Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sunday Reading Recommendations

I find myself grasping at straws for news stories on Sunday, which seems a little counter-intuitive to me.  Instead, I'm going to make a few web-wide reading recommendations, which may include a couple news stories.

First, a book.  I recently started Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes and am hooked.  Depending on my mood, I tend to prefer non-fiction.  I still read a lot of fiction, but when I talk about books, I talk about non-fiction (probably to make myself sound smarter).  Not this time around.  Matterhorn's subtitle is "A Novel of the Vietnam War."  It focuses on a Company of Marines protecting an artillery station on a ridge named Matterhorn.  The characters are incredibly dynamic and well drawn, especially the main character, Mellas, who went to officer school so that he could go to Vietnam as an officer, gain political heft without the attendant danger, and come back to the United States to run for office.  Check it out.

Second, I've been enjoying this New Yorker article about man as a social animal.  I say "enjoying" because I've been reading it incrementally over the past week or so.  Articles that seem to "pull back the curtain" and let us see how people tick are always favorites for me.  Nudge, The Black Swan, Freakonomics...all favorite books of mine.  I'm not saying David Brook's essay belongs in the same category, but it has a similar feel.

Here's how giving a third State of the Union address can blow up in your face and make you a laughing stock.

I love the Minimalist, who will be leaving the New York times after providing Jane and I with years of awesome recipes.  Here are 25 of his favorites.  (Note: He also writes for Runner's World, so most of his stuff is quite good for you -- and easy...hence the name).

Here's an interesting look at what the political blogosphere will be doing to gain respectability in the 2012 election.  I feel like this level of dedicated coverage has a greater likelihood of diminishing credibility/respectability than building it.

WSJ provides a perspective on the Egypt revolts through the prism of pharaohs (written by a SAIS professor).


Dilbert creator Scott Adams: "Whenever I feel as if I'm on a path toward certain doom, which happens every time I pay attention to the news, I like to imagine that some lonely genius will come up with a clever solution to save the world."

That's all for now.  Have a great Sunday.

Friday, January 28, 2011

IT'S FRRRRRRRIDAY (LINKS)

I hope you all enjoyed your snow day.  I worked from home and had a generally relaxing time of it.  Yesterday evening I had the opportunity to meet up with Courtney Watson, who represents Councilmanic District 1, for coffee.  I have really enjoyed the opportunity to meet and get to know the members of our Council, and meeting Courtney was no different.  We discussed some of the issues of the day, as well as party politics and its effect, or lack thereof, on what the Council does.  Overall a great discussion and one that has left me with a lot to think about.

LINKS

One item that seemed to be getting a lot of attention over the past few days is this piece about State Senator J.B. Jennings, who will miss the legislative session to fulfill his active duty obligation as a National Guard reservist.  The good news is that it is being received well: "Jennings' colleagues gave him a standing ovation when he explained his mission."

It seems hard to believe that the State death toll for yesterday's storm was up to 3 people.  The weekend warrior commandos who think they can drive in any weather will probably be more deterred by the 5-8 hour layovers they had along Routes 70, 29, and 295.

O'Malley has proposed a new sin tax on the offense of being a really really REALLY bad driver: Get caught going 85 on the highway twice in two years? On top of the $1,080 in traffic fines you've earned, you'd owe the state $1,500. There would be a new fee for drunken driving too: A conviction would cost an additional $500 every year for three years.  My only concern here is whether this kind of revenue is recoverable.  Believe it or not, a good number of your drunk drivers are not riding a Porshe.  They are operating a rusted out Gremlin.  You can fine them all you want, but that doesn't mean you've found a new "revenue source."

Baltimore City is experiencing a 50 year slide in population decline.
 
Cordish breaks ground on Arundel Slots, which is projected to be the state's "largest single source of tax revenue."  That sounds good...as long as you don't think about whose pockets that money is coming from.  Sure enough, the remaining objections are not to the plan itself, but rather the traffic.  That sounds familiar...

I cited to this article about Healthy Howard yesterday, but I thought I would refer you to the comment section.  It looks like Mr. Schwartz (or someone purporting to be Mr. Schwartz...who misspelled his own name [Correction: commenter spelled his name correctly, the article did not]), looks to distance ACS from the comment in the piece.

Sarah gives CA a thumbs up for plowing the sidewalks.

WB notes that some of the roads around his house are closed.

HowChow refers everyone to the Baltimore Beer Guy who reviews the River Hill Grille tap selection.

I'll be spending most of my day between two different courtrooms today, so I don't expect to be able to post much.  Feel free to comment away and I will do what I can to participate via Blackberry.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Redistricting Committee Set; Walker Chair

Lindsey McPherson, from the Columbia Flier, reports that the County Council has picked its seven member committee to reorganize the council districts to reflect Census Data.  Based on the names I know, this is a really good group.

From the blue corner:  "David Marker, who served as the commission chairman during the 2001 redistricting process; Cheryl Miller, of Columbia, who teaches political science at the University of Maryland Baltimore County; and, Irfan Malik, of Ellicott City." 

Ok, so I don't know anything about any of these folks, but I think it is very interesting to have a political science professor on the team.  It's like a Crichton novel.

From the red corner: "Woodbine resident Joan Becker, the former Howard County Republican Party chairwoman, and Ellicott City residents David Myers and Kevin Rodkey, both members of the GOP central committee."

You will be hard pressed to find anyone who can say anything negative about Joan, Dave, or Kevin.  I'm especially excited to see two young HoCo GOP rising stars in Dave and Kevin on the Committee.

The Chair of the Committee will be Larry Walker.  Larry truly impressed me during his run for a spot on the Board of Education.  I have no doubt that he will be fair and, as a deciding vote, make sure that the Committee itself is fair.


Couldn't be happier with this group and I'm excited to hear what they come up with.

So I've Got This Crazy Idea...15 Things On a Stick

Since it is a snow day, I decided to ease into my morning (after about 45 minutes of heavy snow shoveling).  I had never noticed this before, but there is a "Next Blog" button at the top of this page, and I thought I would check it out.  I can't find the page that first referenced it, but I stumbled across a blog that had been created by way of Minnesota's "23 Things on a Stick", which is an ingenious program to help citizens become familiar with library resources and Web 2.0 programs.  More important for me, it made people blog.

So I thought to myself, "Self, it's time to shower."  And then I thought, "We have to be able to do something like this here in Howard County."

Here's the idea: We create a program for Howard County high school students to earn scholarship money.  There are "15" (23 seems like too much) service activities that the participant needs to complete, and for each one, they need to post a blog entry.  Whomever completes all 15 first gets the prize.

The logistical hurdles are endless (number one being -- where do we get the scholarship money?), but I think there is something here.  Writing skills are best developed through repetition and, despite the frequent typo, I feel as if my own writing has improved immeasurably thanks to blogging.  I want to bring that benefit to kids, especially those getting ready to enter college.  We don't have to raise much more than a few thousand dollars to be enough to cover text books and spending money for an incoming freshman.  I would like to think that we have a few small businesses that would be interested in having their name associated with this project, especially for a buy in as low as a few hundred dollars.

Who's coming with me?  Or do I have snow on the brain?

Eggspectations on Groupon

Ellicott City's breakfast hot spot Eggspectations is on Groupon ($30 for $15)!  For me, this is one of those places where I can only get one thing: Construction Pancakes.  During my recent health kick, I have been ordering parfait...but in my head I'm ordering Construction Pancakes.

NOTE:  This is only for dinner.  Thank you to the commenter who alerted me to this!  Of all places, I have to assume Eggspectations lets you have breakfast for dinner...right?

Snow Day (Thursday Links)

That's some heavy snow out there.  I had planned on working from home today no matter what, but unfortunately Jane was only granted a two hour late opening.  That means I will be spending a good part of those two hours digging a path to her car.

Big ole kudos to whomever/whatever is in charge of plowing the Dorsey Search parking lots and shoveling the sidewalks.  I was rather surprised to see both clear of snow when I came downstairs this morning.  During the Big Kahuna, it took about 15 residents to manually shovel out the parking lot...to go nowhere.  The sidewalk was completely unexpected.

LINKS

Looks like just about all the schools are closed.

O'Malley saves $1.9 million by eliminating the State-required American government test.  Some fear that this will allow social studies to lapse in our schools.  I really think we need to trust the teachers to teach.  None of them enjoy "teaching to the test."  The vast majority care about their job and want their kids to learn.  Imposing a test from on high is not "ensuring" social studies is being taught.  It is showing insecurity in your educators.

A same-sex marriage bill receives 56 sponsors in the House of Delegates, including 12 members of the House Judiciary Committee, which means this baby is going to a vote.  The Senate version had 18 co-sponsors, and needs 24 votes for passage.  I think we can be fairly certain that same-sex marriage is getting passed this year.  Legislators seems to be tripping over themselves to get to the co-sponsor line.

Dan Rodricks shames Senate Majority Leader Mike Miller for his opposition to same-sex marriage and civil unions.

Efforts to stop Arundel Slots continue even as the shovels are shined for ground-breaking ceremonies.

Kellie Woodhouse writes a great piece about the future of Healthy Howard.  As a preliminary matter, for as much as this program is discussed, it is a very small portion of what our County does and/or spends its money on.  However, that is still $500,000, which could fulfill the contribution needs of approximately 10 non-profits, addressing social ills from homelessness to child abuse.  That's not to say these non-profits would have their full operating budget, but they would have enough to supplement their private grants and fundraising efforts that coincide with County support.  As Greg Fox points out, HHAP is lacking in this department: County Council member Gregory Fox, a skeptic of Healthy Howard, argued that Healthy Howard has "not done a great job of raising money, getting grants." 

I think the Council needs to stop treating this program like a sacred calf.  If this is a non-profit partnership, Healthy Howard should be able to raise the same proportion of private funds that is expected from other non-profits.  I think you could appease a number of critics if you said "The County will match 25% of funds raised from other sources."  In fact, without ever having been in the Board room, I would wonder if the reliance on County funds has restricted the program's efforts.  "We would do (this), but we don't know how much money the County is going to give us next year."  HHAP is not a branch of County government.  It is a non-profit.  Take the training wheels off.  To quote ACS President W. Harry Schwartz:  "Among our membership there is some mixed views about the outcomes of Healthy Howard," Schwartz said. "All of us are competing for funding. There are certainly individual agencies that may feel that they can make better use of that funding than Healthy Howard can." 

Sarah tries whipped alcohol

WB notes that there will be a snowball fight today at noon in Old Ellicott City.  (These are some of the reasons Columbia/EC is a great place to live...and it has nothing to do with the gubment.)

HowChow notes some candies at Costco that you have probably never tried.

Off to shovel.  I'm expecting a pretty laid back day.  If the roads are nice enough, I may try to get out for another HoCo Restaurant Week offering for lunch.  Any recommendations?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Camera One. Camera Two. Camera One...

The cool thing about being friends with other bloggers/writers is that you some times get a few different accounts of the same event.  I wrote my piece about the Wine Summit earlier today.  Here are a few more:

Sarah viewed the Summit as an opportunity to evaluate technology and its purpose in life.

Dennis rejects this "Wine Summit" talk as overly formal and prefers "sharing a few drinks and laughs."  With that title, he found the SAFDAL to be an opportunity for mutual understanding.

Doug thinks we're all "above average" here at Lake Wobegon.  Joking aside, I think his sentiments are spot on for both sides...in that there are no longer sides to begin with.

Allen Dyer Loses Again

Despite my resolution not to "break news" in 2011, I heard last night that Board of Education Member Allen Dyer had received another set back in his quixotic effort to sue himself...ahem...the Howard County Board of Education.

On January 18, 2010, Judge McCrone dismissed Counts I and II of Dyer's Complaint.  The only copy of the Complaint that I could find (linked above) did not contain separate counts, so I will wait for the newsies to break down the details.  Nonetheless, I thought I would pass this on.

One inch...Two inch...Three inch...Floor

A reader from the medical field contacted me after the recent snow, stating "We always start to see an increase in patients complaining about shoulder and lower back pain right after a snow storm like this."  As someone who normally gets a little careless with my own "form" while shoveling, I wanted to pass on this link that he recommended, which includes Snow Shoveling Safety Guidelines.

I'm a tall guy and have already resigned myself to the likelihood of future back problems.  I just want to put those off for as long as I can.

State of The County Address

I just read the State of the County Address (PDF) delivered by County Executive Ken Ulman yesterday morning.  While I appreciate our local newspapers, speeches like these are better taken in full than in sound bite summaries.

(Although David G. over at Columbia Patch has a particularly good piece on the "event" itself)

Overall, I think it is one of the better speeches that I have heard (or read) from our County Executive.  I probably would have left out the "Old Line State/Online State" bit, but I think Ken does a good job of breaking down the exciting new efforts of our County government.

Now the criticism -- I would be really interested in hearing the County's plans for the bad stuff.  Ken has already put some money towards OPEB, why not go ahead and lay out a plan for satisfying those future obligations?  Why not address the uncertainty of County finances in the face of a possible teacher pension shift?  Why not have an honest talk with people about the challenges facing Route 1 and Route 40 redevelopment, rather than just labeling them "transformational areas"? ("Route 40!  Powerhouse in disguise.  Route 40!  More than meets the eye!")

These are nit-picky complaints that would have taken away from the tone that Ken was looking to set, but I generally disagree with that tone.  I think you can trust the intelligent folks of this County to respect you more for being honest with them about problems, as opposed to "oohing and ahhing" over all the great things you've done. 

And with all due respect, every one knows about the Money Magazine rankings.  Every one.  I even think my dog is beginning to get a bit haughty about the whole thing.  How about we start acting like we've been there before?

But I want to close with this: I am confident that the County will do well under Ken's leadership for the next four years.  He is a good executive and has hired some of the most dynamic hard-working staff that I have encountered in either the public or private sphere.  They love their jobs and they work hard for his respect.  You can say all you want about Ken's arrogance, his aspirations for higher office, or Healthy Howard, but the guy gets the job done...and he does it well.

Wine Summit (Wednesday...OMG)

Of all the things I've learned over the past (almost) two years of writing this blog, nothing is more true than the importance of meeting people you disagree with.  This blog is impersonal.  I try to tell you enough about my life and my thought processes to make it as personal as possible on my end, and while you may comment on those offerings, I don't really know you.  And honestly, no matter how hard I try, you don't really know me.  That disconnect can foster a lot of angry feelings.  In fact, psychologists have found that the nastiness that comes with the anonymity of the Internet can partly be attributed to this disconnect.

That's why I so appreciated the opportunity to meet Doug Miller of Patuxent Publishing.  To shorten the story a bit, Doug had written a blog piece and a subsequent column that had bothered me (and possibly a few other bloggers).  I won't say I was angry, but I was certainly dismissive of Doug.  I thought "This guy just doesn't get it" and was willing to leave it at that.  A few blog posts and a number of e-mails later, I found myself at Iron Bridge with Doug, Sarah, and Dennis laughing over a few glasses of wine.

No surprise, Doug is a great guy whose world-view is not much different than my own.  The intention of his column was not to criticize the Internet or Facebook (or blogs), but rather to have every one step back and wonder whether we need these things that have become so prominent in our modern lives.  Doug is a bit of a tech-abstainer himself, and has chosen not to own a cell phone.  That little tid bit about Doug would have helped me see that he gets it, he just doesn't want it.

It is a lot harder to disagree with someone in person.  You can discuss an issue.  You can digest a common problem.  But it is very difficult to disagree, and much harder to throw insults, in person.  That doesn't mean the Internet is a "bad" method of communicating with one another, but it is important to realize that it is one sliver of a spectrum.  If you fail to treat it that way, no one will ever want to meet with you...much less have a glass of wine.

(This is the part of the daily post that would contain witty observations on the day's news from your humble host.  Instead, a significant snow storm has come a few hours early and I need to get to work to grab my work computer...just in case the meteorologists are as incompetent as I fear they may be)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

LIVE BLOG State of the Union

I'll be meeting up with Doug Miller, WB, and Sarah tonight for our Wine Summit, but should be home in time for the State of the Union address.  The thing about these political "events" is that they are much more fun to experience in a group, especially an opinionated group.  We've had a few Live Blogs in the past, and normally they are a lot of fun.  Please check back around 8:55 or so, and this big box should be hoppin'!

Diet Astrology Week 1 (Tuesday Links)

So now I've been on this wacky diet for a week.  Overall, not too much of a difference.  However, I no longer feel like I "need" coffee at 3 pm every day.  I've lost about 2 lbs (although I did not want/intend to lose 2 lbs).  I found that I really like peppermint tea...and really miss bread.

We've had some "cheating" instances (i.e., do NOT put a bowl of tortilla chips in front of me when I am not supposed to eat corn), but for the most part, we've stayed true to the wackiness.  Jane has had about four moments of weakness where she will say "I don't want to do this any more.  This is ridiculous."  One of them was last night when I reminded her that she could have almond butter (we did not have), but could not have peanut butter (she had in her hand).  We're going to try to lighten the load a little this week by making a reservation for Prime in Baltimore.  Neither of us were very impressed the first time we went, but 1) I have a $50 gift certificate; 2) They have a lot of red meat, which is a-OK by wacky diet.

One more week to go.  After which, I will be going directly to Frisco Burrito (near the nutritionist) for a burrito and a beer...unless this wacky diet has a Fast-In-Anticipation-of-Spaceship Stage.

You'll notice the new megalomaniac feature...ahem...Visitor Globe to the right.  A friend sent it to me and said he thought it may look cool on the blog.  I agree.  I thought you all may find it interesting.  The Globe is also interactive, so you can play around with it.  If it causes the page to have a difficult time loading, please let me know and I will send the Visitor Globe on its way.

LINKS

I'm not entirely sure why the Baltimore Sun is making such a big deal out of Montel Williams coming to Annapolis to advocate for medical marijuana.  The bill itself is very interesting to me, but I wonder how much a figure like Montel would remove the seriousness of such a piece of legislation.  He seems to have made himself the spokesperson.  I have no beef with Mr. Williams, but I don't know if he is having the effect that he thinks he is having.

Maryland has a pedestrian problem in the same way Vermont has a moose problem -- they keep getting in the way of cars.  The knee jerk reaction has been to suggest tougher jaywalking enforcement.  As a professional jay-walker, I would prefer other avenues be explored.  Overall, I think this just has to do with awareness.  There are those in the street expecting every one to stop for them, there are those who work on their "polite jogging" skills as they mosey across the street, and then there are those who sprint across the street, aware that they have caused an inconvenience.  I can't help but believe the sprinters are getting taken out.  That's a shame.

The Baltimore City State's Attorney is already in hot water, and it has nothing to do with being "tough on crime."  Quite the opposite.

Timonium residents are opposing a 55+ community.  In other news, Columbia residents are opposing a yuppie young-professional community.

Larry Carson writes about the schizophrenic nature of this recession, wherein a new wing of the Community College is built as public school teacher salaries are frozen.  It is an interesting discussion and an example of how easy it is to suggest fixes without ever having to make them.

James P. Howard III's appointment to the County Board of Appeals has been challenged.  The suggested reason, by Angie Beltram, is that the Board is already overloaded with Columbia residents, but I think there is something else going on.  James and I have disagreed on these pages before, but I think it is an embarrassment to oppose someone's appointment to a Board of service.  (More discussion over at 53 Beers).  Let the man serve.

HowChow posts another great-looking Korean food spot on Route 40.

WB posts about openings (Dunkin' Donuts) and closings (Harley Davidson).

Sarah recommends you get on board a CSA for this Spring/Summer.  Jane and I tried one for the first time last year and really enjoyed it (definitely signing back up).

That's all for now.  Busy day followed by a Wine Summit with Doug Miller.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Polemic TV

I found this clip from Reliable Sources to provide an interesting discussion of the MSNBC/Fox News dynamic.  I thought it was tacitly acknowledged that MSNBC is for the left what Fox News is for the right.  Evidently, MSNBC rejects that comparison.

Friday, January 21, 2011

"They Don't Want Equality, They Want Gay Marriage"

The folks at WAMU 88.5 were kind enough to e-mail me this clip of Maryland GOP Chair Alex Mooney on The Politics Hour, wherein Mooney makes some interesting comments about "inclusion" and gay marriage:



I don't quite understand his point regarding "They" and "Gay Marriage." 
 
As for his overall theory that independents want political parties to stick to their values, I agree to a certain extent, but "that dog won't hunt."  Southern Democrats in the 1960's held segregation as a "value"...but they got over it.  It was a bad value.  Did sticking to that "value" get them votes?  Sure did.  Did they realize that they needed to reevaluate that core value in order to be a viable political party?  Sure did.
 
The sooner this party realizes that there are a lot of younger folks, who would otherwise be receptive to their values of lower taxes and personal responsibility, that will never ever vote Republican so long as they feel they are voting against the rights of their fellow citizens.  Tax them all the way to the voting booth, but this will never change.
 
More importantly, Mooney doesn't set policy, so it is a little ridiculous to have him talking about these matters.  Raise money.  Recruit volunteers.  Sell funny bumper stickers.  That's it. 

Second City Does Baltimore -- Awesome (Friday Links)

If you grew up, or even spent a significant amount of time, in or around Baltimore, you need to go see the Second City performance at Center Stage.  It was hilarious.  "Please stop, my face hurts" hilarious.  About 15% of the show is improv, so I can't guarantee that you will have the same show I did, but the 85% scripted is golden.  Despite being out-of-towners, they seem to have found just about every insider joke that makes the city tick.  There's one scene about Baltimore's insecurity complex (the city is "on the couch") and another about the shrinking size of the Baltimore Sun.  Jane has only been in the area for about five years, but she picked up most of the material. You need to go.

As I noted yesterday, the second episode of I Can Fix That is up.   Sorry to plug it twice, but I know that some of you only check in for the morning links. 

LINKS

Overall, the whispers about O'Malley's budget appear to be reasonable.  No furloughs, but heavy cuts.  I'm disappointed to see that the Transportation Trust Fund is continuing its role as "State Piggy Bank", but who needs roads, the extension of the Red Line, or the construction of the Purple Line anyway.

This is a very sad story of a counselor for at-risk youth who is accused of using his position to recruit and lead the Black Guerrilla gang in Baltimore City.  Stories like this make it very hard for anyone to have hope about the future of the City (and I'm not talking about Harbour East).

The Orioles raised ticket prices.  Jerks.

Baltimore County is conducting its homeless census.  As noted in the article, many of these folks do not want to be found (or counted) due to mental illness or outstanding criminal warrants (normally over something as small as a open container citation, which led to a "Failure to Appear", which led to a warrant).

One of the unstated dangers of being a police officer:  If you are sued and your conduct is found to be "malicious" by the jury, the City/County will not pay for it.

I see a lot of Council Rezoning like aquarium building.  You need to set it up before you put the water in, and the last thing that is included is the fish.  The Planning Board recently made recommendations regarding the rezoning of Normandy Shopping Center.  Contrary to the beliefs of some, this is not like Sim City.  The Council cannot say "You know what would be cool here?  A hip independent book store with a wine bar.  Yeah, it will be called 'The Stained Page' (Copyright 2011 HCR Ventures).  Let's put that right next to the bike shop."  Instead they have to think "What can we do to make this property more viable for redevelopment?"  I think they are taking a hard look at Normandy and hopefully they figure out what works.

HowChow has oysters and firkins at Kloby's.  I need to keep an eye out for the next one of these events.  I LOVE oysters.

WB's friend Jim thought he was having dinner with a celebrity...while having dinner with WB.

HoCo Bloggers really hit the snooze button on posts yesterday.  They must have been spending all their time getting pretty for the HoCo Blogs shin-dig.  It's Friday and that rocks.  Have a great one.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Living Social Hits Old Ellicott City

I promise you that this website did not secretly take on a sponsorship from LivingSocial (although I do love their new partnership with Urban Escapes).  It just so happens that there have been two deals, in close succession, that I want to share with my friends.

Today's deal is for Portalli's in Old Ellicott City.  I expect to be off this wacky diet astrology mess in 13 days, and when I am, I will be going to Portalli's.  It is a locally owned high end Italian restaurant.  For those that may otherwise be priced out of Portalli's fare, this deal ($10 for $20 in Portalli's money) is a good way to price yourself back in.  Jane and I have been here before and we thought the food was quite good (although, yet again, a little pricey).

Same disclosure as last time:  If three of you buy the deal, I get mine for free.  I don't know why I feel compelled to tell you this, but I do...so there it is.  However, if you pass it on to three more folks, you get yours for free, and so on.

I Can Fix That -- Episode 2: Arizona, Guns, & Civility

I'm excited to let you all know that the second episode of I Can Fix That is available for download.  This was a really fun recording.  I found myself stumbling upon views that I didn't know I had, especially in regard to gun control.  That is how you know you've had a good discussion -- you learn something about what you think.  Jodi took me to task a little bit for my bashing of "Civility," but I still think it is all bumkus...that's right bumkus.

As for the overall project, I think you'll find this recording to be much smoother.  We decided that neither of us would prepare anything for the show.  Pure improvisational ideas.  That's how people talk in real life and that's what we want to bring out in our show. 

The Longest Season (Thursday Links)

The political season never really ends.  Local Republicans may have received letters from candidates running for offices in the Howard County Republican Club.  While this may seem silly to those who are not involved with the Republican Party, the Club is a pretty big deal.  As much as I may disagree with her politics, Karen Winterling really did an impressive job in growing the Club over the past two years.  This growth started under Steve Weissberg, who was one of the first to make the club "relevant" again.

However, the Club presidency has been one of the most controversial posts in the local party.  It is incredibly visible and has often (and sometimes purposefully) been used to create conflict with the Central Committee.  I believe that for the party to be able to do anything in the next four years, they will need a competent leader with long term planning skills.  The size of the Club in 2011 is irrelevant.  The size and function of the Club in 2013 is critical for volunteer recruitment, fundraising, and outreach.

I've recently learned that my friend Jeff Robinson is running for HCRC President.  This is really a no brainer for me.  Jeff started and ran his own business.  He knows what it is like to run a campaign and the general feeling towards Republicans in his district.  Most important to me, he is not going to run this Club on "hate."  Hate for Barack Obama.  Hate for "liberals."  Hate for Democrats.  Jeff will be a constructive force, and I think he can bridge the gaps with the business community.

With the hesitant understanding that my endorsement may hurt him as much as it helps him:  Jeff Robinson for Club Prez.

LINKS

Traffic is bad around here.  We get it already.

I think we can all agree that money directed towards children at risk is money well spent.  Unfortunately, it appears that the failure to meet federal requirements will foreclose $10 million in funds that Maryland would otherwise have received from Uncle Sam.  We are beginning to see the dangers of tying too much of our State budget to federal money.  The rug is easily pulled.

This $100,000 disability settlement makes me sick.  This area of the law needs to be fixed. 

It's Peace, Love, and Understanding down in Annapolis.  For now.

Eyre bus company is doing great things for their employees and their community.  In connection with a weight loss program, these employees collected one pound of food for every pound they lost.  Very cool idea.

I have to take slight issue with this headline:  Howard Violent Crime Rate Drops, But Homicides Double.  There were 2 homicides in 2009, 4 in 2010.  "Honey, I think it's time we install that security system we've been talking about."  (Note: Headline has since been changed)

Frank Hecker notes the arrival of OpenGovernment.org in Maryland.  (And, in Frankonian fashion, picks the nits).

WB is on TV giving the world's secrets away.

Sarah notes that Condoleeza Rice may be asked some questions that Colin Powell will never hear.

I hope you all have a great time at the HoCo Blogs Happy Hour tonight.  I have a Client Appreciation Night to attend (we're going to see Second City!!), so I will not be making an appearance.  TTFN.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Flappy Guys Beware

Larry Carson reports that during last night's discussion of the Columbia sign code, Courtney Watson made clear that there would be one form of "moving sign" that should would not approve of:

One thing she is determined to ban, Watson said, are inflatable "flappy guy" signs. "the guy waving at you. I think we ought to get rid of those in the whole county," she said.

I am not so offended by such signs as to suggest there should be a County wide ban, but I imagine that "No Flappy Guy Signs" is a good starting point for the rest of this legislation.

Millionaires Are Mobile

The ongoing dispute as to whether there has been a flight of millionaires out of Maryland since the passage of the Millionaire's Tax in 2008 just received some additional support.  According to this piece in the Maryland Reporter, Maryland lost 798 millionaires between 2008 and 2009.

Prior to the implementation of the tax, there were 7,192 reported millionaires in Maryland.  Now?  4,134.

Due to the shifting winds of the economy, it is hard to paint this shift entirely on a tax, but I think we can all agree on the premise that millionaires have enough money to 1) Own multiple homesteads; 2) Hire folks that will help them use multiple residences to avoid taxation under higher taxing schemes. 

Us schlubs are taxed where we lay.

Living Social Goes Amazon

Living Social has a cool deal today: $20 in Amazon money for $10.  I figured that if you are reading this blog, you must be smart, well read, and good looking.  Those folks tend to also use Amazon.

Full disclosure:  If three people buy the deal through that link, I get my deal for free.  As such, if you don't like me, feel free to find a way around giving me this incidental benefit.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Bear With Me (Tuesday Links)

I had my first session with the dietitian/nutritionist last night.  One of her first mandates was no coffee before breakfast.  I was then put on the Blood Type O diet, which prohibits dairy.  I'm eating granola with water and a glass of water as I type this.

The type O diet goes on to prohibit wheat (i.e., bread, beer, everything I like) and corn (i.e., most Mexican fare).  I'm in trouble folks.  The good thing is that I am going to try to stay as loyal to this plan as possible for the next two weeks (that's our de-tox period) and will report back on the results.  I am slightly more worried about Jane, since she and green vegetables have never gotten along.

Despite the prohibitions, I am actually excited to try this thing out.  This isn't to lose weight, but rather to build a better diet that provides more energy.  It is amazing how much energy is spent digesting food.  Compounded with many of the chemicals that are in today's grocery products, it is no surprise that so many folks feel like they need coffee to stay awake.  I'm not necessarily one of them, but I would like to try to fit one or two more hours into my day.  If this is a way to do that, then I'm on board.

LINKS:

The Immigration Debate appears to have a prominent role in this year's legislative session.  Delegate Pat McDonough (R), who plans to crack down on the "sanctuary state," is very popular with HoCo Republicans and spoke at a number of fundraisers this past campaign season.  I don't see things the same way.  I think we need to balance rule of law with policies that attract immigrants to our state.  You read that correctly.  The United States, and each one of its members, has an opportunity to create policies that can attract the best and the brightest from other countries to help build a better economy within their borders.  "Kick 'em out, throw 'em out, drag 'em out" is too simplistic to be good policy.

Yet another instance of unintended consequences has prohibited a 29 year tradition from continuing in a Baltimore County middle school.  A law precluding third-party vendors from earning profits at County schools has ended the Ridgely Middle School craft fair.

This story about a high school student collecting resource bags for the homeless should warm your heart on an icy Tuesday morning.

Interesting perspective on those with "strong views" about Sarah Palin.  Consider me in one of those camps.

HowChow posts a daggone-good-lookin-sandwich-that-I-will-not-be-eating-for-at-least-two-weeks here.

Sarah posts about the average American house.  We either have a dedicated dining room or a very elegant hallway at the HCR casa.

Frank is on a roll with his redistricting posts (maybe you found an extra few hours in the day?).  Part 10 here.

__ __ Matt provides a well developed discussion of the Choose Civility campaign.  I will admit that I have not yet read it, but plan to try to get it in sometime today.  It is definitely something that interests me.

Columbia 2.0 notes that Jim Rouse was mentioned on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in Memphis.

WB writes about an afternoon in a 21st Century bookstore.  Every time I am in one I wonder how long they will be around...with Kindle in hand.  Et tu, Brutus?

That's all for this morning.  I decided to wait out some of the ice plowing before trekking into work.  It baffles me that Howard County schools are closed today, but maybe my mind will change when I get out there.

Monday, January 17, 2011

HoCo Rising Reviews: El Nayar

I often say that I will be reviewing a restaurant and then never get around to it.  I had such a great experience at El Nayar in Elkridge that I promised myself that I would "get around to" this one.

First, I'm not a big breakfast guy.  I eat it because I have to (or really really should).  When I was invited out for brunch at El Nayar, I was excited that it was Mexican food, but bummed that it would also be breakfast.

El Nayar made me love breakfast.  Maria, the owner, brought us out a "surprise" platter of a traditional Mexican breakfast, which included eggs with cactus, sunny-side up eggs, chopped up tortillas in a red sauce, refried beans, avocado slices, pico de gallo, and two different salsas.  This was all served with tortillas, which we were then to fill with the various items.  So so good.  I think every foodie wants the opportunity to turn to an owner/cook/chef at a restaurant and say "surprise me with whatever you want to cook."  That's what happened at El Nayar and I am grateful for the experience.

The bad part is that I can't really tell you want to order.  I can say that this is a restaurant that takes pride in its food and wants you to leave happy.  I look forward to going back to try some of the lunch and dinner items...or asking for another surprise.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (Monday Links)

Due to my employment, I will be forced to celebrate MLK Day in my heart today.  That won't change the fact that it is probably my favorite federal holiday.  ("Here it comes.  20-something white kid shows how 'progressive' he is by saying he loves Martin Luther King.  Whoopdie doo.")  That's not it at all.  This is a day of service.  As far as I know, this is the only day that is set aside for the men and women of this country to help one another.  Not through your tax dollars.  Not a part of court-mandated restitution.  In celebration.

This day is a celebration of a man that is to be honored not only for what he did, but for what he chose not to do.  He chose not to stay home.  He worked tirelessly on a mission that did more to bring him anger than praise.  He was in danger.  His family was in danger.  Those who sought to "help" him would plead with him to "stay home."  He chose not to.  Even in the 1960's, there were plenty of reasons to stay on the couch.  Comfort.  Warmth.  Safety.  Dr. King rejected those sirens to serve his fellow man.  Today is as much about those small sacrifices as it may be about the greatest of all.

LINKS

It is believed that the criminal class in Anne Arundel County has resorted to using tasers.  I will politely resist the impulse to....Don't Tase Me, Bro!  Ok, looks like my will-power was not as strong as I thought it was.

Michael Dresser notes that the State legislature's predilection for sneaking money out of the Transportation Trust Fund is catching up with them...and all of us.

This is a cool story about a MECU branch that is run by a cadre of high schoolers (on purpose, not due to lay offs). 

The NY Times writes that State budget problems are pushing both parties to the same solution:

Slash spending. Avoid tax increases. Tear up regulations that might drive away business and jobs. Shrink government, even if that means tackling the thorny issues of public employees and their pensions.

Hmm.  That sounds familiar.

HowChow found Nepalese food!  Awesome. 

Sarah notes the rate of automobile deaths compared to homicides

Frank Hecker continues his redistricing series into the late '80's.

53 Beers supports the idea of Columbia putting in a new dog park.  (As long as dogs aren't given the same scrutiny that our bees are receiving, this should go through...hint hint).

WB shames the CA for bouncing Package Plan #96.  So much for preserving history.

That's all you'll get from me for now.  I hope all of you have some service-related activity planned for today, even if it is just dropping off a bag of canned goods at the Howard County Food Bank, or old coats and camping supplies to the Route One Day Center, or taking a dog for a walk at the Howard County Animal Shelter, or signing up to be a volunteer with Voices for Children or...

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sunday Recommended Reading

Brief post this morning.  I'm in a surprisingly good mood today.  Lots to do.  Lots to be happy about.

This (long) piece about Jared Loughner in the New York Times is fascinating.  It seems like the more you read about this guy, the less you understand.  When he was portrayed as an anti-government extremist, he fit in a box.  When he was portrayed as someone with a mental disease, he fit in another box.  Now that he seems somewhere in the middle, there is no box.  Much harder to distance yourself from what happened...and convince yourself that it won't happen again.

Dan Rodricks writes about "second chances."

This account of civil rights cognizance seems to be the most true account of what it was like to be on the "favored" end of the discriminatory practices of the 1960's.  Certainly important to think about as our state considers civil unions and gay marriage.  Doing nothing is passive affirmation and acceptance of being favored.

Have a great Sunday.  Don't let the Ravens loss get ya down.  It was a great season.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

At Least We Are In This Together

So...I am writing all of you from my computer.  Fifteen hours on a space heater will do wonders for a wine spill.  I checked it right before I went over to my brother's house.  There is an inexplicable measure of joy related to the Mac "dunnnng" sound that comes from a (zombie) MacBook.  However, I also understood what it meant.  My luck was back to "Neutral."  Coffee maker -- dry.  MacBook -- dry/Alive.  Life -- Pretty darn good.  I'm not going to talk about the game because I don't want to ruin in for the masochists that will be reading the Sports pages tomorrow, but...we're all here together.  That's something good about sports.  It builds community.  Even in the bad times.

So, as much as I'm glad my computer works, I'm sad that our trip ends here.  I know that when the train loads up for the Orioles, most of you won't be joining me.  Fun while it lasted.  Thanks for the trip.

A String of Misfortune (Saturday Links)

I have had a very bad eight hours.  Considering the fact that I was asleep for six of them, it feels like I am in a twisted home appliance game show.  Last night, after a great night out with the family, I spilled a glass of wine next to my Macbook, with a splash landing on the keyboard.  Before I could reach the power button, it turned itself off and/or fried.  (For those that may be able to lend an encouraging word, I have removed the battery and have it sitting open next to a space heater).  S---- happens and that's why we having savings accounts, right?

This morning I wake up sad (over my computer), but motivated by the fact that it is Saturday and Saturday morning means coffee, newspaper, and "Tom's Quiet Time."  When I come downstairs, my self-timed coffee maker pot seems a little low, but I presume I was distracted by the near death and/or death of my beloved computer when setting it the previous evening, and therefore had not filled it to its normal level.  I pull the pot out and...my also beloved self-timed coffee maker spews about four cups of coffee onto the kitchen counter.  I open up the filter and it is full of coffee.  No idea what happened, but it involved a fifteen minute non-caffeinated clean-up to start my day.  So now my two favorite home electronics are drying out.  My Kindle has been placed in an undisclosed (very dry) location (I knew that Cheney internship would come in handy some day).

Good news for Ravens fans is that my bad luck is normally correlated to a Ravens win.  My good luck normally links up with a loss.  This is most definitely a reverse narrative on my part, but I'm rolling with it, because I can't have a broken computer and a Ravens loss on my hands.  I am an emotionally fragile suburbanite with a sense of entitlement.  Gimme my computer back or let the Ravens win (or both...I'll take both if that's on the table).

LINKS

I thought this Washington Post Op/Ed addressing the Maryland tax situation was spot on.  In fact, this paragraph completely sums up my view on tax increases, not just for O'Malley, but in general:

Having pushed through the biggest tax increase in state history in 2007, Mr. O'Malley is understandably reluctant to go to the well again, particularly as the state claws its way back to prosperity - and as he considers his own political future on the national stage. But making tough decisions is what public service is about. If Mr. O'Malley determines that a budget balanced only with spending cuts inflicts unacceptable pain, he should stand up for tax increases himself. If he thinks the pain is manageable, then he should make that case to Marylanders

I see most of politics as reaching the "quiet reasonable folks."  There are some that will love you no matter what you do.  There are others (the loud ones) that will hate you no matter what you do.  If you constantly play to the folks that love you, the quiet reasonable folks will think you don't care about them.  If you constantly bicker with those that hate you, the quiet reasonable folks will think you are immature and don't care about important issues.  To succeed, you need to have an ongoing conversation with people that aren't talking back to you.  In this case, O'Malley, as the face of Maryland government, has to make one of two cases:
1) I am going to make painful cuts that will drastically reduce government services that many have come to rely on, but these cuts are necessary for long term sustainability of the State and our children's future;

2) I am going to raise taxes, understanding that this is a cut to the home budget of each and every family in this State.  I am doing this because the cuts I would otherwise have to make would cause unacceptable harm to those who need government services (including infrastructure developments) and I think the Maryland people will agree that these are services the government should provide.

The people of Maryland are allowed to judge.  Some will scream, but they've always been screaming.  Some will swoon, but they've always been swooning.  Most will lie somewhere in the middle, and although tax increases are never popular, you can decide how long of a tail it has by whether or not it is sold to the people.

It is not fair and it is not right to force Maryland voters to also play a game of whodunnit.  "O'Malley said it was up to the legislature to raise taxes, not his fault."  "Yeah but the legislature left it up to the counties, so you can't blame them."  "Ah, but the counties left it up to a coin flip, and you know how those go."  You and I are judged by our job performance.  There's no reason why our politicians shouldn't be.

Michael Steele is out as GOP Chairman.  I will tell you that a number of HoCo GOPers are not just disappointed but furious over his ouster.  So mad that I am almost nervous to comment on this subject (and that takes a lot).  But I did say "almost."  I think Steele's bounce is a sign of an organization's cycle.  He represented the party in diaspora.  The party no longer sees itself that way and he reminds them of their own failures.  I understand that the nitty gritty politics are much more complicated than that, but that's my outsider's perspective.  Now go throw some punches at your Pelosi weeble wobble.

The Preppy Burglar gets 18 months in jail.  Seems appropriate.

I can't tell if these politician retreats seem really funny or really slimy.

I enjoyed seeing David Nitkin's first appearance in the Howard Section as an Ulman employee, regarding the hotel tax.  Responding to Senator Robey's set aside requirement: "Nitkin, a former Baltimore Sun editor who recently became director of policy and legislative affairs for the county, replied that administration officials 'prefer not to do that, but we're open to that discussion.'"  Dave can talk politics.  Dave talk can politics real well.  If you listen to the most recent episode of And Then There's That, Paul Skalny makes a really good point regarding apportionment: It doesn't matter.  The Exec can just cut their cut the tourism budget and limit them to the hotel tax revenues, which would pretty much the same as taking that money to begin with.

CA is considering a dog park.  In light of their previous successes, I am not letting anyone from CA near either of my dogs.

I am sure that even those who suggested that slots would be a slippery slope to table games assumed that the slope would be slower than this.

Don't get HowChow angry.  You won't like HowChow when he's angry.

WB posts about Walk Score, which ends up being slightly controversial.  I don't think anywhere in Columbia is particularly "walk-able," but I think most of it is "bike-able."  Interesting sociology study: Compare crime rates for areas with high pedestrian traffic vs. those with high bike traffic.

As is my biweekly Friday tradition, I listened to the most recent episode of And Then There's That while writing up my billables for the day.  Very good stuff.  I've never met Guy Guzzone face to face, but I liked what he had to say on most issues.  He didn't hide from anything (despite a very confusing statement on gun rights).  The 2014 primary for County Executive will be a fun fun ride.

That's all I have for today.  I'm going to mourn over my Mac's corpse and give it another day to "dry out" (that's what all the Mac forums say).  In the midst of my post, I "fixed" my coffee maker and have a new cup of joe on hand (the first one was more like sludge).  My luck seems to be turning around...but hopefully that holds off for another seven hours or so.  Ravens 17 Steelers 13.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Purpleus Maximus (Friday Links)

When I woke up this morning, I came to the belated realization that the only purple shirt I had left in my armory required cuff links.  So, after about ten minutes, I found my cuff links...and am probably a bit over dressed.

This is a big Saturday.  If your spouse is a Ravens fan and you are not a sports fan, give them some room this weekend.  Saturday, between 4:30 and 8:00 pm, may be a very good time for you to take yourself out for a movie, spa treatment, or massage.  You won't want to be near the person and/or people surrounding your television.  I actually told Jane yesterday "I'm sorry in advance for Saturday" (to which she responded "don't be sorry, just don't be a jerk").

It seems like unlike everyone else, I'm tired of playing this team.  I don't get excited during "Pittsburgh Week."  I get anxious...the bad kind of excited.  Maybe it is because I have too many friends that are Pittsburgh fans.  Maybe it is because when I find out that friends are Pittsburgh fans, it is like finding out that they cheated on their wives or husbands.  It forever changes the way I look at them.  That's not healthy.

But here it comes.

LINKS

Brandie Jefferson at Patch writes up a great primer for HoCo Crime in 2010.  Something about crime, especially violent crime, in suburban America that will always be fascinating.  Baltimore City can easily be imagined as the back-drop for senseless violence.  When you hear about the same crime in Howard County, you normally expect there to be a "why" attached.  If there isn't, you get scared.  The stabbing at the King's Contrivance Village Center was terrifying...until we were told it was drug related.  "My little Jimmy doesn't do drugs, so he won't be stabbed."  Our murders, at least for this year, are wholly related to personal domestic matters.  We can put it in a box and feel safe.  The other day I was told that there have been a string of break-ins at the new community next to the Dorsey Search Village Center.  It quickly turned my impression of the community upside down.  Crime, as a political animal, is all about impression over reality. 

Ya like rabbits?  Well there are about 78 in need of adoption at the Howard County Animal Control and Adoption Center.  (Please don't tell my wife).

Maryland has sued the Federal Government for $4 million in relation to the 2008 medivac helicopter crash, which Maryland alleges was caused by air-traffic controller negligence.  Federal Response: Why don't we consider the millions in stimulus money sent to Maryland in 2010 a "settlement" and pack it in for the day?

The tension between the Police Union and Baltimore City Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake gets tighter by the day.  Police are now accusing SRB of using the shooting of Officer Torbit for political gain.

Civility.  Ugh.  This thing has to jump the shark sooner or later.  Even the Beatles hit an over-saturation point.

WB suggests that Doug Miller come out for a few pints with a few bloggers.  I agree.

Sarah looks to find the key to a happy marriage.  Actually, her post is focused on "happiness IN marriage", which may be completely different from a "happy marriage."

Columbia 2.0 notes that redevelopment opponents continue to pounce on Calvin Ball for his statement regarding "naysayers of the redevelopment plan," yet they also continue to fail in their explanation of what is wrong about that statement.

HowChow writes up a glowing review of one of his favorite places: Kloby's Smokehouse.

That's all for today.  I appreciate all the feedback regarding the new podcast.  Our next recording will be on Tuesday (or at least that's the plan), but I don't know when that will get uploaded.  Exciting stuff.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Dear Doug,

I think I've been bothered by Doug Miller's column this week more than I should be.  First, it wasn't directed at me.  Second, who really cares what Doug Miller writes about in his column. 

But my mind keeps coming back to it.  I guess I interpreted it as a personal response to what he saw as a personal slight, with Doug using the purportedly higher ground of "print media" to shake his finger at the naughty bloggers.  Sure, he doesn't call Sarah any mean names, but there is the suggestion that "we blogs" are a den of mud-slinging neanderthals, and that Sarah's post was just a reflection of that.

Doug ignores the fact that Sarah's post was a well-reasoned response to a mean-spirited rant, which belittled those that responded to Frisky's call for letters to the editor that happened to be on Facebook.  (I guess that a phone tree plea would have been more appropriate?)  Sarah's only request?  "let people write their letters to the editor in peace".  Sarah's post leads Doug to the following conclusion: "As powerful as the Internet is as a medium of communication, it hasn't improved human interaction as far as I can tell. It's only made our flaws in that regard more obvious."  Ok, so...Doug has concluded, based on Sarah's post suggesting that he was possibly-maybe out of line, that the Internet (THE ENTIRE FRICKIN' INTERNET) has made our flaws in human interaction more obvious.  (Note: he leaves it to the reader to decide what those flaws may be, effectively neutering his column of any sense).

I'm not sure Doug's "interaction" skills were so refined to begin with.  When I contacted Sarah about Doug's column, she was surprised.  Doug had not reached out to her, despite the fact that the Internet would make such a gesture that much easier for him to do.

If Doug wants to pretend that what he writes exists in a vacuum of "TRUTH" and that everything else is just chatter, that's fine.  But he's wrong.  We digest, criticize, argue, dispute, promote, and ignore what comes out in our daily (or even weekly) papers.  The Internet allows us to do that together.

I'm sorry that this is so confusing for Doug.  I can only hope that one day (soon) he gets it.

Service With a Smile (Thursday Links)

I'm not going to go into a full review (hopefully I'll have time to do one later), but I wanted to recommend that all of you try out Royal Taj (between Dobbin Road and Snowden River Parkway near the Green Turtle).  While the food was fantastic, the main reason I would recommend this place is the service.  I've never recommended a place based on service alone.  Jane and I went there last night and after having only been there once before (for a very busy Saturday lunch buffet), the owner said "Welcome Back."  Throughout the meal, my water glass did not even have the opportunity to become half empty (or half full).  After we were finished, we were offered (and accepted) a complimentary dessert that was fantastic (it was like a donut hole dipped in simple syrup -- light, but enough to take care of the sweet tooth).  It was so good that Jane said something to the owner...who then brought us out another container of complimentary desserts to take home with us.

Now, I wouldn't recommend this place if I didn't like the food, even if there was a waiter that carried me from the door to my table (in fact, that would probably be a deal breaker for me).  The food is very very good.  But above all, I will remember the service and the pride that the employees at Royal Taj have in their restaurant.  The owner is even a Ravens fan.

LINKS

The shooting of a Baltimore City plain clothes police officer is very bizarre.  Recent reports are indicating that "only police weapons were discharged," which would further suggest that Officer Torbit was killed for pulling his own police-issued weapon.  While the police are conducting an internal investigation, all Baltimore City police will be required to wear uniforms.  I think it would be a truly interesting study in law enforcement to see whether the increased visibility of police via uniforms has any influence on crime. 

What is it with Baltimore County and women-who-fake-cancer-to-swindle-thousands-of-dollars-from-good-people?

Our legislature lacks intestinal fortitude.  "We won't raise taxes, unless the counties force us to."  Just do your darn job.  Stop 1) Kicking metaphorical cans down the road; and 2) Robbing an imaginary Peter to pay an Imaginary Paul.  If you need to raise taxes, make your case to the people that you've thought of alternatives and that those alternatives are less favorable than raising taxes.   The people will either accept that or they won't.  Don't diffuse blame to the counties, which is a very transparent way of saying "If we raise taxes, it was because the counties refused to share our costs...which isn't our fault by the way."

Also noted in this piece are a few quotes from Ken Ulman stating that MACO has support amongst the Democratic contingent for an increase in the gas tax, but that "he" is conflicted about a raise in the alcohol tax.  (Republican Executives seem to be against both proposals).  Personally, I would like to see what we (as a County) would be giving up before deciding whether either regressive tax is approved.

WATCH OUT FOR THE FAKE COP IN DRAG!

Terps get their first ACC win over Wake Forest.

Protesters have gathered outside of the Archdioscese of Baltimore Headquarters seeking further information regarding the Church's investigation of defrocked priest Laurence Brett and those that assisted his escape from justice.

Doug Miller gives Sarah a shout out in his weekly "blog."  I was truly taken aback by the arrogance of this column.  I was further concerned by the fact that an editor of one of our local papers appears frightened and confused by the Internet.  To quote Lil Wayne "If you ain't runnin' wit it, run from it (expletive omitted)."

Dennis recounts his experience taping their plug for Restaurant Week.  (I've already made at least one reservation [you can probably guess where], but I plan to make at least two more).

Sarah compares Roosevelt Center in Greenbelt to another location a little closer to home.

__ __ Matt suggests that Baltimore may have a futbol team in its future.  If that happened, I would go.

That's all folks.  I'm in a very good mood this morning and am ready for a day full of new computer training at work!  Yesterday's deposition appears to have been the source of a great deal of stress and gnashing of teeth on my part.  Like I said, I rarely can figure out the cause of these funks.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Breaking the Funk (Wednesday Links)

Every so often, I get into a funk.  Overall, I am a very chipper guy, but about once every two months or so, for about two to three days, I feel like Eeyore.  Normally this can be explained with something going on at work, a heart-breaking Ravens loss, or Murphy's Law in personam, but my recent bout has been inexplicable.  Maybe I'm tired.  Maybe it is SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder for the uninitiated).  Whatever it is, I think it is breaking.  I say this to you for two reasons: 1) I could not think of another way to start the morning post; 2) I feel like my mood has been affecting my writing.  The slow creep towards the weekend appears to be brightening my spirits minute by minute, hour by hour.

Shameless Self Promotion: The first episode of I Can Fix That is available on HoCoMoJo for download.  Please check it out.

LINKS

Snoverated.

O'Malley will be keeping an open mind to any new taxes proposed by the legislature this session in response to a $1.6 billion budgetary gap.  The two primary targets are gasoline and alcohol taxes. 

Looks like the Baltimore City Mayoral Race has official kicked off with the arrival of Bill Cosby for a fundraiser to support his friend Otis Rolley III.

The Sun writes about the "hidden tax" of unpaid medical bills that are passed on to insurance companies, which are then passed on to the insured through raised rates.  What I am more interested in is whether there is any safeguard to prevent insurance companies from receiving a windfall once 100% of the populace is required to buy insurance.  What is the standard for deciding what the rates should be?  (And maybe this piece should have been in the op/ed section?  Seems like a directed piece of news to me).

I've been on the drug ship!  I've been a part of Baltimore history!

WB writes about the most recent bit of tension between Senator Jim Robey and County Executive Ken Ulman regarding provisions that would specifically provide for where hotel tax revenues would be used.  I take a different take than Dennis on this.  The Republicans have been fighting for "fund protection" for quite some time, especially in the areas of special education.  The legislature will sell something, like the alcohol tax, as a measure to raise funds for Developmental Disability Administration.  The government's role in providing for those who can't provide for themselves is not much in dispute by either party (or at least not the people that get elected).  However, these funds will then be raided when "unforeseen fiscal circumstances develop" (as determined by the executive) and be used for the General Fund (i.e., anything else other than what the money was provided for).  This seems like a bit of a shell game to me.  If you want the money for tourism, and that's what you're selling to the hotels, I think a guarantee is fair game.

Sarah has a few post-lets.

(This is where I would link to Trevor's account of his experience at the HCCA Forum that he attended the other night...)

HowChow has a tremendous post about Korean food along Route 40 (guest blogged by one of my favorite [former] bloggers: Kevin of Kevin & Ann Eat Everything).  (I need to figure out what that noodle dish is at the top of the post.)

That's all for today.  I think my funk is officially broken.  Off to Rockville for depositions!  Wish me luck (and plowed roads)!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

I Can Fix That -- Episode One

Long time readers know that I've wanted to do a podcast for quite a while.  I'm really more of a talker than a writer to begin with, and I've really had a blast the two times that I've been on And Then There's That with Dennis and Paul.  When Dave Bittner at HoCoMoJo contacted me about possibly starting up a new podcast, I immediately jumped at the opportunity.  That was the easy part.  Right out of the box we ran into the question of "How do we make something that people will want to listen to without replicating 'And Then There's That'?"  In working through this problem, I can't tell you the number of crazy ideas I sent to Dave, including at least one to which he responded "That will probably get us kicked out of wherever we plan to host the show."

About a month later, Dave introduced me to Jodi Finkelstein and, after about 30 minutes of talking about what we didn't want to do, we decided on the concept for "I Can Fix That":  Jodi and I are both assigned a social problem, and we offer our solutions for fixing it.  Easy enough, right?

This is still a work in progress and we already have some good ideas for how to improve, primarily focused on working out some of the stiffness to replicate the great conversations that Jodi and I tend to have immediately prior to and immediately after the microphones are on.  In the meantime, I welcome your feedback (and understand that I would receive it whether I welcomed it or not).

You can check out our first episode here.

"French Fry?!?" ATTT Does Restaurant Week

Our friends at And Then There's That tape a plug for Howard County Restaurant Week.  Great job!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

When Ideas Are Confused With People

Just like all of you, I am greatly saddened by the senseless deaths in Arizona related to the attempted assassination of Arizona Representative Gabrielle Gifford.  The gut reaction of most news sites is to explain this and an easy target for that is Sarah Palin.  This individual, who is considered to be a Presidential contender by some, thought it would be a good idea to put a number of cross hairs on districts with representatives that voted for the health care bill:
One of those cross hairs represents Rep. Gifford.

There have since been "rebuttal" news stories suggesting that the gunman was a leftist and therefore could not possibly have been influenced by the corresponding target list. 

I don't think any individual other than the gunman is "to blame" for this tragedy, but I do think there are mindsets that are also culpable. 

In order to have any reasonable discussion in this country, we as a people need to learn to distinguish people from ideas.  When people and ideas become so intertwined that we hate people for the ideas that they hold, violence appears as a solution.  The rhetoric that some people use is just so inflammatory that most of us blow it off as crazy talk...and then go back to demonizing individuals for the things they say or do, rather than discuss the ideas that they hold.  What we need to understand is that everyone else does not think like we do.  They hear the personal attacks and think we are at war.  A former County Council candidate posted this as their status last night: "civil war.  it's been here.  it's coming.  it's gonna be here a while."  Posts such as this are irresponsibly aggravating a public that is already at full alert from news channels that tell them the other side is out to get them.  The market share for MSNBC and Fox News is terror.  They do not want you to think.  They just want you to be scared, because as long as you are scared, you will keep coming back for instructions.

I love politics.  Nothing makes me happier than a four hour discussion of policy decisions over a few beers or a cup of coffee.  It is heart-breaking for me to think that people are using politics to kill one another in a Country where we first found a way to abdicate power without violence.  And we are all to blame for targeting our citizen leaders for the ideas that they promote rather than discussing the ideas themselves.  You can't kill the latter.  I wish people would stop trying.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Over the Limit, Under Arrest...in HoCo

David Greisman at Columbia Patch reports that the Howard County Police made 1,590 arrests for DUI in 2009.  I have no idea how that compares to other Counties, but it sure seems high.

Thumbs up and thank you to the Howard County Police. 

American Press And "Satisfying Conclusions"

Yesterday, I posted NPR's story about British newspapers and their admitted slants in news stories.  NPR followed up on that article with another piece about "The American Tradition."  Both pieces are steeped in philosophy, which would be a lot of fun to debate.  I particularly found this last bit interesting in terms of blog-type-writing and the purveyance of news:

[Former NYTimes Business Editor Peter Goodman] says The Times gave him great leeway to follow his reporting, wherever it led. But Goodman says his reporters at the Huffington Post will have some liberties other news organizations might not afford.

"I don't want them feeling like they have to hand in [stories that say], 'Well, these people said this, those people said that; here, dear reader — you know, you figure it out,' " Goodman says. "I would like them engaged in a process of getting to a satisfying conclusion."

(Emphasis Added).
 
How would your world-view change if you were told that Walter Cronkite always believed that those guys on the moon were really in a TV studio?

What do we want from our news media?  Open ended questions (and a reporter's efforts to make that question open via a balanced set of facts), or a reasoned analysis of the facts (as chosen by the writer) and a conclusion offered up in the "marketplace of ideas."  As I noted earlier, I think the former will be forever troubled by the ease in which bias can be imputed.  On the other hand, the latter can be forever ignored by those that don't agree with the source, not matter what facts may be presented.  Said otherwise, one can be "well-read", yet due to their conscious decision to ignore opposing view-points, still be ignorant.

Good Morning Star Light (Wednesday Links)

It is not getting much brighter in the morning, folks.  I had to squint more than normal to make sure that I didn't leave the house looking like Kris Kross.  I don't normally get seasonal affective disorder (no exception this year), but I can certainly see how the lack of day light can put people in the doldrums.  It is normally right around this time of year that I say "TTFN" to all sunlight between Monday and Friday, with the occasional jaunt outside for a sandwich or deposition.  I don't know why I am rambling on about this, but the weather is something we all share...and right now it is dark.

I don't know what the heck was happening along 108 near Fairway Hills last night, but there was quite a helicopter presence.  From about 9:20 pm to 9:45 pm or so, it sounded like an air show outside our house.  If I hear more, I will pass it on.

LINKS

Columbia Patch reports on renovations to the Harper House and notes that the building was put together sort of like "concrete legos."

There were two winners to the Mega Millions jackpot and, unfortunately, neither of them are you.  Back to boring old single digit million pay-outs.  Who needs that?

Looks like Hon will see her day in Court.  Rather than silly picketing, one man has decided that he is going to challenge the aggravating trademark head on.  I find this all to be a very disturbing exercise in wasting each other's time.  As long as the lunch ladies at Calvert Hall can still ask "Do you want fries with that, hon?", I don't care what trademarks are out there.

You may recall the story about a war veteran who was barred from classes at the Community College of Baltimore County after writing an essay relating to violent thoughts he had after returning to the States.  After some additional red tape, this vet decided that he had no interest in returning

Ever wanted a house on the Bay?  Ever thought about what it would smell like if 2 million fish died at one time?

Constellation has found a spot in Baltimore for its coal ash waste, after spending approximately $1 million a year to transport this waste to Virginia and Western Maryland.  NIMBY alert.

A majority of Howard legislators, including Ken Ulman, are against the return of the Millionaire Surcharge Tax (aka the "Success" Tax).  However, Turner, Guzzone, and Bobo think the tax should be considered.  Senator Kasemeyer took a page out of the Ulman book: "Generally, I'm going into this session not aggressively supporting any new taxes."  (You really have to be impressed with how many words these people can put together without saying anything at all.  It is quite a feat.)  Delegate Pendergrass has the most interesting take -- she is neutral, BUT if the tax came up for a vote, she would support it.  That ain't neutral in my book.  The Millionaire Tax reminds me of this quote: "There's always somebody who is paid too much, and taxed too little - and it's always somebody else." -- Cullen Hightower

HowChow features a standing rib roast from the Laurel Meat Market.   


WB bought a Mega Millions ticket and had a sample of the high life while filming a plug for HoCo Restaurant Week.


Trevor posts about his hard work in getting bike lanes for River Hill (including a cameo from blogger-turned-politico Hayduke). 


That is all for today.  The muse was definitely working me over yesterday.  I'll see if I can keep it up.