Saturday, September 30, 2023

Acorns and the Prime Directive

 It’s not every day you come across a request which begins, “We need your nuts.” 

The unexpected request caught my attention. So did the name on the post - - AJ Metcalf. You may recall that he used to cover HoCoLocal news during the heyday of Patch. Now he is the Communications Director at Maryland's Department of Natural Resources. And, as he states above, they want your nuts.

“Volunteer Nuts Needed!” (This just gets better and better, doesn’t it?)

Ankle High in Acorns? burfed in Dogwood Berries?

Volunteer Nuts Needed!

If you have a mature, healthy native tree in your yard dropping lots of nuts or berries this time of year, the Maryland Forest Service would gladly take them off your hands. These seeds will be grown into trees at our state nursery.

Interested in volunteering to collect? We may have sites this month that require all hands on deck and would love to have some folks on call if necessary.

Please Contact: Francis Smith | 410-260-8516

True confession time here. I have been pondering my own collection program that has nothing to do with planting or growing. 

Somehow I don’t think it’s a Canada Goose. Try again, artificial intelligence!

Backyard bird feeding is an ongoing battle with those furry, flightless things who think any feeding device is an all-day buffet for them. (If you know, you know.) While I confess to making tiny peanut butter sandwiches for them - - during snowstorms and extended periods of cold temperatures - - I just can’t keep up with their continual forays into my birdseed. It all adds up. 

Recently I had a zany idea that if I went out in the fall when acorns were dropping I could collect an ample supply and use them throughout the winter to take the edge off of squirrel hunger. However, I wondered if doing so would be tampering with the ecosystem in the immediate area where I was collecting. Did those acorns by right belong to those squirrels? Would I be violating the Prime Directive?

Yes, I am probably guilty of overthinking and of watching too much Star Trek.

It doesn’t look as though the Maryland Forestry Service is worried about the squirrel component here. Their “Prime Directive” is reforestation. I get that. It’s important. If my imagined worst case scenarios of squirrel die-out haven’t come to pass as a result of their annual collecting, perhaps my individual efforts wouldn’t tip the scales.

What do you think? Have you ever collected acorns for the Department of Natural Resources? It sounds like it might be a fun family activity. Maybe you could wangle a visit to their tree nurseries, too. And…have you ever tried collecting acorns to divert the attention of hungry squirrels? Did it work? Or did they just bury them and participate unwittingly in their own program of reforestation?

Let me know. 

Friday, September 29, 2023

F ³: Accommodations and Fitness - - a Shorts Story


This week I found myself wading into a conversation (on Facebook) about acceptable work attire in Washington. That’s a rather roundabout way of saying I really don’t care about what Senator John Fetterman wears in the Senate. As long as he is doing his job and his heart is in the right place, I’m satisfied that he’s doing what he was elected to do.

Honestly I feel as though a lot of time has been wasted on this topic when there are far more pressing issues on the table - - a possible government shutdown comes to mind - - and I’m really tired of all the  bloviating and posturing. I realize that I’m not as committed to the concept of “appropriate attire” as most people. My opinions on school dress codes are pretty much the same as my feelings about the Senate. 

Requirements that dictate how people must dress are not somehow innately good or true or handed down by the almighty. They are completely manmade, a kind of artifice that persists only because we buy into them. 

On the other hand, I have seen arguments this week that the attempt to make allowance for Fetterman’s preferred work attire was an example of white people in power bending the rules for each other in a way that they would never do for Black coworkers. I can’t deny the truth of that. If we are going to loosen the dress code* in the workplace then we should also take a long look at how it has been used to police blackness and/or used to point up Black employees as somehow different from the norm. 


Now I’m really getting to the point.

When I heard about the brouhaha over Fetterman I immediately wondered if he had sensory issues with clothing. Having spent many years working with special needs children, I’ve seen how clothing can truly be a source of torment, especially for those who are autistic. What if Fetterman is autistic? Obviously, we don’t know that one way or the other. We do know he has long struggled with depression. He’s been open about being hospitalized for depression. And he is very likely still recovering from a stroke which occurred during his Senate campaign.

If Fetterman is dealing with all this, and is still doing his job, why isn’t wearing the clothing he feels most comfortable in accepted as a reasonable accommodation? 

Ahh…accommodation. When we use that word then we often think of the word disability. And for many people it’s a quick hop, skip, and a jump from disability to “unfit.” Perhaps it’s just easier if people think of Fetterman as eccentric, or slovenly, or disrespectful of the norms. God forbid they should think he is “unfit.”

Disabled people are more than 25% of the population. Stop with the disability awareness slogans. We need ableism awareness. - - Gregory Mansfield, lawyer and disability rights advocate 

What is ableism? 

Ableism is a set of beliefs or practices that devalue and discriminate against people with physical, intellectual, or psychiatric disabilities and often rests on the assumption that disabled people need to be ‘fixed’ in one form or the other. Ableism is intertwined in our culture, due to many limiting beliefs about what disability does or does not mean, how able-bodied people learn to treat people with disabilities and how we are often not included at the table for key decisions. - - Center for Disability Rights 

There’s such a strong thread running through our culture that says, “If we need to provide accommodations for you, it means there is something wrong with you. You don’t really belong.” That is ableism, through and through. How freeing it would be to say that we are committed to giving people the things that they need to do their jobs, live their lives, access health care, and so on. Doing that would remove the binary concept of disabled vs “normal”. Each person receives according to their needs. 

Well, we can’t make allowances for him. Then we’d have to make allowances for everyone.

Disabled people are twenty-five percent of the population. Many have all kinds of skills, talents, and abilities yet are unemployed or chronically underemployed because an ableist society sees “disabled” and equates it with “unfit.” Incapable. It is absolutely possible to be disabled and be the best person for the job, on that committee, or for that elected office. 

But it is only possible if abled culture lets go of this notion that being capable means you can’t possibly be disabled. Or that providing accommodations is some kind of special gift we are giving out, rather than a basic right which should be easily available to all. Here in Howard County we experienced a truly ugly example of this attitude when a member of the school board came under attack for receiving monetary support due to a disability. If they were disabled they shouldn’t be on the school board. If they were doing a good job on the school board they clearly weren’t disabled and thus were committing insurance fraud.

Ableism is intertwined in our culture, due to many limiting beliefs about what disability does or does not mean, how able-bodied people learn to treat people with disabilities and how we are often not included at the table for key decisions.

Accommodations are the things which empower the disabled. Ableism insists that, to receive them, you must give up your power. You must prove how helpless and unfit you are. 

It is entirely possible than none of this applies to Mr. Fetterman. I am in no position to know. In the meantime Mr. Fetterman appears to be making accommodations to the attitude of the Senate, rather than the other way around. 

*See also sexist dress codes.

Thursday, September 28, 2023

It’s Your Move, HoCo

Wanna play? It’s that time again. Roll the dice and make your move. It’s Columbia/HoCo’s well-known schoolhouse game: Moldopoly.

 Image from Howard County Times, August, 2016

I dug up this old image from a post I wrote seven years ago. The Howard County Times doesn’t have a cartoonist anymore. But we still have mold. 

Yesterday the Oakland Mills High School Media Center was closed due to the discovery of mold. The pink sign here was probably posted by staff. The white sign was made and posted by a student.

Oakland Mills High School, September, 2023

Last week students from Oakland Mills High School testified before the Board of Education to advocate for necessary repairs and renovations to their school. Some reported symptoms of ill health from daily attendance in their school building. What does this mean? It means their school is making them sick. Symptoms of illness due to mold include: nausea, allergic reactions, fatigue, and headache (including migraine), asthma, and chronic infections. 

It goes without saying - - but I’m going to say it anyway - - being in a school that makes you sick compromises your ability to learn. 

HCPSS ensures academic success and social-emotional well-being for each student in an inclusive and nurturing environment that closes opportunity gaps. - - Mission Statement, Howard County Schools

While not all students will experience physical ailments due to mold, all will suffer. A closed media center is closed to the opportunity for learning. While their peers in other Howard County Schools will benefit from the resources of well-equipped and professionally-staffed media center, the students in Oakland Mills will not. 

I’ve been writing a lot recently about people with extreme political views who have set their sights on compromising intellectual freedom in our schools and libraries. You know what can close a school library faster than that?


Now mold itself doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a team of players working together to make it happen:
  • Inadequate and/or faulty heat, AC, and ventilation 
  • Aging and unrepaired building materials
  • Leaks and moisture made possible by deferred maintenance 
Oakland Mills High School has all of those. And it has, for a very long time. What it doesn’t have is a rock-solid commitment to follow through with all the recommended work that needs to be done. 

Whether you have kids at OMHS or not, whether you have kids in school or not - - as a member of the Howard County community you have every right to express dismay with the conditions at OMHS and to advocate strongly for the most prompt remediation that is humanly possible. These kids are our kids. The teachers, and staff and families are our neighbors no matter where in the county that they live.

When we allow disinvestment in one particular area of our community - - whether deliberately or by default - - our entire community becomes weaker.

It’s our turn to roll the dice and make our move.

Write to the Board of Education

Write to the Howard County Delegation:

Wednesday, September 27, 2023



I told you there’s a lot going on in Columbia/HoCo for Hispanic Heritage Month. I wasn’t kidding. Here’s what I could find. 

Week of September 24 - 30

September 27:

Howard Community College: Conversations from the Couch Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month

  • Live at 12 noon on Instagram Live

Clarksville Commons Latin Dance-Inspired Group Fitness, 6:30-7:30 pm

September 28:

Howard Community College: Nuestra Herencia Exhibit, Rouse Company Foundation Gallery

  • Panel Discussion 5-6
  • Exhibit Reception 6 - 8 

Week of October 1 - 7

Common Kitchen: Community Art Display for Hispanic Heritage Month, 10/1 - December 1

October 1:

Clarksville Commons: Paraguayan Dancers (Rescheduled due to rain) 

  • 12 noon
  • Event is free but registration is requested

October 3:

Hispanic Business Networking with Community Partners

  • Common Kitchen, 5:30 pm

October 4: 

Clarksville Commons Latin Dance-Inspired Group Fitness, 6:30-7:30 pm

Week of October 8 - 14

October 11:

Clarksville Commons Latin Dance-Inspired Group Fitness, 6:30-7:30 pm

October 12:

Latino Health Fair, Wilde Lake Village Center, 12-4 pm

October 14

Hispanic Heritage Festival, Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods, 12-5 pm

Gates open at 11 am.

Remember, if you want to know more about what the Howard County Library System  is doing for National Hispanic Heritage Month, go here.

Copa Communidad, the soccer tournament which was to be held on Saturday, the 23rd, was canceled due to weather.  If they pick a new date I will let you know.

Oakland Mills High School held a Hispanic Heritage Gala Night on Friday, September 22nd. Do you know if any other county high schools have planned events for Hispanic Heritage Month?

You may recall that I really wanted to do an organized run-down of events for Black History Month and got bogged down in the organization process. I feel as though I’ve made some progress on this one. The devil is in the details, as they say. Hopefully all the links work and there are no significant omissions.

Just for fun, here’s a quick listicle from the Smithsonian Latino Center:

Top 8 Reasons Why and How We Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month

Village Green/Town² Comments 

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Only the Names Have Been Changed

Have you seen this one?



It seems to go hand-in-hand with this one:

Worried about rising grocery prices and fewer retail choices? Maryland’s attorney general wants to hear about it, Lillian Reed, Baltimore Banner

The Kroger Co. announced plans this month to sell 10 Harris Teeter stores located in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., to C&S, another private wholesale grocery supply chain that operates Grand Union grocery stores and the Piggly Wiggly franchise.

Attorney General Anthony G. Brown is concerned about how the results of this action will impact Maryland consumers. Mergers and consolidation often bring higher prices, no matter what the folks at the top say. I can’t think of anyone who’d like to see higher grocery prices as this point, having endured the steady climb at the register in the past several years. 

It’s especially worrying if your community is served by only one grocery and you don’t have the resources to hop in a car and find better deals. For many in Columbia/HoCo that’s not the case. We have so many grocery stores that Columbia’s Village Centers have had fierce competition in maintaining their own. 

Howard County has three Harris Teeters. One is in Kings Contrivance, one in Maple Lawn, and one in Turf Valley. I don’t shop there because it’s “not on my side of town” and because, when they first opened, their prices seemed on the high side to me. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with it. On the other hand, there was nothing about it that would make me go out of my way, either.

What I’d like to know is whether Columbia/HoCo can tolerate a store with such a ridiculous name. “Piggly Wiggly”? Seriously? I don’t mean to suggest that we’re all insufferably dignified but, “Piggly Wiggly”?  It doesn’t feel like a good fit. I’d be embarrassed to admit I shopped there.

What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.*

Yes, but…I bet there isn’t a “Piggly Wiggly” rose.

As silly as I usually am, I take a dim view of “cute” commercial names for things. I felt the same way about the dreadful children’s menu items in the restaurants of my youth. No one, no matter what their age, wants to be forced to order the Rockem Sockem Roast Beef Sandwich or the Little Jack Horner Pot Pie.

What’s next? Georgy Porgy? Henny Penny? 

If the Piggly Wiggly chain had started here and we all knew the Piggly Wiggly family and the origin of the name it might be different. Maybe. As it stands, this would be the invasion of the Piggly Wigglies from out of town.

What do you think - - food prices? Grocery store mergers? Silly names? Let me know.

Village Green/Town² Comments

   *William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet 

Monday, September 25, 2023

The Lonely Light


We used to joke about some of my dad’s more frequently used expressions. Several had to do with car travel. You’d be out driving around and he’d make a gesture and say, “That’s where the old road used to go.”

I got similar vibes from this post on the Columbia Reddit when someone asked:

Why is there a traffic light on Route 29 by Rivers Edge Road lol? It’s a whole ass highway with a traffic light. Who designed this?

What follows is the sort of discussion you might have around the water cooler or at the bar. Everyone has a piece of the answer, maybe not one hundred percent accurate, but revealing different aspects of the history involved. I found it fascinating, but perhaps that’s because I was raised by someone who wanted me to know where the old road used to go. 

If you’ve lived here a long time, you know that 29 in Howard County used to have many more stop lights than it does today.

Back in the day - there was a lot less traffic and therefore it wasn't so weird to have lights on 29 - and there were a LOT of lights off the top of my head in unexpected places like at 108. About 20 years ago Howard made a concerted effort to remove lights on their portion on 29 and most are removed, so that one which is to hard remove, stands out like a sore thumb. Montgomery on the the other hand did a little of that - but Silver Spring is sitting on 29.  - -  from the Reddit conversation about the Rivers Edge stoplight

My own discovery of the Rivers Edge stoplight came in one frantic moment when I realized I had gone the wrong way on Route 29 while commuting to one of the many schools where I taught. I did think it was oddly placed but was thrilled to have a place to turn around and correct my mistake. I’m sure I looked around and thought, “People live out here? I wonder who lives out here?” I don’t think I pondered it much more than that. 

If you hadn’t lived here very long, it would be easy to encounter that intersection and think, “Why was a traffic light added to a highway?” That’s why I found the conversation on Reddit so interesting, because it revealed a bigger picture: what the road used to look like, and what other portions of the road look like in Montgomery County, for example. 

When I served on the Oakland Mills Village Board we were tasked with guiding the community through various decisions pertaining to a Route 29 widening project. This involved some rerouting of roads that provided access to homes located right off of 29. Holy mackerel, was that ever complicated and contentious! When I read the words “community resistance” in the Reddit conversation I had a rather unpleasant flashback to those days on the Board.

What do you know about Route 29 in Howard County generally, or the Rivers Edge stoplight specifically?  I’m curious.

Village Green/Town² Comments 

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Thar Be Dragons Here


I was scrolling through Pinterest looking for things with a local connection and this image caught my eye.

Art by John Atkinson, Wrong Hands

It says a lot about our current bus transportation challenges that I immediately assumed this image was connected to that theme.  Of course it isn’t. It’s a sticker you can buy on Etsy. Speaking of buses, HoCoLocal blogger Jenny Solpietro offers up her take on Howard County Progress Report.

Perspective, Jenny Solpietro, Howard County Progress Report 

Solpietro’s description of her own school experiences reminds me that there really are people who have “walked several miles to school in blizzards, uphill both* ways.” Even reading it was exhausting. It’s a thoughtful take on what is a pretty controversial issue around town these days. I suspect that some folks who often fault Howard County Progress Report for being too scathing will find this one too nice. 

If you have kids, or grandkids - - or know someone who does - -  the CAMOM Annual Consignment Sale has been bumped to today because of yesterday’s weather.

I wrote about CAMOM in the Spring when they had their “comeback” sale after holding off during the worst of the early pandemic years. You can learn more about CAMOM at their website.

An update on my library book situation: I took my list into the East Columbia branch and spoke with Instructor and Research Specialist Ian Lyness-Fernandez. I left him my email address and he got back to me by the end of the week with a great list of cozy mysteries to try.

Visit your local library, people. It’s a playground of possibilities. You also might want to sign up for their upcoming Longest Table Event coming up on September 30th.

*Not really, but, you know what I mean. 

Saturday, September 23, 2023

In and Within - - Taking a Rain Check

Probably the best way to avert dangerous weather systems is to cancel absolutely EVERYTHING beforehand. It’s looking pretty good right now. (Ask anyone who has ever made closing decisions for the Howard County Schools if you don’t believe me.)

The Governor has even declared a State of Emergency just in case. Many of the events I might have been telling you about this morning have been cancelled. Still, as far as I know, that pickle festival is still happening in Baltimore and the Bubble Hockey Tournament is still on at Oversea Distillery in Columbia.

In other news, I had mentioned my quest to get one of those adorable (and useful!) sunhats from The Salvaged Stitch who comes to the Saturday Market at Clarksville Commons. 

Hats by The Salvaged Stitch on display at the market

I got to pick my own fabric!

Less than a week later I had my hat.

I love it and it fits perfectly. I don’t think I’ll be wearing it today, however. 

I got some great responses to my local pet peeves post. Probably my favorite was the wag who messaged me with this response:

No, my peeves are imported from out of state.


Last night’s sunset was a stunner. I’d be perfectly happy to run an entire post of reader’s photographs (credited, of course) identifying where in Columbia/HoCo they were taken. What do you think?

If you’re staying in today, may I recommend viewing (electronically, of course) this recent real estate listing on Gales Lane. The primary kitchen is a stunner, not to mention the bathroom tile. I’m fascinated by those little pockets that predate Columbia - - unexpected bursts of retro weirdness. This house is probably less than five minutes from where I live but it’s really in a whole other universe altogether. 

What are your rainy day plans? Let me know.

Friday, September 22, 2023

F ³: Who is an Artist? AI and the Lies We Learn

I was looking for a sign this morning. I think this was it. Please excuse the language.

"ai is making it so everyone can make art" everyone can make art dumbass it came free with your fucking humanity - -

AI - - artificial intelligence. Honestly, I have not delved much into the current conversation around it. But I do believe most wholeheartedly that everyone can make art. And I do believe that it comes free with your humanity.

Unfortunately, something else which appears to come free with humanity are people who love gatekeeping. Those are the folks that tell you that what you have created isn’t good enough, that it doesn’t qualify, or that it isn’t really art. People like that damage the essence/the inborn creativity of many, many people. 

When you do that often enough, people lose their confidence in themselves as artists. They lose their art. 

I am not just talking about visual art here. I am talking of all the arts - - including visual art but also music, dance, drama, film-making, writing, and more. Anything that is born of creativity and infused with imagination can be art. All of it can be destroyed by gatekeepers who believe that what makes art precious is its exclusivity: what makes this one piece excellent is that ten other were rejected.

Is it any wonder that we are being sold the idea that “AI is making it so everyone can make art”? By the time most of us have reached adulthood we have been guided, restricted, pruned, weeded, and downright censured by dozens of gatekeepers both big and small. What is left of that inner spark? Making art involves risk taking. Playing around with AI does not.

It can be “fun.” Why? Because we have made trusting our own artistic inclinations so decidedly un-fun

The older I get, the more I discover art in new places, and the more I appreciate the creative spark wherever I find it. What would happen if we thought of art as something natural in everyone rather than something that needed to be shaped by others like a topiary or constantly pruned like bonsai? What if what mattered most to us was the confidence and joy inherent in each creator and how that impacted their lives?

I’m sure I have much to learn about AI. But at the moment I’m inclined to be more excited by initiatives like this one at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which open the gates and allow children to interact directly with materials that may very well spark their creativity.

I suppose that eventually we may have gatekeepers of AI art. It seems inevitable. As much as the desire to create is natural in the human spirit, so, it seems, is gatekeeping. Can it be unlearned, do you think?

Hope springs eternal.

Thursday, September 21, 2023

The Big Red Thing


In going through old posts this morning while looking for inspiration, I found one in which I had solicited people’s opinions of their local Pet Peeves.  

Pet Peeves and Pedestrians, Village Green/Town², September 3, 2013

(In case you are wondering, I have been looking at posts from ten years ago to see if there’s anything to be learned about they way we were in 2013.)

In that context, I’m giving myself permission to share a pet peeve today. I miss the Big Red Thing. You know, at the Lakefront.

Photo credit Village Green/Town² 

Here’s a better photo from Howard County Tourism.

Photo credit Karmen Osei/ Howard County Tourism Promotion

It has a name of course. It’s not simply the Big Bed Thing.

“Sail,” a 24-foot abstract steel sculpture by James Arthur Benson, was placed on the lawn in 1984 by The Rouse Company.  “The sculpture,” says the artist, “admits that it’s steel but has a playfulness, too. It relates to the environment because it is a wind-activated piece.” The front fin can move up to 45 degrees depending on the wind velocity. Benson was chairman of the sculpture department of the Maryland Institute College of Art for three decades, from 1972 to 2002. - - Columbia Association website

Sail was uprooted to make way for Millie Bailey Park, then replanted further on up Little Patuxent Parkway between two office buildings.  In a way it marks the road that leads down to the Chrysalis entrance to Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods, Toby’s Dinner Theater, and the new Merriweather District. (Well, it sits on LPP across the street from the turnoff to Symphony Woods Road)

UPDATE: I went by to see if I could photograph it in its new location. Although I couldn’t figure out where to park - - legally - - I want to correct what I said about how it sits. The statue sits a bit in front of the end of one office building, not “in between” as I had recalled.

I’m not objecting to it being moved to make way for something else. My issue is that there’s not enough space around it to appreciate it fully. It looks rather like some misbegotten wedding gift that has no proper place.

“What shall we do with that thing from your Aunt Maragaret?”

“I don’t know; put it up there.”

My father once asked me what the most important part of a newspaper page was. I can’t remember what I guessed, but, I do know that I was wrong. And I was surprised at the answer: white space.

In the printing and publishing world (and later on in all sorts of design) white space is the part of a page that is intentionally left blank in order to ease the reader’s comprehension of the whole. White space can be used to highlight something you want to bring attention to. It can be integrated into an entire newspaper page to provide visual breaks that prevent the reader from being overwhelmed with too much information. White space allows the newspaper to present a variety of information without mentally/visually exhausting the reader. 

That’s what is missing now that “Sail” is wedged between two buildings. It has no “white space.” It has become as invisible as a utility pole or a lamp post. 

Yes, I know it’s a small issue in the grand scheme of things. The Howard Hughes Corporation may have had a limited number of sites to consider when the move was made. I confess it’s a pet peeve. But, for all of that, I do wish that Sail had been given a better home.

It needs space.

How about you? Any local pet peeves to share? 

Village Green/Town² Comments

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Celebrating Heritage and Making Connections


At long last, that Fall weather I’ve been dreaming of has arrived. It will go perfectly with tonight’s Latin-inspired group fitness class at Clarksville Commons, which will be held outdoors on the plaza. I must share this event description from the press release because I have never seen such scintillating prose invested in exercise. It’s impressive.

Get ready to sizzle this fall as Latin dance-inspired group fitness classes set the stage for unforgettable Wednesday evenings! Join us from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. on September 20 & 27, and October 4 & 11 for an electrifying experience. Wendy Robinson, a dynamic local fitness instructor, will be your guide on the plaza, ensuring that everyone, regardless of age or experience level, can groove to the beat and get moving. This vibrant collaboration between Clarksville Commons and Anytime Fitness is unstoppable and will happen rain or shine, with indoor options available as needed.

I feel compelled to point out that you will not literally be sizzling, as the temperatures are predicted to be around 75 by that time of the day. And that’s a good thing.

Clarksville Commons has a variety of events planned for Hispanic Heritage Month and I’ll be continuing to mention them in the coming weeks. 

What is National Hispanic Heritage Month? I’m glad you asked. 

Each year, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15, by celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.

The observation started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson and was expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover a 30-day period starting on September 15 and ending on October 15. - -

I did a little digging around about the terms Hispanic and Latino. (Both are included in Hispanic Heritage Month.)

Image from verywell website 

Image from Bustle video

The first image made a lot of sense to me. The second one didn’t until Imwatched the short video is is taken from. (It’s about four minutes long.)

Howard County has a lot going on for Hispanic Heritage Month. The Columbia Association kicked off their celebrations with a Latin Dance Night at the Lakefront on Saturday night, and the Howard County Library System began their month of activities with Celebración de la Herencia Hispana/Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration at the Elkridge Branch that afternoon. And there’s a lot more in store, so, If you want to know more about what the library is doing for National Hispanic Heritage Month, go here.

Before I go: get out your calendar and write in Saturday, October 14th for the first (and hopefully annual) Hispanic Heritage Festival to be held in Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods.

County Executive Calvin Ball, in partnership with the Inner Arbor Trust, are bringing a free festival of music, performance, food, and the arts to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. The event will be from 12 - 5 pm and you can learn more and get your free tickets at this link.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Mind the Gap: the Opportunity Gap


Let’s take a moment to talk about the Opportunity Gap. Have you ever heard that term before? Here’s an explanation from the Close the Gap Foundation website:

The opportunity gap is one of the widest-reaching issues in our society today. It is the way uncontrollable factors can contribute to lower rates of success in educational achievement, career prospects, and other life aspirations.

Though it’s often called the “achievement gap”…we intentionally use the term “opportunity gap” instead. This is because we feel the word “achievement” implies that the reason this disparity exists is that some individuals simply don’t work as hard as others to achieve their goals. We’d like to bring awareness to the ways in which that assumption is a myth. 

The reality is that we are not all born with the same opportunities and sadly, many don’t get the chance to even believe they can achieve something, let alone the resources necessary to reach for it. This has nothing to do with a person’s potential or abilities and everything to do with the opportunities available to them.

So now lets talk about Oakland Mills High School. Here are a few facts*:

  • mold
  • leaky ceilings
  • lack of fresh air
  • lack of natural light
  • largest gap between state calculated capacity and county calculated capacity among the 13 high schools
  • A hundred students over capacity by county calculations, and 250 students over capacity by state calculations
  • no student gathering spaces
  • substandard auditorium
  • noncompliance with current standards including COMAR
  • Major HVAC renovation project deferred since 2009.
Add to that one more thing: Oakland Mills High School has a high percentage of Black and Brown students as well as students who need food support. This is precisely the kind of school community which embodies the description of the Opportunity Gap:

The reality is that we are not all born with the same opportunities and sadly, many don’t get the chance to even believe they can achieve something, let alone the resources necessary to reach for it. This has nothing to do with a person’s potential or abilities and everything to do with the opportunities available to them.

How on earth can we ask students and families - - who are already contending with numerous factors that make their lives more difficult - - to study, strive, and rise above - - when we as a school system are actively adding to their burden? The budget recommendations - - as they are stated now - - increase the opportunity gap for these students.

Time and again the professional recommendations for repair, renovation, and replacement of major systems have been denied. Promises are made, then promises are broken. Yet again we are facing another budget proposal that says to students of Oakland Mills that they are not worthy of the recommended financial investment that would bring their school environment on to a par with what we require of other schools in our system. 

No, it’s deeper than that. We are saying that they are not the kind of people worthy of the most basic sign of respect: the obligation to keep our word to them. The aspirational vision of the fierce urgency of now  is being crushed by the sheer audacity of broken promises. 

Sign up to give testimony or write the Board of Education to ask them to keep their promises to the Oakland Mills community.

*Taken from OMCA Chair Jonathan Edelson’s testimony to the Board of Education.

Monday, September 18, 2023

Cover Story


Moms4Liberty, not to be content with strangling intellectual freedom in Montgomery County Schools, has planted itself in Howard County with hopes of continuing its process of replication and division (and so on and so on.) They have four whole posts on their Instagram account.

Image from m4lhcmd Instagram account

Here you see them promoting an upcoming event to be held this Tuesday at Bare Bones Grill and Bar. Here’s the text:

Howard County Republican Womens & HoCo GOP Clubs

“Elections Have Consequences, A Cautionary Tale” by David Shephard

Tuesday, Sept. 19 2023 7:00-8:00PM

Business Meeting & Speaker Event

David Shephard, Speaker

Conservative Virginia blogger, David Shephard* exposes the sinister, detrimental, and hypocritical tactic of diversity politics

(book may be purchased on Amazon or at meeting while supply lasts)

Bare Bones Grill & Bar

9150 Baltimore National Pike

Ellicott City, MD 21042

Food and Drinks for Purchase at Bare Bones

“Sinister, detrimental, and hypocritical.” Interesting.  The poster depicts the cover of Shephard’s book. The back of the book is, shall we say, quite educational.

Images from book description page on Amazon 

Fiction / Political

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

- George Santayana, The Life of Reason, 1905

Many who are politically conservative sincerely believe the political left intentionally stokes racism. They do so by constantly pounding the table about "White Supremacy," which nowadays is virtually non-existent, and by promoting Critical Race Theory in schools so that non-whites will grow up believing that they are helpless victims. The Left does so, they believe, in order to keep minorities perpetually in a separate, under class, and struggling for survival. The logic is simple.

Stunting the growth and development of non-whites will keep them voting for Democrats. In 2021, however, Virginians by and large saw through this ruse. For lieutenant governor, they elected a black female Republican, Winsome Earle-Sears. For governor, they elected a while male Republican, Glenn Youngkin. To the office of Attorney General, they elected a Hispanic Republican, Jason Miyares. Never before had a political party in Virginia offered up such an ethnically diverse ticket, nor had the citizens ever elected one.

This novel by a conservative Virginia blogger exposes the sinister, detrimental, and hypocritical tactic of diversity politics. The characters and events portrayed, while fiction, bear an eerie resemblance to the players and the events that took place in the administration prior to the election of Earle-Sears, Youngkin, and Miyares. Some might even describe this novel as a roman à clef. Perhaps it is, or maybe it is not. One thing, however, is not in doubt. It is meant as a warning to Virginia's voters, and to freedom lovers of all persuasions in whatever state they may live, to keep the events of the early twenty-first century in mind whenever they go to the polls.

Don't miss this political thriller, and whatever you do, think about it the next time you cast a ballot.

So the Howard County Republican Women are bringing the author of a political thriller to town for a book talk and M4Lhcmd is promoting it. Sounds lovely doesn’t it? Sounds more like an opportunity for afternoon tea in a lovely garden setting until it really hits you what the heart of this fiction is. Shephard is promoting these fictional concepts as fact:

Many who are politically conservative sincerely believe the political left intentionally stokes racism. They do so by constantly pounding the table about "White Supremacy," which nowadays is virtually non-existent, and by promoting Critical Race Theory in schools so that non-whites will grow up believing that they are helpless victims. The Left does so, they believe, in order to keep minorities perpetually in a separate, under class, and struggling for survival. The logic is simple.

If any of the above were true, why does Shephard put an ominous-looking photograph of the removal of (what I assume is) a Confederate War statue on the cover of his book? How can one suggest with a straight face that “white supremacy is virtually nonexistent” while deliberately using the fear of white replacement and the loss of white power systems to sell the dang book?

They’re taking away our statues, our heroes, our symbols…who knows what’s next?

Yet these folks will be adamant that they aren’t against diversity. Oh no, they’re against “Diversity Politics” a term they have made up** to hide behind when forwarding their bankrupt arguments about whose history gets taught and who receives justice under the law. 

“Sinister, detrimental, and hypocritical.” What is that thing where you accuse your opponent of what you, yourself, are doing? 

Interesting, isn’t it, that local Republicans, whose County Executive is a Democrat, Calvin Ball, and who Governor is also a Democrat, Wes Moore, are going whole hog on the “diversity politics” bandwagon. Do they think that this is the magic potion that will drive their voters to the polls? 

If so, that says a lot more about them than it does about Democrats. This is more than saying the quiet part out loud. It’s putting it front and center - - on the cover your book.

*I can’t find any trace of the blog Mr. Shephard refers to. I did find a listing of “David Shephard, Public Policy Consultant and Contractor” in Falls Church, Virginia, but no associated content of any kind. UPDATE: found it her: . “Virginia Gentleman”?

**See also: “gender ideology.”

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Other People’s Tweets Returns!

In the latest episode of Other People’s Tweets…

Kelly:  How does Columbia Maryland have a 100k population and the worst cell service I've ever seen?

Sydney:  My phone fully goes on SOS mode at my parents' house and I wish I was joking. 

Raimundo:  But the libraries are dope. 

Topic 1 - - cell service. Does your experience match those of our tweeter? We used to have terrible cell service inside our house, which is why I have held onto our land line for so long. It was not uncommon to see neighbors sitting outside or walking around the neighborhood while talking on the phone. In recent years, though, it has improved greatly. Is cell service a concern where you are?

Topic 2 - - libraries. You have to know that I got a big charge out of seeing our random tweeter endorse our libraries. At least I hope that’s what he was doing. I guess it’s possible that he’s rolling his eyes at great libraries when what he really wants is good cell service. 

Nah. Our libraries are dope. 

Dope - - 

A word used to describe just about anything good in life, good news, a sick skateboard trick, a nice sports car, etc. Also one of the most casual yet satisfying words in modern slang. It can be used to varying levels of intensity anywhere from a casual "dope" to a mega hype "that's freaking dope man!". (Urban Dictionary)

I’ve been holding onto this image from a tweet about an article in the Detroit Free Press about Detroit Libraries.

Image from Detroit Free Press social media post

The important thing is that people use the library. More usage helps the library. But I also would turn that statement around and say that more usage strengthens the people of Detroit.

“Changing lives while changing with the times is the Detroit Public Library's calling card”, Detroit Free Press (Article is behind a paywall. Working on getting it.)

So more usage strengthens the library while also benefiting the community. During the recent kerfuffle about a new Downtown Library it seemed that a lot of folks didn’t truly understand that.

During the most restrictive part of the COVID shutdown I started reading mysteries. And more mysteries. I’d put in my requests online and the library would notify me when my books were ready. I’d bring a tote bag to carry them home. Then I’d bring them back to get more.

I read so many different series all the way through that recently I have felt a bit bereft. What if there aren’t any books left for me? What if I’m at the end of the line?

Seeing the quote from the Detroit Library article gave me an idea. I am - - shocker! - - going to ask a librarian. I have typed up a complete list of the series I have read and I’m going to go in my beloved East Columbia branch and say, “Help! I need books!”

For a shy person this is going to take some courage. But I keep telling myself it will be worth it. After all, our libraries are dope. 

Village Green/Town² Comments

Saturday, September 16, 2023

Today: A Lively Beginning for Hispanic Heritage Month


This is Little Amal. 

Little Amal, a 12-foot puppet of a 10-year-old Syrian refugee girl, is greeted by a crowd, Thursday, Sept. 7, 2023, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne) (Steven Senne / Associated Press)

Little Amal,’ a 12-foot-tall puppet symbolizing human rights, will step foot in Baltimore as part of US walk, Abigail Gruskin, Baltimore Sun

On Friday, a 12-foot-tall, 10-year-old Syrian refugee will arrive in Baltimore. She’ll spend two days in Charm City, meeting with the mayor, grooving at festivals and experiencing what life here is like.

“Little Amal” — “Amal” meaning “hope” in Arabic — isn’t a real girl, but a larger-than-life puppet that has become a symbol for human rights and refugees around the globe.

Amal is on a journey around the world to raise awareness about refugee children. You can meet her in Baltimore today in the Patterson Park Annex and participate in the kickoff activities of Hispanic Heritage Month with the Creative Alliance. 

Welcome Little Amal!

11-2pm | Make Art for Amal | Creativity Center, 3137 Eastern Avenue

2-3pm | Welcome Amal in the Patterson Park Annex

3-7pm | Tianquiztli Street Festival | Outside The Patterson Theater, 3134 Eastern Avenue 

You can learn more about the Tianquiztli Festival here.

Here in Columbia/HoCo, the Columbia Association is celebrating the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month with a Latin Dance Night at the Lakefront.


Get ready for a special FREE night of music and dancing

When: Saturday, September 16 @ 6-9pm

Where: Downtown Columbia Lakefront

Join Columbia Association beneath the People Tree for a special event: Latin Dance Night!

This FREE event will feature Latin-themed dancing, music and singing to honor and celebrate the beginning of National Hispanic Heritage Month.

You don't want to miss out on these special performers and instructors, including DJ Elvira, Live music from Samual Munguia and Friends, Dance lessons by Steve Jackson and Performances by Santana Dance School.

Plus, dine on delicious Hispanic food and drink throughout the evening.

There’s a lot going on locally during Hispanic Heritage Month. This should get you started. I’ll be back with more information on other events soon. I promise.