Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas

It has been a very busy year with so many professional and personal challenges.  The seasons pass so quickly. It seems like just yesterday was Memorial Day.  Now is the time to slow down and rejoice in our family, friends, and many blessings. 

Merry Christmas from Laurel Connections


Christmas 2006 
St Mary of the Mills Church in Laurel, MD. (G.Rick Wilson)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Walmart + DPW and I'm good to go!

From the WTOP.com web site;

"Wal-Mart has started selling caskets on its Web site at prices that undercut many funeral homes, long the major seller of caskets.

The move follows a similar one by discount rival Costco, which also sells caskets on its site.  Wal-Mart, based in Bentonville, Ark., quietly put up about 15 caskets and dozens of urns on its Web site last week.

Prices range from $999 for models like "Dad Remembered" and "Mom Remembered" steel caskets to the mid-level $1,699 "Executive Privilege." All are less than $2,000, except for the Sienna Bronze Casket, which sells for $3,199.

Caskets ship within 48 hours.

So here's my plan to save my heirs a little dough when it's my time to duck out.   Joanne orders the cheapest box from WalMart or Costco.  She then bribes a couple of my neighbors to help her heft me into it.  I'm sure Eric Hoglund and Bob Bain will happily do it for a 12 pack of Sam Adams.  They are good friends.

Then she calls Laurel Department of Public Works for a special pick-up.

Thirty-five dollars to DPW and I'm outta here the following Wednesday!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Fall Morning in Laurel (click image to enlarge)

Laurel Lakes Mallard


Riverfront Reflection
 

Lakehouse Reflections


Riverfront Bridge


Duck, Duck or Goose?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Whither Newspapers, Universities Next?


The web disintermediates.  The middle man between creators and consumers crumbles under the power of the web.  Newspapers, travel agents, and real estate brokers have all been strained to the breaking point.  What's next?

The web is now the place where almost every idea is borne.  And better yet, where we can all witness the birth and life of most ideas for free.  Not just in our own city or country but throughout the world.   Billions of people are thinking out loud every day.  We simply need to listen.

In the early 90's the web was like a school girl's shoebox.  A place to keep memories. Here's a list of songs I like. Here's a collection of my favorite stories.  Over here is a catalog of films.  Since then the web has morphed from list keeper to the nursery of innovation, knowledge, and new connections.

Today, the web serves as the generator of new knowledge; a garage for the tinkerer, classroom for the curious, lab for the scientist, the writing loft for the freelance journalist, stage for an edgy comic to expose new material,  basement studio for the musician, a visual artist's canvas, a photographer's lightbox, ...

I love new ideas.  99.9999% are useless, but .00001% will change the world.  How can we find the useful bits?  How do we find the trends?  Innovation happens when dissimilar ideas rub together.  How can we liberate exciting innovation from this miasma?  Not for money or fame.  But just because it's so damn fun to learn.

Number 1 daughter is now a big shot producer and host of a radio show on WFUV in NYC She interviewed a Fordham University Law professor on her show this morning.

"The Internet has shaken the foundations of both politics and news.  Are colleges next? So says Zephyr Teachout, former director of online organizing for Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential campaign. "

My friend Greg Krehbiel over at the  Crowhill Blog, in a post entitled, "The free market shoots and kills two bastions of liberaldom?" says huzzah for the internet. 

Saturday, October 03, 2009

October Surprise

I believe that October is the finest month to be outdoors in Maryland.  It's often sunny, usually we enjoy mild temperatures and it's always breathtakingly beautiful.   

I'm still trying to master my digital SLR camera.  So I spent an enjoyable couple of hours this Saturday afternoon at the Montpelier Mansion reading the camera's confusing manual and trying to decipher a few more controls.

I lucked upon a painting class that had moved away from their easels for lunch.  Their break gave me the opportunity to capture the paintings and their landscape subjects together.


A quick slideshow  from Montpelier afternoon is found here. Use the full screen mode for best viewing.


Enjoy October while you can, winter will be here soon.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Laurel Dog Show 2009

We had a great time.  Dogs everywhere.  People were smiling.  Sunny and about 300 people and over 150 dogs participated.  


Gayle, Fred, Mike, Carreen, Kim, Pat, Jody, Bill the Dog, Rick the DJ, Jimmy, Donna, Rob, Maryann, Joanne, Jack, Eric, Mr. Nixon, Molly, Eddie, Kay, Doug and a team of volunteers, 4 and 2 legged, worked hard on another great family event.  The first annual Laurel Dog Show. 


A few more pictures for your enjoyment.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Saturday Night Supper

"My Goodness, we’ve become locavores!  She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed wants me to live just long enough for her to collect my pension."
Joanne's supper tonight was fantastic. Warm Butternut squash soup, accompanied with a spicy swiss chard, a nice dry Chardonnay and crusty Pasta Plus bread . 

This year we became localvores.  We joined the Gorman Farm Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) group.  We have been getting fresh, organically grown vegetables every Thursday from Dave and Lydia Liker, the farm's proprietors. 

We split a full share with our neighbors Juanita and Michael Malone.  A split share works out nicely.  There is plenty to feed two families.  Splitting a full share also gives you a chance to trade those fruits and vegetables to satisfy family tastes.

Joanne's voice almost beams every Thursday when she calls me at work to describe the week's produce.  We have loved everything but the beets.  I'm happy to give away beets, call me. 

I'm far from a tree hugger.  My kids have even accused me of wanting to "Pave The Bay".  So I did not think that 18 weeks worth of fresh vegetables that are grown a couple of miles from my home would be either worth it or fun.  But I gotta admit it has been.  It is fun to see what Dave has grown for us.  Each week has become an adventure in eating and community building.

The Liker's CSA shares sell out quickly.  Contact the Liker's to get on the CSA list for next year.

A full week's CSA share from Dave Liker's farm in August 2009.
Fresh basil pesto with tomato and mozzarella crostini.  Prosciutto wrapped around fresh melon slices.  Box-o-Chianti to make it all worthwhile.
Rick's Basil Pesto
2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano cheese
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts
3 medium sized garlic cloves, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1T of balsamic vinegar

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Referendum Turnout by Wards

The Laurel City Clerk's Office has done a manual count of the voters at yesterday's referendum.  These numbers may change after the official count comes back from the county election board.  But as of today, the count unofficially is:

Ward 1 - 467
Ward 2 - 354

What do you think?  What does this mean to you?  Comment here.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Referendum Results Analysis

 
The plebiscite at the Phelps Center today was a big let down for me. After all the arguing, rallying, litigating, and preparation, only 800 souls showed up to vote. If this was an angry electorate, ready to throw the bums out, then I must be hallucinating again.


Nope, this was voting as usual for Laurel. Steadfast, thoughtful and less than 10% of the registered voters. Laurel voters are predictable and that is who voted in the referendum today.

Voters very strongly opposed council members serving four year terms, by nearly a 3 to 1 margin. The voters also rejected any pay raises by good margins. Voters strongly favor changing the municipal voting date and also extending the current council to allow this change.

The voting by ward issue seems to be the only tossup issue and could flip if all of the outstanding absentee votes are returned by next Tuesday and if they all oppose ward voting.

So what does this all really mean? Not much at all by my reckoning.

The goal of this effort was to find ways to increase votor turnout. Approximately 800 people cast votes so far. Considering all of the hype, hand wringing and litigation surrounding this referendum, this turnout is shamefully low.

If people are supposedly this riled up but only 800 of us could drag ourselves to the polls, then I don't think this foreshadows any new grassroots voter movement in Laurel.  

For a complete history of Laurel City voting patterns from 1972 to 2006 click here.

Here are brief election results from 2006-1992 for comparison with today:

2006
VOTERS: 827
REGISTERED: 11600
2004
VOTERS: 512
REGISTERED: 10330
2002
VOTERS: 1091
REGISTERED: 10235
2000
VOTERS: 1062
REGISTERED: 9926
1998
VOTERS: 1153
REGISTERED: 8726
1996
VOTERS: 949
REGISTERED: 7667
1994
VOTERS: 1763
Registered: 8014
1992
VOTERS: 951
REGISTERED: 7423

Referendum Results

Q1. Early Voting       - 480 For     320 Against
Q2. Change Date      - 489 For     310 Against
Q3. Extending Term  - 424 For     373 Against
Q4. Term to 4 yrs     - 254 For     541 Against
Q5.  Vote by Ward   - 405 For     391 Against
Q6. Raise Mayor $   - 334 For     464 Against
Q7. Raise Council $  - 295 For     503 Against

Turnout 753 machine,
56 Absentee (15 oustanding)
3 provisionals

Doggone it.  The Laurel Leader beat me with their results tonight.  Kudos to Reporter Glenn and Editor Dzwonchyk.  http://www.explorehoward.com/news/65120/referendum-election-results/

Monday, September 07, 2009

The Questions

Jim McCeney is bugging me to comment on the referendum questions themselves. I guess he thinks that I'm dodging the issue with my previous post. However, in the interest of full disclosure, here are my votes on the referendum questions:

1. Early Voting - Support - Of course we should have early voting. If we could ever figure out how to vote from home on these internets securely, I'd be in favor of that as well.

2. Changing the election date - Opposed - I don't want the election changed to November because I want to keep the city elections separate and distinct. Keep the date where it is now. We just changed it recently and I don't want to go chasing after the date like it's some sort of bad television show looking for an audience.

3. Extend the current terms - Opposed - See my answer above.

4. City Council term to 4 years. - Opposed - I'm sorry but this idea is just wrong. I would never have run for the council if the commitment was four years. I loved my time on the council, but 2 years is long enough to learn the job and decide if you want to continue serving. Besides, I agree with Karen, you need the opportunity to throw us bums out every two years.

5. Voting by Ward Only - OPPOSED - This one I feel quite strongly about. While I can see how voting for your own native son or daughter will encourage more turnout, we will rue the day when we encourage this level of parochialism in our city.

Laurel is a small town. We don't need to Balkanize it and pit ward against ward. Council members that collegially work for the good of the whole city are called great, and we have had many. A council member that is only working to serve their local ward constituents at the expense of the whole is called a Congressman. We already have one Congress, we don't need to turn Laurel into another.

6. Mayor's Salary - Opposed - Now is not the time to increase any salary.

7. Council's Salary - Opposed - Now is not the time to increase any salary.

A Very Special Referendum Indeed

So what’s going on? I’ve been away.

I heard that there’s a plebiscite scheduled for our fair city tomorrow, September 8th, 2009 at the Phelps Center. I’ve included directions to the Phelps Center because I understand that there are some folks who live in Laurel who don’t know where it is. Just kidding, please don’t sue me!

The Honorable Ed Ricks, former councilman, awesome short order cook and all around good guy was asked by the city to investigate painfully depressed voter participation in Laurel. The last city election in 2008 had only a few hardy souls willing to participate in an uncontested election and the city council thought it was time to see what could be done to improve participation.

Ed’s committee got to work, solicited public input and then wrote a report. The council decided that some of the committee’s recommendations had merit, so a referendum was scheduled to see what the voters thought about seven simple questions related to voter turnout.


But things are rarely as simple as they first appear in Laurel. This referendum tomorrow is not really about increasing voter turnout anymore is it? That simple turnout issue may have been hijacked.


Former city councilman Mike Sarich and the leadership of the Laurel Boys and Girls Club have once again joined forces. They are trying to turn this from a referendum on increasing voter participation into a vote of confidence on the city’s elected leadership itself.


Mike Sarich has long had strong feelings about the need for a second polling place in Ward 2. While a councilman last year, Mike wrote a letter to his colleagues cautioning them that the lack of a second polling place may become a legal issue. Much censuring and arguing ensued. The city’s lawyer, Robert Manzi, wrote an opinion saying that Laurel was compliant with existing laws. After this upcoming referendum was announced on June 8th, Mike filed suit to stop it, and while the injunction was denied, his lawsuit and another are continuing in the courts.


It also appears that that the LBGC sees this referendum as a path towards influencing the council to increase the city’s financial support of their club. The club hosted a rally organized by the Prince George's County political watchdog group People for Change who are demanding a second polling place in Laurel.


So we have possibly riled a few new folks into voting in a city election. That’s a good thing. However, please remember that this referendum tomorrow is not asking any voters to decide on a second polling place or if the LBGC should be given more city money, or if the mayor or the city council should be removed, or even if pit bulls make good pets.


Regardless of how we vote tomorrow, those questions are for another day.


(cartoon courtesy of xckd.com)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Inner Harbor Panorama

Baltimore's Inner Harbor as seen from atop Federal Hill this morning.

I've been trying to capture a panorama of Baltimore's Inner Harbor for over a year. Each attempt brings me a little closer to a good image. This image above is made up of 8 individual shots stitched together by Adobe Photoshop's "merge" routine. If I printed it out at full size it would be well over 5 feet long.

The detail in the panorama is amazing, however there are still a few stitching artifacts visible. It's always a gamble for me to get some time to play and then to make sure that the weather and the camera cooperate for the best photograph possible.

To see the surprising level of detail available in these kind of shots, click on the
full image here. Expand the image in your browser and then you should be able to scroll. Can you find a woman pushing a stroller in front of Rash Field near the yachts? How about the Hard Rock's guitar atop the old Power Plant?

Monday, July 20, 2009

After 40 years of working, this sums it up ...

To be of use
by Marge Piercy

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who stand in the line and haul in their places,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Meeting: An Audio Essay

I've been a government employee for almost 30 years. Meetings are a big part of my life. But I rarely enjoy them.

The following audio essay captures how I feel after so many meetings, especially the "good" meetings. I produced it this weekend after a particularly difficult meeting.

I've been experimenting with a new software application for producing podcasts. This essay gave me an excuse to try it out.

Click here to hear "The Meeting: An audio essay". It's absurd, dark and cynical but I was trying for a different vibe. If the link above doesn't work, visit here and click the play button. Enjoy.

A tip of the headphones to Joe Frank . Visit here for Joe Frank's podcasts.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

EMAIL: AUTO REPLY

Thanks for your email. However, I'm sorry to inform you that Rick Wilson is spiritually dead. He died recently from latent implementation atrophy (LIA). In layman's terms, he died from generating too many ideas without ever DOING any of them.

A rare type of extremely painful psychic constipation, LIA is known to afflict bureaucrats and other mentally sedentary people.

All of his email messages are being forwarded to his kingdom-come email account. He may occasionally be reading email on an after_life Blackberry in purgatory.

By the way, he wanted everyone to know that exactly 2.3 x 10^8 angels can dance on the head of a pin: But they can only comfortably slow dance.

His purgatory-mandated "angel on a pin" counting sessions are continuing for the other dance categories; foxtrot, swing, lindy, salsa,...

Respectfully,

Rick's Professional Soul Tender

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sunday Morning in Oldtown

It's so quiet you can hear the house age. Floors creak like my fifty-two year old knees. A faucet drips with the slow rhythm of a Sunday morning hymn, tic...tic...tic...

No NPR warning me of crisis nor folly. Even my Blackberry is quiet, its battery exhausted from a week of what passes for work these days.

I step outside for the Post. Laurel Ave sleeps. Route 1 is still, bracing itself for the crush of the after church crowd in a few hours.

I love to be the first one up on Sunday morning. I wallow in the quiet. Alone with my coffee, dog and paper. No need to rush for the Marc train. No need to steal myself for the countless noisy duties of the day. I seem to even breathe and think better in the quiet. A thought comes to mind and I have the quiet to savor it thoroughly.

I hear the shower. Someone has turned on Morning Edition. I've got to get ready for Mass at Saint Mary's. I plug in my Blackberry.

Sunday morning in Oldtown has recharged me.
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