An interesting perspective on Harvey

This is going to be another one of those “unless you’ve just crawled out from under a rock” posts, because that’s about the only way you wouldn’t be submerged in coverage of Hurricane Harvey and its aftereffects on the Houston region in Texas. If you thought Noah was just a Biblical character and the story of the Ark simply a parable, imagine what 40 straight days and nights of rain could do…less than a week’s worth dumped over 50 inches on some hapless portions of Texas.

Anyway, there’s an estimate that Houston was bathed in nearly 20 trillion gallons of water, and if I recall my formula correctly a cubic foot holds roughly 7 1/2 gallons – thus, an area of 2.6 trillion square feet would have been submerged one foot deep. In turn, that works out to an area 1,632,993 feet on each side, which equals 309 miles – 95,653 square miles, to be exact. Imagine not just Maryland and Delaware under a foot of water, but all of Pennsylvania and the majority of Virginia as well. Put another way, under that same deluge all of Maryland would be drowned beneath about 10 feet of water.

What make this relevant is an article written by Jon Cassidy in the American Spectator that I came across. When people talk about planning it piques my interest for obvious reasons: architecture is my chosen profession, but I know just enough about land planning and civil engineering to be dangerous – one area I learned a little bit about in the position I have now (albeit when I had my first bite of the apple a decade ago) was the technique required for doing stormwater management and other civil work. Coming here from Ohio I found out stormwater management is a BIG f’ing deal in Maryland, much more so than in my home state.

This is important because the blame for the extreme flooding in and around Houston is being placed on the rampant growth and large amounts of impermeable surface in that area. But, as Cassidy writes, development is many orders of magnitude shy of being the primary cause:

The idea that pavement is to blame for Houston’s flooding is, to put it simply, idiotic, even comical. The daily journalists on their deadlines haven’t had time to realize how out of their depth they are, but the (Texas) Tribune has no excuse for its shoddy reporting. The committees that awarded those prizes should be ashamed of their inability to spot the obvious hole in the narrative, which has been there all along.

The turf surrounding Houston is not, in the words of the county official the Tribune singled out for abuse, a “magic sponge.” Yes, it absorbs some water. Yes, of course, impermeable surfaces produce runoff. But no, absolutely not, no way, no how, could the clay and sandy soil around Houston have absorbed this deluge. The poor absorptive capacity of our soil is a matter of record, but that didn’t really matter. Even if our turf had the absorptive capacity of the Shamwow, Hurricane Harvey would have overwhelmed it.

study by the Harris County Flood Control District, which focused on the same Cypress Creek region that interested the Tribune, found that a residential development with 50 percent impervious cover would indeed absorb less water, creating more runoff. To be precise, the development would absorb exactly 1.79 inches less rainfall than an undeveloped property. But we got hit with up to 51.88 inches of rain during Hurricane Harvey. That’s more than rainy Seattle got all last year.

So even if the Tribune had had its anti-development agenda fully realized, it would have made no difference. The soil would have absorbed the first couple inches of rainfall, and the next 50 inches still would have had to go somewhere. Back in 1935, when the area was almost entirely covered by natural wetlands, it still got flooded.

Cassidy has an unlikely ally in Charles Marohn, the creator of a website called Strong Towns. (It’s often cited by the mayor of Salisbury, who seems to be an advocate of so-called “smart growth.”)

Harvey is not normal times. We can’t look at this event the way we look at other flooding events. The devastation in Houston from Hurricane Harvey is not the result of the accumulation of many bad decisions. It was simply a huge storm.

The Texas A&M research I highlighted above suggests reckless wetland filling robbed Houston of 4 billion gallons of stormwater storage capacity. For context, the Washington Post is reporting now that Harvey dumped 19 trillion gallons on Texas—a large portion of that hitting the Houston area. That means that, had those wetlands never been filled, they could have accommodated at most .02-.1% of the water that fell in Harvey.

Exactly. Soil has a carrying capacity of drainage, and some soils drain better than others. If you’ve spent any amount of time in Florida, you’ll know it rains nearly every day but the soil drains quickly because it’s quite sandy. Places with a lot of clay, though, aren’t as fortunate. To manage stormwater, the common technique involves collecting the overflow from impermeable areas and placing it in retention ponds where it can be released for drainage in a controlled fashion. It’s why you often see bodies of water along roads, highways, and inside developments – they’re not necessarily there for looks, but as catchbasins.

Of course, not every area has managed stormwater and in times of extreme weather they flood. During Superstorm Sandy in 2012, a large part of downtown Salisbury flooded, causing damage to several buildings. Other parts of town are often under water after a heavy rainfall of 4″ or more, with one significant headache being the closing of Business Route 13 at its intersection with Priscilla Street, adjacent to a large pond.

But even the best techniques would fail under a deluge like Harvey, and that’s the point. We design for 10- and 100-year flood events, but it’s prohibitively expensive and, frankly, unnecessary to worry about 500- or 1000-year events like Harvey may have been. Those cases are truly acts of God and the best we can do for those is pray for minimal loss of life. We can rebuild a building, but we can’t get the 30-odd victims of Harvey back.

Back to routine: Here at this residence, we’re getting set for one last school year. With the distractions of summer over, it will finally be time for me to get serious about writing once again. While it’s looking more like a wrap by the middle of 2018 rather than the spring, I’m still thinking I have a good start on The Rise and Fall of the TEA Party, and with recent developments there may be an entirely new hook to expound upon as I increase the word count.

So I haven’t forgotten. However, I also want to get a little bit into the 2018 campaign and perhaps get back to doing this blogging more often than a couple times a month. We will see.

But the year of my discontent seems to be closing – not that I miss being politically active, but going forward I’m not going to studiously avoid it, either. (I will miss the WCRC Crab Feast, though, but only because my grandson’s first birthday is being celebrated that day. Family first.) If nothing works its way onto my calendar for that Saturday I might make the Lincoln Day Dinner in October.

So that’s a brief update. All those impatient because I do other stuff besides politics may get their wish as baseball season winds down.

Upgrading for the long haul (hopefully)

August 19, 2017 · Posted in Bloggers and blogging, Personal stuff · Comments Off on Upgrading for the long haul (hopefully) 

This is going to be inside baseball to many of you, but as a regular reader of this here website it’s something you should know.

Back in July I received a notice from my server provider that they would be upgrading their servers:

In an effort to become compliant with the latest security bulletins, and to support our ongoing effort to provide the most reliable hosting experience possible, we will be upgrading MySQL and PHP on your server.

PHP will be upgraded from 5.6 to the latest version of 7.0. MySQL will be upgraded from 5.6.35 to the latest version of MariaDB 10.1. Roundcube databases will be migrated from MySQL to SQLite. If your site or applications implement PHP functions that are incompatible with PHP 7.0.x, there is a helpful information about the upgrade in our knowledge base.

That last sentence is key, because I have been running a legacy version of WordPress for some time. Supposedly it was updating core functions, but after this upgrade I came to my site only to realize to my horror it wasn’t there. Obviously WordPress 3.7 was one of those incompatible programs.

Fortunately, I found out there was a grace period where I could still run the old PHP (and made the fix that restored my site) but that would only be about 30 days. In other words, whether I liked it or not, I had to update my version. Now I know just enough about HTML and computer programming to be dangerous, so to me upgrading sounded like a daunting task.

It turned out to be not so bad after all. Basically I swapped out new files for old, and at the moment most of this seems to be functional. The only two things I had to do once I put this back end up were to bring my theme over (since it didn’t migrate) and move my uploaded photos. The last step was resetting the PHP to 7.0 and that’s now done, so I should be good to go!

And as a special added bonus, come Monday I will write up the official release of the 2017 monoblogue Accountability Project. With that out of the way – finally! – I can now get back to working on my long-delayed book. But don’t worry, I’ll be popping in here from time to time now that I know this site is upgraded.

A long-awaited return

July 8, 2017 · Posted in Bloggers and blogging, Personal stuff · 1 Comment 

Oh my gosh, have I been pining to write this.

You are probably wondering why it’s been so damn long since I wrote a post, so let me tell you: we moved. This was actually a planned thing, but I wasn’t planning on doing it quite so soon. And part of that move was having to re-establish internet service and that took until today – until now I had to use my phone’s mobile hotspot to get on the internet and I wasn’t going to chew up gobs of data just to write and research blog posts. (I did it for writing Patriot Post, though, such as yesterday’s piece that led off their “Weekend Snapshot.” That was plenty enough.)

Now I have service re-established, though, I can get back to writing stuff every once in awhile. In fact, one thing I owe you is a Shorebird of the Month for June as it was a casualty of my wait for internet. I’ll pick that up next Thursday at the appointed time.

But wait: there’s more. I got some news yesterday that I’m keeping under my hat for a few days, but in time this will be the opportunity to end my hiatus from serious writing. Let me assure you that prayers are answered.

I may have a post tomorrow for you as well because I started one before we moved, hoping to get it done (obviously not.) I’ll have to look it over and see if it’s still relevant but I think it will be. In the meantime, I’m pleased to be back online with good internet.

And boy do I have a lot to say!

The uprising

February 17, 2017 · Posted in All politics is local, Bloggers and blogging, Culture and Politics, Delmarva items, National politics, Personal stuff, Politics · Comments Off on The uprising 

Saturday could be an interesting day in Salisbury.

I’m sure you know I am writing a book on the TEA Party (more on that in a bit) so one restore point I like to return to in my political memory was the first Tax Day TEA Party we had out in front of the Government Office Building. On a rainy Wednesday afternoon there were probably 400 to 500 people in attendance. Three months later we celebrated Independence Day with a gathering of perhaps 200 to 300. (Sadly, I wrote great pieces on both events but the demise of my photo repository means the photos are dead links. Someday I will rectify that – but I have to find the photos on my old external hard drive, which I also have to find! *sigh*)

Anyway, Saturday could be the flip side of the TEA Party since there’s a completely different protest planned, called the “No Ban No Wall No Registry” Salisbury rally. And unlike the TEA Party of yore, this one will have a counter-protest called the “Resist the Resistance” rally. I’m guessing that the opposition to Trump will have the larger numbers, if only because they’ve secured a little bit of publicity for their event and it’s something that indeed unites certain segments of the community.

Yet I have to question their sincerity, since they haven’t batted an eyelash when the last six presidents have put up a similar ban of some type against particular countries, not to mention the recent change in policy toward Cuban refugees. (However, I may give them the benefit of the doubt if they chastise Trump’s predecessor for that change.) I also have to question their reasoning as to why we should not secure our borders, which is our right as a sovereign nation. Once upon a time we were more secure in the fact that two oceans and inhospitable terrain shielded us from the world, but no more. By the same token, is it not our right to know who is visiting the nation and for what purpose? If only they were against a registry for firearm owners, we may be on to something.

While I agree that Donald Trump is a lowering of the standard one should expect from the President, so was Hillary Clinton. (Thus, I voted for the Constitution Party nominee.) I can’t promise anything because I also have a family commitment that day, but if I have the chance I may wander down there to see what’s going on and maybe play reporter once again. Lord knows I haven’t been much of a blogger lately because I’ve spent a lot of time working on The Rise and Fall of the TEA Party.

So it’s on that front I’m going to make my final point of the night. I had envisioned the book being done by this fall, but recently I have had a different opportunity placed before me that I think is worth pursuing for some other personal and professional goals I have. At this time, it will take a significant portion of my already limited free time so in order to give this a fair shake I think a more realistic timetable for the book is now the first half of 2018. I’m going to put it on pause for a few months, with the hope that this opportunity may morph into something else that would give me the time back.

One other benefit: it can give me a chance to see how this resistance movement pans out and how it compares to the grassroots TEA Party. So there is that, and Saturday will be the first chapter of that story.

A resurgence of red ink?

One of my favorite commentary websites is The Resurgent, Erick Erickson’s site that just turned a year old, tried a different business model for a time, and gave me (or at least a photo I took) a brief brush with fame. (He also co-authored a whale of a book.) But it seems being #NeverTrump during the campaign came with a cost there, too:

While I don’t regret my choices, I have to admit it hurt professionally and has brought The Resurgent to the brink of going out of business. Any sponsors who did not bolt last year were, at best, forced to scale back. Many of them came under withering attacks and calls for boycott, as did my radio advertisers. It was more effective than I would like to admit, though we kept the lights on thanks to the generosity of others. That may be coming to an end now.

Someone needs to plant their flag for defending conservatism, even against the GOP, whether it be Trump’s GOP or someone else’s. That’s what I intend to do — to call it as I see it. But that only gets me so far without the help of others here and, frankly, our bank account is crossing into critical territory.

Before I started The Resurgent, I asked for help and readers generously gave us over $65,000.00. But this past year, between all the health and personal stuff going on and the professional toll of the campaign, I did not want to push the issue as much as I should have. By the time I got around to really asking, it was just after Thanksgiving. The result is that readers only contributed $19,000.00.

With our advertising revenue, that helped us get through the year, but we ate into our reserves.

The reality is that if we cannot boost ad revenue and, hopefully, count on you guys, we will have to wind things down. I know this will generate laughter from both the alt-right and the left. A conservative site shuttered because of a refusal to kiss a ring does such things.

I would imagine there is a percentage of those who read here who think Erick deserves it for going against the Republican nominee. Obviously then they think I deserve the readership loss I had, perhaps for doing the same thing. (It was quite severe, too: I haven’t had numbers like those since the early days – but then again I also slowed the pace of my writing a lot, which honestly may explain much more of the decline. I would rather write fewer, better things though than slap something together I’m not that pleased with and if it’s not daily, so be it.)

Yet I’m not going to kiss a ring, either. So far I have a “wait and see” approach to the incoming administration as some of those Donald Trump has selected to head his Cabinet departments sound like good choices and some do not. And the GOP Congress also has a role to play regarding the legislation Trump will have to sign or veto. Yet the fact that those on the left are having conniption fits over the prospect of a Trump administration at least gives me a laugh. For example, I get Senator Van Hollen’s Facebook feed and occasionally leave a comment. But those comment threads are popcorn-worthy. Teachers seem genuinely worried that Betsy DeVos (who Erickson called “a staggeringly good choice“) will become Secretary of Education, and I say: why not? It would be great to have her be the last Secretary of Education before the department is dismantled, although that would only last as long as the Democrats are out of power.

Once the newness wears smooth, though, we will see just what a minority of Republicans (and voters overall, although he obviously won enough states) have wrought on us. Unfortunately, for conservatives it’s sort of a Faustian bargain because if he succeeds people will say it’s because of Donald Trump’s populism, but if he fails Trump will suddenly become more conservative than Reagan ever was, just to put an albatross around the neck of the Right. Obviously the equation of Republican with conservative will play a role in this.

But to circle back to the original point, I’m hoping people come through with enough support to keep Erick’s site going. Certainly he’s not in a situation like some other destitute “bleggers” have been over the years, but he has a family too. We need bloggers like Erick to keep The Donald honest, even if his biggest fans don’t want to listen.

Programming notes, a book update, and bleg

December 26, 2016 · Posted in Bloggers and blogging, Culture and Politics, Personal stuff · Comments Off on Programming notes, a book update, and bleg 

To allocate a word from the hapless “Married With Children” character Al Bundy regarding the mouse in his house, this week is the deadest. It’s a week news outlets fill with year in review items and for me it will be no different as I sandwich my single-part look at things to watch in 2017 between my monoblogue year in review Thursday and the top 5 list of the albums I reviewed on Saturday. Now I won’t go as far as the blog expert who suggested that bloggers need not come back until mid-January, but unless the creek rises there’s no real need to write a deep thought piece here this week.

So I’m saving the deep thought for my book, which is now past the 10,000 word barrier in its initial draft. Overall, I would like to cover the subject in about 80 to 100 thousand words, which is at least half again as long as So We May Breathe Free was (and remember, this is all original.) I also have a couple more books on my list to acquire and read.

One thing I have done is put together a rudimentary, somewhat under construction social media page for the book. As I get farther along I will be adding more features to it, and perhaps create another outlet. After doing a book all by myself, this time I have some idea of what to avoid for round two.

And finally, I learned this morning The Patriot Post has someone willing to match donations as their year-end campaign reaches its final week. I added to my total for the year to keep them going, so if you enjoy reading it as much as I like writing there, perhaps you should consider a donation too. It’s a valuable outlet for news and informative perspective from a pro-liberty, pro-faith traditional point of view.

I told you Saturday I’d be back Monday, and so I have been. I just didn’t promise the longest of pieces.

monoblogue turns eleven

To borrow a phrase from Spinal Tap’s Nigel Tufnel, I have to give this post that extra push. Whether that push is over the cliff or not remains to be seen, but this website is going to 11.

Once again I’m writing this “state of the blog” address on its anniversary. Since this is year 11, I don’t have to be as fancy as I was last year with “10 from 10” – just one post will do. That’s a good thing because, to be quite frank, this past year was a brutal one for this site that I would rank as the worst, for a host of reasons. Maybe it’s the realization that it may never quite be all I wanted it to become since I just don’t have the resources or talents to make it so. And almost everything I’ve tried to do recently has failed to make an impact.

So I came to the decision back in July that this could not be an everyday endeavor going forward. The reward just hadn’t been there for the effort I had been putting in, either in readership or political change.

I have had the same program count my readership for nearly a decade, so I have a pretty good idea of what the numbers will look like in any given year: even-numbered years generally outperform odd-numbered ones because this is, after all, a political-based site so interest will peak coming into an election and wane for awhile afterward. (Since only 32,000 people live in Salisbury and only a tiny percentage of them bother to vote, municipal elections really don’t help the readership cause out much. Moreover, I don’t even get that modest benefit next year because the city adopted a system similar to the state of Maryland: all of last year’s winners are set until 2019, so there’s no city election in 2017.) With Maryland’s four-year election cycle, this makes 2012 the most comparable year to 2016 – and unless I hit a readership number in the next month I haven’t had in many moons I won’t even reach half that 2012 level. Simply put, since the 2014 election my numbers have been terrible in comparison to my peak years of 2012-14. For 2016 they may not even make it back to my previous all-time low year of 2009, which was be the similar point in the cycle as 2017 will be. I never really got the October peak my site usually gets in an election year, but what’s done is done I suppose.

Another conclusion that I reached last year was that I couldn’t do justice to my Shorebird of the Week series, so it’s gone by the wayside. And given the paucity of other long-running features such as Weekend of local rock (just four volumes in the last year) and odds and ends (only six this year, and one since March), this site is undergoing a transition to a completely different look and feel that reflects my own changing priorities. (That’s not all my doing, though: I will miss having Marita’s columns each week, too. Hopefully Cathy Keim hasn’t forgotten me, either.)

One of those priorities used to be that of being a reporter, but because of the aspect of political change I haven’t recently done a number of on-the-spot posts I had previously done – and they’re not coming back. Because I decided I couldn’t support a particular candidate, there was no longer a monthly Republican Club post, reports related to events I would attend on their behalf such as the Good Beer Festival, Autumn Wine Festival, or Lincoln Day Dinner, or the other “insider” stuff I used to receive. (As an example, the Maryland Republican Party will elect a new leadership slate on Saturday – and I haven’t seen or heard a thing about it, as opposed to the contested elections we had in the spring when I was still on the Central Committee.)

Perhaps that’s why I didn’t get the October bump, but then again if you were reading this site just for that sort of reporting you were somewhat missing the point. And if you’re on a jihad against me because I wasn’t a good Republican who fell in line to support Trump (as many of my cohorts did, for the sake of party unity) you probably don’t understand the philosophy I live by. If the choice is between my conscience and increased readership, I will choose the former and live without the latter, every time. We all have choices to make in life and I made mine.

So now that I’ve gone through all the doom and gloom as well as the murmurings and disputings, allow me to look forward. And yes, despite the lower readership numbers, there will be a forward. The site is paid up for the next year so I may as well use it every so often.

Where I see this enterprise going is that it becomes more of a teaching tool, and part of that is because of another project I am doing simultaneously with this website.

We have three elements at work here: first, we have the results of socialism and government overreach that arguably were rejected with the latest election returns. (At least they were rejected in enough states to put Donald Trump in the Oval Office.) Secondly, we have the premise that President-elect Trump will govern from the center to center-left rather than the Right, at least on balance. Most of his “alt-right” supporters are surely disheartened with his transition as he’s backed away from several campaign planks and placed those who didn’t necessarily support him in positions of authority, but I never expected Donald Trump to be a doctrinaire conservative in the first place. This premise leaves the distinct possibility that some faction of the GOP will not back Trump on his proposals like paid maternity leave or increasing the minimum wage, among others. For those issues Democrats will cross the aisle to support him, probably in return for additional liberal folly.

Thirdly, and most importantly, there is an argument to be considered: was Trump a product of a conservative wave that gave Republicans resounding victories in the 2010 and 2014 midterm elections, or was Trump’s election a populist revolt rather than a conservative one, meaning conservatism as governing philosophy is back to the place where it was before Ronald Reagan? Corollary to that, one has to ask whether the TEA Party movement was extinguished by Donald Trump or is he their logical extension?

Truth be told, I was thrilled by the TEA Party because I thought the populace was finally coming around to where I was in terms of political philosophy, and I embraced it. So the question above is fascinating enough to me that I am underway with a book that will answer these arguments and questions for me and (prayerfully) many thousands of other readers. It’s something I am truly enjoying researching and writing, so I will ask your pardon if this website isn’t updated on a daily basis. Answering these queries is going to take some of my time, although I now enjoy the advantage of having a little more of it being away from the active political world.

So the book will address the third part of my above troika, but the philosophy of this site will ponder the first two elements, as well as those issues I care about within the states of Maryland and – to a more limited extent – Delaware. I’ll still be doing the monoblogue Accountability Project, for example. It may not be the type of content you’ve come to expect over the first eleven years, but I’m still striving to make that content I write of the highest possible quality.

For your consideration, that is the push I’m going to give you when I take this site to, and beyond, 11.

The writing game

November 19, 2016 · Posted in Bloggers and blogging, Business and industry, Marita Noon, Personal stuff · Comments Off on The writing game 

I wonder if people thought Marita Noon’s final column was actually about me since I hadn’t posted in several days. (However, I did a little work on the site and updated the SotW Tracker page.) But you may recall I made some comments at the end of her post regarding what she had chosen to do in her career beyond writing in and about the energy field.

Something you may have missed earlier this week ties into the plight of the energy worker, and it’s a shame Marita won’t be commenting on it here on my site. On Tuesday the United States Geological Survey (USGS) came out with the news that a west Texas oil field could be “the largest estimated continuous oil accumulation that USGS has assessed in the United States to date.” They estimated 20 billion barrels of oil could be recovered, which would supply our needs for three years just by itself. (Ironically, this field probably lies deep under Marita’s house.) It’s great news, but with a catch: the price of oil needs to rebound to $60 to $65 a barrel to make this bonanza worth recovering economically. According to an oil industry expert quoted by CNN:

Morris Burns, a former president of the Permian Basin Petroleum Association, told KWES the low price of oil – currently around $46 a barrel – means the oil will sit underground for the foreseeable future.

“We are picking up a few rigs every now and then but we won’t see it really take off until we (get) that price in the $60 to $65 range,” Burns told the station.

Many years ago I remember the price of gas getting under a dollar a gallon; this was probably back in the late 1980s/early 1990s. At the time oil had plunged to about $10 to $15 a barrel. For consumers it was great news but for oil companies and workers it was a desperate time. A few weeks before her “retirement” from energy writing and commentary, Marita had wrote what seemed like a counter-intuitive piece concerning the slowly increasing price of oil. But if you look at it from the perspective of an energy worker, the best of all worlds is a price where demand stays constant but profitable. Oil scraping $30 a barrel may have dropped our pump prices close to $1.50 a gallon but it was killing the domestic energy industry (which several OPEC members wanted it to do, as the U.S. is now their major competition.)

By the same token, Marita began her career in the energy field at a time when oil prices were sky-high and we truly needed to work out ways to make ourselves energy independent at a lower cost. (One such idea I played up in the summer of 2008 because it was done with such humor was the “NozzleRage” campaign. Unfortunately, their answer was a government mandate for flexfuel cars and additional requirements for ethanol.) But these prices also came with the benefit of sustaining the industry in such a manner that the fracking revolution created a boom in the energy industry and made previously dormant regions like the Dakotas and west Texas economically attractive again. (North Dakota, in particular, was depopulating prior to the Bakken oil boom because there was little there to attract young jobseekers who were abandoning the state in droves – by 2005 it had the largest percentage of residents age 85 and older.)

And Marita was sharing in that boom – as she noted, her “field of dreams fundraising model” was getting her enough $500 annual donations to provide a reasonable living. But as the industry suffered, her own revenue sources withered and it eventually led her to dismiss her PR person and in the end chased her away. (Had Hillary Clinton won, the result of her withdrawal from the punditry game would likely have the same but surely Marita would have considered herself a failure.)

In a roundabout way, this brings me to a point I began to make the other night: writing for a living is a difficult game at which to succeed. I found this out several years ago when I was out of work and tried to make a go of it – there are too many people out there chasing too few dollars, particularly in general interest writing. When I reviewed political websites during the campaign I openly questioned whether the people some hired to write their copy even lived in the country, which I can do because I have had to compete with people who can live on a few dollars a day. A penny per word nowadays is a huge amount to make for an article, but even if you wrote 5,000 words a day that doesn’t fly in America. Yet on competitive writing job sites you’ll often find people who are willing to take half that – or less – just to write copy. (And that doesn’t count the old adage used to trap aspiring writers who get convinced to write for nothing because “it’ll give you the exposure you need.” Yeah, right. Expect to double your salary every week from that point.)

So when a polished and experienced writer like Marita, who wrote several motivational and Christian books under her maiden name Marita Littauer and the energy columns under her initial married name Marita Noon (she has since remarried, but maintained the name for professional reasons) can’t make a go of it, one has to wonder what’s in it for others in that same predicament?

Now I have never done a “field of dreams” fundraising approach, although I have been known to “bleg” every once in awhile. And it brings a smile to my face when I see someone actually clicked the donate button up top and chipped into my PayPal account. But as I have told you when I left the political party game (and slowed down on my own writing pace to some degree) part of the reason I stepped back was to write a second book – hopefully learning from the mistakes I made with the first one. That will continue nonetheless because I believe I will be making important points and contributing to dialogue going forward. The same also goes for this website – I really meant to write this column Wednesday but was sidetracked for several reasons. So you get it late Saturday night instead.

Sometimes I wonder, though, if my priorities are quite where they should be. Truly I enjoy writing, but I also have to make sure to be a good Christian, husband, stepdad, and employee. So I may never get back to (or even arrive at) the place where some said I had to be to maintain a successful blog, meaning lots of content updated frequently. After all, I often get the opportunity to sell article space on my site for dubious reasons, probably someone else’s marketing scam. I’m not going to damage my brand like that.

But the reason I went into this spiel is to make it plain I can understand why people get so frustrated with the writing game. We seem to be the last thing people need, but I happen to think we are the most indispensable people out there when it comes to making sense of the world. For that reason, Marita’s insight (as well as that of several others I have known through the years) will be missed.

Trying to help?

November 14, 2016 · Posted in Bloggers and blogging · Comments Off on Trying to help? 

It’s amazing how many people want a piece of this website. For instance, over the last two months I have received three e-mails following up on this appeal:

Hi Michael,

I am currently working with a news outlet, I noticed your site has published a very interesting article, which is why I think a collaboration between us could work well.

We would like to feature a bespoke piece of content on your site, which we think would be of great interest to you and your audience. For the privilege of being featured on your site, we would be happy to offer you a fee of $50.

We hope to hear back from you soon.

I write a lot and think I have a pretty broad vocabulary, but I had to look up what “bespoke” meant:

made to fit a particular person; also : producing clothes that are made to fit a particular person

Yet despite the fact the writer made me look something up in the dictionary, what he conveniently forgot was to add for whom he’s currently working! Nor does he cite which of my many interesting articles he was referring to. Obviously this makes me quite suspicious because I have built up a brand (such that monoblogue is a brand) and he wants me to put it at risk for $50? Very, very shady – yet I wonder how many people take him up on it? After all I just did have a server fee to pay.

Needless to say, the answer is no. I like my bespoke pieces of content to be written by this bespeaking person or the other two who I allow to contribute.

And then on my other e-mail address was this:

I am contacting you with an advertising proposal: we are seeking to publish one permanent article with one DO-follow link on your website Monoblogue (monoblogue.us).

The link inside the article will point to a real-money online gambling website.

The article in question will be original, unique, and good quality. It will be provided by us, and it will be relevant to the topic of your website, or have the topic you choose. (It won’t necessarily be an article about online gambling).

Please, if you are open to such deals, reply with a price for such an article under the above conditions.

Besides, please let us know if you own or maintain any other websites that we could include in our deal. Maybe we can even work out a bulk deal for multiple articles.

Thank you in advance.

So this person wants me to promote online gambling? I don’t care if it has a “dofollow” link or not (SEO is not something I worry about with this site anyway – I write in my own style) nor is that sort of advertising worth any price to me. The fact I sleep soundly at night, confident in what I place on my website, is just another enhancement of the brand I have built.

And these solicitations often make me wonder who the article writer is on the other end. Chances are it’s someone from a third world nation/non-native English speaker who is getting a dime for an article he or she dashed out in 15 minutes for a content mill. And because writing is so easy to come by, they are killing the industry for good writers. (Trust me, there is a difference. I may not be a great writer, but I still have clients who pay me rather well for what I do if you figure it on an hourly basis.)

I think I will return to this subject in a day or two (for reasons you may understand by then) but suffice to say the answer to both is no. To paraphrase Patrick Henry, I guard this website with jealous attention and suspect anyone coming near this precious jewel.

The road I’m taking

Now that I have made my way onto the exit ramp, perhaps this is a good time to alert you about where I may wish to go.

I was told that leaving the Central Committee would be quite liberating, and I can see that being the case. Then again, I probably wasn’t your typical member anyway – early on, one of my cohorts was very concerned about my website and, honestly, he had some good points. Over the years I learned just how far I could take certain things and when it was right to keep things under my hat. I mentioned in my announcement post that I wouldn’t be covering certain meetings or the state convention anymore, and I have to admit there were a lot of readers for the state convention posts. But I suspect the next one will be more of a wake anyway, and I’ve already done my share of those.

It’s worth noting that my website predates my tenure on the WCRCC by about a year, since I was formally sworn in back in December 2006 at one of those wake conventions I noted – it was immediately after Bob Ehrlich lost and we found out the MDGOP was thousands and thousands of dollars in the hole. Among the things I wanted to do early on with my site was to speak about issues, which led to this comment about my site in 2006. (The original is lost, but the quote was placed here.) The author of the quote is Stephanie Dray, who was once a Maryland-based blogger (and part of the erstwhile Maryland Bloggers Alliance) but graduated to be a successful writer of historical fiction:

“This blog about Maryland politics is located in Salisbury, and that’s a good thing. In any discussion of Maryland politics, the Eastern Shore tends to be neglected. Monoblogue attempts to pick up the slack. Unusual for conservative commentary, the tone of this blog tends to be wonky. There’s a slew of useful links on the right-hand side, and it’s filled with content. A handy resource for those looking to learn more about Maryland politics.”

I know I have maintained a fair share of issue-oriented writing, mainly regarding manufacturing, the energy industry (which is how I became acquainted with Marita Noon), and other business-related items, but I think it’s time to focus more on that wonky tone in preparation for a post-Trump conservatism that will be infused with a heavy dose of libertarianism. One question I may need to ponder upon in these writings is the conflict and tension between the ideas of libertarianism and the authority placed on us by faith and religion. It’s argued that we cannot legislate morality, so how and what distance from the straight and narrow shall we place the guardrails?

So instead of doing so much reporting and interpretation of events – particularly on the horserace aspect of elections, which I know I concentrated a lot on in the 2014 gubernatorial campaign – I’m looking to shift focus and begin exploring the benefits of limited government. In addition, there are certain cultural influences I think need to be broadcast and expounded upon. (That’s one reason I miss having Cathy Keim’s commentary on my site, but I’m sure her hiatus is just temporary.)

That is the first lane of my road. In the other lane is a project I’ve started on, but progress has been somewhat slow. Once I clear some commitments out of the way, though, I’m hoping to have more time to write my second book. Instead of being based on a series of blog posts I did like So We May Breathe Free was, this will be all original writing.

As one who was a member of the TEA Party movement, I have experienced this political phenomenon firsthand. There are many who have written the obituary of the movement, but I think there’s a need to look at the entirety of the TEA Party era, explore its impact, and, if its death has already occurred, do the autopsy. It’s the basic premise of the book I’ve started to write, although as I do research I’ll be interested to see how my theories bear out. Perhaps it was really all a mirage.

Just as a Christian is called to be in this world, but not of this world, perhaps stepping away from active participation in the political process may be the best way to have a perspective on it. While I was bad at it anyway, now there’s no call to be an apologist for the actions and views of our candidates Donald Trump, Kathy Szeliga, and Andy Harris. Truth be told, I’m sure that even Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton aren’t completely bad people, but neither of them is a person of their word and we always need honest leadership.

When I was a child, we always looked up to those who would run for President. Richard Nixon resigned when he failed to uphold the honor of his office, but otherwise it was a situation where, while you may not agree with the people who ran for President on a political basis, you still found them trustworthy. Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, George H.W. Bush: all fine men who differed in their political views but were men of character.

But when Bill Clinton ran for and won office, all that changed. The Democrats of the last 24 years (Bill Clinton, Al Gore, John Kerry, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton) seem to be flawed individuals. Bob Dole, George W. Bush, John McCain, and Mitt Romney were not perfect, either, but I thought them honorable and decent in character.

Unfortunately, 2016 is the election of the flawed individual. I’m actually saddened that my involvement in the political process has coincided with the coarsening of political culture, and I feel that maybe the better step is to proceed as a recovering (albeit very low-level) politician. It’s been said that those who don’t understand history are doomed to repeat it, so my job now is to attempt to change history’s course in some small way by enlightening people about the advantages of liberty and, perhaps, the benefits of spiritual liberation.

That’s my road. I’ll surely be moving at a slower pace than I used to, but feel free to follow along nonetheless.

It may be time for some changes.

July 10, 2016 · Posted in Bloggers and blogging, Personal stuff · 1 Comment 

This is a hard post to write, but I think it’s necessary to be forthright to my readers and followers. So here goes.

I just looked up some numbers and since 2007, with the exception of a few months in 2009 when my world was turned upside down and inside out in a number of ways, I have posted on this site practically every day. In fact, there were a number of months around election time when I was manic and averaged almost two a day. Somewhere along the line I made the commitment to myself to post every day because I was told, in order for a blog to succeed, it needs fresh content on a regular basis.

The original intention in adding Cathy Keim and Marita Noon to the mix was to supplement the content and hopefully bring the average back to about 10 posts a week. Now I know why Cathy has been missing from these pages and I have no issue with this – she is definitely still valued and when the opportunity presents itself again on her end I look forward to a lot more content from her. By that same token, I enjoy being among the first to read and share Marita’s valuable opinion. It’s not going anywhere, either, and I will try and keep it on its normal Tuesday slot.

But there comes a time when you decide the effort isn’t being rewarded enough. It simply could be I’m not taking the time to promote and market my site properly, or it could have a lot to do with my overall disillusionment with all things political.

However, the solution could be as simple as realizing I’m overdoing it.

I don’t think my posts show the time of day they were put up, but quite often I have written something quickly over the last two hours of the day, between 10 p.m. and midnight. And the reason for this practice was that I didn’t want to miss days. I have had the attitude for the longest time that I owe it to my readers to have that calendar on my site filled each day, and whether the content is really that good or not started not to matter so long as the date was checked off.

But at long last I’ve come to the conclusion that this attitude isn’t fair to my readers and supporters. So with a simple relocation of a widget I don’t have a calendar on my site anymore, and I won’t be a slave to it. In fact it would have had a blank space for yesterday because I decided on the fly as I wrote this last night this was a better post for Sunday.

I guess this whole thought process started when I decided this would be the last year for Shorebird of the Week because I couldn’t do it as well as I thought it deserved to be by only going to about 15 to 20 games a season. (Looking at my folder that I put my photos in, I see that just past the halfway point I have been to only eight games so far this year.) But while SotW has become a little more of a chore than I wanted it to be, I still enjoy updating my Shorebird of the Week tracker and doing the Hall of Fame post each year. That will be enough to amuse me after I wrap up the week-to-week challenge of selecting a Shorebird of the Week when I go months without seeing certain players.

And then there’s the political reporting. I used to be at all of the events and meetings with my notebook and camera, but since the demise of the local TEA Party and several associated groups there’s not nearly as much to report. There’s also the fact that my work schedule is not as flexible as it once was, so I have to miss events – one example was the Kathy Szeliga announcement tour Cathy covered for me. (She also helped me out when a Second Amendment event coincided with my honeymoon.)

I have also realized, though, that I am much closer to the end of my active political career than I am to the beginning. With the prospect for certain changes on the homefront thanks to where Kim and I both work…well, let’s just say that I won’t be returning as the WCRC secretary after my current term is up and leave it at that for now. (They already knew this when I took the job this year, though.)

Once you take all these things in combination, I have come to the conclusion that less can be more and quality should outweigh quantity. So the idea going forward would be to do fewer items but ones that carry more weight, which hopefully will allow me the freedom to write the second book that’s been on my mind awhile and work on other issues like my health. Waking up in the middle of the night wondering if you are having a heart attack isn’t fun – luckily, it was symptoms more associated with walking pneumonia.

Will it affect readership? Maybe, but I figure I’m down to the most loyal fans anyway at this point. And they react the most and best to the pieces I take the time to write from the heart rather than just reaction to a press release or someone else’s work. So I don’t think they will go anywhere and will still stop by fairly often.

But if I come home from an event or meeting at 10:00 at night now I won’t feel obligated to write something that bores me just to fill the space by midnight. I think of it as addition by subtraction, and the change will do me good. I appreciate your support as I make the site better.

More online media bites the dust

May 7, 2016 · Posted in Bloggers and blogging, Business and industry, Politics · Comments Off on More online media bites the dust 

Those who actually watched and paid attention would have known this days or weeks before I did, but this morning I received an e-mail announcing the demise of PJTV, the video arm of the PJ Media internet site. The reason I didn’t pay attention is because if I’ve watched PJTV a half-dozen times, that would have been accidental – not to say that it was or wasn’t quality work, but I’m the type of person who would rather read the State of the Union speech than waste an hour watching it. Movies and television really don’t interest me all that much, although I’m fine with watching a ballgame on the tube. And thanks to the power of the internet, the PJTV contributors will still be getting their message out on their own.

Still, I have a soft spot for PJ Media (which used to be Pajamas Media) because, once upon a time, I was a contributor to their site. (I was their Maryland state correspondent for the 2010 election, since we were considered a possible swing state with a key gubernatorial election, and also contributed a handful of articles like this one in the months afterward. They paid very well for the latter.)

But the site has changed since I was last contributed there. While it was once primarily political, in recent years it’s gone to a more general-interest site where increasing emphasis is placed on non-electoral areas like parenting, faith, and lifestyle. (It still features one of my favorite writers, Victor Davis Hanson, though.) Presumably the more or less modest amount of advertising they have on the PJMedia site (which has improved itself graphically over the years, evolving to a relatively clean design that reminds me of the of the homepage I have with the Microsoft Edge internet browser I use) is enough to pay their bills.

On the other hand, the PJTV side was a little confusing because it was a mix of free and subscriber content. Obviously the subscription base wasn’t enough to justify the continued expense, as a Daily Beast story by Lloyd Grove (which references the ubiquitous unnamed “former employees and outside observers”) claims:

Several former employees and outside observers described the two enterprises as money-losing ventures whose advertising revenue and online traffic—8.3 million unique visitors in the first quarter of 2016 for PJMedia.com, according to a Google analytics tracking figure provided by a PJ Media spokesperson—were hampered because much of PJ TV’s content was behind a paywall and available only to subscribers. (The spokesperson declined to specify the number of subscribers, explaining that the information is proprietary).

8.3 million unique visitors in a quarter translates out to about 92,000 a day. Even being generous and saying 10% were PJTV subscribers, that’s only 9,200 daily viewers and you have a hard time getting advertisers with that audience.

And having written recently about Erick Erickson’s struggles to get The Resurgent off the ground (which doesn’t feature its own video channel and may have to scrap its subscriber-based model, much to my disappointment) it’s becoming clear that the political audience is becoming so fragmented and fatigued that they are just tuning out. This particular cycle has become less about issues and more about celebrity, and it’s very hard to compete with that with political commentary even if it is on the humorous side.

Naturally the creation and demise of enterprises on the internet is nothing new, and survival is tough – I have outwitted, outplayed, and outlasted probably thousands of political sites over the years, but at some future time the end will come to this one as well. There are a number of websites and ideas that I have been a part of, such as Red County, Conservative Weekly, and American Certified, which failed to last. All of them reached a point where the time and effort placed into keeping up the website as opposed to other, more productive pursuits outweighed the satisfaction (or revenue) one got from creating the content. I decided early on this would not be all political because if it had been it wouldn’t have made it two years, and even on my site I have started and stopped various features when they became too much of a burden. For example, spending three hours transcribing a phone interview every week because the software to do it wasn’t affordable to me led to the demise of Ten Questions.

When I was much younger, half a lifetime ago, MTV was blamed for shortening the attention span of youth to a point where their education was suffering. Johnny couldn’t read because he was not interested in a 50-minute English class. Perhaps the same is happening to long-form entertainment such as a TV network, such that PJTV was.

But the real issue is that we are spoiled: the internet is more or less free, although you pay a provider to place you there. What I think PJTV has become the latest to find is why should people pay for content when they can get comparable entertainment for nothing? I don’t have that answer because, if I did, this wouldn’t be an enterprise which probably pays me millage per hour to create. (Is this an appropriate moment to remind people I have a “donate” button?)

With the absolute mass of content now available thanks to the World Wide Web, there really is no such thing as “must-see TV” anymore. PJTV won’t be the last to learn that lesson.

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