Thursday, July 31, 2008

I Am A Huge Whiner!

My community Homeowner's Association (HOA) is all up in my grill for my rain barrel.

For a few months now, they have been requesting that I remove it. Somebody complained I guess.

I've been quiet about this but I'm getting to the point where my silence is my biggest liability.

In MD, the state enacted new stormwater regs for this year. They are on MDE's website. EPA has its NPDES (National Pollution Discharge Elimination System) for point sources and even Anne Arundel County has new stormwater regs for this year (pasted below cuz I couldn't find a link quickly). Recycling, upcycling, LEED, Green Infrastructure, Low Impact Development... It's all the rage right now...

So they object to it on some typical narrow-minded grounds that it doesn't 'match the aesthetics of the community' or something like that. They are trying to quote convenants in the HOA that basically prohibit people from keeping piles of building materials in my yard (??). The only rule that is remotely close is something that permits irrigation related stuff:

"No water pipes, sewer pipe, or drainage pipe shall be installed or maintained on any Lot above the surface of the ground, except hoses and movable pipes used for irrigation purposes"

I thought a 'water pipe' was a bong.

They liken my rain barrel to a 'bird bath' (yup, decorative object). Let me guess how many birdbaths there are in my neighbor's yards? 20? How about those hose caddy things that you roll up your hose into? Yeah, they are everywhere, made of the same stuff that my barrel is AND THE SAME EXACT FRIGGIN COLOR! Do I complain about those? Nope. Are they 'aesthetically pleasing?' No way. They are utilitarian and people find them useful and they sit where they are most useful, the same place I put my rain barrel.

Did I mention that I haven't had to turn on my spigot this year? Small victory but I'll take what I can get.

And the barrel is made of almost the same stuff as my vinyl siding and they are the EXACT SAME COLOR! You tell me. The pic on the right is my water barrel next to my house and my neighbor's downspout. Am I nuts or does it match? I bought the EXACT COLOR spraypaint and did two coats! Who does two coats anymore?

This is not really killing me, but it's just so typically absurd and short-sighted. Here are pics from my neighbors' front yards. That's the foreclosed house down the street. nobody taking care of that. 3' high grass in the back yard. And guess what? The HOA can't do anything about it cuz the BANK OWNS IT!

Sure, me with my rain barrel is not going to have a huge impact, but how about EVERYONE having one in the area! Imagine the press the community would get! Imagine people actually wanting to live here and turning around the housing market in one small pocket! Imagine the leadership position the board could take and make this area look amazing! And think about all of the crap we could help keep out of the Chesapeake Bay!

But... they don't like it, so it has to go.

I'm going to keep up the fight until I get threatened with fines. I'm waiting on a 'cease and desist' letter that will be my second-to-last straw. After that, it's a private hearing with the Board. Look up 'pro forma' if you don't know what it means. It means I'm going to prepare something, make a case for my stupid rain barrel and then have them say 'no' because they already have told me 'no' and they can't let somebody show them they are wrong. Who the hell are 'they' anyway?

They are my neighbors, and they are just looking out for my property values... Sure.

AACo Stormwater wonky-stuff below:

§ 4-2-310. Stormwater management and erosion control.
(a) Definitions. In this section, the following words have the meanings indicated:
(1) "Stormwater management practices" means practices recognized by the Office of Planning and Zoning for the permanent reduction and change of drainage patterns of stormwater runoff from structures and other impervious surfaces, including, but not limited to, living roofs, sidewalk infiltration planters, permeable pavers, bioretention installations, cisterns and other permanent diversion and infiltration methods. The Office of Planning and Zoning shall provide a list, updated annually, of the stormwater management practices that qualify for the credit.
(2) "Qualified improvements" means physical improvements made to a residential or commercial property that have been approved by the Office of Planning and Zoning.
(3) "Qualified property" means a new or existing commercial or residential property on which qualified improvements are installed to reduce stormwater runoff from the property.
(b) Creation. There is a credit from County real property taxes levied on residential and commercial property and any improvements thereon that install or implement permanent stormwater management practices.
(c) Calculation. The tax credit shall be 10% of the cost of materials and installation for making qualified improvements, this credit not to exceed a total of $10,000 over the five-year life of the credit.
(d) Eligibility and duration. A qualified property is eligible to receive a stormwater management credit for each year for a period of five years against the taxpayer's real property tax if:
(1) the credit is not combined with other tax credits;
(2) the Office of Planning and Zoning certifies that the property is a qualified property;
(3) the taxpayer must apply for the tax credit within 45 days after improvements are completed, and must apply each year to be eligible for the credit; and
(4) the qualified improvements are not completed pursuant to a requirement in any State or local law.
(e) Effective date. The credit shall be effective for the taxable year following the issuance of the notice of assessment by the State Department of Assessments and Taxation for the qualified improvements.
(f) Form of application. An application for a stormwater management credit shall be made to the Controller on a form provided by the Controller's Office; demonstrate that the qualified improvements meet the requirements of this section; provide a statement under oath under the penalties of perjury as stated in § 1-201 of the Tax-Property Article of the State Code, that the improvements are in working condition and regularly maintained; include acknowledgement that failure to maintain said improvements shall also entitle the County to pursue a refund of the credit plus a penalty equal to 200% of the credit; that a condition of receiving the credit shall be that officers and employees of the County or the administration may enter onto the site of the improvements for the purpose of making inspection in furtherance of this section; and include any additional information the Controller believes to be necessary to determine if the taxpayer is eligible to receive the credit.
(g) Grant. The Controller shall grant the credit if the application meets the requirements of this section and the taxpayer is current on all taxes owed to the County.
(Bill No. 85-07)

HL Mencken

My cousin Harry (dad's cousin so great cousin?) is a HUGE HL Mencken fan. It's a Baltimore thing. An old-guy, conservative Baltimore thing...

Like most of us Mencken is inconsistent, passionate, opinionated and sometimes brilliant. I'm not going to hold him up as some ideal or perfect guy especially since he's had some not-so-nice prejudicial-type opinions and writings leveled against him but I don't think that means that he should be totally dismissed. I, personally, allow for inconsistencies and ugliness is everything and everyone and do my best not to judge as I certainly don't consider myself worthy.

Wow. All that drama just to post up a great Mencken quote about democracy which is hugely accurate these days (from Wiki):

"The larger the mob, the harder the test. In small areas, before small electorates, a first-rate man occasionally fights his way through, carrying even the mob with him by force of his personality. But when the field is nationwide, and the fight must be waged chiefly at second and third hand, and the force of personality cannot so readily make itself felt, then all the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre — the man who can most easily adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum.

"The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron." (Baltimore Evening Sun, July 26, 1920)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

WOW! In MD, Even!

From MD DoT. Wow. I never thought they would ever do anything like this. It'll probably fall down on the implementation side but at least things are starting out right...

Dear Friends and Supporters of Trails in Maryland,
I am very excited to let you know that MDOT is leading a strategic planning effort to guide development of a bicycle and pedestrian trail network that connects people to the places in which they live, work, and play. The plan will chart a course for Maryland’s state and local agencies to implement a seamless, multi-use trail system that can be used for transportation by bicyclists, pedestrians, runners and others. MDOT is committed to continue working with our local and state partners in this effort and we want your input in the plan development process to ensure that your plans, perspectives, needs and visions are included.
We have created two easy ways for you to provide input:
First, I invite you to complete a simple online survey. Click on the following link, which will take you to directly to the survey at the SurveyMonkey website. It will take just a few minutes to fill out.

Second, through our project website, we provide an opportunity to use Google Maps to give us geographic information about where trail improvements and linkages are needed. Go to the website using the link below. You will find instructions there and a link to the Maryland Trails Google Map.

In addition to completing the survey yourself (and giving us ideas on a map), I want to encourage you to forward this invitation (by email or in newsletters) to your friends, colleagues and fellow members of bicycle, pedestrian or trail interest groups in which you are involved. The survey and map will remain open from now through September 30, 2008.
For more information about the project, I have attached a project announcement flyer that explains this exciting effort. You can also visit our project homepage at

Sylvia Ramsey
Manager Community Enhancements Programs
Office of Planning and Capital Programs
Maryland Department of Transportation

Bye Bye mp3

Ok, so technically I still have an mp3 player...

I got rid of the Sansa c240. Actually, it got rid of me. It decided to format itself and erase all the songs every time you turn it on. Great feature. I was unaware of the 'auto-erase' as it said nothing about it in the little instruction book with which it came...

After changing jobs, Susan and I got new cell phones. She wanted something 'sexy.' I wasn't sure what that meant but I knew that it meant something different from the crap-phone she had. And it really was crap. But the service and phone were free so whaddyagonnado?

I found a special online from Verizon Wireless for these phones. I, like others, am dubious of multi-function anything so it was with trepidation that I started a relationship with LG. Susan was/is happy with the phone.

There's a music package that comes from Verizon Wireless for $20. It's a cable, software and a microSD card. I guess that's a good deal considering a 2g card is now $15-20 retail damn-near anywhere and probably cheaper online. Despite this enormous barrier of cost for me to start using my phone as an mp3 player (heh), I still managed to quickly find a way to avoid the $20. I already had the 2g card from the m240 so I formatted it in the phone, dragged some music onto it on the laptop, reinstalled and began rocking. With the addition of a 2.5mm to 3mm adapter for my regular headphones, I was up and running for $2.99. I still love Radio Shack. Best Buy, Circuit City, no thanks. Radio Shack is always empty and they pretty-much always have what I need. I honestly haven't been in a CC or BB in at least 2 years. That probably doesn't bode well for Radio Shack but some of the staff knows me (probably not good) and they always entertain either me or the kids. What more could you ask for? Maybe a liquor store right next door?

By the way, for those of you familiar with the rockamole stories of Jeremy and Emma, Radio Shack is called the 'lightsaber store' and the liquor store RIGHT NEXT DOOR is called the 'lollypop store.' I love those kids...

Susan is enduring day 4 of survival school with BOSS. She's on the 7-day field course with two co-workers. She's a stud. I think she's nuts. It's friggen July and she's in the desert of UT. With nothing. Crazy. Yes, her life insurance is paid up...

So, to sum up, I'm stoked about my new phone/mp3 player from LG. It's blue. I'm not sure if that makes it rad or not. Let's go with 'rad.'

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Jeebus, How Can You NOT Love Google!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Everybody Knows...

We've been talking about this a bit around the DC area...

I was going to stay out of it but Jon Stewart is my hero.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Plastics Plastics Everywhere...

I'd like to sail across the ocean on ANYTHING and would do so on this sucker for the same reasons. I wonder if they are looking for volunteers for the return trip or if they are going to recycle the boat...

Marc is Fast

I don't know Marc Vettori. I have raced with him and had a few small conversations but I wouldn't say that I know him. All that means is that I don't have any funny stories about him.

But Joel knows him. And so does MattyD and the boys. I randomly clicked on his blog from Gwadz and I now know that he is funny. Not that I thought otherwise, cuz I don't know him.

He's funnier than me, for sure. Read something here. You may laugh. He'll probably pass you at a race. He may pass you a beer at a race, it sounds like...

Time to Give Back: This Means YOU!

From everyone's buddy, Scud... I only wish I had more to give. Good on ya, Scud! (He's the one in the middle).

Ok sorry to be a pain to your email but I have really gotten serious with this. I have raised over $1000 so far and now have my sights on at least $2500. I am going to ride at least 200 miles and shoot for 240 (10 miles an hour average). I have also kicked in $100 as well. Right now I am 6th overall fundraiser out of 100s that have signed up. I would love to get the Booty Cup for the most raised. I have specifically sent a 2nd or some cases a 3rd email to you because a. I think you want to help me and this is the friendly reminder you wanted or b. any amount $10, $20,$50, $100 or $250 would be appreciated. Lance and his Foundation are doing great things. They really helped me when I found out about my tumor that ended up being benign. I also have been reading all about what Margaret and I can do to make sure her cancer stays in remission or better yet gone forever. The foundation has really turned up the heat to get more funding for Cancer research. Help me help them!! Please help me out. If you do not want to be bothered, you will not hurt my feelings but please reply to this email and say no thanks. That way I will not continue to remind you. I have until Aug 18th to secure the Booty Cup. Help me and Lance out please!! Also if you know of anyone that would want to donate please forward this email to them.
Scud Here is the link to donate:

Friday, July 18, 2008

Fomer Life

In my previous life, I used to do some work with NHTSA. One of the things in which I was involved was the Bikeability Checklist. I also created some content for the Pedestrian and Bicycling Information Center at the Highway Safety Research Center at UNC-Chapel Hill.

There's some walking (pedestrian) stuff in there as well. Joel's posts about Safe Routes to School stuff made me think of that. There are some great tools to help get your communities to embrace walking and bicycling.

Of course, most people are just to busy to bother, but it's worth a shot and at least you won't fail for lack of good resources, right?

Safe Routes to School programs have a lot of claimed founders. Here's the FHWA federally-funded site. In my experience with Safe Routes, this is the US originator. Marin County Bicycle Coaltion, Deb Hubsmith and Patrick Seidler deserve A TON of credit for this. Patrick Seidler is president of WTB, by the way. This is the BikesBelong/DC-based Safe Routes bunch, including Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-funded Active Living By Design.

If you ever wanted to know about how to safely get around, get active or deal with the local community, there's pretty-much every bit of information available on those sites.


C'mon EPA!

The Chesapeake could really use this...

Groups want nationwide limits on water nutrient pollution (from

July 18 -- Five environmental groups filed a lawsuit July 17 to force the federal government to set new limits on the nutrient pollution that triggers harmful algae blooms.
The public interest law firm Earthjustice is representing the Florida Wildlife Federation, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, the Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida, St. John´s Riverkeeper and the Sierra Club in the case, which will challenge a decade-long delay by the state and federal government in setting limits for nutrient pollution.
When it rains, run-off from factory farms, fertilized landscapes and agricultural operations pour fertilizer and animal waste residue into Florida´s rivers and lakes, according to the complainants. These contaminants nourish algae blooms and therefore are referred to as "nutrients."
The water in which the algae blooms becomes oxygen deprived, and the result is what is known as red tide or a dead zone in which fish and aquatic life cannot thrive.
The lawsuit has nationwide implications. Currently, Florida and most other states have only vague limits regulating nutrient pollution. Today´s legal action seeks a court order requiring that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency impose quantifiable -- and enforceable -- limits for those contaminates in Florida.
The EPA gave Florida a 2004 deadline to set limits for nutrient pollution, which the state disregarded, according to Earthjustice. The EPA was then supposed to set limits itself but failed to do so. The EPA recently approved a plan that would have limits, at best, being proposed by 2011.
Earthjustice filed the lawsuit in federal court for the Northern District of Florida. It is available at

Thursday, July 17, 2008

What? Nothing to see here...


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

New At-Home Recycling Program


WM now offers CFL, battery recycling to householdsJuly 16 -- In its first direct-to-consumer offering, Waste Management Inc. has launched an online service to recycle universal household waste, including compact fluorescent lamps and batteries.

The Think Green From Home program,, allows consumers to order universal waste recycling kits, which include prepaid postage labels. The United States Postal Service has approved the kits to safely ship discarded CFLs and batteries. Waste Management hopes to eventually include household electronics in the service.

It is Houston-based Waste Management´s first service offered directly to household consumers. Typically, the integrated solid waste management firm, the largest in the United States, deals on a municipal and commercial contract basis.

"With the 2012 deadline for the use of CFLs, customers are becoming increasingly aware of the need to properly dispose of household universal waste and the Think Green From Home program makes recycling this waste as safe and convenient as possible," said Rick Cochrane, senior business director for Waste Management´s LampTracker program.

The federal government has banned the sale of incandescent bulbs starting in 2012.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Hot 'Tufa Action!

How many times can I use that title line. Only time will tell.

In the interest of continuing to pursue my membership in SOPWAMTOS, I have officially made my own planter. I was doing some research on the sedum plants that I like and I came across the recipe for these fake stone planters made of something called hypertufa. It's fake tufa rock. Not sure exactly what that means but I thought that would be cool. I don't make sense most of the time...

So after checking out a few situations, I figured I would make a planter out of vermiculite, peat and Portland cement. It ain't easy mixin' and for a first-timer, the various websites keep you nervous about too much water in the mix. I think I put a little too much water in the mix... We'll see how it goes. I won't know for a few days. I have to watch it and mist it with water a few times. It's like baking. It's not so much the stuff so much as it is the chemical reaction of the stuff. In this case, it needs water.

In addition to the hypertufa trough planter that I made, I've been tearing into the production of rain barrels. I've got the production down now with found materials and up-cycling of some stuff. I got one for my parents and now their neighbor wants one so I'll be hooking that up next week. Once I get my homeowner's association to stop bugging me about the rain barrel, I'm sure there will be a lot more in the area.

I'll get some pics up when the trough is done and when my latest plantings are fully rooted. My new interests are killing my wife I fear.

If I show up at your door or try to pay for a race entry fee with a nice potted plant, you'll know why.

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