Wednesday, October 15, 2014


Over on Facebook, I've been posting little sketches that I draw of architectural details seen on Oldtown's buildings.  It's a visual quiz idea I've wanted to try for a couple of years.

I call it LookUpLaurel because these sketches are of the details that are found up high, on roofs and gables.  I thought that local folks might enjoy trying to figure out where these details are located.

Why a sketch?  Sometimes I look at a detail for years without really seeing it.  When I force myself to sketch it, I've got to really see the details.  Besides, a photo would be too easy for you to figure out.

I've posted the first five sketches here in case you want to play along.  See if you can recognize these locations in spite of my poor drawing skills.

If you would like to guess, please put your answers in the comments section below.  I will provide the answers here in a few days.

Laurel is fortunate to have so many wonderful old buildings to see if we just look up.



Sketch 1 - Exotic Chimney

Sketch 3 - Wonderful old tower
Sketch 2 - A Castle?
Sketch 5 - Palladian Inspired Victorian Fan Window
Sketch 4 - Pumpkin Gingerbread Gable End

Thursday, July 10, 2014

At Least Connecticut is Civilized

Aaarrrgggh!  No, not the BRIMSTONE again!

Connecticut has a current law that forbids hunting squirrels with dynamite:
"No person shall take or attempt to take any gray squirrel, rabbit or other fur-bearing animal protected by law by the use of … dynamite or other explosive compound, or by fire, smoke, brimstone, sulphur, gas or chemical …." 
I would really enjoy learning why this law is on the books.  That would be a hell of a good story.   Do you know where I can buy a can of brimstone?

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Government: For the People or For the Person?

Musical Chairs
There is a huge debate going on in our country that’s described in many ways; red v. blue, left v. right, liberal v. conservative, tax v. spend, big v. small government.  

Thankfully, a city like ours avoids most of the  insane partisan silliness.  However, every community needs rules so that people can live together better. How do we choose the rules?

The City Council makes Laurel's rules by writing ordinances.  How should this property be zoned?  Who should get a tax break?  Which pothole gets fixed?  Which business gets approved?  Do we buy a new snowplow or another police cruiser?  

Councilmembers make hundreds of votes every year.  Most council members have a basic philosophy that they use to decide.   For me, the toughest votes often came down to a choice between what seems to be best for a person or a small group and what was best for the city at large.   

Robert Fulghum, author of “Everything I know I learned In Kindergarten”, tells a story that perfectly illustrates how decisions about rules can shape our world.  Fulghum once taught a high school philosophy class in Seattle and on the first day of classes he had his class play musical chairs. 

You know the game.  You arrange the chairs and then play Souza music.  Everyone marches until the music stops.  Then everyone finds a chair and sits down.  Then you bring some reality into the game.  Resources are never infinite you know.  Chairs are removed.  

The music plays again.  Marching commences.  When the music stops, everyone struggles to find a chair.  The clever kids hover near a chair or kick a chair and scramble after it when the music stops.   The stronger kids just muscle others out of their way.  Anything for an advantage.  Those without chairs when the music stops are sent to the wall to watch the rest of the game.  They are called the losers. 

More chairs are removed and we keep playing, round after round.  A growing line of losers are on the wall.  Finally, one kid wins and conquers the last chair.  He throws up his arms in victory.  Don’t think for a minute that the losers on the wall feel any happiness for him.

For the next game, Fulghum passes an ordinance - players may now sit on each other's laps. Pretty soon, the kids figure out that even when resources are the scarce, they can always find a lap or a knee to sit on.

The players quickly adjust their tactics.  The rules focus them on a cooperative strategy. When only one last chair remains a kid sits down.  Then two kids sit on his knees.  Then four kids sit on those two pairs of knees, and so on.  Everyone gets a seat.  There are no kids on the wall.  Each kid provides a seat for two more.  The music stops and everyone has a seat.

They all win.  No one loses.  They all throw their arms in the air!  It’s a perfect lesson in how rules and laws shape the game. 

Cities can make laws like that.  Even a small city with lots of people and only a few resources to spare.  Even if all we have are a few loaves and fishes and our only miracle is human cooperation. 

It doesn't need to be left or right, small or big, tax or spend, blue or red.  We get to decide.  Do we want our laws - our government - to be for the person or for the people?

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

I just can't believe my eyes ...

Darwin (l) and Jay Bear (r) eye each other carefully at Fidos For Freedom
My goodness, this old internet hangout is a bit dusty. It smells pretty bad in here too. Lots of moldering ideas, dangling participles and a few toxic typos are still hiding in the corners.

It's been almost 30 months since I visited this silly corner of my mind. I used to call it my "blogging" room when I first built it in 2005. You know, it was one of those virtual rooms we all have to store unexamined ideas or projects that we haven't quite finished polishing but promise ourselves that we will finish some day.

The Laurel Connections Blog was someplace where I always enjoyed playing.   On these pages, She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed, aka SWMBO, became my worthy foil and transformed my long-suffering wife, Joanne, into a neighborhood celebrity in her own mind.  Some of you still call her SWMBO. It's gone to her head.

Together, with these megabits from Al Gore's internet, we discussed Laurel's elections, elected officials, minor events, major tragedies and the never-ending stream of local comedies.

Lots of things have changed since I last stopped in here for a visit with you.  We lost good friends.  We made new friends.  SWMBO retired.  I retired.  SWMBO made me get another job and out of her house during the day.   The world changed but Laurel and this great neighborhood we call Oldtown has survived just fine without me.

But this old place was a pleasant way for me to spend a few minutes laughing or questioning.  A place to share a few ideas.   So I've decided to open it back up once in awhile.  Air it out, fix the lights and post when I have a thought worthy of sharing.

I've missed you guys!  So what's new with you?  Please use the comments section below.