Monday, November 23, 2009

Bowie Briefs - v5

Lobbyist Sentenced
A lobbyist was sentenced for his seventh DUI offense following an accident in Bowie in October. A related article in the Gazette had the following funny bits from District Court Judge Hassan A. El Amin during the sentencing.

"You cannot have any alcohol," El Amin told Jacobs. "No cocktails, no nothing. If you get behind the wheel after what I've told you, you can bring everybody here — you can even resurrect Johnnie Cochran here — and you will go to jail."


Jacobs must also pay $40 per month to the state to compensate for his supervision and would need to apply to the court to get his driving privileges back.

"That's going to be a while, Mr. Jacobs," El Amin said. "You're making enough money to get a chauffeur. Just get a chauffeur."

Bowie Man Charged with Obstructing Governmental Administration
According to a Buffalo News article, a Bowie man was charged with several crimes after allegedly assaulting a police officer in Jamestown, NY. Not only was he charged with assault, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct, but he was also charged with obstructing governmental administration. Come on! Everyone knows that no matter how bad things get, you should never, under any circumstances, obstruct governmental administration! What was he allegedly thinking? If anyone knows what obstructing governmental administration is, let me know.

Verizon to Offer Early Separation Packages
This article in Tech Journal South originally caught my attention because the story was supposedly from Bowie, but what I found interesting in the article is the use of the term surplus employees. I guess it's not a new term, but I had never heard it before.

Louie's Holiday Hope Project
The Bowie Baysox are once again sponsoring Louie's Holiday Hope Project to help needy families during the holidays.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Early Signs of Christmas in Bowie

Christmas tree at the Bowie Town Center.

Some decorations are hanging at the Bowie Volunteer Fire Department and Rescue Squad Station 39 (Belair/Free State Mall). They're getting ready to escort Santa and sell Christmas trees. We bought a tree from the Bowie VFD last year, and it was the best tree we've purchased in Bowie.

The Bowie Lions set-up their Christmas tree lot this weekend at the corners of Sussex Lane, Belair Drive and Annapolis Road. The trees are expected to arrive Thanksgiving weekend.

A Christmas tree lot at Bowie Plaza sits empty.

The sign at the Bowie Community Center advertises the upcoming Watkins Park Festival of Lights.

The City of Bowie hasn't made the transition to holiday decorations yet. The autumn banners are still hanging at City Hall. However, the city has posted their Holiday Happenings Brochure (click here for the PDF).

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Hilltop Plaza Renovations

Many changes are taking place at Hilltop Plaza in Bowie. The changes have been planned for a long time, so none of this is recent news. I did stop by Hilltop Plaza today to take a few pictures.

The most recent change is the closing of McDonald's. The restaurant closed more than a week ago, but in the few minutes that I stopped to take this picture, two drivers entered the drive-thru before seeing the orange traffic cone.

This picture shows the construction taking place at the former Magruder's location. An Aldi grocery store will be opening in this spot in the near future. A story from last May in the Gazette indicated that the store will be open by the end of the year, but that timeline seems unlikely given the current state of the renovations.

Aldi is a discount grocery store based in Germany. The Aldi name is a short version of Albrect Discount. The company was founded by brothers Theo and Karl Albrecht.

I've never been in an Aldi store, but from what I've read on the Web, the Aldi shopping experience is different than shopping at Safeway or Giant. Aldi grocery stores are characterized by the following.
  • Aldi doesn't carry popular brands. Most items are sold under the Aldi store brand.
  • The lack of brand choices keeps the stores smaller than traditional US grocery stores.
  • In the US, only cash and debit cards can be used for purchases. Until recently, only cash was accepted.
  • Customers have to pay a quarter deposit to use a grocery cart, and the deposit is returned when the customer returns the cart.
  • Customers are expected to bring their own bags. Forgetful customers can purchase bags in the store.
  • The stores don't have bakery or deli departments.
  • Stores do carry produce, although the selection is very limited, and refrigerated displays aren't used.
It sounds like it's typical for shoppers to purchase discount items at an Aldi grocery store, and use traditional grocery stores in fill in the gaps.

There is some discussion on the Web about the relationship between Aldi and Trader Joe's. Some people claim that they are owned by the same company, and some people claim that some of the same products are found in both stores with different packaging.

The ownership of the stores is a confusing tale. The original Aldi chain was divided into two companies in the 1960s when brothers Theo and Karl Albrecht had a dispute. The two legally separate entities became known as Aldi Nord and Aldi Sud, although the companies did work so closely together that they often appeared as one company. The Aldi stores in the US are part of Aldi Sud. Trader Joe's was purchased by Theo Albrecht (the brother associated with Aldi Nord), and an Albrecht family trust owns Trader Joe's today. From a legal perspective, Aldi and Trader Joe's are not owned by the same company, but it's unclear how much cooperation exists between the two companies.

What is clear is that Aldi has a reputation for being a poor person's store, and Trader Joe's is considered to be more upscale. Some people believe that the companies work together to identify potential markets such that a Trader Joe's will never be found near an Aldi grocery store.

Judge for yourself. Here are some of the Maryland Aldi locations:
  • Lanham
  • District Heights
  • Hyattsville
  • Pasadena
  • Langley Park
  • Glen Burnie
  • Oxon Hill
  • Dundalk
  • Essex

And here are some of the Maryland Trader Joe's locations:
  • Annapolis
  • Bethesda
  • Rockville
  • Silver Spring
  • Towson
  • Gaithersburg
  • Columbia
I guess we know what they think of Bowie.

MOM's Organic Market (My Organic Market) is opening a store in Hilltop Plaza. In a press release announcing the opening of the Bowie store, MOM CEO Steve Nash said the following:

"I was born and raised in Prince George’s County. I am extremely happy to be opening our 2nd store there. The County has been largely ignored by national chains for as long as I can remember and the residents deserve a source for reasonably priced, healthy organic groceries. Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s seem reluctant to open there- and they obviously don’t understand the community."

And what would Hilltop Plaza be without a newly renovated AND expanded Dollar Tree store. Do you think Bethesda has a Dollar Tree store. Hell no!

Other businesses coming to Hilltop Plaza include Walgreens Pharmacy and Fancier Spa & Salon. According to this May, 2009 Gazette article, the owners of Hilltop Plaza are also attempting to change the zoning with the county to allow construction of residential housing on the site.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Fall Day at Lake Artemesia

We took a trip to Lake Artemesia in Berwyn Heights, Maryland last week.

Lake Artemesia is a man made lake with paved hiker/biker trails in Berwyn Heights - near Greenbelt and College Park. The trails are part of the Anacostia Tributary Trail System. According to Wikipedia, the park was constructed upon completion of Metro's Green Line. Metro saved money during the Green Line construction by excavating sand and gravel from this site, and the park construction was funded from the money saved.

The trail that circles the lake is known as the Luther Goldman Birding Trail. The trail was officially dedicated in 2008 in memory of Luther Goldman - a biologist, birder and a photographer for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Prince George's County Audubon Society sponsors bird walks along this trail. During our visit, we saw a lot of ducks and geese, but we never stopped very long because our kids were leading on their bikes. I did find this great picture on Flickr of geese taking flight from Lake Artemesia.

The trail around the lake is paved. There were a lot of bikers, joggers and walkers.

We came across a grove of weeping willows.

Another view of the lake.

There are several pavilions located around the lake. A father and son were fishing from this pavilion located near the edge of the lake. Some of the trees were showing their fall colors.

Here is a view of the same pavilion from the other side of the lake. The lake provides a nice reflection in this shot.

I couldn't decide which view of the pavilion I liked best, so I included them all.

We came across this big guy on the far side of the lake.

We came across this little guy near the entrance to the park.

We didn't see any beavers, but it was clear that they live here. Wire screen surrounds the trunks of many trees to keep the beavers away.

We found this symbol spray painted on a bridge at the point where the Paint Branch Trail heads off toward College Park. I tried searching Google images, but I couldn't find anything similar. Since this location is inside the Beltway, I can only assume that this is the work of the roller skating lobby. Or maybe this is a Frenchman wearing a beret and thick glasses.

The CSX and Metro tracks run along the West side of the park. Four year old boys find this more interesting than the birds and the turtles.

Here's the Green Line as seen from the park.

The College Park Airport is located just South of the Lake Artemesia. We heard this plane take off, and then it suddenly appeared over the trees.

Google Maps list the following as the closest address to the entrance of the park. Signs for the park are located on Greenbelt Road. The signs will lead you down Branchville Road on the North side of Greenbelt Road. Branchville Road will become 55th Avenue, and the road turns and runs South under Greenbelt Road. You can also access the park from Berwyn Heights on the South side of Greenbelt Road.

8304 55th Avenue, Berwyn Heights, MD

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Bowie Briefs - v4

Audrey Scott
The Maryland Republican Party overwhelmingly selected former Bowie Mayor Audrey Scott as their new party chairwoman at a convention held Saturday in Bowie at the Comfort Inn Conference Center. Rumor has it that party faithfuls were impressed by the many elephant trinkets that Scott has on display in the Republican safe haven that she calls home. The elephants were featured in an Audrey Scott promotional video on YouTube. Scott's colorful opponent, Daniel "the Whig Man" Vovak, posted his own promotional video featuring inspirational music from the movie Rocky. An unidentified source claims that after the loss, Vovak was seen on the steps of the conference center yelling, "Adrian!"

Despite big party financial problems and claims by some that the Republicans are having trouble finding talented candidates for 2010, the Maryland GOP displayed optimism at Saturday's event.

Read more details about the convention in this Baltimore Sun article. The Sun describes Chairwoman Scott as "spunky."

Maryland Democratic Party Chairwoman Susan Turnbull issued a "bring it on" style congratulations to Scott shortly after the convention. Turnbull's statement can be read here on Maryland Politics Watch.

Bowie Police Department Plans Icy Water Dip for Charity
Members of the Bowie Police Department plan on participating in the 14th annual Polar Bear Plunge to raise money for Maryland Special Olympics. The department's team will be dipping into the icy Chesapeake Bay waters at Sandy Point State Park on January 30, 2010. Click here to make a donation or to track the team's fund raising progress. They are still looking for donations and additional team members. According to the team's page, Bowie Councilwoman Diane Polangin will also be taking the plunge.

Lt. Richard Wohkittle, Chief Katherine Perez and Deputy Chief John Nesky pose in the water for a promotional picture for the fundraiser.

Arrest of Chief Perez Imminent
Bowie Police Chief Katherine Perez will be locked up as part of the Muscular Dystrophy Association's annual Lock Up Event on Tuesday, November 17. Click here to make a donation or track the Chief's progress. She still has $2,000 to raise by Tuesday!

Bowie Health Center Temporarily Open Around the Clock
The Bowie Health Center is temporarily open 24 hours a day to accommodate a spike in the number of patients seeking treatment. The average number of patients has jumped 74%, and most patients are reporting flu like symptoms. Read more details in this Gazette article.

Schools to Continue use of SchoolMax
The Prince George's County Public Schools have decided to stick with the troubled SchoolMax computer system despite well publicized scheduling problems at the beginning of the school year. Many of the problems with the software have been resolved, and switching to a new software package would be very costly. Read more details in this Washington Post article.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Deer Gets into Lion Exhibit at the National Zoo

A young deer hopped into the lion exhibit at the National Zoo yesterday. The full story can be read in an article on the Washington Post Web site. Somebody posted three videos on YouTube (see below).

Quiz: Can you make out what the guy said in the first video around 0:15 after the female lion climbs out of the water soaking wet?

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Free State Vultures

We headed over to the Free State Mall in Bowie for an early morning breakfast at IHOP today, and we saw about a dozen black vultures around Free State. I've seen them congregate in this area before.

Beware. This one attacks customers that bring back late videos.

A close-up of the Blockbuster vulture.

These two guard from on top of the parking lot lights.

The black vulture diet mainly consists of animals found dead. This one waits on the IHOP roof for a customer to keel over and die after too much bacon.

This one waits for the remains of a Breakfast Sampler to be thrown away out back.

Six black vulture share a pair of trees behind the mall.

These three vultures roost on a branch together.

Black vultures look graceful when in flight, but they look a little awkward when they walk around. Check out those feet.

Classic pose. If anyone were to put a replica of a black vulture on a building, this is the pose they would use.

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Bowie Briefs - v3

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly - Bowie Residents in the News.
First - the bad and the ugly. The Prince George's States Attorney's Office announced that Jerome Engle of Bowie, a former Riverdale Volunteer Firefighter, was indicted on arson charges for his part in setting fire to a vacant home in Riverdale in March, 2008. Rumor has it that Engle was still wearing his Halloween costume when arrested.

On the good side of things, David Ramadhani, a Bowie resident and FedEx driver, is one of two people credited with saving the life of an accident victim in Oxon Hill after her vehicle became engulfed in flames from a gasoline fueled fire. According to a Prince George's County Fire/EMS Department press release, Ramadhani used the first extinguisher from his FedEx truck to slow the fire enough to allow him and another good Samaritan to free the occupant from the car. One of the rescuers used a utility knife to cut the victim's seat belt. Fed Ex: when you absolutely, positively have to get out of your burning car. Great job David Ramadhani!

There was also a report last week of two unnamed Bowie residents helping to rescue their neighbor when he became trapped under his van.

By my calculations, that's three good Bowie residents for each bad one. Go Bowie!

Audrey Scott
I previously posted here and here about former Bowie Mayor Audrey Scott's run for the Maryland GOP chair. Scott is one step closer to the position now that one of her opponents, Chris Cavey, has dropped out of the running. However, some Republicans are finding irony in Scott's pledge to bring unity to the Maryland GOP because her son, former Bowie resident Lawrence Scott, has divided the party with the strategies he deployed while working on several Republican primary contests. See this post on the Red Maryland blog for more juicy details. The Maryland GOP Chairperson will be selected later this month.

Gerron Levi
Gerron Levi, one of two Maryland House of Delegate members representing most of Bowie in legislative district 23A, has announced that she is running for Prince George's County Executive in 2010. Adam Pagnucco at Maryland Politics Watch sees one scenario where this freshman Delegate could win the election.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Tysons Corner Rainstorm

I shot this series of photos within a fifteen minute span this afternoon from my office window near Tysons Corner, Virginia. I guess my office is officially in a far corner of McLean, but I'm only a hop, skip and a jump away from shopping mall hell.

The USA Today building can be found at end of the rainbow despite a recent downgrade of Gannett by Wells Fargo.

The dark clouds start to leave as quickly as they came.

The sun's back out.

Cool clouds can be seen as the storm rolls away.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Tales from Election Day

The City of Bowie elections were held yesterday, and all incumbents kept their seats. Full results can be seen here on the City of Bowie web site.

Supporters for Geraldine Valentino-Smith and Pete Mellits greet motorists on Kenhill Drive near Bowie City Hall.

Campaign signs cover the lawn in front of Bowie City Hall. City Hall hosted one of two District 2 polling locations. The most contentious race this year was between incumbent Diane Polangin and Pete Mellits for the District 2 council seat.

District 2 Councilwoman Diane Polangin, At-Large Councilman Dennis Brady and Bowie Mayor G. Fred Robinson greet voters outside Bowie City Hall on election day.

My wife campaigned for Mayor Robinson and Councilman Brady at one of the polling locations, and she came home with a few interesting stories.

At some point in the afternoon, a man wearing a Berwyn Rod & Gun Club hat walked toward my wife. My wife said something like, "Fred Robinson and Dennis Brady have done a great job for the City of Bowie, and they would sure appreciate your support." A Geraldine Valentino-Smith supporter made a similar remark. The man turned to the group of people and said, "how do your candidates feel about the second amendment?" The Valentino-Smith supporters said, "which one is the second amendment?" The man made a sound like a buzzer on a game show, and he said, "wrong answer!"

At this point, my wife should have said, "as a matter of fact, Mayor Robinson's nickname is Sniper, and Dennis Brady likes to show off his AK-47 at city council meetings." But honesty got the best of her, and she instead tried to explain that second amendment matters aren't addressed at the city level because all of the time is spent allocating funds to fix pot holes and improve lacrosse fields.

"Well, I think that they should at least teach gun safety in the schools," the man replied. The conversation was over before my wife could explain that the schools were controlled by the county.

Later in the day, a car parked near my wife, and an older woman got out. Several dogs were in the car, and they were all barking. My wife greeted the woman with her standard Robinson and Brady promotion, but then she added, "Dennis Brady loves dogs too!" And she handed the woman a brochure like the following.

The woman took a moment to look at the picture, and she said, "Awwwww, are these sheep dogs? So beautiful!" Perhaps quick thinking on my wife's part helped earn Councilman Brady an extra vote.

Dennis Brady is a known dog lover, and he considers the Bowie Dog Park to be one of his important accomplishments while serving on the Bowie City Council. Dennis and his wife Kathy have two Old English Sheep Dogs that are their "kids," and the dogs accompanied the Bradys in this year's Bowie Memorial Day Parade.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween in Boo-eee

This house in Bowie's Tulip Grove neighborhood features a moving ghost on a runner. In December, Santa and his sleigh will be moving through this yard.

This house on Cherrywood Lane in Bowie's Chapel Forge neighborhood features a graveyard scene each Halloween.

A close-up of the graveyard on Cherrywood Lane.

Another house in the Chapel Forge neighborhood.

Bowie Plaza hasn't been this busy since Giant left. The Spirit Halloween store was crowded all week. I peeked in Saturday before dark, and there were more than forty people waiting in line at the registers. A sign in the window advertises a 50% off sale on November 1.

This scene was not actually in B00-eee. The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore hosted several Halloween related events on Saturday, October 24. This was the pumpkin smash with the adult elephants. The pumpkin smash with the young elephants took place earlier in the day, and a great picture of that event was published in many U.S. papers and the Telegraph in the U.K.