Look, it was whitefish, already

The Baltimore Sun

Hold the chicken salad - and the international incident. Turns out Gov. Martin O'Malley did not serve Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert an unkosher meal.

O'Malley had Olmert over to the governor's mansion for lunch the other day, when the prime minister was in Annapolis for (using the current geopolitical shorthand for "comically abbreviated Middle East peace conference") Annapolis.

With reporters hungry for details, the governor's press office fed the beast: O'Malley served chicken salad sandwiches and a cheese plate.

Why is this meal different from all other meals served to the man who, after Jerry Seinfeld, is the world's most prominent Jew? Because it's not kosher to mix meat and dairy.

After an observant reader oy veyed about the meat-and-dairy no-no, I e-mailed the governor's press office about it. No reply. Then I wrote about it. Reply:

The menu actually was smoked whitefish salad, tuna salad, salmon, hummus, pita and cheese plate, I was told, and it's kosher to mix dairy with fish. There was no chicken salad.

Where'd the reported chicken salad come from? It was in multiple news accounts, and even made the headline of the Associated Press color piece picked up by the likes of the International Herald Tribune: "Mangled names, telling body language and chicken salad all a part of the summit scene."

Apparently smoked whitefish salad and tuna salad look an awful lot like chicken salad, at least to press aides too busy to get a bite themselves.

I also was assured that the governor, who traveled to Israel in 2005 and dined with the future prime minister on the trip, was mindful of Jewish dietary restrictions. O'Malley even put a guy named Israel in charge of the menu.

Israel "Izzy" Patoka knows from kosher.

"We had given a great deal of thought about what we would give the prime minister," said Patoka, executive director of the governor's Office of Community Initiatives. "We were very careful not to mix any meat and dairy. ... When the prime minister looked at the food in front of him, he said, 'Wonderful. It's just like being at home.'"

Mayor says to vote as often as you want

Remember when big-city mayors looked to Washington for money? Today, they turn to HGTV.

Sheila Dixon is urging residents to stuff the ballot box in a Home and Garden Television municipal makeover contest.

"You can help bring some much-needed support and attention to our wonderful city by voting for Baltimore!" the mayor exclaimed in a news release.

The network is offering makeovers to four cities in its "Change the World, Start at Home" contest. Baltimore is one of 10 finalists. If the city wins, HGTV won't doll up all of Charm City, but it will help pay for a revitalization project in Pen Lucy.

(Details about the project and how much HGTV would contribute were not immediately available.)

Dixon is encouraging residents to vote early and often at www.hgtv.com. HGTV allows anyone to vote once a day until the contest concludes Dec. 21.

So the network cares more about Web traffic than representative democracy. At least it's got some money for cities.

Clerks' Tree IV makes its debut

The city of Baltimore planted an 8-foot cherry tree the other day in a most inhospitable patch of dirt, a kind of arboreal Bermuda Triangle where three other trees have been planted and felled since 2000.

The first tree died of thirst. The second had a run-in with a car. The third succumbed to unknown causes, but the homeless people who used it as a urinal probably didn't help, The Sun's Rob Hiaasen reported in October.

The city is determined to have a tree in that spot, in Monument Square, between the city's two courthouses. The tree is meant to honor Baltimore's court clerks. And it's easier to plant a new one than to relocate the plaque trumpeting The Clerks' Tree.

So along came the fourth tree last week - just as one of the honored clerks was proving himself a thorn in Mayor Dixon's side.

Circuit Court Clerk Frank Conaway has a book and a citation he says are needed for Dixon's swearing-in Tuesday, but he doesn't intend to hand them over. (Conaway is miffed that Dixon wants to be sworn in by Governor O'Malley instead of him.)

The day after Conaway disclosed his efforts to gum up the inaugural works, I called to let him know the new Clerks' Tree had been planted. Peace offering? Not in Conaway's eyes.

"You sure it's not a hanging tree?"

A drumroll, please, for the new ParaLeap!

They've finally come up with a name for the desktop supercomputer being developed at the University of Maryland's Clark School of Engineering: ParaLeap.

Professor Uzi Vishkin has designed a computer that works 100 times faster than current desktops through something called parallel processing. What did he get for all his hard work? The chance to sift through nearly 6,000 entries submitted in a naming contest launched in June.

The winning entry came from Jaryd Malbin, a 21-year-old English major and religious studies minor at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa. (Don't let the squishy academic interests fool you. He's into computers, too. "Throughout high school, Malbin operated his own small computer freelance consulting company," the UM news release says.)

His prize: $500 and a lifetime of geeky bragging rights.

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