Saturday, April 30, 2022

Blessing of the Bikes


After many years of hinting and pining, I finally got that tour of Elkridge I’d been asking for. And I found it so fascinating - - and enjoyable - - that now I want more tours of Elkridge. So, the request still stands. Or I need to start making my own self-guided tours. 

I also wish I had snapped pics and taken notes the whole way so I’d remember everything later. Still, I have no regrets. I was learning a lot and I was having a good time. It was a lovely day.

It was lovely enough that we were able to conclude our tour with lunch at Daniels. (Full name: Daniels Restaurant and Open Air Bars.)

Our waitress was wonderful, the food and the iced tea hit the spot. And, as we left, I noticed a flyer for The Blessing of the Bikes: May 1st. 

Here’s what it says on the Daniel’s Facebook page:

Our Annual Blessing of the Bikes is this Sunday, May 1st! Father Gerry Bowen will be doing the blessing!

Great Train Robbery* 1 pm to 5 pm.

Blessing at 3 pm.

Live artwork by Gory Greg.

And... a raw oyster bar!

Our parking lot will be closed to vehicles by noon! All cars will be moved prior to noon!

We look forward to seeing you all on Sunday!

Photo from Daniels Restaurant Facebook page

Now, I’ve heard of the blessing of the pets and the blessing of the fleet. But a blessing of the bikes was new to me.  It’s not new at Daniels. Here’s an article from Elkridge Patch written in 2013, which indicates the bike blessing had long been an annual tradition. 

Spring Means Blessing of the Bikes at Daniels, Andrew Metcalf, Elkridge Patch

The Blessing is "kind of sort of" a welcoming of spring for the bar, said [bartender] Martin. The event features a minister who gives a small prayer for each bike and splashes a bit of holy water on them.

In Lake County, Michigan the event goes back to 1972, making this year’s celebration the 50th. According to the Blessing of the Bikes website in Lake County, Michigan, it all started with eight riders and four bikes at St. Ann’s Catholic Church.

Over on Wikipedia

The first mass blessing of bicycles was held in 1999 at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City. Since its beginning the ceremony has been ostensibly non-denominational, focusing more on rider safety** than religion.

You should click on the Wikipedia link just to see the photo.

For more about Daniels that doesn’t lean so heavily on the biker connection, I recommend 

More than a biker bar, Daniels in Elkridge has drawn loyal customers since 1975, Allison Eatough, Howard Magazine, 2016

I want to stress that I learned a great deal more about Elkridge on my tour than this one post would suggest. I learned just enough to know that I need to learn more. But, the fact is, the Blessing of the Bikes is tomorrow and so the sharing of it now is timely information. 

And so I ask you to forgive me if it appears I am somehow trivializing the history and culture of Elkridge. I don’t mean to. As ever, if you want to take me on a guided tour of Elkridge, I’m open.

*Not a showing of the 1903 silent film nor an actual train robbery, but a Southern rock band out of Baltimore.

**Did you know that Howard Community College offers courses in Motorcycle Safety

Friday, April 29, 2022

Snackery Trickery


Someone, somewhere has to think these things up. Then someone else develops them in the test kitchens. After that, it’s consumer taste-testing, focus groups, and then you market them.

Here they are!


Our limited edition M&M’S Munchums Chocolate Baked Snacks are a totally new type of chocolate snack. Inside our unique, crunchy baked outer shell is a crispy center coated in milk chocolate. They have 40% less sugar than M&M’S Milk Chocolate Candies, they’re gluten-free, and made with natural flavors so everyone can get in on the fun.

The words that caught my eye here are “Baked Snacks”. This is clearly a term created by the food industry. Did your mother ever ask you when you got home from school, “Would you like a glass of milk and a Baked Snack?” 

It isn’t candy, it isn’t junk food, it’s a Baked Snack. I honestly don’t know why they didn’t try to market this as a breakfast cereal. “The taste kids love with a wholesome baked shell!” Probably reducing the sugar content from the candy version by 40 per cent still wouldn’t cut it in the cereal aisle. Or maybe it disintegrates in milk. Or looks really, really ugly.

What other foods are designated as “Baked Snacks”? Cheez-Its, for one, also Baked Lays, Combos, any number of salty snacks. I think the term became popular when anything fried was deemed an invitation to heart disease and an early death. But here we see it used on a product which is essentially candy masquerading as…I don’t know. A cookie? A cracker? 

Imagine a chocolate chip cookie but with the ratio of cookie dough to chocolate reversed. Now break it into round pieces. What is that, exactly?

I know! It’s something you can feel comfortable eating by the handful. Yeah, that’s it. Do we think anyone will be eating munchums one by one? Counting out the recommended healthy portion? No, I thought not.

The food industry employs all sorts of people to create terminology like “Baked Snacks” and someone somewhere has to carefully define exactly what a “Baked Snack” constitutes. All of this is part of a process to convince consumers to have a craving for and to buy products that aren’t necessary for a healthy diet and aren’t particularly good for them.

They don’t want to hear you say “junk food.” Oh, no. 

Yes, I have eaten all sorts of foods that weren’t particularly good for me over the years. This is not some holier-than-thou sermon on the evils of junk food. (There. I said it.)  It’s about words, and how the food industry uses them to motivate, entice, and even fool consumers by subterfuge and manipulation.

Can you think of any other examples? For some reason Tang comes to mind.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Catching Up


Our alliteration overloads continue on their quest for world domination. Yesterday Howard County hosted Beer n’ Bots:

And, beginning May 4th at the Mall in Columbia, it’s the Meerkat Meetup.

Stop searching, start connecting

Our mall is more than just a place to shop. It's a gathering place — a shared space where everyone can come together to share memorable experiences. Partnering with artist collective, Cracking Art, we’ve brought our community an awe-inspiring exhibition filled with vibrant meerkat sculptures made of regenerated plastic, sparking a community-wide conversation about caring for our environment and each other. Discover groups of meerkats standing in harmony, bringing a sense of wonder and togetherness throughout The Mall in Columbia. Join us for this one-of-a-kind experience.

I’m speechless. Well, almost. My first impression is that these meerkats look like giant incarnations of preschool math manipulatives. The second is that the lead-off - - stop searching, start connecting - - sounds like it could be for a new church or an online dating service. I’m very surprised that there’s no accompanying cocktail event called Meerkat Mingle.


You’ll be happy to learn that the owner of Brown Puppy recognized his photo and made plans to come to Jimmie Cone and pick him up. It turns out his name is Brownie. I’m trying very hard not to think of hot fudge and vanilla ice cream.

The author of the tweet that prompted Tuesday’s post stopped by the comments section yesterday to lecture me and to identify himself, I guess. In so doing he provided first-hand evidence of what I find so terribly concerning. I think that’s all I need to say about that.

Speaking of proms, one reader reached out with this interesting tidbit. As a high school student in Owings Mills, both proms he attended were in Columbia: Turf Valley and the Sheraton. Go figure. This conversation devolved into brainstorming  a Creepy Dead Mall prom, which I think would be brilliant. But, alas, the dead mall in Owings Mills is no more and the Mall in Columbia is still alive and kicking. 

And soon to be overrun with meerkats.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Teens Take the Lead in Oakland Mills


I’d like to introduce you to Malia Edelson, a student at Oakland Mills High School. Here she is on the far left:

I was intrigued to learn that this year’s Columbia Cleans event in Oakland Mills was led by teens from the OMHS Class of 2025. It turns out that Edelson came up with the idea and saw it through to completion. She did the organizational work to prepare for the event, holding virtual meetings at night and liaising between the Village Manager and the OMHS teacher advisors. 

Malia was kind enough to answer some questions for me about how this all came about.

What motivated you to take on this project? 

I've always cared for the environment and I thought it would be fun to try and get students more involved with the environment and a good way to get my class board to start a project.

Have you helped with the cleanup in previous years?

I have helped with the clean up before and some of the spots we would clean always had a ton of trash.

Was it easier or harder than you had thought it would be? 

It was a bit harder than I thought it would be because on top of trying to get people, particularly freshmen, out to help, I had to get a lot of confirmation and permission. It was also a struggle to get release forms.

Was it hard to find young people to buy into participating in the event?

It was definitely hard to get younger people to come out because it was an early Saturday morning and it was really hard to advertise picking up trash in a way that would get teens "excited" or willing to help. One thing that we did was offer service hours for anyone who came and needed some.

How do you think older residents responded to having a high school student the lead?

I think that it may be a weird thought, to have high schoolers take the lead, because high schoolers could just plan an event and mess around the whole time. One of our sponsors wanted our SGA group to be really careful of this because if just one person came and messed around the whole time it could have ended with us not being able to hold an event like this. The clean up has been run by mainly adults in the past and I think it made a difference to have some teens help take the lead.

Did anything exceptionally interesting or humorous happen during the event?

Me and some of my friends found a sewer that was blocked by trash, leaves, and mud and while clearing it we accidentally threw mud all over our class president.

Was there anything you were particularly proud of?

We were able to pick up around 30 bags of trash and I'm really proud of that and how much work people put into this event. 

Malia Edelson is a student at Oakland Mills High School and active in student government for the Class of 2025.  In addition to her love of the environment, Malia plays on the Oakland Mills volleyball and girls' lacrosse teams as well as a Howard County recreational volleyball team. She also plays violin in the Oakland Mills orchestra. She loves living in Oakland Mills and exploring the natural environment around her. She also enjoys advocating for her current and former schools, including testifying to public officials in support of renovations to both Oakland Mills Middle and Oakland Mills High. Edelson hasn’t decided yet what field of study she’ll choose in college but right now she is considering a major in psychology and a minor in music.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022



I had planned to write about something else today but this tweet from a local political activist* set me off:

FYI- 90% of our daily lives is impacted by the zoning and land use decisions made by County Govt. Any conversation of “books”, “SROs” or cultural issues will only serve to distract from the MONEY issue. And for that the Development industry is thankful. 

Let’s boil that down to its essential components.

The only issue is my issue, the Evil Developer issue. Anyone who highlights other issues is in league with the Dark Side.

Or maybe:

Suppressing books that support LGBTQ+ students and/or the negative impact of school policing don’t harm me and my family so I’m declaring them non-issues.

This isn’t a matter of differences in political affiliation. I honestly don’t care what political party this individual belongs to because what they espouse is so deeply disrespectful of people who are different from themselves and so entirely selfish. People in our community are harmed by injustices that target them for who they are, and the response here is essentially to mock them, and question their intent.

It’s indefensible.

Everyone has an issue that means the most to them. That is understandable. For some people that's land use and concerns about development that outpaces infrastructure. Whether or not I agree, I understand that desire to advocate on issues that they find particularly relevant.

To declare that your issue is the only issue is a kind of hubris that is breathtaking in its scope. 

Everyone else can just sit down. I’m here with the one and only truth.

In addition, there’s a kind of cruelty inherent in mocking residents from traditionally marginalized groups whose suffering one clearly has no empathy for. The writer makes it clear that they - - LGBTQ+ students and families, Black and Brown students and families - - are merely obstacles in the grand scheme of things. 

Their challenges are no more than made-up nonsense meant to confuse voters about The Real Issue.

Advocate for what you believe in. That’s absolutely your right. But don’t try to invalidate the lived experiences of real people in the process. 

Even if you think there’s no more room for new people in Howard County, there’s definitely room for more than one issue. Move over, and give the other ideas some room. 

Better yet? Sit down and listen.

*I’m not naming the author of this tweet because what they said is more important to me than who they are.

Monday, April 25, 2022

Signs of the Season


The last name has been removed to protect the innocent. 

Eleven years ago, on this day, I looked up and saw these two signs:

The first one: Melissa. The second one: Prom?

I never did find out who Melissa was nor whether she accepted this invitation, which makes sense because she is a private individual and it’s none of my business. But making the “Prom-posal” in such a public way does tend to stir up some general interest. So, if you’re Melissa, message me, okay?

Hope springs eternal in the Prom department, apparently, as one desperate asker revealed in a pizza order to River House Pizza on Thursday.

I don’t know whether this ploy was successful either but I do have some thoughts. Who waits until the night before? Proms require all sorts of advance preparation. Back in the day, if someone asked you the night before you’d likely tell them you had a prior engagement. Washing your hair, for instance. Visiting your grandmother. Dog sitting.

Speaking of pizza and prom night…there’s always this possibility.

A reminder that, in 2022, we still don’t possess local venues in Columbia/HoCo suitable for our own high school proms. (The Main Event at the Mall in Columbia has cornered the market on the After Prom business, though.) I don’t mean to suggest that there’s no good reason to patronize establishments outside of our own bubble. I get that it adds a sense of adventure and possibly even glamour, from the prom attendants’ point of view. 

But it would be nice to have a few local options and, frankly, it would mean less driving. On prom night that could be a good thing.

I have a feeling I’ve probably already written about my dislike of fancy promposals. And perhaps I’ve already held forth on the interesting contrast between those who do their local pre-Prom pictures at the Columbia Lakefront and those who do them lined up by the family swimming pool. I have a soft spot in my heart for the old-fashioned pictures taken in the front yard, but, honestly, it doesn’t matter. 

What matters is that we all hope they’ll have a good time and be safe.

And why do they look so grown?

Sunday, April 24, 2022

The Ballad of Brown Puppy

It’s not hocolocal, but everyone knows I’m a sucker for this sort of thing. Shared by Jimmie Cone, an ice cream place with two locations in Mt.Airy and Damascus:

Brown Puppy was left behind at our Mt. Airy store this evening. We’re sure someone special is missing their pup! We will keep him safe and fed overnight- if he belongs to you- we open at 1pm tomorrow.

Oh, my. That much ice cream for a dog that size probably isn’t a good idea. Dogs don’t digest dairy all that well. 

All kidding aside, if you or someone you know is the owner of this cute fella, you’d better hightail it out there this afternoon and bring him home. I don’t know how they know that Brown Puppy is a “he” but presumably the folks at Jimmie Cone have experience in these things.

If you don’t already know about Jimmie Cone, here’s some information shared on the Town of Mount Airy Facebook page:

Business Spotlight

In addition to dishing up a variety of sweet treats, the Mount Airy location is known for its Cruise Nights.

From April until October, the Mount Airy location offers Cruise Nights on the first and third Saturdays of each month. Folks can grab a sweet treat and see some classic cars. If you own a hot rod, feel free to drive up to participate and speak with other car enthusiasts. “I think it is some good clean family fun,” Hamilton said. “People like to come up here and get their ice cream and walk around and look at the cars. …I know my kids love walking around looking at the cars. It is free, other than your ice cream, to come and look at the cars. On a nice Saturday night, it is just something simple and fun to do (that is local).”

Visions of the George Lucas film “American Graffiti” are dancing in my head.

It’s going to be a warm day today. Maybe if you are in the mood for a drive, or something cold and sweet, you can hop in the car and head for Jimmie Cone. It’ll take you about a half an hour. I’m hoping that, by the time you get there, Brown Puppy will have been claimed by his loving owner.

No, this post really isn’t a ballad about Brown Puppy. But maybe you can make one up while you’re driving.

One day in April in the Spring

When all were gay and merry

He wandered off, my canine king

And vanished in Mount Airy.


Saturday, April 23, 2022

All Over Town


Happy Columbia Election Day, to all who observe.


Today also marks the official opening of the Chrysalis  (Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods) for the 2022 season. Yesterday, Earth Day, was the fifth anniversary of their opening and dedication. Kicking off this year’s season is a celebration of Holi and Dance Party (today) and a concert by the Maryland Winds called Music of Stage and Screen (tomorrow). Continuing their commitment to making the arts accessible to all, both events are free. Follow the Eventbrite link to register for your free ticket.

Down at the lakefront The 3rd is hosting an open house event. (Next weekend!)

Come out to get a sneak peek of The 3rd and hear all about the amazing plans we have in store.

We are inviting members, followers, and supporters to The 3rd for a fundraising open home tour. So be the first to see inside The 3rd and be a part of history-making in Columbia, MD. 

Click the link below to sign up and let us know you’re coming!

Out at Clarksville Commons they’ll be celebrating Earth Day.

Go GREEN with us this Saturday from 1pm-4pm as Clarksville Commons celebrates Earth Day! The plaza will be full of green-minded businesses, organizations, and vendors, PLUS an electric vehicle meet-up!

Some of our participants include:

  • The Salvaged Stitch
  • Clark's Farm
  • Kindread Hill Farm
  • Medomak Family Camp & Retreat Ctr.
  • Upcycled
  • Audubon Society of Central MD
  • Go Howard
  • Howard Astronomy League
  • HoCo EcoWorks

and so many more!!

Over in Ellicott City today’s the day for Spring Fest. Click over to the Ellicott City Partnership page on Facebook for tons of information about today’s happenings and how to plan your visit. More info here on the website.

After three years, the promise of spring, music and great family fun returns to OEC with SpringFest this April 23 starting at noon.

Featuring awesome bands, crafters, food vendors, and more, we welcome you to enjoy it with us. This event has plenty of fun activities and things to do for the kids too! 

You have plenty of choices. Now, get out there and have some fun! If I’ve missed any events for today and tomorrow in Columbia/HoCo, let me know here.


This is an indoor event, and I don’t know much about it, but, it looks interesting:

TEDxRiverHillHS: RHHS Auditorium, April 23rd 2022 from 11 AM to 4 PM.

Join us for a day filled with live speeches, entertainment, food and socializing.

TEDx River Hill High School, an independently organized TEDx event, focusing on: Creativity, Adaptability, and Innovation. You can learn more here. 11 am to 4 pm, free tickets available at this link.

If you, like me, are not doing many indoor events, I believe there will also be a livestream available. Check the website for more information. - - jam

Friday, April 22, 2022



The word was “pourover”. It caught my eye in a Facebook advert and set my mind spinning into a sort of dizzying word association game. Why are there so many words that end in “over”?

Voice over



Do over


Run over
















And so on, and so on

So, pourover. I know what that means. It’s a method of coffee preparation. That must be why this product was recommended to me by Facebook. It’s pretty clear that I love, love, love coffee. 

But, no. The photograph depicted something that resembled a juice box, or a gourmet soup in aseptic packaging. This was not coffee.

I started at the top of the box and read to the bottom. When I got there I was startled to read, “meal enhancer for dogs.”

Yes, friends, this is some tasty concoction that you “pour over” your dog’s food to make it taste better. They come in different flavors, even. The Honest Kitchen makes what they call Human Grade Pet Food: wet food, dry food, and dehydrated food. This is fascinating. Is this a line of gourmet toppings to make unappetizing dry dog food appealing?

I have so many questions. Here are the two top contenders:

1. Are dogs that finicky about their food? In my experience they are pretty much all-opportunity eaters. It’s cats that you have to tempt and wheedle.

2. If you make a really tasty dog food to begin with, why would a pourover be necessary?

Okay, one more: If it’s human grade dog food, is anyone out there actually eating it? And do the pourovers help it go down more easily?

I have in my life owned a dog and a cat.(And that was a bad plan, allergy-wise.) But the only time I can imagine having need of a meal enhancer was in raising children. What I would have given to have a range of tempting tasty pourovers that would magically make my child eat their dinner. Imagine the possibilities!

Child: I won’t eat this crud!

Mom: How about a pourover, Honey?

Child: say, this is great, Mom! Can I have some more?

(Maybe that's what ketchup and Ranch were doing all along.)

Have you ever heard of this kind of pourover? If you have a dog, would you try it? Bonus question: have you ever tasted pet food? I have, on a dare. But that’s another story altogether.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

We’ve Got Trouble


Have you ever heard of the expression, “wrapping yourself in the flag”?  Here’s a useful piece on Idioms Online:

According to the Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms, to wrap yourself in the flag is to make an excessive show of your patriotism, especially for political ends.

With that concept in mind, I’d like to highlight a tactic being employed by Republican candidate for County Executive Allan Kittleman. It appears that his strategy is to wrap himself in the police. Everywhere one turns is a concerned Kittleman calling for more police.

In schools:

On the roads:  

I’ve already talked here a number of times about how multiple studies of school policing have shown that it does not make schools safer, and in fact makes schools less safe for Black and Brown students. But let’s talk about traffic stops.

From a recent article in the New York Times:

“Cities Try to Turn the Tide on Police Traffic Stops: Chiefs, prosecutors and lawmakers are rethinking the value, and the harm, of minor traffic stops like the one that ended in a man’s death in Grand Rapids” - - David D. Kirkpatrick, Steve Eder and Kim Barker

Los Angeles is overhauling its traffic policing, aiming to stop pulling over cars — frequently with Black drivers — for trivial infractions like broken taillights or expired tags as a pretext to search for drugs or guns.

“We want to fish with a hook, not a net,” Police Chief Michel Moore said.

Los Angeles last month became the biggest city to restrict the policing of minor violations. In Philadelphia, a ban on such stops has just taken effect. Pittsburgh; Seattle; Berkeley, Calif.; Lansing, Mich.; Brooklyn Center, Minn.; and the State of Virginia have all taken similar steps. Elsewhere across the country, a half-dozen prosecutors have said they will not bring charges based on evidence collected at these stops.

Officials pushing the new rules cite data showing that minor stops not only disproportionately snare Black drivers but also do little to combat serious crime or improve public safety, and some escalate into avoidable violence, even killing officers and drivers.

Hmm. It seems that there’s actually a very good reason to be reducing traffic stops. Let’s read that bit at the top again:

Cities Try to Turn the Tide on Police Traffic Stops: Chiefs, prosecutors and lawmakers are rethinking the value, and the harm, of minor traffic stops like the one that ended in a man’s death in Grand Rapids

Yet Kittleman keeps selling himself like this:

Is Mr. Kittleman possibly too busy to keep up with current studies in policing?  Or perhaps unwilling to do any rethinking? In a campaign post Kittleman cites an interview with Former Police Chief Gary Gardner (who has not served since 2018) to say that the reduction in traffic stops has led to a decline in morale in the Howard County Police Force.

What about the morale of the Black and Brown residents of Howard County who are disproportionately pulled over in these stops? Has Mr. Kittleman interviewed them as a part of his campaign? 

To sum up: it isn’t true that SROs make schools safer. It isn’t true that an increase in traffic stops makes the roads safer. I do not know whether or not Candidate Kittleman knows this, or whether he has even done the research. I do know that he’s running on this issue and very likely raising money on this issue because it’s great politics. It gets people agitated and fearful and reaches deep down into that emotional place where there’s no room for thinking and weighing the evidence.

And there’s a not too subtle racist dog whistle in all of this. As long as he doesn’t say it out loud, Kittleman gets the benefit of the doubt from those who’ve been angry about a Black man being in charge since 2018, while sounding reasonable and concerned to those who aren’t attuned to the whistle.

Mr. Kittleman used to talk a lot about how it was important for all of us to sit down together and share our differing opinions and become a better community by listening to one another. I don’t know if he doesn’t believe that anymore, or if he just hasn’t been willing to have any difficult and challenging conversations with the kind of people who are adversely impacted by policing in this country and in Howard County.

That troubles me.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Public Parks and Privilege


Among the responses to yesterday’s post on Camp Ilchester was this suggestion:

I’m hoping the County will provide public transit to it. Not seeing anything nearby.

This issues comes up a lot for me, doesn’t it? Public transit. If a place is inaccessible by public transit, we are essentially saying it is for those with cars only. Can a place truly be a public park if only a portion of the public can go there?

Speaking of which:

Here is a listing of all of Maryland’s State Parks. I wonder how many are served by public transit? And here’s an additional hurdle: fees. This website, Low Income Relief, gives you advice on:

How to Save Money When Visiting Maryland State Parks

Now, you can get in free if you are disabled or over sixty-two. If you are poor and don’t have a car? Well, you very likely can’t get there. And if you can, you still won’t be able to afford to get in.

I don’t want you to think that I have never before contemplated how poverty is an obstacle that comes between people and their ability to access good things. But it is the first time I’ve thought of it in connection with public parks. Don’t we establish and maintain public parks for the common good? Shouldn’t the “common good” include everyone?

Recently I bumped into a concept that's been circulating on the internet:

If the penalty for a crime is a fine, then that law only exists for the poor.

Essentially, the rich can pay the fine, the poor go to jail.

In the case of parks, one might say:

If a park requires a personal vehicle and an entrance fee, that park exists only for the rich.

“But I’m not rich!” you say. Well, there all sorts of definitions of ‘rich’. But, to someone without a car or the discretionary income to pay an entrance fee, that chasm between the haves and the have-nots is pretty wide. It can look mighty affluent over here from where they are standing.

Why does that matter? Consider this. A recent study found that people who spent two hours a week in green spaces such as local parks or other natural environments reported improvements in health and psychological well-being.

These studies have shown that time in nature — as long as people feel safe — is an antidote for stress: It can lower blood pressure and stress hormone levels, reduce nervous system arousal, enhance immune system function, increase self-esteem, reduce anxiety, and improve mood. Attention Deficit Disorder and aggression lessen in natural environments, which also help speed the rate of healing. (“Ecopsychology: How Immersion in Nature Benefits Your Health,” Jim Robins, Yale Environment 360)

A picnic in the park, a hike in a beautiful trail, a refreshing swim with friends or family isn’t just fun, although the ability to have fun is reason enough to seek them out. Those experiences in nature are also healing and restorative in ways that can have an important impact for everyone, most especially those who are struggling with stress, pain, and worry. Like those living in poverty, for instance.

We sometimes describe things that are easily achievable as “a walk in the park.” Or, if they’re difficult or unpleasant we say, “that was no picnic.” Yet both that walk in the park and that picnic are no more than figures of speech for many if access to public parks is primarily for the privileged.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Into the Woods


Last week County Executive Calvin Ball announced that the County had come to an agreement with the Girl Scouts of Central Maryland to purchase the land known as Camp Ilchester. This has been welcome news to those who have advocated that the land be preserved as natural parkland.

Howard County’s $6M offer to purchase Camp Ilchester accepted; Ball pledges to preserve the land as open space, Katie V. Jones, Baltimore Sun

The announcement took me back to about a year ago when I first learned that word of a possible sale was afoot.

On March 31st a reader reached out to me with the question: is this on your radar? The enclosed link took me to an announcement that the Girl Scouts of Maryland were considering the sale of Camp Ilchester. The reasoning was that they would be the best stewards of their resources by using money from the sale to support other state Girl Scout properties and programs.

The best defense for what the land could be, in my opinion, came from people who had experienced what it was. The first-hand recollections of a college student looking back on her Girl Scout years gave a vivid account of what Camp Ilchester had meant to her and her peers.

An Expert Witness

Camp Ilchester will host one last summer of Girl Scout Camps this year. After that, its exact future has not yet been determined. Some possible uses suggested include sports programs, outdoor adventure camps, active aging activities and a nature center with nature-based educational programming. In my opinion, the use most closely aligned with Camp Ilchester’s roots would be the latter. 

I imagine that the County will work with the community to come up with a plan on how to move forward. For local Girl Scouts and their families, this must be a bittersweet conclusion. The land will be preserved, but it won’t be Camp Ilchester as they have known it. 

On the other hand, I hope those who advocated and organized around this issue are proud of their impact on its resolution. There’s no question that their involvement made a difference. I hope they stay involved as the future of this space takes shape.

I have a hunch that they probably will.

Monday, April 18, 2022

Word on the Street


Hell hath no fury like a local blogger who thinks she’s clicking on a local story on Columbia Patch only to discover it is sourced “from all over America.” Sheesh.

Uncut Grass, Junked Car Graveyards, Blight: Block Talk Hears Your Pain, Beth Dalbey, Patch Staff

Well, phooey. I was so hoping for some juicy local complaints about other people’s yards. You may recall that four years ago I got sucked into what I called The Great Columbia Grass-Cutting War.

This. Means. War.

As the weather warms and when - - and if - - Spring decides it’s here to stay, we’ll all be spending more time outside. Perhaps we’ll be casting our eyes over at our neighbors’ yards. The Patch article suggests that there’s a lot of that going on. 

Respect My Lawn!

Americans spend about $115 billion annually on landscaping, according to an industry estimate. Does that give them veto power over what people do in their own yards?

Some readers think so.

I’d like to turn this concept on its head and ask what you have appreciated about your neighbors’ yards. Not everything needs to be a complaint. When was the last time someone asked you to hold forth on what you like?

It couldn’t hurt.

Our next door neighbors just redid their front garden bed with lovely white stones and a row of flowering potted plants along the border. They added little lights along the edge which not only highlight the garden but make walking up the pathway a bit easier at night.

On the other side of the house our bird neighbors are building a nest in our downspout. They have put a lot of effort into it. I’ve decided I’m going to be happy about it because it’s not in the dryer vent. We’ve been down that road before and there’s nothing to be happy about there.

Saving the best for last, we love our other neighbor’s pink tree. We wait for it every year.

Send your outdoor accolades here: Village Green/Town² Comments. You won’t appear in Columbia Patch but, if we get enough responses, I’ll make a blogpost out of them. 

If you are in the mood to complain, well, there are plenty of places to do that..

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Stories and Blessings


This is not a blessing:

Advert in today’s Baltimore Sun

This is a blessing:

Wishing you a story and song full Passover,

Thought-provoking Good Friday and Easter (and some good quality chocolate)

And those who are observing Ramadan, may your fasting be easy and your iftar is fun and the food on your plate plenty.

Pagans, remember to light a candle, too 🧡

These words from a friend (and used with permission) spoke to me this week in a way that many other seasonal posts have not. Probably because they are inclusive, spoken in love, and leavened with a touch of humor.

They are a reminder that these days do not belong to one faith alone, or even to any particular form of established religion. 

Around town some folks are celebrating simply because the season for declaring political candidacy has ended and at long last we know who is running. Others look at the list of candidates and are moved more to penitence than feasting. 

Some greet these days with a desire to immerse themselves in nature. The Spring weather inspires others to find a restaurant with great outdoor seating. Many others are waiting until sunset to break the fast with dates and a long-awaited sip of water or milk. Families gather to retell a story of escape from slavery with special foods and traditions.

At my church parishioners gathered for the first time in several years to partake in the much-loved Meatloaf Supper before the Maundy Thursday service which celebrates Jesus’ last meal* with his disciples and his washing of their feet.

Let us also remember our neighbors who will get up today and go to work because they need to get their hours in and they don’t have any choice about when they are scheduled.

Here in Columbia/HoCo some people have religion, some have none, and some have a sense of celebration and holiness for things we know nothing about. All are worthy of blessings and goodwill.

Whatever we celebrate, our stories tell a lot about who we are: where we come from, what we value, where we are going. Let’s keep telling those stories together. 


Serendipity? Almost exactly one year ago today:

Sharing Stories

*Historically speaking, there is no evidence that meatloaf was served at the Last Supper. 

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Making Better Choices


The sight of the man troubled me, somehow. As I turned into the Walgreen’s parking lot I took a second look. No, there wasn’t anything alarming about his appearance. What was bothering me?

He was walking. He was coming from further down Twin Knolls, where there’s a funeral home, a hotel, and a variety of small offices. He was clearly headed to Walgreen’s. Why did the sight of him stand out so much to me?

Because he was walking along the grassy side of the road. There’s no sidewalk there.

I’ve had this experience more than once over the years, where merely the act of someone walking along the road made them look out of place. Sketchy, even. Did their car break down? Are they a panhandler, homeless? 

But it’s not the person who’s wrong. It’s the sidewalks that are missing.

When my older daughter used to live in Columbia/HoCo, she attempted on numerous occasions to explore her neighborhood on foot. It went something like this:

Just had a great walk! Went from our apartment to the Snowden shopping center in search for goodies for Easter baskets. I ended up walking for about an hour just poking around. Good times. Sidewalks would have been nice, though.


I really want to get out of the house today. Do I brave the crosswalk-less and sidewalk-less route to the shopping center, or do I dodge across the street without a traffic light to get to the corner store? Hmm.

As much as we love to brag about Columbia’s pathways and various local hiking trails around HoCo, if you just want to walk from your hotel room to the Walgreen’s to pick up some ibuprofen or a magazine they’re not much help. 

That’s why I was so happy to see an investment in pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure in the FY 2023 capital budget. 

Howard County Executive Calvin Ball today announced that his proposed capital spending plan for fiscal year 2023 contains historic funding for pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure, aimed at providing health and environmental benefits while improving community connections.

I’ve seen folks online poking fun at the use of the word “historic” in this context. It’s quite simple, though. Historically these investments have not been made. Columbia/HoCo is historically car-centric. County Executive Ball has been working at changing that.

Why? Well, I’ll give it to you in the Executive’s own words:

We are able to make historic investments today to build a better tomorrow for all of Howard County. We do this to improve our health, because we know it’s better to walk and ride than to sit. We do this to improve our community, because we know that seeing your neighbors face to face makes us stronger. And we do this for our environment, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and cut back on the use of internal combustion engines. 

- - Calvin Ball, Howard County Executive

  1. To improve health
  2. To improve community
  3. To care for the environment. 
I love a good quote that has all the relevant information laid out in plain sight. Although I notice that it doesn’t include “not looking sketchy just because you want to walk to Walgreen’s.” Well, maybe that would fall under community. 

A community where you can get where you want to go on foot - -  and not have people think you’re a crisis waiting to happen - - is a stronger community. 

I’m going to write a letter to the Council in support of this funding because it’s an investment we really need to make in the future of Columbia/HoCo. It’s not guaranteed to go through. In fiscal year 2021 Ball proposed 7.25 million for pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure but that was reduced by the Council in the budget progress. It could happen again this year if community members don’t take the time to communicate their support.

At the risk of sounding like a number cruncher - - and I am most certainly not - - there’s a lot to like in the FY 2023 budget. I am particularly excited about more opportunities to make walking and bicycling safer and easier. As much as I joke about preferring park benches to nature hikes, I’m very aware at how much walkability makes a community look better and feel better. 

It’s important to remember that it will also make our community function better. When you look at how car-dependent we are right now, investments that will help to transform how we get around look legitimately historic to me. 

Let’s do it.

Friday, April 15, 2022

F ³: Bird Brained

I recently provoked some amusement from an old highschool friend by announcing that I have reached the bird feeder phase of my retirement. I’m on my third. (Feeder, not friend.) The first was taken out by a squirrel and the second was damaged (we think) by deer. So far the third one is going strong but we bring it in every night now. That’s when we were losing the most seed, plus portions of the feeder itself.

I actually pondered getting one of those front door camera devices, but for the bird feeder. 

But this post is not really about bird watching, as educational as that has been for me. No, it’s about this guy:

The other evening this photo leapt out at me as I scrolled on Twitter. The poster claims this is an owl that has been rained on. I am not sure that’s absolutely true (try searching “wet owls” on Google images) but this bird simply charms me. I think this photo needs a caption. So far, this is my favorite:

The popular social media account  @effinbirds might have a few more colorful words to say on this topic.

Owls seem to be social media darlings. Surely you’ve taken a gander at those unexpectedly long legs.

Or a baby owl sleeping.

All of this provides a new twist on owls for those of us of a certain age who were raised believing that owls had exceptional intelligence but they couldn’t spell very well.

I’ve never seen an owl up close as far as I know - - maybe at a nature center? - - but I certainly have caught the “look at this cool photo” bug of late. There’s just something about them that makes you stop and say, “Who knew?”

Can I interest you in sending me your captions for any of these photos (which were not taken by me, nor are owned by me, nor can I find information for attribution) in the comments section on Facebook? I know there’s a lot of heavy things going on in the world right now but I’m attempting to take a teeny-tiny break today.

Need some inspiration? This should get you started.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Budget Buzz


You’ve probably been seeing a lot of buzz around County Executive Calvin Ball’s proposed 2023 capital budget plan. I know I have. It happens every year. In Howard County the Executive creates a budget proposal and it goes to the County Council. As I recall, they may alter it by removing things, but not by adding. Naturally the Executive believes in the budget and wants to communicate that to the general public and build some momentum for getting it passed in a form which is largely unchanged.

Basically, all these news articles and social media posts about the priorities put forward in Dr. Ball’s budget are to inform the public, because these are public dollars and the budget process is a public process. Some folks seem to think that Ball just enjoys showing off - - not that he and his team shouldn’t be proud of their work - - but, in fact, it’s his responsibility to keep the budget process transparent.

I’d be worried if I weren’t seeing articles and posts about the budget.

My council member, Dr. Opel Jones, posted a helpful infographic about the budget process on Facebook. Here’s what’s happening in April:

Why is this important to you? Well, first off, you have a right to stay informed about the workings of local government. You also have the right to respond to the process by writing to your Council Member. Input from the public can provide valuable information as the Council makes their decisions. 

Remember, they can’t add in anything that isn’t there already, so if you hoping to establish a local home for the Maryland Zebras or to fund therapeutic bouncy castles, you are out of luck. It’s too late in the process for that. Maybe next year.

The annual budget is one of the most tangible ways for the County Executive to express their priorities. Plus, they need to choose what is most crucial for the money available. What is the best investment based on known efficacy and value? It’s important to note that the annual budget is not created in a vacuum. The Executive receives quite a bit of community input as the final document takes shape.

It put me in mind of the following quote*.

A budget is a moral document. What we fund is what we value.

Remember this as you read about this year’s budget. What are the priorities? What will this mean for the residents of Howard County? Do you agree? Disagree? Is there anything in the 2023 budget that you are particularly excited about?

Check back Saturday for a post on one of my favorite parts of this year’s budget. 

*I’ve looked but can’t find definitive attribution for this quote.