Sunday, December 31, 2023

A Backward Glance

The last post of the year. Here it is. 

I just re-read the last post of 2022 and it’s honestly a bit sad to see how much is still relevant and/or unimproved. 

My two most-read pieces in 2023 were 

What Lurks Behind the Door,  about M4L’s bait and switch tactics 

Local Man in 2023, about Phelps Luck principal Ed Cosentino’s trip to work via scooter

As always, the most fun I have writing the blog comes when a post sparks lively conversation in the comments. Often those are posts like, “Did you ever go down this back road?” or, “What do you have in the back of your refrigerator?” Posts about controversial issues may get more clicks, but they aren’t necessarily the ones that get people chatting.

Go figure.

A great joy for me in 2023 is that the scariest people in town don’t read my blog anymore. Or, if they do, they aren’t talking about it anywhere that I can see. This may be because I have been deemed irrelevant and I guess I am okay with that. Columbia/HoCo has some mighty scary people. I’d just as soon be unworthy of their notice.

We lost the Columbia Flier this year, and TwitterX is disintegrating into jagged and distorted fragments. Learning about local news, issues, and happenings has become more like the childhood game of Telephone than ever. This space will never be an adequate substitute for local journalism but I hope to shine a light where I can.

I continue to learn so much from my readers. Thank you. What would a community blog be without community? Your engagement is what takes a village green and a town square and boosts it to something exponentially greater.

What local issues from 2023 will we be talking about in 2024? Let me know.

Village Green/Town² Comments

Saturday, December 30, 2023

The Facts of Life

You know why.

Those are the words that made me smile in this post from a local NextDoor group.

Dear Longfellow neighbors. I just want to let you know that the foxes are having fun these days and running & chasing each other. You know why!  Please drive carefully along Eliots Oak Rd, particularly where there are fields and creeks, as they are crossing the road constantly. We have seen many this morning in our back yard and crossing the street. Happy new year!

These words brought back memories of an excruciatingly dull class in Middle School called Home Living. Only the girls took Home Living, along with Sewing, and Cooking. In Home Living we learned how to bathe a baby (doll) and interior decorating (inside of a cardboard box.) Once a week we were permitted to bring in advice columns from Ask Beth (for discussion) if they contained teen issues of general interest.

It was on one of those days that the issue of, shall we say, “canoodling” arose and our teacher, nearing retirement age, made one of the disapproving faces for which she was well known. She declared that such situations were to be avoided because, “you know what kissing leads to.”  The classmate who had brought in the clipping raised her hand and asked, without any noticeable expression, “What does kissing lead to?”

There was a pause. Miss Preston’s mouth now looked like she was keeping a row of straight pins at the ready for a sewing project. Finally, staring directly at the questioner, she answered,

“I think you know, Theondra.”

And that was the last time I remember discussing newspaper clippings in Miss Preston’s class.

I just want to let you know that the foxes are having fun these days and running & chasing each other.

Why are they having fun and chasing eachother?

You know why! 

This is a fun and informative discussion, especially for NextDoor - - and not merely for the suggested canoodling. There’s also some talk about how this annual fox activity is out of sync with the traditional peak season: January - March. Change in local climate comes into the mix and the behavior of other native creatures is mentioned.

No one is complaining. No one is insulted. There are no conspiracy theories. It’s simply a pocket of observant nature lovers in Columbia, Maryland. This is something to be thankful for. I’m also thank that today’s middle school girls don’t have to sit through Home Living.

Have you observed anything in the natural environment lately that you found notable and/or puzzling?

Village Green/Town² Comments

Friday, December 29, 2023

F ³: Lamentations

I have been struggling to write for the last week or so. Part of it is probably the aimlessness of the holidays. My sleep schedule is different. My days are unscheduled. Local stories are primarily centered around holiday celebrations, food, shopping, and the like. Nothing jumps out at me. Many ideas are of the almost, but not quite variety.

I have a confession to make. The biggest block to my writing is the ongoing slaughter of civilians in Gaza. I sat down on Christmas to gather my thoughts and all I could see in my mind’s eye were frightened eyes, tears, pain, rows of little bodies. Flattened buildings where once neighbors had lived and worked. Total destruction. No mercy.

The terrorist acts by Hamas against Israeli citizens were vile and inexcusable. The response by the IDF has been unconscionable. Both of these things can be true.

Both of these things are true.

Here in the U.S. we must face the fact that funds from tax dollars are paying for weapons that the IDF is using to carry out genocide. If we say nothing we are complicit. If we speak out we run the risk of hurting those of our Jewish friends and neighbors who are grieving and enraged by the October 7th attacks. We may bring judgement upon ourselves and even censure.

To be honest, nothing we say puts us even remotely close to the pain that those involved are suffering. We have the immense privilege of being protected from harm. 

I can’t find a way to justify the slaughter of children. Anyone’s children. If we are able to turn off within ourselves our natural instinct to value the young and defenseless, then we are not far from turning ourselves into the kind of monsters we fear the most.

We get used to steeling ourselves against things that are unpleasant or frightening. We shrink away from the pain and try to will it to go away. It is easy to feel a sense of being emotionally overwhelmed. Imagine what it must feel like to have lost your home, your neighborhood, your entire family. 

Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow…

- - Lamentations

Thursday, December 28, 2023

Absolutely, Positively Cheating

What was I thinking ten years ago? I’m glad you asked. (Yes, I’m running an old post.)

The Spirit of Andy Rooney, Village Green/Town², SATURDAY, DECEMBER 28, 2013

Since we have a minute, and the old year is winding down, let me share with you some things that really bug me, in no particular order:

Political fundraising emails that say, "Just chip in 3 dollars." Then, when you click through, suggested donation levels begin at 15 dollars and they actually have the gall to suggest that people 'like you' donate 25.00 or more. This is just cheesy, folks! As God is my witness, if they actually offered the low amount as a choice I would probably give. Every. Single. Time.

The trend to put huge amounts of power over education in the hands of people who aren't teachers, have never studied education, have never taught. See also: entire education reform movement. If what you are is a test-maker, everyone looks in need of testing. Follow the money.

School rules that mean you can't send birthday invitations to school (might hurt feelings) but you can't get access to students home addresses (privacy). How are you supposed to invite guests: telepathy? This is right up there with the teacher who wouldn't give out a list of first names for Valentines, so children had to distribute nameless cards to each other. In the first grade, that's a missed literacy experience.

The growing trend to make sure that all kids have cell phones so that we can know exactly where they are and reach them 24/7. And the corollary that, if we don't do this, we are not being responsible parents. My husband had to admonish a kid who took a call during class. "But it's my mom!" He protested. This is already having far-reaching consequences as young people go to college and every decision is micromanaged through texts with the home base. When will we let our children leave the nest and fly?

Nick and Disney tween-teen shows that have the intellectual content of a Twinkie and portray all parents as morons and all girls as frighteningly skinny and perfect-looking.

Trolls. In particular: anonymous trolls. Do you want to say vile, hateful, character-smearing things? Attach your real name and photograph so that everyone knows you stand by your words. Yes, everyone. Your neighbors, your family, your co-workers, your employers...

Fascinating video clips that won't play on my iPad. Aaaaah! I'm clearly missing out on so much important content!

People who are well behaved and respectful in church but routinely talk during the musical portions. Really? You would never talk during the scripture readings or the sermon, so why is the anthem fair game? Is all music just background music to you?

When they're restocking at the Food Lion and they just leave carts and boxes anywhere willy-nilly. The whole store looks like an unmade bed. Nothing says, "we had no idea that customers were coming" like leaving aisles blocked, boxes open, shelves a mess, and displays half-finished.

And finally, a disturbing new development: have they stopped carrying sticky buns at Wegman's? Say it isn't so!

Please feel free to list your current pet peeves below. Perhaps I'll create a new ritual and burn all mine and start the new year fresh.


Not all of the above are still on my pet peeves list, being no longer relevant in one way or another. And of course a few new ones have crept in:

Falling in love with a book series from the library and discovering that they have only the first three.

Instacart shoppers who make substitutions willy nilly without any effort to communicate.

Clothing that must never, ever go in the drier.

The dizzying fluctuations in the sizes of cereal boxes and packages of toilet paper.

The lack of a local option to recycle styrofoam containers. 

How about you? What are your current pet peeves?

Village Green/Town² Comments

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

They Might Be Giants

I spent a long time this morning looking for an article I had glimpsed briefly as I scrolled through TwitterX. This is because I had remembered the title incorrectly. What I was looking for, and had been intrigued by:

“Small Town Saved by Giant Nutcrackers”

In fact, the title was nowhere near as exciting.

“A town fell on hard times. Hundreds of giant nutcrackers revived it” Cathy Free, Washington Post 

No, it’s not a local story. It’s about Steubenville, Ohio. 

Steubenville Nutcracker Village

Nov. 21st, 2023 - Jan. 6th, 2024

The world's largest collection of life-size nutcrackers will be on display in historic downtown Steubenville ​throughout the entire holiday season.  The exhibit is free and open to the public 24 hours a day.  Pets are welcome but must be crowd-friendly and kept on a leash at all times.


Image from Steubenville Nutcracker Village

Two thoughts on this. The first is that the phrase “Giant Nutcrackers” immediately put me in mind of vintage, low budget horror movies or tabloid newspapers. I’m thinking something more along the lines of 

  • Small Town Terrorized by Giant Nutcrackers
  • Innocent School Children Abducted by Giant Nutcrackers 

They only come to life after dark…

Not everything can be blown up in size and still feel harmless. That’s part of the power of those old horror flicks. Giant insects, giant plants, giant worms…you get the picture. 

Giant nutcrackers? Well, I guess they’re okay as long as they behave themselves.

My other thought is that something like this would be difficult to do in Columbia/HoCo. We have too many factions. If Howard Hughes suggested it, the anti HHC folks would oppose it. If CA promoted it, the anti-CA folks would object. If it came from the County Council it would be decried as a Democratic boondoggle and if County Executive Calvin Ball made a pitch, all those trolls on his Facebook page would have a field day. 

Oh, how polarized we are. Almost everything I can think of would make somebody mad. 

And yet. The one headline that just might make everybody smile:

“Giant Nutcrackers Build High School in Elkridge” 

I can just about imagine it. But what would we do when they decided to run for the school board?

What do you think? Have we become so fragmented that getting benign or even positive things is impossible?

Village Green/Town² Comments

Sunday, December 24, 2023

Bumper Stickers

 It’s the local gift that keeps on giving.

Two recent posts on TwitterX:

I just popped on this bird app to warn y'all that some folks riding around #HoCoMD with "Choose Civility" bumper stickers have chosen violence instead today.

There is no bumper sticker I hate more than that Howard County ‘Choose Civility’ one.

The Choose Civility initiative began in 2006. If you moved here after that time you might not know about it.

Choose Civility is a community-wide initiative, led by Howard County Library System, to position Howard County as a model of civility. The project intends to enhance respect, empathy, consideration and tolerance through an initiative with partners comprising government, nonprofits, and businesses. - - Urban Libraries Council

Though the initiative itself is no longer an active part of community life, the bumper stickers remain. They were quite popular at the time. 

They’ve also been a popular target of folks who didn’t think much of Choose Civility in the first place. If your car sports a Choose Civility magnet, it’s an invitation for scrutiny. Locals insist that the most selfish and reckless drivers are the ones with the easily-recognizable green and white words on the bumper. To my knowledge there is no scientific study that bears this out. All evidence is purely anecdotal.

While the Choose Civility initiative was not about safe driving, the almost ubiquitous car magnets made it all too easy to turn the conversation away from respect, empathy, consideration and tolerance to “those entitled jerks with the green stickers.” After all this time they are seen as an invitation to judge the driver on their driving.

Last year our car insurance company offered us the possibility of a variety of discounts if we allowed them to place a device in our car which would sense and calculate how safe our driving is. It’s called Drive Safe & Save. While I think of myself as a safe driver, I have to admit that there have been several times over the last year when I may have crept over the speed limit a bit and remembered that little device keeping track of my driving. 

Perhaps that’s a part of the deal. Knowing someone else will be viewing your driving record and that discounts are dependent on it serves as a sort of an external conscience. It could possibly change or shape your driving behavior in a positive way.

I’d like to suggest that perhaps those of us who are still proudly driving cars with the Choose Civility magnets think of them as an extra incentive to drive safely and with kindness. Yes, we should all be doing that anyway. But you need to know that the eyes of all are upon you, friends. Don’t give Choose Civility a bad name. 

Or take the dang magnet off and travel under the radar. It’s your choice. I took mine off years ago when I realized it made me the target of criticism. That was way too much stress for me. 

The most recent initiative from the Howard County Library System is Brave Voices, Brave Choices. I don’t think that having one of those bumper magnets will invite criticism of your of road habits but it might cause people to hide in the bushes to see what you look like.

I would definitely put one of those on my bumper but my bumper doesn’t attract magnets. Sigh.

Do you have a Choose Civility car magnet? 

Village Green/Town² Comments

Saturday, December 23, 2023

No Harm, No Parm?

What happened to the Ellicott City Eggplant? I was a fan. The sculpture, entitled “Aubergine”, was the work of artist Jan Kirsch. It won the 2015 Art Sites competition and was on display in front of the Howard County Tourism Center on Main Street in Old Ellicott City during that year.

At some point it went away. Then, in 2018 it was brought back by a group called the Fund for Art in Ellicott City. 

Art in Ellicott City is THRILLED to announce the completion of its first project on Main Street, the return of the Ellicott City eggplant! As you know, Jan Kirsh's wonderful eggplant sculpture stood in front of the Welcome Center as part of the Art Sites program some years back.  It became a community favorite for photo ops and selfies, and many of us missed it when it left.  Now it's BACK!  


In 2020 The Fund for Art in Ellicott City announced that the Eggplant had been briefly kidnapped!

Hey guys, did you hear?  The Ellicott City Eggplant had a big night last night!   He was kidnapped! He’s safely back home and looks only a little worse for wear.   He’s keeping his mouth shut, though — we can’t get him to tell us about his adventures! Maybe he wasn’t kidnapped at all, maybe he snuck out town for a little R&R. Maybe he had a date night — with that beautiful peach in Annapolis. Maybe he rode the railroad cars like a hobo. Maybe he went rafting down the Patapsco to cool off. We may never know.


I noticed that, in January of that same year, The Eggplant was seen sporting one lone googly eye. What’s up with that?


But when the Howard County Tourism Center reopened after renovations in December, 2023: no Eggplant.


Noooooo! Where’s my eggplant? 

What’s this?

Robert the Eggplant is back ! Now greeting visitors at The Wine Bin. - - Historic Ellicott City by Air Facebook page.


If you look closely you’ll see some troubling damage to the stem. Did The Eggplant sustain injury during the renovations at the Tourism Center? Or was it damaged in transport?

Q: Did we ever hear what happened to the eggplant? Where’d it go and why?

A: I think he went on vacation following his unceremonious removal from the Welcome Center. He seems OK with the rejection and is glad that he’s now at the Bin.

It must be hard to be an on-again, off-again eggplant in Old Ellicott City. I’m beginning to feel as though there may be two camps over there as to whether the dear old aubergine is a work of art or an embarrassment. 

I’m definitely Team Eggplant. Although - - I always thought it was a girl. Hmm…

What do you think?

Village Green/Town² Comments

Friday, December 22, 2023

F ³: Sportsing Language

Help me out here. I’ve seen two words this week that really ticked me off. I’m going to present them to you in context, but first, here are the words:



Take a minute to think about what those words suggest to you.


Orioles acquire Jonathan Heasely in trade with Royals.

Maryland safety Beau Brade, a River Hill product, moves closer to NFL goal with Senior Bowl invite

Wait a minute. Don’t the words “acquire” and “product” have to do with inanimate objects? Things?

Humans are hired for a job. They graduate from a school. Humans are not acquired (or they shouldn’t be.) People are not products. 

Why is this language acceptable in the world of sports? It comes across as demeaning to me. Do we think of athletes as manufactured goods? Or is this way of thinking rooted in horse-racing terminology? If you are a product that can be acquired, do you have any inborn rights? Or are you merely a thing whose value fluctuates with changes in the market?

Words mean something. Should we be using these words to describe our fellow human beings? 

What do you think?

Village Green/Town² Comments

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Columbia on Film

The Columbia Association folks posted a cute little video this morning done in the style of the “Friends” television show opening.

It’s fun to watch and was surely fun to do. In light of Tuesday’s post, what to you think it tells the viewer about CA? What does it communicate? 

We have reached the time of year where locals begin to reminisce about that Flash Mob at the Mall and wonder if they’re ever going to do it again. In case you’ve never heard about the legendary Flash Mob at the Mall - - or you just want to enjoy it all over again - - here it is. 

December 22, 2010, Video courtesy of HoCoMoJo

Details on how it all came about can be found in the Description section under the video on YouTube.

I wasn’t there when it occurred and I dare say that if everyone who says that they were there had actually showed up it would have shut the entire mall down. Let’s just say that a lot of folks wish they had been there, which may be what prompts the yearly calls to “do it again!”

So I wasn’t too surprised when I saw this from an anonymous poster on Facebook yesterday:

Flash dance mob tonight at the Poinsettia Tree in the Mall at 6:30 tonight.

I reached out to one of the original “flashers” to see if this was coming from them. As I suspected, it was not. I didn’t see anything else about it before I went to bed. As of five am I hadn’t seen any video of such an event, either. But I did see this on TwitterX:

@MallinColumbia It's a Christmas party! Thank you to all the wonderful festive seniors in my hometown of Columbia, MD. Everybody is dancing and having a great time. Just days before Christmas.

As they say, “pics or it didn’t happen.” I can’t say with any certainty that anything happened and I am mighty curious as to whether the tweet above refers to high school seniors or 60+ seniors. I may never know.

Village Green/Town² Comments 

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Open on Monday


This post turned up last night in the Howard County Eats Facebook Group and I thought it was sweet.

The owner of China Taste asked me to post this information on Facebook. China Taste is a wonderful take out restaurant in the Enchanted Forest Shopping Center. They are usually closed on Mondays but are open on Christmas day. Since Christmas falls on a Monday this year she wanted me to get the word out that they WILL BE OPEN on Christmas Monday. She told me it is one of their busiest days and is afraid people will think they are closed being that it is a Monday. So if your Xmas tradition is Chinese takeout you are in luck. Our family does Chinese takeout on Xmas Eve in order to give Santa's helpers a break before the big day.

I have never been to China Taste. They don’t have a Facebook presence and their website is basic. But this post elicited plenty of praise from group members. The conversation reminded me of a post I wrote some years ago about a tradition which has come to be known as Jewish Christmas.

The Other Holiday Meal, Village Green/Town², 12/26/2015

Chinese food on December 25th is as American as, well, corned beef on rye. It’s the other holiday meal. And the proprietor of China Taste wants to make sure the community knows that they’ll be open and ready to make that happen.  Not everyone celebrates Christmas. And not everyone, every year, will be included in celebratory feasts with family and friends even if they do. 

Sometimes you’re on your own and, honestly, a hot meal that you don’t have to cook yourself could be a gift.  

One last bit of restaurant news. I had an unexpected opportunity to see the inside of the old Hickory Ridge Grill yesterday. As you may already know, the space is slated to reopen as the new home of Ranazul, formerly located in Maple Lawn. I was there to pick up some lovely wooden chairs which owner Chad Price was selling off on Facebook Marketplace to make way for the new Ranazul furnishings. (We needed two extra chairs for Christmas dinner.)

As Price carried the two chairs to my car (nice guy!) we discussed the hard work that restaurant life entailed. He mentioned that it took a while for all the permits to go through. I confessed that I wrote a local blog and asked if he had anything he’d like to share about the new place. He said, “Hang in there! Be patient. It looks like we’ll be open for business in February.” 

My family loved the Hickory Ridge Grill and we definitely miss their food and cozy ambiance. Now we own a small piece of the old place. But I look forward to visiting Ranazul in its new home and seeing what Mr. Price has done with the space. 

Image from Ranazul website. Nice chairs!

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

An Insider’s Game

Here’s the question:

CA is soliciting responses to an online survey.

Take just 10 minutes to complete our survey, and add your voice to the creation of CA’s next 5-year Strategic Plan.

But, since they posted it on social media, people are giving them a piece of their minds in the comments section. I don’t know if any of that will be used as a part of CA visioning process. But it was pretty enlightening for me.

A majority of the suggestions asked for things that CA doesn’t do. For example: issues of public safety, road paving, housing development, businesses in Village Centers. This suggests to me that one of the Columbia Association’s biggest challenges continues to be the lack of community understanding. It’s going to be difficult to develop new generations of Columbia leadership, for example, if a large chunk of the populace doesn’t have a basic grasp of how the whole thing works.

Do I know how to make that happen? No. CA spends a lot of time pushing out its message on social media on any number of fronts. You can sign up for a weekly newsletter or go to their website if you have a question. Still, knowledge of CA still feels like an insider’s game to me. And that’s a big problem.

Having a local newspaper would help, of course. I don’t think it’s the be-all and end-all for this particular problem, however. Do realtors hand out an easy to read cheat sheet which breaks down CA vs Howard County roles when folks buy a house in Columbia? Do landlords do the same with tenants? It might help. 

How can the Columbia Association make a meaningful five-year plan when so many Columbia residents don’t have the information they need to make educated suggestions? It seems as though the same folks who already know will dominate. This is a great example of doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome. 

I’m not a big fan of online surveys but I did complete this one. If you live in Columbia you ought to consider giving them your two cents. While you are at it, perhaps you could make some suggestions here on how CA can make sure more folks are more knowledgeable about this Columbia bubble we call home. 

Village Green/Town² Comments

Monday, December 18, 2023

The Playing Fields of Doom?


At the very end of October I wrote about the County’s purchase of the East Columbia Library Park property and their their plans for the area. I felt positive about it. Not all of my readers felt the same. What I didn’t process fully at the time I wrote the piece is that replacing grass fields with synthetic turf was a component of the plan. I was disappointed to learn that. I’m not a fan of synthetic turf. When we visited the first playground put in at Blandair I was stunned to discover how hot it was to sit on. It holds the heat and is the last place you’d want to sit while watching your kids on the playground equipment. 

Now think about sporting events played on hot days. Synthetic turf is significantly hotter than the surrounding air temperature and it both holds and reflects the heat. Possible hazards include melting shoes, burning/blistering hands and feet, dehydration and heat stroke.*

Local environmental group Less Plastic, Please also opposes putting synthetic turf at the East Columbia Library Park site. They are asking the community to come out on Wednesday night to a meeting at Howard County Rec and Parks headquarters:

Pack the Room to Oppose Artificial Turf planned for East Columbia Library Park

Wednesday, Dec. 20 at 7 p.m.

Howard County Recreation & Parks Headquarters

(7120 Oakland Mills Road, Columbia)

Recreation & Parks Advisory Board Hearing

Please attend as we need a strong showing for opposing artificial turf


Image from Less Plastic Please social media 

Howard County has striven to be at the forefront of positive environmental change. Installing synthetic turf is at odds with our long term goals. It may seem like a maintenance-free solution but it causes long term environmental problems that persist longer than the life of the field itself.

A typical turf field comes with a warranty of 8-12 years. When that time is up, the field, which is made from layers of plastic and shredded tires or crumb rubber, is hauled away. Mary Lehman, a delegate from Maryland, heard from a constituent who saw rolls of used turf sitting in a vacant lot.

“The concern was that the crumb rubber infill was washing down the hill into a storm drain," she recalls. "I think everyone can agree we don’t want that happening. We don’t want shredded tires to end up in our waterways, and in Maryland pretty much everything ends up in the Chesapeake Bay.” - - New study casts doubt on safety of synthetic turf, RADIO IQ, Sandy Hausman

If you don’t have time to attend the meeting this week but you’d like to communicate your concerns to the Rec and Parks department, drop them a note. I’ll check around to find the correct email to submit your comments. If you have more information on this, let me know.

Village Green/Town² Comments

*Information from

Sunday, December 17, 2023

Me and 95 South

Traffic in my lane was moving slowly. I didn’t know why but I wasn’t inclined to pass. I was on I 95 South and the exit for 175 wasn’t all that far away. It wasn’t until the car directly in front of me got off at the Glen Burnie exit that the cause was revealed.

It was a car pulling some kind of wooden boat on wheels. In the boat was an enormous octopus sculpture with black tentacles hanging out over the edges and a huge blue head. The car pulling the boat had a hammerhead shark on top and possibly mounted weapons (like spear guns?) facing forwards on the hood. 

I just stared and gripped the wheel, wishing I could take a photograph. As I moved further right, to exit at 175, I took a farewell look at whatever this strange vehicle might be. Wow. You know those creepy movies where the kids get lost at an old amusement park? It was like that. 

Being the sort of person that I am, once I got home I immediately went to social media to see if anyone else had reported this thing. Of course not. I was alone: just me and my unlikely highway octopus vision. I did receive several suggestions that it might be a boat destined for an illuminated holiday display. I could be wrong but I don’t think so. Those boats look cheery. This one looked almost malevolent.

Finally my post in the Howard County MD Facebook group produced the response I had been waiting for:

I saw the same thing pulled over on the entrance ramp to Route 70 in Marriottsville yesterday morning. We saw it so quickly and everyone in the car saw a different detail. It was so bizarre. They also had a large yellow sign with a black shark that looked like a road sign next to this car/boat. I had no idea what to think.

I can’t explain the relief I felt in not being alone with this vision. That octopus is not something you’d like to be left alone with in your imagination. Trust me. In an amusement park or roadside display it would be unremarkable. Directly in front on my car on I 95, traveling at around 45 miles per hour? Let’s just say it stood out from its surroundings.

This is probably as close as I will ever come to feeling like people who have seen UFO’s and just want to be believed and validated by those around them. It has been suggested by a few friends that I ought to have a dash cam for just such experiences. It would certainly satisfy the “pics or it didn’t happen” crowd. But getting one now would just be silly. 

Seeing an octopus on the highway was a one in a million life experience. Buying a dash cam now would be like closing the barn door after the horse has bolted. It’s never going to happen again. 

Please tell me it’s never going to happen again.

Have you ever seen anything startling or unusual while driving? Let me know.

Village Green/Town² Comments

Saturday, December 16, 2023

What Lurks Behind the Door


Once upon a time, a young man was invited to a Christmas Eve service at one of Columbia’s Interfaith Centers. As he entered he could see there were multiple doors ahead. A person stationed nearby stepped forward. 

“Protestant or Catholic?” he asked the visitor.

If you are from Columbia you would probably guess that the person in question wants to help the visitor get to the correct service. But if you are a young man from Belfast, Northern Ireland who grew up during The Troubles, answering that question is not without risks. It came across not as welcoming but almost menacing,

Making choices about which door to go through comes down to what you know and who you are.


In another story, a choir of women at at Roman Catholic cathedral are singing during a weekday evening rehearsal. Across the hall, a community group is holding a meeting. Every so often a woman wanders in and the choir director stops and asks if they are there to join the choir. 

“No, I’m here for the meeting of Alliance for the Mentally Ill,” they would say. The director would sigh and direct them across the hall. After three or four such interruptions, yet another young woman opens the door and peers in nervously.

The choir director, impatient at all the interruptions, barks, “MENTALLY ILL?”

“No, I’m here to join the Women’s Choir,” she says in a small voice.

Two doors, two outcomes. But, to be honest, a fair amount of confusion.


You may have seen announcements for a rally this Sunday afternoon, out on Route 108, by the Board of Education. They look like this: 

On the other hand, you may have seen announcements for a rally this Sunday afternoon, out on Route 108 by the Board of Education, that look like this: 

Unlike the first two stories, this is not a case of two separate doors that lead to two distinct outcomes. This is an example of using two separate doors to attract two different sets of people for one outcome. One event. One mindset. 

And that mindset is what has motivated Moms 4 Liberty to attack public education in Howard County. M4L has made its goals clear in every community where it has sprung up:

  • Strip schools of intellectual freedom 
  • Ban books from school libraries 
  • Remove topics from history curricula that displease them
  • Make schools less safe for LGBTQIA students, staff, and families 
  • Accuse teachers and school staff of indoctrination and grooming 
When you see the M4L name on anything, you know that’s what it means.

Ahh, but what if you don’t see it? What if it has been conveniently omitted? Might one suspect that M4L is deliberately misleading the public in an attempt to draw bigger crowds without being honest about who they are? 

Don’t be fooled. This Sunday at 2 PM, it may look like there are two doors. But they both go to the same place.

It’s not a good place.

Friday, December 15, 2023

F ³: Flash, Crash, Smash, Splash

 Delete. All. Ads.

I’m on a mission. My Facebook feed has become so inundated with the frenzy of “Buy Me! Buy Me!” That I can no longer think straight. 

I just go to that X in the right hand corner and click. 

Go away, “things you must buy on Amazon for under 25 dollars.” Go away, “luxury cookware you cannot live without.” And - - most of all - - Go away, “toddler learning flash cards.”

Toddlers do not need or want flash cards. Age-appropriate activities that toddlers will do with flash cards are: chew on them, throw them, hide them, slide on them like skates, feed them to the dog, dump them in the bathtub to see if they float. Scribble on them. Look at the pictures (briefly). Put them in a bag or purse, dump them out. Repeat.

There are so many choices for gift-giving when it comes to toddlers. Flash cards aren’t one of them. Flash cards come with an added burden: skill and drill. Life for toddlers is full of so much daily living “skill and drill” that - - honestly! - - they do not need any more, especially for things like letters and numbers isolated from any concrete meaning.

Every day toddlers experience a huge amount of practice in the things their caregivers think are important.

  • You need to keep your socks and shoes on in the car. (Who knew?) 
  • Food stays on your plate until you eat it. 
  • There’s a whole process to this potty thing.
  • You will often have to wait.
  • Bedtime and naps are appealing only to grownups.
  • Rules don’t make sense, but you have to live with them anyway.
  • Markers are not really all-purpose.
You think without flash cards that toddlers aren’t learning? Au contraire!

Toddlers are innately curious and will pursue that curiosity as long as it is safe for them. A toddler will persist at overcoming the safety latch on your kitchen cabinets with the diligence of a practicing concert pianist. (Ask me how I know.) That is why they might try everything possible with a deck of flash cards except what adults think they are made for.

There are many ways in which family members can support young children that will prepare them for schooling and what is often referred to as “academics”. Talking with and listening to your child is free and is a huge brain builder. Reading aloud is, too. Buy that toddler a really engaging picture book. Toys which encourage imagination and open-ended play provide hours of enjoyment and contain within them moments of discovery, exploration, experimentation, and joy.

Flash cards? Not so much.

I saw one advert yesterday which did not cause me to run away screaming . It said, “Experiences take up no room in the closet.” While I don’t recommend taking a toddler on a ghost tour (what the ad was for) I do think that experiences like zoo trips, kid’s concerts, museums, and so on make great gifts for young children. Just make sure you know your audience. Some children just can’t sit long enough yet for performances. Others might be terrified by dinosaur bones, or clowns. 

If you are bound and determined to buy a toddler flash cards, I should point out that “seeing how many cards you can drop into the toilet before an adult comes running” is both a science experiment and employs math elements, too. Good luck with that.

And one more thing. Ask the parent before you give their child an accordion.

Thursday, December 14, 2023

The One Where We Get Caught Up With The News


I’d like to give a shoutout to reader Chris Bachmann who came through with all sorts of cool information - - and maps! - - in response to my call for background information about the Columbia Hills neighborhood. You can see his comments here. It’s a lot of fun for me to be able to put a question out there via the blog and receive information from the community. Keep it coming!

In case you’re already making plans for the weekend, don’t forget the Holiday Market Saturday from 10 am to 2 pm at Clarksville Commons. Want more info? Look at the event page on Facebook. They’re billing it as “food, crafts, and a farmers market.” Dress warmly and don’t forget you can duck into the Common Kitchen to warm up and have a late breakfast or even lunch. The won ton soup at Anh Mazing Banh Mi is magical. 

In the land of unexpected news, I was momentarily startled to see what I thought was Superintendent Martirano’s announcement that he’s going to be pursuing a career in music.

Howard County leaders discuss remedying bus issues, superintendent search, Miana Massey, CBS Baltimore

It has been suggested to me that the word the reporter was looking for was “tenure.” Well, that certainly makes more sense but I prefer my mental image of a musical Martirano.

On the Martirano front, I’ve learned the following from Jennifer Van Kirk of the Bright Minds Foundation: 

In terms of sock donations, we will have collection bins available for new sock donations in the lobbies of all HCLS library locations starting next Tuesday. Socks can also be dropped off at the HCPSS Department of Education building (10910 Clarksville Pike, Ellicott City) or Applications & Research Laboratory (ARL) building (10920 Clarksville Pike, Ellicott City) during business hours.

You may have already seen the County’s crowdsourced holiday lights map. I think it’s pretty cool. 

A personal recommendation: Stevens Forest Road in Oakland Mills is the most “lit up” I have ever seen in all the years I’ve lived here. I don’t know if this was a coordinated effort or, it just turned out that way, but, it’s impressive. The holiday spirit is strong over here in OM. There’s even a Winter Parade this Saturday which will start at Stevens Forest Elementary and end at Oakland Mills High School. 

After that? How about Holiday Lights in the Courtyard? 

 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm

The Other Barn Courtyard

5851 Robert Oliver Place


MD 21045

COST: Free

Here are a few local makers I forgot to mention in my earlier post. Brian Donoughe of 7th State Designs makes “custom, hand-painted barn stars with a local flair.” 

Image: 7th State Editions

And it looks like Monica Rodgers Williams of From Momma’s Kitchen is coming out of hibernation for the holidays! You can order one (or several) of her fabulous Holiday Treat Boxes here

Image: From Momma’s Kitchen 

I asked a question about locally made hot sauce on the popular Howard County Eats Facebook page and was deluged with responses! Look for a dedicated blog post soon based on their spicy recommendations.

Have a great Thursday - - the weekend is in sight!

Village Green/Town² Comments

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Cool Duck: Dapper, Determined, Dynamic

I sat down with the new duck-about-town, Cool Duck, to get a sense of where he’s coming from and what makes him tick.


Village Green/Town²: Let’s start out with a little background knowledge. Cool Duck, will you tell us a little bit about yourself? Are you from Howard County originally?

CD: No, I am not originally from Howard County, I hail from the pond of many dreams. Immediately upon my arrival, I made friends with lifelong residents, like Najee, and became fascinated with Howard County’s values and community character as a whole, looking out for one another is a virtue that outshines the rest. Also, I saw that Howard County has been ranked as the 2nd and 7th respective happiest cities in the United States over the last two years and thought I have to meet these people if I ever have the opportunity!

Village Green/Town²: Is Cool Duck your real name or is it a stage name or pseudonym?

CD: Cool Duck is indeed my official government name.

Village Green/Town²: Who are your duck heroes?

CD: As a duck, one thing is for sure, we all come with our own unique personalities. I grew up watching reruns of the original Disney’s DuckTales, and the bravery and adventure of Uncle Scrooge’s nephews and friends were inspiring. They always taught many valuable lessons whether they were protecting their Uncle’s riches or on the search for hidden treasures, they were always themselves and they all learned and grew together, including Uncle Scrooge who didn’t have the best sense of morality at the beginning but things tend to change when the examples around you are outside of your usual experiences.

Village Green/Town²: Now let’s talk about HCAR. What brings you to the Howard County Association of Realtors?

CD: December 1st, I happened to find myself a bit lost in the office of the Howard County Association of Realtors. As I aimlessly waddled through the hallways, I was greeted by Najee who immediately started showing me around and telling me all about the cool things that I was mesmerized by as I looked around. From there, I realized there was so much to learn and share that I would not have known if I never waddled into this office. With all of the things that the Association does for its members and the community, I asked Najee if I could share some of the new things, I learned with the community in hopes that they can learn more about this industry.

Village Green/Town²: What can the public expect to see you doing in your current collaboration with HCAR?

CD: First, my goal is to always bring joy to any individual I can. In collaboration with HCAR, I look forward to being able to tell you about the different types of continued education courses they offer, I’ll ask to lead a couple of Committee meetings,  we’ll be doing some community service, and getting to meet community leaders along the way if I work hard enough!

Village Green/Town²: Is there one particular message you hope to highlight in your new role?

CD: In this role, the message I would like to share is that “Your gifts will make room for you,” always remember to find the beauty and joy in the little things as every day is a new gift to be cherished!

Village Green/Town²: Thank you so much for your time today, Cool Duck. Should we be on the lookout for public appearances or Cool Duck swag in the near future?

CD: Thank you, Village Green/Town², for your time and the opportunity to share with you today! I am not sure about swag yet but stay tuned!


So there you have it. Face to beak - - uh, bill - - no holds barred, from the duck himself. There’s a lot going on in that little yellow head. Cool Duck bears watching. He’s definitely going places. If this interview is any indication, I’d say he has a career ahead of him in motivational speaking. 

To learn more about the Howard County Association of Realtors: 




*Village Green/Town² wishes to thank Najee Bailey of HCAR for facilitating this interview.






Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Taking the Back Road

I needed to pick up something from Kohl’s at Long Gate yesterday, so I decided to take the non-highway route which took me over by Route 108 and the new courthouse. Yet again I pondered the many years that went in to rebuilding the structure which now houses a Dunkin/Baskin Robbins and Lakeside Title. I’d love to know why that took so long.

Does anybody have the inside scoop?

At any rate, it occurred to me how silly it is to have a business called Lakeside Title when there is, in fact, no lake nearby. They probably wouldn’t want to change the name of their business since it is well-established. I get that. So I propose building them a lake. It’s the neighborly thing to do.

Looking at their immediate surroundings, the choices are limited. On the one side, Columbia Academy is also a well established business and not likely to make way for a man-made lake. The Wendy's across the way has just been remodeled, so, that’s a no. But what about the Pizza Hut property? That might make a lovely spot for a lake. Or a pond, really. It’s not that large. 

Yes, these thoughts really do go through my head as I drive. No, I am not serious.

Moving on. The next piece of the trip takes you through a neighborhood called Columbia Hills. Columbia Hills is not in Columbia. It’s in Ellicott City. Why? Does anyone out there understand why it’s called Columbia Hills if it’s not in Columbia? 

There are also a few structures that appear to predate the neighborhood. 

Then he swung into the development of Columbia Hills off 29 and past Dower House, built in 1772 by a Dr. Pue who married Mary Dorsey. It was also called Bethesda, Mr. Mullinix added, which meant healer in Hebrew. Its barn is now a church. - - Traveling Back in Time, Ruth Beest, Washington Post, 1985

Image from Wikipedia article on “Bethesda”

Wikipedia informs me that the house itself is called Bethesda. (There is a dower house on the property, though.) I’ve driven by this house many times and wondered what it would be like to live there. You’d never know from looking at the front of the property that the rear faces a highway.

I found this article about the neighborhood in the Baltimore Sun. I’m still trying to work out the title of the piece which is ungainly at best.

Secret garden place fending off sprawl World rapping at door of Columbia Hills- Meadowbrook Farms,  Jill Kubatko,  September 22, 1996 and UPDATED: October 23, 2018.


Columbia Hills may have gotten its name from a post office off Columbia Pike, combined with its rolling hills. It was built in the mid-1950s by the Maryland Housing Corp., preceding by a decade the birth nearby of the planned town of Columbia.

Well, there’s my answer, I guess. The general style of of the homes in Columbia Hills certainly looks to predate Columbia. Meadowbrook Farms is a different kettle of fish and I don’t know much about that. Yet.

True confession: in earlier years I often had Columbia Hills and Allview confused in my head. They were both places we seemed to be passing through on the way to somewhere else. Places I only saw if I were taking the back road.  The homes had a similar feel to me. If I were not married to someone who likes to explore the creative way to get someplace, I wouldn’t have had these experiences.

Never fear, I can tell them apart now. I suppose I need to learn more about Allview next.

Have you ever discovered something interesting in Columbia/HoCo by taking a back road?

Village Green/Town² Comments 

Monday, December 11, 2023

‘Tis the Season for Suspicion

Happy two hour delay to those of you who are celebrating!

I saw something on Facebook last night that made me think. It wasn’t a local story but it could be. The poster described seeing people return things to Walmart the day after Christmas that had clearly been given to them through an organization like Angel Tree. They did not get a cash refund but instead received Walmart gift cards in the appropriate amount. 

The poster was livid. How dare they! She then instructed people who bought items for the Angel Tree to use a black marker to deface the bar code so that the store would know it was donated. The final line of the post was, as you might expect, “Copied and Pasted.” 

So this person didn’t actually witness this, they didn’t (as far as we know) do any fact checking. They read something somewhere that sparked their outrage and - - click! - - sent it along to their circle of friends.

What’s the big deal? We know people do this all the time, right? We may have done it once our twice ourselves. Copy and paste, share the outrage.

It’s the underlying issue that bugs me. Why would people be at Walmart asking for refunds the day after Christmas in order to get gift cards? Wouldn’t it be because they have no other options? Being so poor or going through a temporary financial crisis is not a scam. It’s a tragedy. Having to cash in a bike or a sled for your kid to get food or diapers doesn’t make you a criminal. 

I would imagine it makes you feel pretty crummy inside. 

What does it feel like to have to use every possible opportunity merely to survive? Most of us have no idea. Persistent, exhausting, all-encompassing poverty with no hope of getting ahead is the scam we ought to be indignant about. Believing that it’s okay for some people to teeter on the edge of survival and that we have the right to dictate how they may receive charity - - how dare we?

This next bit is local. I saw a response to the Giving Machine on a local Facebook Group that chilled me. 

“How do we know where the money really goes?” they said.

Apparently it’s the season for suspicion. 

Give, or don’t give. Do your research into the initiatives that interest you. Chose wisely to the best of your ability and do your giving whole-heartedly. Don’t throw suspicion and judgement and controlling attitudes into the pot. You are the boss of how you give but you are not the God of how it is received. 

In some ways you might want to be grateful that you don’t fully understand what happens on the other side of that gift.

Village Green/Town² Comments

Sunday, December 10, 2023

Three Things: Socks, Controversy, and Gingerbread

Three things:

1. I’ve heard back from Jennifer Van Kirk of the Bright Minds Foundation about donating socks to the Martirano Super Socks initiative.

In terms of sock donations, we will have collection bins available for new sock donations in the lobbies of all HCLS library locations starting next Tuesday. Socks can also be dropped off at the HCPSS Department of Education building (10910 Clarksville Pike, Ellicott City) or Applications & Research Laboratory (ARL) building (10920 Clarksville Pike, Ellicott City) during business hours.

2. If you’ve been following the social media frenzy around the lease for the Howard County Farm Museum, this article in the Baltimore Banner lays out the story fairly well, I thought. If you’re looking for thunder and lightning and finger pointing, you won’t find it in this article. Frankly, I’m worn out by how some locals have spun this story to get people stirred up without telling the whole truth.

Say goodbye to Howard County’s farm museum. What comes next? Abby Zimmardi, Baltimore Banner

3. Columbia Association’s gingerbread house competition brought a smile to my face so I’m sharing the story so you can enjoy it, too.

Neighborhoods in Columbia never tasted so sweet! We caught up with Columbia's 11th village, "Gingertown," with CA's annual gingerbread house competition. This event brings together creativity, imagination and a little friendly competition.

My favorite? You won’t be surprised. The hashtags (seen below) made me chuckle.

Photo from Columbia Association social media 

#ColumbiaAssociation #GingerbreadHouseCompetition #HolidaySeasonFun #WeAreColumbia #IamCA #WeKnowThereAreOnlyTenVillages

Enjoy your Sunday!

Village Green/Town² Comments