Tuesday, January 31, 2023



I must say I am impressed. Apparently it is not particularly useful for Columbia to incorporate and have its own elected system of governance because it is impossible to dismantle the Columbia Association. Smarter people than I can explain to you why this is so - - and believe me, they will - - but I am left somewhat bemused. 

It puts me in mind of the cream-filled sponge cake in the movie WALL-E. Earth is uninhabitable, there appears to be nothing left but one robot and a cockroach. And a seemingly endless supply of Twinkies.

Columbia’s Pioneers have grown old in the place that they love.  The first children of the new American City are adults with children of their own. A new wave of Downtown development is bringing new people to town. 

But the CA Board, set in motion by Jim Rouse (lo, these many years ago) has long been dysfunctional. And, no matter what happens, year in and year out, it’s going to keep on keeping on. I guess the scene we don’t see in WALL-E is an ongoing meeting of the CA Board, trying to reach consensus.

Nothing is certain except death, taxes, and the CA Board. It is the HOA that will not die. My goodness this feels dystopian to me.

If you believe that incorporation is not the solution, fine. Tell me what is.

Monday, January 30, 2023

A Counter-Offer


There are plenty of good local stories to write about right now. My brain appears to be unwilling to write about them this morning. My apologies. 

I’m going to point you towards this piece by local blogger Frank Hecker instead.

A better way to elect the Howard County Board of Education, Civility and Truth, 1/28/2023

Hecker looks at a proposal from Delegates Jen Terrasa and Dr. Chao Wu to use Ranked Choice Voting in the BOE election process.

AN ACT concerning Howard County - Board of Education Elections - Ranked-Choice Voting

Ho. Co. 16-23

FOR the purpose of authorizing the Howard County Council to adopt, by law, a ranked choice voting method for elections for the county board of education; and generally relating to the use of ranked-choice voting for elections for the Howard County Board of Education.

The beginning of Ho.Co. 16-23, legislation proposed by Delegates Chao Wu and Jen Terrasa to authorize the use of ranked choice voting in Howard County Board of Education elections.

You may recall the proposed legislation from delegate Courtney Watson and State Senator Clarence Lam which emerged right after the midterm elections in November.

No Rest After the Election, Village Green/Town², 11/19/2022

I think it’s safe to say that their plan, which requires that two members of the BOE be appointed rather than elected, was met with a combination of healthy skepticism and downright hostility. Ho.Co. 16-23 appears to be a counter-offer, of sorts. Mr. Hecker gives it a thorough treatment.

It’s definitely worth your time.

Still, I can’t help feeling that I’d be more enthusiastic about this process if the impetus had come from the community.*

*To clarify: the unexpected appearance of Watson/Lam proposed legislation felt far from community-driven to me. Consequently, I’m rather disgruntled about the whole business. Nonetheless, I agree that the ranked choice proposal bears more serious consideration. I’m grateful to Frank Hecker for shining a light on it in this way. 

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Let’s Swap, Columbia


Games, puzzles, and swapping - - now that sounds like a good idea for a Sunday afternoon in January.

Image from Howard County Library’s Facebook account

Come on down to the Howard County Library’s Central Branch this afternoon from 1:30 to 3:30 pm for the Community Board Game and Puzzle Swap. They’ll be setting up in the Maxine White Warfield Room.

Swap gently used puzzles and board games with fellow puzzling and gaming enthusiasts. Share your favorite techniques and tips as you pick out puzzles or games that are new to you. Learn about the library e-resources you can use for free while puzzling. 

Not interested in swapping? Donations of puzzles and games for all ages are welcome!

No registration required. Participants under 12 must be accompanied by an adult.

The swap is covered in the week’s Chapter Chats if you’d like to learn more. Good advice: make sure puzzles have all their pieces!

Speaking of games and puzzles, the time is long overdue to swap some ideas about the care and feeding of this place we call Columbia. 

This week’s announcement that Lakey Boyd had resigned as President and CEO of Columbia Association was the end result of yet another failed relationship between the CA Board and CA professional leadership. This isn’t an unfortunate bump in the road of Columbia’s history. This is the road, and it has been broken for a very long time.

I was happy to see this piece yesterday from local blogger James Howard.

The Time Has Come to Incorporate Columbia

Local image from James Howard’s Blog 

Howard, who served on the Howard County Board of Appeals from 2011 to 2022, does a good job of laying out the case for incorporation. 

One of the main reasons why Columbia should be incorporated as a city is that it has a population of over 100,000 residents. This is a significant number of people who deserve to have a say in how their community is run and managed. Incorporation would give residents the ability to elect their own mayor and city council, which would give them more control over local issues such as zoning, development, and public services.

It’s a quick read and it feels to me like a good place to get this conversation started.


This is not the first time that incorporation has come up in Columbia’s 50+ year history. 

In an online discussion about this topic, Director Emeritus of the Columbia Archives Barbara Kellner shared some background information.

Incorporation has come up several times since 1967.  The first and the one that got the furthest was way back in 1972.  In the 1990s there was discussion and CA sponsored one or more forums to answer some of the questions as to legality and what it would take.  There is material in Columbia Community Archives for research purposes.  There was also a governance committee that focused on improving board governance.  I believe three models were presented as there was no consensus on the committee. All of that is also at the Archives.

It is interesting to note that, every time I have seen this suggestion raised, people come out of the woodwork to dismiss it out of hand. Yet these folks never seem to have any useful proposals to make the Columbia quagmire any better. 

A change as big as incorporation should be well-researched and deserves plenty of community scrutiny. Of course there is room for feedback and expression of opinion. But in a process meant to find and solidify viable solutions, merely popping up to say, “You can’t do that!” is not helpful. Please bring more than that to the table.

I don’t know if Columbia grows more chronic naysayers than the population at large, but, it often feels like it. It’s rather like people who bring puzzles to a swap when they know pieces are missing: they had a good time, but it doesn’t matter much to them if anybody else does.

In the meantime, the CA Board is fractured, resignations continue, and Spring elections are looming. I wonder if candidates will encourage a healthy discussion of incorporation or ignore it in favor on traditional Columbia themes. What do you think?

Village Green/Town² Comments 


Post script:

Would that mean that the Great Columbia Experiment is over? I don’t think so.

It would mean that this stage of it is over. Communities don’t stay frozen in their original form. It’s harder for us, I think, because so many can see (and feel) the origins in a personal way. They have not become shrouded in the mists of time, as it were. Change for many who were here for Columbia’s beginnings feels like a betrayal, a letting go of the most significant thing that ever happened to them. Yet I can’t help but think that every community must face this eventually. - - “Juicy Details”, Village Green/Town², 11/16/2022

Saturday, January 28, 2023


Today this space is for Tyre Nichols.

Nothing that is going on around town today is as important as a young Black man brutalized and murdered by police in Memphis. 

And in this space let us also bring his mother, RowVaughn Wells.

Can we stop for one moment and let her grief be our grief? 

If we are white we probably can’t truly experience that grief. We do not walk around with the fear that what happened to Tyre Nichols could happen to us, or our children, or to people we love. We can be sad, and horrified, and angry - - but the visceral pain that Black Americans feel is beyond that.

White people created that fear and that pain. White people created systems that perpetuate it. 

White people in Howard County argue for more and more police in schools. Black children and families know what that means.

It means nightmares that what happened to Tyre Nichols could happen to them. To their children. Can you imagine trying to learn while carrying that kind of fear?

What kind of a country are we if we allow this to happen? What kind of people are we if we don’t make this the most important thing in our lives to wrestle with and to change?

People turned out in large numbers to protest the treatment of George Floyd at the hands of police and to mourn his death. Even right here in Howard County. What have we done to keep it from happening again?

What can we do? 

We must listen to the people who know, who live the pain and fear with every breath. Who grieve and mourn more often than anyone should ever have to grieve. And we must make our cause their cause. We, who like to lead, must follow their lead. 

That’s the hard part, right there. We like to be the people in charge. But today, as we center Tyre Nichols and RowVaughn Wells in our thoughts, can we face the truth? 

Whatever we think we are doing to make this better, it isn’t working. 

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Hydrants, Salt Boxes, and Community Building


Hope springs eternal. Some neighbors down the road have decorated their front yard with a wintry display of little snowmen and a banner that reads, “Let It Snow!”

The Howard County Fire Department must also be thinking snow. Honestly, a really big snow doesn’t seem likely this year but, of course,  it’s good to be prepared. 

We need YOUR help to make Howard County safer when it snows! Fire hydrants that are difficult to access due to snow or ice can slow emergency fire response.

Adopt-a-hydrant today: https://bit.ly/AdoptHydrant

Several years ago I got very excited about the Adopt a Hydrant Program until I realized you weren’t allowed to add your own personal touches. Alas.

I don’t know how many folks in Howard County have adopted hydrants. I suppose the greater goal is to increase awareness of clearing nearby hydrants during snow events. If the public understands how crucial that can be, it’s more likely that someone will take it upon themselves to keep their closest hydrant clear. You don’t need adoption papers for that. 

Still…would it hurt to have a little fun with it?

Painted fire hydrants found through a Google Images search

In Baltimore, local artist Juliet Ames started a winter weather trend by decorating salt boxes. The yellow boxes show up every year on Baltimore streets towards the end of fall.

Image from Wikipedia 

The boxes are filled with a mixture of road salt and sand for citizens to spread as needed to assist with traction and to prevent or melt icy patches on city streets.

The box is painted safety yellow for high visibility, and marked "salt box" on the front panel in characteristic stenciled black capital letters. They are typically are removed in the springtime, for refurbishment and redistribution the next season.

In 2020, though, something different happened.

…awareness of the salt boxes was greatly increased when a local artist noticed that salt boxes remained unseasonably present, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They decided to spruce up a local box by adding decorative elements, thus creating street art.

A sampling:

None of these photos are mine. 

(They’re easily found through a search of 

Google Images for Baltimore salt box art.)

But a Wikipedia entry isn’t the only place to learn about salt box art. There’s The Baltimore Saltbox Project website,  and information from the artist herself at her website I Break Plates. Included are instructions on how to decorate your own Baltimore Saltbox if you want to get involved. Many have been decorated with images of well-known Baltimore personalities and themes.

Media coverage has been positive. The Salt Box Project has been highlighted in the Baltimore Sun, Baltimore Magazine, the Baltimore Banner, local television news, and even an article in the New Yorker. The interest in these artistic examples of citizen art is ongoing. Creator Juliet Ames will be featured in a segment on the salt boxes today on ABC’s Goodmorning America 3 at one pm. 

Salt Boxes hit the Big Time!

Image credit: Juliet Ames

I think what piques public interest the most is that it’s people-initiated. It’s not a program created by an officially sanctioned “Baltimore Office of Civic Engagement.” It is citizen engagement. The project sprang from Ms. Ames imagination and spread through word of mouth and local streetcorner sightings. In a sense, Saltbox Art was born of the pandemic. What sets it apart from most pandemic activities is that it wasn’t something done at home that stayed at home. 

It was meant to to be shared. That's why it’s more than art. It’s community building.

I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of the quirky variety of the Baltimore salt boxes. In case you’re looking for a few new takes, though - - how about telephone booths?

Image credit: Juliet Ames

In the meantime, folks, don’t paint your adopted hydrant. Maybe Instagram it instead.

Village Green/Town² Comments

Wednesday, January 25, 2023



Nine years ago today there was a shooting at the Mall in Columbia. It rocked our community. This morning Facebook reminded me of that day with an image that was widely shared in the aftermath of the shooting where three people died.

It was posted as a sign of unity by community members that were reeling from the weekend’s events.

Oddly enough, we were just looking at the People Tree yesterday, but for very different reasons (that have nothing to do with unity.)

Columbia/HoCo came together as one in response to the tragedy nine years ago. The support from all over our area prompted me to write this piece:

Who Is My Neighbor? January 27, 2014

Well, they say you really get to know who your friends are when times are tough. It is important to remember who we saw rushing in to help: Howard County Police and Fire Department first responders. Stepping up to the microphone to communicate and reassure: Howard County Government. They didn't come "from the outside" to help Columbia. This is every bit as much their jurisdiction as any other community in Howard County.

What I remember most about those days, as the horror of the actual shooting began to fade, was the feeling expressed by many that they didn’t want the “Columbia Mall Shooting” to define who we were as a community. They didn’t want people to think that this was “the kind of place where those things happen.”

Nine years on, the list of places where “those things happen” is devastatingly long. January 25, 2014 in Columbia, Maryland looks like a tiny blip. Not to us, of course. Not to people who were there when it happened, or had family members there, or who lost loved ones. Here at home that day feels personal. 

But in the wide world of Google I could barely find it. 

Three weeks and 39 mass shootings: this is America in 2023, analysis by Paul LeBlanc, CNN

Nine years ago I read the following and was chilled by how easy it was to buy the gun that brought death to the Mall in Columbia.

[The shooter] purchased the shotgun in mid-December at a Rockville gun shop. The gun store owner said in an interview that [the customer] was friendly, paid for the $430 pump-action shotgun with cash, and said he planned to use it in his home for protection. - - Justin Fenton and Justin George, Baltimore Sun

It’s 2023 and it is still far too easy to buy a gun. Multiple guns. Weapons meant for the battlefield, not for personal protection.

We needn’t have worried that Columbia would become known as “that place with the Mall shooting.” Our notoriety has been surpassed many, many times over. 

Now we’re known as the place where the Board and the President can’t get along. 

Much improved, right?

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

The Columbia Poet’s Society


I put out a call for poets yesterday. Not just any poets, but ones whose names are referenced in the street names of Columbia. I was amazed at the enthusiasm of the response. The original street naming team of the New American City would be proud. 

I was inspired by this invitation posted by HoCoMoJo for an online event:

We invite all Columbians and Columbia faith communities (churches, temples, mosques, synagogues, and houses of worship) to join in a community of silence on Tuesday, January 24 at 6:30 pm to bring our collective energy together to pray for a peaceful and compassionate resolution to the Columbia Association’s dispute.

Columbia residents have experienced months of unsettling reports regarding the relationship of the elected body known as the CA Council and the President, the person selected to lead the organization. No matter your perspective on the situation, as persons of faith, we know the tools of division and dissension do not serve to create harmony and respectful relationships within the community.

What if you’re not a person of faith? What if you’re a Columbian of good will but no prayers to offer? Maybe you want to gather in solidarity with people who care about positive solutions without name calling and blame. You don’t necessarily have to have religion to participate. I feel sure that the organizers of this event want everyone to feel welcome.

I offer for your contemplation some snippets of poetry written by our very own “Columbia Poets Society.” They may be good company for you during twenty minutes of contemplative silence.

To begin with, here are samplings from Bryant and Tolkien which bring to mind the beautiful natural setting of Columbia, especially her wooded spaces and pathways.

Stranger, if thou hast learned a truth which needs No school of long experience, that the world Is full of guilt and misery, and hast seen Enough of all its sorrows, crimes, and cares, To tire thee of it, enter this wild wood And view the haunts of Nature. The calm shade Shall bring a kindred calm, and the sweet breeze That makes the green leaves dance, shall waft a balm To thy sick heart.

- - William Cullen Bryant

The Road goes ever on and on

Down from the door where it began.

Now far ahead the Road has gone, And I must follow, if I can, Pursuing it with eager feet, Until it joins some larger way

Where many paths and errands meet.

And whither then? I cannot say

- - J.R.R. Tolkien

From Amy Lowell, an invitation to silence:

No, do not talk; but let us rather seize This intimate gift of silence which we know.

Walt Whitman offers resistance to expected religious norms:

Why should I pray? why should I venerate and be ceremonious?

And then, the heart of our concerns:

The single clenched fist lifted and ready, Or the open asking hand held out and waiting.


For we meet by one or the other.

- - Carl Sandburg 

How will Columbia move forward?

We have not wings, we cannot soar;

But we have feet to scale and climb

By slow degrees, by more and more,

The cloudy summits of our time.

- - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 

Do we want to build walls or bridges? 

Before I built a wall I'd ask to know

What I was walling in or walling out, And to whom I was like to give offense.

- - Robert Frost

Is this a battle for the soul of Columbia or the scramblings for personal power?

Others shall sing the song,

Others shall right the wrong,

Finish what I begin, And all I fail of win.

What matter, I or they?

Mine or another's day,

So the right word be said

And life the sweeter made?

- - John Greenleaf Whittier

Dickinson might be suggesting we get in our own way by taking ourselves too seriously.

I'm nobody! Who are you?

Are you nobody, too?

Then there 's a pair of us - don't tell!

They'd banish us, you know.

How dreary to be somebody!

How public, like a frog

To tell your name the livelong day

To an admiring bog!

Jeffers speaks to our feelings of hopelessness.

I have also seen doom. You can stand up and struggle or lie 

down and sleep - you are doomed as Oedipus.

A man and a civilization grow old, grow fatally - as we say - 

ill: courage and the will are bystanders.

- - Robinson Jeffers

And, now, the People Tree. What does it mean to you? How does this image - -  shared by event organizers - - suggest new or different perspectives?

All the complicated details of the attiring and the disattiring are completed!

A liquid moon moves gently among the long branches.

Thus having prepared their buds against a sure winter the wise trees stand sleeping in the cold.

- - William Carlos Williams

Living in this community and wanting it to continue successfully feels like an endless struggle these days. Dunbar offers some simple but encouraging words:

If the hills are high before

And the paths are hard to climb,

Keep a-pluggin' away.

And remember that successes

Come to him who bides his time,

Keep a-pluggin' away.

From the greatest to the least, None are from the rule released.

Be thou toiler, poet, priest,

Keep a-pluggin' away.

- - Paul Laurence Dunbar 

But, how? We know it won’t be easy.

There is only one way to forgive-

With a whole heart.

There is only one way to forgive, 

Take a new start.

- - Vachel Lindsay

To learn more about tonight’s online event, visit the event page. 

To learn more about Columbia’s street names, the book “Oh, You Must Live in Columbia!” by Burke, Emrich, and Kellner is the most comprehensive resource. It’s available at the Howard County Library.

Monday, January 23, 2023

Considering the Lotus


I can’t remember exactly when my younger daughter became enamored with bubble tea. I’m guessing it was during her senior year of high school, but I’m a bit fuzzy on that. It’s continued to be a favorite all through college. While many of her peers head straight for Starbucks, she prefers a milky slushy concoction from one of the local boba emporiums. She’s even gotten everyone in the family to try it. 

Perhaps that’s why a post from the Common Kitchen caught my eye last night.

Have you gotten your Royaltea drink to support @rhhs_project_lotus today? It's not too late! Just mention Project Lotus at checkout and 15% of proceeds will be donated to support this River Hill High School club.

I found rhhs_project_lotus on Instagram.


Project Lotus had its beginnings at River Hill High School in September of 2022. Their Instagram account shows highlights of their activities this year, among them, “testifying in front of the county council in support of bill CB72-2022 proposing an AAPI commission and participating in the schoolwide Hawkflock Festival with a booth offering fun activities such as free calligraphy, games, and snacks.”

In searching for more information about the club I found a different Project Lotus. Their mission appears to be focused on mental health. 

Through educating and empowering today’s Asian-American communities, Project Lotus advances the movement of Asian-Americans blossoming and addressing mental health stigma, shame, and overall perception and care of mental health.

I’d love to know if this Project Lotus inspired the creation of the group at River Hill or if the name is a coincidence. I’ll see what I can find out. Certainly the lotus is a well-known symbol in Chinese culture.

Most of you probably already know what lotuses are, but for those who have only observed them from afar, you might not know that lotuses actually grow in mud. They are also day-blooming flowers, meaning the petals only stay open in the morning and curl back into the muddy water at night. It is for this reason that lotuses have become a symbol for resilience, as their ability to thrive in undesirable conditions parallels how a person may find happiness even amidst darkness. They also symbolize rebirth and unwavering faith, as well as purity of body, mind and spirit.  “The Meaning Behind Lotuses and Why They Are Important to Chinese Culture”, Regina Siy

Most important to me is the mission of these high school students here in Columbia/HoCo: to celebrate and promote awareness of Asian American culture. In a time when anti-Asian sentiment has been on the rise and acts of violence and hate speech increasingly frequent, the world may not feel safe or welcoming to these Asian American adolescents. Clearly they want to do something about that. Their advocacy is a part of a growing movement locally to create positive spaces to celebrate Asian American culture.

To showcase heritage, stand against hate, Howard County plans for an Asian American Pacific Islander Cultural Center, Alissa Zhu, Baltimore Banner

Asian American Pacific Islander population has grown considerably over the last decade, with Asian residents now making up 20% of the county. The largest segments of Howard County’s Asian population identify as Indian, Korean and Chinese, according to a 2020 county report, with Filipinos, Vietnamese, Japanese and other ethnicities also represented.

If you’d like to support RHHS Project Lotus, head on out to Royal Tea today to make a purchase and tell them you’re there to support the club. If you know of more AAPI student identity groups throughout the County, let me know. 

I’ve seen many photos over the weekend from friends who attended the Lunar New Year celebrations welcoming the Year of the Rabbit at the Mall in Columbia Saturday afternoon. We as community members are pretty reliable when it comes to turning out for festival occasions. How good are we on all the other days? Could we be better?

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Adventures in Ghost-Hunting


You probably already know that you can take ghost tours  in Old Ellicott City. Hoping to connect with both the brave and curious. Maryland History Tours offers a variety of tours based on a variety of different themes. Not all are ‘haunted’, though the ghost ones are the most widely known. Have you ever been on one? What was it like? 

If you are ready for a blast from the past, here’s a video about the ghost tours from Howard County Government’s television channel in about 2013.

“Ye Haunted History of Olde Ellicott City” Ghost Tours

Whether or not one believes in ghosts, these tours are a great opportunity to learn about the history of the area. Compared to Columbia, Old Ellicott City seems ancient: a treasure trove of historical information. Of course, compared to Europe, what we think of as historic is but a flash in the pan, yesterday’s news.

It’s all relative.

The other day I noticed that Old Ellicott City had drawn the interest of some folks from out of our area. The crew of Pasadena Paranormal was in town conducting an investigation.

Pasadena Paranormal? (Love that alliteration.)

I learned a bit more about this group from a 2015 article in the Pasadena Voice:

Pasadena Paranormal Society Continues to Delve Into the Inexplicable, Dylan Roche

“Everything we now know today as scientific fact was once unknown and frightening,” the website asserts. “Paranormal events are merely episodes which have yet to be explained. We seek answers to questions that remain to be asked.”

But it’s not about chasing ghosts. Members of the society come from different backgrounds and joined the society for different reasons, but they share a common goal to understand what happens when a person dies. Some want a scientific explanation, and other want spiritual or religious verification.

And despite what people might expect based on scary movies, the Pasadena Paranormal Society’s practices are science experiments, not séances. “We discourage those,” Przybylski said. “They can make the situation worse.”

You have been warned. Leave it to the professionals.

Unlike the team on Ghost Hunters or other similar programs, Pasadena Paranormal doesn’t have the reach of a national television show. They do have a channel on YouTube.

That’s where you’ll find their first foray into Old Ellicott City:

The Investigation, A Haunting on Main Street: The Bohemian House

 It turns out that Bohemian House was once the home of my favorite toy store, Mumbles and Squeaks. (“Are you hearing mumbles and squeaks in your attic? Call Pasadena Paranormal today!”)

From this episode’s introduction:

The first episode of a haunting on Main Street, the Bohemian House. We plan on going to many businesses along Main Street in Ellicott City Maryland. People from our area know the tales of the hauntings associated with this city. We look forward to finding the past of this amazing historic town still present along Main Street today.

The Bohemian House is a pre civil war building which served as housing for the workers of the original Ellicott Mill. Later it was Fissel's stone shop, then was mumbles and squeaks toy store before becoming the Bohemian House.

The building is mentioned in the book Haunted Ellicott City for the story of 3 children Colin, Lissa and Shawn spirits said to haunt the building since they passed from a battle with Typhoid Fever.

Hmm…in retrospect, what an odd place for a toy store. “Mumbles and Squeaks, where the ghosts of children play with toys in the attic.”

All of that aside, I’m pretty sure I don’t believe in ghosts. My husband, on the other hand, is a huge fan of ghost hunting shows so maybe I’ll get him to watch this one with me. 

If you’d like to report a haunting, you can find Pasadena Paranormal’s Jared Tracey on Twitter @Jaredparanormal. Who knows? You might be in their next episode.

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Saturday: Wild and Precious?


Decisions, decisions. What will you do with your precious Saturday?

There’s a Lunar New Year celebration at the Mall in Columbia beginning at 1 pm. This is Howard County’s official celebration and will be hosted by County Executive Calvin Ball.

The Lunar New Year is a momentous holiday marked by community, family, and beautiful traditions. It is a celebration of shared history and culture, highlighting that diversity is our strength.

After two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, I’m excited to once again host our annual Lunar New Year celebration in person on January 21st, 2023 at 1:00 p.m. at the Mall in Columbia. Join us THIS Saturday for a spectacular showcase as we ring in the Year of the Rabbit, featuring special performances and guests.

A very cool event that you can’t register for at this point (alas)  is the Seed Share at the Howard County Library’s Miller Branch today. They’ve reached their limit for attendants, which is a good thing for them. But if you haven’t already signed up this event is not for you. Maybe next year.

UPDATE: I’ve been informed that registration is not required and you don’t need to bring seeds to participate! 

What’s a seed share? 

What can gardeners do in the cold of winter when the ground is frozen? Plan for next spring’s garden and come to the Howard County Seed Share! A seed exchange is a great opportunity to acquire new varieties, save money, and reduce seed waste, while learning and sharing with fellow gardeners. 

I’m sharing it because I like the idea of a seed share and I’m also a big fan of the Community Ecology Institute, which is hosting the event. It’s presented in collaboration with University of Maryland Extension - Master Gardeners, Howard County Bureau of Environmental Services, Community Ecology Institute @ Freetown Farm, Watershed Stewards Academy of Howard County, and Yards Alive!

I love collaboration and partnerships.

Tonight, at the Interfaith Center in Owen Brown, One World Coffee House is presenting Matt Nakoa in Concert. I was drawn to this because the event makes it possible for you to attend virtually or in person. 

Coffeehouse Present Matt Nakoa at Owen Brown Interfaith Center – Sanctuary C
7246 Cradlerock Way Columbia, MD 21045 
Saturday January 21, 2023, 7:00 pm  
All tickets include access to OWC's Livestream of the event.

Matt Nakoa is an award-winning songwriter, singer, and multi-instrumentalist. A modern troubadour, he makes his home on the highways and concert stages of America and appears regularly with folk music icon Tom Rush. The Boston Globe says of Nakoa, “Between his piano chops and heartfelt originals on guitar, he drops jaws.” 

Tickets are 25 dollars and are available at this link. Hear a sample of Nakoa’s music here.

As much as people are bound and determined to be out and about again, the fact is that COVID is still out there and some folks need to be particularly careful about their health. It’s nice to see One World Coffee House acknowledging that and presenting a more inclusive concert experience.

Do you already have plans for your precious Saturday? Fill me in.

Village Green/Town² Comments

Friday, January 20, 2023

F ³: Clean Up Time!


From the “music makes everything better” files comes this story about musical trash trucks:

Classical trash: how Taiwan’s musical bin lorries transformed ‘garbage island’, The Guardian, Helen Davidson and Chi Hui Lin in Taipei

I spotted this photo on December 26th and I suspect is the kind of story that journalists prepare in advance to be run during what is called “dead week”, the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. 

Army of yellow garbage trucks blasting out classical jingles brings out a Pavlovian response to take out bins.

In an effort to improve resident participation in trash collection, Taiwan purchased trash trucks that came loaded with a tune: Für Elise, by Beethoven. A second piece, A Maiden’s Prayer, by Badarzewska-Baranowska, was added later.

In the Taipei suburb of Guting, Ms Chen, 60, sits on the steps of a Buddhist temple with her neighbour waiting for the trucks to arrive. They and the surrounding neighbours are dressed casually, some in pyjamas and hair curlers, chatting or looking at their phones.

Chen can’t remember the first time she heard the jingle. “It was many, many years ago, a very long time ago,” she tells the Guardian. “Whenever I hear the music, I always think that I need to hurry up to take out the garbage.”

Buying the musical trucks was only one piece of the solution. It’s a coordinated system which involves different colored trash bags for different kinds of trash, and it relies on community members to carry the bags down to the curb and toss them into the appropriate trucks. None of this “rolling your wheelie bins down to the curb” that many of us are used to.

It’s a team effort. 

Taiwan is an island. There’s nowhere for their trash to go if they don’t aggressively deal with it on a daily basis. And the musical trucks have been surprisingly successful.

Mr Li, a 32-year-old binman in Taipei: “Whenever I hear Für Elise, I feel like I need to take out the garbage as well.”

When I first read this story I was charmed by the idea of music making a difference in shaping public behavior. As a preschool teacher I often used familiar songs to mark transition times in the school day. (Clean up time, anyone?) But, as I read, I realized that these were not high quality recordings of classical pianists playing as the trucks rolled down the street. 

What these trucks are playing is the classical equivalent of what American ice cream trucks play. Every single day. At six in the morning.

I am not a fan of modern ice cream truck music. I love the concept of ice cream trucks. I have happy childhood memories of hearing the bicycle bell sound of the Uncle Marty ice cream truck driving down our street in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. I won’t drag you any further into my childhood memories but the important point is that old school ice cream trucks were not the brainscrambling noise machines that they are today.

I’m having trouble imagining Americans welcoming the classical trash trucks into our lives OR complying to the degree that the residents in this story are expected to do. Heck, we can’t even get everyone to wear masks during a worldwide pandemic. Responding to a perky musical cue at six in the morning? Hanging around to throw the bags into multiple trucks? 

I’m dubious about that.

Nevertheless, two things stick with me from this article:

1. The musical trash trucks are a part of a government response to a very real problem with garbage and they have had a big impact.

2. This interesting aside from a resident: 

Chen likes the neighbourly catchups the chore enables while they all wait. “If someone hasn’t come out for a long time, I would wonder if anything happened to them [and I check on them].”

I’ve heard it said that the communal mailboxes in Columbia were intended to promote neighborly communication. Would the six am musical trash drill do the same? Or even be more likely to get residents chatting? And could that be a good thing?

If you’re curious about what this looks like in action, there are a number of videos available on YouTube. And, honestly, the sound quality isn’t anywhere near as bad as I expected.

Some Friday fun: what song would motivate you to bring your trash bags down in Columbia/HoCo?

Village Green/Town² Comments 

Thursday, January 19, 2023

New Views, Good News

“Did you see it? Did you see it?”

It’s exciting to see something on national television about where you live or or people you know. Yesterday folks in Columbia got a big shout-out from Oprah Winfrey when she mentioned living on Windstream Drive during the years she worked in Baltimore television. And during Edward Norton’s recent appearance on “Finding Your Roots” his childhood in Columbia was mentioned briefly in biographical information about what inspired his career in acting. 

(I suspect that die-hard Columbians were hoping for more Rouse-centric content on the episode, but, that was not to  be.)

More excitement: CA announced last night that Columbia will be the focus of a video piece to be shown on PBS stations nationwide. 

The segment is the result of a collaboration between CA and the production team with Viewpoint with Dennis Quaid, a series aimed at educating viewers on current topics and trends impacting the world. 

CA is really excited to make this announcement, and with good reason. After being in the news for weeks and weeks over contentious disputes between the Board and the CA President, what could be better than a change of focus? Especially a positive one. 

How excited are they? Well, the press release announcing the collaboration with Viewpoint contains a whopping seven links to the video segment. 

That’s a lot of links.

I’ve watched about the first minute and a half or so and look forward to seeing the rest. 

Columbia Association: Built on Purpose, For a Purpose 

There’s also a shortened version if you’re in a hurry today. It will run - - like an advert? - - on various cable networks.

I did a quick search of Viewpoint with Dennis Quaid, expecting it to be a PBS Series. It isn’t. Or at least I think it isn’t. When you read the FAQ section on their website it comes across more like they are selling a product.


No, and this is a common misconception. Both PBS & APT provide television content to member Public Television stations. Additionally, Public Television stations receive content from organizations like NETA (National Educational Telecommunications Alliance), from locally produced material and from smaller organizations, such as “Viewpoint Project." Viewpoint Project with Dennis Quaid operates independently and provides content to Public Television partners by way of satellite uplink.

So, the Viewpoint Project is a content creator. They’re looking for good stories to tell and apparently both Columbia, Maryland and what the Columbia Association does is their kind of story. In addition, the Columbia Association is always on the lookout for different ways to get their story out. The Viewpoint Project appears to be in the business of helping communities and businesses amplify the good work they are doing. 

Honestly, the best part may be telling friends and family members across the country to keep an eye out for it as it begins to air nationwide. 

“Did you see it? Did you see it?”

It’s good to get a national shout-out every now and then. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

A Declaration

Today the Governor that Marylanders elected in November will be sworn in and take office in Annapolis. After eight years of having a Republican in the Governor’s mansion, Maryland will now experience a shift in leadership style, goals, and themes. I’ve been thinking a lot about what that will be like.

Governor-elect Wes Moore began the week at an event called An Evening of Faith and Community held at Kingdom Fellowship AME Church in Calverton. This photo, shared on Twitter, is very likely from that event.

Image from Twitter account of Wes Moore

Accompanying the photo were these words.

Maryland, our promise to you is this:

We will lead with love.

We will lead with compassion.

We will lead with partnership. 

And we will lead with faith.

What followed were mostly positive responses. But as I read I began to see a number of tweets like this:

3 out of 4, please remember you are governing everyone in Maryland

Remember you have atheist constituents.

As long as that faith is in humanity

How do you think this makes the 1/3 of Marylanders who aren’t Christian feel?

All that other stuff is cool, Please keep Faith out of Maryland politics.

Christian? I thought. I clicked on the photograph and looked at the complete image. Oh. That’s clearly a cross. 


It makes sense to me that Moore sees an event like this as a part of who he is and what led him to a life of public service. It also makes sense to me that some of his constituents don’t see an illuminated cross or declarations of faith as reassuring. In recent years Christianity has been scooped up and weaponized against Jews, women, those in the LGBTQ+ community, and more. 

Moore should not have to hide his faith background as he takes office. But he clearly struck a nerve in some when he put it at the forefront by including it in a message about leadership. As hard as it may be for some Christians to understand, the sight of a cross can be a malevolent symbol to those who have been harmed by people who claimed faith as their excuse.

I suppose that someone could read this post and accuse me of being ashamed of my faith. I’m not. But I am mightily ashamed by hateful acts performed in the name of faith. There’s a difference.

Another element that may also be at work here is the issue of race. It seems to me that white politicians expressing themes of faith are often lauded or at least given a free pass. But for many white Americans, Black faith and Black churches feel unfamiliar and strange. If it doesn’t feel like “their kind of church” then there must be something wrong with it. It must not be sincere. Perhaps it’s a con. Or a front for dangerous political activity.

All those Black people together in one place? That might be dangerous. 

I haven’t seen people say these things in so many words in Columbia/HoCo but some have come dangerously close. And that troubles me. It’s a double standard that has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with systemic racism.

So now we will need to watch and wait to see how Moore intends to lead. His actions will tell us what he meant by this declaration and how he means to act on it. 

Truth in advertising: the part of his statement that appealed to me the most was the reference to partnership, something that has sadly been missing during the last eight years. I’m all for it. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Old News


January 17, 2014

@LukeHoCoTimes: #BreakingNews: @ColumbiaAssn announces President Phil Nelson to leave post April 30, story to come

This morning Facebook sent me this reminder of days gone by. I liked Mr. Nelson. I even put him on my refrigerator.

Phil Nelson is On My Refrigerator

That piece first appeared when my blog was on Patch and my editor was David Greisman. Boy, do I ever miss him on the local scene. Oh, and by the way, the author of the piece about Phil Nelson, Luke Lavoie, has left journalism. He’s now a senior manager in marketing strategy for a company called 2U. Grieisman is the Media Relations Manager of Capital Impact Partners. 

Meanwhile, over at Patch they have a habit of throwing three wildly disparate stories together to catch the eye of internet scrollers. I hate it. An example:

One wonders if they dump all the local news in the hopper and then hit “spin”. It’s the slot machine approach. There’s absolutely no sense of what stories would be appropriate to group together. Perhaps it’s the dump out your purse approach.

What have you got in there?

I dunno, let me look…Ooh, I got a fatal car crash, a spelling bee winner, and an upcoming religious holiday. What d’you got?

It’s painful.

If it looks as though perhaps I didn’t get much sleep last night, that would be correct. I’m hoping to catch up with a nap later. 

Happy Tuesday that feels like Monday.

Monday, January 16, 2023

Where the Roots are Weak


Jim Rouse was a racist.

I think that today is a good day to confront that. 

This does not mean that he was a bad person or did bad things. It doesn’t mean that his life’s work has no meaning.

We laud Rouse for many things, and most especially because he was ahead of his time in his insistence that Columbia would deliberately include more than white residents. He made it clear that the practice of steering people of certain races to certain areas would not be tolerated in the New American City. 

Jim Rouse was a racist in the same way that all white people in America are racist. The way that I am racist. Because the system was set up for white people and we grow and thrive in it, often without knowing how much that is true. It is in the air we breathe and the water we drink. 

This is a photograph of what was called “The Work Group”. They were chosen to brainstorm and plan Columbia. I found it on the website of the Community Foundation of Howard County but the original is surely in the Columbia Archives. This image has always bothered me.

Everyone is white. (And there are so few women!)

Jim Rouse took actions that no one else was willing to take at the time. But what he did was rooted in the sort of white liberalism that sees white people as the vital do-gooders in lifting up/making things right for Black people. I am not sneering at that. I was raised in that way of thinking. For a very long time I thought that was the answer.

If asked, most people would probably say they are not racist. And they’re especially likely to say it after they’ve already done something racist. As Ibram X. Kendi, director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University, notes in his book How to Be an Antiracist, “When racist ideas resound, denials that those ideas are racist typically follow.”

But as Kendi also notes, it’s not enough to simply be “not racist.” “The opposite of ‘racist’ isn’t ‘not racist,’” he writes. “It is ‘antiracist.’” What it means to be anti-racist, Anna North, Vox

An anti-racist Work Group for Columbia would not look like the photograph above. Members of the diverse communities Rouse planned to welcome would be at the table. They wouldn’t simply be invited to sit there. They’d hold leadership positions. They’d be making the decisions. 

This is why I squirm inside when people hold forth that present day Columbia has lost its way and that we must get back to what Rouse wanted. In Rouse’s world, as aspirational as it was, white people still ruled the table, the plans, and the decisions. If the dream of Columbia has meant anything to us shouldn’t our priorities be far bigger than that?

Can’t we examine our own internal limitations and see where we are too comfortable to sit at the table and listen to people like ourselves? What would we learn? Would we be willing to act on it?

I’m sorry to have to say that the vast majority of white Americans are racists, either consciously or unconsciously. - - Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, 1967 (speech: Which Way Its Soul Will Go)

As Columbians we sometimes have a bit of “the city of the hill” pride about our origins. It’s good to love one’s community. But perhaps we could make more significant progress if we learned about and accepted the weakness and imperfections present in our very roots. We could choose to do that. 

It’s a hard sell in the New Amercian City.