Marylander – With Pride

Whenever the topic of genealogy comes up, and people ask me where my family is from, I tell them the truth: we’re from Maryland, Southern Maryland to be exact, and we’ve been here for over 300 years.

If I’m really pressed, and I put some effort into it, I could probably place most (if not all) of my origins to places in Scotland and England.  But those places don’t mean much to me. Maryland, on the other hand, means a great deal to me and I’m proud to be a Marylander.

It bothers me when people from places like Texas, or New Orleans, or New York City, or Chicago show so much pride in their origins – yet people from Maryland hardly show any by comparison. I know people who were born and raised here, yet they look down on the state with a little bit of contempt.  This just doesn’t register with me. Being from Maryland is nothing to be ashamed of.

In fact Marylanders, people that were born here or spent a considerable amount of their formidable years or careers here, have contributed a lot to the country and their respective fields.

For instance, a year ahead of my mom in high school was Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein and actor Ben Stein (Bueller? Bueller?) was in her class.  A year behind my mom in high school was Goldie Hawn. Another year or two back was Connie Chung.  And Sylvester Stallone used to run around the neighborhood as a kid.  That’s all from one small high school in one small part of Maryland.

The best my dad managed to do was to graduate a couple of years behind current House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer.

And like Steny, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is also a Marylander.  That’s the number 1 and number 2 spots in the U.S. House of Representatives. So right now, as I write this, one-half of one-third of the Federal Government is being led by Marylanders.

Without Marylander Jim Henson we wouldn’t have the Muppets.  Without Marylander Tom Clancy we would never have had The Hunt for Red October. And without Marylander Matt Drudge the Drudge Report would never have existed.

Marylanders can be found throughout the pages of business, pop-culture and history.

Sergey Brin, one of the founders of Google – arguably one of the most powerful companies in the world – is a Marylander (his family emigrated here from Russia).

As are comedians Lewis Black, Wanda Sykes and Martin Lawrence.

And it was Marylander Harriet Tubman that led the Underground Railroad.

TV mothers Paula Marshall, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Julie Bowen, and Patricia Richardson are all from Maryland (and when you throw in Northern Virginia’s Lauren Graham, the greater DC-Baltimore Metro Area looks to be some kind of wellspring of attractive & funny TV mothers).

For my fellow science fiction fans, Marylanders gave us Smallville’s Lionel Luthor, the original Sarah Connor, The Punisher, STNG’s Reginald Barclay and Knight Rider – just to name a few! Even the co-creater of Smallville is from Maryland. And Wonder Woman has settled down here!

In the world of sports Marylanders are well represented as well. For example in boxing we have Sugar Ray Leonard and former heavy-weight champion Riddick Bowe.

We’re the birth place of both Babe Ruth and Cal Ripken.

Plus, Marylander Michael Phelps holds more gold medals than any other Olympian in history.

In football, both of the NFL teams that play in Maryland (the Redskins and the Ravens) are past Super Bowl champions – and Bill Belichick, the coach of the New England Patriots (the team of the decade?), is also a Marylander.

We have film makers Barry Levinson and John Waters. And we have loads of singers and musicians from across all genre’s including Lisa Loeb, Billie Holiday, Frank Zappa, Toni Braxton, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Christina Milian and both of the Madden boys from Good Charlotte.

Fight Club actor Ed Norton has a special connection to our state, his maternal grandfather James Rouse not only developed the Maryland city of Columbia (where Ed grew up), but he’s also credited with revitalizing the Baltimore Inner Harbor.

This list of contributions from notable Marylanders can go on and on, but Maryland is important for other things as well.

Over 947 movies and television shows have been filmed in Maryland (you’re welcome Hollywood).

Marylanders gave up the land for our nation’s capital (and unlike Virginia we didn’t take it back) (you’re welcome America).

And during the War of 1812, after Washington DC fell to the British it was Marylanders in Baltimore who stood their ground and helped turn the tide of war (who loves you America?).

Also, a Marylander wrote our national anthem (again, you’re welcome America).

And I don’t want to brag, but we’re smart too.

In 2008 we led the entire country in the percentage of students passing Advanced Placement (AP) examinations.  And the Washington DC – Baltimore Metro area is considered the most educated region in the country.

Within 20 miles of my house are dozens of colleges and universities including world class institutions like the University of Maryland, George Washington University, Georgetown University, American University, Catholic University, Johns Hopkins University and the United States Naval Academy.

This list doesn’t include some of the outstanding state and community colleges we have.

We’re also home to Air Force One, the National Security Agency, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The NIH actually makes us a hub of life sciences where companies and agencies are working hard to do everything from mapping the human genome to curing cancer.

Plus, for the last 19 years in a row, Johns Hopkins Hospital has been named the #1 hospital in the country.

We also have the highest percentage of knowledge workers of any state. And we have the highest median household income in the country and the lowest poverty level.

In 2007, Forbes magazine named us the 5th “Greenest” state.

Just last month Forbes listed the Baltimore- Towson metropolitan area as #5 on the list of great places for working moms.

And in May, the websites and listed the Baltimore area as the ninth-best place to live for recent college grads.

Here are the things people love about this area.

Washington DC and Baltimore – Two Great Cities – One Great Region

For big city culture, entertainment and shopping we have our choice of Washington DC or Baltimore.

And while both of these cities (and their surrounding suburbs) have very distinct identities, only about 40 miles separate the two. They are in a lot of ways one cohesive metropolitan region, and seem to become more so with each passing year.

It is increasingly easier and easier to find someone that lives near Baltimore that works in or near DC – and vice versa.

And where I live (equidistant from both) you frequently find households where one spouse works inside the DC beltway and the other works inside the Baltimore beltway.

Small Towns and Cities With Lots of Character

In addition to our two big cities, we have loads of little towns and cities each with their own special charm, colonial history and character. Including one of my favorites, Annapolis, the state capital, and home to the United States Naval Academy.

The little cities and towns built along Maryland’s fall line (places like Ellicott City/Columbia, Laurel, Potomac) are frequently listed as some of the best places to live. In fact Ellicott City/Columbia was listed as the #2 best place to live in 2010 by Money Magazine.

The Mighty Chesapeake

We also have the Chesapeake Bay. If you love anything on, in or near the water, then the Chesapeake Bay has a lot to offer. It is simply huge. And its size means it has a little something for everyone.  The total shoreline of the bay and its tributaries is 11,684 miles.

That is the same distance as going from New York City to Los Angeles. And back again.  That’s a lot of coastline where small secluded waterfront restaurants, dock bars and marinas can nestle along the wooded shores.

And the tidal shoreline of the bay is 4,431 miles. That is nearly longer than the coastlines of California, Oregon, and Washington state combined. Three times over.

The surface area of the bay is over 4400 square miles, which means there is plenty of room to enjoy your favorite water activities: fishing, crabbing, sailing, cruising, swimming, water-skiing, etc.

And the bay is practically in everyone’s backyard. Of the 23 Maryland counties, 16 border the bay or one of its tidal tributaries.

America in Miniature

Its not all about big cities, small towns and the Chesapeake Bay, Maryland has a little bit of everything.

We have beaches on the Atlantic Ocean. Our western panhandle has mountains for skiing and hiking. Our Eastern Shore, with its watermen and farmers is a culture unto itself. And in Southern Maryland you can find Amish communities scattered among the farms and ranches.

We’re part of the great northeast megalopolis, so we’re considered part of the North. But we’re south of the Mason Dixon line so we still have a bit of southern culture.

Maryland is diverse in both geography and culture and that diversity means a broad range of activities and entertainment all throughout the state.

All Four Seasons

We’re a mid-Atlantic state. We lie in the subtropics. As mentioned, we’re part north and we’re part south. All of this means we have all four seasons – sometimes in abundance.

Along with some of the worst traffic in the country, and the high cost of living, the abundance parts of summer and winter can be the hardest things to tolerate about living here.

This past winter we got hammered with mountains of snow, and it tends to happen every 7 years or so. “Crippling” is the word they use to describe these snow falls. “Oppressive” is the word they use to describe some of our summer days. It can get hot. And humid.

But that is only a few weeks each year.  The rest of the year can be storybook perfect.

Our winters are cold and crisp, like they’re supposed to be.

Our springs are wet and green and lush, like they’re supposed to be.

Our summers are hot and a little bit muggy, like they’re supposed to be.

And our autumns with their cool temperatures, nippy winds and crisp crackling leaves – are some of the best days ever.

No Place Like Home

I’ve lived in other states (Virginia, Ohio, Hawaii) and I’ve been to all four corners of the country and most of the places in between.  And I know everyone has a tendency to love where they are.

But right now, at this time of my life, I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.

18 Things I Want Invented Right Now

I live a mobile, tech-dependent life.  I make full use of my cell phone, Blackberry (yes – I have both), DVR, desktop pc, laptop and netbook.  My life is, in a very real way, run by the collective genius of Google, Comcast, RIM, Verizon Wireless and Netflix.

Here is a short list of things I’d like those geniuses to create.

#1  A Smartphone That Combines the Physical Attributes of an 8300 Blackberry Curve with an Android OS.

I love the physical features of my Curve (twss).  I especially love the ease of use in typing with one thumb. But the browser sucks. And it is slow.

Plus, all the apps on my Blackberry pretty much shut the thing down when they activate.  I’ve played with a few droids, but I don’t like the way they feel in my hand (twss). Having these two things combined would be peanut butter and chocolaty good.

#2 The Virtual DVR.

When I record a show, I want it stored on some server at Comcast headquarters and not on my home DVR. There are a few reasons for this.

First, when the power goes out at my house I miss my recordings. Second, I won’t have to worry about my own DVR storage. I’m sometimes on the road for a week and a week’s worth of HD shows simply won’t fit on my DVR.  This means I usually have to a) juggle which shows I record and which I watch on-demand or b) watch some shows from hotel rooms that usually don’t have HD (though more and more do – thank you Hampton Inn).

If the shows were stored at Comcast HQ then I’d still get them recorded and I wouldn’t have to worry about storage.

#3 A Text Alert When My DVR is Nearing Capacity

In lieu of giving me unlimited virtual storage (even though we all know that’s coming), just let my DVR communicate with me when it reaches a certain threshold of memory.  Then I’ll know I need to either a) watch some shows or b) delete shows I’m not really interested in keeping.

And along those lines…

#4 More Remote Control Over My DVR

One of the best things to happen recently with Comcast is the new “MyDVR” feature that allows you to program your DVR through your computer.  But that’s pretty much all it lets you do. It would be nice if I could also delete programs through my computer.  And make it nearly simultaneous.

And Comcast, if you want to give me complete control and allow me to actually watch shows on my PC that are stored on my DVR (like Slingbox) that would be even better.

#5 A “Record This” Button During Commercials

So, you’re sitting there watching the Discovery Channel on a Sunday night. All of a sudden a commercial for a great new show comes up. The show will be broadcast two Tuesday’s from now.

At that exact moment what I want most is to push a button and have my DVR figure out how to record it.

I don’t want to have to scroll through the listings to find the show. If you want me to watch it, give me a button to push.

Isn’t this the promise of Digital TV? To have a more enhanced television experience?

#6 Pop-Up Video On Everything (or most things)

More and more people are watching TV while they are on their laptops. If they’re like me, at least one of their web browsers is opened to IMDB so they can see what other shows that hot actress has been in.

Pop-Up Video was one of the best things about VH1 back when VH1 was good.  With digital TV can’t we now have this on everything – as an option? The answer is yes – of course we can.

Hire some interns, have them fire up their IMDBs, their Wikipedias, etc. and let them watch a show. I don’t know why this hasn’t happened on a major show or a major network yet.

You can start with House M.D.. Everytime they diagnose a disease, put a little blurb about the disease up on the screen.  The hypochondriacs will love you for it.

#7 Close Caption While Watching HD

I’m a big fan of watching TV with close-caption on. I’m not hard of hearing, but you never know when a dog barking is going to cause you to miss a good piece of  Son’s of Anarchy dialogue.

But here’s the deal. You can’t get close-captioning through the HDMI cables. At least not with my Comcast-DVR-Vizio TV combo. The only way to get it is to hook my TV up without using the HDMI cables.  So I have to choose close-caption or picture quality.

I’ve chosen picture quality, but I don’t like having to make that choice.

#8 I Want Netflix over my Blackberry (or Blackberry-Droid Hybrid)

There’s a rumor Netflix is working on this for Android. If they get it done, then I might make the leap and retire my Curve.  The point is, I can’t watch any kind of videos on my Blackberry.  This might not seem like a big deal to a lot of people.  But try to remember, there are very little entertainment options when you’re stranded at an airport for a long 6+ hour layover.  It would be nice to be able to watch a movie (or two) from my Netflix queue.

#9 Everything On Demand

This kind of ties into #2, but I want everything on demand. It frustrates me that some shows on a network are available On Demand and others aren’t.  And I’m not sure what the economics are behind what movies and shows are available from Netflix instantly over my pc or xbox, but the answer is they should ALL be available. All of them.

The CD is already toast. The DVD isn’t far behind it (even Blu-ray disks).  Everything now is digital.

In fact – everything now starts out as digital. It is an unnecessary step and expense to even put it on the DVD/Blu-ray in the first place.  Just make it available in a streaming format. All of it. Always available to me (and everyone else). I’m willing to pay for it (within reason). Rhapsody seems to have figured this out with music (for the most part), why is video taking so long?

If you’re going to tell me that “all of it” simply can’t be done, then just pick a date (1/1/1990) and move forward from there. I’d like to have full access to every episode of Friends or the West Wing when and where I want it.

#10 “Send Later” for Gmail

I make an appointment with someone over Gmail. I want to send them a follow-up reminder email the day before our appointment (example: I send out monthly reminder emails to Literacy Council board members once a month). Ideally, I’d create the reminder email immediately and then schedule a “Send Later” like you can do in most other mail programs.

For some reason (probably spam related) Gmail doesn’t have this feature. It is one of the biggest drawbacks of Gmail. The workaround involves using Google Calendar and reminders, etc.  A “Send Later” would be better.

#11 Recurring Emails for Gmail.

This is related to the above. Let’s say I want to send an email to my kids reminding them to get an oil change every three months. It would be nice to just set this up in Gmail and let it ping them every three months. But since this is pretty much the definition of spam, Gmail obviously doesn’t allow it.  Again the workaround is some kind of event in Google Calendar.

The problem with the workaround is that my kids need to opt-in to it. They choose not to. I want to remind them even if they don’t opt-in.

I should be allowed to spam my kids. Spam is the new nag.

#12 An Over The Air Podcast Aggregator

I currently use iTunes to aggregate my podcast feeds and then I sync them with my iPod through a physical USB connection (what decade is this?!?)

I want an over-the-air podcast aggregator – that syncs with the radio in my car, my ipod/droid/blackberry – everything.

Admittedly, this is something that may exist and I just haven’t found it yet.

I’m currently playing with/trying out Stitcher for the Blackberry, but I don’t think I can select my own podcasts with that (or I haven’t figured out how to yet).

Viigo keeps promising it, but I don’t think it is yet available.

From what I’ve read, Google Listen might be what I’m looking for – so I just need that on the Blackberry/Droid combo. And I need it available through my web browser. And I need it to remember where I was from one device to another.

#13 Google TV Released Already

I’m tired of reading about it and I want to try it. Google TV needs to just be released already.  I’m hoping it will solve some of my video issues above.

#14 Google Docs to Keep Getting Better

It would be an understatement to simply say that Google Docs has changed the way I work. Whether I’m working on a solo project or collaborating with family members in the next county or virtual assistants half-way around the world, Google Docs is above and beyond the best way to do things.

I just need their spreadsheets to be better. Always better. Always improving. Improving every month. Improving every week.

I live by my spreadsheets. And I probably won’t be happy until Google Spreadsheets are as good (or better) than Excel. So let’s work on that.

#15 Search Google Docs and Gmail At the Same Time

Example: I spend an hour or two writing out a rather involved process on how to download MLS data for a special report.  A week goes by and when I delegate the task, someone asks me for the process.  The problem is I don’t know if I wrote it as an email and sent it to myself (I tend to do that so I can proofread it later on my Blackberry) or if I wrote it in a Google Doc.

A quick search of Gmail and Google Docs will turn up the answer, but it would be better if instead of two quick searches it was just one quick search across both Google Docs and Gmail. Why no one at Google has thought of this is beyond me.

#16 Plain Text Agendas from Google Calendar

As you’ve likely figured out, I do a lot through my Google Calendar. I actually do everything through it. And every morning I get an agenda sent to me by Google Calendar that tells me what I should be doing that day.

The only problem is, it is in HTML format. Which is fine if I’m reading it on a computer. But I happen to read it first thing in the morning on my Blackberry.  And even though the Blackberry renders the HTML, the email is all misaligned and out of whack.  The option to receive my Daily Agendas in plain text would be better.

#17 When I purchase a song on iTunes, It Should be Available for Download FOREVER.

Do I really need to elaborate on this?

#18 A Cheaper Kindle That I Can Use Under 10,000 Feet

So, even though I’m an avid reader and a bit of a bibliophile, there are lots of reasons I haven’t yet jumped on the e-reader bandwagon.  A few of those reasons are:

Your Amazon e-books aren’t really yours

You can’t give away/hand-down your favorite books throughout the generations

My books are autobiographical. Someone can go through my stacks of books a hundred years from now and discover the kinds of things I was interested in throughout my whole life. You can’t do that with a Kindle.

You can’t read a Kindle below 10,000 feet on a plane (otherwise the plane will supposedly plummet to the Earth in an abrupt fashion).

Still, there are reasons I might want a Kindle:

I already read a lot pdfs and ebooks, so an e-reader would be helpful.

I tend to jump around from book-to-book, topic-to-topic throughout the week, so an e-reader might be easier for me than carrying a few books and/or getting bored while on the road.

Magazines on an e-reader would be a better alternative to the stockpiling of “to read” magazines I have throughout the house.

So, what I want it is a cheap e-reader (which may already be coming) and one that I can read while on a plane below 10’000 feet.

The TSA has already said that iPads don’t have to be pulled out separate like computers do (some TSA agents have told me Kindles do). Why is it not possible to have a Kindle that we can use below 10,000 feet?

Anyway, that’s my immediate wish list. I’m sure I could go on and on (for instance a better alternative to Jott would be nice), but this is my list – for now.  Considering this is almost 2011, I don’t think anything on this list is unreasonable.

It’s not like I’m asking for a personal robot to walk my dogs or a jet-pack or a hovercraft.


My quick thoughts on Net Neutrality

Simple principles:

1) I’m against a completely tiered Internet (having to pay more money to reach certain sites)

2)  If two private companies (Google and Verizon) want to come to an agreement on the priority that some of their sites have, I don’t necessarily think the government should get involved.

3) However, I think all sites with similar content should be treated the same.  For instance, YouTube shouldn’t get through faster than FunnyOrDie just because Google owns YouTube and they have the money/leverage/power to negotiate a better deal for their content.  Verizon (and other ISPs) should strive to keep all sites with similar content on the same level playing field.

4) If Verizon isn’t going to do this on their own, then the FCC should step in.  If we’re tiering the Internet based on Content and not on corporate ownership – then I’m okay with that.

5) I think everyone should be able to access whatever content they want, but if ISPs need to throttle down on the bandwidth of certain sites in order to serve all customers equally, then they should – and leave it up to the customer if they want to pay more to get certain content quicker. If you want your videos to load and play smoothly, if you want your video games not to lag – then you need to pay more.

6) All bets are off when it comes to the wireless Internet accessible by mobile devices. I’m speaking strictly about landlines here.

There are times at my house where someone will be playing Halo through Xbox Live, someone else will be playing WoW, someone will be downloading a torrent or talking on Skype and someone else will be watching a TV show or movie through Hulu or Netflix.  This isn’t an infrequent occurrence, this is a typical weekend (and sometimes weekday) night.

I know we’re bandwidth hogs and I’m willing to pay more for that privilege.

Without paying more, it is wrong of me to take up all of the bandwidth and to deprive my neighbors* of looking at some Flash content on or of looking at a photo album on Facebook.

I should have to pay more for not only for the speed of my content (which I already do), but also for the type of content I’m downloading and uploading.

But leave it up to the user to make that determination.
*Neighbors here doesn’t necessarily represent any of my actual neighbors.  All of my neighbors (at least all the ones that I know) are on Verizon FIOS whereas I am on Comcast.