Tag Archives: Maryland

Steamed crabs on a table.A couple of weeks ago, my sister and I decided to make the best of the heat and we went to a state park that has a little bit of a beach. Afterwards, we went to a crab house. I sent this photo to Noel, but later I found myself wondering if he was aware that crabs are a really big deal in Maryland. I tried to see if I could find a link with some information and I learned a few things I didn’t know. Perhaps it will be of interest.

For those of you who don’t know, Maryland is a mid-Atlantic state, meaning that it’s in the middle of the eastern seaboard of the United States. The Chesapeake Bay cuts deeply into the state.

Crabs are highly associated with the state, specifically a variety called blue crabs, Callinectes sapidus. According to an article on Eater, Spike Gjerde, a Baltimore chef, the growing conditions in the estuary make the crabs from Maryland especially good.

From a scientific perspective, the need for hibernation is the main reason Maryland crabs taste better than other types of crab — and also tastes better than blue crabs from other waters, according to Steve Vilnit of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Fisheries Services. He explains that just like other creatures that hibernate, crabs need to build up fat stores to sustain them through the dormant period. “This gives our crabs a buttery flavor that you won’t find anywhere else,” Vilnit says.

The article also says

Marylanders prepare hard shells and other seafood by steaming them, rather than the boiling that is common along the rest of the East Coast and Louisiana. Marylanders will tell you that boiling makes the crabmeat wet, rather than just moist.

That people boiled them was news to me.

As you can see in the top picture, they’re steamed with a large amount of spices. The typical spice associated with Maryland is a spice blend called Old Bay. It was originally produced by the Brunn Baltimore Spice Company, until it was bought by the large McCormick company. Eater adds

Odds are at a crab house, what’s seasoning the crabs is made by J.O. Spice Company, not Old Bay. Established in 1945, the company supplies more than 800 restaurants in the mid-Atlantic, often creating custom blends that vary in saltiness and heat.

They are served with apple cider vinegar on the side.

Crabs are seasonal, and in Maryland they’re available from April to December.

While June through August are the most favored and tradition-laden times for eating crabs, September and October are the best time to get the largest and fattest hard crabs at the best prices.

The Eater article lists several places to get crabs, but they’re not really a fancy item and there are a lot of places that are good.


From earlier the same day.

Again, I’m not going to write much. Here are some more photos, also taken on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. For those of you who don’t know, the Eastern Shore is a penninsula. The Atlantic Ocean is on the east and the Chesapeake Bay is on the west. Along the bay, the land is very irregular with lots of little inlets.

So, in my pathetic attempt to ease my social isolation, I joined a few organizations.

Now, I just got back from my “daily constitutional.” Because everyone insists exercise is the cure for depression, I exercise every day. Yesterday, I lifted weights at the gym, which is depressing but just barely bearable. Today is my day for a walk/jog. It’s really more of a power walk than a jog, but I try to keep up the pace. Shortly after starting out I started feeling those chest pains again, you know, the ones the doctors say are in my head. I guess they are. It’s probably anxiety. My route is about 2 and a half miles. In New York it used to be five, but due to the fact that Baltimore is a dangerous city it’s hard for me to find a route that’s more than two miles. And it’s really boring. I do the same route over and over and over. It it gives me a wonderful opportunity to reflect on how much I hate my life. How much I hate my body. How much I hate Baltimore. How difficult it is simply to not get fat. How futile this attempt to lose weight is. Then I tell myself that it should be for health, not appearance. Then I start to wonder why I want to prolong my life when I hate it so much. I don’t want extra years of being lonely and men don’t want healthy, they want anorexic. I start feeling like a caged rat on a wheel.

I arrive home feeling remarkably angry and wonder whether or not I should take an Ativan.

I sat down to write. My mind wanders when I walk and although most of the thoughts are how I hate myself a few aren’t. I’ve been working on a novel and few ideas were about that and I sat down to write those down. Then it seems that I had saved something else with the same title as the working title of my novel thus overwriting everything I’ve written over the past few months. Fuck.

I managed to find another copy elsewhere, so I didn’t lose everything, but my bad mood went to even worse.

Now, don’t ask me why, I started feeling really, really lonely. I just want some company. Is that too mush to ask?

Apparently, in Maryland, it is.

I mentioned having joined some groups to try to meet people. Okay, one thing is the sketching, but it’s early on Saturday morning and I woke up late today. I haven’t been able to get to it for two weeks running and I doubt I’ll get there tomorrow. I’ll try. But this is why I fucking hate Maryland and Baltimore. It’s Nowhereville. Could you imagine living in New York and having to wait for Saturday morning to roll around again in order to do something.

Okay, well, I also joined Mensa. Well, once a month they have a film night and tonight was the night, but I didn’t look at it until it was too late. Don’t you know, they go to an early show. I could have gotten to it if I had thought to look yesterday, but I didn’t. Now, I’ll have to wait a month.

So, do they have anything else on their agenda. Yeah – tomorrow – Saturday – Mensa is going to a GUN RANGE!!!! I’m suicidal, but I’m not fucking stupid. I know well enough that I should stay away from guns for the foreseeable future.

Now, what else is Mensa doing?

July’s speaker is Walter Jones, a graduate of Yale University and Howard University Divinity School, and his presentation is titled “We’ve Come this Far by Faith”.  Walter describes it as a brief gospel history lesson, portrait of a people, and folk sermon rolled into one.

Guns, God. What next? An anti-gay protest? Did I join Mensa or the Tea Party?

Man, I miss New York.

For those of you who don’t know, Maryland is a funny looking state. The Chesapeake Bay comes in from the Atlantic Ocean and nearly severs an area called “the Eastern Shore” from the rest of the state. That area is rural, mainly farming and fishing. There’s a little mountainous tail out west where the land is hilly and poor. That area relies on tourism these days. Then, in the big, fat, middle, there’s Baltimore, a working class city with an active port, Annapolis, the capitol, many wealthy suburban communities, and some farming, including horse farms.

Some crackpot in the middle of the state of Maryland says he wants to secede from the rest of the state. I’m not sure why I’m supposed to care about this. Maybe, I’m not. Maybe I don’t. Look, I get it. We all have our intemperate moments. I certainly do. Those times when we have a few beers with our friends and we say things that we kinda-sorta mean at that moment, but we’re happy that no one’s tape recording it. “Let’s start a rock band. We would totally rock!” “If I was president I would just be like, ‘Congress, kiss my ass.'” “Yo! Man! You’re funny. You should do stand-up!” “On Monday morning, I’m gonna tell my boss to take this job and shove it!” After all, what are friends for if not for mildly psychotic commiseration and megalomaniacal fantasies. So I totally understand, man, that some of you out there in western Maryland are, right now, sitting at a bar, having one too many beers, and saying things like, “How about those shit-for-brains in Annapolis. I could run the state better than they can. Hell, my five-year-old could run it better. We should have our own damned state! We should fucking secede, man!” Most of you say that knowing that life is a bunch of tradeoffs and compromises and a great deal of the time we don’t get what we want and it’s okay to complain, and most of you say that knowing that you probably will be glad in the morning if no one recorded your more brilliant moments for posterity. It’s also okay by me that you maybe don’t like Baltimore any more than you like Annapolis. That’s why you live out in Garrett County and not here. Like my mother used to say, that’s why there’s vanilla and chocolate.

Well, it seems like one of you was recording all that and he’s gone ahead and made a Facebook page – the Western Maryland Initiative. Yup.

Now, 150 years later, a 49-year-old information technology consultant wants to apply the knife to Maryland’s five western counties. “The people are the sovereign,” says Scott Strzelczyk, leader of the fledgling Western Maryland Initiative, and the western sovereigns are fed up with Annapolis’s liberal majority, elected by the state’s other sovereigns.

Scott Strzelczyk’s LinkedIn page says:

Scott Strzelczyk

Counsultant at self Employed

Baltimore, Maryland Area

Computer Software

It doesn’t look as if he’s expecting to find work in any of his five precious western counties. Me neither, actually. It’s a beautiful, but impoverished, part of a wealthy state. Seeing that Mr. Strzelczyk lives in the eastern most of the western counties, it looks as if he’d like to draw his income from a rich state and pay taxes in a poor one.

Is it okay to say that I’m getting fed up with all this sort of stuff? Texas wants to secede. The Tea Party wants to secede. The sovereign citizen movement wants to secede. Who knows. Maybe after Garrett, Allegheny, Washington, Frederick, Carroll and Montgomery counties secede, forming Western Maryland, Garrett and Allegheny counties will secede, forming Western Western Maryland. Who knows, maybe everyone in the town of Accident will get tired of the rest of the state making fun of their name and secede, making them the fifty-fourth state after Western Maryland, Western Western Maryland, Little Colorado and Northern California and the removal of Texas.

Hey, anyone hear that boy who cried wolf story? I’m having a hard time caring anymore. So, I’d like to put it up for a vote. Honestly, I don’t think most of the people in those five counties would go for it, but it would be nice to put this silliness to rest. I like to think that the people out in the western counties are not, overall, as ridiculous as this fellow, but if they are…? Well, don’t let Howard County hit you on the way out, because I will call that bluff.

The bigger question is why is the Washington Post even giving this crackpot the time of day. I guess it’s click bait.

On a similar note, Texas Governor Rick Perry is still on his job-poaching tour that Lewis Black mocked on the Daily Show. He’s gone to California, Connecticut, New York, Illinois, Missouri and will be coming to Maryland next week. He’s jetting around the country telling everyone what a low wage state Texas is. Supposedly this is supposed to make people want to move to Texas. I guess I’m missing something. Interestingly, according to this chart Maryland has the highest median income in the country. So what’s Perry selling? Move to Texas and earn less money and send your kids to worse schools which are currently showing signs that they will soon get even worse?

So, let’s all go out for a beer and I’ll tell you what I really think of Texas, just promise you don’t record it and post it on Facebook tomorrow.

Every once in a while, someone finds out that there are seven states in the United States that have laws prohibiting atheists from serving in public office. Maryland is one of those states. The British colony was founded in 1634. To say that tensions between Catholics and Anglicans in England ran high at that time would be an understatement. The founder of Maryland, Cecilius Calvert, was a Catholic who intended the colony to be a potential refuge for Catholics should those tensions require one.

From Maryland’s earliest days, Cecilius Calvert had enjoined its colonists to leave religious rivalries behind. Along with giving instructions on the establishment and defense of the colony, he asked the men he appointed to lead it to ensure peace between Protestants and Catholics.

In order to protect the interests of Catholics, Anglicans and Puritans, in 1649 Maryland passed the second law regarding religious tolerance in the British North American Colonies, The Maryland Toleration Act, or the Act Concerning Religion. In one sense, the law can be considered progressive since it protected all Trinitarian Christians. At the same time it specifically allowed the persecution of all others. During the English Civil War, the act was revoked and Catholics were barred from voting in the colony.

While the law did not secure religious freedom, and while it included severe limitations, it was nonetheless a significant milestone. It predates the Enlightenment, which is generally considered to be when the idea of religious freedom took root, and stands as the first legal guarantee of religious tolerance in American and British history. …. It was not until the passage of the First Amendment to the Constitution over a century later that religious freedom was enshrined as a fundamental guarantee…. Thus, despite its lack of a full guarantee of religious freedom or broad-based tolerance, the law is, “a significant step forward in the struggle for religious liberty.”

With the Maryland Toleration Act we can see that the course of liberty of conscience in regards to religion has not been a perfectly straight line from oppression for all but the government sanctioned sect to liberty for all.

In 1776, Maryland, now a state, wrote its constitution which provided only that “all persons professing the Christian religion are equally entitled to protection in their religious liberty.” Article 35 stated, “No other test or qualification ought to be required on admission to any office of trust or profit than such oath of support and fidelity to the State… and a declaration of belief in Christian religion.”

In 1826, a bill was introduced with the intention of extending the right to serve in public office to Jews, ‘but it still required that an officeholder profess belief in a “future state of rewards and punishments.” This requirement was retained in the Maryland Constitution of 1851 and was not dropped until the present Maryland Constitution was adopted in 1867.’ It is that constitution from 1867 which contains the article which is frequently quoted as evidence that atheists cannot serve in public office in Maryland.

Art. 37. That no religious test ought ever to be required as a qualification for any office of profit or trust in this State, other than a declaration of belief in the existence of God; nor shall the Legislature prescribe any other oath of office than the oath prescribed by this Constitution.

In 1960 an atheist, Roy Torcaso was appointed notary public. He refused to make a declaration of belief in the existence of God and his appointment was revoked. The case made it before the Supreme Court of the United States as Torcaso vs. Watkins.

The Court unanimously found that Maryland’s requirement for a person holding public office to state a belief in God violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.

So why can article 37 still be seen in the Maryland Constitution? According to Brian Palmer writing on Slate:

Judges cannot reach into statute books and erase laws. Some state legislatures proactively repeal unconstitutional laws, either one at a time or in batches after a few of them pile up. Others just leave them there….

State constitutions, which are more difficult to amend than ordinary statutes, are rife with unconstitutional language. Arkansas, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas, along with North Carolina, all have language suggesting that atheists are barred from office.

The Supreme Court justices are pretty tolerant of states thumbing their noses at them from afar, but they will not tolerate meaningful resistance. After the Supreme Court declared school segregation unconstitutional in the landmark 1954 case Brown v. Board of Education, Arkansas passed a series of laws attempting to nullify the federal decision, forcing the court to issue a second decision emphasizing that the nine justices, and not the states, were the final arbiters of constitutionality.

Antiquated laws that are still on the books are not without potential problems, however it is not correct to say that there are places in the United States where atheists are currently barred from holding public office.

I’ve come across this statement several times recently so it seemed worth while to do an entire post on it.

Yesterday, I took a trip to a really remarkable place. About a year or so ago, when I was doing a bunch of research on native plants and wildflowers, I saw quite a few references to a place called “Soldier’s Delight.” It’s nearby, located in Baltimore County. A landscape of a stream on a beautiful, sunny day. To the left, there is a field of grasses. To the right are some pines. A small butterfly is in the foreground. A patch of woods can be seen in the distance.

The it once was part of “the Great Maryland Barrens”, a unique ecosystem of which only 5% remains. Most of the area is in a state wildlife reserve called Soldier’s Delight. Much of the soil in the area is made up of a rock called serpentine. Serpentine soil is low in nutrients. While much of the east coast is deciduous woodlands, the Maryland Barrens were a unique grassland and supports correspondingly unique flora and fauna, specifically insects, some of which are found no where else.

When we arrive, a naturalist was showing beautiful Turkey Vulture. I’ll have to write more about vultures one day. In the meantime, here’s a portrait of the lady.

A twenty five year old female turkey vulture.

Anyone who’s interested in butterflies should take a trip there. It was far more rewarding than I expected.

Okay, the WordPress platform is acting buggy again, and I don’t have the time to deal with it. So I’m just going hope this will publish.

For those of you who have seen a few of my Friday posts, the squirrels Smudge and Tripod have been surviving the heat reasonably well. The bird bath has been at least as popular as the bird feeder. Bad Bunny was last seen munching some weeds that I was going to tear up after the heat wave passed. Right now, we have three lobelia plants, two of which have buds but the top of the third has been neatly chopped off. I have pictures of them all, but for today I decided to focus on the bugs. In front of my sister’s house there are several butterfly bushes and a row of some other bushes whose name I don’t know. The flowers on these other bushes are a yellowish-green and not especially pretty, at least to my human eyes. However, they must be especially excellent nectar producers because the bushes, when they are in bloom, are just teaming with bees, wasps, flies and butterflies.

A tiger swallowtail butterfly on a butterfly bush.

It was the sight of this Tiger Swallowtail through the window that drew me outside into the heat.

A fuzzy image of a wasp.

It was so humid, I had to keep wiping off my lens, which kept clouding up.

The head of a baldfaced hornet with its distintive markings which resemble a skull.

After I wiped off the lens, I was able to get some good shots of a baldfaced hornet.

The body of the baldfaced wasp.

Although the common name is “baldfaced hornet,” it is actually a wasp.

A silver spotted skipper butterfly on a butterfly bush.

There were at least a dozen of these silver spotted skippers.

A winged insect with a fuzzy, stout body on a butterfly bush.

I have not yet identified this bee-like creature.

A portion of the hindwings of a spicebush butterfly.

I had the wrong lens on my camera to capture the large Spicebush butterfly.

A spicebush butterfly

As a result, I wound up with some interesting, although accidental, images.

The underside of a spicebush butterfly.

I love how you can see what appears to be pollen clinging to the underside of the butterfly.

A honeybee

I’ve seen few honeybees than in years past. Sadly, we lost a hive over the winter.

A small brown butterfly which I have tentatively identified as a Dun Skipper. If anyone is more certain, please let me know.

A small brown butterfly which I have tentatively identified as a Dun Skipper. If anyone is more certain, please let me know.

Bubmble bee on milkweed.

If the European honeybees seem to be struggling, our native bumbles were out in full force.

Some sort of skipper butterfly on a leaf.

Another difficult to identify skipper.

Scarlet Tanager

Lately, I’ve given up on the possibility of meeting anyone who can actually tolerate me, but for a decade, starting from the age of thirty five, I had profiles up on dating sites. Whenever I’d fill out those profiles, I’d feel really self-conscious about my hobbies and interests, all solitary and sedentary. So, I’d add hiking. Now, my idea of hiking is essentially a long walk. If it requires buying equipment at REI or EMS, well call the EMT because I’m about to start hyperventilating. But I do like a nice walk in the woods, so in order to not sound like a lump on a log, I put down hiking as an interest on dating sites.

About seven years ago, through one of those dating sites, I met a boyfriend who was a serious birder. This means waking up at the crack of dawn to go tramping through a swamp until sunset. Sorry folks, coming home and checking each other for ticks is not my idea of foreplay. I want lunch. I like to take a break and sit once every four or five hours. This is why I call myself a lazy birder. I’m probably an embarrassment to real birders like my ex-boyfriend.

Here’s my list from our weekend trip to western Maryland. New birds are in bold.

  • Northern Cardinal (we saw a male feeding a female, which is a courtship gesture)
  • White Crowned Sparrow
  • White-breasted Nuthatch
  • Black Capped Chickadee
  • Red-breasted Nuthatch
  • Goldfinch
  • Tufted Titmous
  • Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  • Purple Finch
  • Song Sparrow
  • Chipping Sparrow
  • Green Heron
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Baltimore Oriole
  • Eastern Towhee
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Killdeer
  • Wild Turkey
  • Eastern Bluebird
  • Scarlet Tanager
  • Rose-breasted Grosbeak
  • American Robin
  • Yellow Rumped Warbler

And, after we left the state park and headed off to dinner, a Pileated Woodpecker!

Photos for those who are interested Read More

A flock of snow geese takes off from a marsh at the Blackwater Wildlife Refuge in Maryland.

I’m trying to keep up with my commitment to myself to post everyday. Today, I put together a computer, so I’m a bit behind on posting. Perhaps I will be able to report how it went tomorrow.