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Twelve or so things I do not understand

There are some things that I do not understand:

I do not understand Gov. Larry Hogan spending 5 million bucks for another study of a third span of the Bay Bridge — except that I do: He probably wants his name on something, and having your name on the Route 404 Widening Project just isn't as exciting as stamping it on some amazing, multibillion-dollar bridge to be built in the year 2065 (the current expiration date for the present spans).

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"I won't be governor when the [new] bridge is complete," Hogan said, "but at least I'm the one who got it started." So we'll stick a note about this in a time capsule, and if the state ever builds a third span, future Marylanders can consider naming it the Hogan Bridge.

But I do not understand why such a progressive state — assuming it stays progressive — would want another bridge over the bay. If anything, we should be headed in the opposite direction. Faced with increasing population, we should be working robustly against further sprawl. We should be building a society of fewer cars, not more, and more people living closer to where they work. We should be filling up the massive vacancies in a Baltimore strengthened with public and private investment. We should be reviving main streets in small cities and towns from Western Maryland to the Eastern Shore. We should be planning for other modes of mass transportation: light rail, autonomous cars and buses — even, as architect Klaus Philipsen suggests, hovercraft between Port Covington and Rock Hall. As for Ocean City, what do you suppose sea-level rise will do to that place as a tourist destination by 2065?

Nor do I understand Hogan's decision to issue an executive order to start the school year after Labor Day and end it before June 15 without consulting the people who will have to meet this requirement: school superintendents, principals and teachers. But, then, maybe I do understand it.

The governor likes to present himself as an action hero. He saved Baltimore from the riots, remember? ("We came in, saved the city, and we never got a thank you.") And then, pow, he killed the Red Line. And, pow, he closed the Baltimore City jail. And, pow, he rolled back bridge tolls. And then, pow-pow, he killed that silly O'Malley-era requirement that new homes in suburbs and rural areas have expensive and effective septic systems. (Hey, state-of-the-art kitchens are pricey, you want state-of-the-art cesspools, too?)

Of course, life is complicated. Some problems are resolved in a snap, most are not. Action heroes do not like debate, they like ... action. And a lot of the public likes action, even if it's not smartly considered and leads to messy consequences.

One last thing about the school-year business: I do not understand why a state with a successful public education system would want to leave the impression that Ocean City tourism takes priority. Hogan's order suggests that public education is a public nuisance, a hindrance to business on the boardwalk.

I do not understand why Maryland keeps that old, weird (some say sexist) state motto: "Fatti maschii, parole femine." That's Italian for either "Manly deeds, womanly words," or "Strong deeds, gentle words," depending on how strictly you translate it.

But we have a new motto, the one the Hogan administration put on welcome signs to the state: "We're open for business." If that sounds too cheesy, we could dress it up in Latin, either "Patemus negotio," or "Aperi negotium." (I'm waiting for a Latin scholar to resolve this, after Labor Day.)

I do not understand why Hollywood made that new "Ben-Hur" movie, the summer's biggest flop. (Not even Morgan Freeman, in amazing dreadlocks, could save it.) The 1959 version with Charlton Heston was fine, and, given its place in the evolution of cinema, the 1925 silent version, starring Baltimore's Francis X. Bushman, was even better.

I do not understand how L.L. Bean continues to replace, at no charge, a certain dress shirt that keeps getting a stress tear in the same spot on the left sleeve. (Happened three times, and I'm expecting it to happen again any day now.)

I never understood Under Armour's marketing of apparel for hunters. After what will go down in the annals of American Awful as the Bowmar Bear-Spearing Incident — see The Sun's penetrating story about it this weekend — I understand it more, but still find it totally weird.

I do not understand people who sign letters "Best." Best what? "Best regards?" "I send you my best?" "I best stop writing before I say something nasty about not being invited to your birthday party, you ungrateful toad?" What?

I do not understand cilantro, the appeal of avocado, grated Parmesan on linguine with clam sauce, or why you would use marjoram when you could use oregano. I have never understood pineapple on pizza or ketchup on hot dogs. But hey, that's me.

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