Showing posts from July, 2018

Shifting the Balance

Two articles that are on my mind this week:

Parking has eaten American cities by Richard Florida


Is Wheaton Ready for an Arts Center? A Woonerf? by Danielle E. Gaines

Both articles have a common underlying theme even though they address different topics. How do communities which have been built primarily around the needs of automobiles wrest themselves free of the tyranny of said automobiles?  This is definitely worth considering as we move forward in Downtown development and revitalization projects.

Is Columbia forever stuck being a place where you absolutely must have a car to function successfully? Are there meaningful ways to shift the balance and integrate more bicycle and pedestrian use, especially Downtown? Certainly this is on the mind of folks like
Open Steets Howard County and Bike HoCo .

But what about you? Do you wish that you had more opportunities to part once and then enjoy what Columbia has to offer? Do you want to see a better mix of cars, public transit, bikes, and pede…

A Bedtime Story

Well, here’s an unusual post this evening. Call it a bedtime story, if you will.

Before we tie up all our loose ends for the day and make that mental transition into letting go of all our mental gyrations, I want to plant a seed. Just one. I’ll be brief.

This little garden we have here—Howard County, Columbia, your own little neighborhood—we are its stewards. We must be. We can’t just turn our heads away and expect that someone else will do it.

Someone else may very well do it, but without care, or thought. Oh, they may be nice enough but not very able. Or forceful but unpleasant. Or incredibly well organized but inflexible. Or maybe no one will make the effort to do those community things at all. And they will languish. And so will we.

So: politics. Local politics.

I’m not a big fan of “political season” because I am not a big fan of politics as sport. Oh, it has its aficionados, to be sure, who have players and scorecards and stats. They analyze, predicts, recap, and then, for dessert, t…

Checking In

I remember when all the cool kids were doing it. Checking in on FourSquare.  It was all the rage. Do you remember? I never quite got the hang of it.

Now most of us would just as soon keep our locations to ourselves unless we have a particular reason to share them. And Facebook and Twitter have adapted to give us the ability to do that. (They also make sure they are utilizing that data for all its worth.)

Where are the places you “check in” the most in Columbia and Howard County? I don’t mean actually checking in on an app, but where do you go/hang out most often?

Shopping area or mall?

Yesterday I realized that if I had been checking in this summer most of them would have been from a comfy chair at home. As the weather gets warmer the lure of the sedentary takes over and air conditioning reigns supreme. My husband nudged me out of my midsummer lethargy and got me out of the house yesterday. I realized how easy it was for me to let my world s…

Open Call

I don’t often resort to outright copy-and-paste but this event looks like a lot of fun and they are trying to get it together on rather short notice. Please share if you know anyone who might be interested.

From the Downtown Columbia Facebook page:

Announcing a special opportunity to participate in a performance workshop THIS SUNDAY with Sophia Brous, one of this year’s Merriweather District Artists In Residence.


No training needed!!

The inaugural Merriweather District Artists in Residence Program is calling out to the community of Columbia and surrounds to be a part of an open-call Performance Workshop this coming weekend July 29th with inaugural MDAir artist in resident artist, Australian/New York-based musician, inter-disciplinary performer, composer and artistic director Sophia Brous.

They need you!!

For her July 2018 artist residence, Brous will create a major, large-scale choral work for hundreds of…

A Fond Farewell

Today marks a momentous occasion in my family. It is the end of summer camp. My daughter has been saying it marks the end of her childhood and I keep trying to tell her that she can keep some of that childhood inside her. But, deep down, I know she is right.

Next summer she will be a high school graduate. She will probably have a job. She will be getting ready to leave for college. Her definition of summer, which has been the same for so many years, will have changed forever.

Columbia and Howard County have many summer camp options, which is a good thing for working parents who need summer child care coverage. For some these camps are essential. For others they are enrichment, which means that somebody, somehow, is able to stay home with the kids. My husband and I are both teachers. We’ve been able to be home during the summers for the most part, and a week or two of summer camp has been a special treat for our daughter, a luxury.

For some of my friends, being able to stay home with thei…

Unknown Territory

There are plenty of people in Howard County that I don’t know. There are entire communities whose concerns don’t turn up on social media or in the newspaper. There are neighborhoods I have never visited. There are languages I don’t speak, fears and struggles I haven’t experienced.

I was talking with a friend the other evening about how important it is for the under-represented in Howard County to be seen and their concerns acknowledged. We talked about how the same small pool of community-minded folks keeps cycling on and off of local boards and committees while we have a continuing need for more diversity. How can those boards be representative of the community they serve when the same people are pressed into service over and over? What are we doing to bring other voices to the table?

My friend mentioned that he feels drawn to examine the places in life that are uncomfortable. Perhaps that means places where he or his world-view are in the minority. Most of us aren’t that brave. I know…

At the Hearing

Today is one of those dreaded “I  ain’t got nothin’” mornings. I went to a meeting/hearing of the Liquor Board last night but I don’t have anything definitive to say about it. I also did not stay until the bitter end so I don’t know how it all played out.

I do know that there were a lot of people gathered in that room last night to claim that Columbia/Howard County just does not have room for one more Mom and Pop business. And that makes me sad. (There actually is a liquor license available, mind you. But somehow we have no room.)

It was interesting to note that quite a few Republican candidates for County Council were in attendance, working the crowd in the lobby before the actual hearing began. They also seemed to be there in support of those opposing the approval of the new business.

My personal favorite testimony from the time I was there was the dedicated customer who said she would travel farther to get to the Loft because of their excellent customer service in the same way that sh…

New Normal

Last night as it poured for at least the fourth time of the day my Twitter feed was filled with people worried about Old Ellicott City.

This is the tweet that stood out to me:

we should take Ellicott City..... and PUSH IT SOMEWHERE ELSE

In fact it’s the severity of recent storms which has been taking Ellicott City and pushing it somewhere else. But not as a whole. In pieces. In shreds of mayhem and destruction. The force of the rushing water does not care what is in its path.

Look at this photograph from the County Executive’s Facebook page. You may already know what it depicts. But what if you didn’t?
Bringing the clock back after the past two massive floods has been a symbol of the fierce will of the community to rise again. And yet, when I look at this photo I see pall-bearers. 

I feel grief.
I’m literally praying that Ellicott City gets through this rain tonight :/ they cant take a third
I hope Ellicott City withstands!
*worried looks at Old Ellicott City again*
Praying for Ellicott City

The Helpers

I awoke to discover that I had slept through a major storm and that the news of the day was not good. A thirteen year veteran of the Howard County Fire Department has died as a result of injuries sustained while fighting a seven alarm fire.

Ever since 9-11 I have been accutely aware of how mind-bogglingly brave firefighters are. They run towards danger and disaster when the rest of us would be running away. They are among the helpers that Mr. Rogers told us to look for.

There was something else my mother did that I’ve always remembered: “Always look for the helpers,” she’d tell me. “There’s always someone who is trying to help.” I did, and I came to see that the world is full of doctors and nurses, police and firemen, volunteers, neighbors and friends who are ready to jump in to help when things go wrong.

(Of course there are more details to this story than one fire and one firefighter. For those details you will need a newspaper. You do subscribe, don’t you?)

But for the Howard County fi…

The Magic Drawing Board

Recently I received this email from our realtor:

The owner of the property you just checked out on Facebook wants to know what you thought about it. On a scale from 1-10, how close is it to what you're looking to buy?

Which house? Oh....that house. Well, no, maybe this house. Hmm...

I responded:

I just like looking at houses! Sorry.

We read all the time and hear on the news about how our data on social media is used by companies looking to sell us something. We understand that, should we do a Google search on end tables, soon a vast array of end tables for sale will appear in our Facebook feeds. 
But this was one step beyond for me. This was very like the moment I had, long ago, when I realized that the Magic Drawing Board on Captain Kangaroo was not really magic, but that a man named Cosmo Allegretti was behind it, invisible, drawing from the back. 
It didn’t make me run screaming from the room. It didn’t make me sign off of all of my social media accounts in fear or disgust. But…

Paradoxical Primary

I’ve been mulling over the most recent episode of Elevate Maryland. It was essentially a “part two” episode analyzing the results of the primary election. The guest is Roger Caplan. You can find the episode here:

Episode 34 with Roger Caplan

I find Mr. Caplan’s views on the District 1 Council race to be puzzling. On the one hand, he describes the incumbent Jon Weinstein as being the scapegoat for citizen unhappiness over issues that had absolutely nothing to do with him. On the other hand, he paints challenger Liz Walsh as being merely the candidate of change who happened to be in the right place at the right time. “Mickey or Minnie Mouse could have won...”

Amazing. Here we have an election where neither candidate has any agency or responsibility. Mr. Weinstein’s own record, for good or ill, had nothing to do with his loss. Ms. Walsh’s qualifications and platform had nothing to do with her success. And, most of all, voters were completely ignorant and would have voted for anybody.

This ma…

Another Farewell

These are the words of Kate Magill:
When you're in person covering a school mtg & are also streaming a gov't mtg b/c you're the only reporter on staff and are literally trying to be in 2 places at once.
These are also the words of Kate Magill:
My turn for *personal news* 

Tomorrow is my last day at @HoCoTimes. I've loved covering Howard County, but am excited for my next adventure spending a year in Shanghai, China.
Ms. Magill has burned brightly and burned her candle at both ends while covering our community for the Howard County Times. She has done at least the work of two reporters for much of the time she’s been here. 
And now, like the talented journalists before her, she is moving on.
I hesitate to lament this state of affairs because, every time I do, a host of helpful men take to the comments and explain how I just don’t understand journalism today. 
I do understand, really I do, oh helpful and knowledge men. I am grateful for every single journalist who has put in…


It started early yesterday morning. Banging, thumping. Our new neighbor must be having some kind of work done. I think when I met her the other day she said something about all new floors.

Bang, bang, bang. Pause. Thump, thump, thump.

We live in a community of quadroplexes: houses built in groups of four. The back wall of our house is connected to our neighbor to the right. It has rarely been an issue, except when I worry that my husband’s guitar playing (with amp, mind you) might be reverberating through the connection. We once shared a mouse. My neighbor finally caught it on her side.

Recently our beloved neighbor moved. I’ve been on the lookout to meet the new one. I want to be the kind of good neighbor that our old neighbor always was for us. And so I did stop to introduce myself and my daughter when I saw her head towards the house next door. She seemed a bit surprised that anyone would do that.

She’s young, confident. Firm handshake. That’s really all I know so far.

Bang, bang, bang.…

Parks and Privilege

I’m pretty sure they have their hearts in the right place, but I’m going to put this in the category of things that might go horribly wrong:

Howard's parks seeking to enlist alert volunteers for safety watches by Leah Brennan for Howard County Times

From the article:

Howard County is looking to enlist regular visitors to its parks to become additional “eyes and ears” of the Recreation and Parks Department.  The county on Monday rolled out a Park Watch program, which seeks to bolster safety and deter crime through a system that will use trained volunteers observing park activity to alert rangers, who contact county police for anything that would be pursued criminally. What could go wrong with that, you ask? Isn’t this just a common sense way to appeal to the community to help keep our parks safe?

I’m afraid I can’t look at this initiative in a vacuum. After reading regular reports from across the country where white people have called the police to report people of color engaged in “susp…

Staying Local

Yesterday’s feeling of foreboding upon awakening did not get one bit better as the day progressed.

I’m putting in my two weeks commuting daily to Bethesda so my daughter can go to camp. To all of you who regulary do such commutes: I’m sorry. You have my condolences. It is truly a soul-sucking experience.

The drive down yesterday afternoon was made somewhat less dreary by listening to the most recent episode of the Elevate Maryland podcast, with guest Roger Caplan. They continued with the analysis of the primary election begun on the previous episode with Dylan Goldberg. I found what they didn’t discuss almost as fascinating as what they did. More on that later this week, perhaps tomorrow.

A recently-eleminated BOE Candidate popped up on social media last evening making gloom and doom predictions and spreading incendiary rumours. It almost seemed as though her account had been hacked by a previous (ousted) board member. Hmm...One can only wonder how such tactics would have played out had …


Five thirty am.
My iPad says I have internet and yet I can’t connect to anything except for Facebook. No Twitter. No Google. No Blogger. Yes, I have tried resetting the home internet connection. As I sit here as the darkness turns into light I am the only person awake at my house. 

I am alone with my fears. I ponder the possibility that I might still be asleep and this is a bad dream.

I wonder if my inability to connect to the Internet is some kind of sabotage. Yes, that may seem paranoid or wacky to you, but, what would be the quickest way to keep citizens from mobilizing? Cut off their ability to get information and to connect.
The current political situation fills me with dread.
Everything that I believe in about this country is being destroyed. I am heartsick. I am soul sick. Each new day brings another betrayal of our democracy and our basic human values. And so it is not too far-fetched to believe that malevolent forces have taken down most, if not all, of the Internet. 
Perhaps when …


My teen daughter and I were driving home on Little Patuxent Parkway yesterday after the dance party at the Chrysalis. As we passed the site of the former Copeland’s Restaurant, she mentioned that she wished they would do something with that space.

“What do you think they should do with it?”

She had two thoughts. One was a restaurant with a creepy, haunted New Orleans vibe. But she reckoned that would only be popular around Halloween. The other was some kind of retro restaurant where you could eat dinner and watch old movies. It was important to to her that the old building be significant to the rebirth of the place.

As for me, I have always assumed that the site would be razed and new owners would start from scratch. Unless someone wants to do a brand new version of Copeland’s I think that the present architecture is too confining for other restaurant “concepts”.

We’ve had such a rush of new restaurant openings recently that I can hardly imagine that we need another one. But if I were to …

A Maryland Morning

I’ve got a gig at the Chrysalis to prepare for, so I’m sending you over to Mike Harley’s blog this morning for his take on all things Maryland.

A Weekend and a Lifetime in Maryland

What do you love best about Maryland?

Catastrophe al Fresco

Yesterday morning the air was pleasant and cool. I decided to go outside with my breakfast and summer reading and enjoy the weather out on our back patio. As I planted myself in my favorite chair  the canvas fabric suddenly gave way and—boom!—I was on the cold stone patio floor.

Well, my bottom was on the floor. The rest of my body was entangled in the chair. I was covered in rice crispies and blackberries, and I could barely move. I squirmed and wriggled a bit but it was soon apparent that I was stuck. Seriously stuck.

Slowly I found a way to snake one arm out the side and place my cereal bowl and book on a side table. It took another few minutes to figure out which pocket my phone was in and then to actually extract it. I was pretty well hemmed in on all sides. I texted my teenaged daughter who was in the house. She came immediately,

Let me say now that I completely forgive her for her initial reaction, which was laughter, followed by a hasty apology. I’m sure I did look pretty hilario…

Getting Salty in Columbia

Big news, HoCo:

(From an article in Baltimore Business Journal, “Utz leases Columbia warehouse space to distribute its salty snacks locally,” by Melody Simmons.)

When I shared this news on social media yesterday it was met with great enthusiasm. So I guess I’m not the only local who is a fan of Utz products. I discovered some time ago that they use substantially less salt than Lay’s, and I prefer that. And I want my family to eat less salt as well.
To be clear, Utz will not be making their products here. This is simply a warehouse for distribution. So, despite the lovely thoughts in my imagination of factory tours and free samples, you still have to go to PA for that
The aforementioned warehouse is on McGaw, which I always mix up with Berger Road. Ah, yes. McGaw is the one that runs by Wegman’s and the restaurant park with Jason’s Deli. (Berger is the site of the now-defunct Daedalus books.)  You would be driving on McGaw away from Snowden River Parkway, through the intersection at Dobb…

The Magic Window

I overslept and missed the ”magic window” this morning. Now, the truth is that I am on summer break and there should be no such thing as over-sleeping, but the blog must go on. And the blog seems to like to get out into the world between 6:15 and 7:15. It doesn’t care if I am on vacation. The rest of the world is still getting up with the kids or getting up and off to work (or both) and has no time for this over-sleeping nonsense.

There will be a recount in the District 1 County Council race today. I don’t have much to say about that except that those who support one side cannot be defined solely as “ladder-kickers” while those of the other side cannot be accurately stamped as purely “conspiring with developers.” Having witnessed a few online discussions since primary day, I am not sure we’re making any progress on this one. Sigh.

I got some good feedback on yesterday’s post about a new liquor store project from Tom Quick of Cindy’s in Elkridge. It all seemed to fall within these three …

Needs and Wants

Do you shop at Wegman’s in Columbia?

I do. Well, actually, Instacart brings my orders to me most of the time these days.

Do you purchase wine, beer, or spirits on a regular or semi-regular basis?

I don’t.  I occasionally get a drink when I’m at a party or in a restaurant. But that’s about it.

But enough about me, what about you?

Would you like to be able to have the convenience of doing your grocery shopping at Wegman’s and then being able to pop in a nearby liquor store as a part of your trip? Do you think that our community overall supports being able to take advantage of such an opportunity?

If you have followed the story of Wegman’s and a possible liquor store on their second floor, you know it goes back to the opening of the store. The folks at Wegman’s thought that having an accompanying liquor store would be a welcome service for their customers. But, between the law in the state of Maryland, a perfectly dreadful management choice, plus well-funded opposition from area liquor stores,…

Not Quite

I’m working on a longer piece. It’s not ready yet. Boy, do I ever hate that feeling on a Monday morning.

Yesterday I took my daughter out for her first behind the wheel driving lesson. I was very grateful for the peace and quiet of the Oakland Mills Middle School parking lot. It would have been perfect except for the rather large man buzzing by on a really tiny motorcycle. What’s up with that?

Also yesterday: was told off on two separate occasions by two different men for having “motives” or an “agenda” when, in fact, they did not know me or my thoughts from a hole in the ground. Twice in one day seems excessive, but perhaps I wish too much from conversations on Facebook.

Close races seem to abound this year, and not just in Howard County. If you’d like to learn more about John Olszewski, who holds a nine vote lead in the Baltimore County Executive Race, you can listen to his interview on the Elevate Maryland podcast.

Community blogger and expert on growing and eating local AnnieRie is ba…

Magical Memories

I went to the Chrysalis Kids concert yesterday. It was a joint venture with Howard County Rec and Parks. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect. The featured musicians were a group out of DC called The Grandsons, Jr. I loved hearing the variety of instruments they used. It’s not every day that children’s performers come equipped with a saxophone. 
The concert was set up using the smaller beta stage, which has really been working beautifully for the children’s performances this summer. There’s still plenty of room on the lawn for the audience, but it gives a much more intimate feel to the presentation. There were snacks and drinks available for kids and adults, plus the Kona Ice truck and face painting. And, for the more active concert goers, the ever-popular Imagination Playground was set up on the other side of the lawn. 
Through the years I’ve heard many fascinating stories about what it was like to grow up as a first-generation Columbian. I wish there were a way to go back in ti…


Of course the big news of the last twenty four hours is the final count in the District One County Council race. (See more here.) I think that there will very likely be a recount, so I don’t think this is quite over yet.

I do have a few questions in my mind about this outcome.

1) Is there any way to show voter results broken down by gender? I would be interested to see that. Based purely on anecdotal evidence, it seems to me that Mr. Weinstein had more difficulty connecting with women in the electorate. I do not mean that I think that women voted for Ms. Walsh purely because of her gender, but rather than she was more successful in responding to/interacting with women during this campaign cycle. While we are on this train of thought, was the turnout for women higher than that for men?

I’m curious.

2) What would a County Council without any incumbents look like? What happens when you lose one hundred percent of your institutional knowledge? Will that have an impact on how much time is spen…

Can’t Get No Respect

I admit that this is dated June 28th or thereabouts but it’s still bugging me.

Do you see anything wrong here? Councilwoman Jen Terrasa wins her primary race and she can’t even get her photo heading the newspaper article.


It isn’t as though HoCo Times/Balt Sun doesn't have any photos of Ms. Terrasa on file. They most certainly do, from her years on the Council. So why couldn’t she be the focus here?

The headline suggested by the photo above is more likely:

Outgoing State Delegate Frank Turner reflects on a career of public service.

Or, perhaps:

Retiring State Delegate surveys changes to dynamics in Annapolis

In a less serious vein, one might caption this photo:

Retiring Delegate to political newcomers: Get off my lawn!


“Look! My suit matches the wall color perfectly!”

With all due respect to Delegate Turner, his photo should not appear here at all.

Let’s try this, from Ms. Terrasa’s web site.

The ongoing bias which results in the erasure of women from the news is fairly widespread. …

Unlikely Opponents

I don’t know exactly when it started, but there’s a war going on in my Twitter feed. It’s not a war of words but a war of advertising dominance.

When I go to Twitter I either see this:

Or this:

Notice what is in the second spot of each. An advert. Or promoted content, if you will. For some reason the Popsicle brand and Allan Kittleman are going at it daily in my Twitter feed. It’s kind of funny. This is a political matchup that Howard County was not expecting.

In this heat, Mr. Kittleman is bound to take a drubbing against such a cool, refreshing opponent.

I do not know how social media advertising works and I do not know why someone, somewhere thinks I am a prime target for Popsicle and Kittleman ads. I am assuming that they are tailored to some category I am presumed to fit into, and that not all of you are seeing this unlikely matchup. You may have noticed equally amusing trends on your own Twitter feed.

So far neither ad has influenced my behavior. I feel a bit sorry that advertising do…