Thursday, April 18, 2013

Boston, Patriots and Cowards

Stand your ground. Don’t fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here.
                                                    - Captain John Parker, Lexington Militia, April 19, 1775
And so were fired the first shots of the American Revolutionary War.  And so was born a nation, and ultimately Patriots Day in commemoration of that day.

Many of my Baltimore friends and social media contacts are aware that I’m from Boston and proud of it; I’ve lived in the Baltimore area for 15 years now but I’ll always be a Boston boy. 

Less well known is that I was raised just outside Boston in Lexington, which had a profound influence on my upbringing and philosophy.  As Lexingtonians, we were taught to hold sacred the traditions and values of the Minutemen: to question authority, to seek justice and human rights for ourselves and others, and to face down those who would trample liberty. To stand our ground in the face of adversity and overwhelming odds (the Minutemen were up against the might of an empire, and did not fare well early on that April morning in Lexington).  
These are American values to be sure, but we were absolutely steeped in them during our childhoods in Lexington and Boston.  This was our local history and the source of both pride and much of our moral composition.
On the Patriots Day of April 15, 2013, the bombs that exploded at the finish line of the Marathon were not only a horrible tragedy to those directly affected, but an egregious affront to these values and traditions.  If you’ve not lived in the Boston area, you may not understand the effect on Bostonians of this event on this particular day.  In Boston and throughout New England this day represents so many things: the start of real spring weather, celebrations of the first battles of the Revolutionary War, a morning Red Sox home game, and the world’s oldest and most prestigious marathon race.  A perfect day for a Lexington kid was to see the battle reenactment on Lexington Green, have a pancake breakfast at a nearby church, see the town’s annual parade, head to Fenway for the Sox and then over to see the final miles of the Marathon. 
To many a Bostonian, Patriots Day is the best day of the year – and it’s very personally our day. 
The coward or cowards responsible for this heinous act have now joined McVeigh and Nichols in trampling on this day.  By killing and maiming innocent people, they utterly perverted this holiday and the ideals it represents. 
I don’t personally know any of those killed and injured on Monday, but upon hearing the news and seeing the horrible images from the finish line, I was seething.  Enraged by the injustice, the innocent lives forever changed and ended, yes – but also by the insult to my city, my country, and the world of people who seek peace and justice.  I will not dare compare my injury to those at the site of the bombing, but everyone who has lived in the Patriot tradition lost something profound on Monday.
And we won’t forget this outrage.
Boston, as many have pointed out, is a tough town.  Boston and Bostonians everywhere will persevere while we recall the people, families and friends affected and the blasts that changed forever how we remember our holiday.  We are grateful for the outpouring of support from the rest of the country and the world.  But with or without that support, we band together.  The person or persons who perpetrated this crime should remember this.
We stand our ground.
We do not fire unless fired upon.
But if they mean to have a war?  Do they think they have cowed us? Like His Majesty’s troops on that morning 238 years ago, they may think they prevailed on Monday -- but I think they picked the wrong damn city to mess with.

And I think they're going to understand that soon enough.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Scope Creep

As a professional (and certified) Project Manager, I know that one of the most vexing tasks that we PMs have is to prevent runaway projects – those that go beyond their original scope.   

Allowing projects to mushroom into something beyond the original intent is asking for cost and schedule overruns and quality issues and can starve other projects for resources.  This usually doesn’t happen in one or two grand expansions of the project; it is an insidious process of adding “just this one thing”, over and over again.  Accordingly, in my business we deem it “scope creep”.  On some projects, PMs have (privately) attached the fun moniker of “Scope Creep” to actual stakeholders who are the drivers of this phenomenon.

So what happens when I start a rather ambitious project at home?  Do I apply the usual measures to limit scope creep, such as a clearly defined statement of scope and purpose, a change control procedure and periodic reviews of “what did we intend / where are we now”?

Old garden area and bad lawn
Heck no.  As good as I am in controlling scope change in my professional life, in my private life, where I am project manager, team and stakeholder, I am The Scope Creep.  Case in point: my back yard.

My wife and I have lived in this house for almost 14 years. Our property is about one third dense woods, with the rest given to what can be very loosely termed as a “lawn”.  We aren’t manicured lawn people, but our back yard in particular had become ugly, the drainage patterns encouraged erosion and there were a few trees that threatened to ruin our day if they toppled in a storm and hit the house.  So this summer we decided to do something about it.  I came up with a pretty simple scope: the removal of a few dead/dying trees, grinding some old tree stumps, some resloping and topsoil and a few bags of grass seed.  That was my initial project scope.  Accordingly, I called some tree people and some lawn/landscaping people for estimates.

(Side note: Do these businesses want work?  My response rate on calling tree services was 50%; on landscapers, it was 25%.  “Call every potential customer back within a day” is a pretty basic way to get business and drive goodwill, even if you are too busy at the moment or the job is too small. I just don’t get it.)

The tree people I selected planned to bring in a sizeable crane to deal with the big one; a 60 or 70’ tulip poplar that could take out the half of the house it was leaning towards if it happened to fall.  But to bring in a crane, they would have to clear out some other small trees and brush on the side of the house for access.  Enter the Scope Creep.  Since they were going to have to do that, and since the machines were going to be there, why not clear a 25’ swath of gnarly small trees and thorn bushes right up the side of the yard? It was such a small change.  Hardly added cost at all, and added no time.  And we’d have a bigger back and side yard. This made us happy. (Note: they still couldn't get the crane in because the ground was too soft, so they felled it the old fashioned and scary way. A cool video of that here.)

Also, since they were going to be there with cool machines and skilled tree people, there was another tulip poplar that was a potential problem, that dead tree just off the yard that was leaning on another one, and about a dozen small locusts (which are designed, it seems, to grow fast and tall and then fall over) that we could be rid of.  By the time all the little changes were included, the bill grew to about 150% of the original estimate (it was still just a day’s work for the crew).  And now (with little surprise) we had a significantly larger area that needed to be filled, sloped and seeded.

Enter the landscapers.  One of the bidders had suggested redoing the borders around our garden areas; a somewhat miserable-looking collection of large and small rocks surrounded them and they were sinking into the ground and near impossible to trim around.  We had redone these once in the past and they looked good for about 2 years before the weeds found their way through them, the mower bumped them all out of position and they sank even deeper into the ground.  I loathe plastic borders (they look even worse) so the solution was natural or manufactured stone cobbles or walls.  This was a clear leap in scope, so I decided to mitigate the impact with a simple concept – I would do them myself.   

Garden border layout
And since we’re redoing them, shouldn’t the gardens be a bit bigger? And include the small garden in the back of the shed that was bordered with cinder block?  Of course. You get the idea - I started shopping for stone and put the landscape company off for a few weeks so that we could get the gardens done first.

Enter the garden project.  This took three weeks and naturally was done during scorching heat.  We selected a manufactured product, a Belgian-block imitation called “Belgik” by Techo-Bloc.  Two pallets with 120 stones each, a total of about 200 lineal feet and 5,000 pounds. Add numerous bags of paver base material and leveling sand. We laid out borders, we trenched, we laid block, we backfilled.

Building the patio ramp
Laying stone
And while we’re at it, let’s add a nice patio/ramp from our wooden deck walkway to the yard, where grass is difficult to grow and I need to run our tractor over.  Some bluestone that was in the yard, some new bluestone, more base, more sand, a few more days of work in the heat.

And what’s a landscape job without some nice landscape lighting? 14 low-voltage lights, about 300’ of cable, a transformer / timer (and don’t forget to add the weather-protected receptacle for it)!

Landscape light
And after the garden borders were laid we had about 30 blocks leftover so…

The garden bench
Why not build a garden bench? A bag of mortar, some pressure-treated 2x4s, and an afternoon later, we had a nice bench.  Which needed a pathway extension, so a few more 1’x1’ bluestone pavers.  And more paver base and leveling sand.

And yes, a few more pavers and some old fenceposts will make a nice surround for the hose bib and rack at the side of the house.

And we had these leftover cinder blocks, which will make a nice landing for the basement doors at the side of the house.

Hose station
Basement landing
And since we’re at the side of the house, I noticed that erosion of the ground around the foundation piers for our back deck threatened to undermine them. That would be bad. The solution? Of course – a retaining wall. Back to the lumber yard for pressure treated 2x6s, use a few more old fence posts, and add 4 bags of high-strength concrete for the posts and a deadman support, 8 bags of gravel for drainage behind the wall. At this point, I’m racing the landscape contractor, who had started with the clearing and brought in 60 yards of topsoil.
Retaining wall before/after

Path to the bench
And while they were clearing and ripping out some remaining big roots from the 70’ poplar, an unpleasant (but ultimately fortuitous) surprise – they tore up an old rain leader pipe that went from the downspout on the back corner of the house to… somewhere. That somewhere was now buried under new topsoil, as was its pair on the front corner of the house.  These needed to be replaced – they were both blocked up with dirt anyway, probably from before we bought the house. Back to Home Depot for pipe, and scheming a way to terminate them at the edge of the new lawn area. The contractor was nice enough to come make trenches for me, so I laid the pipe. 6 more bags of concrete and some ugly concrete forms later, I had some nice drain blocks at the edge of the yard also, just as the contractor was seeding.

Drain block
Laying drain piping

Top it off with 10 yards of hardwood mulch in the gardens, and we were “done”.  Outside of buying a few more hoses, sprinklers, and a sprinkler controller/timer so we weren’t scrambling around all day turning sprinklers on and off.

At this point, a bit of reflection is in order. Some conclusions:
  • I certainly could have planned most of this out in advance.  The only thing that was a real surprise was the drain piping.  The rest was quite foreseeable, or simply opportunistic.
  • This did not meet our schedule or budget goals, but we did have the time and the money to do it.  But I’m very happy that I have (or developed) the skills needed to do a lot of it myself; it would have broken the bank to have pros do it all.
  • I suppose I did have a scope change control process after all – it was just me, nodding my head. Not as robust as some, but it was a process.  And I did think about every decision. The sponsor ended up happy.
  • I’m glad I did all of it.  The grass is starting to grow now and the yard and gardens look fabulous.  And the folks at my local hardware store and Home Depot enjoyed the ride too.

Please share your stories and suggestions about home improvement scope creep – I know I’m not alone here!

Now we need some plants for the expanded gardens. Don’t even get me started.

Friday, June 8, 2012

New Adventures

Yes, it’s been a while since my last update, and for no particular reason except that I’ve been busy with lots of priorities and activities.  It is spring/summer, after all.

So, here’s an update from the last several months, and some coming attractions.

The Back

When we last left our intrepid blogger, he was about to have back surgery.  I can now report that after two surgeries (there was a small complication that was easily fixed but required another trip into my anatomy) my back is doing very well.  I should have done it years ago.  The nerve pain is gone, gone, gone – and while I’m not lifting 100-lb sacks of feed yet, the animals I’m feeding don’t require that much to eat.  I’m already swinging golf clubs (carefully, in the back yard), back to my exercise regimen, and for the most part living very normally and pain-free.  Big thanks to my superb surgeon, Dr. Ira Fedder, and all of the great folks at St. Joseph Medical Center for superb care and their kind tolerance of my slightly-crotchety behavior when confined to a hospital bed.

The Job

The wonderful pharmaceutical company that I worked for decided to divest their plant in Puerto Rico.  We made a good run at making the plant profitable; circumstances and the poor economy dictated otherwise and we decided to stop throwing good money after bad, as it were.  Unfortunately, with that divestiture I was out of a job.  As of this writing I am still looking for work.  I’m enjoying the time off (keep reading) and being very picky about my next adventure.  I’d like something with less travel (I was traveling 90-95% for the past 6 years or so) and a chance to make a difference with a growing company.  If you know of someone who needs a superb project/program/operations executive in the pharma/biotech business or any other business (my skills travel well), you can find my resume here.  In the meantime, it’s really nice eating dinner at home most nights!

The Adventures

I’m certainly not sitting idle.  Outside of the time put in looking for work and strengthening my network in Baltimore and beyond, I’ve been keeping extremely busy.  The list of repairs, upgrades, and general work around the house grew long in my traveling days and for the first time in a long while, the list is getting shorter, not longer.  I’m volunteering through a wonderful organization called the Center for Sustainable Social Impact, which offers consulting and other assistance to small nonprofit organizations.  Currently I’m writing a business plan for a small NPO in Baltimore and enjoying that immensely.  And I’m exploring lots of creative outlets that have been neglected with my time on airplanes and faraway places.
First: Dust off the guitars.  I played some guitar and bass guitar many years ago and decided to pick them up again. I was never very good – now I’m patently horrible. But armed with my old Fender bass, my even older Yamaha acoustic guitar, and a shiny new Paul Reed Smith electric guitar, I’m playing some nearly every day and looking forward to when once again I can play something that doesn’t make my wife (who is a real musician) cringe.  Stay tuned (pun intended). 

Next: Cook, a lot.  I love cooking, mostly because I love eating.  And my lovely bride loves when I can spend some time making good (and sometimes healthy) meals.  So I’m trying to increase my kitchen repertoire and mostly producing tasty results.  We’re trying very hard to eliminate processed foods from our diet.  When you have time to cook, that becomes much easier and your meals are a whole lot better.  Although my love of a good grilled cheese sandwich still keeps me on the elliptical trainer.  Which brings me next to…

Baking.  I love bread.  I have always wanted to bake my own bread.  Now I do.  Armed with a superb book and a little time, I’ve been busy stocking our freezer (and our friends, and my waistline!) with wonderful bread and entertaining my Instagram followers with photos of my delicious creations.  And then…
Woodcraft.  Following the rule of delightful unintended consequences, one of the photos I posted (above, far right) included the oven squirrel that lives on the back of our stove.  An oven squirrel is a neat little wooden device that I use to push and pull the oven rack, saving my fingers from burns.  My father-in-law made it for us years ago and a friend of mine, the lovely and supremely talented artist Danamarie Hosler, noticed it in the photo and asked about it.  Danamarie loves squirrels and, being an intrepid crafty sort myself, I told her I’d make her one. Then I told my niece I’d make her one. Then I told another friend I’d make her one.

What do you do when you’ve made three wooden squirrels?  You make more, and branch out into other things.  With a (horrible old) scroll saw, a Dremel tool, and a lot of hand sanding, I started making several different oven pulls.  I’ve now designed and made a rabbit, fish, turtle, and a nondescript practical-sexy one and with great encouragement and advice from Danamarie, I’ve opened my own Etsy shop named White Hall Woodcraft.  I don’t imagine they will be big sellers; I make these for fun and relaxation and the joy of creating something attractive and useful.  If you want to peek closer at my creations (or even buy one), you can find my Etsy shop here.  If I sell enough, I’ll buy a better scroll saw. As you know, one of the Man Rules is that every project deserves the purchase of a new tool.

I’ll try to blog more often, in between working, cooking, baking and making wooden squirrels. After all, the Mobbies are going to come around again and I want to do better this year than the top 50% of nominees.  In the meantime, I'm back to my busy life, and looking for the next adventure.


Friday, December 30, 2011

My Aching Back

We hosted a small dinner party last night with some wonderful friends. Company for us means cooking up too much good food, drinking nice wines (plural intended!) and getting the house all cleaned up beforehand.  It's one of my favorite things to do; I love friends, food and wine and the impetus to clean the house is a nice side benefit.

By the time our guests arrived, I was exhausted and in a lot of pain, despite 3x the normal dose of OTC painkillers and a lot of stretching.  I had a wonderful time but I was not at my cheery best.  To our guests and my lovely wife, I hope I wasn't too disappointing; I really was doing my best to smile through it all and you made my evening wonderful despite it all.

I've had back issues for about 12 years now. In a technical sense, I have a herniated disc at L4-L5 and a bulging disc at L5-S1.  Basically that means my lower back is really messed up.  I've managed this pretty well with exercise, physical therapy, pharmaceuticals, spinal injections, care in activity and a stiff upper lip for all of those years.  I buy automobiles based on how good the driver's seat is.  I have a lumbar support on every chair I inhabit on a regular basis and use an inflatable one on airplanes.  I lift with my legs.

(this is not actually my MRI, but you get the idea)

None of this works any more.  And back pain itself isn't the big issue. The herniated disc is sitting on a nerve that travels down my right leg. In the past, this has caused some intermittent pain, to the point of having to use a cane at times to get around. Now and for the past three months, pain is a constant and unwanted companion, ranging from merely bothersome to excruciating -- and trending more and more towards the latter. Picture a knife stuck into the back of your hip. And twisting. And continuing to your toes.

I have a few friends who have chronic pain issues from fibromyalgia, arthritis and the like.  I have a (small) appreciation for what they are going through and they've been a help and an inspiration.  I also know several people that have had spine or neck surgery and they've also been a source of great encouragement and advice.  And it's now time to fix me.

So in late January, I'm going under the knife. I have a superb surgeon who is doing what is now the most conservative option; a partial laminectomy (removal of some bone from my L4 and L5 vertebrae) and removal of the bulging part of the offending disc. There were other options, but this is the one he recommended and the one I chose.  We discussed my MRI and played with a spine model for 30 minutes; it was great and I have full confidence that this is right for me.  He's also a PharmD and we spoke of that for a while too; I have the right guy.

This may not fix me permanently; the other disc is still a potential issue and the herniation could recur there or in the "repaired" disc. But it's a start -- and it's not fusion, which I am not willing to concede to just yet, and my surgeon tells me I do not need. Yet.

This should give me immediate relief after the recovery period and allow me to live again without constant pain and enjoy being a functioning human again; I'm not a fan of being opened up but I can't wait to do this.  I will stay one night in the hospital and then I'll be ambulatory but I won't be able to drive or fly for 2 weeks (this was originally quoted as a month but I appealed to the jury and he admitted that if I get help handling bags and such the 2 weeks was reasonable).  I may stretch it to 3 weeks.

To everyone who has offered me encouragement over the last several months, and sometimes helped me do the things I couldn't do on my own, I can't thank you enough.  This especially goes for my wonderful wife, who has put up for a long time with my inability at times to get things done around the house, my waking up shouting in the middle of the night, and the really foul moods that chronic pain can put me in.  For her especially, I'm hoping that this works.

To my friends: come visit me! If anything is going to kill me, it's going to be the stir-craziness of 2-3 weeks in the house.

Cheers, good fortune and especially good health to all of you for 2012.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

What Kind of Friend am I?

It is puzzling to me that many people still refer to a subset of my friends as my "Twitter Friends" because I originally connected (and still interact) with them on the social networking platform Twitter.

I've often said that the beauty of Twitter, and what separates it from Facebook and other platforms, is its simplicity and malleability.  With a limit of 140 characters per message, verbosity (and at times depth) is not easy.  But extensions, clever applications and the imagination and critical mass of the twitterverse makes it a very rich tool for communication - and for community.

This offers a flexibility that allows one to utilize Twitter in a very personal way.  Some people have created a large group of "virtual" friends; others connect with people around the globe that they'd be unlikely to meet otherwise or network with their professional peers.  Some just sit back in the virtual shadows and read the flow of posts. Some communicate with friends that they met outside of social media.  Many, including myself, do all of the above.

As a much-too-frequent business traveler, I originally used Twitter, and followed local Baltimore people, as a way of becoming and staying connected to my community.  What I discovered was a richness of social connection that made me a part of this city that I had never been since I moved here 14 years ago.  I don't just chat online.  Whenever I can, I get out and meet people.  I now count my "Twitter friends" as some of my dearest and closest, and my Twitter and non-Twitter social circles now intersect to a great degree.

So when does "Twitter friend" become just "friend"?  And why the distinction?  Do you have a "bar spouse"? Do you work for a "LinkedIn employer"?  Have a "web dog"?  Dating a "supermarket guy"? Hire a "Google electrician"?

What do my "Twitter friends" and I do?  We chat with each other.  We share and debate the news.  We have parties. We make each other laugh - and sometimes cry.  We share food and wine and all that is good in life.  We have disagreements and drama.  We celebrate our triumphs.  We welcome births.  We grieve deaths.

We embrace.

We embrace each other in the same way as any other friendship.  We are a powerful community of friendship and love and if you define us by how we discovered each other, you are missing the point entirely.  We may have met through a network of machines but our relationships are 100% human.  And these relationships are just as complex and wondrous as any other. More so if anything, since we have so many ways to communicate.

I'd like to wish Happy and Warm Holidays to my wonderful Twitter friends, my lovely Internet wife and of course my adorable web cats.

And if you follow me on Twitter, I'd like you to come out and meet me sometime, so we can be just Friends.  I am a good friend.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanks and Wishes

It’s the time of year when we engage in a lot of reflection.  We should do this all year but it’s nice to have a traditional season to sort out what we are blessed with, what we aspire to, and what we’re going to do about it.  Beginning with Thanksgiving here in the US and continuing through New Year’s Day, we are all taught to look back and then forward (and are subjected to an avalanche of commercial messages instructing us in how to do so and how much to spend) in order to achieve our primary goal in life: happiness.

So without further ado, and with minimal commercial content, here are a few things I’m thankful for and some of my wishes for the 2011 holidays.

What I’m Thankful For

  • I am gainfully employed.  In this economy, that’s something to be thankful for indeed.  I am very fortunate to have a good job doing something I love.
  • I am economically secure (related to the above).  Materially, my family wants for nothing (if you don’t count ridiculous desires).  We have a nice house, enjoy good food and wine, and can fix or replace stuff when it breaks.  I’m not “in the 1%” – far from it – but I truly couldn’t ask for more.  If I do so on occasion, indulge me; I’m American, after all.
  • There is enough left over that I can be generous with my family, my friends and the causes I believe in.  This, to me, is the essence of economic security.
  • I am in relative good health.  I’ve had a few challenges this year but I have absolutely nothing to complain about and a lot to be thankful for.
  • I have an amazing family, and they are all doing well in their lives and health.
  • I have equally amazing friends of all shapes, sizes and ages. I feel that after many years I’ve finally become part of the community that I live in, despite my ridiculous business travel schedule. This is in no small part because my friends make an effort to reach out to me and because we have the social communication tools to do so.  So yes, among other things, I’m thankful for Twitter.
  • Despite all of our problems and challenges I still believe that this is the greatest country in the world to live in.  I’m thankful I was born to it and can participate in our great national roller coaster.

My Holiday Wishes

I already have the iPad; I made my lovely wife give it to me early.  Anything material beyond that is superfluous.  So a few non-material things that I’d love to see for the holidays:

  • I want the people in my life who are in poor health to get better.  Now would be good.  Above all, this is my most fervent wish.
  • I want my family and friends to smile a lot.  And to reach out for help when they feel they can’t.  And I want the power to correct that.
  • I want our elected officials to collectively grow a pair and start acting in the interest and service of the country instead of in the service of ideology, maximum campaign contributions and the next election. Sometimes I ask too much but this is about my wishes, right?
  • I want the Patriots and the Ravens to win out their regular season schedules, and meet in the AFC Championship.  Then I want the Pats to win BIG on their way to a Super Bowl victory.  This may be partly inconsistent with my second wish -- sorry Baltimore.
  • I want to never forget for a moment what I have (see “What I’m Thankful For” above).

If you want to do something for me this holiday season (and I know you do!), there is something on my list that you can help with.  Please give whatever you can to the American Cancer Society, or any other organization that helps fight cancer.  This disease is affecting many of the people I love and care for and we need to keep making progress towards a cure.  I’d appreciate that a lot more than a sweater.

Happy, warm, peaceful and joyous holidays to everyone!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


The voters have spoken, and the 2011 Mobbies awards are now behind us.  For the uninitiated, Mobbies are the annual awards sponsored by the Baltimore Sun celebrating the great community of bloggers and social media stars in the Baltimore metro area. 

This blog was nominated for Best Personal Blog – whoever you were, thank you and I was flattered, but I had no hope or expectations of winning; there were so many more blogs that not only have broader appeal, but are authored by people much more dedicated to the little things, like posting with some frequency.  So I spent the voting period promoting other nominees.  A few of them, I’m happy to say, took home the gold from the party on November 15th.  My fondest hope was not to finish DFL in my category (DFL being a sailing term meaning “behind all others” – figure it out).

Congratulations to all of the winners, and indeed to all of the nominees.  But I’ll offer a few special congratulations here to a few of my favorites among the winners.  You got (some of) my votes and you are among the people that make Baltimore’s social media scene special and vibrant.  The City of Baltimore and our lives are richer for your efforts!
Best New Blog: Jessica Platt, for Get Jessed Up.  This blog chronicles Jess’ attempts (mostly quite successful) to invoke the fashion style of the stars for women with real bodies and real budgets.  Even for the fashion-challenged (I am president of that club), her blog is entertaining and fun.  Jess is a delightful person and - if you can believe this - is even more lovely in person than in her photos.  She’s promised a special Puerto Rico Edition of GJU when she comes to visit the island in December and I’m holding her to it.  Jess also placed 2nd in Best Lifestyle Blog. Follow Jess on Twitter at @JessCPlatt.

Best on Twitter (Personal): Sarah Wainio for @SarahRachael.  Another delightful (and beautiful) woman, Sarah is friendly, witty, and has a superb aesthetic sense.  Following her imaginative and fun Mobbies promotion was hysterical and more than worth the price of admission.  Follow her for a never ending stream of optimism and charm.  She also has a cool cat.  And she understands very intimately the meaning of Honor.  Visit her in other social media venues by sauntering over here.

Best Photo Blog: Joe Sterne.  A gifted photographer and true Baltimore wit, Joe has a great eye, a wonderful sense of humor (visual and otherwise), a great body of work and he loves his city.  His city loves him right back.  If you are in need of a photographer in the Baltimore area, hire this guy.  Follow him also at @MrJoeSterne.

Best Sports Blog: the team at I Hate JJ Redick.  The definitive Baltimore sports blog – irreverent, insightful and quirky, just like our city.  This blog is a deserving repeat winner from 2010.  I won a free NFL jersey a while back from them and when I was asked to select my player, editor-in-chief Phil didn’t even flinch that I named Tom Brady (hey, I’m from Boston).  Follow them on Twitter at @IHateJJRedick.

Best on Twitter (Organization): @bad_decisions, the best friendly neighborhood dive in the city, and the best bartender (John) that I know.  Another repeat winner.
There were so many great people producing so much great media that to choose winners among the nominees seems almost unfair.  Voting was held over several days and you could vote every day for each category - many others got votes from me as well as the winners above.  Any omission above of any other winners does not imply that I didn’t love or vote for them too – congratulations to all of you!  Click here to see the complete list and check out some of the best that Baltimore has to offer.

And - for the record - this blog came in 23rd out of 46 in the Best Personal Blog category.  Top 50%! Among this company, I’m very happy with that!

-- Late Breaking! Molly White Marketing (@MollyWhite) was named Bloggers' Choice in the Tech Blog category - congrats Molly!!