Saturday, December 31, 2011

2012 New Year's Resolutions

I hate the whole "New Year's Resolutions" crap. No one sticks to their resolutions. You never see any blog posts at the end of the year saying 'look how well I did with my resolutions!'. The gym is always crowded in January with these fake fitness goal seekers. "I'm going to lose 85 pounds and get into a bikini." Yeah, whatever. I'm no Tony Horton, but I'm also no Kevin James, either.

Some people quit smoking. Some people read more. Some people spend more time with their families. Blah-blah-blah. Most people just go about being themselves. People don't really change. Therefore, I'm not calling these New Year's resolutions. I'm just calling these things I hope to accomplish.

Early in the year we were introduced to the Believe in Tomorrow Foundation, an organization that provides respite and hospital housing for families with critically ill children. After we had the opportunity to spend a long weekend at their beach house in Ocean City in February I felt the need to do something for them. I learned that the Believe in Tomorrow Foundation sponsored the Port to Fort 6K. At that point I decided to start running so that I could participate in this race, which was in April. Then I kept running.

A month after the race one of my old high school friends posted on Facebook that she just ran X miles and was halfway to her goal for the year. I thought that was a great idea and I decided to run 200 miles by the end of the summer. I accomplished that goal. Then I decided I was going to run 350 miles by the end of the year. But then it got cold, work got busy, and I didn't make my goal. I did, however, run almost 300 miles. Not too bad.

So how many miles can I run next year? I think I can run 500 miles in a year. That's not that big of a deal. It's about 9 miles per week. I was running almost 20 miles per week during the summer. I also want to run a 5K with my daughter. She says she wants to run cross-country and track in high school (and she's about a year and a half away from high school), so she started ruining with me now and then. My friend Charm City Kim says that we should run a half-marathon together. A half-marathon is 13.1 miles, and when you finish you're allowed to have a 13.1 sticker, which also makes you eligible to buy a Volvo.

My weight has also been a struggle. I'm about 185, but I think I should be about 165. My wife thinks I should weigh 125. The next time I weigh 125 will be after I've been dead for about 9 months. I think with my continued running, I should be able to bring it down into the 170's. That is if I can contain myself with my daughter taking an interest in baking.

My youngest daughter continues her treatment for leukemia, so while I have no control over her illness, I want to see her healthier and not be in the hospital. I think she was in the hospital 4 times this year, maybe more. She has her down weeks, but her precious smile makes the other weeks so much better. She loves school and I want to see her go to school as often as she can.

There was a lull for a while in my reading. I picked it up again at the end of the year. I'd like to read at least one book per month. Most of my readings are history with the occasional classic. Perhaps some of my readers can offer suggestions. Romance novels are out of the question.

I'd like to paint my bedroom. We've lived in our house for almost 13 years and still have not painted our bedroom. Perhaps 2012 would be a good year to do that.

I'd like to see Martin O'Malley come to some sort of self-recognition of his abysmal failures as Governor and step down from office and start volunteering for a non-profit instead. I would also like to hear him admit that his Congressional map that he drew is not fair to Marylanders and submit a new plan.

On the blog front, I'd like to keep my bloggin pace a little more frequent than it was through most of the year. I know that several times this year saw a lull. Perhaps I can blog at night after I've read some of my book while eating my daughter's tasty desserts.

Is there anything else I should be doing? What are your goals for 2012?

Leaving Eldersburg - Blockbuster

I know what you're going to say - Blockbuster is still open? Seriously! I don't think I've been to a Blockbuster since I went there to rent Three Men and a Baby....I mean Under Seige 2, yeah that one.

Like everything else in the physically deteriorating Carrolltown Center, hardly anyone shops at Blockbuster. You can see the sun-faded movies sitting on the shelf collecting dust. Now and then I'd see a car or two in the parking lot, but then realized that those were the cars of the staff working there.

Blockbuster ran amock of the changing dynamics of the entertainment industry. Gone are the days of dozens of people with their head cocked to the right looking at the sideways titles of the VHS tapes. Here are the days of $1 rentals at kiosks and instant entertainment with OnDemand and Netflix. Heck, you can even find a lot of new movies at the library - for FREE!!! Why would you pay several dollars to rent a movie at Blockbuster? It's like voting for Martin O'Malley - it just doesn't make any sense!

The closing of Blockbuster is one of two imminent closings in the next two months at Carrolltown Center. Also closing in Peebles, the moderately priced clothing store. If my calculations are correct, the closing of Blockbuster and Peebles will leave 105% of the mall unoccupied. That's pretty bad!

So, farewell Blockbuster. Welcome more empty retail space at Carrolltown Center!!!!

Moving In Eldersburg - Final Touch

You'll recall that "The Final Touch" closed in the Freedom Village. Now, "Final Touch" has opened in the Princess Shopping Center in the former Romeo's restaurant site.

Word on the street is that the previous owner's son got into financial trouble and they had to bail him out and the new owners bought the business, slightly changed the name, moved it, and gave all VoteNoMalley blog readers free service. Well, the last one is not true.

So if you're in the mood for some total hair care service, stop in at Final Touch!



Friday, December 30, 2011

K-Mart...Closing....Staying....Closing....?

Eldersburg actually made the new in The Sun. And this time it wan't for someone in Randallstown robbing one of the businesses in our quaint bucolic town. This time it was because of Carrolltown and K-Mart.

As I mentioned recently, Sears Holding is closing 100-120 or so of its failing stores. Those of us in prosperous region of South Carroll were elated at this news because the K-Mart in our town is the epitome of failure. They MUST be closing this K-Mart, right?

Sadly, our hopes were dashed almost as quickly as we formed them. Sears Holdings released a list of the stores that were closing and the Eldersburg K-Mart was not cool enough to make the cut.

Now, another twist of fate, The Baltimore Sun posted an article about Carrolltown and Eldersburg's desire to rid the the town of this pox of a store. The rumor in town is that K-Mart has a golden lease, meaning it pays very little in rent and has something like a 50 year lease that allows it to have veto authority for any changes, sort of like K-Mart being on the Carrolltown Center Security Council (re NATO).

As The Baltimore Sun states, the lease actually expires in 2013. That's only a year and a couple of days or 2 years and a day away, depending on the month and day of the expiration of the lease. Can we wait that much longer for the lease to expire and boot this ghetto store from the 1970's? Or will Dixon Harvey and Black Oak Associations (owners of Carrolltown Center) pull the rug out from under the citizens of Eldersburg and extend the lease?

At this point, absolutely no one knows. We've spun around in circles on this issue for years. The citizens of Eldersburg feel like they have been misled and deceived by everyone from the court system, the Zoning and Planning Commission, Sears, K-Mart, and Black Oak Associates. At this point we trust no one. We must assume that all news we hear is a lie.

By the way, have there been any robberies in Eldersburg lately?

Oh, and have you ever noticed that K-Mart, the anchor tenant at Carrolltown Center, is not on the main sign for the mall? What does that tell you?



Thursday, December 29, 2011

2011 - A Year in Review

What can we say about 2011? This was supposed to be the year of the rebound for both Maryland, the U.S. economy, the Orioles, and the NBC Thursday night line-up. What we got was moral turbulence in Maryland, a continuing terrible economy, a 69-93 Orioles, and an Office without Steve Carell and some show named Whitney.

Let's review the year and see what we can remember.

January
In what has become known as the Arab spring, which actually stretched from winter into the summer, oppressive misogynistic hate-mongering governments of many Middle Eastern countries see the people rise up against them. In January, Tunisia sees its President flee to Saudi Arabia, but no clear leader has emerged. Perhaps we can send them Martin O'Malley. Tunisia needs to move forward.

The entertainment industry lost former Stealers Wheel frontman Gerry Rafferty. He's best known for the songs "Right Down the Line", "Baker Street", and the song from that fun scene in Reservoir Dogs when everyone shoots each other, "Stuck in the Middle With You".

Martin O'Malley holds a forum to discuss sustainability through his 2nd term as Governor. He touches buzz-word topics such as smart growth, clean energy, and Bay restoration. He leaves the forum in his black 6,550 lb Chevy Suburban that gets 8 miles per gallon.

February
More Arab spring, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarik resigns after 30 years of rule and the military takes over the government. That'd sort of be like George W. Bush resigning and Donald Rumsfeld leading the government until another president could be elected. Not that we expect free elections in Egypt. They're still about as corrupt as the Maryland Congressional redistricting committee.

In Super Bowl 46, the Packers beat the Steelers (thank God!!!) 31-25 behind the skill and arm of Aaron Rogers. Green Bay residents wonder how many Super Bowls they could have won with this kid if they would have just kicked Brett Favre out of town when it was really time to go.

The Gay Marriage Bill was unsuccessful in the Maryland General Assembly. However, Governor Martin O'Malley promises that it will pass next time when he can get credit for it.

March
March began with disaster as a 9.1 magnitude earthquake hit offshore of Japan and created a giant tsunami. Now people around the world snicker when they hear Fukushima, the nuclear power plant that went into meltdown and exploded after giant waves hit the plant and perilously disabled it. Scientists are uncertain what caused the earthquake, but many speculate that Rosie O'Donnell fell out of her bed.

There was a double-shot of Arab spring in March. There was civil unrest in Bahrain and the King sends the military to shoot the democracy seekers in order to bring peace again. In Libya, Muammar Gaddafi stands tall in protest of the raging civil war in his country. Pretty much everyone in the free world is against this nut (remember the Locherbie bombing?), so it's him and his sticks versus the bombs and jets of the free world. Guess who's going to win this one?

The world loses 2 political figures in March: Warren Christopher, former Secretary of State under Bill Clinton, (not to be confused with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky, who was also under Bill Clinton) and Geraldine Ferraro, former running-mate of Walter Mondale, the Democratic candidate for President in 1984.

In Hollywood, we lose Elizabeth Taylor, the often mocked star for her numerous husbands and awkward relationship with Michael Jackson and his monkey Bubbles. I don't care what people say. If you watch some of her movies back when she was young, she was a very attractive woman. And do you know why Bob Goldthwait was fired from Hollywood Squares? He asked, "What does Michael Jackson do in his spare time? He blows bubbles."

Charlie Sheen is fired from Two and a Half Men, prompting George Steinbrenner to fire Billy Martin. Tiger Blood and Winning are added to the American lexicon.

April
In what has to be the biggest news of the year, short of the winner of American Idol, Prince William and Catherine Middleton get married. It is estimated that more than 2 billion people watch the wedding, which was sponsored by Bank of America and Toyota.

Former Baltimore City Council President, Mayor of Baltimore, Governor of Maryland, State Comptroller, and general agitator of Martin O'Malley, William Donald Schaefer passes away at the age of 89. Most Marylanders mourn his loss as he was considered a moderate politician representing the people in the middle of the political spectrum. Left-wing fringe politician Martin O'Malley, while publicly mournful of the loss of Schaefer, you know he was relieved to get rid of that meddling kid.

May
In May, U.S. President Barrack Obama snuck into Pakistan in the middle of the night and killed Osama Bin Laden using illegal guns seized in Washington suburbs. This creates mass confusion in the media as MSNBC tweets that Obama was assassinated. This reminds me of the deplorable joke - what do Obama, Kennedy, and Lincoln have in common? Nothing yet.

In May we see the death of several prominent sports figures - golf legend Seve Ballesteros, wrestling legend Randy Savage, and the hope of Orioles fans for a winning season. Hollywood loses Kenickie from Grease or Bobby from Taxi, though there is much debate as to whether the drugs killed him, or the drug-induced vomiting into his lungs. Does it really matter? Don't do drugs, little bobcat.

New York Congressman Anthony Weiner resigns from office for [insert funny joke here]. Do I really need to say more?

June
Arab spring continues into June. The freedom-seeking people of Yemen attack the royal palace and demand FiOS be installed in the capital city. Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, rufusing to give up territorial rights already given to Direct TV, resigns and Abd al-Rab Mansur al-Hadi becomes President and demands that people say his name three times fast.

Farther north in the Middle East, Syrians get the freedom bug, but come under fire as they are attacked by the military and end up fleeing to Turkey where they are able to catch up on rerun episodes of Parks and Recreation.

Longtime euthanasia advocate and convicted felon, Dr. Death Jack Kevorkian died in June. There is no documentation as to what his opinion was on youth in Asia.

Also dead in June is Peter Faulk, probably best known by our generation as the detective Columbo, a show watched by our grandparents.

Not that anybody really cares, but the Dallas Mavericks beat the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals. ESPN is disappointed that the Lakers and Celtics aren't in the finals together for the 300th time, but hey, they'll get over it.

In the summer hockey championship, the Boston Bruins beat the Vancouver Canucks, 4 games to 3. It's a pleasant reminder that there are still hockey teams in Canada.

Opponents of In-State Tuition for Illegal Aliens get a victory when they gather enough signatures to put the issue on the 2012 election ballot. The thousands of illegal immigrants in Maryland say they will vote against this petition to have the law repealed.

July
South Sudan announces that it is seceding from Sudan. Locals are quoted as saying, "You bitches can have your famine and civil war. We want the Wheel of Fortune and Pillow Pets!" Upon hearing the news, officials in Carroll County Maryland announce they are succeeding from Maryland and forming a new state. Governor O'Malley sends in tanks as citizens scurry from Liberty Road.

The United Nations declares a famine in Somalia, in spite of the protests from Somalis who don't want one.

NASA ends the Space Shuttle program after Space Shuttle Atlantis lands ending a run of nearly 30 years of space exploration using space shuttles. The federal government then allocates some telescopes from Brookstone, a box of rubber bands, and some paper clips and demands that we get to Mars.

Thailand is hit with severe flooding from monsoons. The World Bank estimates that the flooding caused $45 billion worth of improvements in the country.

Many people were very sad in July when Amy Winehouse OD'd on drugs. She joined the 27 Club, a club of exclusive wayward entertainers who cannot handle their fame, fortune, and abundance of drugs.

Casey Anthony is found not guilty for killing her daughter Caylee Anothy proving that if you're attractive enough, you can be found not guilty for killing your daughter.

August
In August the football world lost Baltimore Colt's legend Bubba Smith. Or you may remember him as Moses Hightower from Police Academy.

Lindsay Lohan most likely committed another crime. The oft-embarrassed, oft-arrested starlet announces she will redeem her image by appearing naked in Playboy. Though not a fan of Lindsay Lohan, I'm all in favor of women redeeming their image in Playboy.

Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty withdrawals from the Presidential election while in Iowa after Ron Paul informs him that they are running for the 2012 Presidential Election. Apparently Pawlenty thought he and all of the other candidates were getting an early start on the 2016 election, which we now know starts in June of 2012.

Congress authorizes an increase of the federal debt ceiling to $14 trillion. Obama said it is necessary to keep the Government operating and moving forward. He promises to work to reduce the debt in the meantime. In December of this year, he asks Congress for another $1.2 trillion increase in the debt ceiling saying, "yeah, about that, I forgot to work on it."

September
In September the hockey world lost several great players including Pavol Demetra and Brad McCrimmon. ESPN tells us we should mourn, but we should also be grateful that their favorite star, Sydney Crosby, was not on the plane.

Stephanie Rawling-Blake hosts the Baltimore Grand Prix. Traffic is tied up downtown for months, trees are chopped down, and streets are repaved for a race that is watched by 60% fewer viewers than anticipated. Drivers of the race complain how bumpy the race is. Baltimore is then sent a bill for the race which they can't pay. Can we blame Sheila Dixon for this?

October
Muammar Gaddafi is killed in Libya. And there was much rejoicing. Yeaaaaahhh.

Wrapped in economic peril because of a mounting debt crisis, Greeks protest and riot across the land. Facing a bailout of over $1 trillion, Greece agrees to become part of China. The Parthenon is being disassembled and will be reconstructed in Beijing as part of the debt repayment program.

In the computer and gadget geek world, Steve Jobs lost his battle with pancreatic cancer. Jobs was an icon and legend at Apple. But come on people, get a grip. It's not like he was the second coming of Christ.

The St. Louis Cardinals beat the Texas Rangers in the World Series. Upon receiving the World Series trophey, Cardinal slugger Albert Pujols says, "F all y'all! I'm going to Disneyland" and promptly signs with the Angels. It is estimated that his new salary is larger than the GDP of Greece, depending on the time of day.

Martin O'Malley takes a pledge to help end bullying. He then tells Maryland Republicans across the state to shut the f**k up and stop complaining about his anti-business, and anti-personal property positions. Mike Miller is heard whispering into his ear, "Remind them that we're going to shoot Republicans down, put them in the ground and bury them upside-down!!!"

ESPN fires Monday Night Football singer Hank Williams Jr. for using an analogy that included both Obama and Hitler, proving that it's never worth including Obama in an analogy - you're bound to get fired.

November
The Occupy Baltimore movement takes a grip on McKeldin Square at the Inner Harbor. Their intent is unclear, but their complaints are not. Many people complain about the gathering, but the occupiers demand that they have the right to squat on public property, get free electricity, and make a basic trash dump out of the city park.

Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is officially elected to the position of Mayor of Baltimore, a position she has held since Sheila "Gimmie Some Free Gift Cards" Dixon was forced to resign. Martin O'Malley said he looks forward to working with her. Yeah, no kidding. What were you going to say, "Damn, I lost my puppet-politician, now I gotta put up with this one!"?

Revenue from slots in Maryland falls in November and is much lower than anticipated. Searching for answers and not wanting to blame the bad economy or the incompetent political leadership in Maryland, the blame is quickly placed on former Maryland Republican Governor Bob Ehrlich.

December
The world of politics lost 2 important leaders in December. Rest in Peace Vaclav Havel, the democratic President of Czechoslovakia, who helped tear down the Iron Curtain in Europe during the Cold War. Good riddance Kim Jong Il, the lunatic leader of North Korea. I guess he was unable to get Knight Rider to come save his life.

Obama declares the end of the Iraqi War and says that we have withdrawn all of our troops. This leaves thousands of troops still stationed in Iraq scratching their heads.

Hollywood loses M*A*S*H legend Harry Morgan, better known as Colonel Potter. I've watched a lot of old movies and Harry Morgan always seemed a lot older than he was. I think he was 147 years old when he died.

The Maryland Department of Transportation executive secretary Harold Bartlett announces that after massive toll increases throughout the state, revenues are actually down. Without any hesitation on this newest problem, the blame is squarely placed on former Maryland Republican Governor Bob Ehrlich.

And this is what I remember about 2011. What are your best and worst memories of 2011?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

It's Okay to Say Fu-ki

I went to the Carrolltown Liquors today (which is no longer in the Carrolltown Center). I was looking for Drambuie and Chivas Regal - I want to make a Rusty Nail (I think that's what it's called). While searching for both I found this and HAD to buy it. It tastes pretty bad. It gives Karo Syrup a run for it's money as a beverage. It's thick and very sweet. But it's a good laugh.

Do you Fu-ki your plum?

Kevin Kamenetz - You're Not Allowed to be Ethical

There was an interesting editorial in The Sun this week. And I actually agreed with it. Can you imagine that? I don't think my views have changed. I think the editorialist's views have moved closer to mine. If you haven't used up your 15 free views for this month, check out this article.

Earlier this year Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz submitted an ethics proposal to the Baltimore County to review and approve. Here are the highlights of his proposal:

There are rules for dealing with conflicts of interests. When voting on a matter in which the councilman has a financial interest or any connection, that councilman would need to recuse himself from voting. The council struck that down.

Mr. Kamenetz included rules for accepting gifts from others. This could include tickets to events, meals, or any physical items presented to the councilmen. Outside of politics, we call this bribery. In politics, it's perfectly okay. This was struck down.

The Baltimore County Council has had some problems with past members. We all remember Sam Moxley's drunk driving. And Ken Oliver's embezzling from his own campaign treasury. Why would the county council vote against new ethics standards? Because they enjoy the good ole' boy politics. Why would they vote to keep themselves honest when it's so much fun being bad?

Kevin Kamenetz - looks like you're on your own.

Potential Carrolltown Miracle? - Sears Closing Many K-Mart's


Yesterday the Sears Holding Company, owner of K-Mart, announced that they are closing between 100 and 120 Sears and K-Mart's across the country. I have an excellent candidate for one of stores that should close - the K-Mart in Eldersburg!

I posted the article on Facebook and it generated quite a lot of conversation:


1) If they close the K-Mart in Eldersburg, then Black Oak Associates has no excuse to not demolish that mall and rebuild it with something sensible for the area (of Eldersburg, not Randallstown).

2) They should also close the K-Mart on Moravia Road for civic security concerns.

I'll have to admit that growing up in Rosedale we could get to the Moravia K-Mart in about 10 minutes or the Fullerton K-Mart in 15 minutes. One had metal detectors and street thugs and was run-down and more expensive. The other was suburban, nicely lit, lower prices, and nice little ladies shopped there. Guess which one my mother made us go to?

3) Blockbuster and Peebles are closing, so K-Mart should be next. (Is Blockbuster really closing?)

4) Where am I going to get my MacGregor shows and Athletex sweatpants now??

5) We need more jobs, so they should build 2 more K-Mart's in Eldersburg.

So as you can see, there was a wide variety of feedback, though I think the pro-K-Mart comments were all tongue-in-cheek.

Black Oak - what are you going to do with this K-Mart?


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Trip to Washington, D.C. - Call First

Since I have off this week, I decided to take a trip to D.C. and knock off a few more site seeing stops from my list. As I have mentioned before, I've lived in Baltimore for 39 years, less a 3 year stint in South Carolina for college, but yet I have not toured all the sites in Washington. As Robert Plant would say, "What kind of fool am I?"

My daughter had an appointment with the hemotologist today, so we gave my other two kids the option to hang out in the hospital with their mother or go with me to D.C. My kids are smart. They know that when I say I'm going somewhere it means a boring educational trip with a potential for a lot of walking. My daughter chose to go with my wife. My son chose to go with me. I was actually surprised. I thought it would be the other way around.

My son and I left our house around 9-ish, went to the bank to get some dinero, then to 7-11 to break one of the $20's because we planned on taking the D.C. Metro and by experience I have found that you need something other than $20's.

By the time we got underway, it started raining. Then it started raining harder. Then it started raining harder. Hmmm..... should I have checked the weather first? Doesn't matter because I made a date to meet one of my college friends for lunch who works in D.C. We got to the D.C. beltway and it was pretty slow. I got to Georgia Avenue and I couldn't remember if I take GA Ave or Connecticut Avenue to get to Silver Spring. If my wife was with me, should would have made like a co-pilot and checked the map. Usually I'm correct when making travel destination decisions. Not today

Several miles down Connecticut Avenue I realize I'm not going the right way. Finally I hit a red light and pull out the map. I found that if I took Nebraska Avenue it would hit Georgia Avenue and I could take that back north to the Metro station in Silver Spring. I look up to see what street I was on and lo and behold - Nebraska Avenue!!! I make a quick left then take a long slow trudge through whatever part of D.C. I'm in with a 25 mph speed limit and thousands of red lights.

We eventually make it to Silver Spring and I pull into the parking garage. I think the Silver Spring Metro parking lot has been under construction for the past 5 years. The public garage has meters. Thank goodness I also brought a bunch of quarters. I find a spot to park. All of the spots are about 36 inches wide. For a guy that ALWAYS can back his truck into a spot with one maneuver, I was very disappointed that I had to do this one in two. But I did manage to get a 77 and a half inch wide Honda Pilot into 36 inches of concrete.

We trudge from the parking garage to the metro station. In the rain. Much to my surprise the vintage 1970's metro card machines have been replaced with machines that take credit cards! We catch a train and head into the city. My son is amazed in the amount of graffiti on the buildings, fences, and hobos. That's D.C. for you.

Silver Spring sure has changed over the years.


We finally make it to Union Station and make our way out. It's raining. And cold. And breezy. This is going to be fun!

This is what Union Station looks like in December when it's cold, breezy, and rainy. And I think they've been doing construction here for 7 years!

No Senators or Representatives were at the Capitol bickering over funding the government or pointing fingers at the other party accusing them of blocking progress.

We walk several blocks to the Supreme Court building. It's quite a sight. Very imposing structure overlooking the Capitol grounds. Sort of symbolic. I like it! We follow a family into the building and wait to get through the security check point. It's like being at the airport. Except that the security guards seem like they know what they're doing and are not a bunch of arrogant dumbasses like the TSA. However, I'm not kidding when I say it took nearly 10 minutes to get the family of 4 and my son and me through this checkpoint.


Once inside we do the walking tour and read the educational displays. I find it fascinating. My son less so. But that's okay. He could be sitting in a waiting room at University of Maryland hospital. We then go to the Supreme Court theater and watch a 20 minute documentary on the Supreme Court building and the body that occupies it. Did you know that the Supreme Court building, which was built in the 1930's, is considered the last (or only?) Federal building to be completed under budget? The builders returned $100,000 to the U.S. Treasury. That would NEVER happen today.

After the movie I inquire about seeing the actual court room. I am told that the next tour isn't until 12:30, which is when I'm supposed to meet my friend for lunch. AND - absolutely NO pictures may be taken in the court room. Seriously? Do they think that I'm going to sell the pictures on eBay? Or is it some security threat to know what it looks like on the inside? There are certainly enough pictures on the Internet AND inside the museum section to know what it looks like in there. Silly rule I say. My son and I then decide to leave and make our way to my friend's place of work.

Check out this guy. He's parked on Constitution Avenue. Apparently he doesn't like Obama and Eric Holder. I guess this guy is preparing us for Revelations. Jesus Christ will return to Earth with AK-47's or something. Repent Eric Holder!


We meet my friend and went to lunch at Hill Country Barbecue. This is good stuff. Think Famous Dave's without the Appelbee's motif.

After lunch we part ways with my friend (it's a work day for him) and make our way to Ford's Theater. As we enter I suddenly feel out of place. Everyone is dressed very nicely. I'm wearing a pair of wet sneakers, wet jeans, and a wet grey sweatshirt. Everyone else is wearing slacks and button-down shirts and jackets. I get in line at the ticket window and think I overhear the lady tell the gentleman in front of me that there are no tours of the theater today. He moves along and she confirms what I heard. There is a private showing of A Christmas Carol today, but I was welcomed to come back tomorrow at 8am. Yeah, whatever. I should have called first.

She did inform me, however, that we could tour the Petersen House for free. For those of you who went to public schools in Baltimore County and know little about history, Ford's Theater is where Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth, who went to the institution that became Bel Air High School, my alma mater. The Petersen House is across the street where they dragged Lincoln so they could put him on a bed and prod around in his brain with a metal rod to try and remove the bullet in order to save his life. Today you would know that this action would actually do more damage than good.

The Petersen House is quite small. There is a living room in the front with a sign that said Mary Todd Lincoln sat here between bed-side visits with her husband and receiving people.


The dining room has a sign indicating that Secretary of War Edwin Stanton conducted meetings and ordered the search for the assassins.


Then there is the bedroom where Lincoln laid and died.





The first floor of the house is all of 400 square feet and the upstairs is not open to the public. We spend all of 3 minutes in the house. For a house of such historical significance, it is a bit underwhelming.

At this point we are tired. Cold. And very wet. We decide to head home. It's about 11 blocks back to Union Station. And it's raining fairly steady. And did I mention that it's cold? We finally get to Union Station. We're soaked. We catch the train and head out of the city. Oh, I pulled the metro tickets out of my pocket and they're soaked. A metro thug tells me I cannot use them, that I need to buy new tickets. Are you f-ing kidding me? So I go to buy new tickets. It won't let me use my credit card this time. I need $4.80 (2 $2.40 tickets). So I pull out a $5 bill, buy one ticket, then use the change distributed by the machine (2 Susan B. Anthony dollar coins), but the machine won't even take them. How's that for efficiency?!! Finally we really do get on the train. As we're pulling out of the station, my son is a bit unnerved by the profanity-laden conversation between the kids behind us. And this was between two kindergartners!

We get back to Silver Spring, then head up Georgia Avenue to I-495. Traffic is bumper-to-bumper. And it's raining. I plan on taking U.S. 29 north to I-70. Then I see a sign for I-95 north. Crap! I missed my turn. I'm usually pretty good at getting around without a map. Did I already mention that? So we take I-95 north. I plan to get off on Route 100. Crap! I passed it! I'm usually pretty good at..... I make my way to Rolling Road, then to Liberty. Way to turn a 55 minute commute into an hour and half!

We get home and jump into a hot shower. What a long day. I think the next time I go to Washington, I'll call first.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Boxing Day!

I have no idea why it's called Boxing Day. I know that I could look it up, but just like Martin O'Malley's attitude toward all the concerns about the newly redrawn Congressional districts, I just don't care that much.

I weighed myself this morning and knew that I need to get back on track with running. I was on a nice pace through October. My goal was to run 35o miles by the end of the year. Then it got.....cold. I don't like running in the cold because it agitates my asthma. I'm not much of fan of running on a treadmill. It's boring. And I don't own one at home. So my year-end gola of 350 is looking more like 300 miles. But today I decided that I was going to go running. I got a new pair of Nike running gloves for Christmas (thank you baby Jesus!). And on Friday I bought a new pair of running shows from the Falls Road Running Store. I used my $100 gift card that I won for being the top fund raiser in the Port to Fort race this year. I bought a pair of Asics that cost $105, so with tax I paid about $11.
Anyway, I ran 6 miles this morning up at Liberty High School. I was set on running 3 miles. At about the 2 mile marker this cocky kid was running at the same time as me, then stopping in the inside lane to do push-ups and sit-ups. Seriously kid, get out of the freakin' inside lane!!! It's not yours! So then I decided to run 4 miles so that I could keep almost stepping on him as I ran past him. Then he left and I was at 4 miles, so to make sure he saw me still running as he drove away, I needed to trudge to 5 miles. Then a bunch of people joined me at the track, and I decided to push another mile to make it 6. I'm surprised that I did it. I haven't run more than 4 miles in
more than a few months.

Christmas was a blast as always. My parents got me a Ray Rice jersey. He's no Chykie Brown, but I still like the guy. I got an iron frying pan, pre-seasoned. It'll be nice not to have Teflon flakes in our food now. You know that stuff is terrible for you, right? I also got some Brady Chocolates from Trader Joe's. OMG. (am I too old to say that?) But they are so good!!! And finally I got an electronic rotating grill scrubber. My last one I left on the grill (on the inside under the cover) and the next time I used the grill I didn't open it first before I lit the burners and by the time I did it was thoroughly melted. Hmmm.....

My kids had a wonderful Christmas, too. My youngest got the hard-to-find Leap Frog Tablet. My oldest got a laptop (remember that story?). My son got an electric guitar that he thinks cost $600. If he wants to think that I'll be more than happy to let him continue thinking that. Now he calls himself "Guitar Lord".


Christmas day started with my son running in our room at 6am asking if it was time to get up. As always, I told him to go back to sleep (running joke). I ended up sleeping on the floor that night because my youngest kicked me out of my own bed and I didn't feel right about sleeping on the couch and accidentally running into Santa Claus. Let me tell you - sleeping on the floor at 39 is not the good-time sleepover that my kids think it is. My back still hurts!

Soon after opening presents, my youngest fell asleep, which is an open invitation for me to go back to sleep, which I did for another 2 hours. After I awoke we went to my wife's aunt's house - crab dip, cookies, cashews, refrigerated chocolate covered something or other. Cookies. Did I mention cookies? My wife's cousin has been baking the month away. And it was good indeed!

We finally baled about 7pm for our hour trip back to Carroll County. After a good nap on the ride home, the kids were raring to go! I ended up playing Uno for about hour or so, them some Princess gems fishing game, before finally collapsing at midnight. I have no idea what time my youngest fell asleep because she was still talking to me when I was falling asleep.

And that was basically our Christmas. How was your Christmas? What did you get?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Here Come's Santa Clause

Christmas is almost here and I am totally sorry for not providing ideas for everyone as I know you are all stumped as to what to get for me this year.

With my daughter having leukemia, my obvious first wish is for her health. I would accept nothing in life if there was a guarantee that she would be cured and be healthy. We are very excited about Christmas this year. Her health seems to be good right now and she's very excited
about Christmas. The Sykesville Freedom Fire Department drove though our neighborhood with a special guest - Santa Claus!!! My daughter was so jumping for joy!

Funny story - my youngest daughter was lounging around in her usual underwear and nothing else. We knew Mr. Claus was coming on the fire truck, so my oldest daughter told her that she had to get ready because Steve was coming to visit. She didn't want to reveal the actual visitor's name. Finally we heard the sirens coming through the neighborhood, so we ran outside. Santa waived. They threw candy canes at us. Everyone was so excited. After they drove by my youngest daughter says, "Is Santa Claus' middle name 'Steve'?

So what to get Eludius, one of Maryland's leading conservative comedic political bloggers? Well, if you MUST get me something, here are some ideas:

1) A Raven's jersey. My Todd Heap jersey is looking a little odd now that he no longer plays for the Ravens. Well, he doesn't actually play right now for anyone as he is injured (again), but his contract is currently owned by the Arizona Cardinals. Any jersey would do. Suggs. Cundiff. Jarret Johnson. Chykie Brown.

2) Since we're on the topic of jerseys, I do not own a hockey jersey. How about a Capitals' jersey? Ovechkin (either in the Latin alphabet or the Russian Cyrillic alphabet). Or Semin. You can't cheer for that guy without chuckling.

3) Finished basement. Everyone keeps telling me I should finish our basement. I agree. However, I try to be as financially responsible as possible and unfortunately that means no finished basement. My wife hasn't worked in 14 months as she's been caring for my daughter, so money is tight(er than normal). My kids are getting older (the oldest is in middle school) and they now want to have friends over AND have a place to hide away from the parents. So in actuality, finishing the basement isn't for me, it's for the kids.

4) Since we're talking about finishing the basement, what's a finished basement without a new entertainment center? My current entertainment center is an eclectic mix of castaway electronics from throughout the house on a prefabricated wood K-Mart TV stand. I bought a digital receiver about 10 years ago when I had grandiose plans to install a surround sound system in my finished basement. It was going to be the ultimate man-cave. Now it looks like something out of Hoarders on TCL. Well, now that receiver seems so antique. It doesn't even have plug and play inputs for speakers. It requires copper wire clips. Boo!! The television is our old 32" cathode ray television from the family room that weighs about 300 pounds. Unfortunately, we have digital cable throughout the house (read as family room and bedroom) except in the basement, so there's no TV reception down there. DVD? It's a travel DVD player that I bought in Ocean City several years ago when the place we were renting had none and I brought a bunch of DVD's to watch in the evening. I even have a VCR hooked up in this state-of-the-past entertainment center.

5) A shed. Seems simple enough. But there's an ulterior motive here. I have so much crap in the garage that I can no longer park the car(s) in there. Bikes. Lawnmower. Broadcast spreader. Wheelbarrow. Bikes. Chairs. Bikes. Fishing gear. Bikes. Junk. I would love to park at least one of my vehicles in there again. It's technically a 2 car garage, but I challenge you to put 2 cars in my garage and open one of the doors of either vehicle. In reality it's a 1 1/2 car garage. So out of the garage and into the shed would go the junk!

6) I'm not much of a handyman around the house. My neighbor can attest to that. But I do use a drill now and then. I would love a new cordless drill. My 1987 Craftsman corded drill looks like a relic every time I pull it out. I'm surprised a designer for TGIFriday's hasn't shown up and offered my money for it so that they can display it on the wall with other antique implements: A Scythe. A Radio Flyer. An Elvis record. My 1987 Craftsman corded drill.

7) And while we're talking about power tools, let's add in a Bosch combination plunge and fixed-based router. When I start my furniture making career, I'll need one of those.

8) I take a lot of pictures, as you would probably guess based on the number of pictures I post. I would be honored to receive an SB-800 Speedlight top-mount external flash for my Nikon D40-X. These are great for taking indoor pictures.

9) This one may seem sort of crazy. No one would consider me a musician, but I would absolutely LOVE to have a banjo and learn how to use it. I could then play Rainbow Connection, the song that Kermit plays at the beginning of the original Muppet Movie.

10) Since this is SUPPOSED to be a political blog, my political wish for this year is a redrawn common sense legislative district map rather than the radical divisive map that O'Malley and his politically motivated cronies created. Should a politician have to cross a river to get to another part of his disconnected district? John Sarbanes doesn't seem to mind.

Finally, and most importantly, I ask for gifts to some of my favorite charities. Donations are always welcome at these charities that provide opportunities for children with chronic illnesses. My favorite charities are Casey Cares, Believe in Tomorrow, and the Starlight Foundation. Help bring a smile to a child suffering from cancer. Help a family struggling with an undiagnosed syndrome to have fun together at a baseball game. Or donate your time. You can always call them and find opportunities.

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah to everyone!

Commuters Paradise

I usually cannot complain about my commute to and from work. On a good day it's about 16 minutes. On a bad day it's about 25 minutes. For the past few weeks there has been construction between Owings Mills Boulevard and Marriottsville Road and again on Liberty Road through the hamlet of Holbrook.

Fortunately, the construction and lane closures are usually complete by the time I go home. Yesterday was a different story. I felt like I was living in Montgomery County.

First I roll into this. The 4 lane highway of Lyon's Mill between Painter's Mill and Owings Mills Boulevard, with a speed limit of 30 mph where everyone goes 70 mph, we merge into the center turn lane. You know this is going to cause mass confusion among the idiot class when they get on the road.


Then, past the light we queue up for leapfrog lane-shifting. They have to extend the 30 mph superhighway.


I didn't capture a picture of this going home, but I had to return to Owings Mills to go to BJ's (I forgot to do this from leaving work). See the guard rails at the bottom of this decline? They went up in less than 30 minutes. Who knew guard rails could be assembled so quickly? I wish Congress was as effective as this construction crew!


So while I'm excited that the roads are being repaved and widened in some parts, I share the frustration with my fellow commuters of sitting and waiting.

Thank you Keven Kamenetz and the Department of Public Works and Olney Masonry Corporation for building the Lyon's Mill Highway.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Night at Skateland With the Children's Cancer Foundation

Last weekend was a busy weekend for us. Saturday started with the early morning continental breakfast and fun times at the Maryland Science Center compliments of Casey Cares. In the evening we had the wonderful opportunity to celebrate the December holidays with an evening at Skateland in Towson hosted by the Children's Cancer Foundation.

All of the children involved in this event have some sort of chronic illness, mainly cancer and Sickle Cell. For an evening they get to forget about their illnesses and skate around the rink jamming to Christmas music. We got to eat roller rink hot dogs and pizza and nachos. A grocery store donated frozen treats such as Butterfinger ice cream bars, ice cream cookie sandwiches, and Popsicles.

I haven't been to Skateland since 1983 and it is just as I remember it. The one and only time I went roller skating was at the Dundalk Skateland off of Merrit Boulevard for my best friend's birthday party. It is memorable because I fell and broke my arm. Oh, what fun that was!

Can't you just picture Jive Talkin' playing while you're rollering?!!!


Well, things aren't exactly as I remember them. Check out this sign. Gun checks at Skateland? Was an episode of The Wire filmed here or something? I thought this was Towson, not Woodlawn. What colors do gangs in Towson wear? Plaid?


The Towson Skateland doesn't mess around. Check out this warning. If you are caught chewing gum on the rink, you will be fined $3!!! Attention all 'patorns'!!! What's a patorn? Should I be on the lookout for them?


Overall I did okay. Didn't go real fast. Didn't skate backwards. No double axels. No whips. But most importantly - I didn't fall! I think this place would be jammin' on Disco Night.

Thank you Children's Cancer Foundation for a wonderful night! Thank you, Santa Claus, for making a surprise visit!!!


Trios? Is that like a girl sandwich?

A Casey Cares Evening With LaQuan Williams of the Ravens

Last week my son and I had the opportunity to meet Baltimore Raven LaQuan Williams. The event was sponsored by Casey Cares, though this time we were actually paying customers and not benefactors of their organization.

LaQuan Williams hasn't had much playing time this year, but he did go to University of Maryland and played at Poly High School, which is where my grandfather went to high school, though my grandfather went to the original Poly High School further in the city and that was back in the 1930's. Needless to say, Mr. Williams has been a local figure for some time now.

Thank you to Casey Cares and Pump It Up in Owings Mills for hosting this event. I will have to say, however, that there is very little lighting in the business park off of Cronhill Drive. Many of us were driving in circles trying to find this place.

I like this picture because the lady (his wife\girlfriend?) is giving him the look. Not sure what the look was for or if it was just the timing of the picture.


And finally, a funny story. I was standing in line watching the children of several parents in front of us running and slamming into each other, screaming and being generally disrespectful while their parents said, "No, no, no! Stop! Behave! Stop! Stop, or I'll be forced to say 'stop' again!"

I eventually turned my attention to the people behind me as their children were more civilized. I overheard the lady 2 groups behind me say to the woman behind me, "Did you go to Randallstown (high school)?" She confirmed that she did, both said the years they graduated (1987 and 1988). One of my good friends went to Randallstown and graduated in that era, so I spoke up and asked if they knew Duckman. Their eyes both lit up. The first lady said, "I know Duckman!" The other lady said, "Everybody knows Duckman!". I thought that was really funny.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Unoccupy Baltimore

Looks like the directionless Occupy Baltimore's free ride has come to an end. No more littering all over a public park. No more unsightly refugee camp sites. No more tent rapings. No more trash. No more unshaven college graduates living off of their parents' bank accounts.

If you've been hiding behind the mind-numbing fall schedule of network television programs, you probably don't know that Occupy Baltimore is our fair city's equivalent of the Occupy Wall Street movement. What is Occupy Wall Street? Most people think it's a move to protest the norms of our modern society - excessive corporate pay, the widening income gap between the working class of society and the privileged class of society, the growing mass of young people that cannot find work, and the throngs of people that do not have access to the latest 4G smart phones.

I've seen stories of these copycat protesters getting their messages out damning corporate America and all of the evils that it pervades. These messages, of course, are spread on Facebook and Twitter via iPads, iPhones, Macs, laptops, and other awesome technologies created by companies that are exempt from the ridicule.

But seriously, what are the demands of the Occupy movement? Will they 'decamp' when CNN can prove that executive pay has been decreased by 50%? When the jobless rates gets back to tolerable levels? When taxes on the rich get even higher? Or when all college graduates have their student loans repaid, a job handed to them, and a free iPad with the latest app showing them where the closest Starbucks is located? Or is this just a movement to utilize some downtime until something better comes along - like jobs?

I don't know what the answers are. I agree with most of the things they are saying, but there's seems to be no objective. It's not like the 1960's when our parents demanded that we withdrawal from Vietnam. It's not like the temperance movement when radical women demanded the prohibition of alcohol. When will the Occupy movement realize its goals? It's just not clear.

What we do know is that McKeldin Square in Baltimore, named after Theodore McKeldin, the last Republican Mayor of Baltimore, is clear of vagrants and is now clean. We can now walk through the park and enjoy it as citizens of Baltimore.

O'Malley Hates the Legislative Process?

As you'll recall I wrote about Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley's PlanMaryland, the vicious authoritarian plan to enforce his vision of environmental policies and political control over the minority party. Now, instead of letting his plan go through the legislative process and review via the Maryland General Assembly, it will be mandated through Executive Order. I think it's safe to say that this process is usually utilized when the Governor\President knows he's not going to get his way.

Most rural districts are against the plan, and, not surprisingly, most Republicans live in the in the rural areas of the state. With the Executive Order, O'Malley can skip these pesky politicians that are elected by the citizens of the state of Maryland. I mean, why should you bother with the legislative review that may publicize flaws with a plan when you can just mandate it and shove it down everyone's throat?

Is there going to be much flack because of this action? Probably not. Most Marylanders don't give a crap about the restrictive laws that are passed. Who gets screwed? Land owners. Small businesses who want to expand. Marylanders as this plan is sure to deter companies from moving to Baltimore or opening branch offices of their companies here. Thus a loss of future tax revenue. Lots of people will get screwed. Does O'Malley care? Evidently not.

You are free to love or hate PlanMaryland. But I think every Marylander with any common sense will agree that O'Malley's Executive Order is definitely the wrong way to go about it. Shame on you, Governor!

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

A Holiday Party or a Charitable Donation?

When the economy started going sour, the corporate magnates at American Amalgamated Corrugated Conglomerates of America thought it would be more appropriate to donate money to a charitable organization than throw a big holiday party for everyone. I thought that was a wonderful idea. And several years later, we are still doing that.

Last week I got to thinking, however. There are definitely people out there that are out of work and need help. There are families that will not have a Christmas or a Hanukkah this year and it would be wonderful to continue to support them. But what would happen if all of these companies that used to throw parties and now donate money would spend this money instead by having a a big holiday party? Is it more beneficial to society and our local economy to spend money at local small and mid-sized businesses that hire people and provide goods and services or give money to organizations that provide charity?

I'm torn with this. Spending money creates jobs. Spending creates tax revenue. Donations do not. Spending begets more spending. Companies have to spend money to provide the goods and services that they provide. Donations do not beget donations, at least not that I can perceive.

Lost in all of this is the absence of building corporate morale and being with your coworkers and friends for an event outside of the normal business processes. We're not improving corporate relations and positive work environments by receiving a sterile email that some money was donated to a organization that you may have heard of.

How about a hybrid? Let's invite some families in need to a catered holiday party and have a great meal with them while enjoying the company of our coworkers? Let's rally together for a return of the corporate holiday party!

What do you think about donations versus spending money?

Monday, December 05, 2011

14-Car Pile-up in Japan: 8 Ferraris Destroyed

I love Ferraris. It would be my car of choice if I won a gajillion dollars. It breaks my heart to see this video on CNN of this 14 car pile-up in Japan that destroyed 8 Ferraris, a Lamborghini, and three Mercedes.

Which Grocery Store in Owings Mills Will Close When Wegman's Opens?

As I mentioned a week or two ago, Wegman's has announced plans to open a store in the former Solo Cup factory at the corner of Reisterstown Road and Painter's Mill Road. However, there are always unintended consequences (well, maybe not always, but often times).

Currently there are six grocery stores in the Owings Mills area that I can recollect. There is the Giant in New Town off of Lakeside Boulevard. There is a Food Lion on Lakeside Boulevard. There is a Mars Supermarket on Reisterstown Road that one could argue is actually Reisterstown, but there's really no clear distinction between those two areas anyway. There's another Giant in the Cherry Vale Shopping Center along with the ghetto Aldi's. There is a third Giant in the St. Thomas Shopping Center. And there's a Safeway on Reisterstown Road.

It is not possible for all of these grocery stores to survive if the Wegman's opens. Which ones will survive?

I think the Giant in New Town will survive. New Town is almost its own town. Those residents would have to make the longest drive to go to another store. And that store is fairly nice inside, despite being extremely expensive.

Food Lion is a convenient over-sized 7-11. Many commuters use Food Lion as their destination of choice for picking up foods for breakfast before work or for work parties. Plus it's fairly inexpensive. Food Lion isn't going anywhere.


Safeway. Tough call. The people who determine the prices of the products at Safeway must be crack-smokers, because that store is easily the most expensive store on the Eastern Seaboard. How can they advertise 2-litre bottles of soda for $1.99 and tell you that you're saving $1.50??? But it's always busy. Perhaps people like spending too much money. Is there some sort of status symbol for paying too much for Lucky Charms?


St. Thomas Giant - easily the most likely candidate to be closed. Their parking is terrible. The store is old, though it recently had an exterior renovation. And did I mention the parking is terrible? Good-bye St. Thomas Giant.


Aldi's? They are not going anywhere. Or as their customers would say, "They ain't going nowhere". There's so much low-income, I'm sorry, "affordable housing", being constructed in Owings Mills that there are plenty of people who will shop there with their government "independence" cards. And how can they call it an Independence Card when people depend on this government handout to buy soda and snacks?

Cherry Vale Giant - potential candidate for closing, though I think their main competition is the Mars Supermarket and they are far enough north to not be too severely impacted.

So all in all, it seems that the most likely candidates for closing are Giants. And I hadn't even mentioned that Owings Mills already has a vacant grocery store. Remember the Shopper's Food Warehouse? Still empty. What are your thoughts?

Eldersburg: Dickenson Road Extension Almost Ready

I'm willing to bet vast sums of money that most people in Eldersburg don't know where Dickenson Road is. It is the road between McDonald's and Oklahoma Road Middle School that ends right behind Carroll Station. I'm willing to bet even more money that most people in Eldersburg don't know where Carroll Station is.

Carroll Station is the strip mall that opened when Carrolltown Mall booted their tenants out - Radio Shack, Carrolltowne Liquors, and the remnants of Genesis II hair salon. In addition to these places, there is The Cork restaurant, Sherwin Williams, and Epic Pharmacy, among others.

Dickenson Road was extended to intersect West Hemlock Road, the road that passes the library. The exciting part of this road extension is that the morons who make the illegal left turn in front of Carroll Station now have a legal alternative - they can turn left on Hemlock, then right on Dickenson, then right into Carroll Station. I'm that guy that refuses to let them cross over west-bound Route 26 when traffic is heavy solely because it is an illegal turn. They can currently drive up to the McDonald's and turn left onto Oklahoma Road, then come up Dickenson the other way.

I'm such an old person, I know. But rules are rules. And I'm not going to help you break them. Dickenson Road should be legally open soon. I told my wife that technically you could drive on it now, you just need to drive over the cones that are in the way. She disagreed. Here's to safer turns in Eldersburg!


Saturday, December 03, 2011

Happy Birthday Ron Smith

Yesterday former WBAL radio talk show host Ron Smith turned 70 years old. Even if you're not a talk radio kind of person, but you've lived in Baltimore you've probably heard of Ron Smith. Talk Show Man. The Voice of Reason. These are a couple of his monikers.

Ron retired from talk radio last week after a month-long battle with pancreatic cancer. Ron explained that he did not respond well to treatment and is signing off, but he's okay with that.

I have listened to Ron Smith since 1994 when I graduated from college. I can thank my fraternity brother Slopper for getting me into talk radio. In college he made me listen to Rush Limbaugh anytime we went somewhere in his car. I wasn't a huge fan, but it definitely got me thinking. When I returned to Baltimore after college I started listening to Ron Smith. And I got hooked.

David Zurawick wrote a great article in The Sun about Ron Smith. Z writes that despite battling Maryland's liberals for 26 years, there's been a huge outpouring of support for Ron in the last couple of months. He's received calls from Senator Cardin, Senator Mikulski, Attorney General Doug Gansler, Comptroller Peter Franchot, and he even received a note from Martin O'Malley, the Governor who has refused to go on WBAL radio for years after he got into a fight with Chip Franklin.

I missed Ron when he moved from the drive home to the late morning. I really miss him now that he's not on the radio at all. God speed, Talk Show Man.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Closing in Eldersburg - Peebles

This is not coming as a shocker to anyone. What is the shocker is that Peebles remained opened for as long as it did.

How could a store of Peebles' caliber stay in a ghetto dead mall like that? You may poo-poo Peebles, but the quality of their merchandise is probably comparable to that of J.C. Penney's. Can you imagine a J.C. Penney's in Carrolltown Mall? Of course not!

Here's a picture of Peebles on a really busy day.

So, who are the main tenants of Carrolltown Mall now? There's the ghetto K-Mart that never has any cash registers open and you have to pay at the customer service desk. This is probably not true ALL of the time, but it certainly has been true several times that I have visited.

There's the Dollar General with cluttered aisles that smells like hell. The only time we went in there my kids made me get out of their because it reeked of toxic plastics.


Then there's the Big T's. It's a Big Lots during the day, but when it gets dark and the lights come on, it's all about the Big T's!!! If you go there, you'll be disappointed. Not only if you're looking for Big T's, but also because the merchandise is questionable. I once bought some food there and there were mites in it. I was too embarrassed to go back and admit that I bought food there.


Finally, there are some odds and end stores and organizations, like some sort of Freedom Church, the Blockbuster (which I have no clue as to why they're still open), some fitness center, a Zumba place, and the area's largest retailer of NFL merchandise. That's not saying much in Eldersburg. But that's how they advertise it.

So with Peebles gone, what's going to happen? My prediction is that the owner, Owings Mills-based Black Oak Associates, is busy doing nothing. I could be wrong, but they haven't done anything in the past few years to convince me otherwise.

So long, Peebles!

Owings Mills - Lyon's Mill Road Widening

Have you been down Lyon's Mill Road in Owings Mills lately? It sure looks like the county is getting ready to widen it between Marriottsville Road and Owings Mills Boulevard. Remember when that was a quaint country road? No more! Down with bucolic!

There are sediment barriers planted in the middle of everyone's yards on the north side of the road. All of the trees have been removed. Some of those trees looked like they were 100 years old. I saw one trunk of a tree being hulled out on a big flat-bed truck. That was all that was in the bed of the truck and all that would fit. It was huge! It was probably about 6 feet wide.

New telephone polls are now going up about 20 feet farther back from the road. This could only mean one thing - Baltimore County hates trees! Oh, I mean they are widening the road.

I'm very excited. We'll now have a 4 lane boulevard that's as wide as a highway with a 30 mph speedlimit. Does that make any sense? Most of the people that I know that drive that road go about 65 mph. I usually do about 40 mph. Normally people tailgate me, flick their high-beams, and shake their fists at me to go faster. There sure are some mean old women in this town!

So the next time your going this way, check it out. Let me know what you think.

This was a week or so ago - before the trees got cut down, but you can see that the branches have been removed. Note the sediment barriers in their yards.



Secretary of State Martin O'Malley

Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley is at it again! He is off gallivanting around the globe again all in the name of moving Maryland forward. And if O'Malley thinks that padding his résumé for higher office moves Maryland forward, then it's mission accomplished!

You'll remember last year O'Malley took a contingent to Asia to help foster economic relations with countries in that region. The running joke was that O'Malley was preparing to be a future Secretary of State. Or was he trying to get some foreign relations experience for when he succeeds Barbara Mikulski as U.S. Senator from Maryland when she retires in 200 years?

This time, O'Malley took a contingent of about 100 people, many of them government officials, to India for a 10-day trip. He claims that more than half of them are paying their way. What about the other half? Are we, the tax-payers of Maryland, footing this bill? Is he robbing from the Transportation Fund to pay for this trip? Is this why he needs to raise the gas tax by another 15 cents?

So how much could this trip to India cost the tax-payers of Maryland? I looked on Priceline.com for flights from BWI to Mumbia. The cheapest flight is $1,755 round-trip. He says the majority of the delegation paid their own way. Let's assume that the State of Maryland paid for 49 people (that's less than half of 100 people). That's nearly $86,000. The cheapest hotel rooms on Priceline.com are $192 per night. For 49 rooms for 10 nights, that's $94,000. Perhaps O'Malley has everyone shacked up with another person (ignoring whether they are of the same sex or opposite sex), that's $47,000. So with the flight and room we're looking at about $150,000.

Rental cars - how are they getting around? Train? A giant limo? A bus? An elephant? I dunno. If they are renting cars, they could get a 4-seat car for $358 for the week. Let's assume they'll need 25 cars for 10 days, that's $358/7 days = $51 per day times 25 cars x 10 days, that's $12,750. Did I do the math correctly?

Food? What are they going to eat? Compliments of India? I couldn't find information on the cost of dining. Actually, I lied. I didn't even look it up. No ambition. But it's going to cost us. I think that's safe to say.

So all in all, we as tax-payers are probably looking at about $175,000 for flight, hotel, and travel expenses. We'll need to add in more money for food and souvenirs. I bet there are 4 former state employees who wish they still had a job. But instead this money is being spent on the global economy.

I'm not poo-pooing the trip. I hope it generates business for Maryland companies, the few of them that are left. But I think it's always good to know what it's costing us as tax-payers to help O'Malley make a bigger name for himself.

By the way, Governor, can you pick up some Tikki Ki Chaat for me while you're there? Thanks!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Chick Fil-A Coming to Eldersburg?

Facebook is swirling with rumors that Chick-Fil-A is coming to Eldersburg. I have heard various versions of this rumor for a couple of years, but the chatter seems to be a bit more than previous times.

One previous rumor was that Chick-Fil-A was going to move into the new Liberty Exchange, just west of Route 32 on Route 26. I think the only tenants of that new complex are doctors offices and places that offer services, not retailers and food chains.

The new rumor has Chick-Fil-A building on the vacant lot at the corner of Route 32 and Barthalow Road, just across the street from the Chili's. I can't imagine a fast food restaurant going on this plot, as it will definitely generate a lot of traffic. Barthalow turns and makes a steep incline just past this plot as it goes towards Liberty High School. I would imagine that the best way to manage traffic would be to make an ingress right, egress right entrance on Barthalow, and the same type of entrance on Route 32. This means that as you leave, you would not be able to turn left back onto Barthalow to get onto Route 32. You'd have to go towards the high school For the Route 32 entrance, since it's a divided road at that point, perhaps they could share a driveway with the funeral home on the plot next to them.

Here's the purported corner:


What would be the impact of a Chick-Fil-A in Eldersburg? I think you can say goodbye to the Arby's. Has anyone eaten there in the past 5 years? We stopped going there when they reduced the roast beef sandwiches to children-sized rolls and one thin slice of roast beef. What about KFC? They already lost their tenant of A&W. I've been to KFC twice in the past couple of years and they didn't have any chicken cooked. Hello! Your primary business is chicken! You must always have chicken!

I think the other restaurants are safe. What do you think? And are these rumors true?

Former Eldersburg Arby's???

Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday Night at Wal-Mart

A week or two ago my wife asked if I would go to Wal-Mart at midnight and get some junk for the kids for Christmas. I said, "sure". Then I thought about it and realized that I would need to get in line for a few hours as those specials go fast, so you must get there early. Then it dawned on me yesterday morning - I'd be in line at the same time that the Ravens' game was going on. Crap!!! What did I get myself into?

So I left my house at 8:15 pm to go to the Wally-World in Eldersburg. So that I could wait in line for 3 1/2 hour. What the hell am I thinking? I brought my book (The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas - I've been reading this book since the end of the summer. It's 1400 pages long and I'm on page 1040.) I also brought a bottle of water.

I got there around 8:30 and the parking lot was about 1/3 full. I had to weave through the barricade that they set up. It was fortified enough to stop the Allied invasion at Normandy. But could it withstand the Randallstown invasion???

I scouted for the products I wanted, but soon learned that you had to get in line for one product and stay there the ENTIRE time. Okay, so I was only going to get one item. I picked one, got the voucher (I was number 5) and got in line. There were 3 ladies in front of me and some older hillbilly with a Fu Manchu and a ponytail. I sat down and started reading my book. I was half listening to the ladies biddying back and forth. They were planning out their entire weekend. There was no sleep in their plans. 'After here, we'll go there, then we'll go here and then we'll go here.' More power to them. It sounded as if they were going to spend $5,000 over the 4 day weekend, but they were going to save over $400 getting stuff they really don't need.

After a while Karl (the name I'm giving the Fu Manchu in front of me) starts making conversation. He's got a bottle of water and a big tankard with a straw in it. What's in that thing? His voice is a bit husky and his speech is slow. Reminds me of Karl from Slingblade. I'm just waiting for this guy to say, "Gonna get me some French fried taters."

He tells me that he's a framer (builds houses and such). The following are the conversations and statements that he made the rest of the evening.

Yep, I'm a framer. I can do it all, wood, metal, electric, white rock. Yep. 'cept I ain't licensed. Sometimes they come in and make you tear it all up if you ain't licensed. 's not like I can't do it. It's all good.

I been workin' at my Church. Built out a daycare over one weekend. 'spectors came in and didn't believe we could do it all in a weekend. (I couldn't comprehend the rest of the conversation).

I like my Church. I can come in dressed like this (sweatshirt and jeans). Sometimes I come in with a bandanna on. Sometimes I come in without a bandanna. Don't make no difference.

I was planning on goin' to my buddy's for Thanksgiving today, but he passed out. So I didn't go over there.

I'm gettin' hungry. Gotta big plate of ham in my truck. It's a BIG plate of ham. Might go get me some of that.

Livin' with my mama right now. Tryin' to help her out, get everything situated. My brothers is both married. I'm tryin' to get divorced, so I been helpin' out my mama. She's got a crawlspace under her house. (the last sentence seems a bit innocuous, except that that was the last sentence of that part of the conversation. I have no idea where that was going.)

You got any kids?
Yes, three kids.
How old are they?
Twelve, nine, and four.
(confused look on his face). How old are you?
Thirty-nine.
Hell, I's thought you's my age. (Gee....thanks a lot!!!) I gots kids in their 20's. They gots kids of their own. I got......2 grandkids.......yeah, 2. They are 11, no....9, uh...9 and 8. No, .......9.......9 and 7,.......sorry, they's 9 and 4.

My kids keep calling me said they busted up a room and need my help fixin' it up. So I gotta send 'em 500 bucks so they can fix up their room.

I'm goin' to Texas soon. Goin' down 95 to Florida, gotta buddy gonna take me fishin. He's got one of them charter boats. Take me out and catch some sail fish. It's a good deal. Then I'm gonna take I-10 and go down Texas and see my other buddy. Gonna take like a month and a half off, but I'll be back by Christmas. Got me a real good job where I can just say I'm takin' off and be back later. Work for and with my brother.

(while I'm reading my book) I babysat this girl for 30 days once cuz her daddy was in jail. That girl could read. She could read that whole book in like 2 days.

Think I might get a printer, too. If I'd a brought more cards (credit cards), I coulda got some ink, too. But I didn't bring any more cards.

They allowed 15 minute bathroom breaks. You had to exchange your voucher for a bathroom pass, then get your bathroom pass back when you returned. Karl uses this opportunity to go get his ham, or smoke some weed or something. The lady in front of him comes back and hands me a Diet Coke. I thank her profusely and offer to pay her for it. "No, no!!! It's the least we can do since you've been occupying that guy for several hours. If it weren't for you he'd be talking to us! And he's crazy!!!"

Karl takes his break, gets a sub at Subway, comes back. 10 minutes before midnight, one of the Wal-Mart guys walks though the line and asks if everyone has their voucher because he still had one in his possession that wasn't claimed.
Karl, I think that might be yours.
(slurred and stumbling and weaving back and forth at this point) Hell, I gots mine right here in my pocket. (pulls it out and unfolds it)
That's a bathroom pass. I don't think they're going to let you exchange a bathroom pass for a laptop.
Hell, they better give me back my voucher. Been waiting here since 8, after 8.
Sir, I think that voucher belongs to this gentleman here.
Sir, is this yours?
Hell, yeah that's mine. Been waiting here since 'for 8. I ain't standing line all this time just to be told I ain't gettin' no laptop. I know how to raise hell. My mama's house is worth $450,000, so I knows I can make bail. (good Lord!!!)
Okay, sir. Here's your voucher.

At midnight the line moves forward and he hands the Wal-Mart clerk his voucher.
Here you go, sir.
I need 2.
Uh....you have one voucher, that entitles you to one laptop.
What the hell???!!! I stood in line for nearly 5 hours and I ain't gettin' another laptop. Damn it!

Karl and departed at this point. I run into a friend who says that he had to park at Shoppers because the Wal-Mart parking lot is absolutely full. I move on to the cash registers and spend another 30 minutes waiting to check out. Good grief. I hope it was worth it.
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