Friday, October 24, 2014

Carroll County Board of Education Candidates

Election day is around the corner.  If you're like me, you're interested in the national candidates and the state level candidates, but once you get to the local candidates, you know nothing about them. Here's some information that may pursuade you to vote one way or the other.

For those of us with children in school, you know that 10 x 15 is not 150.  This answer is wrong.  You need to go through the chimney method, the grouping, and the rounding, and 17 other steps until you can get to the correct answer.  Memorization of number facts is vigorously discouraged.  Why?  Because that's how common core math is taught.

Here are you candidates for Carroll County Board of Education and where they stand with Common Core:

FOR  COMMON  CORE: Virginia  Harrison, Bob Lord and Devon Rothschild

AGAINST  COMMON CORE: George Harmening, Charles "Bud" Nason and James Roenick

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Maryland's Transportation Bucket List - Part 1

Here is a great example to prove that I do not tow the Republican Party line.  It seems as if Republicans want to pull the plug on all public transportation projects and focus on building wider roads and more roads to eliviate the traffic problems that are plaguing the Baltimore and Washington suburbs.  I think Maryland should actually be investing in more public transportation.

When you think of the great cities of the world, you think of New York City, London, Paris, Berlin, Tokyo, Washington, D.C., and Cleveland.  What do these cities all have in common?  They have excellent public transportation systems.

In Baltimore, we have a disjointed collection of transportation options.  There is the light rail system (commonly referred to as the Fright Rail) that runs north and south with a key connection at the airport with the longest name in history, the Thurgood Marshall Friendship Baltimore Washington International Airport.  Then there is the Metro subway, also known as the Mugger Mover, which runs from the northwest corner of the suburbs to the business center and mysteriously ends at Johns Hopkins Hospital with no other throughput to another side of the metropolitan area.

Baltimore also boasts MTA commuter buses that scurry city-fearing suburbanites from their offices jobs to their cozy colonials on cul-de-sacs.  And then there are the ever-present MTA buses that run the routes throughout the city.

Baltimore subway train in Owings Mills, MD at I-795

I'm not as familiar with all of the transportation options in the D.C. suburbs, but who can argue with the D.C. Metro with its maze of blue, green, orange, red, silver, and yellow lines that criss-cross the entire metro area through 2 states and the District?  It's the second busiest subway system in the United States with over 270 million riders annually.  This compares to 15 million riders of Baltimore's single subway line.

So where do we need improvements?  Everyone will holler that they don't want public transportation near their house.  People will rob us and commute back to the city.  Well, there is some truth to that, but I think you need to balance that with managing transportation.

Let's start with Baltimore.  The existing subway line needs to be extended to the northeast suburbs.  I think that's a no-brainer.  By extending the line, two sections of the county can benefit from a lot of the existing infrastructure.

Baltimore's Light Rail train near Camden Yards.

Then there is the infamous Red Line that has been proposed for several generations.  I even recall Martin O'Malley blithering that this will not be 'your father's light rail'.  Why are we building another light rail?  The light rail mucks up the existing traffic infrastructure in the city.  Ever been on Pratt Street when a light rail car is going by?  Traffic's already backed up for blocks and now you have to wait for the train.  Additionally, O'Malley has suggested a new type of train.  Why are we targeting ANOTHER type of train?  That would create a 5th type of train in the state, if you don't include the proposed D.C. purple light rail line.  These trains are all incompatible.  Shouldn't we be pursuing some sort of economies of scale?  Buy more of the same thing and you get a better deal.  Buy 5 different things that don't operate together and the taxpayers pay more money.  That's not investing in the future.  That's wasteful spending.

For those of you trying to figure out the 5 different rail lines, 1) Baltimore metro heavy rail, 2) MARC train & Amtrak, 3) Baltimore light rail, 4) D.C. Metro, and 5) Baltimore Red Line light rail.  That's just stupid! Make the Red Line a subway that actually connects with the existing subway line and have it snake through the city and dump out either in East Point or go all the way to White Marsh. I used to live in Bel Air, so I know what I-95 is like at White Marsh.

Here's another crazy idea.  Figure out how to connect the existing Baltimore Light rail to the existing Baltimore Subway.  Nutty, right?  Connect that with the new Red Line Subway and now you have a useful transportation system in Baltimore.  Let's not keep pushing for a transportation system that looks like it was developed by a politician.

In Washington, the politicians (here they go again) are pushing for an incompatible Purple Line that will snake down congested streets.  They plan to solve the congestion by removing existing lanes of traffic and planting a big lumbering train in the middle of it.  Problem solved bureaucracy-style!

Wouldn't it be great if there was a subway line that traversed the D.C. Beltway?  With the current grid, you have to go into the city, then come back out to get to another part of the suburbs. Tie the suburbs together with a big loop!  Please let me know where I can pick up my award for that idea.

That is my rail transportation pontification.  Stay tuned for my highway spiel.  This may come as a surprise, but I'm in favor of the middle ground more often than you think!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Eldersburg Big Lots - CLOSED!!!!

The day has finally come!  I drove by Big Lots the other day and noticed that there were no cars in the parking lot.  On my way back I pulled up to the door, looked into the empty building to confirm my findings and found a note on the door.

Here's the note.  Let the celebration begin!

Eldersburg Shell Station - Your To-Do List

I mentioned to a neighbor something about the Shell station recently and she was perplexed. "The Shell station?"  You know, the one that was a Texaco and prior to that it was a Crown station?  Now it makes sense.

When we first moved to Eldersburg in 1999, the gas station at the corner of Ridge Road and Liberty Road was a Crown station, one of two in town.  The other was at the corner of Route 32 and Route 26 where the WalGreens is now.

Crown stations used to be known for their water fountains.  The water fountain has not worked since we've lived here.  And since it has changed hands several times, some people may not even know that it's even there.  All they see is a big jungle of overgrown bushes and weeds.

This is craziness!  Yes, there is the foundation of an old fountain under this mess.

So I'm calling out the owners of the Shell gas station, HJR Benson Venture, LLC, located at 2700 Loch Raven Boulevard in Baltimore.  You need to do something about this mess because now only is it an eyesore, but this is a symbol of apathy and laziness on your part, and an embarrassment on ours.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Coming to Eldersburg - CVS

I've probably mentioned this before, but I now follow this construction bid website and I found that they are seeking bids for a free-standing CVS, presumably next to the Chick-Fil-A on Route 32 in Eldersburg.

Here is the presumed site of the future free-standing CVS that will be nearly impossible to get in and out of.

This is the CVS in the Eldersburg Plaza which I would assume will close when the new CVS opens.  This would make the perfect spot for a nail salon or a bigger J&Y Tokyo Market.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Wings of Freedom - the Birds and the B-17s

I love history and I love airplanes.  When I read that the planes of the Wings of Freedom were going to be at the Carroll County Regional Airport, or the Westminster Airport as we know it, I knew I had to go.

I read that a B-17 Flying Fortress, a B-24 Liberator, and a P-51 Mustang were going to be there.  Saturday ended up being a grey chilly morning.  The sun was losing its battle with the clouds, but the sky was still bright.

When I arrived, there were no planes on the tarmac, but plenty of tents and guys dressed up in period costumes.  I overheard that the B-17 was on its way back from a round-trip to Gettysburg.

I waited only a few minutes when I heard a child cry, "There it is!"  I turned with equal excitement and saw the B-17 piercing through the low-lying clouds with its recognizable rumble of its four piston engines, landing gears dropped.

Unlike the smooth and deliberate landings of today's jet aircraft, the B-17 slowly lumbered down the runway, resisting the temptation to reduce its speed, thrusting forward until its momentum lost its battle with gravity, pushing its tail to the ground.

Once on the ground, the B-17 taxied down the runway with a commanding presence, its four loud engines with its rotating blades spewing blue and grey smoke, filling the air with the wonderfully strong scent of burning oil and fuel.

The taxiing B-17 rotated back and forth from its rear as it steered along the tarmac, lacking the maneuverability of the tricycle landing gears of newer planes.

Once in place, the pilot shut down the beast, bringing the engines to their peaceful state with its propeller blades in their symmetrical alignment.  The heart-pounding thunder of the engines gave way to silence only to be interrupted by the sudden cheers and huzzahs of the awaiting crowd.

Once up close, I felt as if I was absorbed in its history.  This plane could have flown missions over France, Belgium, perhaps all the way to Berlin and back while its pilots shivered from fear and cold.  The ball-turret hung from the belly of the plane.  A round metal tomb mounted to the plane with gears and tracks, the ball turret and its guns were there to protect the plane, its pilots, and the mission.

The front of the plane, with its angry windows, proudly struts its nose into the air with its wings confidently behind it.  It's decorated with nose art, painted bombs representing its missions, and swastikas showing the downed victims of the guns of their fortress.

I climbed my way into the plane through an undersized opening under the nose of the plane.  I poked my head up into the cockpit, much smaller than I anticipated.  The cockpit shaped by the heroic imagery of Hollywood was replaced by the crammed and uncomfortable metal seats, controls, and knobs of a small control center.

Under the cockpit is the nose gunner, his world being a big round window giving him the ability to see the world coming toward him.  He's tasked with protecting the plane from the forward position.  Its wide expanses allow a short man to kneel and almost touch floor to ceiling.

I turn toward the back of the plane and find the bomb bay doors lying beneath a rack of bombs, the main package being delivered to the enemy.  The passage to the belly of the plane is narrow and the sideways-stepping passenger is supported by only a thin metal plank.

"Pilot to navigator."  No World War II movie with bombers is complete without this trite, melodramatic, and unused phrase.  "Hey, Billy.  How much farther?" is a much more likely statement to be heard from the cockpit.

The B-17 was known as the flying fortress.  The plane was protected with a nose gunner, a top turret gunner, a ball turret gunner, two waist gunners, and a tail gunner.  No matter which way an enemy tried to penetrate the space of the plane, it would be repelled by the stinging hornets fired from the fortress guns.  

The tail gunner was a lonely man.  Not only did he need to crawl to his position on his hands and knees, he worked alone looking only at where they've been.

I spoke to one of the members of the Wings of Freedom about the B-17.  I asked him about the bombs painted on the side of the plane.  This one had over 100.  He said this plane was actually built right at the end of the war and never saw action.  It was later used for some testing, military air transport, and eventually found its way to into a state fire-fighting unit.  The plane was later bought by the Collings Foundation and restored to look like the B-17G Nine-O-Nine.  The original Nine-O-Nine flew 132 missions.  I asked how that compared to the Memphis Belle, which I knew (thought I knew) to be the first B-17 to fly the required 25 missions that allowed its pilots to seek refuge back in the safety of the United States while they sold war bonds.  However, I was informed that the first plane to accomplish this feat was a plane called Raging Bitch.  The military thought the name inappropriate as its image of war celebrity and sought  a more politically correct champion.  Thus, the Memphis Belle won the accolade.  

I was disheartened to learn that the B-24 Liberator had to make a detour to New Jersey for some repair work, though we were granted a 50% discount on our $12 admission price.  However, a P-51 Mustang came out of hibernation from a nearby hanger.

This is an earlier model Mustang lacking the distinguishing bubble canopy.  The plane was set apart by its squared-off wings, tail fin, and elevators, four prop propeller, and its underbelly air scoop for cooling the engine.

 By the time I got to the P-51, I had lost a lot of the emotional thrill from these historic relics.  I was at history overload.  We weren't able to climb up on the Mustang, or sit in its cockpit, or fire its Browning machine guns - can you believe that?

The most fascinating fact I learned about the P-51G was that a 2-seater was built and flown over the beaches of France on D-Day carrying the invasions' orchestrator, Dwight Eisenhower, the future President of the United States.  He directed operations from thousands of feet in the air looking down as our men landed on the beach and stormed up the banks and into France.

Sadly, there are very few of these planes left in the world.  I was excited that I got to spend some time seeing this planes, touching them, and imaging myself being there when they were the symbols of our military strength.  Apparently the Wings of Freedom come to Westminster, Maryland every year.  I hope to make this trip again next year and meet the B-24.  I hope you can make it, too.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Closed in Eldersburg - Citgo Gas at 7-11

You're probably saying, "Where is a Citgo gas station in Eldersburg?"  I would certainly think the same thing. 

If you frequent the 7-11 on Liberty Road, you may have noticed the gas pumps that no one uses on the left side, except perhaps the occasional lost tourist.  Well, those pumps are gone.  They were removed a couple of weeks ago along with the underground storage tanks.  The hole was filled with junk such as Anthony Brown's campaign commercials and the surface has been repaved and it is now all but a memory.  Hopefully, Anthony Brown's gubernatorial aspirations will be all but a memory soon, too.

Brown Versus Hogan!

If you know your history, then this is funny.  I hope it turns out to be true.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

September - A Month In Review

11 commercial jets went missing from Libya this month and very little was mentioned on the left-wing news channels.  Reports indicate that Islamic Militants may have seized the planes.  While CNN went on for hours and hours for a month about a missing Malaysian jet, there is zero mention of the 11 planes from Libya.

Beloved comedian Joan Rivers passed away several days after a medical procedure.  The procedure ended up being to repair her vocal chords, not to slide her eyeballs further to the side of her head as everyone suspected.

Baltimore Raven's running back was released by the team after video, which everyone knew existed, was released by TMZ, the official muckraking organization of our times.  The NFL followed up by suspending Rice indefinitely, and Roger Goodell dressing up in a WWII German prison guard uniform pretending he knew nothing, NOTHING!

Apple made it's annual big announcement about new products, this time being the new iPhone 6, which comes standard with a higher price tag, and a watch.  The Apple lemmings will be lined up for hours to buy a watch that can't get wet, is subject to shattering, and will have an ever increasing battery drain over time.  The new iPhone 6, meanwhile, has a new big screen, just like the Samsung Galaxy, withe several fewer features than what the Samsung Galaxy provided a couple of years ago.  Apple users should look to the new Samsung Galaxy to see what they should expect in their new over-priced iPhone 7 in 4 years.

James Bond villain Jaws, otherwise known as Richard Kiel, passed away at the age of 74.  He'll be buried with his metal teeth biting through a gondola cable.

The Discovery Channel announced that it was going to air a show called Rival Survival, where 2 U.S. Senators are stranded on an island and have to work together and live off of the land and sea.  If the show is successful, Discovery Channel hopes to air a sequel called Good Riddance where all members of Congress are put on the island indefinitely while the rest of the country celebrates.

Baltimore continued to make the news in September when former slugger Chris Davis tested positive for amphetamines.  This is his second positive test and it resulted in a 25 game suspension.  Davis claims it's from his ADHD medicine.  Fortunately for the Baltimore Orioles, they are playoff bound and Davis will be eligible to return to the team by their 9th playoff game.  If Davis was on the Phillies, he'd be looking at April before he could return to playing.

Not wanting to lose all the attention to Ray Rice, Minnesota Vikings premier running back Adrian Peterson beat the shit out of a child, resulting in felony injury to a child.  How is this different from child abuse?  I don't know.  Now everyone is wondering if he'll get an indefinite ban from the NFL, or will his punishment be less because he only beat a child and Peterson is a much better running back.

In Baltimore, city police officer Vincent Cosom was placed on administrative leave when video surfaced of him beating Ray Rice's fiance'.  However, Baltimore City Police Commissioner Anthony Batts traded videos with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and found that officer Cosom was actually beating a detained troublemaker.

Embattled Baltimore Orioles slugger Chris Davis made the news again in September while shirking allegations of using amphetamines while simultaneously flipping over a vehicle that was involved in a traffic accident.  Other reports indicate that he stopped a speeding bullet and leaped over a tall building in a single bound.

A report was leaked about the unidentified doctor who performed the vocal chord procedure on Joan Rivers prior to her death.  Apparently he took a selfie of himself and the anesthetized octogenarian.  Look on the positive side - he didn't twerk her.

The Atlanta Braves announced the name of their new stadium that will replace the decrepit 18 year old relic in which they currently play.  Turner Field was constructed way back during the Clinton Administration, certainly valid justification for a new $400 million taxpayer funded stadium for a billion dollar organization.  Oh, the new name will be Screw the Taxpayers Stadium.

Former Tennessee Titans kicker and son-in-law of NFL legend Terry Bradshaw was killed in a vehicle accident. 

Apple backtracked on a publicity stunt gone awry.  Millions of teenagers were outraged when they determined that some irrelevant band from the 80's named U2 hacked their iTunes accounts and filled it with crappy music.  Apparently not every generation is full of lemmings that adhere to what they are told is good music.

Two container ships collided in the Suez canal.  The captain of  Singaporean-flagged Maersk Tanjong 107,000 DWT German-flagged MV Colombo Express claimed that the other 107,000 DWT German-flagged MV Colombo Express came flying out of nowhere at over 8 knots and slammed into the side of it, causing 3 containers to go flying off into the water.  This dramatic 5 minute long collision was caught on film.  No, it's not in slow motion.

The dreaded ebola virus made it's premier in the United States during the last week of September.  The flesh-eating virus was scheduled to appear at the Dallas Theater on Thursday and move to  Houston's Wortham Center over the weekend, with thousands more shows over the next few weeks.

Baltimore native and world-renowned Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps hooked up an IV full of booze and drive 85 mph down I-95 in a 45 mph zone, unaware that doing this a second time would be a bad idea.  He made an announcement that he was going to take a break from swimming to concentrate on his drinking.  Or was it to concentrate on fixing his drinking problem?  Oh, whatever.  One and the same.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Calvert Cliffs Fishing Report

In our quest to fish in every county in Maryland this year, a quest that we are starting to realize it a bit out of our grasp, we fished fished in Calvert and St. Mary's County.  I figured if we went down to Solomon's Island, we could knock out 2 counties fairly easily.

Through a heavy layer of fog, we drove down Route 4 through Anne Arundel County and into Calvert County.  I haven't been this way in a while and this area is definitely losing it's Southern charm.  Farmer fields are being replaced with track housing and Dunkin Donuts, and even worse....McDonald's.  Going or gone are the mom and pop shops.  Coming are the franchised outlets of the mega corporations where no one gets ahead in life.

So, as I was saying, we stopped at a little boat ramp off of the highway just under the Governor Thomas Johnson Bridge.  Do you know who Governor Thomas Johnson was?  He was the first Governor of Maryland.  Legend has it that someone asked him about taxing the rain and he died laughing.

There was a modest fishing pier jutting out into the Patuxant River.  We set up camp and cast our lines and waited.  Then we waited.  After that, we waited some more.  No fish.  Actually, my son caught an emerald shiner, but that's nothing to put in the record book.  After about an hour we were ready to throw in the towel and head to another destination.

My son and his friend wanted to go to Calvert Cliffs and fish, but I thought if we went there first, we'd never get to St. Mary's County, so I decided to go to Greenwell State Park on the other side of the river and a few miles upstream.

Greenwell State Park isn't much of a park.  It's more of a historic farm with some shoreline.  We took a short hike down the hill to this spot and parked ourselves.  Well, actually, I parked myself in a chair and continued reading Truman by David McCulloch while the boys fished.  My snagged a bunker and his friend caught some small white perch.

After an hour and a half there, we decided to leave and get some lunch, then head to....Calvert Cliffs.

Calvert Cliffs State Park was $5 to get in (I think).  The parking lot was right off of Route 4.  The park ranger asked if we were salt water fishing or fresh water fishing.  Unsure where she was going with that, I said we had hoped to go salt water fishing.  She said that the pond is fresh water and pointed to the pond next to the parking lot and informed us the salt water fishing was at the end of the trail, which was 1.8 miles long.  Good grief! Pack light, boys!

The boys wanted to fish in the pond for a little bit.  There was a decent sized large mouth bass within reach, but it was not interested in anything.  They had more fun antagonizing a northern water snake in the water.

Finally we began our trek down the trail.  1.8 miles.  It was an easy walk along a meandering creek that dumped into swamp land.  We found this creative use of a felled tree and we each took a turn getting our picture taken in it.

Once at the end, I quickly thought that it had an amazing similarity to Westmoreland Park in Virginia.

These are the fabled cliffs with fossils and sharks' teeth.  Unfortunately, I was unable to find any.

This is looking north.

Oh, the fishing.  A guy that we befriended on the beach had caught 5 blue fish, 3 of which were over 14 inches.  We caught several spot and white perch.  Nothing amazing, but enough fish to keep us satisfied.  My son actually said he wants to go back there and spend the whole day fishing at Calvert Cliffs.  When my son says he likes something, it's a victory.

List of Eldersburg Robberies

Some people are screaming that Eldersburg is falling to all hell, while others are saying that everything is fine and there is no need to worry about anything except the Kardashian's.

I thought it would be helpful to see a list of the robberies in Eldersburg so that you can make your own decision. It seems as if there are 2-3 armed robberies in Eldersburg every year, though 2 big ones happened in one week.

Do you recall any more armed robbery incidents?  If so, I'll add them to this list.

3/4/1998 - Wal-Mart
3/28/2000 - Crown Station
2/6/2004 - Pizza Hut
2/6/2004 - Blockbuster
5/23/2008 - 7-11
10/30/2009 - Subway
11/5/2009 - Dunkin Donuts
3/8/2010 - Exxon
4/26/2011 - Sunoco

9/29/2012 - Carroll Community Bank
1/17/2012 - PNC Bank
8/8/2013 - Bank of America
11/27/2013 - High's
11/29/2013 - Harlan Lane
1/30/2014 - Sunoco
9/27/2014 - Panera Bread  

9/30/2014 - Food Lion

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