Early Decision More Popular — and More Controversial — Every Year

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For most people, November means turkey, raking leaves, and the start of the Christmas song onslaught. For anxious/overachieving high school students, though, November is the season for early decision applications.

For those of us who are lucky enough not to have to worry about these things anymore, or who don’t have any nervous teenagers in the household, a bit of explaining might be in order. When students apply early decision, they are declaring the school they apply to is their first choice, and promising to enroll if accepted. You can only pick one school to apply to early decision… as opposed to more flexible options, such as early action.

There are plenty of arguments against early decision programs — they stress kids out too much, favor the rich, and pressure kids to make decisions before they’re ready to — which is one reason that Harvard suspended its early decision plan since 2007. This year they reinstated it, and got a flood of applications — 4,245 hopeful high schoolers, to be exact… or more than double the anticipated freshman class size of 1,660.

Locally, Johns Hopkins also saw a significant jump in early decision applicants (7.64 percent more than last year). Check out early decision stats for Harvard, Hopkins, and all sorts of other schools here.

What’s your take on early decision — a stress-fest, or a helpful way for serious students to make their preferences known?

The "F" Word

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I’m not the biggest fan of the word foodie. Yes, I’m pretty sure I am what people would call a foodie [hellouuu, I write a food blog and keep chickens] but I really just think of myself to be someone who really loves good food. Eating it, preparing, sharing it. 

Don’t get me wrong, I like foodie things. I shop at my local farmer’s market every Saturday. I’ve participated in a weekly CSA for years. If I had the chance to go to one of these amazing Outstanding in the Field dinners, I would go. I would run, actually.

One of my strongest food memories was made when I visited Dan Barber’s fabulous NYC restaurant Blue Hill several years ago — possibly the best meal I’ve ever had. Tons of courses, interesting and unique ingredients, amazing wine, the freshest of everthing. The folks from Blue Hill also run the Stone Barns Center, a wonderful farm in West Chester County where they raise everything from vegetables to livestock. It’s all about sustainability (ah, there’s that word…) and having the very freshest food possible. Love that. 

And…my taste in food varies — doesn’t yours? People who say they only eat this or would never eat that…that is so not me! One night, I might have a meal of local and organic stuff like roast chicken, bibb salad or maybe some homemade soup. Then, another time, I want something super simple (and greasy) like a grilled cheese sammie. And I must add, that to me, grilled cheese means just “normal” cheese, no fancy bread, with butter in the pan. Yum. 

Speaking of CSAs, did you know that Clementine has a meat CSA? Check it out! (I’m hoping to split a share with a friend.) 

Life’s short. Dig in. And don’t take yourself too seriously.

 

The Failure of Desegregation in Baltimore City Schools: An Interview with Morgan State’s Ray Winbush

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What happens when Baltimore talks about race? City mom Edit Barry finds out when she calls Dr. Raymond Winbush — director of the Institute for Urban Research at Morgan State University and author of The Warrior Method: Raising Self-Reliant Black Men — to discuss the failure of integration and the future of Baltimore City Public Schools.

*

If you look at a map of Baltimore neighborhoods by race, you’ve got what looks like a white puff of smoke splitting the city in half. The divisions are so clear here. There was an attempt to integrate the schools, but the result of it was to further segregate them.

To desegregate Baltimore City Public Schools sounds good. It sounds wonderful! Is that ever gonna happen? I doubt it, unless we find whites moving back to Baltimore in droves.

There are new parents living in the city now — highly educated ‘white’ parents making a middle class living — who need public schools. What should they be mindful of — as outsiders?

The thing is this (laughs) — it’s like the privilege of being white in America, and Baltimore is no different, is that white people don’t have to think about the interests of black people in anything.

But what if they want to?

I’m not sure there are a lot that want to. There are some who do. But they’re definitely in a minority. But listen. Flip it around. See, as a black male in America, I — and when I say ‘I’ I mean ‘black people’ — we have to understand white America. We do! The problem is that whites don’t have to know anything about black America and they could still be quite ‘successful.’ Whites don’t have to deal with people of color.

But we do. In this city, we do.

You do and you don’t. I pick up certain magazines and newspapers and if I were a proverbial man from Mars I could flip through some of the publications in Baltimore — I’m not gonna name any, but you know some of ’em — and I would say, ‘God. There’s no black people living in this city.’ It’s almost like we say, ‘We’re just going to ignore the fact that this city is 70 percent black, another, what — we’re not sure now — 10 to 15 percent Latino, Asian and then white. You know, we’re gonna ignore it. We’re gonna pretend.’ We don’t wanna deal with it.

But I want to deal with it.

You sound very sincere. Look, you’re dealing with it when you’re talking to me, by the fact that you attended the Enoch Pratt thing, and as I’ve said to well meaning whites around this world, what you’ve gotta do, you’ve got to make an effort to understand people of color. White people who wanna understand, deal with black people — they’ve gotta go out of their way.

You know the charter school City Neighbors?

Yeah, yeah.

When they talk about themselves on their website, they say something like, ‘We wanted a school where middle class and poor and rich and white and black students could come together in a community and learn together.’

Right.

It’s a liberal ideal.

It is. And I think it should be mandatory, and I’ve said this publicly, that teachers, students, and parents engage at least four times a year in an open, honest dialogue about race the way you and I are doing it right now. That should be built into public school systems around this country. In Baltimore, particularly. We have got to talk about his stuff.

So how can parents go for that ideal in their neighborhood public school rather than starting a charter school?

You’ve gotta be subversive. You’ve got to infiltrate the school board. Well meaning white teachers, well meaning white people, have to push the issue to school officials to do that stuff. And it can be done. But, see, they won’t listen to the black community. White parents have to get–

Let’s include under ‘white,’ like, Korean…you know–

Yeah, I’m talkin’ about Asian, blacks, I mean, wouldn’t it be nice if there was a coalition in Baltimore called PARE — Parents Advocating Racial Equality — and it would be like a multicultural coalition of parents, teachers, students, advocating at school board meetings for a more just education system where everybody can learn from everybody else? I think that takes subversive activity just like Occupy Wall Street.

What if right now in Hampden you got 30 white people together to go down to North Avenue and say, ‘We want a more fair and balanced’ — I don’t wanna sound like Fox News, but — ‘we want a more fair and balanced class and race school system in America and we’re gonna sit in the lobby of the North Avenue building until it happens.’ Whites ain’t willing to do that.

I think we want to change things, but I don’t know if that’s the way to go.

So how do you think we should change it?

I think we need, first of all, to get more middle class parents to consider the public schools. The narrative is so ingrained now of you buy your starter home in the city, put your house on the market when your kid turns four, and either move to the county or send your child to one of the private schools. And you can get financial aid to do that.

Well, it is never gonna happen. That’s the cement. We’re never gonna crack it.

I have to believe we can do it. Parents are organizing themselves to do it. Roland Park Elementary wasn’t the school that it is now except for a group of parents who got together and started sending their kids there. Now you have people lying about where they live so they can send their kids to that school. The change has to happen on a more personal level.

I think it can. But that’s not the only way. It’s a good way. It’s a more peaceful way, but–

You’re more radical.

Yeah, I am. I tend to be attracted to revolutionary movements. How do movements begin? Usually it is an individual saying, I am just fed up with this stuff and I’m going to do something about it. They garner the public’s eye and then people say, that’s what I feel, I wanna join that.

I think your dialogue and organizing is very, very critical. But you’re going to have to get to a point where you say, okay, now that these parents see the value of a public school education the way they do in Roland Park, we’ve got to do something more systemwide — and that’s when the rubber meets the road. I just try to get to that point as quick as I can, that’s all.

Edit Barry writes the blog Re:education in Baltimore — this story is original to Baltimore Fishbowl. Find her on [email protected]

Not Just Mall Rats: Local Shoppers Hit Boutiques Over Holiday Weekend

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It’s not just the Targets and Best Buys that saw vigorous sales this past weekend. Local small merchants are reporting soaring success. While the official word is that sales across the country were up 16 percent from last year, some shops in Baltimore fared even better. Sassanova, a women’s shoe, clothing and accessory boutique in Harbor East did booming business. “We had about a fifty percent increase over last year,” store manager Carolyn Wagner tells us.  
Traffic at Harbor East seems to be on the rise as the downtown space gains more recognition. A sell-out at the newly opened Four Seasons — thanks to specially discounted grand opening rates — also kept the streets bustling with people, as did unseasonably warm weather, movie openings and the holiday. 
At serene Cross Keys, Ruth Shaw also reported a doubling of sales. “It didn’t start until about 2:30 in the afternoon,” said store owner Ray Mitchener of his high-end women’s clothing boutique, “but then we had a great day.”
The one-two punch of Black Friday followed by American Express Small Business Saturday seemed to help retailers pack people into the stores. Sima Blue, owner of specialty shop and women’s boutique Trillium in Green Spring Station, said she noticed heavy traffic on Friday, but her sales were bigger on Saturday.  Still, sales for the weekend were about the same as last year but, “overall we are way ahead of last year.”  
Despite the ease of online shopping, locals seem to like the instant gratification that comes with going into the stores, talking to an actual human being, and feeling and seeing the merchandise. Likely, too, they happily shop live and local out of a sense of civic responsibility. Said one Baltimore shopper who braved the crowds on Saturday and Sunday, “We make a point to shop local; we don’t go to the mall.”

Is Baltimore’s Angel Investing Scene as Small as it Seems?

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Courtesy of Citybizlist – AngelList, a self-described “badass community of startups and investors,” is becoming a hotbed of investment activity that links dollars and backers with entrepreneurs and innovation.

It’s partly a social media platform, similar to Facebook or LinkedIn, except that it enables startups to create profiles for their companies, seek endorsements, and contact — and ideally line up capital from — potential angel investors.

Likewise, angel investors create profiles to signify what industries, geographies, and amounts they might be willing to invest in. At a minimum, angels should have made two $25K angel investments and plan to make two more $25K investments in the same year.

AngelList’s cannon of angels is a who’s who investors: Marissa Mayer, Brad Feld, Dave McClure, Reid Hoffman, Mark Suster, Tim O’Reilly, Ashton Kutcher (yes, that Ashton Kutcher), etc.

It has over 500 investors in North America along with close to 9,000 startups. On Twitter, it has 20K followers.

In short, AngelList likely represents the type of platform where angel investments are heading, if they’re not already there in many locations.

Baltimore is poorly represented.

Currently, there are a paltry 26 Baltimore-based startups on AngelList, topped by Cellona Therapeutics, gREATESST, College2Startup, and Localist.

Yet even when you expand your search to all of Maryland, it only roughly doubles the number to 54.

In terms of investors that follow and live in Baltimore, there are:

– Dave Troy
– Greg Cangialosi
– Frank Bonsal
– Edward Chalfin
– Austin Kirk
– Tom Loveland
– Bob Dyke
– Jay Steinmetz
– Len Ostroff
– Aviel Rubin

To choose one randomly, according to Cangialosi’s profile, he has made seven investments, in

Read more at citybizlist

At Least He Waited Until She Was off the Plane

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There is a certain baby boy who will one day walk past the restroom in Concourse D of the Baltimore-Washington International Airport and say, “This is where I was born.” Yesterday, a woman stepped off her flight into BWI and gave birth with the aid of a police officer, delivering the baby on the restroom floor.

There are some who may tense up at hearing this kind of story, those who are anxious about the possibility that they or their loved ones may have a precipitous birth and end up delivering in an impromptu birthing room. Take heart! Though a precipitous birth (one that lasts less than three hours from first contraction to holy-cow-I-have-a-child-now) may be an intense ride for the mother, and though it may mean the whole thing happens without the presence of a professional birth attendant, it’s also generally a sign that everything is fine, as complications tend to slow labor, not speed it up.

Obama, Bill Murray Stop by Towson Basketball Game

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It’s been a pretty good year for the Towson Tigers. Last year, the men’s football team didn’t win a single game in the Colonial Athletic Association league; this year they won the championship. And the men’s basketball team had two famous fans — President Barack Obama and actor Bill Murray — there to cheer them on during Saturday’s game against Oregon State.

Okay, so Obama wasn’t officially cheering on the Tigers — his brother-in-law Craig Robinson coaches Oregon State. But Obama is the first U.S. president to visit the Towson campus, so no one cared much who he was rooting for. When the First Family (yep, Michelle, Malia, and Sasha — and Michelle’s mother, Marian — all came, too) entered the Towson Center, they got a standing ovation to the tune of “Hail to the Chief.” Coordinating the president’s trip involved 150 law enforcement officers, including 30 of the school’s 50 campus police.

And what about Bill? Turns out his son Luke is a new assistant coach for the Tigers. He chatted with Obama for a few minutes at half time, and probably enjoyed not being the biggest celebrity in the arena.  (Watch the video of the two shaking hands at the Baltimore Sun. Bill Murray still has the best face.)
 
Ultimately, the Tigers were outmatched by the bigger, more experienced Beavers (66-46), but the score isn’t what people will remember from this game, I’m guessing.

Renovated Carriage House In Secret Location

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HOT HOUSE: 4723 Falls Road, Baltimore, 21209

1902 Stone carriage house in a unique, secluded setting.Four bedrooms, four baths, newly renovated, with separate office wing, on 1.02 acres: $995,000 

What: A lodge-style manor house, hidden behind tall hedges, improbably located on (but not visible from) Falls Road at the entrance to Roland Park.  Once you find it — nearby neighbors did not even know the house was there — it is very, very pretty. Natural stucco and stone walls with a slate roof and dovecote cupola. Interesting architectural details everywhere. Everything extremely ship shape. At the back, separated by glass doors,  is a large office area with its own entrance, conference room and cubicles. There’s still plenty of room though — this is a good size house.  Front door leads directly into the living room. To the right are the dining room and kitchen, butler’s pantry/wetbar and cozy bookcase lined den. Hardwood floors and finishes are perfect, bathrooms look new, walls in soft shades of grey, beige and cream. The lot is large and surrounded by large trees and shrubs. There are several garden rooms and stone patio areas. On the upper level, you could have a pool or a tennis court, or both.     

 Where: Take 83 to Cold Spring Lane, and a left onto Falls Road. At the second light, take a right onto Hillside and an IMMEDIATE right into the driveway. Follow the driveway to the end. Hillside runs up the south side of the Baltimore Country Club property, past the old tennis courts, and meanders on up to Roland Avenue.

Why: No one will ever know you’re there. A great place to run your stealth-wealth enterprise, hide from the coppers or plot world domination — extra office cubicles for your minions already in-place.

 Would Suit:  Sleeping Beauty, wicked witch,  or a family who likes the surprise factor of this location.

 NB:  Explaining, constantly, how to find the house could be annoying, assuming you want to be found. You are just a few feet from the road, so traffic noise is a given.

 

The Psychology of Shopping: What’s Your Retail Personality?

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For me (and my ancestors before me), the day after Thanksgiving has always meant jumbo turkey sandwich, nap, movie, repeat. More ambitious Americans evidently embrace the busiest shopping day of the year, when sale prices are killer but so might be the crowded superstore.  Black Friday has always struck me as the kind of activity that slightly neurotic, type-A morning people pursue.

Whether you passed on Black Friday or not, the busiest shopping season of the year is upon us and Mary Ellen Brown, personal shopper (via her service The Witch and The Wardrobe), counsels us to reassess our long-standing shopping tendencies, reevaluate strategies, and exchange bad spending habits for smart ones, to become grounded and thoughtful consumers.

Habits can be hard to break. For me, the words Black and Friday serve mostly as a bleak reminder I’ve failed to begin my Christmas shopping entirely, and won’t for another two weeks. Why do I wait so late year after year? Well, thinking about shopping for everyone on my list is stressful enough. I want to buy my sister’s four kids totally surprising and ingenious expressions of my love, to make up for almost never seeing them. Instead, I freak out, freeze up, and don’t begin. My lame gift solution is often iTunes certificates for all family members under 60.

At least I’m not alone. Psychotherapist Mikita Brottman says America’s relationship with holiday shopping is downright “anxious, stressful, complicated, ambivalent, and tied up with all kinds of complicated emotions going back to childhood.”

Shopping Personality Types

According to Brown, typical shoppers are either mindful and mature or basically fearful: Some* are post-Turkey-Day early-bird Bargain Hunters who make the money-saving most of Black Friday’s markdowns (of course, if you prefer to shop online, you can roll out of bed today and shop Cyber Monday deals in your PJs); some are Finders who pace themselves and buy precious/thoughtful/glowing gifts all year long, when the right inspiration strikes them; others, like my people, are Procrastinators, pure and simple. Procrastinators may become Binge Shoppers as well. Depending upon our budgets, Bingers will last minute load up on random clearance items (e.g. an extra large neon green hoodie, recipient to be decided) or expensive jewelry or electronics intended mainly to impress, rather than express our heart’s least selfish wishes.

Good-Shop/Bad-Shop

When we Procrastinators prepare to buy a gift for someone we care about, we feel a mixture of excitement and intimidation, not to mention pressure. “We [feel pressure] because the identity of the giver is totally bound up with the gift,” Brottman says. “This gives it a kind of magic power that compels the recipient to return the favor. What we’re really giving is part of ourselves, so we don’t want it to seem cheap or cheesy.”

We may also feel pressured by the salesperson waiting on us.

If you’re of the Procrastinator variety, pressure rules your mind. But Brottman confirms there’s a second sort of unhealthy/anxious shopper type to add to the list, the Addict — the person for whom anxiety prompts purchase (on location and online) of so many unneeded goods on a regular basis that he or she can’t be certain what lies in wait in the closet. When it comes to holiday shopping, chaos ensues. (The Addict a close cousin to the less regular Binge Shopper.)

“You should be worried if you go shopping as a way to self-medicate, as a response to anger or stress — when you find yourself with closets full of unopened and unworn merchandise, when you buy multiple copies of the same item, when you find yourself fantasizing about shopping, planning your next opportunity to go shopping…feeling guilty or ashamed of your shopping behavior, feeling anxious if you haven’t shopped in a while,” Brottman explains. (The chick in L.A. with the pepper spray, who had to get her discounted-Xbox fix, just might fit the profile.)

Encouragingly, Brown says everyone can learn to morph into the mindful, well-paced Finder, who buys thoughtfully and creatively for herself and others, whether or not childhood baggage weighs down her shopping sacks. Brown, who serves as personal shopper to some of the busiest people in Baltimore, believes it’s easiest to learn how to shop well under the guidance of a pro for hire. But since many of us can’t afford the luxury, she hands over an early present now, a smart, doable checklist for becoming our most effective shopping selves. Read, memorize, shop.

Make Lists of Things You Need and People for Whom You Intend to Buy

When you shop for yourself, make a careful list of what’s missing from your closet and, like a marksman, take aim. “With Christmas shopping, make a list of who you’re buying for. Names alone will conjure up enough ideas when you’re in the stores.” Look at each friend’s name, reminisce and free associate about the person as you browse.

Leave Enough Time to Shop and Shop Again

“Set aside a whole day and know that you can go another time. This way, if you don’t find it, you don’t buy it.”

Keep Your Eyes Peeled for Meaningful Items All Year Round

“A lot of the good stuff is gone by December, the stuff that reflects your personality. Be out there and let the stuff find you! I have a friend who buys for her boys in summer.” Another tip: If you’re traveling for business or pleasure, window-shop with the holidays in mind, no matter what time of year it is. In a new city, your eye will be especially alert, and you might find the rare gift of a lifetime.

 

Be a Finder Who Braves The Sales

“In the department stores, a lot of merchandise will go down in the first markdown by 40 percent. You hit Saks at 8 a.m., you can get some great stuff that might be gone by the afternoon. Two and three weeks later, it’s down another 20 percent, but by then you’ll be left with items nobody wanted.”

Broaden Your Shopping Horizons; Strategize New Locations According to Budget

Look beyond the mall, beyond the department stores. “Go to great alternative places, shop the locally owned boutiques.”

Work Out/Eat Breakfast Before You Shop

When you’ve had breakfast you think clearer; when you’ve worked out, you feel better about your body, in case you spy something you need that you’d like to try on. Which is A-okay any time of year.

Buy for Yourself at the Holidays Guilt-Free

“Yes, it’s really okay! If you rarely shop for yourself, kill two birds with one stone. If you’ve got nice black velvet pants, buy a new blouse. Don’t feel guilty. It’s good time management.”

Listen to Your Inner Voice, Not the Salesperson

“It’s a real mental game. Don’t trust the salesperson — don’t buy something if you feel uncomfortable or don’t like it.”

Remember: Every Gift is a Personal Expression

“When you open something it says a lot about the person who gave it to you,” Brown says. And while she does occasionally purchase gifts for clients to give their friends and family, she draws the line at ultra-personal presents. “I don’t like buying for [clients’] husbands at the holidays. I won’t. It’s too personal.”

To Become a Self-Actualized Shopper, Replace Retail Therapy with Real Therapy

Brottman adds, “It’s so easy to click on a button and send someone an automatic gift rather than taking the time to write a letter, make something by hand or actually to go and help somebody out. Buying a new dress or getting a new haircut is a quick fix, but a poor substitute for actually making real, lasting changes to your life. Objects seem more concrete, more real than ‘inner’ changes that might be far more substantial but can’t be seen to the outside observer or in the mirror.”

(*Shopper type nicknames were devised by reporter not professional shopper.)

Baltimore Novelist Jessica Anya Blau on Five Great Books to Gift and Get!

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Novelist Jessica Anya Blau recommends her current five favorite books to give and receive this holiday season — Jessica is the author of The Summer of Naked Swim Parties and Drinking Closer to Home. We heartily recommend her books for reading and gifting, too.

1. Deliriously Happy and Other Bad Thoughts by Larry Doyle. This collection of essays is wickedly funny and hilariously fun. If a dog who thinks his testicles are a tumor is something that makes you laugh then don’t pass up “Simpsons” writer and producer Larry Doyle’s latest.

2. The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith. Even if you saw the movie, read the book! Written in 1955, this gripping thriller will inspire you to run out and buy everything Highsmith wrote. Fans of Hitchcock films and Mad Men will enjoy the breathless chase across Europe before Eurrail passes, Starbucks and H&M showed up on every corner.

3. The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson. Wilson’s first novel is great, fast, fascinating, and wonderfully bizarre. Like a Wes Anderson film in book form—but even more wild!

4. The Devil All The Time by Donald Ray Pollack. This grisly, gothic novel is not for those who can’t handle a little blood, serial killing, or spider swallowing. It’s beautifully written and moves with bullet speed.

5. The Glen Rock Book of the Dead by Marion Winik. Fans of Winik’s Fishbowl column (and everyone else, too!) will not want to miss this collection of short, witty, sometimes sad, often profound, and always engaging essays about all the people she’s known who have died. It’s not a downer, rather an uplifting read that reminds us how great it is to be among the living.