Sunday, March 31, 2013

My Closet Full of Running Shoes

Are you a runner?  If so, your closet probably looks like this.  The souls of my shoes wear out faster than the outside.  I end up with half a dozen pairs of walk-around shoes.

The Brooks in the bottom right are my newest pair.  The New Balance to the far left were my previous new shoes, though they were not that comfortable.  The Asics on the top right were really comfortable, though their time is up.  The black Nike's have been around for about 2 years.  I wear them around all the time, though I haven't run with them in a year and a half.  I think they still look fairly new.  The New Balance in the front center now make great baseball coaching shoes.

I've purchased shoes across the price range.  Some as cheap as $35, others as much as $120.  Unfortunately, for my wallet, the best shoes for running seem to be the ones that cost around $100.

Some people swear by their brand of shoes.  "These are the best shoes you can buy!"  I don't buy that logic.  Some shoes work for some people, but not for others.  I can say in general, Under Armour shoes are terrible.  They look nice, but don't try to run in them (my opinion).  Most high-end stores don't even carry them because they are so terrible (their opinion).  Plus they are no good for people with wide feet.  Nike's are usually too narrow for my feet, as well.  I've also owned Mizunos, which were nice.  Asics seem to work for me.

What are your favorite shoes?

Sober Help Wanted

How sad is it that we live in a society when the help wanted ads specifically note that they are looking for sober applicants?  I picked up one of the trade newspapers in Franks Subs and Pizza the other day to pass some time while they made my cheesesteak sub with everything on it.  My mouth is watering as I type this.  Anyway, I spotted this ad for a vacuum repair person.  Sadly, they are specifically looking for a sober applicant.  The easiest thing for me to deduce from the ad is that the previous applicants have been drunkards.

I wonder if Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley would qualify for this job.

Carroll County Peep Show

Did you get a chance to attend the Peep Show in Westminster this weekend?  It was on the national news.  No, it wasn't an adult erotica show.  Imagine one of those in Carroll County.  Ha!

No, the Peep Show is an annual event raising money for the Carroll County Arts Center's programs.  People are invited to submit entries utilizing those dreadful marshmallow Peeps that only a clueless child would love.

Some of the entries were really good.  Many were made by children and have to be judged accordingly.  Some.....well.

Check out some of my favorite entries:

And nothing says Happy Easter better than a leprechaun and a pot of gold.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Police at Dunkin Donuts Fail to Shake Stereotype

I have friends that are police officers, so I mean no disrespect.  But I thought this was really funny.  They really aren't doing anything to shake the stereotype when they congregate at Dunkin Donuts.  I wish the picture was clearer, but you get the idea.

Martin O'Malley - Every Life is Important

Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley Tweeted this today.  If every life is important and every life matters, then why is he pro-abortion?  Or does he not consider children in the womb to be alive?  Are they dead until they're born?  Do beating hearts not count?  I'm so confused.  Seems a bit hypocritical to me.  Only some lives are important.  Especially the lives that help him pass laws that are part of his agenda.  Unborn children do not fit the agenda.

Owings Mills Library Opens

The new Owings Mills branch of the Baltimore County library official opened today. There was much fanfare, including special dignitaries such as Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, Baltimore County Councilmen Ken Oliver, Todd Huff, and Vicki Almond, and representatives for other dignitaries who couldn't take the time out of their schedule to be there.

If you're not familiar with the area, the library is located in the former parking lot of the Owings Mills Metro Subway.  It's a very pretty and architecturally pleasing building, as pleasing as architecture is allowed to be in the 21st century.  The complex is being celebrated as a Transit-Oriented Development with one entrance and two exits.  What better way to manage traffic flow than have the 4,500 daily commuters using the Owings Mills Metro flow through one single traffic light onto Painters Mill Road?  Add in residents to the upcoming 250+ apartments that are being built, plus traffic for the new Baltimore County Community College Owings Mills campus, library traffic, and traffic for the forthcoming retail shops, etc....  It'll be as pleasant as walking through a daisy field on a warm sunny day in May.

I learned of the official ribbon-cutting ceremony about a month ago and that Kevin Kamenetz would be there.  No doubt he will run for Governor at some point, so I might as well get some pictures of him, right?  I managed to get away from American Corrugated Amalgamated Conglomerates of America for about an hour and head over there.

Mr. Kamenetz was the last to arrive and he mingled with everyone, mostly the people he knew, for about 15 minutes, then gave a decent speech about the efforts to make everything happen.  This project has been on the books for 15 years.  Hard to believe.

Here is Baltimore County Councilman Ken Oliver doing what he does best.  Pretty much standing around doing nothing.  Unfortunately I forgot my Nikon, so you have to settle for iPhone pictures.

Here are Baltimore County Council members Todd Huff of the DUI fame and Vicki Almond, who seems to have no arrest record.

Here is Kevin Kamenetz giving a warm and funny speech recognizing everyone for their efforts.  Standing behind him is the Director of Baltimore County Public Libraries Jim Fish (tall with glasses) and Howard Brown, the developer of the firm David S. Brown Enterprises.  County Executive Kamenetz admitted that the two bump heads a lot.  I love his honesty!

And for the record, did you know that Jim Fish is only the 3rd Director of Baltimore County Public Libraries since 1949?  That is some low turnover.  Or is it the mafia?

Here's the official ribbon-cutting ceremony.  County Executive Kamenetz admitted this time that the plaque that was made for the ceremony misspelled Owings Mills.  Probably not a good idea to mispel a plack et teh libary.

It was a pleasant ceremony library is really nice.  You should defintely check it out.  And when you do, I hope you can get in and out of the exit with ease.  I wish it were in Carroll County.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Happy Spring. Free Rita's

Did you make it to Rita's for free Italian water ice on the first day of spring?  We never miss out.  We will forfeit dinner in order to get our child-sized Rita's.  The line wasn't too long this year.  I've seen it wrap around the building in previous years.

One thing that I fail to understand is how people form lines.  You see it at the mall all of the time.  People will line up one behind the other and mindlessly block all pedestrian traffic.  It was no different yesterday at Rita's in Eldersburg.  Rather than safely wrapping around the building, people lined up one behind the other straight out into the parking lot preventing cars from coming or going.  I even made it a point to wrap my family around the curb thinking that people would line up behind me and continue down the side of the building.  Nope.  The cows lined up back into the parking lot blocking traffic.  Moooo!  I'm stupid!  Mooo!

And another topic - my wife correctly assessed that children in kindergarten are not going to understand the weather.  Every day they are supposed to determine if it is sunny, cloudy, rainy, warm, or cold.  For the past several weeks, the correct answer has been cloudy and cold.  Because of the long running repetition, the next time it is sunny the kids are going to think that the correct answer is cloudy and cold.

Slow Police Day in Eldersburg

You know it's a slow day in Eldersburg when a Maryland State police car pulls a vehicle over.  Then 2 Carroll County Sheriffs arrive, followed by a Sykesville police officer, who's totally out of his jurisdiction.  Was this a dangerous situation, or a boring day where everyone wants in on the action?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Book Review - Not In My Neighborhood, How Bigotry Shaped A Great American City

I often ponder, 'how did we get where we are now'?  This is true in many aspects of life.  I think it's especially true in politics.

I recently saw the movie Lincoln starring Daniel Day Lewis.  I often remind my friends that it was a Republican, Abraham Lincoln, that ended slavery, not a Democrat.  Yet the modern day Republicans are reviled as racist elitists in many circles, such as college campuses, the media, and urban governments.  Having freed slaves, how did Republicans become so hated?

On my flight to Hawaii I read a book called Not In My Neighborhood, How Bigotry Shaped a Great American City by Antero Pietila.  Mr. Pietila prefaces the book with saying that bigotry has shaped many big cities in the United States, but he picked Baltimore.  This is a fascinating book that I highly recommend.

Baltimore grew up as city torn between the North and South.  Baltimore was industrial like a Northern city, yet south of the Mason Dixon line, which many people, even today, view as the divider of the north and south.  If you ask people in Baltimore what they consider themselves few, if any, will consider themselves southerners.  What's wrong with being called Mid-Atlantic?  During the Civil War there were many Southern-sympathizers in the city, yet Baltimore, a short hour north of Washington, D.C., was occupied by the Northern Army.

After the Civil War, many blacks moved to the area in search of work.  Baltimore had a busy port and by the late 1800's a booming steel mill that eventually became the largest in the country, and the city was in need of cheap labor.  And with the great influx of people, someone had to manage where they were going to live.  Who better to do that the Democratic machine that ran the city?  Blacks and Jews were forced to live in designated areas of the city, which then became overcrowded and evolved into ghettos.  During the Great Depression, the banks came up with the concept of red-lining.  And all of these actions were not only sanctioned and endorsed by the Democratic machine, but also by The Sun, Baltimore's newspaper.

Here are some of the things that caught my eye:

Maryland U.S. Senator Millard Tydings, namesake of the Millard Tydings Memorial Bridge, which carries I-95 over the Susquehanna River between Harford and Cecil County, called for formal restrictions on the inflow of Negros into Baltimore.  Had he done this 60 years later, he probably would have ended up in jail for a hate crime.  Instead, his bigotry was during the decades of the 1920's through the 1960's, so he was awarded with a bridge in his honor.

The Baltimore Sun has made no bones that it hates Republicans.  Yet in 1910 one of their editorials read, "The White race is the superior race, and it will, of course, maintain its supremacy."  (page 38)  In another display of blatant racism, The Sun supported a measure to evict blacks from Roland Park at the turn of the century saying that it was better to bar blacks from neighborhoods using binding private agreements rather than with legislation. (page 36)  Not to be outdone, The Sun wrote that segregation would benefit taxpayers and prevent flight to the suburbs. (page 20)  It goes to show you that you can write some horrible things about people that you hate, but as long as you change your mind, you can still control the news and hate the opposing political party and do it successfully.

The bigotry was not exclusive to the blacks in Baltimore.  Jews were targets, too.  Many apartments would not rent to Jews.  The theory was that once you rented to Jews, the blacks weren't far behind.  Ironically, James Rouse, one of the pioneers of the suburbs and the architect of the extremely liberal Columbia area, was also a pioneer in bigotry.  Mr. Rouse maintained Jewish quotas for his properties.  Only 12% of a rental property could be rented to Jews until it was 75% occupied.  Yet he is celebrated in our area. (page 141)

One of the practices I mentioned previously was redlining, a practice where banks and lenders, often in cahoots with local government, drew lines around areas of the city and would not load money to people who didn't meet their criteria, usually that the applicant was a white Protestant (and they say Catholics are intolerant.  Ha!).  This practices was well established and perfected by the Democrats for half a century.  It wasn't until Baltimore elected a Republican, and perhaps last, Republican Mayor Theodore McKeldin, who would go on to be Governor, then Mayor again.  He made it his objective to bust-up the racist and bigoted practice of red-lining and advocated equal rights as early as in the 1940's.  (page 92)  This is the Republican mayor.

So as you can see, what you see now is not always what it was historically.  Examined with today's views on bigotry and racism, the Democratic Party was historically a bigoted racist party and no friend of the Jews and blacks.  The true pioneers of ending slavery and busting up Baltimore's racist policies were Republicans.  Yet today, the Republican Party is a stranger to the down-trodden, the non-whites, the non-Protestants, and the people of Main Street.  The Democratic Party successfully changed their image in the 1960's to be a party of the Civil Rights and have captured the votes of the blacks and Jews.  Perhaps they take them for granted, but those groups of people really don't seem to have any reason to come to the table of the Republican Party as they seem to be doing nothing to get their attention.

So, how did we get to where we are now?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

O'Malley Raises Taxes, Again. This Time For Transportation

Martin O'Malley's legacy will be that he raised taxes against hard-working middle class Marylanders more than any Governor in the history of Maryland.  This year is no exception.

In the latest episode of raising taxes in the guise of "investing in our future", we're examining the proposed gas tax.  If you're not aware, the gas tax helps fund the Transportation Fund.  Maryland definitely has a Transportation Fund problem.  There is no money left to maintain highways, expand highways, and build transportation infrastructure, including mass transit options.  But that's not the problem.  The problem is that Martin O'Malley spent all the money in the Transportation Fund to fill revenue gaps in other areas.  You've heard the expression, "He raided the transportation fund." Well, that is the problem.  He raids the fund, spends it elsewhere, then comes back to the citizens and says, "We need to raise taxes to invest in our transportation infrastructure."  If he hadn't raided the transportation fund in the first place, we wouldn't need to raise taxes on fuel.
I-695 \ I-95 junction reconstruction in Eastern Baltimore County in 2009
But let's be clear.  Though we are pointing the finger at Martin O'Malley for spending all of the money from the Transportation Fund on things that are not transportation related, he is certainly not the first Governor to do so.  The Republican's beloved Bob Ehrlich did it, too.  Why do our leaders continue to raid the Transportation Fund?  Because they can.  Need more money to spend on social programs?  Raid the Transportation Fund!  Balance the budget? Raid the Transportation Fund!

To the rescue comes Carroll County House Delegate Republican Susan Krebs and her house bill HB176, the Transportation Trust Fund Protection Act, that would have prevent raiding of the fund.  However, she wrote:

Proposing an amendment to the Maryland Constitution to establish a Transportation Trust Fund to be used only for purposes relating to transportation with a specified exception; prohibiting the reversion or crediting of any part of the Transportation Trust Fund to the General Fund or a special fund of the State; requiring that specified taxes, fees, charges, and revenues be credited to the Transportation Trust Fund; etc

Her bill will most likely not be passed, as the Maryland General Assembly votes NO to ANYTHING Republicans propose.  If it's not the Democrats' idea, it's a bad idea.  Some up and coming Democrat from the suburbs will then propose the same bill in the next session and the overwhelming Democratic majority will rally around it.  Remember the slots bills?

I agree with her that the Transportation Fund should not be every governor's piggy bank for other pet projects.  On the other hand, I totally disagree with the editorial she forwarded to constituents from Pete Horrigan.  I thought his editorial to be another hard right-wing non-compromising opinion that gets us nowhere.  What I totally disagree with is that the funds should not be used to help pay for mass transportation.  His argument is that mass transportation is not financially independent and highway drivers are forced to unfairly subsidize mass transportation.

I-795 in Owings Mills, Baltimore County, with Metro Subway in the middle
Perhaps there's a bit of liberal in me.  I don't have hard proof, but common sense tells me that the poor overwhelmingly use mass transportation.  Without it, they would be forced to find alternate forms of transportation, thus pushing them further into poverty or financial instability.  The unintended consequence of cutting mass transit is that the poor would become and even greater burden on the tax-paying part of society, and we don't want that.

Secondly, by experience, I know that many middle class people use light rail and the subway in Baltimore and Washington.  If we cut mass transit, which could result in higher fairs, fewer trains, or even no trains, then all of these suburbanite commuters will be forced onto the highways.  If the pundits argue that the highways are too jammed now, wait until you add everyone that's sitting on a train in the morning.

I hate that Martin O'Malley is promoting "investing in transportation" as one of his priorities, when in fact he is covering up that he needs to replace the money that he took.  I agree that the money needs to be there, but I do agree with Delegate Krebs that he can't be stealing the money for other purposes anymore.

Baltimore's Light Rail near the Baltimore Convention Center
Here's the editorial that Delegate Krebs sited.  And note that Mr. Horrigan is the President of the Mid-Atlantic Petroleum Distributors Association.  He WANTS more people on the roads so that they use their fuel.  This reminds me of the General Motors Streetcar Conspiracy, which, interestingly, was brought to my attention by the movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

Once again, Virginia has beaten Maryland to the punch regarding taxes on business and consumers. Virginia eliminated its gas tax completely and replaced it with a 3.5 percent sales tax on the wholesale price of gasoline. Gov. Martin O'Malley's new tax increase proposal would reduce the gas tax rate 5 cents but add a sales tax to the retail price of gasoline and diesel, resulting in a 63 percent increase in the tax on gas and a 90 percent increase in the diesel tax.

Only in Maryland would we claim to "reduce" taxes in a way that results in increases - and leaves Maryland retailers at a devastating competitive disadvantage. The Virginia tax rate in particular will be almost 28 cents per gallon less than Maryland's, and we will have the highest fuel tax rate compared to all our surrounding states. Most of Maryland's approximately 2,300 gas stations are operated by small businesses, and many are located within close proximity to our neighboring states. These increases will make our small businesses uncompetitive with their nearby, out of state competitors.

Maryland fuel retailers, on average, don't even make 20 cents per gallon and will be forced to pass all tax increases on to their customers. The net result will be the loss of Maryland jobs and tax revenues as consumers make their purchases out of state.

Equally concerning is the fact that the governor's proposal does nothing to address the real issue of why we have a transportation revenue problem, and that is mass transit: two systems (the Maryland Transit Administration and the Washington Metro) where highway users already pay over 50 percent of the operating costs. Fares paid by transit riders cover only a fraction of the operating costs, yet mass transit systems handle less than 10 percent of local travel while highways and bridges are choked with the remaining 90 percentThis is not sustainable. Maryland, like Virginia, must change its approach and recognize that highway users already pay more than their fair share, and raising gas taxes is not the solution. Other, broader-based funding sources need to be identified.

Protecting the funds in the Transportation Trust Fund is absolutely essential to prevent our elected representatives from siphoning off funds for other purposes. Although the governor's plan includes a "lockbox" intended to ensure that the funds collected are used for their intended purpose, in reality his proposal does nothing to protect these funds, because all it takes is a three-fifths vote of a standing committee to raise the funds. Moreover, the governor's proposal specifically indicates that the state can continue to divert Highway User Revenue funds that are supposed to be shared with the counties.

Motorist-paid gas taxes and vehicle fees are by far the largest source of transportation funding for both highways and mass transit. Maryland can no longer meet the needs of two costly major mass transit systems and adequately maintain and improve our highway system on the backs of motorists. A look at Maryland's transportation spending history over the last 10 years bears this out, as commute times have increased, transit ridership has been flat and millions of dollars of transportation funds have been permanently diverted to the General Fund.

Now is not the time to raise our gas taxes 63 percent and squeeze more money out of Marylander's highway users' pockets. Our state government needs to find other alternatives - including living within its means.
- Pete Horrigan, President of Mid-Atlantic Petroleum Distributors Association 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Carrolltown Mall Update!!!!

I know someone who knows someone who knows someone who knows someone who emailed Mike Trenery of Black Oak Associates, the owners of the Carrolltown Mall, for an update back in August.  Mr. Trenery was kind enough to reply to this person that Black Oak Associates was in negotiations with a major anchor tenant and that a announcement was due within 60 days.

Well, I know I went to a school in the city, so that discounts my intelligence by about 40%, but I know that 60 days from August of 2012 is not July of 2015.  By my calculations, there should have been an announcement by October 2012.  We are now roughly 210 days past this email exchange.

Can we ever believe anything that Black Oak Associates tells us?  I thought it was bad a few years ago.  But now K-Mart, Blockbuster, and Peebles are gone and NOTHING is happening.  Do they hate us?

There's a rumor that when Money magazine named Eldersburg the 67th best place to live in the United States, the town would have actually landed at 43rd if it hadn't been for Carrolltown Mall.

We can do better than this.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Hawaii Vacation Part 17

Yes, we seem to be missing a bunch of posts in between day 1 and Day 5.  It happens.  You see, my wife doesn't think I should be posting our family vacations on my blog.  Okay.  I have to live with that.  So I'll post some non-relevant pictures.

We flew home from Hawaii on a red-eye.  We took off from Honolulu around 4pm on our last day.  Soon after take-off it was dark.  They served us dinner soon thereafter and the next thing you know everyone was asleep.  Except the two women in front of us from New Jersey with their two kids.  I've never seen Jersey Shore, but if it's the hell that I imagine it to be, they were the stars.

I found myself involved in a conversation with some vagabond teen-aged traveler whose goal it was to travel all 50 states in a year, a feat he just accomplished.  He was definitely an interested kid.  He said he used some website called emptycouch or something like that to find places to stay for free.  He had a lot of interesting stories.  I wish I had not been ready to fall asleep, otherwise I would have loved to hear more.

I tried to sleep on the way home, but it's not too easy to catch 8 hours of sleep on a plane.  We arrived at JFK airport around 7:30 am.  We knew we didn't have much time between flights.  I had asked the flight attendants for their advice about catching a connection with short (almost non-existant) layovers at JFK Airport, which, if you've never been there, has multiple terminals, which means you have to go through security again.  None really had any good advice.

Needless to say, we didn't catch our connecting flight from JFK to BWI, nor did another couple also on our plane from Honolulu.  Who would schedule a connection with less than 45 minutes?  Especially at JFK Airport, which is as big as Rhode Island?

Fortunately, we were able to get new tickets to BWI without hassle, unlike the other couple who had to bicker with the ticket agents for a while.  Perhaps it pays to have kids in these situations?  Once we had our tickets in hand, we found a row of seats on Terminal 2-3 and camped out for the next 7 1/2 hours.  Totally jet-lagged, my family had no problem sleeping in an airport.  My wife and I took turns sleeping.  During my watch I entertained myself with Words With Friends and people-watching.  Let me tell you, there are some weird people in an airport.

And the entire purpose of this blogpost is to show you this picture.  While waiting I found this kiosk where you can recharge your laptops, iPads, iPhones, etc...  It's an iPad docking station with all sorts of ports.  I sat there a while and surfing the Internet while recharging my phone.  Pretty cool, eh?

We finally caught our flight to BWI around 4pm-ish.  We landed at BWI close to 5pm, caught our limousine, courtesy of Bay Area Limo, rode home in the rain, got home at dark, then crashed.  It took about 4 more days to get over the jet leg.  So tired.  Obviously my method of trying to overcome the jet lag didn't work.  Better luck next time.  The End.

Coming To Eldersburg - Gold's Gym, For Real!

You'll remember a while ago, in fact more than a year ago, I threatened residents of Eldersburg by claiming that Gold's Gym was moving into the Peeble's space in the Carrolltown Mall.  It was a rumor. I didn't make it up.  Not sure if there was ever any truth to it.  But I didn't make it up.  I done heard it.

Now I have solid truth fact that Gold's Gym is coming to Eldersburg.  How do I know?  Because they have a dang yellow love shack with signs all over the place.  If you've been down Georgetown Boulevard this past week, you can't miss the signs.  Looks like it's going to occupy the space of the former London Fog warehouse, which was temporarily leased by the now defunct JACT Sports complex.  At least I hope the gym will be in the warehouse and not the yellow love shack.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Closing in Eldersburg - Cobblestone Tavern

I've heard from three different sources now that Cobblestone Tavern and Grille is closing as it was sold to the Flying Dog Brewery (Saloon \ Tavern???).  All said that it was not public information yet and not to spread the news.  Well, when you hear a secret from three different people, it's not a secret anymore.

I haven't seen any official word on this change, but let's just say that there is good reason to believe it to be true.  I like Cobblestone.  The food is good.  The inside is really nice.  The use of the wood and stonework is really attractive.  I think it's a shame that it's not busier than it is.  The bar area is a little blah.  I don't think it's a good use of the space.  Other than Ravens' games, shouldn't they be capitalizing on big sporting events. We went there for the NCAA tournament last year and the grumpy old men at the bar seemed irritated that we asked them to turn off Days of Our Lives and switch the station to one of the games.

I've lived in Eldersburg for almost 14 years now and if this rumor is true, then it is at least the 5th business to occupy that space.  There was something there when we moved here, but I have no recollection of what it was.  Then it became The Chop House.  They apparently got into some financially trouble and \ or bickering, so it became Meicklejohn's Restaurant & Pub.  Something happened again (battle about unpaid bills with BGE???), so then it became Cobblestone Tavern and Grille.  Not sure if these have been under different or varying ownerships over this time.

Do you remember any other businesses that have been in this space?

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