Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Retreat (Tuesday LINKS)

I spent the last four days in a remote cabin in the middle of New York State.  There was no TV, no Internet, and no Cell Service.  Local government was relevant only insofar as that's where people go when there is a dispute about land boundaries and hunting licenses.  You can get from place to place by car, but most people take ATV's.  They tell a lot of bear stories.

It was a great vacation for someone like me.  I have a tendency to find myself drawn to "screens" to see what's going on.  It's a bad habit.

But nature is also the most effective method of providing humility.  The thing about technology, particularly the Internet, is that it provides the illusion of control.  You would think the vast expanses of the techno-verse would be similarly humbling, but everything is a Google search away.  Not so when you look up a wooded mountain and think about going to the top; looking at millions of stars unaffected by city lights; or something as simple as the complete silence of the outdoors without the hum of HVAC units, murmur of televisions, or swishing of passing cars.

It was also odd to look out from high up on the hills and see expanses of land that were comparable to all of Howard County and think about what we've made of our "spot."  This hive.

Life is so much different there.  It makes you think in so much simpler terms, but in such greater depth.  While I enjoyed my retreat, I think I picked the right life for me.  Maybe I'll spend a little less time with my screens.


On my way back home, I listened to a Midday with Dan Rodrick's podcast discussing the new headquarters for Exelon in Harbor East.  Dan cited a recent column by (soon to be former) Sun columnist Jay Hancock that reminded me of the Columbia Downtown Development debate: "Developers always say they need tax breaks because the "economics" of the project wouldn't work without them. But that proposition is rarely tested. Cities and states always cave in. And the books are rarely thrown open to reveal the most interesting economics — how tax incentives feather developers' profits."

The same-sex marriage bill has moved to the Maryland State Senate after passing in the House of Delegates.   While the magnitude of this bill is significant, its passage has almost become a formality with the thunder of chest thumping undertaken by Republicans who promise to take the measure to referendum.  In effect, I think this has almost given an "out" to legislators that fear reprisal in their districts who can now say "I think this should be decided by the people and therefore am voting with the understanding that it will go to referenda."  Good.  You do that.  I understand that these votes have gone against marriage equality in the past, but I think Maryland may be different in that regard.  So long as the protections for religious liberty are incorporated and sound, the motivation to get-out-the-vote against the bill just isn't there.  Now, for those favoring marriage equality, there is all the motivation in the world to knock on doors, vote, and enjoy all of the attributes that go along with fighting for civil rights.  And THAT could be very dangerous for Maryland Republicans.

I like what Baltimore County is doing with regard to "Planned Unit Developments" and making more information online for those projects that will skirt underlying zoning in exchange for a "community benefit."  Admittedly, as we've seen locally, the more information you make available, the more you may be accused of "hiding something", but there are the reasonable folks in the middle who just want to know what's happening with their community.  This type of transparency lessens their burden.

Featured Blog Post of the Day: HowChow continues his "Welcome Home Series" (which would make a nice book) with a review of those great places in HoCo that many people talk about, but few people know how to get to.  Thankfully, smart phones have made destination driving a little easier, but I don't think you have lived a complete Howard County experience unless you have eaten at a place, thought it was great food, but then forgot how to get back.

That's all for today.  Great to be back.  Have a great Tuesday doing what you love!