday night in Oakland Mills: my book came in at East Columbia Branch, I picked up a jerk chicken dinner with all the trimmings from Althea's Almost Famous, which goes perfectly with a BrewDog Punk AF Hoppy Ale. Life is good. 

The curious responses I got to this post made me realize that not everyone knows about Althea’s Almost Famous. I did a quick check and I see that her business has been mentioned on the blog seven times so far, beginning in October of 2020. 

Last Spring I wrote:

This year a new attraction at the Oakland Mills Market will be the debut of Althea’s Almost Famous food truck/trolley/cart/mobile catering. Althea has been a presence at the Market for a while now, selling her Jamaican Jerk sauce. She also run a local catering business. Now she’s taking her show on the road and you can see what all the excitement is about on Sunday at the Oakland Mills market.

Althea Hanson, owner and operator of Althea’s Almost Famous, began her business in 2015. From an recent announcement on the Howard County Government website:

Hanson, who grew up in Jamaica, found her passion for cooking from her grandmother. She started her business in 2015 while raising funds to adopt her goddaughter from Jamaica. Hanson began by bottling and selling her homemade sauces, which are now professionally bottled in Baltimore and sold at local retailers like LA Mart in Columbia. She soon expanded to catering events, parties, and weddings and has been a recent staple at Howard County farmer’s markets. The latest expansion, a mobile food trailer, has finally allowed Hanson to invest in her business full-time, recently stepping away from her previous job in real estate. 

In all this time I had never gotten around to trying her food. I’ve seen plenty of people raving about it. Friday the weather was gorgeous and a familiar photo caught my eye.

Good afternoon Family, 

What a beautiful day outside today! Stop by and grab some amazing Jerk Chicken fresh off the grill and a fresh hand press drink to wash it all down. We're located at 5851Robert Oliver Pl Columbia, MD 21045 and we're here until 5pm. Have a great day and always thank you for the support everyone.

I was on my own for dinner and I needed to pick up a book at the library. I made sure I left the house by 4:30.

I ordered the Jerk Chicken Meal with the regular jerk sauce, which comes with two sides: rice and peas, a a steamed cabbage medley. The gentleman who took my order also gave me a small sample of the “hot” variety so I could compare. The food was delicious and was more than enough for two meals. I will absolutely be going back to try other things on the menu: the Jamaican meat patties are tempting me. (She also sell vegetarian varieties.)

If you want to try some of this yummy Jamaican food for yourself, keep an eye on Althea’s location tracker to see where she’ll be be next. Having a party? Althea’s does catering. Need delivery? Order through Door Dash.

You can keep up with Althea’s Almost Famous in a variety of ways.

Facebook: Althea’s Almost Famous

Twitter: @Altheasalmost

Instagram: altheasalmostfamous

Have you tried Althea’s Almost Famous? What’s your favorite dish? Do you keep her Jerk Sauce on hand for seasoning and home cooking? 

I’m just kicking myself that it took so long for me to take the plunge and try something new. I’ll definitely be ordering again in the near future.

Want to learn more? Try this great piece from Voyage Baltimore:

Conversations with Althea Hanson

Saturday, February 12, 2022

Local Story Inspires Blogger. Now It’s Your Turn


On Thursday I wrote about how Zach Koung, an HCPSS graduate, is using his voice to advocate for LGBTQ+ students. Today I want to share what others in Columbia/HoCo are doing to support the LGTBQ+ students in our schools. 

On December 4th, community members turned out at the Lakefront to take a stand against suppression of student reading materials* in our schools. I wrote about this in “Love Gets Loud”.

Attacks on teachers and schools staff have promoted us to stand united and drown out the noise. 

  • We stand for LGBTQ+ students and educational professionals 
  • Teaching accurate history to our students 
  • Supporting equitable practices in our schools
  • Providing students with relevant LGBTQ+ reading materials through their school libraries 

Here are some of the messages shared by those in attendance. All photos are shared with permission.

CARY, (Community Allies of Rainbow Youth) was one of the groups who sponsored the rally. CARY is a grass-roots, volunteer-based organization formed in 2019. From their website:

We advocate for LGBTQ+ youth, raise awareness of LGBTQ+ issues in the community, with a focus on the schools, increase understanding of youth experiences across the LGBTQ+ community, and support each other!

Their goals are clearly outlined here.

Throughout this academic year, members of CARY have been speaking at Board of Education meetings in support of LGBTQ+ students and against the suppression of learning materials in our school libraries. In addition, they have been advocating for the creation of an LGBTQ+ Initiatives Specialist position to be funded in the HCPSS FY23 budget.

An organization's budget is more than a financial planning document, it is also a statement of values and priorities. It is time for our school system and the community to acknowledge the pressing needs of LGBTQIA+ students and staff, and more importantly, to make a commitment to them through budgetary priorities. (CARY)

The good news: Superintendent Martirano has included this position in the budget he presented to the Board of Education. The next step: the Board of Education must affirm his choice by keeping it in the budget that they pass. 

Members of the BOE need to hear from the community that this position is needed and valued. Here’s how you can help. 

Email the BOE  and Dr. Martirano to express your support. The subject line should read: Budget request- LGBTQIA+ Initiatives Specialist.

CARY has prepared a helpful document which may be useful to you as you compose your letter. I am including it at the conclusion of this post. The Board is working through the budget now. They need your input ASAP. If you know people who would be interested in supporting this issue, please pass this post along. 

I truly believe that there are far more people in Columbia/HoCo who are accepting than those whose loud and angry voices seek to censor books and school curriculum. (Love Gets Loud)

It is the Board of Education’s responsibility to lift up all students. It is our responsibility to hold them accountable to that commitment and to articulate “loud and clear” exactly what that means.

*I want to be clear that the rally was held both for supporting LGTBQ+ positive learning materials as well as those that speak honestly about racial equity. For the purposes of this post I am focusing on the former. Both are vital to mission of our schools. - - jam


Dear Members of the Board of Education and Dr. Martirano,

 I am writing to request the funding of a full-time LGBTQIA+ initiatives specialist as part of the FY23 budget for HCPSS.

Our school system’s budget is more than a document of financial planning, it is also a statement of our values and priorities. One of these priorities should be addressing the pressing needs of LGBTQIA+ students and staff. For LGBTQIA+ youth, this is sometimes a matter of life and death.

According to this Trevor Project report, it is estimated that LGBTQIA+ youth are four times more likely to seriously consider suicide, to make a plan for suicide, and to attempt suicide compared to their peers.

The biennial National School Climate Survey has documented many of the unique challenges LGBTQIA+ students face. On the other hand, this survey, which began in 1999, has also consistently indicated that specific school-based resources can promote a positive learning experience for LGBTQIA+ students. These resources include:

• Supportive educators

• LGBTQIA+-inclusive curriculum

• Inclusive and supportive policies

• Supportive student clubs, such as Gender and Sexuality Alliances (GSAs).

While we have witnessed encouraging signs of better understanding of LGBTQIA+ issues and more people voicing their support for LGBTQIA+ students and staff, it is not nearly enough. To make sure that school resources translate to measurable impacts on students’ educational outcomes and well-being as well as a positive environment for LGBTQIA+ staff, we need committed leadership at all levels, allocation of adequate funds, and dedicated staff with experience and expertise to implement policies and practices that ensure safe and affirming school climate for all.

 A full-time LGBTQIA+ initiatives specialist may serve as an expert and advocate in support of LGBTQIA+ students and staff in our school system, providing leadership to all LGBTQIA+ initiatives, promoting collaboration among administrators, staff, students, family, and community organizations, and ensuring any ongoing efforts to support LGBTQIA+ students and staff to be more efficient and streamlined.

 An added benefit of having this position funded is to help mitigating the workload currently shouldered by some central office staff absent of a dedicated specialist, a benefit that is urgently needed at a time of severe staff shortage and burnout.

 In conclusion, I strongly recommend that HCPSS funds a full-time LGBTQIA+ initiatives specialist in its FY23 budget.




Friday, February 11, 2022

Old Theme, New Words


Valentine’s Day. I wasn’t really going to say much more about it until I saw this advert from Sweethearts Candy:

Sweethearts Announcement 

You remember Sweethearts, don’t you? They are the best known brand of what are called “conversation hearts” for the Valentine “season.” You may recall that Necco, the company that produced those tooth-breaking confections, went out of business, leaving us heartless for awhile there. I wrote about this sad state of affairs back in 2019.

Hometown Sweethearts

Here’s some history on conversation hearts from Spangler Candies, the company that bought the Sweethearts brand.

In the 1860s, Daniel Chase was the first to print sayings on candy hearts. Daniel was the brother of Oliver Chase, the founding father of the candy manufacturer New England Confectionary Company (NECCO). Daniel invented a machine that pressed a felt roller pad moistened with red vegetable coloring against a printing dye, which would stamp the sayings on the hearts. The printed hearts were originally shared at parties and weddings.

The Sweethearts brand was created in 1902. The original hearts included sayings that are still popular today such as “Be Mine” and “Kiss Me.” Sweethearts grew in popularity over the next several decades.

In the early 1990s, Sweethearts began to update the sayings each year, retiring some while adding others. The first new phrase, "Fax Me," gained a lot of attention from Sweethearts fans. Following this notable effort, each year Sweethearts receives hundreds of suggestions from romantics, candy lovers and school children. From old tech, "Call Me" to new tech, "Text Me," Sweethearts phrases have reflected eras throughout history.

In 2018, Sweethearts was acquired by Spangler Candy Company, which has been a part of America's candy culture and heritage for 115 years. As a century-old candy maker, Spangler knows how important this brand is. Consumers love Sweethearts, WE love Sweethearts, and as a candy company, we are excited to celebrate this brand’s return!

If you watched the video link above, you know that this year Spangler has added sixteen new phrases focusing on encouragement and teamwork to the usual flirty formula.

Sweethearts Celebrates Teamwork and Encouragement for Valentine's Day 2022

Just when we all need a little boost, fans of the beloved candy hearts will find 16 new sayings inside this year’s boxes including, “WAY 2 GO,” “CRUSH IT” AND “HIGH FIVE” alongside classic messages like “BE MINE,” HUG ME” and “CUTIE PIE”,

Certainly we all could use a little encouragement right now. The only mystery to me about all this remains the fact that Sweethearts (like their cousins Necco wafers) are hard as rocks and basically taste like nothing. I suppose they are good for encouraging conversations, so that’s truth in advertising. And, they are hearts which are sweet, so that's something.

They are great for math activities such as counting, sorting, graphing, patterning, and they hold up reasonably well for arts and crafts projects. But their appeal as a candy is…limited. Two other companies make versions of the chatty candies: Brach’s and Sweet Tarts. The latter has the benefit of the traditional Sweet Tart flavor, although the sayings are etched into the candy rather than printed on the surface.

If you wrote the words for the conversation hearts, what would you choose? Any new ideas you’d like to suggest? How do you feel about this year’s encouraging phrases?

Most of all: do you actually eat them? Perhaps they are meant to reinforce the notion that while love is sweet, it’s also really really hard.