Tuesday, November 25, 2008

And I don't know what went wrong. I feel I don't belong. I just keep moving on.

Hayduke died last night.

This probably isn't particularly surprising to you or the spam-bots that still occasionally troll this blog for free, if pointless, advertising opportunities. Hayduke's demise has been a long time coming, starting over a year ago when I decided it would behoove me to further my career goals rather than blather endlessly about stuff on the internet.

Still, even as distractions and other priorities took his place and the time between posts grew from days to weeks to months, Hayduke persevered, if only as a muted shell of his former self. Looking back, I probably should have made a clean break earlier, but I couldn't/didn't until last night, when, with the help of some Ikea furniture, I let go.

The vast majority of the words on this blog were written at this desk.

I bought it around the same time I started this blog in the fall of 2005. Incidentally, I also bought the iMac around the same time. Together, the desk and the computer made up the Hayduke Command Center, which, tucked into little corners/closets of our home offices (first in the Kings Contrivance apartment and later in our Oakland Mills house), made for a lovely blogging oasis.

I did some of my best work at this desk. Certainly, it witnessed my most exciting and energizing moments as a writer. (I know, exciting and energizing are not usually associated with the act of writing, but whatever, it's – still! – my blog, bitches.)

I know the desk itself – the combination of pre-fabbed pieces of particale board and those crazy screw thingies Ikea uses – was not the source of whatever blogging acumen I may have possessed. It is, however, a physical reminder of a piece of my life that I really enjoyed.

And last night, it fell to pieces…

…with the assistance of a screwdriver and a hex key.

Just as I ran out of room in my life for blogging, my house ran out of room for the desk. There's a baby on the way, and when you only have 844 square feet and two bedrooms' worth of house, a large desk and an office become a luxury you can no longer afford. Which is perfectly fine by me. I'm happier than a pig in poop about the baby.

Nevertheless, as the pieces of the desk were undone and stacked against the vacant walls of the nursery-to-be, I felt pangs of loss for what once was. Alas.

It was fun, Hayduke. Maybe we'll do it again sometime.

That's the extent of the mourning you'll hear from me. I've got a nursery to finish, a wife to dote on, a dog to run with, a job to keep up, and a show to prepare for (Friday night, Michael's Pub, 9 pm, Pine Flood's world premier!), among all the other stuff.

Finally, to everyone who took the time to read this ridiculous thing, thanks. I had great time talking with you and hope to again soon. If you're interested in keeping tabs on me, you can find me on Facebook, where I'm now posting silly pictures of the dog.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Everything is priced to move!

Screw you, rain. We're yard-selling anyway and doing pretty good so far.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Living just enough...

Curious sight from my recent trip to Virginia Beach: a not-too-shabby little town center area. Amidst the otherwise low-slung, sprawliness of the Tidewater area, this downtown area is home to several good restaurants, a comedy club, a fancy-pants performing arts center, a hopping night club and (gasp!) a very tall building.

One of the things that struck me most about the area was how easy it was to get in and out of by car while also being really welcoming to pedestrians.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Here comes the new boss...


Tuesday, September 09, 2008

I don't want to wait in vain...

So, what better thing is there for me to do while waiting for my car to finish its check-up than go through ramdom photos on my phone and post them to the blog? Yes, I suppose I could watch a rerun of the hit CBS show NCIS with the other carless folks in this waiting room, but...um...no.

Here's a picture from my firat visit to Harris Teeter Saturday. For a guy who's written extensively about grocery stores, including a shameless love letter to Trader Joe's, you probably find it strange that it took me so long to visit Columbia's newest grocer. That's fine; I also find it strange.

Anyway, I share this photo only to point out the really thoughtful and really wasteful inclusion of a seperate heating system for the store that is dedicated to keeping shoppers comfortable in the frozen food aisles. Although it's certainly a nice touch, I can't decide if it's a step forward or a step back.

Some guys have all the luck...

Man, the Gateway building has awesome vending machines. No fair. All we -- the denizens of the Howard building -- have is a Coke machine that charges $0.75 for a $0.65 soda.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Over to the field for tackle football...

Woo-hoo! Football Day!

Seriously, good times, even though this may be the worst Ravens team of all time. On the bright side, I like to think that this is the year Ravens tickets become available and affordable again, but we'll see about that.

The big excitement about today's Ravens game is, of course, the debut of Mr. Ocho Cinco (the wide reciever formerly known as Chad Johnson). Say what you will about the guy, but I think his name change is probably the most brilliant thing an NFL player has ever done.

I mean, check out this shot from CBS's pre-game coverage and try not to laugh:

The guy's forcing everyone to this grammatical abberation of a joke seriously...awesome.

Bonus funny: Look at that picture...there's a ridicuolous caption in there somewhere, right? The closed eyes, Cowher's lips, the excessive lapel pins...it's all too much for me to process now. Perhaps during halftime...

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

I could not get enough...

Happy September! I was out driving around for work and found a little
piece of HoCo that I had never seen.

Here's a picture. Can you guess where I was?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Even rivers ask for rain...

Roads are pretty important to a lot of people.

This isn’t really insightful, but in light of this reality, you would expect a bit more care to be given to the design, not just engineering, of streets. Instead, we get what we’ve always gotten – generally safe and generally efficient thoroughfares for vehicular traffic.

Some folks think there’s more to streets than that, however. And as people often do when they share a desire for change, they’ve started a movement: Shared Space, which Wikipedia says is “the blurring or removal of the distinction between space designated for automobiles and space designated for pedestrians and bicycles.”

Here’s more on the concept from the Boston Globe:

The curb is a big enemy in the Shared Space philosophy, because the curb is a separator, dictating what belongs to the pedestrian and what belongs to the vehicle. There are other enemies as well: signs, lines on the road, even traffic lights. Pioneered by Dutch traffic engineer Hans Monderman, who died earlier this year at age 62, Shared Space gets the street naked, removes all physical and psychological barriers, and forces cars and pedestrians to share. The concept makes the street safe by making it dangerous to proceed without paying attention.

And more

For decades, our urban street system has focused almost exclusively on the efficient movement of cars. "When you walk down one of these European streets and see people walking, entire families riding bicycles together, people sitting outside having an evening drink, you think, 'This is the way a city should be,' " says Steven E. Miller, the executive director of the Healthy Weight Initiative in the nutrition department at the Harvard School of Public Health. He believes walkable streets will go a long way toward mending chronic health problems. "And you feel astounded that America hasn't caught on to that effect."

The whole thing is worth a read. Personally, I wouldn’t mind seeing a bit more of this around here.

Totally unrelated to Shared Space (or maybe not?), here’s something that popped out of the Way Back machine today:

Yeah. How about that? This is the third revision, published by HCCA in 1994. The original edition came out in 1972. I haven’t really had a chance to go through it yet, but I thought it was an interesting piece of HoCo community history. I'll let you know if I find anything fun in it.

Because the fairness doctrine compels me, here’s the playbook used by developers.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Mother Nature got me thinking...

A couple issues that sprouted up in my little piece of Columbia got me thinking. Unfortunately, these thoughts haven't led me to any conclusions…just more thoughts.

So, I'm presenting these matters to the collective wisdom of the local Anonymouses in hopes that my own thoughts might start crystallizing.

First, there's the Walgreens. I'm not exactly sure where it is in the development process, but almost all of Oakland Mills seems to know of and have an opinion about it. For those who aren't in the know, the chain pharmacy is working to locate a new branch at the intersection of Rouse Parkway (Rt. 175) and Thunder Hill Road, a decidedly non-village center site.

That last bit presents a problem. We can argue about tall buildings, but one thing that's pretty clearly part of the "vision" of Columbia is that the life's essentials would be located in our village centers. I don't think I'm slavish in my devotion to founding principles, but when there's a struggling village center that currently has no place for residents to get the medicine they really need – that is, not the over the counter junk – it seems kind of strange to support construction of a pharmacy out on the village's fringe.

But pharmacies don't play that way anymore. Unless they're part of a grocery store, today's pharmacies follow the stand-alone, along-major-roadways model. I'm guessing they do this because it's proven to be successful, and whatever niceties might be said about providing access to medicine, it's still all about the money.

(And contrary to what some may think, Columbia was never intended to blunt market forces in favor of the common good or social gains. Indeed, its true genius was exploiting them to achieve social ends…but that's for a later post.)

Also I'm also sensitive to the fact that this location, as opposed to one in a village center, would be more convenient for some (ahem...) and less convenient for others. Which way the scales tip in this instance, I can't say.

The other undecided I have is with respect to the idea of a new bridge connecting Town Center to Oakland Mills and whether this bridge should serve people, bikes, buses, cars or all of the above. I've long been of the opinion that a bridge open to all vehicles and made safe for pedestrians is the best option for Oakland Mills but others have raised good points that have me rethinking my position. Whatever happens, the bridge must be safe (in all ways) and convenient before it sees significant usage. The bridge we have now doesn't fully meet these standards and I don't know if anything can be done to make it so.

What's more, a really well-designed bridge would give our city another defining piece of architecture, which we desperately need.

So there it is...my jumble of thoughts. 

How about you?

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Say they want you successful, but that ain't the case…

Because I feel like griping…

First: There will be no shortage of discussions about race over the next few months, a fact that, depending on your perspective, will be most welcome or entirely aggravating (or possibly in between, but not likely). It doesn't matter to me where you fall on the spectrum – as I'm sure it doesn't matter to you where I fall – but what does matter to me is that we come together as a nation to accomplish one thing: the abolition of the term "race card" (as in, "to play the") from our vernacular.

Not only does it trivialize legitimate concerns about racism (you mean it still exists?), but using it makes you sound like, well, a Not Very Bright Person, regardless of whether you use it "correctly" – that is, in response to a spurious claim of racism. Here's a tip: If you find yourself in a discussion about race in America where someone points out that a particular thing is racist – say, a political advertisement involving a certain candidate for President of the United States and a couple of blond-haired, white "celebrity" women – and you disagree with this person, you should state your disagreement in such a way that actually demonstrates the falsity of their claim. If it is indeed a spurious point, refuting it shouldn't be too hard, now should it?

As a corollary, just because a particular thing – say, the above-mentioned advertisement – doesn't bring out the inner racist in you that doesn't mean it isn't bringing out the inner racist in others. You know, kind of like how you can't hear a dog whistle but a dog can.

Second: Office 2007. Seriously, Microsoft, why did you destroy the one thing you did really, really well? This new version of Office is an abomination -- over the top graphic interface, confusing menus, general navigation issues, auto formatting from hell, etc. -- and it has me longing for the good, old days of Office 2003 (and I hate longing). But, hey, thanks for including a "blog post" template in Word. Progress!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I'm afraid that all the pieces might slip away from me...

Good vs. Bad: A breakdown...

Good: Pandora for the iPhone. I realized in all my praise for the iPhone a little while back that I didn't really say much about what really makes it awesome: Applications, for one. I'll probably write about a few others that I like, but for now I want to highlight Pandora, which, if you don't know, is some free internet radio goodness. Basically, you create "stations" of bands you like and Pandora plays songs that match your taste. It's a great way to find new music that you might actually like...as opposed to whatever's on the radio.

Bad: One Hundred Pushups. This site claims that if you follow its six week program you'll be able to do 100 pushups. I did it, all six weeks without cheating, and I'm here to tell you what you already know: Don't believe what you read on the internet. When I started the program, I was able to do 50 pushups. After finishing the last level over the weekend, I did the exhaustion test last night and logged exactly 53 pushups. Yay, progress!

Good: Apple technical support. I've had two problems over the past couple weeks and both were solved super quickly by Apple. 

Bad: The fact that I needed Apple technical support twice over the past two weeks. After I upgraded operating systems (Tiger to Leopard, for those of you playing along at home), my laptop's battery decided to lose about half of its capacity, which is pretty lame. I called Apple on Saturday, however, and a brand new battery arrived at my door on Monday, which is pretty good. The other issue had to do with an activation code that wasn't working, which may have partially been my fault but nevertheless these things should "just work," right?

(In fairness, these two problems are not bad considering the amount of computer-related upgrades involving Apple products I've done in the past month, nearly all of which have gone very smoothly, including the construction of a pretty sweet wireless network/home server.)

Good: Grand slams and the Orioles beating the Yankees.

Bad: "Competition yellows" during NASCAR races.

Good: MG Midgets for sale in Columbia.

Bad: MG Midgets for sale in Columbia tempting me.

Friday, July 25, 2008

My greatest fear will be that you will crash and burn...

A couple of possibly competing data points about newspapers.

First, The Sun shared news recently of another reduction in local coverage. A daily feature just a few years ago, the Howard Section will now come out on Thursdays and Sundays only. Whether this results in an actual decrease in local stories or simply a consolidation of the same amount of stories on fewer days remains to be seen, but I'd put money on the latter in the short term and the former in the long term.

Meanwhile, the Pew Research Center just released a report detailing cutbacks at newspapers.

It has fewer pages than three years ago, the paper stock is thinner, and the stories are shorter. There is less foreign and national news, less space devoted to science, the arts, features and a range of specialized subjects. Business coverage is either packaged in an increasingly thin stand-alone section or collapsed into another part of the paper. The crossword puzzle has shrunk, the TV listings and stock tables may have disappeared, but coverage of some local issues has strengthened and investigative reporting remains highly valued.
So, according to the smart folks at Pew, while the rest of the paper withers, the local sections seem to be doing fine, if not better, yet, our local rag is cutting back on space for local news. What gives?

I actually don't think these are contradictory as they may seem. With so many options for consuming news on the big issues, consumers have turned to other outlets-- blogs, television, crazy emails from their grandparents, etc. In trying to find their niche in this changing landscape, newspapers, on average, have started devoting a greater share of their resources to local news, where the array of available options for consumers is considerably smaller; this is the transformation noted in Pew's study.

But even in this less competitive market, papers are finding it difficult to stay profitable because they're still relying on essentially the same model that's been used for decades, one that has largely failed to adapt to changing consumer preferences and technology. Traditional news organizations were painfully slow to embrace the internet, and even now that most have caught on to its permanence, they are stuck trying to play catch up in a game that's on a completely different field. In many cases, "tech-savvy" newspapers are still operating in the same paradigm, doing what they've always done, only digitally, which probably isn't going to cut it for much longer.

However, as long as people value information and their time, there will always be money to be made delivering news, whether local, regional, national or international. I'll leave it up to the smart people to figure out how.

Monday, July 21, 2008

...quoting things you'd never say...

One billboard; two sides.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Whiskers on kittens...

My favorite shot from GGP's "Vision" open house.

I've been sitting waiting wishing...

Nothing but good reviews for the MVA Express in Columbia. I was in an out in under 10 minutes for a license renewal and didn't even get a chance to play poker on my phone.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Loving you is easy 'cause you're beautiful...

Yes, I got an iPhone.

Yes, it's all I had hoped for and more.

And, yes, I stood in line for several hours to get it.

But... I did not wait in line on Friday like all those other losers, those saps who had to have it the day it came out. No, me, I'm patient and not one to buy into manufactured hype. 

Yes, I got mine on Saturday, when waiting was no longer an exercise in crass commercial worship carried out by blind fanboys but instead simply a function of the prevailing reality that iPhones are awesome and a lot of people want them.

Yes, I know I'm kidding no one with this. But, seriously, it's awesome.

And, please, don't be like those ignoramuses (ignorami) who strolled by the line Saturday morning and couldn't resist cracking wise about how "it's just a phone." Because it's not "just a phone," and if you think it is, you're probably not very bright.

I don't think it's hyperbole to say the iPhone is arguably the greatest "gadget" ever conceived. It is all those old sci-fi pipe dreams rolled into a shiny glass and plastic package that is as easy to use as it is on the eyes.

OK, maybe I'm being a little to effusive -- it wouldn't be the first time -- but I'm in iPhone heaven right now, and I can't help it. I mean, even Abbzug, who generally hates gadgets, won't put hers down.

Now, if only I could figure out a way to take it swimming with me. 

Yes, I've gone too far.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Goin' each and every place with the mic in their hand...

SC, Maryland, New Orleans, Motown...

How about a little Hump Day Round Up…

All Merriweather, all the time: Wordbones' off-line alter ego wrote a nice column for the July edition of the Business Monthly about the Little Ampetheater (and Community Movement) That Could. I don't really have anything to add, but like WB, I'm glad he got this one wrong.

More Merriweather: My off-line alter ego also has a piece about Merriweather running in a local publication. Here's the cover story from the summer edition of Howard Life magazine.

Still more: I was feeling a little blah about this season's line up for Merriweather. Don't get me wrong, I love brooding, wannabe guitar heroes as much as the next 16-year-old girl, but John Mayer just isn't doing it for me this year. But two recent concert announcements have turned my blah into… uh, blazam? First, Rock the Bells, a tour of hip hop heavyweights, on July 27 and second, The Allman Brothers on September 30. They still don't totally make up for the lack of Jack Johnson – stupid Virgin Fest – but I'm happy.

As for non-Merriweather stuff, it's just this: Good riddance, Pooh Bears!

Devotees will tell you that Padonia Swim Club is more than just a place to go swimming. For some, it is where they got their first job, sent their kids to day camp, paddled on the pond, sparked summer romances, got married and sipped cocktails at the cabana bar.

So when the 49-year-old club announced that it was selling the Cockeysville property to a church and shutting down operations - albeit in fall 2010 at the earliest - the news hit members like an afternoon thunderstorm after a cloudless morning.

Padonia was the arch rival of my childhood swim team. They won every single meet for something like 73 years… until they ran into the buzzsaw that was the Crofton Swim and Tennis Club in the mid-1980s.

Yeah, that's right, I'm still living a 20-year-old rivalry. And, yes, sometimes I embarrass myself.

(Although I just saw this story today, thoughts of childhood swim meets have resurfaced recently thanks to my re-adoption of swimming as a preferred method of cardiovascular activity and the airing of the Olympic trials [in HD!] on television.)


Tuesday, July 01, 2008

But no one taught that to me yet...

A couple of things on this lovely Canada Day...

First, I had an awesome time playing at the Oakland Mills Birthday Party on Saturday. Thanks to those of you who braved the heat and the rain to come out, including Wordbones, who posted a pic of The Fab Five. There are also a couple short videos of the affair somewhere on the internet, but I'll hold off on posting a link until I have the videographer's OK.

For those of you who missed it: Don't worry. There's a movement afoot to keep this little experiment going at least a little while longer. I'm interested to see what we can do with a wider song selection and more than a month to practice.

Second, a question. Is it legal to ride your bike on the sidewalk in Howard County?