Saturday, October 31, 2009

Regional Bus Service Names Reflect Communities

Several area counties have their own bus services to supplement the D.C. area Metrobus service. The names of these services reflect the personalities of the communities that they serve.



Fairfax County has the Fairfax Connector. The word "connector" has an engineering feel to it, like gear or cog - perhaps reflecting the high tech personality of Northern Virginia. You can imagine a commuter saying something like, "I have to work late in my database administration job tonight in Tysons to help with a disaster recovery test. Thanks goodness the Connector is running to facilitate my trip home."




Montgomery County residents have Ride-On - a progressive and hip sounding bus line that has its own passenger bill of rights and responsibilities and free service on code red ozone action days. You can imagine a Montgomery County commuter saying something like, "what a beautiful day. The sun is shining. The birds are singing, and I'm so fortunate that I can Ride-On to work at my non-profit job and reduce my carbon footprint."




In Prince George's County, we like things nice and simple. We don't care about the official name of the bus service because we're just going to call it "the bus" anyway. So it just makes sense to call it The Bus.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Bowie Briefs - v2

Audrey Scott
I recently wrote about former Bowie Mayor Audrey Scott vying to be the chairwoman of the Maryland Republican Party. She posted the following campaign video last week to tout her credentials for the job. This is definitely an interesting use of the Internet for an old school politician like Audrey. I love the intro music and the description of her house full of elephant trinkets as a "Republican safe haven." No donkeys in that house!







Northview Fire Station
The Northview Fire Station recently opened in Bowie on the corner of Northview Drive and Health Center Drive. According to a Gazette article, this station will be staffed better than most area fire stations.



I snapped the following picture a couple of weeks before the station was operational. An electrician was working on the lights for the station's stained glass tile and mirror mosaic depicting a very happy and diverse workforce.

The mosaic was designed by local artist Cheryl Foster. Right on, Cheryl! Cheryl assembled the mural with help from several volunteers, including a group of elderly assistants from the nearby Bowie Senior Center.

This photo doesn't do the piece justice. The blue circles in the background contain symbols associated with Bowie and Prince George's County. I'll have to go back to the station for a close-up.

The girl featured in the mosaic is a young Rockledge Elementary School student and artist who inspires Cheryl Foster.

You can read more about the Northview Fire Station stained glass tile and mirror mosaic in a recent article published in The Sentinel.





Seven New Police Officers for Bowie
It's a good thing that the new Bowie City Hall project has been kicked off. The Gazette recently reported that seven new police officers were sworn in during a recent City Council meeting. It would be a crime to force these new officers to work out of double-wides indefinitely. Plus the new digs for the city may give us the opportunity to have our very own call center to improve Bowie Police response times. Good times. Good times.



BGE Customers to Participate in Obama's Smart Grid Plan
Baltimore Gas & Electric will be getting $200 million in federal stimulus money to install new "smart meters" in two million customer homes as a stepping stone to having a more advanced electrical grid. BGE will be kicking in $251 million of its own money for the project.

Each new smart meter will contain a component that is mounted on the inside of a house, and a light signal will help alert customers to upcoming peak energy usage times. BGE will implement a new energy pricing model, and customers will be able to save money by reducing their energy usage during the peak usage periods.

The program is not expected to be completed until 2014.

Read this BGE press release and related Baltimore Sun article for more information.


Aggressive Tree Trimming Continues
Aggressive tree trimming continues along Maryland Route 197 in Bowie. I'm sure that there will be more unhappy residents.





Bowie City Elections Next Tuesday
Don't forget to vote. Click here for election day information from the City of Bowie web site. I pretty much want the existing team to stay in place.





Lock Up Fundraiser for Muscular Dystrophy
The Bowie Baysox are hosting an event to raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Donations will benefit Bowie and Crofton families. The event is described as follows on the Bowie Baysox web site.

Community and business leaders agree to be locked up "for good" and are asked to
raise bail by reaching out to family, friends, colleagues, and vendors are
asking for help raising funds for MDA. The Lock-Up will celebrate the Jailbirds’
success in raising money to help send local children to MDA Summer Camp at Camp
Maria in Leonardtown, MD. They will receive actual mug shots and a scrumptious
lunch donated by Carrabba’s Italian Grill.


Click here for more information.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Head in the Clouds

You can accuse me of having my head in the clouds. Here are some recent pictures of clouds in Prince George's County near Bowie.



I found these clouds near Metzerott Road by the College Park Woods neighborhood.





Another view from Metzerrot Road near the University of Maryland.





Sunrise near Largo, Maryland.





Another morning picture from Largo.





I don't recall where I took this picture, but it reminded me of the beginning of the Simpsons. At least I thought so when I took the picture, but now that I compare it to the videos on YouTube, they're a little bit different. Check out this video of real life vs cartoon Simpsons side-by-side.








Late afternoon clouds in Laurel, Maryland. The clouds formed a straight edge.





Morning clouds with tails in Lanham.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Urban Exploration near Bowie

Legend has it that an asylum for the criminally insane once operated on the grounds of the shuttered Glenn Dale Hospital near Bowie. A different story claims that the buildings on the hospital grounds are "sick" with tuberculosis, and anyone entering these buildings may catch the disease. Yet another rumor claims that experiments on patients at the hospital resulted in the creation of a creature with a human body and the head of a goat - the legendary Goat Man that roams the woods near Bowie. These are all tales that can be found on the Internet, seen on the pages of Weird Maryland and heard in conversations with Prince George's County locals.

The truth is that the 23 building campus was originally built to treat tuberculosis patients, and after a cure for tuberculosis was discovered, the facility was used as a nursing home for the poor. The presence of large amounts of asbestos finally forced the closure of the hospital in the early 1980s, and the buildings on the property have been abandoned since that time. Some police training took place on the grounds of the hospital, but the majority of visitors to the site since the closure are young party goers, urban explorers and ghost hunters.



This building is known as the adult hospital building. Although it was not the first building to be erected on the 216 acre site, it is referred to by many as the main building. The adult hospital building appears to be the most explored, most photographed and most vandalized. Points of interest in this building include patient rooms, a theater, a morgue and basement tunnels connecting this building to other structures on the campus. Urban explorers report that the tunnels are partially flooded with water, and they are not suitable for exploration.




Here is a closer look at the adult hospital building. Lots of fresh air was considered essential to the treatment of tuberculosis patients, and that therapy was taken into consideration when the hospital was designed. The top of the building contains an open air walkway that can be seen at the top of the picture. Patients also had access to a large balcony from their rooms on the second floor, and the balcony railings can be seen in the picture above. Urban explorers that are familiar with this site know to keep away from these open areas to avoid detection.

The Washington Post Magazine published an emotional story a few years back about one family's struggle with the forced hospitalization of a loved one at Glenn Dale Hospital in the 1950s. Etta Young spent 114 days living in a room on the second floor of the adult hospital building, and she spent countless hours in the fresh air of the balcony. The physical and emotional scars from her time at Glenn Dale Hospital stayed with her for a lifetime.




Ivy grows through a first floor window at the adult hospital building. A second floor balcony railing is visible above the window.




This is the end of the semi- circular drive in front of the adult hospital building.




The sidewalk and steps that once led to the front door of the adult hospital building are blocked by vegetation.




Whether you consider yourself an urban explorer or a fun loving party animal, the Park Police consider you a trespasser. This police substation is located directly in front of the adult hospital building, and some reports claim that an officer or two actually live here. I took all of my pictures from the edge of Glenn Dale Road - from the legal side of the "No Trespassing" signs.




Nice doggie! Nice doggie.





The Glenn Dale, Maryland site was chosen for the hospital because of its remote location and abundant country air. Most of the property still contains undeveloped open space, including this spot to the South of the adult hospital building. I doubt many people these days would consider this location remote.




The first buildings to open at Glenn Dale Hospital in 1934 supported the treatment of children suffering from tuberculosis. Nurses working with the children were housed in the building pictured above. This structure is located about 30 feet from the edge of Glenn Dale Road - directly across from the Park Police substation.




Here is a closer look in one of the windows in the nurses' quarters. Electrical wires hang from above, and plaster and concrete are missing from the ceiling. These buildings are falling apart.




A slate roof covers the nurses' quarters. Some of the tiles have come loose and have smashed on the ground below. The adult hospital building and other structures have slate roofs too.




An open walkway connects two buildings that housed the nurses.





The water tower and incinerator.





View Larger Map

A bird's eye view of the Glenn Dale Hospital site. The adult hospital building is in the Northwest corner, and the children's hospital building is in the Southwest corner.

There is no shortage of people that have explored the insides of the Glenn Dale Hospital buildings. The Opacity Web site contains a terrific collection of pictures of Glenn Dale Hospital and other abandon sites throughout the world. I also found this informative site containing maps, pictures and some history of the hospital. My wife came across a YouTube video featuring our next door neighbor and his friends exploring the adult hospital building. The video is somewhat interesting, but you have to put up with teenage boys being teenage boys for six minutes.

The Bowie Baysox and Tulip Gulch Productions are hosting a haunted house each Saturday and Sunday in October for people 14 and older (click here for details). This year's show is called Glenn Dale Asylum Haunted House. The following promotional video contains some of the pictures from the Opacity slide show.





The future of the Glenn Dale Hospital site is still unknown. The Prince George's County Council is in the process of updating the master plan for the Lanham, Seabrook and Glenn Dale areas, and the Gazette reports that residents would like the county to do something with the site. The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) is in the process of nominating the Glenn Dale Hospital site for placement on the National Register of Historic Places to ensure that the open space be preserved. Current Maryland legislation restricts the use of the land as follows.

Maryland House Bill 113 restricts M-NCPPC’s use of the Glenn Dale Hospital site, requiring that 150 acres be kept as open space in perpetuity and the remaining 60 acres be sold or leased to a developer of a continuing care retirement community.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

D.C. Metro Crash Documentary

The D.C. Fire Department made a nearly ten minute mini documentary about the June crash on Metro's Red Line, and WTOP posted it on YouTube. A related story can be found here on wtop.com.

The video includes firefighter interviews and scenes from the rescue. I got chills watching some of the scenes.

Kudos to all the rescuers. I can't imagine having to deal with accident scenes like this.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Nobody's Fault but Mine

I read a blog post on Squeeze My Lemon last week that gave a little history of the song Nobody's Fault but Mine. I'm most familiar with the Led Zeppelin version of the song, but the site also had a version by Beth Rowley - a 28 year old English singer that I'd never heard of before.

Rowley released an album in 2008 called Little Dreamer that includes Nobody's Fault but Mine as well as Almost Persuaded - a song traditionally covered by country singers. I think she sounds great, and some people are comparing her to Eva Cassidy and Bonnie Raitt. Check her out for yourself.


Nobody's Fault but Mine






Almost Persuaded

Monday, October 19, 2009

Jill And Kevin's Divorce Entrance Dance

I imagine that a lot of people have seen the following video of the entrance dance for Jill and Kevin Heinz's wedding. Now there's a funny spoof on YouTube called JK Divorce Entrance Dance.











Perhaps just as funny as the spoof video is the following comment that YouTube user nicole23xoxo posted. I guess she didn't get it.


umm.. i dont think this is real. i mean this would never happen at court. sure
a wedding because you can do it however you like, but not in a courtroom. and
she wouldn't be wearing her wedding dress. no one would be this happy. the
expressions on everyone's faces are soo fake. im sorry i loved the original
wedding one, but this one killed it. its not funny or legit.


There is now a Jill and Kevin Wedding Dance Web site, and the Minnesota couple are soliciting donations to the Sheila Wellstone Institute to help combat domestic violence. Their choice of charity is related to the 2009 assault incident involving Chris Brown, the artist whose song was played during the wedding entrance dance.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Balloon Boy Rap Video

By now you may have heard the story about the "Balloon Boy" that caused a massive boy hunt yesterday in Colorado. You may have also heard that some people think that the incident may have been a publicity stunt. The following description of the boy's father is from an AP story:

By all accounts, Richard Heene is an unapologetic self-promoter who would pursue
all sorts of off-the-wall stunts to get media attention. Flying saucers,
mountaintop helicopter stunts, storm chasing, reality TV shows — no gag was
beyond his limits.

But would he go so far as to hide his 6-year-old son in the rafters of his garage for five hours and make it seem like the boy floated away in a helium balloon?



An unusual rap video featuring Balloon Boy and his two older brothers surfaced on YouTube yesterday. It's hard to make out the words, but I did hear them say something about their momma's big white ass. Awwww, such cute kids. This is definitely an unusual family.


Saturday, October 10, 2009

New Bowie City Hall Project Started

The ceremonial groundbreaking for the new Bowie City Hall was held on September 30th, and the work to clear the lot has begun.


The construction headquarters sits on land that is part of the Bowie Town Center Park. The park is adjacent to the new City Hall property.



Construction vehicles are parked along the Excalibur Road sidewalk. Townhouses on Excalibur Road can be seen in the background. A path in the Bowie Town Center Park can be seen in the foreground.



Some of the trees have already been cleared from the property. Sears at the Bowie Town Center can be seen in the background. The edge of the Bowie Town Center Park is in the foreground.


The following Google satellite image shows the site of the new City Hall property. The Bowie Town Center lies to the Northwest of the property, and the Bowie Town Center Park lies to the South.


View Larger Map


Frequently asked questions about the construction site are available on the City of Bowie web site. According to the FAQs, a 6-foot tall construction fence will be erected around the site, but that fence is not yet in place.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Did you hear?

My wife and I are both news junkies, and we both try to out-scoop each other. Whenever I hear any news that's shocking or surprising, I try to call or IM her before she contacts me. We're competitive like that. It's how we roll.

The scoop might be about a well known national story, but it could just as easily be about a local story that few people are following.

Although some people might find this strange, I can often recall where I was and what I was doing when I hear a new story for the first time. I heard breaking news reports over the radio about the death of college basketball star Len Bias while I was working at a summer job in New Hampshire in 1986. I was driving over the Anacostia River on New York Avenue in D.C. when I heard that Elizabeth Smart was found alive. I was sitting at my desk in McLean, Virginia when I received an e-mail news alert announcing the death of Tim Russert. I was driving on Connecticut Avenue in D.C. when I heard that there had been an arrest for the 2001 Montgomery County murder of Sue Wen Stottmeister.

Today's scoop was news of the arrest of McDonald Abraham III for the 2005 murder of 17 year old Stacey Seaton in Bowie - a murder that went unsolved for more than four years. Police believe that the the victim was targeted, and family and friends have always claimed that they knew who was responsible for the murder. Enough pieces of the puzzle finally came together to allow the Prince George's County Police to make the arrest today.

Stacey Seaton's parents have kept the murder in the spotlight for over four years. Flyers have consistently been on display at local stores, and requests for information have sometimes appeared on billboards in Bowie. The story has been covered multiple times by local newspapers, and details of the crime are posted on the America's Most Wanted web site.

Click here and here for more information.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Rabid Stray Cat Found in Bowie

The Gazette is reporting that a rabid stray cat was found in Bowie's Buckingham neighborhood on Thursday, October 1st, prompting a warning from Prince George's County Health officials. The City of Bowie posted a related notice on www.cityofbowie.org. Apparently the rabid cat bit two people.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Willard?

Have you ever received an e-mail that was meant for someone else? Someone famous? Was it scandalous? Did it have pictures of naked people attached? Perhaps it contained a "meet me in room 871 at the Mayflower Hotel" type of message? Or maybe it was just an airline travel confirmation.

A travel confirmation from U.S. Airways arrived in my in-box today for one Willard M. Romney. Willard? That's right. It turns out that failed presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney's full name is Willard Mitt Romney. The itinerary is for a flight from Boston to Philadelphia on October 12th. Mitt Romney does live in Massachusetts, and I discovered that he is giving the keynote address at the Middle Market Corporate Growth Conference in Philadelphia on October 13th.

The confirmation seems legit. The issue date and time matches the time that I received the e-mail . Besides, why would anyone spam people with Mitt Romney travel confirmations?

So why did this get sent to me? My e-mail address doesn't contain "willard", "mitt", "romney", "prolife", "gunowner" or "flipflopper." I suppose that my name must be similar to the name of a member of his staff, and a simple typo on the part of a staff member resulted in this silly blog post.

Since I received the e-mail from U.S. Airways, somebody must still be waiting for a travel confirmation. So I did the responsible thing. I forwarded it on to his PAC. I can just imagine the conversation. "Mr. Romney, some kook named Bowie Mike claims that he has your travel confirmation for your Philadelphia flight!" Maybe they'll send me a copy of the Book of Mormon to show their appreciation.





UPDATE :

The following day, I received an update to Mitt Romney's travel confirmation. He upgraded to first class. Still no word from Romney's staff, and still no Book of Mormon.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Groundbreaking for Bowie's New City Hall

The groundbreaking ceremony for Bowie's new City Hall was held yesterday morning. The new building is expected to open in December, 2010, and it will be located on property behind the Bowie Town Center at 15901 Excalibur Road.

The following image shows what the new City Hall will look like when it's completed.


Voters approved a 2005 referendum that paved the way for the creation of the Bowie Police Department, and the city has been dealing with space issues in the current city hall building on Kenhill Drive ever since. The Bowie City Hall is currently located in the former Fox Hill Elementary School, and the large hallways in the building are an inefficient use of the 39,500 square footage. The new building will have approximately twice the square footage as the old building, and it will have a layout that will be more conducive to the city's needs.

Additional details about the new City Hall are available in a Baltimore Business Journal article.

The city was able to save millions of dollars on the cost of the new City Hall due to favorable bond ratings that reduced the interest rate that the city will have to pay on bonds being used to finance the construction. Standard and Poor's issued a AAA rating for the City of Bowie, and favorable ratings were also issued by Moody's Investors Service and Fitch Ratings. The great credit ratings reflect the city's history of sound fiscal management as well as the favorable employment outlook for Bowie and the surrounding area. According to this blog post, the City of Bowie continues to have the lowest unemployment rate of any city in Maryland, and despite the recession, the unemployment rate is half the national average.

The current economic climate also created a competitive bidding process among prospective contractors, saving the city additional money.

Although the economic conditions were ideal for financing a new Bowie City Hall that eventually had to be built, the project faced opposition from Bowie Councilwoman Geraldine Valentino-Smith and Councilman Todd Turner. Both Valentino-Smith and Turner expressed concern that voters in Bowie did not have an opportunity to vote on the large expenditure via a referendum. The voters did, however, vote in favor of a new police force, but perhaps voters intended for the Bowie Police Department to occupy a trailer behind City Hall (their current headquarters).