Monday, July 30, 2007

If the weather gets better we can get together...

Just a couple of quick item to share.

First, the county council just passed the package of green building legislation, which made the people I work with rather happy (me too, but not, apparently, Jessie). I'm sure you'll get all the details from the local papers in the next couple days.

In other county news, the Department of Planning and Zoning introduced an RSS feed today. If, like me, you can't get enough information about planning, zoning and development matters (really, who can't?), you'll love it. I'd say it's a safe bet that you'll soon see a DPZ RSS widget on this blog sometime soon.

And finally, if there's one thing we aren't left wanting for in Columbia it's meetings. Indeed, the glut of Columbia-related events makes it hard for most normal people to keep track of everything. Well, the good people at the Columbia Association have made keeping tabs on the packed schedule a bit easier with this new, online calendar, which is surprisingly sophisticated and powerful. The only drawback: No more excuses for missing meetings.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

So let me introduce to you...

...the new deck.

As promised yesterday, here are some shots of our new outdoor living space.

Now we just need to get some deck furniture and landscape the rest of the backyard.

But first, I have to say how happy I am with the guys who built our deck -- Don and Mike's Home Improvements. Although it may appear otherwise, our deck was not a simple project, but Don and Mike (and their assorted helpers) took all the complications in stride and gave us exactly what we were looking for. This project has also been the talk of the pathways around here, with many of our neighbors stopping on their walks to admire their work and inquire about their services. If you're looking for honest, hardworking, and reasonable contractors (who are friendly to boot!), I highly recommend Don and Mike.

(In the interest of full disclosure, they're not giving me anything to say such nice things.)

Stay tuned for an announcement about the first cook out!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

It's done.

In a little over a week, my side yard went from dirt to deck. It's nice.

Since it was dark when I got home tonight, I don't have any pictures of the finished deck. But these photos of the construction site over the past few days should tide you over.

The old deck:

The new deck frame:
The new deck boards:

Monday, July 23, 2007

For those about to rock…

Although I’m still trying to figure out how to walk the fuzzy line between my job and blogging, when I saw this come across my desk, I knew it was something I could share.

Howard County Executive Ken Ulman will be on hand to get a birds-eye look at Merriweather Post Pavilion’s newest addition, rooftop solar paneling. Brad Canfield, Director of Operations & Production for Merriweather Post Pavilion, has invited the County Executive to come view Merriweather's first step in "going green" and to learn more about exactly what these types of solar panels can do. In addition to viewing the solar panels, County Executive Ulman will also be awarding Merriweather the County's first "Green Salute."

This salute will be part of an ongoing effort to recognize Howard County residents and businesses who have decided NOW is the time to do their part to protect our environment. After a brief presentation, the County Executive and Mr. Canfield will be joined by the installers of the solar panels; all will then take a lift up to the rooftop to get an up close look at the installed solar panels.

The public is invited to come, too, so if you’ve got nothing better to do on Thursday (July 26) at 9:30 am, come on out and see the new solar panels for yourself. Actually, if you’ve never been to Merriweather while it’s “dark,” you’re missing out. I think I had as much fun on the tour a few years ago as I did at some concerts.

And while we’re on the topic of Merriweather, the Sun this week asked residents how they felt about the possibility of a renovation that allowed for year-round use. Send your letters here.

And, finally, speaking of letters, I was glad to see the letters to the Sun about the Columbia birthday party – just a bunch of people who, apparently, had a grand old time. Ain’t nothing wrong with that.

Stay tuned for more pictures of the deck! (Are you tired of that yet?)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

He was turned to steel in the great magnetic field...

I finally found a license plate worth paying a premium for:

My Cooperstown plans having been thwarted, slapping a pair of Cal Ripken Jr. plates on the Red Dragon seems like the next best tribute.

Share this evening...

Hey, OMers, did you go to the meeting tonight? Want to share any interesting ideas you heard?

Also, for all county residents, County Executive Ken Ulman will be hosting a somewhat open-ended public forum next Wednesday night at Oakland Mills High School beginning at 6 pm. All of his department heads will be there (his executive assistants, too), and you'll have a chance to talk about pretty much whatever you want.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

All dressed up, no place to go...

Hey, the Sun's website got a fancy, schmancy redesign.

And speaking of redesigns, here's more on Merriweather and the idea to make it a year-round venue (without sacrificing the quality of it's summer state).

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Keep him in the hole...

The Deck, day one, from last night.

We always stand up straight...

Although Dan Beyers mentioned it last week, I'm going to mention it again because: 1. Repetition is the key to awareness; and 2. I don't have the time or energy to think of something else to say.

This Thursday at 7 pm at the Other Barn residents are invited to share their thoughts for a community enhancement project on Robert Oliver Place, between the Barns and the Interfaith center. I've already heard some great ideas, but I'm sure the community at large can come up with concepts that are even better.

In the great effort to revitalize the Oakland Mills Village Center, this is probably just a small step, but it is certainly not an insignificant one. I hope you can make it on Thursday.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

This life is going to be all about the dangling possibilities...

After saying in my last post that, new job aside, I'd try to keep up my regular blogging pace, I dropped off the face of the earth for the next five days. Talk about empty promises (maybe I do have a future in politics).

If it's any consolation, not only have I neglected the blog, I haven't returned an email or phone call or done much of anything over the past nine days but paint (and putty and caulk and sand and similar nonsense). I did make a couple exceptions: a midnight showing of Harry Potter on Tuesday, a friend's 30th birthday party, half a day at the county office building getting the deck permit (work starts this week!) and a couple bike rides. But for the most part, I got up in the morning, worked until it got dark and ran to Home Depot(s) at night.

It was glorious.

Some people go on vacations to exotic (or not) place or retreats to monasteries to clear their minds. Me, I work on houses. Indeed, the last time I left a job I really liked for an opportunity stuffed with uncertainty, I spent two weeks repairing a beat-up rental property for a landlord who personified all the bad connotations associated with "absentee." At least this time the house is mine (and there aren't any fleas to speak of).

While I've done more than my share of painting, I've never actually painted a house. So, I had no idea what I was getting into. And as much as I think I should have finished the job during my week off, I'm content with what I accomplished, especially considering the amount of work required to prep the house and the quality of the previous paint job (a neighbor mentioned that the last owner to paint the house bragged that he finished the job in just 13 hours -- it showed).

Anyway, as proof that I haven't been just lounging around playing Wii, here are a couple shots of the house. Note the remaining work for next weekend and the new shed in the "after" shot.

Thanks to my dad for helping out on Friday and all my neighbors who stopped by to offer advice (some good, some less so) or words of encouragement.

More later.

Until then, an advertisement for an great event this week:

at the Columbia Foundation invites you to join us at

"Give to Greet"
a benefit for the Domestic Violence Center (DVC) of Howard County

Wednesday, July 18, 2007
5:30-7:00 pm

Domestic Violence Center- 5457 Twin Knolls Road, Suite 310-Columbia, 21045

A donation to the DVC "Wish List" is required for admittance.
Light hors d'oeuvres and beverages provided.


RSVP: 410.730.7840 or

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

It's getting hot in here...


It's freaking hot.

Not that you didn't know this -- even if you go from an air-conditioned house to an air-conditioned car to an air-conditioned office and back, you can't escape the dreadful, stifling heat (or people talking about it).

Naturally, I picked this week to paint the house.

The outside of the house.

Of course, given that I live in a 35 year old house with wood siding, I haven't actually gotten around to painting just yet. Four days and all I have to show for my work is a new post for the carport, a handful of new pieces of trim, and gobs and gobs of patched and caulked holes, cracks and crevices. Also, I've probably lost 10 pounds (a lot for someone as skinny as I), but I've consumed at least two, maybe ten, times that much in Gatorade and water.

I actually didn't pick this week to paint. It just sort of happened that way.

I hinted at something in the last post I wrote but claimed I couldn't explain it. See, I had planned to write a comprehensive, long-winded post describing something that's kind of a big deal (for me, anyway). I was probably going to talk about it in philosophical and psychological terms, about how it's changing the way I've defined myself for the last several years (mainly as a thrower of "wrenches" -- figuratively speaking).

After trying for weeks to write something about it, however, I couldn't figure out how to say what I wanted to say. So...

I left my position with Enterprise last Friday to take a job with Ken Ulman's administration. Starting next Monday, I'm going to be an Executive Assistant in his office, helping with a variety of things like writing, constituent service and policy. In a lot of ways, it'll mean getting paid for things I already do -- attend meetings, write about local matters, think about ways to make Howard County even better -- but from a completely different perspective.

That I'm taking this job should in no way reflect poorly on Enterprise, which was the best place I ever worked. As excited as I have been for the new opportunity, saying goodbye to Enterprise was one of the main reasons I've been out of sorts for the past couple weeks.

Now, obviously, I'm expecting at least one hater to come out of the woodwork and criticize me, my new job and Ulman (I think Berkhouse once even asked whether Ulman had promised me a job before the election, which he didn't). That's fine. Sometimes you just gotta let it out.

But just know that I wouldn't have taken this job -- or ever started this blog -- if I didn't want what everyone here wants: a great place to live. We may have deep, fundamental differences of opinion about what that means or how we accomplish it, but the end goal is still the same.

So, what does this mean for the blog? Well, you may have noticed that over the past month I've drifted away from some of the more controversial and political stories -- the Tower, the duplex legislation, etc. For myriad reasons, I won't really be writing about such things, but I will continue to write about all sorts of other happenings in the county and, of course, the deck (getting the permit tomorrow and the guys will start working later this week, hopefully). I can't say with any certainty how much blogging I'll be able to squeeze in, but I'll try to keep up the usual pace.

Anyway, lunch time's up and I've got a bunch of stuff to do before going to see Harry Potter tonight (woo-hoo!), so that's it for now.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Someone came and washed away your hard-earned peace of mind...

Maybe you've noticed, or maybe not, but things have been quiet around here this week. Not for lack of effort, however. I've sat down to write nearly every night, but thus far haven't been able to say just what I want to say.

It's been a strange week. The pleasant temperatures (for July, anyway) and the midweek holiday framed a few deeper personal happenings, among them the death of a friend from what seems like another life, the approach of the big 3-0 and something else that I haven't figured out how to explain yet.

On balance, I'm fine and there's no need to worry or sympathize, but rather than navigate around the uncertainty, questions and emotions, I decided to embrace them, which makes for a mindset not suited to pithiness and sarcasm (i.e. blogging). I'm only writing now out of a bizarre compulsive need to broadcast personal details about my life.

There is much for me to be excited about in the coming weeks and much of it I'll share on this blog -- maybe tomorrow, maybe next week, but definitely soon.

Now, I need to go spend a lot of money at Home Depot. Yay, power tools!

Monday, July 02, 2007

I want it all...

After six months of drooling at pictures, I finally got a chance to stop by the Apple Store today and play with the iPhone.

It is fantastic.

But as much as I want one, spending $600 on a phone, not to mention the $175 cancellation fee to get out from under Verizon's grip, isn't in the cards for me now. I've had enough trouble convincing Abbzug to let me buy a new laptop, and there's no sense destroying all that hard work by angling for something else. Stay focused!

Anyway, here are some pictures I took a few hours before the iPhone's release on Friday.

Look at all those suckers waiting in line.

Who am I kidding? If allowed, I would have been right there with them.