Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Traffic Tsunami

The BRAC coordinator for HoCo is a guy named Kent Menser. Kent regularly sends out an email newsletter called “BRAC Bits” to all interested stakeholders in the activities at Fort Meade.

Yesterday I received BRAC Bit #83. It summed up the coming jobs tsunami quite succinctly.

“The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), Defense Media Activity (DMA) and Adjudication Co-location Buildings are on schedule and the first DISA contingent will be in their new building in January 2011. The total square feet of these three buildings total approximately 1.3 million square feet. But, when it comes to Fort Meade construction, BRAC is just the beginning. The installation has a number of new buildings and building expansions on the books, the biggest being the construction of the “Cyber Campus” on the remainder of the golf courses. This campus will consist of DISA, DMA, Cyber Command Headquarters and elements of NSA. In fact, the NSA portion of this campus may total up to 5.8 million square feet of new construction.”

Those won’t be empty square feet either. They’ll be filled with lots of engineers and all manner of information technology professionals. Most of these people will commute to work by car.

“Fort Meade-related growth, including the expansion of NSA's main campus on Fort Meade, is generating unprecedented transportation challenges for the region. Altogether, the Fort Meade workforce – together with major concentrations of private sector jobs in the immediate Fort Meade area – can be expected to more than double from today's 50,000 level to roughly 120,000 by the 2025 – 2030 time frame. Assuming today's Fort Meade-related commuting patterns remain essentially as they are today – with an average one-way commute of about 20 miles – mitigating the regional impact of this growth would require construction of about 250 lane-miles of new arterial highway capacity at a cost of $4.3 billion.”

This helps put the Town Center redevelopment plans into a better perspective. Columbia has the opportunity to provide housing for 5,000 of these new workers in an area adjacent to a four lane divided highway with grade separated interchanges to the north ( Route 175) and south (Broken Land Parkway) of the redevelopment zone. You would be hard pressed to find a more compatible place for channeling growth.

No matter what HoCo does or doesn’t do, the job growth at Fort Meade is going to happen and throughout the county traffic will increase. Workers from adjacent counties will flow into and out of HoCo in unprecedented numbers.

It’s both a challenge and an opportunity.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Another company’s growing pains has given me pain this week. Martek Biosciences is expanding their headquarters’ offices in the Columbia Business Center on Dobbin Road. I think they are taking over another 16,000 square feet or so in the nine building office park. We are in their way.

Our operation occupies a pleasant little 1,600 square foot suite just across a tree lined sidewalk from Martek. I see the Martek people in their offices every time I go in and out of my office. We smile politely at each other. Sometimes we nod our heads. We’ve been together for over two years now.

Now they are consuming our space.

It’s not all so bad of course. Our landlord has gone beyond his lease obligation to relocate us to comparable space and cover our costs. He threw in a couple of nice upgrades to keep us happy.

The best part is that we’ll now get cable. Comcast hadn’t wired up our current building yet. The new building is wired.

Still, moving is a pain in the you know what. Last week we packed, today the systems furniture guys dismantled our systems. Our tech guy is having issues with Comcast on the switchover to their service and if there is something I really need it is undoubtedly buried in a mismarked box somewhere.

On the other hand a growing Martek is good for Columbia, good for HoCo and good for Maryland.

No pain, no gain.

Winging It

Last Friday Senator Jim Robey was scheduled to be our guest on the podcast. On Wednesday we found out that he would instead be attending a funeral of a family friend. We rescheduled the show for this Thursday.

The next question for Paul and I was what to do about this time slot. Paul had lined up a potential last minute fill in, Dave Yungmann but we weren’t sure if talking about the latest challenges for the New City Alliance was enough to fill a show.

“We could always talk about the local real estate market too,” I suggested. “A lot people are interested in the current state of home values in HoCo.”

In the end our producer convinced us that we could make a go of it and so we did.

From my perspective at least it didn’t turn out half bad. Of course it didn’t hurt that both Paul and I know Dave so there was a comfortable familiarity to the exchanges. Still he was a little more reticent and guarded than when we’re just having beers. His views on the difference in home values between Columbia and Ellicott City were interesting.

You can listen to our first “winging it” podcast here.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Scene This Week In…

Occasionally when I’m driving around HoCo I’ll spot something that makes me double back for a picture. This combination mailbox / recycling bin in Ellicott City created one of those moments.

I wonder what they do on recycling day.

In Columbia I spotted this bumper sticker on a car in the parking lot of the Fairway Hills Golf Club in the Village of Dorsey’s Search. I couldn’t help but think that this candidate should enjoy good name recognition.

After all who doesn’t like a party?

“It’s actually pronounced par tea.,” Will Partee told me. Will works at the golf club and he told me that the bumper sticker is actually for his son, Derek Partee who is running as a Republican in the 2nd Legislative District of Nassau County, New York.

It’s been a pretty wild race so far. The incumbent, Democrat Roger Corbin, has just been sentenced to 18 months in federal prison for tax evasion.

Will told me that there is another New York politician in the family too. The current governor of New York, David A. Patterson, is his nephew. Governor Patterson has had a rough year too.

Will told me that his family name proved to be asset when he was in college.

Good point. You can’t have a party without Partee now can you?

River Rats

Yesterday Mama Wordbones and I sought a brief respite from the record breaking heat in the waters of the Patapsco River. The river is about a mile from our front door and its tree lined banks seemed a better cooling option than our shade deprived neighborhood pool.

As any regular reader of this blog knows I am a big fan of the river and the state park on HoCo’s northern border.
There were lots of great scenes along the river such as this heron who seemed to actually enjoy having his picture taken.

The best scene though was this pile of garbage that had obviously been collected earlier by other visitors to the river. Whenever I see something like this it totally restores my faith in people. A wag of the wordbones tail to all those who leave the river cleaner than they found it.

Nicely done.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Political Brew

I ran into Len Lazerick at the Ellicott Mills Brewing Company last Thursday night. He was wrapping up an interview with a potential replacement for Andy Rosen. Len and Andy started Maryland Reporter last year and now Andy has been lured away by The Sun.

I’ve known Len a long time. He has been reporting on Maryland politics since I started paying attention.

I offered to buy him a drink and, like any veteran writer worth his ink, he accepted. As we knocked back a few he made a comment about and the Democratic minefield in District 12.

Len observed that Ed Kasemeyer appears to be walking a very careful line in Council District 4 and Legislative District 12B these days. His senate district encompasses both of these districts as well as Dundalk. For years this was easy turf for Mr. Ed. All he had to do was take care of Liz and Liz would take care of him. He never really even needed to come to Columbia much less campaign here.

There is a different dynamic at play this year. This year Council District 4 has a primary challenge and Legislative District 12 B has a primary challenger. Loyalties are sharply divided in the Democratic camp in these zip codes.

So far Ed has played it straight down the middle. He has attended events for both Liz and for Mary Kay. I doubt he’ll make an appearance for John Bailey or Alan Klein, at least not anytime soon.

We also shared a laugh about the political travails of Delegate Joseph Bartlett.

Joe represents Frederick County in the General Assembly and is the son of Congressman Roscoe Bartlett. The conservative Republican has been charging the taxpayers of the Free State $123.00 a night for staying at his girlfriends’ house in Annapolis when the assembly is in session.

She must have a really nice place.

This is yet another reason why we need to rethink this whole House of Delegates thing.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Phone Phace

At lunch yesterday I experienced another bout of iPhone envy. My podcast co-host, Paul Skalny, has just gotten a new iPhone G4 and everyone who stopped by our table wanted to play with it. That wasn’t so bad but what really stung was that everyone who stopped by already had some version of the iPhone, including our waitress.

Dave Bittner showed Paul a funny app called “Mouth Off.” Paul proceeded to download the free app onto his new phone and joined in the fun. I tried to do the same with my Droid but in the Droid app store Mouth Off isn’t free. I haven’t paid for an app yet and I wasn’t about to do so at this particular moment. I silently stewed and ate my lunch while my colleagues played.

I’ve been thinking about mobile phones since I noticed that a store called Best Buy Mobile was coming to the Mall. Though the new “mobile-specific” store has been around since 2006 this was the first I had heard of it. Currently the closest store to HoCo is in either Wheaton or Annapolis.

So why is Best Buy opening stand alone stores exclusively for “mobile-specific” market?

The answer is that that independent mobile phone stores, those stores not connected to a specific carrier like Verizon or AT&T, are the future of mobile phone retailing. According to this story by Elizabeth Woyke in Forbes, “As the data airwaves open up and customers can "unlock" their phones from their carriers, phone makers are beginning to wonder whether it makes good business sense for them to foot the bill of running retail shops.”

“And that's just the kind of opportunity that Best Buy (nyse: BBY - news - people ) has been hoping to see for years. Best Buy, which operates more than 900 stores across the United States and reported $39.5 billion in revenue over a trailing 12-month period, has some big ambitions: It wants to grow its share of the mobile market from 2% to a double-digit figure in the next five years.”

Paul told me that seven of the attorneys in his office switched from Blackberries to iPhone 4G’s this week. The ones I spoke with all commented on how much more fun the iPhones were than the Blackberries.

Tell me about it. I’ll bet by now they’ve all downloaded Mouth Off...for free.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Phil’s Folly

The $3 million software screw up by the Columbia Association was closely looked after by CA board member Phil Kirsch (Wilde Lake). Phil likes to remind people that he has experience in developing computer systems and my sources tell me that he was heavily involved in overseeing this technological train wreck. In this story by Andrei Blakely in the Howard County Times from three years ago, Phil was quoted as saying “I don't know if I've ever seen a computer system that came in on time. It's not a car, where you can go out and kick the tires."

It looks like Phil was pretty prescient. At the time that article was written the Performance and Oversight Committee of the board had been just reviewed a prototype of the new system. The chair of this committee at that time was Cynthia Coyle, the current chair of the board. The committee said they expected the new software to be operational for the public by April of 2008.

“Cynthia Coyle, of Harper's Choice, the chairwoman of the committee, said that she has grown somewhat impatient waiting for the computer system to debut.

"The briefing was great, but we still don't have a product," Coyle said. "I'm very pleased with where it's going. I'd like to see it get there."

If she was so impatient back in 2007 why did it take this long to pull the plug on the project at that point?

In 2006 two senior staff members, Donna Dupree and Rafia Siddiqui spent four months in India “helping the company write codes for the new software.”

Four months seems like an awful long time for two people to work on code who aren’t computer programmers, but hey, what do I know.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Sign Games

A few posts back I made a comment about seeing Ehrlich yard signs around HoCo but no O’Malley signs. I know this isn’t indictive of lopsided loco support for the former guv over the current guv so I wondered what was up.

It’s sign games with a dash of the first amendment thrown in.

Loco HoCo sign code prohibits political yard signs from going up until sixty days prior to the primaries, which would be about July 16th, so the Repubs are breaking the law.

On the other hand, Baltimore County has a similar sign restriction that is being challenged in the courts by the American Civil Liberties Union as a violation of a citizens first amendment rights to freedom of speech.

The word on the street is the HoCo Office of Law has been told by the Ulman administration to back off on enforcement of the code until this challenge has been resolved. The Dems don’t want to be accused of stifling free speech in an election year.

I expect we’ll be seeing O’Malley signs springing up shortly.

This is one of the reasons why elections are sometimes referred to as the silly season.

Happy Birthday Columbia and BWI

Today, BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport turns sixty. On Monday, Columbia turned forty three. It is somewhat appropriate that these developments celebrate their birthdays in the same week since each one has contributed to the others growth and prosperity.

From its very beginnings Columbia’s developers touted it’s proximity to the airport to entice businesses to locate in HoCo. For the airport, the residential and commercial growth in Columbia contributed to the rapid passenger growth at the airport. According to this story by Michael Dresser in The Sun, BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport is “one of only two large U.S. airports to grow in 2009.”

“Today, the airport is the nation's 23rd busiest, serving about 21 million passengers a year, and a mainstay of the regional economy. An important base for low-cost carriers, BWI is estimated to support about 22,000 jobs as it handles more than a quarter-million takeoffs and landings a year.”

The airport has gone through a series of makeovers over its sixty years and today’s passenger terminal bears little resemblance to the passenger terminal that President Harry Truman dedicated back in 1950. Similarly, Columbia is about to embark on its own makeover with the recently adopted Town Center redevelopment legislation.

At a Columbia birthday celebration held last night at the lakefront in Town Center, the redevelopment plans were welcomed by the speakers and about 100 attendees. Curiously, though several politicians and political candidates mingled with the crowd not one single member of the Columbia Council attended the event.

Perhaps they are afraid to show their faces in light of the $3 million computer software fiasco.

More on that story later today.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Schools Out…finally

At long last HoCo public school students are officially done with the 2009-2010 school year. Thanks to the Big Kahuna snow event this past February, they were almost in school until the 4th of July.

Though it may not be forever, school is definitely out…. for….summer…

Have fun until August 30th!

Liz Gets Top Green Ranking

The Maryland League of Conservation Voters has released their 2010 scorecard for the Maryland General Assembly. The only HoCo state legislator to receive a 100% ranking from the supposedly non partisan organization is Delegate Liz Bobo.

I say supposedly because the ranking differential between the Repubs and the Dems is so lopsided it strains credibility. On the average, House of Delegates Dems earned a ranking of 89% while Repubs earned a ranking of 46%. In the Senate, the average score for Dems was 68% while the average score for Repubs was 25%.

In his blog, Delegate Mike Smigiel, an eastern shore Repub, points up a major flaw in the leagues methodology.

"The League of Conservation Voters is only counting the first vote on bills and not the later vote on the same bill, after amendments, which is passed and then sent to the governor for his signature, where it then becomes law. It would seem if your intent is tell the public where a legislator is on the environment it would be better to tell them where he or she ended up and not where they started out. It is much more likely that Democrats would vote for a bill that is full of what Republicans may consider to be excessive regulations or taxes when it is first introduced. It is usually after a public hearing and an opportunity to amend bills in committee and on the floor that Republicans would come on board and find that the bill, having gone through compromise, is now acceptable."

Not surprisingly, Senator Alan Kittleman gets one of the lowest rankings from MLCV. His 2010 score was 10%. I wonder if that has anything to do with his staunch support of the poultry industry.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Error Message for CA

The Columbia Association has been working on a new customer service software program for over four years. It’s not anywhere close to being finished.

According to this story by Jennifer Broadwater in The Columbia Flier, “this week announced another setback in the launch of its long-awaited Customer Service System — software that’s been under development since 2006 and is intended to vastly modernize the way members sign up and pay for CA programs.”


Four years can be a lifetime for information technologies. To put that into perspective, four years ago nobody ever heard of an app or an iPhone.

So far the homeowners association has spent almost $3 million for a program that’s buggier than an Arkansas summer. I seem to recall that some CA senior staff even traveled to India at one point to assist in the programs development. Now they are going to spend even more money to see if someone can salvage this mess.

“The CA board of directors has approved Nelson’s recommendations to hire the outside firm to evaluate the software and also to hire an outside project manager to launch the system.”

You can’t really pin this screw up on Phil Nelson, the association president. He has only been on the job for a little more than a year. Perhaps the finger is better pointed towards certain CA board members who have been around since this project was initiated, such as the current chair, Cynthia Coyle.

25th Anniversary of the BWI Business Partnership

I attended the annual meeting of the BWI Business Partnership this morning at the BWI Marriott on West Nursey Road. The partnership was formed in 1985 to promote “the development of commuter services and the support of transportation infrastructure for employees working in and around the BWI Airport area.”

The organization has grown from its six public/private founders to 170 members today. This year the National Security Agency was recognized as the Partnerships Employer of the Year.

The past twenty five years have been a period of explosive growth in around the airport. In 1985 the airport handled 7.8 million passengers; last year it handled 21 million. Twenty five years ago there were four hotels serving the airport area; today there are 44. In twenty five years the airport area has added a light rail system connecting to Baltimore, a 12.6 mile bike trail around the airport and the airport itself has undergone a $1.8 billion expansion and renovation.

The BWI Amtrak station has grown right along with the airport and is now the 15th busiest train station in the Amtrak network.

HoCo’s economic fortunes are closely intertwined with the airport area of AA Co and the public and private sector of HoCo was well represented accross the border today.

At breakfast I had the pleasure of sitting next to Willie Wright, the general manger of the 302 room hotel. It turns out that Willie lives in Columbia (Village of Harpers Choice) and has a son in the very HoCo public school system we’ve been discussing lately.

Happy Anniversary!

Monday, June 21, 2010

An Ominous Endorsement

David Thalheimer makes no bones about his admiration of HoCo school board member, Allen Dyer. In this story by John-John Williams in The Sun, David refers to Dyer as his “friend and supporter.”

I happen to think that Allen Dyer is the worst member of the eight member board. I’m not alone in that opinion either. Among other things Allen believes that the school system “should not give parents the right to censor what their children see, because that’s what this is censorship.”

He also doesn’t believe in providing public school buses for parochial schools. He claims that the county is constitutionally barred from doing this. Forget for a moment that county taxpayers who send their kids to private schools are saving the county money.

He also has some scary ideas about individual property rights.

Allen likes David too. “Dyer said the board needs Thalheimer.”

This is the very reason why elected school boards are not always a good idea. Not enough people dial down to the school board level when tuning into to local politics. Go ahead, try and name at two least other members of the current board without looking it up. In his blog, Frank Hecker recently wrote an excellent post about this very subject.

“Most voters, including me, do not have the time, energy, or background to make an informed decision on each and every elected position, which means that in practice the more secondary elected positions like school board will end up being decided by a minority of voters that is not necessarily representative of voters as a whole.”

That’s how a guy like Allen Dyer gets elected to the board.

This is no small issue either. HoCo has one of the best public school systems in the country. It is vital to the economic health and welfare of our county. Contrary to David Thalheimers opinion the HoCo Public School Systems is not broken.

“Thalheimer has been unhappy with several aspects of how the education system has been managed, including fiscal accountability, redistricting, school choice, curriculum quality and a lack of transparency.

"The more I read about the failings of this nation's public system of education, the more strongly I feel about the need to make a difference," he said. "We are falling behind the rest of the developed world in math and science education, and I believe this is because our public school systems are largely dysfunctional."

Hey David, it may be failing elsewhere, but it’s not failing here in HoCo.

Summer Solstice

Though it has felt like summer for the past couple of weeks, today marks the official start of the summer season.

It is also the longest day of the year.

As ventured out in the 90 degree plus heat today I thought of this couple I spotted sitting in the middle of the Patapsco River this past Saturday. They sure figured out a good way to beat the heat.

Love Thy Neighbor

click to enlarge
A few weeks ago I received an email from a Tales of Two Cities reader about a turf war going on between the residents of the Legacy at Ellicott Mills Phase 1 and Phase 2. The conflict between the two active adult communities has escalated to the point where the Phase 1 residents have now gated off their community from Phase 2, denying Phase 2 residents direct access to Route 104.

Needless to say the residents of Phase 2 are not happy about this development. Though they are not cut off from Route 104, they now must travel an additional quarter mile down a narrow road with a blind ninety degree turn in order to get in and out of their community.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. The developer, Don Ruewer, had intended for Phase 2 to have an easement through Phase 1 but apparently that easement was never properly recorded. The directions to the builders Phase 2 model home still take you through the road that is now blocked with a locked gate.

The Phase 1 residents are well within their rights. The road in question, Water Grove Lane, is a private road. Its maintenance and upkeep are the sole responsibility of the Phase 1 homeowners association.

When I first heard about this I was already to pounce on the Phase 1 residents for being lousy neighbors. As I looked deeper into the dispute I discovered that this is more complicated than the gate that one local wag referred to as the Berlin Wall. Apparently Phase 1 residents were willing to keep their road open to the Phase 2ers so long as the Phase 2ers were willing to contribute to Water Grove Lane’s upkeep.

I can only guess that those discussions didn’t go all that well, hence the gate.

I spoke with another source that is very close to the situation who told me that there is yet another dynamic at play here. This source, who has asked to remain anonymous, told me that Phase 2 residents don’t like driving through the old Grove Angle Road neighborhood to get to their new homes. This neighborhood is a mix of good and bad with tidy homes sitting next to homes with broken down vehicles parked in the yard. Some Phase 2 active adults believe this devalues their homes.

Are these all great neighbors or what?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Savages in Savage

It seems as if outsiders are destroying the peaceful tranquility of Savage lately. According to this story by Kellie Woodhouse in The Howard County Times residents recently gathered to address the problem of “large weekend crowds from outside the area have made it difficult to enjoy the trail and picnic area near the river.”

HoCo Police Chief, Willam McMahon met with about 100 residents last week who demanded action from his department.

“They say that the crowds drink alcohol, swim in the river, leave trash along the river bank, bring unleashed dogs and park in no-parking zones. They also contend that there has been theft and vandalism in the area.”

It seems that the police have had some difficulty distinguishing between the Savages and the Savages.

“Police said they had not cracked down on illegal parking, drinking or swimming because they wanted Savage residents to enjoy the area as they’re accustomed to.”

And then there’s that…

Happy Dad’s Day

Mama Wordbones asked me what I’d like to do this afternoon for Fathers Day. One of my choices was to go to the grocery store with her.

I passed. The truth is, on a hot day like today I’d prefer to sit in the shade with a beer, a book, and my feet in the river.
Happy Fathers Day to all my fellow dads out there.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Saturday Housekeeping

Is it just me or are there in fact more Ehrlich yard signs in HoCo than O’Malley signs?

In fact, I regularly drive all over the county and I’ve yet to see any O’Malley yard signs. I have seen plenty for the former guv though.

Bita Dayhoff has breathed new life and energy into the Community Action Council. In her short tenure she has negotiated with the HoCo Food Bank landlord for a complete renovation of the facility and started a food bank community garden to provide fresh produce and vegetables to the food bank families. She has only been president of the organization since last October.

Oh yeah, she also relocated and expanded the North Laurel-Savage Multi Service Center to a multi use project Route 1 redevelopment project where many of the clients that the Community Action Council serves live in apartments in the same building. It should open by the end of the month.

I’ve actually had the pleasure of working with her over the past year. She is a force of nature.

When I posted about the Audrey Robbins Humanitarian Awards I never mentioned the winners. That isn’t right. My bad. The honorees were, Donna Wells (Employee of the Year), Kathleen Dugan (Volunteer of the Year), NAMI-Howard County (Volunteer Team of the Year) and Susan Rosenbaum (Lifetime Achievement Award).

In my post about Newsweek’s rankings of the 1,623 best high schools in the country I inadvertently left out Howard High School (1089) which put the Lions ahead of Reservoir, Atholton, and Hammond. Thanks and a wag of the wordbones tail to commenter DanaSr for pointing this out.

Have a great Saturday.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Playing Hooky

It was one of those rare occasions when the stars were perfectly aligned in my favor. Yesterday Jim 1 asked if I could get away for a round of golf today. I had one 9:00 AM appointment on my calendar and the balance of the work day was a clean slate.

“I’m in,” I told him, “as long as we don’t get started before 11.”

Jim 1 got us a 10:58 tee time at Hobbits Glen. That worked.

I should note here that I am not an avid golfer. In fact I usually refer to my game as golful. I do however enjoy spending four hours outdoors with good friends playing a game.

Today Jim 2 and HAJ rounded out our foursome. All four of us are about the same age and Jim 2 was only the only avid golfer amongst us. Jim 2 has already played at least once this week. It’s been over a month for me.

We couldn’t have picked a nicer day either. It was hot but not humid. There was a light breeze and the golf course was in the best shape I’ve ever seen it.

In the past I have been critical of CA’s management of HoCo’s premier golf course. It was only five years or so ago that many long time members quit in disgust over the condition of the course.

That certainly isn’t the case today. The greens were as green as an Irish spring. The course was in overall excellent condition.

Hobbits also enjoys an awesome natural setting. This means that players must often share the space with the full time residents.
It was a great day to play hooky. I don’t feel guilty at all.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A Little Help from My Friends

I have plenty of things I want to write about right now but I just haven’t had the time. My real world job has been particularly demanding of late, not to mention the aforementioned tussle with Japanese Beetles.

Before I write about anything else though, I want to give a big shout out to James P. Howard II. Thanks to the wizardly skills of James, Tales of Two Cities is now hooked up with Disqus for commenting. This is the same platform employed by fellow HoCo blogger, HoCo Rising.

James and I met at the Shipleys Grant Starbucks this evening with our kids in tow. James had his 10 month old boy, Kermit and I was accompanied by my almost twelve year old daughter, Peanut. Kermit has the attention span of a gnat. While James worked his wizardry with the website I made funny faces and gestures to keep him somewhat amused. Peanut was content to sit by herself with her Mocha Frappuccino and her book about monsters.

While he tinkered away we talked a little of local politics. He thanked me for the endorsement of Mary Kay but chided me a bit for my support of Dennis Schrader. James is a big fan of Jen Terrasa. I can’t seem to get away from her lately.

I did suggest to James that Jen will be tough to beat. The Dems have gerrymandered District 3 into one of the strongest Dem districts in the county. Anyone with a (D) behind their name has huge advantage out of the starting blocks, even in a year with anti incumbent fever.

About the time my entertainment of Kermit had run its course, James had finished up with the install. Soon enough we were in the parking lot heading our separate ways.

How about a comment or two just to see if this thing really works now?

District 4 Council Endorsement

When I made my first endorsement last month I said I was going to do the easy ones first. The District 4 council race certainly qualifies in that regard. Currently there are four people vying for this seat which encompasses most of west Columbia. Tom D’Asto, Jeff Underwood, and Alan Klein are the challengers and Mary Kay Sigaty is the incumbent seeking reelection.

Of the three challengers, Alan Klein is the only one I know well. In five years of community activism Alan has demonstrated an ability to be an obstructionist but he hasn’t shown that he is capable of actually getting anything done. Even his affordable housing allies abandoned him in the Town Center redevelopment legislation when they reached an innovative compromise with General Growth Properties. With a failing village center and a district that includes all of Columbia Town Center, District 4 needs someone who has demonstrated an ability to get things done for the people of the district.

Mary Kay has done all that. Though the Wilde Lake village center has continued to flounder during her first term in office it is not due to a lack of effort on her part. Mary Kay spearheaded new legislation to unlock some of the barriers to redeveloping the Columbia village centers and the result of that effort is just now starting to bear fruit. On Town Center redevelopment she worked tirelessly to insure that the county’s urban core is developed in a manner that protects the environment, property values, and future generations. There is still work to be done in Town Center with the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance and the Design Advisory Panel. This is no time to change horses midstream.

Mary Kay Sigaty for District 4.

For the partisans keeping score, that’s one Dem and one Repub…so far.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Japanese Beetles

At the Audrey Robbins Humanitarian Awards luncheon today Ilana Bittner asked me what I do with a new jar of peanut butter after I use it for the first time.

“I put it back on the shelf in the pantry. Where else would I put it?”

“The refrigerator.”

Jessie Newburn, chimed in “Only if it’s the fresh kind.”

Jessie had invited Ilana and I, as well as her hubby Dave, Heather Kirk Davidoff, Susan Coughlin, Frank Hecker, and Robin Abello, to share her table at the noon time affair. We were the hocoblogs table.

This lunch is a pretty big deal. It was held in one of the bigger assembly rooms at the Oakland Mills Interfaith Center and the loco politicos were drawn to it like moths to a flame, as least the Dem politicos that is. Our county exec was there as well as council chair Courtney Watson and her council colleagues Calvin Ball, Mary Kay Sigaty, and Jen Terrasa. The Gen Assem Dems were all there too, Senators Robey and Kasemeyer, Delegates Bobo, Turner, Guzzone and Pendergrass.

I asked Ken what he does with his peanut butter after using it for the first time.

“I put it in the refrigerator,” he told me.

Ilana, who is Jewish, suspects this might be a Jewish thing.

“I would think it would make the peanut butter too hard to spread evenly on the bread," I offered.

“It tears up the bread too,” hubby Dave chimed in. He should know. He lives in a house where the peanut butter is kept in the refrigerator.

After the lunch I was standing in the lobby talking to Mary Kay and Calvin when Jen strode up.

She says she hasn’t given up on convincing me that I’m wrong about her. I told her I readily admit it when I get something wrong but that I’ve also known Dennis Schrader longer than her and happen to think he’s one of the best candidates in the field right now.

And that encounter made me think it’s time to make another endorsement. I had planned to do that today but when I got home a crisis was developing in the deciduous trees I have so lovingly planted in my yard. The beetles had arrived.

Every year the Japanese beetle appears on the scene about this time and goes to town on my trees. I had been watching for them for the past few weeks. I was ready for them.

So now that the first wave of the insect invaders has been beaten back I was able to retreat to my inner sanctum and write. For now though I’ll put off the endorsement post until tomorrow. Right now I’m going to fix myself a little peanut butter sandwich.

The Origins of a Blog Post

I ran across this cartoon by Dave Walker and it made me smile.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

This Won’t Hurt a Bit

“It’s the polygraph test that usually trips them up.”

I was speaking to a friend of mine about how valuable a security clearance is these days. This particular friend has a fairly high level clearance and we were talking about the number of a people who “wash out” in their attempt to get one.

I thought of my friend today when I read this article by Jeff Stein in The Washington Post today. NSA, one of the largest employers of people with security clearances, “wants job applicants to know that its polygraph test is nothing to sweat.”

In an attempt to allay fears about the test the agency has produced a ten minute video “to soothe applicants' anxiety over the notoriously grim experience.”

"The Truth About the Polygraph" (publicly available on the Defense Security Service's training Web site) opens with various applicants -- or actors playing them, it's not clear -- describing everything bad they had heard about the test, the implication being that none of it is true.”

Good luck with that. If there is an episode in your past that you’d just as soon forget, no feel good video is going to make it any easier to come clean.

No Verizon iPhone Anytime Soon

It looks like an iPhone for the Verizon network is unlikely to happen anytime soon. According to this column by Rob Pegoraro in The Washington Post, “No such thing will happen anytime soon.”

“Apple seems resolutely uninterested in making multiple models of the iPhone: one built on the GSM (Global System for Mobile) wireless standard, which AT&T employs and which dominates most markets worldwide, and another for the CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) technology used by Verizon and Sprint but absent in most other countries.”

Down the road this may change if and when Verizon decides to upgrade its mobile network to “a newer, faster standard called LTE (Long Term Evolution). Since many GSM carriers plan to make the same upgrade, Apple wouldn't have to ship two iPhones with different innards.”

As for me, I’ve moved on.

Monday, June 14, 2010

RHHS Gets Top HoCo Ranking

Newsweek magazine just published its 2010 list of the 1,623 best high schools in the country and River Hill High School, was the top HoCo high school at 158 but was beat out by eight other Montgomery County schools statewide. The topped ranked Maryland high school was Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville at 33, followed by Poolesville (59), Bethesda-Chevy Chase (63), Winston Churchill (75), Walt Whitman (85), Walter Johnson (95) and Montgomery Blair (139).

Other HoCo high schools that made the cut were Centennial (238), Mount Hebron (726), Glenelg (879), Reservoir (1119), Atholton (1124), and Hammond (1515).

Though 1,623 may seem like a long list, consider that this represents “only 6 percent of all the public schools in the U.S.”

Congrats and a big wag of the wordbones tail to the faculty and staffs.

Starbucks Sets Wi-Fi Free

Right now, if you want to access the Internet in a Starbucks using their Wi-Fi connection you have to be a part of their rewards program to get it free.

That will change come this July when the coffee chain follows the lead of McDonalds and opens up their Wi-Fi network to everyone for free. According to this story by Claire Cain Miller in The New York Times, “as of July 1st its stores in the United States would offer free Wi-Fi, via AT&T, that anyone can reach with a single click. In case customers run out of distractions on the Web, Starbucks is giving them even more reason to sit and browse, by offering a variety of digital content through a partnership with Yahoo.”

“Starbucks is making the change just as many coffeehouses are experimenting with ways to cut off squatters who browse and do not spend. Some post signs asking people to continue buying food and drinks if they stay, while the more aggressive ones cover their power outlets with tape so people cannot charge their laptops.”


After writing this post about a supposed poll that showed Bob Flanagan with a significant lead over Courtney Watson, I was told by someone that I fell “for the oldest trick in the book.”


Oh yeah I get it, if you are challenging an incumbent it helps if you can create some positive buzz about your candidate. Money and support flows much easier to the challenger that appears to have a chance of winning. My information came from a trusted friend who I seriously doubt would try to game me on something like this.

I called him today and asked if he had actually seen that poll. No he hadn’t. He had heard about it from someone else.

So I started wondering, who’s gaming who?

I’m not saying that this polling information is false. I’m only saying its suspect. I decided that from now on, I will only reference polls that I’ve actually seen. No more poll games.

An Offer I Couldn’t Refuse

Approximately two years ago I received a Sirius Stiletto radio as a door prize at a commercial real estate event. Unfortunately the prize only included the radio and not the subscription to the satellite radio service so I went ahead and signed up for a two contract.

That was probably 23 months more than I should have. For whatever reason, I could never get a decent satellite signal in my home where I had connected the portable device to a receiver in my office. I tried moving the little antenna all over the room and up on the bookshelves before I finally gave up. I ended up just using the Internet option which ran off the WiFi connection in the house. When the bill arrived last week for another two year contract I decided to cancel.

After waiting for about fifteen minutes on hold a very pleasant customer service rep came on the phone.

“Before we get started I have to tell you I’m a bit peeved at having to wait on hold for fifteen minutes just to cancel a contract.”

“I’m terribly sorry,” he replied, “we’ve been pretty busy today.”

I told him I just wanted to cancel my subscription and he asked if I would tell him the reason I was cancelling. I told him about the signal issue.

“What if I were to offer you the service at half price?”

It still wouldn’t fix the signal problem so I told him thanks but no thanks.

“How about if I gave it to you free for the rest of summer with the HD Internet radio option?”

“With no further obligation after that?” I asked.

“That’s correct; all you have to do at the end of the summer is call and cancel. At that point we’ll probably offer you another three months free.”

There it was an offer I couldn’t refuse. I accepted.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

More Hoops than Hips

I dropped down to the Second Sunday Market in Ellicott City this morning. It was a beautiful late spring morning and I expected to have some trouble finding a parking space.

I didn’t. At 11:00 AM this morning there was plenty of parking and for the second time this weekend I wondered where everyone was. There weren’t enough hips to fill these hoops.

Yesterday, I took Peanut and her friend over to the Lake Fest in Columbia Town Center. We got there a little after four in the afternoon and easily found parking space close to the activities. Despite an afternoon line up that included the rock and roll sounds of Billy Coulter and the 16 member gospel brass percussion ensemble, The Sweet Heaven Kings, there crowd in the Town Center plaza could best be described as sparse.

It was the same story Friday night. Mama Wordbones and I decided to take a long shot and see if we could get an outside table at Tomato Palace for dinner around 7:00 PM. We understood that this was the opening night of Lake Fest our chances were slim at best. Much to our surprise we were told the wait was about 15 minutes.

While waiting for our table we strolled over the Lake Stage in time to catch the high energy Billy Woodward and the Senders. Since I’ve already used the word sparse to describe the Saturday afternoon attendance so this time I‘ll just say there was no line for the beer.

I have to admit to being more than a little surprised by the turnout at both of these HoCo events. The predicted thunderstorms never materialized and though it was a bit warm that that never kept people away from summer festivals before.

Could it be that these events have simply become stale or is it just that there was just too much else going on this weekend (graduation parties, weddings, etc.)?

World Cup Watching in HoCo

World Cup soccer fans have a couple of good options in HoCo for places to gather and catch the games. Union Jacks Pub in Columbia Town Center will even open its doors at as early as 7:30 AM in order to show all the games at all the viewing times.

In Maple Lawn, Looney’s Pub is also showing every game. On their website they tell us that they are “open early for breakfast” and then suggests that we “Enjoy $3.00 Corona and Corona Light in bottles”

Now that’s an interesting way to start your day.

If you are looking for more a family oriented venue for catching the games you could also check out Trattoria Amore in the Dorsey’s Search Village Center. The owner, Carlo Morra, is a big soccer and since 2002 he has hosted World Cup viewing parties in his restaurant. According to this story by Lisa Gueli Regnante in The Howard County Times “the Trattoria is cleverly decked out in its soccer finery with Italian team jerseys posted on the walls. Also, Morra has on display a miniature soccer field flanked with all the flags of every nation playing in the 2010 World Cup.”

The FIFA World Cup lasts about a month so it would probably be a good idea to stick with the pasta and pizza for the early games and save the beer for after work.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Former Guv and His Former Transpo Guy

The gubernatorial contest is a dead heat right now according to several local political prognosticators. They cite a recent Rassmussen poll that shows the former guv gaining momentum in Maryland.

But it was another poll that the Repubs were touting at the Dennis Schrader fundraiser this week. According to my sources, a recent poll showed Bob Flanagan looking pretty strong in the District 1 council race. In fact, the exact words were; “he’s beating her pretty bad right now.” The “her” of course is Courtney Watson, the current council prez.

My response to this news?

It’s a long way to November.

The other piece of political news I picked up at the Schrader soirée was that Len Lazerick is looking for a new partner in his Maryland Reporter venture. Andy Rosen, his fellow founding partner is leaving to take a job as a political reporter at The Sun.

That’s right, you heard correctly. A major daily newspaper is actually hiring a writer. I’d gotten so used to only hearing about layoffs that I had to ask Len to repeat himself to make sure I got that right.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Men in Shorts

After doing fifteen shows in the same corner of the Lakeside Café we took the sweet sixteen show outside and down to the actual lakefront today. It was a good day to do that too. It was sunny, warm with a light breeze, and there was lots of activity with the preparations for LakeFest going on around us.

“We should do the show here all summer long,” Paul suggested, a bit caught up in the post show euphoria.

We could easily do that. Clyde’s has welcomed us in off the street and will be the new home of the podcast. Today we used the part of their pavilion that overlooks the lake. Other shows may find us in some other part of Clyde’s or Tomato Palace depending on what the restaurant has going on that particular day.

Dave urged caution before signing on to a summer full of shows in the great outdoors. “It’s nice now but August around here can be pretty brutal.”

And then there’s that…

This shows guest is Josh Stoltzfus, the Program and Marketing Coordinator for the Columbia Festival of the Arts which gets underway this evening. Josh has been with the festival for three years now and he thinks this years Lake Stage lineup is one of the best so far. Then again what else would you expect him to say?

You can listen to this week’s podcast here…

LakeFest Weekend

This morning at the Colosseum Gym, Tim Gallagher told me that he and his wife Lori were planning on attending the Honfest in Baltimore.

“The LakeFest is also going on this weekend,” I told him.

I happen to think that the Columbia Festival of the Arts LakeFest is one of the best events in HoCo. The festival staff works hard to bring in unique entertainment and art for this free three day celebration, which includes a Kinetic Art Parade and Boat Float on Saturday and Glenelg High Schools amazing Jazz Ensemble on Sunday. You can see the complete Lake Stage entertainment line up here.

The great thing about living around here is that you could easily attend both the Hon Fest and the LakeFest this weekend if you are so inclined. Of course that means some household chores might have to be put on hold but hey, summer only comes around once a year.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Allow Me to Rephrase the Question

A few commenters to this post have suggested that, among other sins, I have libeled Marc Norman by suggesting that the food workers union is COGs sugar daddy. A commenter “Gimme” took issue with my questioning of Marc on this topic. They wrote:

“As a private citizen, he doesn't owe you or any of the disgruntled developers and lawyers you parrot for an answer.

His statement (May 28, 11:32am) that COG had "not accepted ANY funding from organizations with a financial interest in the Turf Valley referendum" was verified by the Board of Elections financial filing you copied on this post (just above your link to the picture of the naked couple).”

I’m afraid that is not quite correct. The only publicly available financial information for COG was filed before the union became heavily involved. COG was not required to file a subsequent financial statement because the petition effort did not succeed. This “publicly available information" does not answer anything because at that point in time they were just getting started.

This is the document that Marc Norman suggests confirms that COG has “not accepted ANY funding from organizations with a financial interest in the Turf Valley referendum.”

I realize I first needed to ask Marc if he believes that the food workers union has a “financial interest” in keeping a non union grocer out of the Turf Valley development. That would be key to understanding his answer and that is probably the best I can expect.

As for the link to the naked couple from the Burning Man festival, well let’s just say that they are certainly more open than COG has been so far.


One of the central arguments used by those who oppose the approved plans for Columbia Town Center’s redevelopment is that the area can’t handle any increase in traffic. This argument assumes that lowering the allowed residential density from 5,500 to something closer to 2,000 will make the traffic situation more manageable.

This argument is flawed. Even if no additional homes were built in Town Center, traffic will continue to worsen because the greatest percentage of the traffic on HoCo highways is pass-through traffic. The physical location of HoCo between two major metropolitan areas with three major connecting highways running through it means that the bulk of our traffic congestion is beyond local control.

In this well thought out post about growth and development in HoCo, Frank Hecker puts our traffic conundrum in another light.

“Because of the nature of my job I travel all over the DC metro area, and it’s astonishing how travel times have lengthened, especially for return trips in the afternoon and evening; from where I live in Ellicott City I’m now over an hour away from Bethesda and the close-in Maryland suburbs, over an hour and a half away from downtown DC, and (at least for the return trip) over two hours away from Reston, Herndon, and other northern Virginia locations.

In my opinion that makes it all the more important to foster employment growth and commercial development within Columbia and Howard County, so that there’s a critical mass of opportunities to live, work, and spend leisure time nearby. Some people are concerned that the planned Columbia Town Center development and other initiatives will increase traffic congestion by both increasing the local population and attracting commuters from elsewhere. That may be true, but I think the alternative is worse: I’d rather deal with some localized congestion commuting to a job within Howard County than have to drive a ways out of the county and then have to deal with equivalent or worse local congestion at my destination.”

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Party like its 2014

The community advocacy groups who support the effort to redevelop Columbia’s downtown are throwing a birthday bash for Columbia’s 43rd birthday. The party will held at Clyde’s outdoors in the Town Center plaza on Wednesday, June 23rd from 5 PM to 8 PM.

“Join Bring Back the Vision, Columbia 2.0, Columbia Tomorrow, and New City Alliance as we celebrate this very exciting birthday year and usher in the next generation of Columbia!
Retro music , drinks, special guests, raffles, giveaways, and more * $10 admission with RSVP ($15 at door) RSVP now:

Of course the party will be held in the same old downtown that has existed since 1967 but if we party like its 2014 we can at least look forward to better days ahead.

Pulling Together

My sister Pat and her husband Henry have a home in Magnolia Springs, Alabama along the gulf coast. They regularly host the largest Thanksgiving gathering in our clan in this bucolic river community where the mail still gets delivered by boat.

Now they’ve made national news with their all volunteer community wide mobilization to protect their waters from the encroaching oil spill. Great stuff.

An Evening with Dennis Schrader

Dennis Schrader held a fundraiser last night at the offices of Davis Agnor Rapaport & Skalny in Town Center for his bid to reclaim the District 3 county council seat he last held in 1998. The event was well attended by his GOP colleagues including Senator Allan Kittleman, Delegates Gail Bates and Warren Miller, and County Councilman Greg Fox.

I attended this event because I happen to like Dennis and support his candidacy. It is also a good chance to talk local politics with both incumbents and challengers. I spent some time talking to school board candidate Robert Ballinger about the ongoing soil conservation district dust up and with Greg Fox about the influence of local blogs in the elections. Robert was curious as to what I thought about the ongoing tug of war between the county and the district over funding. I told him that I believed that the soil district has outlived its Depression era mission. Greg says he advises candidates to not get caught up in what is being posted in the blogs because the readership represents a small portion of the electorate.

Alan Kittleman and I also got into a little soil conservation district debate. He supports the district and insists that county needs an “independent voice” in reviewing development plans. I suggested that the county planning department is an independent voice and he suggested otherwise. He told me that he has heard of developers being shaken down by the county executive for campaign contributions in exchange for receiving favorable reviews of their plans. I told him that in my own experience in developing property in HoCo I have never had that happen nor heard of it happening from my development colleagues.

I was also able to revisit the “chicken house” issue with Alan. He believes that the environmental concerns over chicken waste are overstated. I told him I disagreed and suggested that perhaps we could have him back on our podcast to revisit this topic.

There were also people at the event enlisting signatures for the petition drive to put the Taxpayer Protection Initiative on the ballot this fall. The party faithful I spoke with last night were somewhat divided on the wisdom of this effort.

I spoke with some young Republicans who were not happy with Anthony Jordan’s position on Town Center redevelopment. I had always thought that Anthony was lukewarm to GGP’s plan to remake HoCo’s urban center but last night I learned that he might be more opposed to the plans than I thought. Anthony did not attend the event so he didn’t get to hear Dennis give the makeover his wholehearted endorsement.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

No Day for AC

To the lady in the purple Chrysler LXI convertible sitting at the traffic light at Route 108 and Phelps Luck Drive around 2:00 PM today:

Thank you.

I was sitting behind you at the light when you pealed back your black convertible top and pulled your hair into a ponytail while soaking in the sun. At that moment you inspired me to write a post about what a gorgeous day it was to be out of the office.

I was extremely lucky in that regard. I left the office around 11:00 and drove down to Herald Harbor on the Severn River to share a coffee with my old friend and neighbor, Kim. She lives on a bluff overlooking Little Round Bay on the Severn. Kim lives in paradise with her husband Fred and Termite the dog. Raven, her grand dog was over for a visit too.

On my way back I stopped at Dorr’s service station on Generals Highway to avail myself of some particularly cheap gas. Fellow HoCo loco Tim Sosinski pulled up behind me. He had been in Annapolis for a seminar this morning and was on his way back like me. The top was down on his convertible too.

I was driving my Beemer. Since getting this car back on the road I’ve fallen in love all over again. I had the sunroof open and the windows down. It was glorious. I can’t get rid of this car, at least not until fall.

Now I’m back in the office. It was good while it lasted.

Monday, June 07, 2010

More Fog from COG

In a comment on this post Marc Normans insinuated that his Citizens for Open Government advocacy group has nothing to hide in regards to their financial backing

He’s right. According to the only “publicly available election filing” I could find COG claims they have nothing so they couldn’t possibly hide anything. This was a little dated though. It’s from December 30, 2008.

This was filed before the food workers union signed on with COG and deployed 23 union staff members from both outside HoCo and outside of the state into HoCo over a series of winter weekends to collect signatures for Norman’s petition drive.

Most of those folks would have been hard pressed to find Turf Valley on a map!

That would probably qualify as a donation of services.

This was also prior to initiation of lawsuits against the county that have so far been rejected twice by the federal courts and once by the state court. Somebody is at least paying the filing fees for these suits.

To be fair, Marc did write “As our publicly available election filings will support…." I can only suppose that this means he will be providing additional “publicly available” financial information on COG in the not too distant future.

Not Making a Statement

I spotted this bumper sticker in the parking lot of Ellicott Mills Middle School last week. I liked it.

In This Months Business Monthly

The economic plight of daily newspapers should be of concern to everyone. With declining revenues from paid circulation, classified advertising and display advertising, the ability of the papers to provide good journalism is being seriously threatened. In a world where journalists are compensated on a pay per click basis deep coverage of important topics is being supplanted by shallow coverage of celebrity travails and pop politics.

Two things bought this into very clear focus for me last month. First I had the occasion to assist a Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter working on a series about the growth of the defense intelligence community in our area. The reporter has been working on this series since summer; a rare occurrence in today’s decimated newsrooms. Second, in the New York Times Magazine last month, Andrew Rice wrote an article entitled “Putting a Price on Words” that delved deeply into the online economics of journalism. The picture he paints isn’t very pretty.

You can read this month’s column here.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

HoCo Loco Weekend

Mama Wordbones and I had a very HoCo loco weekend. Friday night we kicked things off with drinks and appetizers at Pure Wine Café in downtown EC and finished out the evening at the Rumor Mill a short walk down Main Street. Saturday we went for lunch and a hike along the banks out the Patapsco River and finished out the evening at the Stanford Grill in Columbia. Today we crossed just over the border to the McKeldin area of Patapsco State Park and finished off the afternoon at The Snowball Stand in Woodstock.

A few observations:

I like the Pure Wine Café but the tables are real tiny. Mama Wordbones and I rubbed legs the whole time we sat there…not that there’s anything wrong with that.

I don’t think the Rumor Mill is on board with the whole salt thing. Granted, I did order one of the “market menu” special small plates that consisted of salty sausage and salty cheese on salty black olive bread. I’m still drinking water like a camel two days later.

The pros that the Blue Ridge Restaurant Group bought in from their other restaurants to help open the Stanford Grill have all gone home now and the home team has taken the field. It’s noticeable but it’s also still early in the season.

We sat outside and I happened to hear a guy at the table next to us gushing about the deserts. It was Al Leandre, the CEO of Vyalex Management Solutions in Columbia. In true Columbia fashion two total strangers stuck up a short and friendly conversation about food. I told him to try the pineapple upside cake.

Whenever you see a sign that says “No Swimming” you are often likely to find young people swimming.
There is a place on the Rapids Trail in the McKeldin Area of the park where the North Branch of the Patapsco joins the Southern branch. It’s sort of unremarkable except for the fact that you are standing in Carroll County while across the river to your left is Baltimore County and across the river to your right is HoCo.

The Snowball Stand in Woodstock now serves soft ice cream in addition to snowballs. For some reason it didn’t taste as good to me as the soft serve from Rita’s.